LGBTQ ‘sex ed’ in schools? Almost everyone’s missed the point

Let’s say you’ve got a 6-year-old kid. And one of that kid’s aunts – your sister, or the other parent’s sister – is gay. They have a long-term same-sex partner. What do you tell your kid? Are you upfront with the fact that the two women are a couple? Or do you water it down and tell them, “that’s… er… that’s your auntie’s special friend”?

I think the responses to that question underline the stickiest part of this ongoing debate over whether primary school kids should have a quick lesson on the bare basics of diversity; giving them a heads-up on the different types of people they will encounter in their day-to-day lives as they grow up. Obviously you’ve got outright homophobes shitting themselves over the whole thing, but there’s an emerging number of ostensibly “sensible” voices resisting it, too: the people who say they’re all good with the gays, they just think kids that age are too young to have this stuff thrust upon them.

They’ve missed the point.

Y’see, the basics of love, romance and coupling-up are put into kids’ heads from age zero – from cartoon fairy tales with princes and princesses, to parents cooing “is that your girrrrlfriend?” when a little boy makes friends with a little girl. It’s not that kids are too young to handle the stripped-back, base-level ideas of relationships. It’s that queer relationships are seen as a bit too dirty. A bit too complicated. Inappropriate.

But gooood God, take it from the queers themselves: you’ve got to normalise this stuff early. As things stand – as things have always stood – kids go into secondary school seeing queerness as “other”. Negative, shameful. Something to absolutely avoid being seen as. ‘Gay’ is still a playground insult. Homosexuality and gender-queerness are still ideas that groups of mates tease each-other over. “Lewis is a gay boy!” “[Giggles] No I’m not!”

That’s why – trust me! – queer teens grow up facing everything from deep-rooted shame to extreme depression and, in far too many cases, suicidal thoughts. It’s also why straight cisgender kids make life hell for them – because they’ve grown up with queerness as this boogeyman; an alien, weird, freakish handicap. If you just nip that in the bud at primary level; casually teach kids that LGBTQ+ people exist (and are normal!), you stand a much better chance of making life easier for EVERYONE further down the line.

I’ve gotta say, it’s been telling watching people lump this all in with “sex education”. I first noticed it with Gloria Hunniford on Loose Women ages ago, and – in the extreme – that far-right troll who got famous off The Apprentice has been banging on via Twitter about how despicable it is for us to be “sexualising” the young. Sexualising!!!!! Nobody’s teaching them how to use Grindr, for fuck’s sake! Teachers aren’t showing them gay porn! It’s literally just normalising the fact that, every once in a while, kids will encounter a queer person. Someone who has relationships with people of the same gender. Or someone who doesn’t conform to gender stereotypes at all. These notions are only weird and inappropriate if the parent fundamentally believes LGBTQ+ people are weird and inappropriate – in which case, sorry, they’re homophobic.

We’re living in an age in which some children have same-sex parents, and many more have queer aunts and uncles, or cousins, or family friends. Or teachers! Has that knowledge “sexualised” those children? Of course it hasn’t. I’ve been with my guy for eight years now, and as far as I know, my cousins’ many, many children (who vary in school age from primary to early secondary) all know that we’re a couple. Just like their straight mums and dads and aunts and uncles. And as far as I know, their heads haven’t exploded. Their world didn’t end. They are quite literally fine with it. Maybe they were a little confused at first, but they’re kids – a few years ago they didn’t even know what a breakfast was. They’ve adapted!

If you teach kids to normalise something, they will. It’s not about “promoting homosexuality” – because, as I trust we all know by this point(!!!!), your sexual orientation isn’t something you can just decide to change. It’s about promoting acceptance and stamping out bullying.

It’s an age-old fact but it’s true: homosexuality is present in (I think) every single animal species. Homophobia is only present in one. Homosexuality is biologically natural; homophobia is taught. Kids have the capacity to grasp this. Why don’t parents?!

Oscars 2019: I watched all eight Best Picture nominees and I have THOUGHTS

Well friends, I have seen all eight of the Best Picture nominees ahead of the Oscars tonight and it was far more of a chore than I expected! Are the Academy on drugs this year or what?! Here’s how I ranked them ahead of tonight’s ceremony.

8. Vice

What a stylish, quirky, flashy film about a bunch of people I cared not one bit about!! You don’t have to like the main characters in movies but you certainly have to be invested in their story, and wow I honestly couldn’t give a single solitary shit!

The acting’s good, and some of the wHaCkY stylistic ideas (the fake-out ending half-way through, the bizarre Shakespearean bit) would be great in another film. But this felt many, many hours long; and I can think of at least 1,000 others that should have had the Best Picture nod instead. Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, fuck even A Simple Favour to name a few.

