To mark Audio Description Awareness Day, rather than discussing the lack of audio description, let’s celebrate some of the best TV shows with audio description across the BBC, Channel 4, Netflix and Apple TV+.
Casualty & Holby City
Now I’m aware Casualty & Holby City are two separate programmes but as they are both medical dramas and are set in the same fictional hospital, I thought I’d mention them together.
Casualty is based in the emergency department and Holby City is based between three wards – AAU, Keller and Darwin.
I first got into Casualty as a teenager after randomly watching an episode while flicking through the telly. I was eager to know what happened to the characters that I watched it the next week. More than 10 years on, I still watch it every week.
I was introduced to Holby City a few years later by my friend after she mentioned she preferred it to Casualty. Again, almost a decade later, I continue to watch it.
You can also check out my interview with Jules Robertson who plays the porter Jason Haynes in Holby City.
There is so much drama in these shows – hence the medical “drama” – with people getting stabbed, explosions, secret affairs, suspicious incidents and much more.
With the audio description, this helps me follow it so much better. For instance, who attacked who, what did that text message say, who got injured, which patient is in theatre, who is performing surgery, who kissed who etc.
His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials is a fantasy drama series based on the book trilogy by Phillip Pullman. I’m a big fan of the books since I was a child. When I found out a TV series was starting in 2019, I was curious to know how it was adapted for the small screen.
The story takes place in a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwinned. The people in this world have daemons, which are the external physical manifestation of a person’s “inner-self” that takes the form of an animal and has the intelligent and can communicate like humans.
Lyra is an 11-year-old girl who is an orphan living at Jordan College in Oxford with her daemon Pantalaimon.
After Lyra finds out her friend Roger has been kidnapped, she ends up travelling north to rescue him, where she finds lots of children in danger, armoured bears fighting and the discovering of other worlds.
There have been two series so far broadcast on BBC One, with a third expected in the near future. Unless you’ve read the books, I think the story is hard to follow even for a sighted person.
The audio description is vital in this show because there so much action and visual detail throughout. Whether that’s watching the master put poison in Lord Asril’s drink, Will using the Subtle knife to cut into another world or see two armoured polar bears fight to the death in the snowy mountains, the audio description is such an important tool in the narration of this story.
You can watch series 1 & 2 of His Dark Materials on BBC iPlayer.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a 90s fantasy fiction drama series set in the California town of Sunnydale. Aged 16, Buffy Summers finds out she is a vampire slayer. For the next seven years she battles the forces of evil with her friends, all while tackling the usual teenage dramas of school, college, parents, dating and sex.
I vaguely remember my parents having this show on when I was a kid, but I was too young to fully understand it. Then at the end of last summer, I came across the full box set on All4 with audio description.
So, from about September 2020 to March 2021, I watched all seven series and loved it. The audio description is a huge benefit for understanding the dramatic events when Buffy and her friends were fighting vampires, demons and other strange creatures.
You can watch the full box set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on All4.
Taskmaster is a comedy game show hosted by Greg Davis and Alex Horne, in which five comedians are given bizarre and ridiculous tasks to do to win points and a trophy at the end of the series.
The show first aired on the channel Dave but then in October 2020 it moved to Channel 4. I didn’t have regular access to Dave and so never watched it but knew of it. But when it moved to Channel 4 and I saw it had audio description, I thought I’d give it a go. I thought it was great and hilarious!
A majority of the show has dialogue from the hosts and comedians, but when some of the tasks are more physical, the audio description gives that bit of extra information as to how good or bad the comedian is doing in the task.
You can watch Taskmaster series 1 to 11 on All4. (Although sadly not every episode from the previous series includes AD)
The End of the F***ing World
I randomly came across this show when trying to find a short series to binge watch over a weekend.
It is a dark comedy series in which two teenagers, Alyssa, who wants to escape her chaotic home life, and James, who thinks he is a psychopath. They run away from home and end up embarking on some weird and dangerous events that leads them into deep trouble.
