Alongside meet-and-greeting a global pandemic, we were gifted with some pretty magical TV… we were also gifted with some disturbing insights on said shows too but more of that later! Over the course of the past year, sofa-surfing has been pretty much the only thing that we’ve been able to do… particularly in the first lockdown. Without further ado, here is my humble list of the top-ten documentaries/ docu-series over the past year and a bit.
Billie Eilish: The World’s a little blurry
Released on February 26th 2021, this documentary gives viewers a completely stripped-back, personal view of Billie Eilish’s life. Recording for this show began three years ago and was estimated to have cost between $1 to $2 million.
It’s a coming-of-age story mixed with intense fame and spectators in their millions, rushing to share their opinion. The song that shot her to fame was ‘Ocean Eyes’, at the tender age of 13. She was plunged into the deep end and forced to grow up whilst people from around the world showered her with feedback – negative and positive.
When reflecting on the documentary, Eilish told Vanity Fair “It’s really about my life, me, in such a way that I was not expecting, and was pretty brutal to relive”.
Eilish is famously known for her outfit choices – baggy clothes are her go-to. Why? She has always purposefully worn baggy clothes to hide her body away from being sexualised – something that many in the industry have fallen victim to. Having suffered from self-image and extreme insecurities, Eilish moved forward with baggy clothes.
This documentary gives a raw insight into the battles that the teenager has faced across the years. It gives an insight into the effects that not only internet trolling can have, but the effects of being trapped in your own mind.
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
Four episodes that shook the world. Four episodes that unravelled a completely new outlook. Four episodes that shut down careers.
On May 27th 2020, Netflix released this docu-series about Jeffrey Epstein and the extent of his abuse. Of course, we’ve heard of this kind of thing before. The pyramid scheme set up. You have your ‘big baddie’, then a couple of lets’s say ‘henchmen’ and then a tribe of individuals working for the above. Never have I heard of something as disgraceful as this – the idolised celebrities, the young girls, the complete abuse of power. It is shocking.
To hear the stories from the survivors… it’s devastating and evident of the abuse that they were subjected to from Epstein and others. The scars of these victims were laid bare for all to see – yes, it is difficult to watch and the ages of these children is something that has stayed with me ever since… but, it is important that people watch. It is important to realise that this goes on in the world – Epstein wasn’t the first and I could put a bet on him not being the last.
We still don’t know the extent of the ring of people involved, maybe we never will but you have to celebrate the success of Epstein’s abuse getting taken away. It was a very important documentary and there are a lot of shocking names reeled off towards the end… Prince Andrew is the only one in a long line. I definitely recommend watching the docu-series and sympathising with the victims that suffered for so long at the hands of this predator.
David Attenborough: A perfect planet
He is the perfect gentleman that the world needs, but doesn’t deserve. On 31st January 2021, Sir David Attenborough graced us with yet another phenomenal docu-series. Throughout the five episodes, we learn more about the influence of natural forces such as weather and their impact on our planet.
Our planet is one in a billion and for years, Attenborough has encouraged us to take care of it. Alongside the insight into natural forces, the series also explores the short and long term effects of climate change. Every aspect of life has an effect – the sun, the animals, humans. Acknowledging a problem is easy but doing something about it… well that’s still easy too but many people are too lazy to realise.
I’ve always respected the extremely hard work and dedication that goes into these series but this one particularly resonated with me. Watching the production crew tackle extreme climates with staggering temperatures of high and low was just incredible. They love their job and it shows, every single frame that we see in series like ‘A perfect planet’ is owed to the brave individuals that risk their lives to show us, sat on our sofas, what things look like.
The series really clutches at your heart and shows you the devastation that we are causing to the animal kingdom and the world that we live in.
Framing Britney Spears
There have been so many instances of the paparazzi getting way too involved in Celebrity culture – in ‘normal life’, this would be considered harassment or stalking. Britney well and truly fell victim to the extreme appetite of the press. It was shameless and inhumane, not only that but it was never a one-time thing either.
On 5th February 2021, we were exposed to a devastating perspective. She has been suffocated by this frenzy since she was ten years old. From such a young age, she found herself at the centre of criticism, controversy and celebrity ideals.
For years and years, the tabloids have hunted – desperately clutching on to anything negative and spindling a hundred stories of destruction. This terror only grew for Britney when she became a mother – the press were desperate to create a bad situation. Rumours of promiscuity, unfit parenting and instability flew around until the events of 2008 took place.
In 2008, Britney went through a very public battle with her mental health, shaving her head and just wanting an escape from the world. At a time when she was at rock-bottom, however, things did not ease and if anything, it only added fuel to the fire.
This documentary really hones in on the torturous life that she was forced to live, controlled and characterised. Following the release of the documentary, #FreeBritney began to trend, support growing and pleading for the breakdown of control that her conservationist and father, Jamie Spears, still has over her.
After watching bits of the documentary herself, Britney released a statement saying “I cried for two weeks and well… I still cry sometimes!”
Honestly, before watching this docu-series, I never even knew that this was a thing. I mean it all ended by the time I was two so I can’t say I’m awfully surprised but the grand scale of this rig left me utterly gobsmacked.
This six-part series, released in February 2020, gave us an inside perspective into how the FBI cracked one hell of a fraud case. Between 1989 and 2001, there were virtually no legitimate winners of the McDonald’s Monopoly game. Throughout those years, over $24 million was claimed illegally – by bogus winners and perpetrators.
Watching this documentary was a bit like watching you’ve been framed, sometimes, you literally cannot understand how this is happening right in front of your eyes. Some of the stuff that the FBI had these people doing or saying was just like… how? You had to take a minute to process it. It is 100000x recommended by myself. Yes, it probably could have been condensed into fewer episodes but this is Netflix and that’s standard procedure with a lot of these series.