7. Bohemian Rhapsody

Taking out the fact that in going to see it we’ve helped make an alleged serial sex abuser $40 million richer, my main problem with Bohemian Rhapsody is… what is it? Is it A), a bit of fun for the millions of people who loved Queen, in which case why did they retcon when Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and the point at which he told his bandmates? Or B), is it meant to be a standalone drama in its own right, in which case why is the first hour essentially an obstacle-free re-enactment of a Wikipedia page? Also why is a film about one of the most fascinating musicians of all time actually quite boring? And why have Oscars voters somehow mistaken “best editing” for “most editing”?

Honestly I can see why this is the big phenomenon it is – if Queen meant a lot to you, I can buy it as an an uplifting, fist-pumping delight. The acting is generally good, too. But BEST PICTURE? Absolutely not. There’s an interesting film to be made about Mercury but this isn’t it; it’s all so surface-skimming. And he’s one of the most high-profile HIV/AIDS sufferers in history – the only thing Bohemian Rhapsody does with that fact is tweak his timeline so the Live Aid gig has more ~emotional resonance. The fuckery! I wasn’t a fan.

6. Green Book

A charming, very well acted, frequently funny, warm-hearted and well-meaning film about race; clearly made by and for white people. I saw a tweet that called it an Oscar-bait movie that middle-class people can watch and think, “ah, look how far we’ve come!”, and that feels about right.

Ultimately I think Green Book just bites off more than it can chew. There’s a great movie to be made about Don Shirley and the relationship between race and class; but it would be a movie in which he is the main character, and not the supporting player in a story in which a racist guy meets a wealthy black man on whom he depends for income, and becomes a little bit less racist. Viggo Mortensen is excellent, Mahershala Ali is amazing; and the film is certainly not without its charm, but I don’t know… I found it very uncomfortable to watch in several places.

This article is very good if you want some further reading.

5. A Star Is Born

I don’t know if a remake should really be in serious contention for Best Picture, even if it is well-made. And A Star Is Born is very good: the original music all bangs (though I’ve gotta say I’ve never really ~clicked with Shallow), the acting is stellar, and it’s an impressive directorial innings from Bradley Cooper.

But for a guy that cried at the end of Cheaper By The Dozen, I was left with eyes as DRY AS A PRUNE by this. At the end I was thinking, ‘ah, this is sad’, but I didn’t really feeeeeel it, you know? I wonder if I just made the mistake of seeing it at the height of its hype, when everyone was like “YOU! WILL! SOB!”.  But I did enjoy it.

4. Black Panther

Well the good news is that at least half of the Best Picture nominees are actually excellent!!

I’m very happy Black Panther got the nod. It is about time a genuinely excellent blockbuster movie of this genre got some awards recognition, and this is more than deserving. It does get a bit stereotypical-comic-book-movie in the last act when everything descends into a general CGI battle sequence, but for the vast majority it’s sharp, inventive, playful and fun – especially whenever Danai Gurira is on screen. And its cultural impact, too, is not to be ignored.

3. BlackKklansman

WHEW this film left me breathless. I know that like Bohemian Rhapsody, this has been caught up in some rows over historical accuracy – but I think the “changed for dramatic purposes” excuse (or rather “invented for dramatic purposes”, given how little is known about certain people) is more justified here. Spike Lee has made a really brilliant film about the past that is – as the devastating coda makes clear – 1000% relevant to the present.

John David Washington, Adam Driver and Laura Harrier are all great; and seeing Mr Matthews off 90210 as a convincing white supremacist was UNSETTLING! BlackKklansman is slick, surprisingly funny in places, and – come that final showdown – incredibly affecting. It leaves you with a lot to think about, and a lot to be angry about.

2. Roma

You rrrrreally get out of Roma what you put in, and the problem with it being on Netflix is that giving it all your attention is that little bit harder. I tried twice to start watching it, then realised I wasn’t in the right mindset and would be better off going back to it another time.

But if you can be strict with yourself in giving it all your attention (put your phone out of reach!) and leaning in to the fact it doesn’t have much of a story, you will be rewarded in spades come the second half.

There are some incredible understated set-pieces here that just blew my mind: the hospital scene, the beach scene, the fire scene…. scenes that feature one incredibly long, uninterrupted shot; making it seem so realistic but also AT THE SAME TIME kind of dream-like?? It’s hard to explain. But it will leave you feeling like you’ve been through the ringer. Alfonso Cuaron will more than deserve his likely Best Director win; and if this becomes the first-ever foreign language Best Picture champion, I will not be mad in the slightest.

1. The Favourite

It’s common practise for period dramas to paint this era in history as polite, stiff and quaint. The Favourite… does not do that. It takes what is probably a more true-to-life approach, which is having everyone shagging, behaving disgracefully and dropping the C-bomb left, right and centre.

