What to Watch During a Pandemic: Recommendations and Reviews

By Sophie Phillips and Kendall Bistretzan 

A global pandemic is sweeping the globe, and what else do you have to do while sitting at home, besides work? Luckily for you, you have the entire internet, cable, and streaming services like Netflix at your disposal. Now, one question remains: what do you watch when the danger of contracting SARS-CoV-2 lurks just outside your doorstep? Continue reading to find out. Below, you’ll find some recommendations and reviews from some survey respondents, and your favorite blogging team (that’s us, we hope!) on some well-known, and up-and-coming shows that you can binge on while you’re quarantined.

To start, 39 people were surveyed and asked to tell us some of their favorite TV shows. Here are their top 5 picks, with their thoughts on why they’re worth watching:

  1. Brooklyn 99

“Brooklyn 99 because it’s comedy driven with a slight plot. I like how all the characters foil each other and the humor.” — Rhiannon, 21

It’s “funny, lighthearted, and extremely bingeable.” — Amy, 21

“Brooklyn 99 is such a great feel- good comedy show! It has a very diverse cast that has tons of genuine friendship and the jokes and comedic timing is brilliant!” — Cynthia, 21

“This show is “straight up addicting, and it never fails to make me smile.” — Kaitlyn, 21

  1. The Good Place

“The show revolves around what it means to be a good person, and that everybody has the potential to be good. The writing is amazing and absolutely so funny, and the message is really deep and beautiful. Mike Schur (the writer and creator of the show) studied ethics, which led him to making this show: as they say in commercials, it’s the smartest dumb show. The jokes are amazing, but you also learn a valuable lesson every episode. There are only 4 seasons and each episode is ~25 minutes, so it’s super easy to binge. If you’re looking for a show that’s funny and uplifting/hopeful, this is the show for you.” — Sofia, 19

“It’s beautiful and perfect and honestly hilarious with some surprises.” — Kaitlyn, 21

  1. Grey’s Anatomy

“It has so much drama and an interesting story line which keeps you engaged.” — Meagan, 21

“It’s what got me interested in medicine and the show is so good and addicting.” –Shawna, 19

  1. Jane the Virgin

“Diverse, funny, heartwarming and THE BEST NARRATOR” — Georgia, 19

“Jane the Virgin because it is everything. It is funny, dramatic, romantic, mysterious, and so much more! I cry probably every episode. It talks about real things: depression, anxiety, family, immigration. Even accidental artificial insemination. And the characters are sometimes despicable but also always so lovable. IT’S JUST SO GOOD, OKAY.” — Lelani, 22

  1. Parks and Recreation

“I love the character interactions and story.” — Haley, 21

“Characters are relatable to the audience and they engage in funny interactions with one another” — Joseph, 19

“As someone who studies government, I love it because it is light hearted and not too dramatic. Everyone in it is hilarious and every season ends on a sweet note. Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman are amazing, though all the supporting actors have their time to shine. It’s a classic that I never get bored of rewatching. Definitely better than The Office.” — Eleanor, 19

“High-key better than the office, with a fun environment.” — Kaitlyn, 21

Although almost all of the shows that earned the special spot of being their favorites, two of the hottest shows right now–the Tiger King and Love is Blind–were not on the respondents’ list. However, here is what they had to say about both shows, with a summary of their ratings out of 10:

Tiger King is a docu-series about a man, Joe Exotic, who collects a mass amount of big cats, and his enthralling battle to keep his “sanctuary” alive, despite some challenges. The show also explores two other big cat “sanctuaries” across the country, and the collection of big cats in general. Below is what the respondents had to say about it:

“I think people like the drama, but the show does not focus on tigers as much as the tensions between the characters. Also, Joe’s fans are not focused on the bigger picture of the animal abuse. However, it is very entertaining.” — Jennifer, 22 

“It’s a gripping story and reminds me that there really are people like that who exist out there. Also I like how, despite it being a documentary, it’s really more of an dramatic, episodic documentary because of the cliffhangers at the end of each one.” — Rhiannon, 21 

“Makes for really good television. Clearly eye grabbing, but ultimately, has it changed me? Has it pushed me to do something different? No. Also the people who made it are just as sketchy as the people it’s about.” –Anya, 19

“The documentary 100% uses tactics to skew your opinions as you watch it to view certain people as bad and to favor others, but [it’s] interesting.” — Amy, 21

Love is Blind is a reality show that attempts to answer the question: is love really blind? The show follows 30 singles whose goal is to marry their future spouse, but must decide who to propose to–and ultimately end up with–without ever seeing their face. This show is full of all of the drama, twists, and turns that you would expect from a reality TV show, but with a dash of wholesomeness.

