January 2021 in Media

What are you watching, reading, and listening to these days? Here’s mine:


Last year was a big year for streaming TV, thanks in part to the astoundingly well-timed launch of Disney+. The Mandalorian was effectively required viewing in my circle. More like the Mandatorian, am I right? Personally I really enjoyed the show about a socially distant silent type guy and his developing parental relationship with a non-verbal child. Something struck a chord for whatever reason.

Anyway, that’s over for this year, so here’s what we’re watching now in the Parle household:


Hard to talk about this one without spoilers, so I’ll just say that I absolutely love the mid-century suburban Americana and I unironically enjoy the old style sitcom humour. But if that’s not your cup of tea, give it a couple more episodes and see where it goes.


The fantasy sibling of Futurama is in its third season. Coming from Netflix, it all arrived on the same day, but we’re working through it more slowly so only about half way at this point. Extra points for the addition of Richard Ayoade, but points off for lack of Matt Berry.

Ted Lasso

An American football manager moves to London to manage a floundering Premiership football club. No knowledge of or interest in either sport is required.

We came late to this because it’s on Apple TV+ and we’re not much of an Apple household outside of the Mac (no iPhones or recent iPads). But I got myself one of the new M1 MacBook Pros as soon as they were released and it came with a year’s free subscription. There isn’t support for watching Apple TV+ on a Chromecast yet, but it turns out there’s a PlayStation app.

As many before me have said, Ted Lasso is a perfect show for these times. It’s funny — really funny — but it’s also optimistic.


New films haven’t really been a thing for me this last year. I have been hanging out with friends in a Discord voice channel every Wednesday night since April watching some rubbish we can talk over. Or occasionally something good we can talk over. Most recently was Cyborg 2, the straight to video sequel to Jean Claude Van Damme’s Cyborg, featuring none of the original cast or indeed anything else resembling the original in any way. It does have a young Angelina Jolie in the title role, though she has no redeeming effect on the film whatsoever.

In an attempt to balance the quality level a little, I’ve also been trying to find time to watch all of the Oscar Best Pictures of my lifetime. That means from 1983’s Terms of Endearment onwards. Optimistically I think I can manage about one a fortnight, which means there’ll be at least a couple more on the list before I finish.

I only managed one this month, 1992’s Unforgiven. I’ll say this for it: it’s better than Cyborg 2.


When the whole… everything… started last year I recommended Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven to anyone who thought that reading a book about a global pandemic and its apocalyptic aftermath was a good idea.

I stand by that recommendation, and I can now add Sarah Pinsker’s A Song for a New Day. It’s hard to know whether it was good timing or bad to publish a book about a musician in a future where concerts are illegal because of pandemics and terrorism at the end of 2019. It won the Nebula award for best novel though, and I’m enjoying it.

My favourite books of 2020

One of my last posts back in 2016 was about recent books I’d read. I haven’t read nearly as much since then as I might have hoped, but here are a few I enjoyed last year.

Famine, Affluence, and Morality — Peter Singer

I promise I’m not trying to show off with the charity books, but purely by coincidence this one is very similar in theme to “Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference” from my previous post.

This is a very short book, composed of three articles Singer, a moral philosopher, wrote for lay audiences in the 1970s. The core argument of the main article, from which the book takes its name, can be broadly presented as this: there’s no moral distinction between a child drowning in a pond next to you and a person starving on the other side of the world. Most people would agree that helping the drowning child is not only a good thing to do but an obligation, and consequently it’s also a moral obligation to do what we can to help the more geographically distant.

The Thursday Murder Club — Richard Osman

This one is cheerier, despite the name. This debut novel from TV’s most genial quiz show host is a murder mystery in a retirement community. It’s cosy and pleasant, good natured and optimistic, but also a decent mystery. It’s also the only book I read last year with a proper laugh-out-loud GregWallace joke. This was a perfect book for 2020, and given its performance on the fiction charts it seems quite a lot of people agree with me.

The Last Day — Andrew Hunter Murray

Another debut novel, this one from one of the researchers for QI, and host of the spinoff podcast No Such Thing As a Fish. This is a post apocalyptic sci-fi set after a cosmic disaster leaves Earth tidally locked to the Sun so that one side is always in day, the other side always in night, and only the sliver of surface in permanent twilight remains habitable.

Part mystery, part thriller, part “ooh, I know the bit of London he’s talking about.”

The End of Everything — Katie Mack

A pop science exploration of the many ways the universe might come to an end. Heat death, a big crunch, spontaneous vacuum decay. Not only informative, but also one of the funnier books about the ultimate and inevitable destruction of everything that ever has been.

And on that note, I think it’s time to make a bit more progress on this year’s reading list.

January reading

At the end of last year I started writing short reviews on Goodreads of the books I’d finished reading. Nothing super in-depth or thoughtful, just a few sentences about each book in the moments after I finished it. I write them as if someone has just asked me what I thought of the book but I can tell they were kinda just being polite so they don’t want me to go on and on.

Anyway, here’s what I read in January (each one links through to my short review).

Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference — William MacAskill (unfortunately I lost my initial review of this one, so what’s here is really brief)

The Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen  — Brian Cox, Jeffrey R. Forshaw

How Proust Can Change Your Life — Alain de Botton

Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story — Steve Kamb

If you’re interested you can add me on Goodreads or follow my ‘Books’ collection on Google+ to see more as I write them. I also hope to do monthly posts like this one, but go ahead and look at my posting history if you want to decide for yourself how likely that is.