As far as motivational mottos go, “We need TV now more than ever” is pretty bleak. But it’s true. We’re social distancing, we’re self–isolating, and we’re working from home. That leaves us with a lot of free time to do whatever, as casual as that sounds. Sure, you can read, or pick up a new hobby, or try to exercise, but we all know what you really want to do is watch Netflix. So, if self–improvement isn’t your thing, here are some ways you can kill time while locked inside. Just don’t watch Contagion.
Currently Watching: Veep
Genre: Political Comedy
Julia Louis–Dreyfus stars as Selina Meyer, a vice president best characterized as a mix of Sarah Palin and a binder–throwing Amy Klobuchar, hell–bent on preserving her reputation and becoming the first female president through whatever means possible. Buttressed by a campaign staff equal parts incompetent and conniving, Selina’s journey to (and from) the Oval Office provides a first–hand look at the gritty world of Washington. Hilarious in a way that’s both highbrow and the best of potty humor, Veep turns the candor of satire like that of the Daily Show narrative. Emblematic of the current election cycle, this long–running comedy allows viewers to escape by plunging them into the very thing causing some of their anxiety: politics.
Currently Watching: Love is Blind
Genre: Reality TV Dating
I don’t usually like watching dating shows because of the manufactured drama. Love is Blind is the first one to reel me in. The Netflix Original is a dating show with a twist—contestants go on blind dates before picking someone to marry, spend a steamy vacation in Mexico getting to know their partners better, and then head home to plan the wedding. However, contestants only see each other face–to–face after proposing, and they spend most of the show grappling with a singular question: is love blind to age, race, and financial constraints? The show packs a lot of cringe–worthy moments, including drunk shouting matches and an explosive coming out. Is it quality television? Probably not. Did it teach me something genuine? Admittedly, yes. Although most of the couples don’t end up together, everyone comes to the conclusion that love can be blind, and many are grateful for the connections they made with people they wouldn’t have pursued in real life.
Currently Watching: Billy on the Street
Genre: Comedy, Reality, Game Show
Billy on the Street can only be described as genre–bending, hilarious, and absurd. Comedian Billy Eichner of Parks and Recreation ambushes people on the streets of New York City, offering dollars and random prizes in exchange for quizzing them about pop culture. The episodes are short and bingeable, which makes them the perfect background noise as you get work done or pass the time. Eichner is brutal and hilarious to the strangers he meets. He scoffs at their lack of niche pop culture knowledge and attracts weird looks from passerbys, all while making us laugh.
Currently Watching: Better Call Saul
Better Call Saul is best–known as a spin–off of Breaking Bad, the massively popular drama in which Bob Odenkirk plays a scheming and sleazy criminal defense lawyer named Saul Goodman, notorious for putting criminals back on the street. Here, he reprises his role as Jimmy McGill, years before he adopts his alter–ego, a former con artist who cleans up and tries to make it in law under the shadow of his older brother, Charles (an in–fiction Penn alum). In that sense, the show is a bit of a meta–analogy of itself—how does a spin–off starring a secondary character make its mark next to the behemoth that is Breaking Bad? Turns out, fairly well. Jimmy is a flawed person, who jumps at easy opportunities and takes every advantage, but often uses his sleight of hand to further along a more altruistic goal, at least most of the time. His two–timing and fast–talking are hypnotic to watch, whether his elaborate plans come together like clockwork or fall apart just as perfectly.
Currently Watching: House
Genre: Medical Drama
House focuses on the titular House, played by a perfectly American–sounding Hugh Laurie, who solves impossible medical mysteries with his crew of doctors. The ideal show to play in the background when you’re at work or working out, House is a funny, frequently melodramatic, cheesy show to mindlessly watch for its stellar cast and increasingly evolving character relationships. It perhaps might be best to skip out on this one if you know too much about medicine—the sheer number of pharmaceutical anomalies is headache–inducing.
Currently Watching: Taskmaster
Taskmaster is one of many British panel series showcasing an ever–rotating cast of British comedians, unlike anything offered in America. With this in mind, Taskmaster is reality television at its best. Comedians solve riddles and complete frustrating tasks—it’s a reality show that’s entertaining because of how intelligent the players can be, gleaning humor from both their clever solutions and their inevitable frustration. Make sure you check out the British version, as the short–lived American remake is nowhere near as charming.
Currently Watching: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
After being rescued from a doomsday cult, Kimmy Schmidt joins budding Broadway actor, Titus Andromedon, in his shabby New York City apartment. As Titus introduces Kimmy to the modern world, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt demonstrates how we can find humor, innocence, and curiosity even in the most challenging of circumstances. While watching this show, I immediately grew fond of the hilarious banter and odd set of characters created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Equal parts bizzare and pure, this show is sure to put a smile on your face.