“This is like 90 Day Fiancé. It is very dramatic and over exaggerated. It is corny but I am here for the drama.” –Jennifer, 22

“Very satisfying watching the drama unfold from the experiment while seeing characters’ relationships change from the time in the pods [spaces where the show contestants talk to their could-be spouses without seeing their face] to when they walk down the aisle.” — Emily, 20 

“I really liked this show–much more than the bachelor! I didn’t realize all the different steps the couples were going to have to go through, I thought they just stayed in the pods, so that definitely made it more entertaining. Overall, it was super interesting to see someone fall in love with a personality and voice, and then a whole human person.” — Sofia, 19

“Reality shows are like junk food, they make you feel good for a moment–they’re a guilty pleasure. While I love a good love story, this is a show that more so made me cringe and laugh in the best of ways.” — Amy, 17

Although you’ve heard from others about what their favorites are, you might be wondering, what are we at Beyond the Pandemic watching during these trying times? The world can feel like a scary place these days, so we have catered our top five binge-worthy shows to series that will make you feel good.

  1. Anne with an E 

Why Netflix allows its lovely Canadian content to slip through the cracks into obscurity I will never understand. Anne with an E is the same story you’ve always known; fiery orphan Anne is sent to live with the Cuthbert siblings. The Cuthbert’s, however, are expecting a boy. Anne with an E is a beautiful coming of age story that follows Anne as she deals with being an outsider, navigating new relationships, and growing up in the late 1800’s. You wouldn’t expect a show of this time period to deal with issues of sexism, consent, racism and homophobia, but Anne with an E pulls it off with a grace that does not feel forced. Anne is a strange child, and yet her story is surprisingly relatable to anyone who has ever been considered “different.”

  1. Derry Girls 

With just two seasons and short episodes, Derry Girls can be finished in a day or two, and trust us, you’ll want to. Derry Girls takes place in Derry, Ireland, during the later years of the Northern Ireland conflict, and follows the lives of four girls and a “wee English fella” as they navigate friendship, family, and Catholic high school. The cast has fantastic chemistry and the situations their characters find themselves in are so ridiculous, yet so true to the obscurity of young adulthood. But a little pro-tip: you might want to watch it with subtitles. 

  1. Atypical 

Atypical is about Sam, an 18-year-old boy on the autism spectrum who wants to start dating. This is the catalyst of the story, launching his well-meaning but often misguided family into mayhem as they deal with the changes that accompany growing up. The show’s first season was well-received, but garnered criticism for its portrayal of some aspects of autism. So, for the second season the show hired more actors and writers on the spectrum. A particular stand-out of Atypical is Brigette Lundy-Paine, the non-binary actor who plays Sam’s younger sister, Casey. Casey is head-strong and snarky, but Lundy-Paine flawlessly portrays Casey’s subtle moments of loneliness and insecurity, and in later seasons, her struggle to come to terms with her sexuality. Atypical is a show that promotes love and acceptance, and the world could always use just a little bit more of that. 

  1. Sex Education  

Socially awkward Otis doesn’t have much experience in the sex department, but thanks to his overbearing sex therapist mother, he knows more than he ever bargained for. When misfit Maeve realizes that their classmates are not so educated, the two team up to become the school’s underground “sex therapists.” With a diverse and hilarious cast, this British comedy has been praised for its representation of sexuality and sexual orientations, and you just might learn a thing or two! It also has this fantastic aesthetic that transcends the rules of era-based fashion and borders. 

  1. Big Mouth 

Disclaimer: this show is SUPER raunchy, but absolutely hysterical when it isn’t bombarding you with flashbacks of your own pre-teen horrors. Big Mouth follows best friends Andrew and Nick as they enter puberty. Nick is self-conscious of being a late bloomer, while Andrew has to deal with a randy hormone monster named Maury that is the physical embodiment of the intrusive thoughts that come along with growing up. Along for the ride are Jessi, a headstrong girl who struggles with her parents divorce, Jay, a lonely boy with ADHD who slowly comes to terms with his sexuality, and Missy, a nerdy, awkward late-bloomer who struggles to manage her strong emotions. Yes, there are a lot of dirty jokes and animated penises, but the show also looks at the nitty gritty of growing up; first periods, consent, shame, sexism, and mental illness. And yes, the animation is kind of hideous, but it also stars John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, Maya Rudolph, Jordan Peele and more pillars of comedy. So, you win some you lose some. 

There is an infinity of different shows to binge on when you’re stuck in your home during quarantine, and although television is far from solving any of the myriad of what’s going on in and outside your home, it sure can provide some comfort, humor, and distraction from the pandemic outside of your doorstep.

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