May has finally arrived which means only one thing to students: exam season has begun. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with stress during this time of year with the endless readings and deadlines, so it’s important to allow yourself to escape from this world every now and then.
With its final season being currently streamed on Channel 4, a TV series that is a favourite of mine and a worthwhile distraction is Derry Girls (2018-2022). Derry Girls is set in Northern Ireland’s city of Derry in the 90’s, and the coming-of-age comedy centres around four teenage girls – Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), Michelle (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), Clare (Nicola Coughlan) and Orla (Louisa Harland) – and a ‘wee English fella’ called James (Dylan Llewellyn). Within the 20-minute episodes, we see the spirited, ill-fated group attending Catholic secondary school and navigating teenage life.
However, the backdrop of their situation is very different to most teen shows. The series displays many historical events of the period known as The Troubles - decades of conflict which occurred in Northern Ireland between Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists, shaping the characters’ secondary school experience. The humour doesn’t only derive from the ridiculous situations that the group finds themselves in, but also from the adults. In particular, from the playful rivalry between Erin’s dad (Gerry, portrayed by Tommy Tiernan ) and Erin’s grandfather (Joe, portrayed by Ian McElhinney ), and Sister Michael’s (Siobhán McSweeney) utter disdain towards her pupils and Catholicism despite being the headteacher of the school. From accidentally resurrecting a dog to the bomb squad blowing up a suitcase of vodka, an episode of Derry Girls is never a dull watch – even when Uncle Colm’s (Kevin McAleer) on screen!
It's exam season: tensions are as high as caffeine levels, and students need destress between bouts of revision and stress. What better way than to chill out a bit than watch some TV? In times like exam season where the future is unpredictable, I find it comforting to return to the classics, something you know off-by-heart. For most, that is Doctor Who.
Most people have grown up with a Doctor, and for our generation that's been Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith. The stories of these Doctors are simultaneously light-hearted and serious, full of joy and sorrow, make you want to laugh and cry. Revisiting Doctor Who as an adult makes you realise the genius behind some stories, and what better time than exam season?
Which episodes are the best for re-watching? I'd always go for 'School Reunion', to witness the tear-jerker of a reunion between Sarah-Jane Smith and The Doctor. For pure humour, look no further than 'Partners in Time' . Thirsting after Andrew Garfield after watching tick, tick... BOOM! (2021)or Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)? Well then, you'll have a nice surprise if you watch 'Daleks in Manhattan' and 'Evolution of the Daleks'.
The beauty of Doctor Who is that even if you've watched most of it, there's always new aspects to discover. The Horror channel on TV usually shows reruns of 'Classic Who' (Doctors 1-8) if you fancy watching something more retro. If you're lucky, you'll stumble across stories such as 'Tomb of the Cybermen' or 'The Five Doctors'. If 'Modern Who' is more your thing, the BBC are advertising a new podcast set in the Doctor Who universe regarding a conspiracy theory podcast charting appearances of the TARDIS through history.
Ever since having the first episode put on in a secondary school drama lesson, my go to show to relax has been Brooklyn 99 (2013-2022), a reliably fun and rewatchable ensemble with 7 seasons on Netflix ready to dive into and the final season being released weekly on All4.
The show combines consistently fresh and fun mini plots in each episode with long term character arcs that give the world so much heart. The excellent ensemble cast play off each other brilliantly, even more so as the actors develop their chemistry as the show goes on. Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher are particular highlights as the energetic Jake Peralta and efficient police captain Raymond Holt. The world is constantly playful whilst leaving room for really touching moments, both of which are perfect to relieve exam anxiety.
The short runtime of each episode means they can be enjoyed individually as a study break, or as a longer binge to take your mind off things, this show got me through my secondary school exams and will continue to do so for university as well with so many episodes available to relive.