The Guide #142: Are we in the most stress-inducing era of TV ever? Let’s break it down

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The world is simply a panic-inducing spot correct now. Dire warnings are shared regular astir nan parlous authorities of our climate. Authoritarian strongmen are establishing a foothold crossed Europe and beyond. Footage of seemingly interminable conflicts are broadcast connected news roundups. So what amended measurement to flight each that than by watching a TV show truthful tense it has you gnawing your fingernails down to nan whites?

We’ve talked astir agonisingly tense TV before, successful 2022, erstwhile Industry and The Bear gave viewers palpitations. But this year, TV seems to ratcheted up nan hostility to caller heights. (I blame/credit nan power of nan Safdie brothers’ hernia-inducing movie Uncut Gems for this wave: it showed that group tin tolerate an obscene magnitude of on-screen stress.) Indeed, by nan clip Industry and The Bear person aired their respective 3rd bid – The Bear later this month, Industry successful nan autumn – we’ll beryllium hollow-eyed tense wrecks.

Because 2024 has been specified a banner twelvemonth for stressful series, The Guide has devised its ain tense-o-meter (patent pending) to measurement them …


Blue Lights (BBC iPlayer)

This BBC play astir rookie cops successful Belfast feels, astatine points, for illustration a daytime soap successful its unfussy guidance and uncomplicated plotting. But disregard it astatine your peril – there’s extent and complexity to its depiction of a metropolis scarred by sectarianism and inevitably distrustful of authority. Not to mention moments of precocious worry arsenic seemingly regular moments of neighbourhood policing abruptly detonate into violence.

Tense-o-meter: 2 tummy ulcers retired of 5


Ripley (Netflix)

Dakota Fanning, Johnny Flynn and Andrew Scott sitting astir a array successful Ripley
‘You tin consciousness your tegument prickling’ … Dakota Fanning, Johnny Flynn and Andrew Scott successful Ripley. Photograph: Courtesy of Netflix/AP

With its meticulous monochrome cinematography and languorous pacing, this Netflix adjustment of Patricia Highsmith’s caller almost feels excessively prestigious to beryllium genuinely tense. Plus, nan truth that we’re beautiful acquainted pinch really things move retired should little beat rates further. And yet, successful its ain ambling, meditative way, Ripley is really stressful: you tin consciousness your tegument prickling arsenic Andrew Scott’s suave sociopath casually lifts a solid ashtray from a broadside table, fresh and consenting to lodge it successful nan skull of nan adjacent personification successful his way.

Tense-o-meter: 3 tummy ulcers retired of 5


Baby Reindeer (Netflix)

Richard Gadd’s endlessly discussed drama play doesn’t request gunfire aliases grisly murders to raise nan humor pressure. Its hostility is drawn from smaller, though nary little aggravated moments: nan whiplash you acquisition arsenic stalker Martha flips from doting to violent; nan tummy lurch arsenic Donny makes different disastrous, but understandable, life decision. The truth that Baby Reindeer is drawn from reality only adds to nan strength – this nightmarish script could happen, and has happened, to anyone.

Tense-o-meter: 4 tummy ulcers retired of 5

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Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show (Now/Max)

Jerrod Carmichael and his begetter Joe successful a van - Joe has his caput successful his hands
An excruciating begetter and boy roadworthy travel …. Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show. Photograph: HBO/2024 Home Box Office, Inc. All authorities reserved. HBO® and each related programs are nan spot of Home Box Office, Inc.

Tension takes galore forms: sometimes it tin travel retired of sheer awkwardness. This unscripted bid from US standup Jerrod Carmichael luxuriates successful that quality. An effort by Carmichael to clasp extremist honesty, it sees him divulge nan deepest, astir individual specifications of his life to those astir him, often pinch toe-curling results.

The segment pinch Tyler, nan Creator has been overmuch talked about, but moreover much excruciating is nan roadworthy travel Carmichael takes pinch his father, Joe, wherever topics of speech see his family’s discomfort pinch their son’s homosexuality.

Tense-0-meter: 4 tummy ulcers retired of 5


The Responder (BBC iPlayer)

The titan of tense TV. Tony Schumacher’s play astir a corrupt bull offers galore of nan acquainted storylines and thumps of constabulary drama, but manages to do thing uniquely excruciating pinch them. Much of that is down to Martin Freeman’s superb capacity arsenic nan hollowed-out copper Chris, everlastingly scrambling to get done his displacement without being recovered retired aliases done in. A scratchy restlessness seeps into each scene, whether it’s a standoff pinch supplier dealers aliases conscionable Chris trying to link pinch his daughter.

Frankly, we could person done pinch conscionable nan 1 outing of it, but past period brought a 2nd bid sounded astatine nan aforesaid relentless registry arsenic nan first. Get nan Pepto-Bismol out.

Tense-o-meter: 5 tummy ulcers retired of 5

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