Licence to ill: music and culture for a sick day

Whether it’s cake pretending to be other things or Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, our critics recommend some feeling-peaky blinders


For days of gratuitous slobbery, the last thing you want is anything remotely nourishing. Netflix’s Is It Cake? isn’t that, in any sense of the word; it’s a hilariously pointless viral video stretched out into a series, in which bakers compete to make cakes that look like they aren’t cakes. In fact, they can look like anything from full English breakfasts to grubby old trainers. Each episode ends with host Mikey Day, wielding his massive knife with a deranged relish that would make Mary Berry shudder, as he cuts and reveals the answer to the show’s one and only question. It’s magnificently bizarre, disarmingly foolish and as moreish as a Victoria sponge. Phil Harrison



Donna Tartt’s The Secret History entices us into an exciting and enviable world, far removed from the humdrum of everyday existence. It’s a delight to escape to the old-fashioned campus of Hampden College in the warm glow of a Vermont autumn. It’s a thrill to join the elite clique of students handpicked by Professor Julian Morrow and to share not only in their appreciation for the philosophy and beauties of ancient Greece but also their most intimate secrets. Admittedly, there are also frightening bacchanals to survive and a cruel murder to solve, but that only adds to the fascination of this modern classic. Sam Jordison



Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Sweet thing … Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

The smart-alec choice for a sick day would be SlackerRichard Linklater’s defining gen X ode to rejecting ambition and focus. But the film most likely to light up an actual long afternoon in bed is one that takes you back to childhood – specifically, to the woozy, comfort-blanket haze of the random Tuesday when genuine illness (perhaps conveyed with a dramatic flourish) had briefly won your freedom from school. Whatever vintage your childhood, that road will lead to Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), a transcendent dose of feelgood with just a pinch of guilty paranoia. Danny Leigh



Is there anyone who hasn’t lost at least a day to The Sims? It’s been 22 years since EA’s life-simulation game arrived in the world, and it remains as monstrously compelling as ever. Get emotionally overinvested in the successes, failures and interpersonal dramas of little computer people. Spend hours tinkering with your perfect pretend house, adjusting the decor and buying endless things in a futile and never-ending attempt to make your Sims – and yourself – happy. There are still few other games that can delete time as effectively. Keza MacDonald



Los Campesinos!
Scenes setters … Los Campesinos! Photograph: Kelly Sullivan/Getty

Albeit taking this week’s brief a little literally, Sick Scenes, 2017’s LP from the Welsh band Los Campesinos! delivers for me when I’m feeling a little off-kilter. Frontman Gareth Paisey rallies his troops to pick up the pieces of Brexit, breakups and breakdowns, torn between hope, candour and his signature penchant for niche football references. His strongest lyrical blow is delivered against the deceptively perky melody of 5 Flucloxacillin: “Another blister pack popped and I still feel much the same / Thirty one and depression is a young man’s game … ” Their distinctive brand of indie emo might not proffer the emotional cure, but it certainly provides a solid dose of catharsis. Jenessa Williams