Television in the Time of Coronavirus

We're indoors. With no sports, now what will we watch?

The pandemic is here. That’s happening, despite the idea that anyone could protest it away. The idea that populations across the world are now being asked to stay home as much as possible or at least avoid large crowding takes away from community experiences society has developed over the last thousands of years. Luckily, we do have one fallback in this era while we wait it out: the world-wide web.

None of this is to diminish the seriousness of the situation. People really should be washing their hands more, touching their faces less, and taking care of those more susceptible to the virus. We should’ve been doing that for a long time now. But from the looks of things, we’ll all be spending a bit more time indoors.

What’s going to replace the communal experience of concerts? Movie theaters could be emptying out, so what do we have for entertainment? Is there something that will now fill the slot of live sports since those are being quickly canceled, from the NBA to the NCAA’s March Madness?

The answer is no, not quite, especially due to the fissures created by the array of streaming and cable services, at least not in terms of something that people will all watch together or attend at the same time. But since we all will be traveling less and avoiding large gatherings in the next week or three, here are my picks on what’s worth watching or catching up on in order to allay the boredom or preempt the loneliness from a lack of shared cultural experiences.

I Can Recommend…

The Outsider (HBO) — Worth the cost of HBO’s monthly expense, assuming you can afford an extra $15 a month with all this other bullshit. The Outsider is tense and creepy, not to mention wonderfully made with a cast that includes recent Oscar-winner Cynthia Erivo and Golden Globe winner Ben Mendelsohn. Everything begins with the murder of a small child and a killer who could not have committed the crime. There’s no way he did it. Right? Right. Everything unwinds from there.

new popeThe New Pope (HBO) — I’ve probably written enough about The New Pope, but just to recap: it’s an easy catch-up show as there are only two seasons (the first being called The Young Pope and also on HBO). The New Pope has John Malkovich doing some of his best work and Jude Law smirking like no other pope has in reality. Plus, Jude Law walks on a beach in what barely passes as a bathing suit. Believe it or not, it’s a weirdly touching show, and it manages to mine emotions at an angle unseen since some of David Lynch’s works. I love this one.

The Good Place (NBC) — The first three seasons are on Netflix and the fourth recently aired on NBC. This show is full of charm and warmth, but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny. What’s the afterlife like? Creator Mike Shur (The Office) answers that question with Kristen Bell as a recently deceased Arizonian who finds that Ted Danson is the angel to guide her, which includes a soulmate and a lot of frozen yogurt. The Good Place is just delightful! Just like fro-yo!

Kidding (Showtime) — Another entry in the quirky-yet-heartwarming series, Kidding is the Jim Carrey show that asks, “What if Mr. Rogers had a meltdown? And a divorce? And a death in the family? Funny, amirite?” The answers to some of those are still being unwrapped as the show has just finished its second season. Part surreal, part sad, Kidding is full of zigs and zags.

McMillion$ (HBO) — If you’ve ever tried to win more than a measly cheeseburger from the god damn McDonald’s Monopoly game and just couldn’t, here’s why: for years, it was rigged. There was no chance in hell you were getting that Dodge Viper, mi amigo. And the who, how, and why may shock you as much as it did me. HBO gives up a quick, often hilarious, documentary series in six parts. Worth it.

HighHigh Fidelity (Hulu) — Redoing a book that became a movie and then a play sounds like a fool’s errand, but Hulu changes it up in all the right places, namely making protagonist Rob a female, now played by Zoe Kravitz, who finally gets to show off her acting chops. Turns out, she’s not just a mopey friend. (Looking at you, Big Little Lies.)

Better Call Saul (AMC) — The first four seasons are now on Netflix and the show works well as a binge; however, the fifth (and penultimate) season is now airing over on AMC each Monday night. What a barn burner! I still think this one is better than its predecessor! This show is a work of brilliance, taking what could be a series with zero stakes and making every microscopic detail matter. Plenty of Breaking Bad regulars appear, too.

The Mind of Aaron Hernandez (Netflix) — This short documentary series from Netflix is a lot of what you’d expect, but it is eye-opening and sadly fascinating to see how Hernandez went from promising NFL tight-end to inmate for murder. True crime is all the rave now.

I Plan on Watching…

DevsDevs (Hulu) and Dispatches from Elsewhere (AMC) — Both shows seem to be the type where the less you know going in, the better they could be. Therefore, I know almost nothing about each with the exceptions that Devs is made by Alex Garland (Annihilation) and involves a futuristic setting where a software engineer investigates what her employer is really up to. Okay, freaky. Also, it stars Nick Offerman, who seems to be doing some weird shit. Dispatches from Elsewhere — Jason Segel’s new creation — has a set of regular people who uncover some sort of puzzle. Hmmm. As long as we don’t venture into the pretentiousness of Westworld territory, I’m game.

I Am Not Okay With This (Netflix) — Based off the comic book by Charles Forsman, I Am Not Okay With This is a coming-of-age series that has some serious of The End of the F***ing World blended with Spider-Man vibes. Well, why the hell not?

The Plot Against America (HBO) — Probably the show I’m looking forward to the most: the miniseries, like Phillip Roth’s book that it’s based on, puts the whole altered reality lens to the world once again (much like The Man in the High Castle and Watchmen). In this one, though, a working-class Jewish family in the Northeast watches as F.D.R. loses to anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh. It stars John Turturro and Winona Ryder and is created by David Simon and Ed Burns (The Wire, Treme). The Plot Against America looks all too real and just as explosive. Let’s find out.

Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu) — Give me Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington in a drama, and so far, so good. Base the drama off of Celeste Ng’s second novel of the same name which deals with the class warfare of Shaker Heights, Ohio in the Nineties, and you’re really cooking. Or burning. Or whatever. LittleFires


Note: We’ll be covering many of these on upcoming episodes of our entertainment podcast Taking It Down. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or check back here every other Tuesday for the most recent episode. 


1 comment on “Television in the Time of Coronavirus

  1. We recently binged the first 3 seasons of The Good Place and absolutely loved it. Can’t wait until the final season shows up on Netflix or Hulu.


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