3 Weekly Recs – TV & podcast

3 things you should be watching and listening to…

  • TV; Transparent created by Jill Soloway

This week, the painfully honest Transparent returns with its third season. The show chronicles the lives of the Jewish-American Pfefferman family, as they each navigate the coming out of the father of the family as transgender – from here on out to be known as their true self; Maura Pfefferman aka Moppa.

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I usually have little patience for overly unsympathetic characters but for some reason the unflattering characters of Transparent have never bugged me. Each and every one of the family members act in self-destructive and often harrowingly selfish ways in a manner, which most of us would be uncomfortable to admit, hits way too close to home. There are no heroes and no villains. Instead, the series is peppered with people performing more or less selfish acts with complicated motivations at the root of their actions. Transparent is counted as a comedy during awards season and although it is funny with a deliciously dark sense of humour, it is much more an emotional family drama at its core. Every episode gives you 30 minutes well-crafted, acted, and written therapy sessions with characters desperately searching for the truth within themselves amidst self-deception and societal expectations. This is the wonderful and difficult struggle Maura’s coming out has brought forth in her three grown-up kids – an unquenchable thirst to know and be themselves in this stringent world of ours.

 

  • TV; The Great Baking Shows – the sweet sensations of comfort TV

There is a surprising value in the concept of comfort TV in this day and age. It is easy to sneer cynically at the international popularity watching strangers bake a cake to perfection has received. However in doing so you overlook the true appeal offered by a show such as The Great British Bake Off and its numerous national equivalents.

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It is a competition that promotes togetherness and shared comforts rather than highly individualistic achievements. It is a show that offers the exhibition of great talent without sacrificing good taste, in a literal and figurative sense. The drive to win does not compromise the instinct to help another. The contestants are here to bake but they are also here to be a part of a community of baking obsessed peers. To share their passions and rejoice in the sweet sensations brought on by the perfect mousse. These are human values most of us are in desperate need of being reminded of.

We live in a time filled with the fear of an other and the misguided thought that their success will only come at the expense of our own. This damaging approach to the world and fellow human beings seems pervasive as cheap political selling points provided by men and women desperate to exploit the absolute worst of human instincts imaginable – fear of the other. There is no fear of the other in The Great Baking shows. The fear is not of the other’s success. Instead, focus lies on your own abilities to pipe a beautiful decoration, temper chocolate, or get those pastry layers right, and the joy comes from the collective struggle within the same tent towards a similar goal. Of course there will always be a loser and a winner in a competitive show but the focus need not lie on any brutal confrontation between the two.

I watch these baking shows to marvel at the baking talents of dedicated amateurs but I stick with it through soggy bottoms and disappointing flavour combinations because of the humanity displayed in the contestants’ shared hectic race with the kitchen clock.

On a final sad note: It’s all about savouring this season of The Great British Bake Off as it might very well be the last of its kind. The format has been sold to Channel four, Mel & Sue have opted out, and even Mary Berry has wrapped up her arsenal of polite misgivings and creative feedback and left the (sinking?) ship. *sob* 2016 truly has proven to be a horrendous year so far *sob*.

 

  • PODCAST; NPR Politics podcast

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Speaking of the discouraging politics of our time…. As a European I have no other option but to look horrified on from the sidelines, and desperately hope that the world’s greatest superpower does not elect a despot into power this coming November. My method of coping with my initial incredulity and since increasing fear of Donald Trump’s candidacy, is to listen to the informative and level-headed news and analysis provided by Sam Sanders and his team of reporters on the NPR Politics Podcast. I have absolutely no power or influence on this election but I have the choice to stay informed and this podcast is a wonderful aid to do so.

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