There is a lot of action and intimate moments, which means audio description helps make sense of what the characters are doing and who is good or evil.
Stranger Things is by far my favourite Netflix Original series of all time. So much so, that I even binge-watched all three series over the recent Easter bank holiday weekend.
The show is a science-fiction, fantasy, horror series set in the 80s in the small town of Hawkins, where a chain of suspicious events result in supernatural forces and secret government agencies invading the town.
It is up to a group of teenagers and a local sheriff to find out the truth of these terrifying incidents and save the town of Hawkins.
As there are many dark scenes, particularly in the upside-down and in the black void, audio description is a vital part to telling the story and visualising clues to uncover the truth.
Go check out series 1 to 3 of Stranger Things on Netflix
Black Mirror was the first Netflix Original series I watched when I signed up to the streaming service.
This dark satirical drama examines modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technology.
Every episode is a standalone and feature a wide range of action-packed and psychological drama. Therefore the audio descriptions guides all kinds of elements including fight scenes, online content, human interactions and much more.
There is also an interactive episode called Black Mirror Bandersnatch where you are given options of what the character does throughout the story. Although the audio description does describe each scene, I was disappointed that Voiceover or Voice Guide was unable to read aloud the option and so I needed assistance from a sighted person to select the options.
Watch the full series of Black Mirror on Netflix.
The OA is a Netflix Original mystery sci-fi drama. It’s about the story of an adopted young blind women called Prairie Johnson who reappears after being missing for seven years and with her sight restored. Some people think it’s a miracle and others think she’s dangerous.
She then tells her story about being imprisoned in a lab to four high school students and a teacher and asks them to help her to open another dimention to rescue the other people in the lab.
Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after two series, leaving it on a massive cliff-hanger.
There are a lot of visual elements to the show, including The Movement, which is a special dance that opens the dimensions, which meant the audio description provided a lot of detail.
The two series of The OA are available to watch on Netflix.
If you’re interested in watching more Netflix Original shows, all of which have audio description, check out my article 8 Netflix Original shows and films with disabled actors and characters.
I first watched Breaking Bad on DVD about seven years ago but there wasn’t audio description available. Instead I had my brother describe the visual elements throughout
A few years later, I signed up to Netflix and noticed Breaking Bad was on there too. Sadly, there still wasn’t audio description available. I did find a section on Netflix where you can request films and programmes and I asked for an audio described version of Breaking Bad.
For about two years, there was still no sign of it. Then last summer, I thought I’d check it again, and to my amazement, it had audio description.
Breaking Bad is a crime drama about a chemistry teacher called Walter White who is diagnosed with lung cancer and starts a drug business to save money for his family. However, it spirals out of control and it leads him to great danger.
Audio description makes a huge difference to understanding many aspects of this show, including people using guns, stealing ingredients for drugs and working in the meth lab.
The full box set of Breaking Bad is available to stream on Netflix.
Also, check out my interview with RJ Mitte who plays Walter White Jr in Breaking Bad.
The Morning Show
I got a free subscription of Apple TV+ when I purchased my MacBook Air last year. The Morning Show is an Apple TV Original starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell.
The 10-part drama follows the everyday challenges the journalists and crew face on a TV news network in New York City, with the main focus of a former co-host accused of sexual assault.
The audio description gives important details on characters emotions, body language and intimate relationships.
The Morning Show is available to watch Apple TV+.
These are just some of the amazing TV shows that provide audio description. There are many more I love including The Inbetweeners, Special, Atypical, Orange is the New Black, Gavin & Stacey, Bridgeton, Killing Eve, The Undateables and many more.
But we still need 100% pre-recorded content providing audio description. So please continue to sign and share my petition using the hashtag #ADForAll.
Also please check out and share my latest published article on PosAbility Magazine – Report: audio description missing from three-quarters of Netflix content
Which TV shows with audio description are your favourites? Share them in the comments box of social media.
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