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This month’s entertainment picks

30/11/20

Highlights from the last month, as chosen by the entertainment enthusiasts at Red Bee.

BEST SERIES #1: THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT

This is Netflix’s latest mini-drama series, and we’d argue it’s one of the best shows of the year. Set during the Cold War it follows orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon, who’s on a quest to become the greatest chess player in the world, as she simultaneously struggles with sexism and drug addiction. Even if you know nothing about chess, the story, the setting and the acting will keep you hooked. We can only hope there’s a second series in the making.

BEST SERIES #2: HIS DARK MATERIALS

There aren’t many series that can give you that little belly flop of excitement when you realise that a new series is soon to be aired. It has been a beautifully long wait for Series 2 of His Dark Materials and perhaps lockdown has made its arrival even more of a blessing. The pure magic and escapism of every episode is enough to lift us from our state of purgatory, for fifty fantastical minutes. It has extraordinary locations, special effects and costume, all you’d expect from a quality fantasy drama and more. But, certainly in this second series, the wonder is in its quiet, intimate moments. Something Ruth Wilson and Dafne Keen excel at with their quirky charm. Like Philip Pullman’s novels, the series is for everyone 12 years and beyond. And, right now, if something leaves you energised, refreshed and excited for the future (even if that is next Sunday evening), we think it should be on the ‘to watch’ list. Catch up on BBC iPlayer now. New episodes aired and released Sundays 8pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

BEST ALBUM: TIM MINCHIN, APART TOGETHER

If there is a more prolific and multi-talented artist operating at the moment than Tim Minchin we don’t know who they are. Fresh from writing and starring in the most uplifting, funny and touching sitcom of the year, Upright (Sky Atlantic), and from starring at the BAFTAs, the standout live streamed gig of lockdown saw Minchin and an extended band blazing through his new album to a global streamed audience the day before release. Apart Together is as perfect a set of instantly-catchy, lyrically-inventive and musically-dextrous songs as you’d expect from the composer of Matilda. Carry You - the standout track from Upright gained new poignancy after the death of Minchin’s tour manager and, as a concert finish, leaves no dry eye in the house.

BEST SERIES #3: INDUSTRY

A wonderfully slick, sexy and smart new BBC/HBO drama centring on hip young things starting out as graduates at a fictional banking firm Pierpont & Co. It’s The Apprentice meets Suits with a hint of American Psycho and despite the characters’ misgivings, read highly ambitious monsters with a questionable moral compass, you’ll be rooting for them as they’re vying for the job that others would die for. And that’s the twist. They aren’t really monsters, just really relatable, passionate, driven and smart individuals who really want their dream job.

BEST BOOK: SAPIENS, A GRAPHIC HISTORY: THE BIRTH OF HUMANKIND VOL. 1 BY YUVAL NOAH HARARI, DAVID VANDERMEULEN & DANIEL CASANAVE

In 2011 Yuval Noah Harari, a young history professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wrote Sapiens: A History of Humankind, detailing the history of our species, starting at the point we began to evolve from primates. The book was translated into English in 2014 and went on to become one of the greatest publishing success stories of the decade, selling more than 12m copies, sailing up bestseller lists the world over, and featuring in the reading recommendations of Bill Gates and Barack Obama. Charting the agricultural, cognitive and scientific revolutions, it took us on a journey back through the lives of our ancestors, offering a macro perspective on the creation of modern society, with an alarmingly apathetic attitude towards the plight of human suffering. As of this month, it can be enjoyed (the first half of it at least) in graphic form, as Harari has teamed up with a pair of talented illustrators to retell his story in a format designed to engage a broader audience. The key points remain ever salient, so a new generation will likely now join the ranks of superfans of the original. We can’t wait for Volume 2, and have fingers crossed that his follow-up book Homo Deus gets the graphic treatment too.

Stay tuned for more next month