What shows are you bingeing while you’re stuck at home? What favorite movies are you turning to? We’ll talk with critics about what you’re watching while spending more time at home.
Kristen Meinzer, culture critic and host of the “By the Book” podcast. Author of “How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books.” (@kristenmeinzer)
Eight Shows To Watch While Social Distancing
Social distancing can be lonely, and in these times of deep uncertainty it can be difficult to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Many are turning to television and movies for comfort and escape — whether they’re on their fifth re-watch of their favorite show, planning a (virtual, of course) movie night with friends, or are exploring new shows to binge-watch over the coming weeks.
Kate Hagen: “There is something so comforting about being able to go into the world of County General for forty-five minutes, see some medical catastrophes and see everything get solved and a neat little bow put on it. And I’m just living for the interpersonal drama.”
“Cheers” / “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Kristen Meinzer: “I myself am choosing to mostly watch light, frothy comedies. Your listener already mentioned ‘Cheers,’ but I love other ensemble comedies from right now also. I like ‘Superstore,’ I like ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine,’ which, you know, is still a pretty recent show. And what I like about all of these shows is we build relationships over many seasons with the same people, they’re multicultural, and much like the rest of us, they’re also trapped indoors. If you look closely at these shows, it’s like, here are a bunch of people who are also trapped indoors every single episode. But they are just having a great time, the shows are frothy, for the most part they’re forgettable — it doesn’t matter if next week I don’t remember what happened on the episode last week because the show is gonna be fine even if I have some blank spots in my memory. And I think those are great shows to watch right now.”
“… I have a number of single friends who have no roommates. They’re feeling rather alone right now, despite all of our best efforts to stay connected on FaceTime and other ways. You know, there are all those hours of the day where they’re not with anybody else right now, and being able to watch, just to flashback a little bit, watch Estelle Getty on ‘The Golden Girls’ say something snide that you know she’s gonna say or watch Betty White say something that sounds not very smart on ‘The Golden Girls,’ I think that those moments are really enjoyable and especially with those flashback shows where you feel like you already had a relationship with these characters 20, 30 years ago.”
“The Great British Baking Show”
Kristen Meinzer: “It’s completely the opposite of all the reality shows like ‘Survivor,’ where people are not there to make friends. On the ‘Great British Baking Show,’ everybody there wants to make a friend. They all become friends with each other. They all love each other. When somebody gets voted off, everybody cries and hugs that person like, ‘No, we’re so sorry you have to leave!’ It is such a joy to watch.
“… And it just has a pace that’s very slow and soothing. It can just feel like there’s somebody else in your house if you’re feeling alone, or it can also just slow your mind. A lot of media nowadays goes so fast, it’s like at a breakneck speed, there’s a cut here and an edit there. And the ‘Great British Baking Show’ is not like that. It’s nice and slow. It’s almost meditative and soothing to watch. And then just to see all these people who are so kind to each other at a moment like this, it’s great to see people kind to each other.”
“I Am Not Okay With This”
Kristen Meinzer: “I do appreciate people liking a little Sci-Fi right now. A little bit of, you know, superhero powers, a little bit of, ‘Let’s go to outer space or let’s fix the bad guys with something that is inside me that nobody else sees.’ I think all of that is great escapism right now, and especially when we’re feeling a little powerless to see people who maybe have superpowers is always a little bit more delicious than thinking that we’re all just ordinary.”
“Parks and Recreation”
Kate Hagen: “A lot of workplace shows are about, you know, sort of the mundane or the misery. But ‘Parks and Rec’ is really about celebrating, you know, how do we take those sort of boring parts of the civil service job and turn it into something wonderful? And I think that show does a great job of showing that any job is about the people that you do it with, not the job itself. And I think we’re all kind of missing our coworkers, even if we don’t want to admit it, we’re missing that kind of office camaraderie and hanging out.”
“Sanditon” / “Anne of Green Gables”
Kristen Meinzer: “I totally understand why people are drawn to historic dramas right now — female-led stories with women wearing sumptuous clothes and where their biggest problems in the whole world are making sure that you are going to the right ball or being courted by the right person. It can be just a wonderful escape. And I have to say, just the costume drama that I have been thinking about nonstop is the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ starring Megan Follows. All I can think about when I watch that right now is just, oh, it’s a slower, easier time, it allows me to escape, and it’s just beautiful on the eyes.”
Listener Voicemail Highlights
On Point Producer Picks
Brittany Knotts, producer: “Comedy is usually my first stop when I’m feeling off in any way. NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a fun, light, musical distraction that’s sure to cheer you up. For you dark comedy fans, HBO’s Avenue 5 is a nice dose of cynicism (though it hits a bit too close to home with some themes). Both seasons of Miracle Workers are witty joys to behold, and if you haven’t been watching Pamela Adlon’s female-driven masterpiece Better Things (FX), you should start.”