I saw director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing Of A Sacred Deer and lord, it was not my cup of tea. So I went into The Favourite knowing I would get something unconventional, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. (Conversely, I know many people who went in expecting something conventional, and hated it.)

I love the power play, I love the cinematography, I love the weird-as-fuck humour. The three leads are all exceptional: Emma Stone has the most fun in the role of the sweet ingenue who turns out to be an All About Eve-style dickhead; Olivia Colman gets the chance to really flex her muscles with the kind of broad comedy that masks deep internal trauma; and Rachel Weisz – in what is arguably the hardest role – perfectly nails the balance between power-hungry and lovestruck. Shout-out to Nicholas Hoult and The Duck, who are also sublime.

Roma is the likely winner of this category and I’m all for it, but I think I liked The Favourite very slightly more. For a start, considering how many of this year’s movies have LGBT+ aspects, it’s the only one that didn’t shy away from its queerness (looking at you, Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book and Black Panther!). It’s also completely female-driven (male filmmaker aside, lol), it’s inventive and inverted-commas ‘artsy’ without being inaccessible, it’s got a good story underneath all the frills, and it’s got Taylor Swift’s boyfriend receiving a half-arsed handjob. What’s not to love?!

Shout-out also to the soundtrack, which is mostly just “bom, pffffrt, bom, pffffrt” on a continual loop.

Top 25 films of 2018

So seeing as I’ve got loads of old-as-heck films here that didn’t officially come out in the UK until this year, I’m gonna leave out – for now! – Can You Ever Forgive Me, as it’s not out widely in the UK until February 1. I did make an exception for The Favourite, which comes out nationwide on January 1, because it released in London on Boxing Day. Nonsensical? MAYBE! But my blog my rules!!

Here’s my film blog from last year.

And here are my other year-end lists from 2018: singles, albums, TV shows and theatre.

25. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Y’know I did actually think this was a pretty enjoyable #romp in the end, despite the terrible scheduling and marketing. It’s also a shame that it was left so blatantly open-ended for a sequel, given how the box office receipts panned out; but it’s a really fun little caper that probably would have gone down better with a December release date. Watch trailer

24. Ocean’s 8

I swapped out Three Billboards from this list once I realised I forgot this, which – with a Serious Critical Hat on – was very up-and-down and sagged way too much in the middle. But also! It was just great fun! With such a great cast. Anne Hathaway in particular steals the show, and I’d welcome an abundance of sequels. But Lord! If James Cordon EVER has the AUDACITY to show up in a movie like this again… AND MAKE A FOOTBALL JOKE, NO LESS!!… I will walk out and demand a refund on the spot. Watch trailer

23. Mary Poppins Returns

A film that knows when to pay tribute to the original and when to do its own thing, Mary Poppins Returns is a lovely family musical with a big heart, in which more posh old-London kids get a lesson in fun and imagination. Emily Blunt is great as Poppins: she’s not trying to do Julie Andrews, she’s doing her own interpretation, and her withering looks and comic timing are spot on. I wasn’t so keen on Lin-Manuel Miranda??? But the Angela Lansbury cameo – quite blatantly written for Andrews, I think – is alone worth the ticket price. Watch trailer

22. Love, Simon

This is a flawed film, I know: “just an ordinary kid” Simon is coming from a place of huuuuge privilege, and he gets away a little too easily with treating his friends like crap. And what’s with him (understandably) making such a point of Not Being Ready to come out, and then putting that enormous pressure on Blue to do it in front of the whole school!??! But ANYWAY. I still really liked it. The cast are fab, Jennifer Garner’s monologue is devastating, and it’s so good to have a big studio teen movie about a gay kid. I just hope Hollywood bigwigs don’t think their work in furthering queer representation is done now they’ve told a story about a rich white cis guy. Watch trailer

21. Dumplin’

This is so good for the soul – and funny! In some aspects it’s comforting in how formulaic it is, but it also surprises you and flips expectations in just the right places. Great cast and music, too. Watch trailer

20. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Or, as I have started calling it, To All The Memes I Memed Bememe. Y’all really thirsted hard over Noah Centineo, which is obviously highly justified, but lest we lose sight of the fact that Lana Condor is a fantastic lead and I hope this has propelled her to new Leading Lady Status. Watch trailer

19. A Star Is Born

L Gaga as an Oscars contender? OKAY that was not how I thought 2018 would go. Honestly I wish I hadn’t seen this while it was in the middle of All The Hype because I felt like I was… outside of myself? Waiting for myself to be bowled over? And in hindsight this is a great film and it’s anchored by two excellent leading performances. But I didn’t get lost in it as much as I think a lot of others did. Watch trailer

