These are trying times and as more areas come under ‘Shelter in Place” orders, the more people may need a brief release and escape from the world. Everyone can turn to different coping methods to help manage the down time. Here at AIPT, we’ve already covered video games and some movies to indulge while in self-isolation. However, if television is more your thing, check out our team’s eclectic mix of totally bingeable shows. Hopefully, even one of our picks can help you get through the day.
WHEN YOU NEED A LAUGH
There is no other show that is as heartfelt and authentic as Bob’s Burgers. Loren Bouchard really hit the ball out of the park with this cartoon! As someone who grew up watching The Simpsons, I can say with confidence that Bob’s Burgers is the most real cartoon family on television. While the episodes center around the eccentric Belcher family and their burger business, the show spends a lot of time getting to know the characters around town. Everyone is a little weird and quirky, but that adds a level of depth to the show that just makes their problems more realistic. The Belchers are the underdogs you want to root for because they almost never win. Linda is probably my favorite character on the show, with her wine and bad musical talent, but I honestly love the whole family. If you want something that is feel-good, funky and down to earth, watch Bob’s Burgers. The whole series is streaming on Hulu! And it will give you some great inspiration to make the “Burger of the Day!”
A couple years ago, I came down with a terrible case of the flu. While I normally prefer dark or supernatural dramas, I needed something to lift my spirits. Unfortunately, I’m also adverse to most television sitcoms. The Office is an obvious exception (both in format and content), but even beloved/quality series like Friends don’t really do it for me on a consistent basis…and don’t even get me started on shows like The Big Bang Theory. Thankfully, I decided to see what all the fuss was about Brooklyn Nine-Nine and ended up laughing my way back to health. The show about a New York police precinct is unabashedly silly, but is filled with some the funniest and sharpest dialogue you could ask for. The show adds just enough real drama and pathos to keep things interesting without ever straying too far from its comedic roots. The cast is unbelievably great, as well. I already knew Andy Samberg and Terry Crews were good, but the rest of the 99 crew are equally good. Perhaps the best of all of them, however, is the normally staid/stoic Andre Braugher, who is a comedic revelation. If you’re looking for a show that will make you laugh while also sucking you into its episodic and seasonal plot lines, then Brooklyn’s 99th Precinct has you covered.
I happened upon Schitt$ Creek out of the blue when I was sick and looking for a funny binge. I read Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara in the description and thought – gold mine. I mean who doesn’t love them from Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. Schitt’s Creek is the creation of Dan Levy and Eugene Levy, starring both father and son as well as a cast of talented actors. This was my first exposure to Dan Levy’s work. The story lines, characters and Dan Levy’s portrayal of David Rose are comedic genius!
Meet the Roses, a filthy rich family who are suddenly broke and must start over in a rural town they once purchased as a joke. The relationship between David Rose and Stevie Budd (Emily Hampshire) is pure magic and the show is a perfect mixture of elite snarky and sarcastic dark humor. There are so many aspects that will have you laughing from Moira Rose’s (Catherine O’Hara) outlandish fashion (although we cannot forget David when it comes to fashion either), Roland Schitt’s (Chris Elliott) buffoonery and Alexis Rose (Annie Murphy) whose self-centered flightiness tends to sometimes overshadow her good heart. Eugene Levy delivers dry humor like no one else, as Johnny Rose tries to make the best of their situation and propel his family forward despite their kicking and screaming.
There are currently five seasons of Schitt$ Creek on Netflix. The sixth and final season (Nooooo!!! So sad.) started airing earlier this year on Pop. Sadly, I do not have regular cable but have discovered you can purchase the entire sixth season for $25 on Amazon. It’s worth the money right now to escape for a bit because as Moira said…”You are blind to reality, and for that I am most proud.”
