Stuck in groundhog day? Escapism doesn’t come better than online drama right now. To be honest with cinema, theatre and holiday travel out of reach, watching stuff on the small screen is just about the only time we get out of the house.
With a little help from some friends, we’ve put together ten series you can stream to immerse yourself in another country or culture. A few of them even have a beach…
1 Roughing it in Scotland with Celebrity SAS
Let’s all cheer “Yes Staff!” for the latest series of Celebrity SAS; featuring Ant Middleton – a man who takes himself very, very seriously. The fulsomely named Celebrity SAS, Who Dares Wins is currently available for streaming on Channel Four.
The location is Scotland. But you won’t recognise this Scotland from your romantic trips to Mull or a quick flit up to the Edinburgh Fringe. This Scotland is a brooding bad boy, waiting to trip up, strand, and half drown the hapless celebs. When they are down to the last six, one of them remarks they’d be happy if they never see a hill again.
We’d be happy to have way more celebs and hills if Ant, a man with the testosterone of five men only had the time to get in his army truck and drive them into the wilderness. Let’s hope lockdown is over soon so they can cast their net far and wide for more famous guys and gals who are tough enough to carry a wet canoe in their bergen. Next time, if they recruit some really hard slebs, perhaps they will send them to Wales.
2 Falling in love with Wales
Ah Wales. Home of Netflix’s glorious Sex Education. Except it doesn’t look like Wales in the series; in fact when we first watched it we had to Google where it was made. Sex Education is a deliberate Anglo-Amercian hybrid. (A smart move by Netflix so viewing figures rack up on both sides of the Atlantic?)
Key locations are spread around the border of Wales and Gloucestershire, with Carleon, the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean featuring heavily. Apparently the aerial shot follows the River Wye and the gob smacking house that Otis shares with his sex-therapist mother, played with gusto by Gillian Anderson, is located at Symonds Yat.
The writer Laurie Nunn took inspiration from the 1980s films of John Hughes like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink but the programme has the feel of a massive shoot organised by the Welsh Tourist Board. Otis and Jean’s house is actually a B and B. Now there’s an idea for after lockdown finishes.
3 Blue skies and White Lines in Ibiza
Or you could head to Ibiza! “When you find out the truth, it just leaves you cold.” says the trailer for White Lines, a new show, also on Netflix. Well, not entirely cold as White Lines makes Ibiza look very hot.
If you are having holiday withdrawal right now you might want to get your fix of ocean, swimming pool and sun. White Lines is up to its neck in drugs, crime and Daniel Mays, but you don’t need to get involved in any of that. Just grab your lilo and get ready to binge on the blue sea and sky.
4 Blind love in Mexico
“I’m afraid it’s not terribly highbrow, but the obsession with Netflix show Love is Blind finally hooked me in lockdown.” says Helen Wills who blogs at Actually Mummy. “The show sees glamorous singles looking for love locked up in a house – think Big Brother – but with men and women separated.
They proceed to go on ‘dates’ in separate pods, where they get to know each other, and potentially fall in love, and get engaged – without ever seeing each other.”
“I shouldn’t have started.” she laughs. “It was addictive viewing, but where it led was even more of a problem for me in quarantine. 6 couples did decide to get married, and proceeded to a tropical location to ‘honeymoon’ and get to know each other in person.
That was when I lost interest in who stayed together, and started to pine for an all-inclusive holiday in Mexico. Infinity pools, beautiful fruit, incredible cocktails, and deeply padded sunbeds on which to laze away the days. When this is all over I’m booking a trip to Mexico’s Playa del Carmen to recover!”
5 Medicis and cypress trees in Tuscany
“Medici, which you can stream on on Netflix, centres around the famous Florentine banking family of the same name and the legacy they left behind.” says Carrie Bradley who often blogs about Italy at Flying with a Baby.
“Whilst the series focuses on their relationships, schemes and scandals and their influence on art and architecture, the secondary character is without doubt Tuscany.
The rolling hills and archetypal views of lines of Cypress trees punctuated by glimpses of Renaissance art and buildings like the Duomo cathedral are seriously impressive. Visiting Florence after watching season one of Medici opened up my eyes to all this incredible city and region offers. I will be back!”
6 Normal people and beautiful Sligo
The scenery in BBC Three’s recent hit Normal People was so good the Irish Tourist Board made a film about it. In this video Director Lenny Abrahamson, producer Catherine Magee and actress Daisy Edgar-Jones talk about the locations they filmed in, which include Streedagh Beach, at Ben Bulben and Tubbercurry, in Sligo.
It was also filmed in and around Dublin; “The series does have a wider world, and that’s expressed really in our locations. Trinity is a really big part of this show, it’s almost like a character.” says Producer Catherine Magee.
7 Racing around the world in South America
“If ever there was a show to give you a serious case of wanderlust it has to be Race Across the World.” says Katja Gaskell who blogs at Globetotting. “Season two started at about the same time as lockdown in the UK and provided much needed travel inspiration when we were all stuck at home.
The BBC series follows five couples as they race from one destination to the next without the use of smartphones, the internet or airplanes. Plus, they don’t have quite enough money for the journey so they must work along the way.
Series one saw teams travel overland from London to Singapore. In series two, teams raced to get from Mexico City to Ushuaia in Argentina, the world’s southernmost city. Each team was given just £1,453 for the journey, the equivalent to a one-way flight between the two cities.
Of course the show is about so much more than the countries the teams visit. Relationships are tested, barriers are broken and minds are opened. It’s funny and heart-warming and really just makes me want to jump on a plane right now!
8 Blood and water in Florida Keys
Bloodline sells Florida Keys like no travel agent could. One of the stars of the show is the hotel and beach front that the Rayburn family run. You can actually stay at The Moorings Village and Spa; it is a five star resort with 800 palm trees and a white sandy beach studded with hammocks.
You can even rent the house that became the Rayburn family residence fr the duration. The nearby beach bar was also featured in the show. Catch all three series of Bloodline on Netflix.
9 Cave dwelling with Hanna in the Slovakian Forest
As you watch the initial episodes of Hanna, you’ll either be captivated by the 16 year old assassin, or captivated by the landscape. Hannah is brought up in a cave deep in the woods, which makes home schooling during lockdown seem a bit of a doddle.
While the location of Hannah’s childhood is meant to be Poland, in reality it was filmed in Slovakia’s Slovak Paradise National Park. In this article by Atlas of Wonders you can find out more. Or watch the series for yourself on Amazon Prime.
10 Trapped in wild Iceland
The wide skies of Iceland are the star of the Icelandic Drama Trapped. The first season, which you can still watch on Amazon Prime threw viewers headlong into a murder hunt in a small fjord community isolated by an impossibly long whiteout.
It also had an unusual hero in Andri Ólafsson, a local detective who quickly became your Mum’s weird crush. While plotting remains complicated throughout two series, the vista is simple, alluring and enduring. Watch Trapped and you will want to go to Iceland. When you are finished being trapped in your house.
Further reading: Check out our travellers’ guides to great fiction and non fiction books. Or catch some arts gossip in our latest armchair travel news post.