18. Incredibles 2

Was this every bit as good as the original? I think so!! Really funny, some excellent set-pieces, every bit as adrenaline-pumpin’ as a live action superhero film… I thought the big villain reveal at the end was a little odd, in terms of their motives and all that sort of thing – but for a sequel that could have been very disappointing, this was a small triumph. Watch trailer

17. Widows

A brilliant heist movie with a killer cast, Widows’ characters are all – in their own way – far from perfect, but it doesn’t diminish how watchable they all are. And SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn’t seen it: the dog doesn’t die! Watch trailer

16. I, Tonya

Margot Robbie really deserved her Oscar nomination for this; a movie that doesn’t necessarily make Tonya Harding a sweetheart again, but does force a reassessment of how poorly she was treated at the time of her downfall. And Allison Janney is of course a TREAT. Watch trailer

15. Avengers: Infinity War

Essentially the first part of the pay-off to ten years’ worth of superhero movie-making, Infinity War feels colossal: it’s got a soap-like feel in the way it weaves between different plot-lines and deals with various themes, and although it is maybe a little too long, it’s enormously satisfying – and shocking! – for anyone who’s paid any attention at all to the MCU over the last decade. The real MVP of the cast is Zoe Saldana, who does so well with her scenes that *that* Gamora twist is absolutely devastating. Watch trailer

14. Crazy Rich Asians

Really funny and epic-feeling, Crazy Rich Asians deserved all of its success – Constance Wu is a perfect fit for fish-out-of-water Rachel, while Awkwafina is genuinely funny as her best pal and Michelle Yeoh is gay-baitingly cold and withering in the role of the dreaded potential mother-in-law. Bring on the sequels. Watch trailer

13. Blockers

What starts as your usual Judd Apatow-style comedy soon becomes something much more heartfelt; a broad lolfest with affecting themes of friendship, growing up, and – oh hello! – coming out. Watch trailer

12. The Shape of Water

The plot of The Shape of Water is much simpler than I think many people expect, but it’s told so beautifully by Guillermo del Toro that I’m more than happy with its Best Picture wins. Sally Hawkins is outstanding as the human lead, and there’s great support from Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins. Watch trailer

11. Game Night

There are few greater pleasures in this world than Rachel McAdams doing a comedy. Game Night is far better than your usual Jason Bateman movie – it has some genuinely unexpected twists, big laughs, and bonus Sharon Horgan. Watch trailer

10. Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalfe are brilliant here as a mother and daughter who can’t seem to get themselves on the same page as one-another. Greta Gerwig should have been way more included in all of last year’s Best Director discussions.

09. A Quiet Place

I do not do horror. I just don’t. But when I saw how much buzz and love this movie was getting, I knew I had to check it out at some point, and a long-haul flight was when I finally sucked it up and gave it a spin. And A Quiet Place is completely excellent – such a great premise, told with real care by John Krasinski. There are so many great little moments of supreme tension (stepping on a nail has never felt so end-of-the-world) and the small cast, from Blunt and Krasinski to the children, are all exceptional. FWIW I don’t think I would have survived watching it in a silent cinema.

08. 120 BPM

This was a huge awards magnet when it was released in France last year, and correctly so. Set in that country during the AIDS epidemic, it’s a story about the people involved in the advocacy group ACT UP, and I loved how it makes its point and moves its audience without resorting to melodrama. It should have a long-lasting effect on all who see it.

07. The Hate U Give

Amandla Stenberg should absolutely be part of the awards conversation for her incredible performance in this; a YA movie that proves the genre is capable of way more than high school romance and the supernatural. Honestly this is one of the most affecting films I saw all year – be prepared to CRY HARD TEARS.

06. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

I was definitely in the midst of superhero fatigue when the trailers first started rolling out for this, but when the reviews were all glowing, I had to see what all the fuss was about. And reader, the fuss was about a genuinely excellent film!! A comic book epic that actually feels like a comic book, Spider-Man: Look At All Those Damn Spider-Men is animated beautifully, has a really great (and not as complicated as it might look) story, and is both funny and thrilling. Like Incredibles 2, but… dare I say better?

05. Coco

This movie FINALLY got a UK release back in Q1 and I don’t think it left a single dry eye in the country. In years to come this should be right up there when people list their favourite Pixar movies – I mean who’d have thought the team behind Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. could take on something like death and make it into a great family movie? EVERYONE, THAT’S WHO.

04. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

In many ways, Mamma Mia 2 is business-as-usual compared to its predecessor: straight-faced moviegoers  have to make a conscious decision to take the rod out of their arse and Just Go With It, and accept that some of the dialogue will be naff, some of the plot points will hardly make any sense, and lots of songs will be crowbarred in. In return, you get a really funny, irresistibly joyful movie soundtracked by some of the best pop songs of all time. But for this sequel, you also get an added level of emotional depth: that death looks like a needless twist on paper, but on screen, it’s really the only way this sequel could have worked as well as it does. And the unexpected emotional hammerblow of the finale? Genuinely devastating. The almost completely whitewashed cast is disappointing in 2k18 (granted, they shot themselves in the foot for that back in 2008), but this is the only release of the year that I have seen three (3) times.

03. Black Panther

Naysayers have said it’s Just Like Any Other Superhero Movie, and in very basic terms they’re not necessarily wrong – especially when it comes to the big bloodbath of a final showdown – but also this is just… better? The script is tight, the world it’s set in is so rich, the characters are drawn so well, there’s Danai Gurira stealing every scene she’s in… And the film’s blackness – the fact that this sort of representation has been so needlessly lacking in superhero movies up to this point – makes it all the more exciting.

02. A Simple Favour

Argggghh I SO NEARLY put this at Number 1. SO NEARLY. It’s such a fun movie to watch – so gleefully camp and ridiculous, like Gone Girl meets Mean Girls with added sideboob blazers. Anna Kendrick is excellent as the nerdy, ever-so-slightly intense Stephanie, but this is Blake Lively’s film: as Emily she gets the chance to show what she’s really capable of, and have a great time while she’s doing it. Can Paul Feig do anything wrong?? I don’t know if he can!!

01. The Favourite

I saw Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer and found it… not to my taste. But this? Oh THHHHIS? This is perfection. It’s exactly as funny and uproarious as it looks in the trailers but there’s also some real tragedy behind the characters, in particular Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne. I haven’t seen The Wife yet but as things stand, she is my easy pick for the Oscar, and Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are also cast perfectly as the rivals fighting for her affection. And Joe Alwyn? Dishy, as it turns out! Lanthimos’ style of shooting is still a little inverted-commas ‘arty’, but accessibly so; and given how heightened the whole thing is, the way the film-maker presents it – in chapters, with the occasional fisheye-lens, etc – it’s all packaged exactly right. Don’t sleep on this!!!

Top 15 plays of 2018

TRULY I was blessed to see so many amazing theatrical treats in 2018. And  out of everything I saw on stage this year, I only actively disliked one (1) thing! Well done, The Theatre!

I saw lots of great stuff and could easily have bloated this list up to a Top 20 or even a Top 25, but here were my absolute faves.

Incidentally if you’re in a year-end-list kind of mood, you can read my fave singles here, albums here and TV shows here. Still to come: films!

15. The Taming of the Shrew (Albert Square Gardens)

I rarely go out of my way to watch any Shakespeare but I always enjoy it when I do?? Why is that??? Is it just because we assume Shakespeare stuff will always be there, whereas new writing etc is only on for a limited time? Or is it that it can so easily be boring? Who knows. Anyway, this was SUCH a treat. A slick, polished production with lots of fun and a really nifty way of dealing with that notoriously excruciatingly final monologue.

14. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Apollo Theatre)

Now I don’t really remember any of the songs from this, but I remember really enjoying it. And I also remember how much it meant for genderqueer friends to see something like this on such a huge stage. Granted, the level of homophobia and abuse Jamie gets feels like it’s been made… palatable? But this was a real delight to watch, and impossible not to be uplifted and inspired by.

13. Reared (Theatre503)

I got completely lost in the world of John Fitzpatrick’s intimate family drama: each of the characters is so richly drawn that my heartstrings were ripe for the tuggin’. One of few things I saw this year that I actively sought out the playtext for. Shout-out to MVP Paddy Glynn as salty gran Nora.

12. Algorithms (Soho Theatre)

I saw Sadie Clark trial a bit of Algorithms at my new writing night a while back and really enjoyed it, and by the time its full production rolled around in December it had flourished even more. Funny, #relatable and clearly written from the heart – trite as that sounds – it was the perfect thing to see on the eve of my 30th birthday.

11. The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (Park Theatre)

This production was actually the first version I’d ever seen of Jim Cartwright’s classic (yes, even noted late-00s Diana Vickers superfan Shaun Kitchener did not see her in action) and I really loved it. The performances were spectacular here, including Sally George and Rafaella Hutchinson in the lead roles, and you have my permission to play Jamie Rose-Monk’s dance sequence in full, on repeat, at my wake.

10. Strangers In Between (Trafalgar Studios)

Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s staging of Tommy Murphy’s 2006 coming-of-age play got my year of theatregoing off to a really strong start back in January. The smaller studio at the Trafalgar worked really well for it;  I loved the story of naive Shane trying to navigate his way into adulthood as a young gay man, and the three actors – Stephen Connery-Brown especially – were impeccably cast.