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
The Golden Girls
I couldn’t settle with just one show to binge watch when The Golden Girls is streaming on Hulu. This sitcom first aired in 1985. Unlike many other sitcoms from that era, The Golden Girls has aged very well. It has some of the most incredibly witty, smart and comedic dialogue featuring a dynamite cast of Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty. What this TV show was doing at the time was ground-breaking — A show about four older women living together, whether they be widowed or divorced, and solving life’s problems with a strong bond of friendship between the four of them. I still watch this show every week, and it’s been 35 years. Whenever I am feeling down, I throw on The Golden Girls and it always brings me to this place of peace in which I know everything will be okay. Maybe it’s a bit of what the world was like in my childhood, or maybe it’s just that the power of friendship is so strong on this show. It will make you laugh, and it will make you cry. Every piece of this production is perfect in every way. Grab some cheesecake to binge watch Golden Girls, because you are going to need it!
Jem! She’s truly outrageous! Do you just want to watch something for hours on in and is the perfect combination of mindless, nonsensical and melodramatic? Jem is the right show for you! Seriously, you accidentally binged three episodes in a row and feel like you’re watching a new show. It’s 80’s glam and cheese wrapped up in a delightful package! For those of you that have children, I would recommend a few episodes of Jem in between your four-year old’s nonstop replay of Frozen 2. The songs are catchy. The fashion is wild. And well, the Misfits themselves are worth the price of (free) admission even though they should be in JAIL.
I feel like I am constantly looking for something to binge. There’s plenty of shows you can have on in the background and will make you laugh every once in a while. But if you are looking for a show with great characters and storylines, you have to watch Frasier. The arc involving Niles and Dafney is one of the best slow burn romances ever written. The overarching theme of family and finding love is never heavy handed and will make you care about the characters that much more. You don’t have to be a fan of Cheers (I’m not) to enjoy Frasier. The show ran for eleven seasons and the quality never dropped. Plus, no show or movie has ever used doors more effectively-EVER!
I feel like Catch-22 went under too many people’s radar, so now is the perfect time to sing its praises. Based on Joseph Heller’s classic novel, Catch-22 takes a darkly humorous look at the lives of American bombardiers in Italy during the final days of World War 2. It has an incredible cast with the likes of Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, and George Clooney (who also executive produces and directs) making appearances, though the true stars are the ragtag group of pilots and gunners— each who are brought to life by stellar performances from Christopher Abbot as YoYo, Daniel David Stewart as Milo Minderbinder, and Lewis Pullman as Major Major Major Major (yes, that’s a real character name). This show is perfect for anyone that can’t decide between a comedy and a drama, as it perfectly strikes a balance between each. If you’re a fan of Kurt Vonnegut novels, satire, and even historical World War 2 dramas, this show is perfect for you.
Some people binge watch Friends. Others binge watch The Office or Parks & Recreation. But, when I am in a rut and need something with a compelling storyline and funny without over the top gags just to get a laugh, I turn to Showtime’s dark dramedy, Weeds. I know many of you have seen Weeds pop up on your “Netflix Suggests” screen and scrolled right past it. Well, that is a mistake. Weeds is an expertly written series that follows recently widowed Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) in her journey from stereotypical California house-wife to marijuana drug lord. Along for the ride is an excellent supporting cast including Hunter Parrish, Justin Kirk, Kevin Nealon, Elizabeth Perkins, and Alexander Gould (you know, Nemo, from Finding Nemo) that not only adds to the quirkiness of the series, but provides enough of their background to become meaningful characters that you actually care about. In fact, if Perkins’ Celia Hodes ever gets a spin-off series, I’d put out the money for a subscription just to watch it. There are 8 seasons of the show with each season containing 13 episodes (minus the first season which comes in at 10) with each episode running right around 30 minutes, thus making Weeds the perfect binge-worthy series. All 8 seasons can be found on Netflix, so what are you waiting for?
Friday Night Lights
Multi Emmy winning series, Friday Night Lights, hits so many different notes. The sports drama uses small-town America as a backdrop to address universal issues including racism, family values, schools and drug use. It even provides that sports fix for people missing the NFL and NBA. Hop on board the rollercoaster ride of heart breaking and disappointing lows to triumphant feel good highs as Kyle Chandler’s Coach Taylor leads his high school football team into battle on the gridiron. You might recognize many of his players and students in the ensemble cast before they made their super-hero turn. Taylor Kitsch (Gambit), Minka Kelly (Dove), Adrianne Palicki (Bobbi Morse), Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger) and Jurnee Smollett (Black Canary) each spent time as teens in Dillon, Texas. All five seasons of Friday Night Lights can be streamed on Hulu but if you don’t have a subscription, don’t fret. It’s also available for free via the NBC app. Though we don’t know how long we’ll need to self-isolate, it should take some time to binge through the seventy-six episodes of the series. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose”.
