Maintaining a burgeoning TV addiction and attempting to do a degree on the side can be an incredibly difficult task for any student in Oxford. Tutors often have the gall to set huge amounts of time-consuming work that can tear you away from the JCR TV or your laptop screen, and place you in the desolate wilderness of the library. So which subjects are the best for those craving a telebox fix? Of course, there are obvious subjects that simply would never make the cut – Physics and Philosophy is far too demanding for students to ever commit to a proper relationship with their screens, especially when they have to spend so long deciding whether or not they count as a science or a humanity (maybe a scumanity?). Medics also are just too busy, trying to carry on down that career path they’ve already marked out for themselves, to ever make time for such an addiction. Nevertheless, sometimes the only way to keep the addiction going is to find the right shows for the right subjects, feel free to suggest your own below!
1.) History and History of Art
With 1-2 tutorials a week and 2-5 lectures, it almost seems impossible for historians not to have some form of TV addiction. Not only is it a great way to show off how much free time you have, for the super keen students there are so many shows based on historical periods where you learn while you watch. A student studying early modern Europe could learn most of the course purely from watching a mixture of The Borgias, The Tudors, The White Queen and maybe the Henry V episode of the Hollow Crown. Even Game of Thrones can teach you quite a lot about the bloody nature of warring dynasties and the unreliability of princely succession, though you might need to gloss over the dragons and White Walkers. History of Art is pretty much the same, it’s almost certain you can get the entire course covered in the one series of Desperate Romantics.
English students are basically in the same boat as historians, with so many adaptations of novels, plays even poems out there that endless hours watching TV are probably part of the course in some capacity. Perhaps a slight generalisation, but with the first term of first year alone covering 19th century literature then there’s no better way to supplement the reading than by watching a good Austen or Dickens adaptation. 2008 was a bumper year, with both the Sense and Sensibility and Tess of the D’Urbervilles miniseries engrossing and a great way to while away the hours, whilst entirely justified as studying. Further afield you’ve got Jekyll or if you want to put some of the Bard’s key themes in a more modern context have a stab at Shakespeare Retold, which is a great bit of fun.
In between labs, reports, and tutorials, it should be difficult to see these students having any time to actually watch any form of show. Only two words, however, need describe a Chemist’s TV addiction: Breaking Bad. Though it might not be the only addiction on the cards, the show has managed to take the subject out of its shady laboratory context and put it right where Emmy and Critic’s Choice awards can find it. Any Chemist worth their salt would have already digested the existing 54 episodes and be eagerly awaiting the final eight, beginning on August 11th. If any linguists feel left out there is a Spanish remake coming soon, chronicling the highs and lows of Walter Blanco and Jose Miguel Rosas.
It may be conforming to stereotypes, but there are plenty of political dramas out there for PPEists. Sure, you have more work than English or History students, but you’d be surprised how much you can learn from some TV shows. Most cultural depictions of British politics have been overshadowed by Malcolm Tucker’s profanities and menacing glares, but over the pond there is a remarkable amount of great TV to watch to fuel any addiction. Veep has had huge success over there, and House of Cards has brought Kevin Spacey’s face to American politics in the best way possible. The side monologues interspersed throughout the episodes keep the series ticking over as Spacey’s Whip dances through the House Majority to exact his personal agenda. After a few hours spent watching either, you’ll be ready for any demanding tutorial question on American politics. Probably.
5.) Classics and CAAH
It may seem at first that anyone studying the subject would be watching a perpetual Time Team marathon, but it turns out that CAAH as a subject actually gives its students a large opportunity to fuel their TV addiction. That’s not to say Time Team isn’t a great pastime (and proves that Tony Robinson’s career since Blackadder Goes Forth has been confined to trenches), but the sheer number of Classics based TV shows ready to watch. Spartacus is an obvious starting point, as is Rome, two great historical series. Going a bit further back in time, you get the great adaptation of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius in 1976 featuring Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart, John Hurt and Brian Blessed, showing that there is still something to keep these students sane between all those Latin verb tables and Greek mythology.
So what do you think? Are the rest of the scientists and linguists more capable of satisfying their TV needs whilst not straying too far from their own subjects?