09. Company (Gielgud)

Now I’ll BE HONEST, I saw a matinee of this after a glass of wine with lunch, and I did struggle to stay awake during the first two-thirds of the first half. But from Getting Married Today onwards I was IN. The decision to gender-swap Bobby was, I think, the only way to make the show relevant to 2018, and it was a really strong, slickly designed and immaculately performed treat.

08. The Inheritance (Young Vic)

Like watching a six-part Netflix series all in one sitting, The Inheritance was long, but good. I loved it – I can’t say I emotionally connected with it as much as I know a lot of other people did (they were all juuuuust a tiny bit too beautiful and clever and… articulate for me), but hurrah for a big, epic, gay-as-fuck play having such big success in 2k18.

07. Fun Home (Young Vic)

I knew nothing about this show before I saw it, except that everyone was deeply moved by it. And it will not surprise you to learn that I, too, found it tres emotional. The songs were GREAT, I loved the whole staging of it… I’d see this again in a heartbeat.

06. Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)

WOW this had a big level of hype to meet, and it’s exactly as clever and forward-thinking as everyone says it is. Fast-paced, watertight, inventive, catchy as hell… I was walking around saying “Iamnotthrowingawaymy… SHOT!” for days. Days!! I struggled to keep up with it at times during the first half, which may just be a result of ticket prices leading us to sit near the absolute back, but there’s still no denying how much of an EVENT this is. (Side-note: There’s a chance I over-played Kelly Clarkson’s version of It’s Quiet Uptown so much that the actual version in the actual show had a weaker emotional impact, OOPS).

05. Cuckoo (Soho Theatre)

Lisa Carroll’s play had me deeply invested in its characters from the beginning right up to the messy (in a good way!!) ending, and I was thinking about it for about a week afterwards. All at once funny and devastating, it’s a piece anchored by Carroll’s razor-sharp dialogue and a perfectly earnest lead performance from Caitriona Ennis. Touching all of the wood that this gets another outing somewhere very soon.

04. Standard: Elite (Ovalhouse)

Normally these ~aUdIeNcE pArTiCiPaTiOn!!!~ shows drive me up the fucking wall, but I cannot recommend Standard: Elite enough. Writer Elliot Hughes stars alongside Sophie Mackenzie in a piece that draws attention to class and privilege in one of the most effective ways I’ve ever seen. More of  a “game with actors” than a “play”, it’s loads of fun – but it also gives you a lot to think about; not so much in terms of making you feel like “huh, privilege is bad, huh? Oh well, see you in the bar!”, but more like, “……oh shit, we actually don’t really understand it at all, do we?”.

03. Misty (Bush Theatre)

That this went on to conquer the West End is nothing short of JUSTICE IN ACTION. Misty is clever, captivating, completely original, and exactly the sort of theatre I’d love to see more of. Arinze Kene is essentially a God, and if you missed it… well, I don’t know what to tell ya. You missed out. (Although I do wish I’d also seen an understudy performance with the female performer, just because the idea of having an opposite-sex understudy sounds so genius???).

02. Six: The Musical (Arts Theatre)

I’m fuming that I didn’t think of Six myself: what if all the wives of Henry VIII formed a supergroup and put on a concert?! And what if the songs were fucking BANGERS??? A show like this – really more of a fictional concert than a story-driven play – demands a cast that really sing, act and dance, and this lot are serving vocals and choreo that would make The Saturdays (RIP) burst into tears. So much fun. I went to see a matinee on my own, and now I’m gagging to see it with friends with a beer in hand.

01. Jellyfish (Bush Theatre)

This play EXFOLIATED by SOUL. Sarah Gordy was oustanding as Kelly; coming of age and falling in love as a woman with Down’s Syndrome in a seaside town. Penny Layden was brilliant as her protective mother – essentially the antagonist of Kelly’s love story, but never someone we dislike – and Nicky Priest provided actual belly laughs as our lead’s neurodiverse friend Dominic. Ben Weatherill’s script was so funny and full of warmth and fantastically performed… I just loved it. And the new, smaller studio at the Bush was the perfect venue. Highly great.

Top 20 TV shows of 2018

Time is money, yaknow, and sticking with a long TV series up until the end credits of the final episode should come with some sort of reward. I have so many programmes I started in 2k18 and have yet to finish, so hats-off to this lot for keeping me invested until the very end.

I’ve only included scripted TV in this list, and kept it restricted to seasons that were released in the UK in 2018. So whilst I discovered the magnificence of Schitt’s Creek and The Comeback, I’ve left them out because the eps I saw are a few years old now. Similarly I haven’t seen Pose yet but its UK broadcast isn’t due until some time in 2019, so you won’t find it here. I’ve also left out the soaps because of obvious vested interest.