Heroes to the Rescue
I’ve written a lot about Doom Patrol in the past, having reviewed the entire first season for AIPT. Still, since I’m currently rewatching the series, this seems like a good time to double down on my praise. Doom Patrol is not for everyone, of course. However, it is unflinchingly bizarre and endlessly entertaining.
It’s rude, violent, impossibly weird, and occasionally totally disgusting, but it also has an incredible amount of heart. It’s ultimately a story about acceptance and family, about finding peace in a world that can sometimes feel like it’s out to get you. If that’s not comforting right now, then I don’t know what to tell you.
The cast members completely sell the bonkers action and emotional depth of the characters, particularly April Bowlby as Rita Farr and Matt Bomer as Larry Trainor. It’s a show that’s unafraid of being ridiculous, but it never makes itself into a joke. Doom Patrol is unlike anything else on TV, and we’re all the better for it!
Marvel’s Netflix Series
So, I, like many, really fell off with Marvel’s Netflix series after Daredevil season 2. Oh, I caught up for the Defenders, but since then? I kind of forgot all about them – just like Marvel itself is planning to do whenever that contract with the streaming leader expires. Welp, now that there’s little to do but stay inside all day for the next…ever, may as well catch up with these well-acted, well-respected, poorly paced series and see what I’ve been missing. It took me nearly a year to get through Iron Fist season 2 (man that ending was dumb) but I’m already 10 episodes into the second season of The Punisher. That’s 10 of 13. Why would we ever need this much content in a non-quarantine situation? Still, I’m interested to see how the Jigsaw storyline wraps. I’ve also got the final season of Jessica Jones on deck, and when that’s done, the long national nightmare of me not being up to date on Marvel’s televised output will be over. Well, until I decide to watch the second season of Runaways on Hulu…and then there’s Cloak and Dagger which I haven’t seen…Come to think of it? There’s a whole mountain of Marvel cartoons on Disney+ that I haven’t caught yet either…oh boy, it’s going to be a long quarantine.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD
Agents of SHIELD may be the best written show in television right now. Agents started as the red-headed step child of the MCU. It was a cop-procedural show that promised MCU fans, upon its debut in 2012, that it would follow the exploits of the women and men who work with Nick Fury to keep the MCU safe. Also, it would feature tethers to Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and The Avengers franchise. What was delivered however were brief cameos from the supporting cast of the MCU, missable references to happenings in the movies, one episode with Samuel L. Jackson, and a forced reboot midway through their first season post the events of Captain America: The Winter Solider. After all, how can the show be about Agents of SHIELD when SHIELD had been dismantled?
This was enough to cancel any show but the writers and cast, left with nothing but waning interests, broken promises, and executive mandates, produced a can’t miss television show for any comic-book fan or television aficionado. They used the events of The Winter Soldier to convert their show into a spy-thriller that featured a wonderful villainous turn from the late Bill Paxton that reinvigorated the show. Seasons 2 and 3 featured our agents becoming full-fledged superheroes as they discovered the presence of the Inhumans in their midst, introduced Marvel Comics’ stalwart hero, Quake, to live action, and fought the scourge of Hydra. The show dabbled in horror as Ghost Rider joined the fray and used a wonderful alternate reality plot to explore the psyche of our heroes and to meditate upon the meaning of heroism. Season 5 featured a time-travel plot that taught us that nothing is written and that everything is permitted. And throughout it all, you will find some of the best writing, acting and cinematography that television has to offer as the main characters become stronger, struggle with loss, find and lose love and become heroes. The fact that this show is so good is a miracle from a production standpoint and it’s the type of show we need right now.