Dorey Scheimer, producer: “I’m watching HBO’s McMillions. It’s a documentary, but the characters are all so great. It’s engaging, it’s funny but it’s not too long of a time investment. Also, my boyfriend and I BOTH like it which can’t be said for too many TV shows and movies.”
Wes Martin, producer: “I recommend The Great British Baking Show and The Repair Shop, both on Netflix. They’re wondrously wholesome and emotionally inspiring shows — an antidote for international crises.”
Sydney Wertheim, digital producer: “I have two recommendations: one old, one new. I’ll start with the new, which is a Netflix show. It’s called The End Of The F***ing World. And it is amazing — funny, demented, dark, thought-provoking. Plus, it has great music and cinematography. (Keep an eye out for the show’s director, Jonathan Entwistle, who has another Netflix show that is also great — and in the same oeuvre as TEOTFW — called I Am Not Okay With This). My other TV recommendation is Sex and the City. The show doesn’t really stand the test of time — the outfits are usually insane, the jokes are sometimes insensitive and the characters can be genuinely unlikable — but it’s a great show to throw on in the background while you’re stuck inside. (Can you tell I’m a Miranda?)”
Stef Kotsonis, producer: “The New Pope is a new season of The Young Pope — with an interesting twist. Jude Law is the young pope who went into a coma. The new pope is John Malkovich, his replacement, who is almost majestic. Cynical, but interesting. Avenue 5 is a space comedy starring Hugh Laurie, produced by Iannucci of Veep fame. It’s not an A+ show, a little slapstick at times, but really funny at others. The only negative is they are all stranded on a space cruiseliner, which can feel a little claustrophobic for those stuck at home. Then, finally, Curb Your Enthusiasm is back! Having said all that, wouldn’t rewatching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel do everyone a little good?”
Grace Tatter, producer: “Better Call Saul and Letterkenny. I need them both to balance each other out. Better Call Saul poses interesting moral questions, is beautifully shot and regularly moves me to tears. Plus, it reminds me that however stressful my job can seem on some days, it is way less stressful than dealing with international drug cartels. Letterkenny, a Hulu show about a small town in Canada, is about the silliest show I’ve ever seen. I thought it was dumb when my boyfriend introduced me to it, but now I can’t stop watching it. It never fails to make me laugh. The show has its own specific slang and language that’s hard not to pick up on after a few episodes. Ferda! (If you know, you know).”
Eileen Imada, director: “I’ve been binge-watching Netflix’s Lost in Space and loving it. I totally relate to mom Maureen Robinson (Molly Parker) problem-solving like crazy to save her family after they crash-landed on an alien planet. Also Dr. Smith (Parker Posey) is pure evil.”
From The Reading List
NPR: “Three Pop Culture Recommendations To Calm Your Nerves” — “There’s a time for excitement, for the things that make us angry or scare us silly. But then there are all the other times. Sometimes we want something that will calm us down and slow our heart rates. We recommend some calming pieces of pop culture.”
The New York Times: “For Me, Rewatching ‘Contagion’ Was Fun, Until It Wasn’t” — “Pixar’s ‘Onward’ is the No. 1 movie in America. But what if “Contagion” is the No. 1 movie in our psyches? It’s currently way up there on the iTunes movie chart, which means we are paying for Steven Soderbergh’s nine-year-old sign of pandemic life. Covid-19 is upon us, infecting and killing people, compelling quarantine and ‘social distancing.’
“Planes are empty. Conferences and tennis tournaments are being scrapped. The new James Bond movie has been wishfully rescheduled for healthier climes. In the best of times, we civilians are unlikely to have a clear sense of what to expect from our leaders and government agencies. So in addition to looking to Washington for clarity in these stressful times, lots of us have turned to Soderbergh.
“’Contagion’ offers gymnastic catastrophe — it kicks, glides and throbs; it sticks the landing. In September of 2011, when it opened, studded with stars (Matt Damon, Sanaa Lathan, a snaggletoothed Jude Law), it was a decent hit.”
Entertainment Weekly: “What to quaran-stream if you’re staying in to avoid coronavirus” — “Several movie theater chains have closed. Large events including Coachella, Stagecoach, SXSW, and Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, have been canceled or postponed, as have several conventions and conferences.
“Bond film No Time to Die, A Quiet Place II, Fast & Furious 9, Mulan, and Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, and more have been pushed. Music tours and concerts have been put on hold. The NBA, NCAA, NFL, and MLB have all called a timeout. Disney’s theme parks, Universal Studios, Six Flags parks, and more have temporarily closed.
“COVID-19, a.k.a. coronavirus has forced city and state authorities to order restaurants, bars, and other businesses closed, and advise residents to isolate, work from home where possible, and practice social distancing. The virus, which has caused nearly 7,000 deaths (the number of those who’ve recovered is much larger, nearing 80,000), is expected to continue spreading.”
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.