Here are my year-end TV blogs from the last couple of years:
2016: No1 was Brief Encounters
2017: No1 was Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

And if you’re in a listy mood I’ve already gone through my Top 50 singles and Top 25 albums of the year. Film and theatre still to come.

20. Safe


It was a toss-up between a string of thriller-y type shows for the final spot in this Top 20 (ITV’s Innocent, BBC’s Collateral, Channel 4’s Kiri) and I went with Safe because I love how every now and then it forgets to be a Very Serious Drama in the same style as Broadchurch and goes gloriously soapy. Its end-of-episode twists and outlandish reveals are a RIDE – totally ludicrous and I enjoyed almost all of it.

19. The Bisexual

Season 1, Channel 4

I was surprised to see this had mixed reviews, because I really liked it: I can see the criticism that the actual story is quite sparse, but I had so much fun watching Desiree Akhavan in action that I didn’t really mind??

18. Bodyguard

Season 1, BBC

It’s getting a bit tiresome that the vast majority of Muslim representation in the thriller genre is either Terrorist or Suspected Terrorist or Poor Brainwashed Wife Of Terrorist; and Bodyguard was guilty as hell of that (although it is really worth reading actress Anjil Mohindra’s perspective on that debate). It’s frustrating because, that aside, Bodyguard had all the makings of a great twisty-turny blockbuster, fully deserving of its water-cooler Event TV status. There were properly unexpected shocks peppered throughout, there were unbearably tense showdowns, and WHO COULD IGNORE Richard Madden’s ascent to national sex symbol status?!

17. Elite

Season 1, Netflix

This year I dropped Riverdale and got my teen melodrama fix from Elite; a dark Spanish-language show that’s a mix of The OC, Big Little Lies and Clique (oh fuck, just realised I haven’t got round to the second season of Clique). So by that I mean everyone is beautiful, most of them are rich, loads of them have #SECRETS, and everyone’s horny as hell.

16. Mrs Wilson


This is great on three levels. One! Because the story, about a bloke who dies and leaves his wife to discover  he was a big bastard bigamist, is so juicy. Two! Because it’s based on REAL EVENTS. And three! Because the lead character is played by the widow’s ACTUAL REAL GRANDDAUGHTER, aka acting powerhouse Ruth Wilson. It is kind of weird that playing her grandmother means she has to act out the birth of her own dad, but what a brilliant, emotional howdunnit this was. And only three episodes?! Inspired!

15. Doctor Who

Season 11, BBC

Some of the episodes were good, some were weak, some were amazing – which I feel is par for the course with Doctor Who. But the change in showrunner and cast gave the series a big kick up the arse: Jodie Whittaker is obviously great, and giving her an ensemble of travel-buddies rather than just one companion worked a treat.

14. Everything Sucks


I was in the middle of making my way through this when it got cancelled, and then I was just really sad for the rest of it. A sweet high school drama with an introverted lesbian? What’s not to love?! Clearly made by people with a real fondness for the era in which it is set (and for other movies and shows set in that time), I thought it was a real delight.

13. Dietland

Amazon Prime

And here’s another cancelled one I’m gutted about. Dietland has such a great premise, and is anchored by  a really strong lead performance from Joy Nash – give it a watch on Prime if you can. Who knows when we’ll next get to see Julianna Margulies in a ropey red wig?!

12. Save Me

Season 1, Sky Atlantic

I found this missing-kid-drama from writer/actor Lennie James really engaging: the fact that his character Nelly is deeply flawed and not always likeable makes this a lot more interesting than other stories along a similar theme, and the environment in which it’s set is so richly drawn that – even when the characters are being dicks to each-other – you can see what they’re up against. The ending is… very unsatisfying, but a second season is apparently en route.

11. Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Season 3/4, Netflix

My favourite show of 2017 continued to deliver comedy, humour and SHOWTUNES into 2k18, and now we’re into the final stretch of episodes before season four ends and the whole thing wraps up for good. It’s for the best that it comes to a close, I reckon: it’s still one of the best shows on TV but its Glory Days were definitely the back end of season two into the first half of season three, and I worry that as time goes by I’m going to forget to catch-up on it more and more.

10. Big Mouth

Season 2, Netflix

I resisted Big Mouth for ages because I thought it looked…. horrible? Like, just a lewd cartoon in which Hormonal Teenagers Obsess Over Sex And Stuff? When actually it’s… well, it’s exactly that, pretty much. But it’s smart! And really funny! And so weird (each character has a Hormone Monster only they can see). And it has Maya Rudolph saying “bubble bath”! The second season is a home-run, especially the Planned Parenthood episode, and while I doubt it’s to everyone’s tastes, it’s one of my most unexpected gems of 2k18.

