What I’ve Been Watching: Alison Bell

The Letdown star and co-creator Alison Bell is a fan of Fleabag, PEN15, Masterchef Australia and Insiders.

Here’s what else is on her watch-list.

1. What’s on your Must See TV list lately and why?
Season 2 of Fleabag. Because everyone should really watch anything that this woman makes – she’s a genius. Her writing is sharp, insightful and painfully funny. Because she’s not just an exceptional writer she’s an exceptional actor. Because Andrew Scott, who plays the priest in the second season is jaw droppingly good. I saw him on stage in a Noel Coward in London years ago and was blown away, then again blown away by his work in Sherlock, and again in this. Sublime. Oh and Oscar winner, Olivia Coleman is in it too. And PEN15 may not have celebrated names behind it but they will be soon. An exceptional, bold, frighteningly honest comedy about being a teenage girl in the 90’s. The excessive representation of cargo pants is enough to keep me laughing – but holy heck, these women are sensationally funny.

2. What are your Guilty Pleasure shows?
Masterchef is my number one guilty pleasure. And Insiders – could that be called a guilty pleasure? After the election there’s little pleasure to be taken in politics but that’s for a whole other interview. Masterchef, so many seasons in, is still a delight for a number of reasons: It celebrates, like nothing else, the diversity of Australia. I love the contestants and their varied heritage. It makes me hungry but also makes me want to be a better cook, I’m perpetually in awe of the talent on display – anything that makes you want to be better at anything has to be a good thing, right? And because it’s reality not narrative tv I can switch off in the best possible way and simply enjoy, rather than analyse writing, plot, structure, performance etc which is an occupational hazard – forever analysing in the hope of improving my own work. It’s exhausting. Masterchef, however, is not.

3. What retro shows would you love to see revived?
Mother and Son, if only Ruth Cracknell was still with us. I’m a huge fan of that show. I still believe it’s the best sitcom Australia has ever produced. (I’m also a huge fan of Gary McDonald’s. I got to work with him at the MTC years ago – career highlight). But truth be told I’d rather watch new material, fresh ideas that speak to our experience of the world now. I’ve never been a huge fan of remakes.

4. When you settle down for a night on the couch what are your ‘must-haves?’
To be honest I nearly always have my laptop open. My partner is forever telling me to close it and just watch. I take no pride in acknowledging I’m a bit of a workaholic. But once it’s shut – huzzah – I pick up a block of Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt and proceed to eat between 2 and 4 pieces. Pretty much every night. In front of whichever half hour we’re watching. (Can only commit to half hours right now!) That’s my ritual.

5. Tell us about the filming for The Letdown and what can we look forward to?
More chaos, more challenges, more laughs – I hope. We cover a lot of territory with our ensemble in season 2 – which is very much focused on navigating family – as opposed to the identity crisis of early parenthood which we interrogated in the first season. We look at the mania around milestones – 1st birthdays to be exact, fertility, the lack of information we have about our bodies, family planning and it’s myriad uncertainties; single parent dating, self care, returning to work and the concept of home. We physicalise the emotional distance that can grow between a couple in the early years of parenting by placing Jeremy in Adelaide and Audrey in Sydney. They confront quite a few big challenges. We’re very proud of this season and the story arc of our central couple. Plus the kids are really cute again!

The Letdown airs 9pm Wednesday on ABC.

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