Things are looking bright for pessimists these days—the world has caught up with their sense of gloom. Well over half of those living in the developed world think their countries are heading in the wrong direction, away from the prosperity and stability that people over age 40 once took for granted. Be it climate change, financial collapse, terrorism, political gridlock or the ceaseless psychic tasering of social media, ordinary people often feel caught in a reality that's spinning out of control.
Such a feeling underlies the rip-roaring BBC show Years and Years airing on HBO. With hints of everything from Black Mirror to The Handmaid's Tale to The Apprentice, this six-part family saga gazes through a crystal ball to tell a darkly unsettling tale about how history affects individual lives. The action begins right now, in 2019, and carries us 15 years into the future.
The story centers on the Manchester-based Lyons family. The eldest brother Stephen Lyons (Rory Kinnear) is a prosperous financial planner married to Celeste Bisme-Lyons (T'Nia Miller), a successful accountant with whom he has two daughters. He has a gay younger brother, Daniel (Russell Tovey), who works for the Manchester city government, and two younger sisters. There's earnest Edith (Jessica Hynes), who's a globetrotting social activist, and the rousing Rosie (Ruth Madeley), a blue-collar single mom with spina bifida. On holidays they visit the home of their redoubtable grandmother (Anne Reid), who lives in—metaphor, anyone?—a big old house in serious need of repair.
As the show begins, they're simply going about their lives. But history soon starts roaring around them like a hurricane. Donald Trump is re-elected and begins a nuclear stare-down with China. Vladimir Putin takes over Ukraine, and refugees pour into Britain. Banks begin to wobble, political parties dither, and Britain watches the rise of Vivienne Rook—played by a terrific Emma Thompson—a plain-speaking businesswoman turned populist politician who owns her own TV network. Some of the Lyons find Rook a breath of fresh air; the others think she's Satan.