09. Unforgotten

Season 3, ITV

Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar returned for another great run of this consistently riveting whodunnitagesago. And I liked that the final twist (spoiler!) was not so much a last minute “NO WAIT, IT WASN’T THAT PERSON, IT WAS THIS PERSON!” but a more unexpected “OH, IT WAS THAT PERSON, BUT THEY’RE NOT WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE!” I thought it really worked. And I’m excited to see how Chris Lang continues with Walker’s Cassie Stewart when the show returns for season four, given the headspace we left her in here.

08. A Very English Scandal


Between this and Paddington 2, Hugh Grant has really been on one of the biggest rolls of his career, hasn’t he?! A Very English Scandal is darkly brilliant: Russell T Davies and Stephen Frears gleefully run with the fact that the whole sequence of events it’s based on is absolutely ridiculous, and they do a great job of leaving you tickled but horrified.

07. Inside No9

Season 4, BBC

The fourth cycle of Inside No9 was actually the first time I’d watched it, and huns, it would seem I have been missing! out!! Each episode is so clever. And different! And that Halloween special? Genuinely fucking scary! Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are MASTERS.

06. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Season 2, Amazon Prime

I’m so glad that this show has been soaking up, like, all of the awards this year, because it reeeeally helps when trying to sell it to people who think it looks a bit naff. Season two is – in the best possible way – more of the same: fast-paced dialogue, brilliant characterisation, Alex Borstein being iconic… this show is just such a joy to watch, I would recommend it to absolutely anyone.

05. This Country

Season 2, BBC

Even when I find things funny, I don’t often literally laugh aloud – but with This Country I was honking, like, every few minutes. Charlie and Daisy May Cooper have created such a well-observed, brilliantly unbearable show; both riotously funny and – who knew?!?! – kinda heartbreaking at times, too. When Kerry couldn’t make it to the steam fair on her birthday, it was up there with the end of The Notebook. I’m so glad this won big at the BAFTAs and I hope we get more soon.

04. The Good Fight

Season 2, More4

A lot of shows rush to try and reflect the #currentpoliticalclimate but none did it so pitch-perfectly as The Good Fight; a spin-off that is a completely different beast compared to its parent (The Good Wife) and… in some ways… is probably better?? Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald, Cush Jumbo and Sarah Steele are phenomenal leads (it feels like Rose Leslie’s Maia is becoming a liiiiittle bit of a spare part???), the writing is razor-sharp, and honestly I’d be happy if this drama just ran and ran and ran for years and years and years. Also – best opening credits sequence of all time? MAYBE.

03. Killing Eve

Season 1, BBC

You could just say to me “it’s Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh doing a cat-and-mouse thing” and I’d put it in the Top 10 without having seen a minute. So IMAGINE my excitement at the fact this is also EXCELLENT?! And I mean of course it is. Comer and Oh are a fantastic double-act: Comer the exciting assassin you’re weirdly in love with, Oh the well-meaning everyperson you’re desperate to succeed. Fiona Shaw as Eve’s hilarious boss and Sean Delaney as her BEAUTIFUL son are just the cherries on top of the (probably poisoned) cake, and the scripts are watertight with zippy, funny dialogue. Killing Eve deserved Bodyguard levels of attention, and the fact it had 26 million iPlayer requests in one month is thoroughly deserved.

02. Glow

Season 2, Netflix

I had a couple of false-starts with the first season of Glow; it wasn’t until I had a long-haul flight that I really ploughed through it. And by the second half of that season, it was amazing. Now here we are with season two and it’s a solid 10; a continuation of that stride it found last year – and then some. You find yourself deeply invested in this wacky group of have-a-go TV stars, rooting for their success on-screen and for their relationships with each-other to stay solid. Betty Gilpin (who, by the way, is HILARIOUS in all of her TV interviews?!?!) is the MVP as Debbie ‘Liberty Belle’ Eagan, along with Alison Brie’s try-hard Ruth; but it’s the strength of all the key players together that really make this show tick. I really, truly loved season two, and I’m also v intrigued by the seeds it’s sewn for what’s to come in season three.

01. Derry Girls

Season 1, Channel 4

There could have been enough episodes of Derry Girls to fill the entire year and it still WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ENOUGH. It’s just so goddamn funny!!! Lisa McGee has found warmth and humour in a period of history when the more ignorant among us would assume warmth and humour were in short supply; and the ensemble cast are without a weak link – from the titular group of mates to those around them (Sister Mary? An ICON!), everyone’s clearly having a blast and timing each one-liner to perfection. And like all the best funny shows it also has real depth to it: there’s Clare’s coming out, for example, and that surprisingly moving last sequence of the season finale. Episode One of this show aired on January 4, and for the last twelve months it has – in my opinion, anyway – gone unbeaten. “What were you doing heading up Pump Street with a cream horn?!”