In all honestly, if you don’t watch this series for anything else, watch it for Doug Matthews. The FBI agent’s witty remarks throughout the series were absolutely hilarious and certainly gave it a bit of spice when at times, it fell a little flat.
The Last Dance
First aired in April 2020, viewers shared an insight into Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls throughout their majorly successful stint in the 1997-98 season – his final season with the team.
The series starts by taking us back to Jordan’s early NBA days, giving us a perspective of the player that would support our decisions throughout the rest of the series.
Of course, the main focus of the series is the 97-98 season but the chapters previous are equally as thrilling in Jordan’s fascinating career. Throughout his life, Jordan was forced to face a number of problems head-on. Examples of these include Injuries at the start of his career, Gambling coverage, losing his dad.
The story of legends aren’t built on easy-riding lives and lack of obstacles, they climb and work damn hard to get to where they want to be. Michael Jordan well and truly deserves his legendary status and this docu-series conveys that with the best conviction. I won’t give any more spoilers as if you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend taking the time to do so now! P.s. did you know that he retired to play baseball before returning to basketball? Sorry, that was the last spoiler I promise!
Night Stalker: The hunt for a serial killer
The fact that people like Richard Ramirez exists… well, that gives me serious spine shivers! It was a series that had me completely hooked but at the same time, had me second-guessing every single noise I heard at night.
The series focuses more on the city that was terrorised the horrors of Ramirez – Los Angeles. The fear was stricken over everyone as this killer didn’t have a favoured victim profile – anyone could have been a target and nobody knew who or when it would happen next. The only common theme was an unlocked door or easy access, this then led to residents trapping them in the sweltering Los Angeles heat to protect themselves.
The series runs in chronological order, allowing viewers to seemingly live through the events and see what the detectives saw. Throughout the first three episodes, there was no sign of Ramirez and it leaves you racing for the remote to play the next episode, praying that he was caught.
As you are seeing it through the eyes of the detectives, you feel excruciating fury when mistakes happen – like the major of San Francisco releasing crucial information to the public and nearly blowing the whole investigation.
Alternatively, the series also shares survivor stories and accounts from the victim’s families – it is truly heartbreaking to watch but again, important to understand the full extent of the acts of such a violent human.
The trials of Gabriel Fernandez
Night stalker was heartbreaking but this series takes on a completely new level. On February 26th 2020, Netflix shared Gabriel’s story. He was an eight-year-old boy, with the rest of his life to live – something that was stripped away from him by his own mother and her partner.
Not only does this series delve into the tragedy that surrounded his death but also what led to that moment – the failure of the justice system. Throughout the six episodes, a thorough examination takes place to try and formulate some sort of understanding of how this could have ever happened.
From a very young age, Gabriel was shuffled around between family members – never settling in a permanent residence. He was originally placed in the custody of his uncles for a time, before going to live with his grandparents. The footage shown of his time with his uncles was beautiful, he was a happy and healthy, loved boy.
In 2012, everything took a drastic turn when he was taken to live with his birth mother ‘Pearl Fernandez’ and her boyfriend ‘Isauro Aguirre’. By the 22nd of May 2013, Gabriel was rushed to hospital. The paramedic response found him with broken ribs, BB pellets stuck in his body and a cracked skull – the abuse could be registered immediately. Two days later, he died.
The series unravels Gabriel’s story completely, his case-workers were put on trial and furthermore, the department of child and family services were also investigated. It is a really tough watch, and I don’t have children so I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for someone with babies. However, Gabriel’s story should not be swept under the carpet and he should be heard.
First lockdown throwback – the saviour that we all applauded so heavily. The war between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin was something that you just didn’t want to miss – it was the perfect binge-watch. I think I finished it in two days… winner!
This series basically explores the relationship between the community of big cat conservationists. The big feud between Joe, the owner of G.W. Zoo and Carole, the owner of Big Cat Rescue, has been fuelled over a number of years. The pair share a fair amount of threatening videos, messages, protests and harassment campaigns – it is just mental! It got so crazy that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) even got involved.
In this crazy series, we gathered: a whole bunch of memes, a presidential candidate(wannabe), a murder accusation (killed her husband, whacked him) and a LOT of cute tigers.
I am a killer
International airing for Season two began on the 31st January 2020 and wow was it crazy. I don’t know how they do it but they often make me sympathise with the killer… not always though!!
One particular episode that stuck with me was “Overkill”. This episode saw David Barnett account for the murder of his adoptive grandparents; a murder in which he stabbed them over 20 times. It was horrific and ‘overkill’ was certainly a suitable title for this malicious attack.
Hearing the events, first-hand from David, of what may have led to the murder was the sympathetic bit for me. Never will I ever condone taking another person’s life but do I think this could have been avoided? Definitely.
David was adopted at seven years old by John Barnett, an unmarried computer teacher. He thought that this would be his saving grace, a chance to live a happy life, but David was wrong. He was abused severely and frequently by Barnett, physically, mentally and sexually. Two years later, Barnett adopted two more sons who were then forced to endure the same torture. David then felt an overwhelming feeling of guilt, feeling that he could have prevented this from happening.
On the day of the murder, at 18 years old, David decided to tell his adoptive grandparents what their son had been doing over the past decade. However, when they didn’t give him the response he was hoping for, instead, they turned their back on him. His last hope dwindled away in front of him and sent him into a state of manic rage.
The series is very well produced and gives a perspective of killers that honestly, I would have never seen otherwise. 10/10 Recommend.