By Mike Murphy
Well, it looks like we’re all about to spend a lot more time indoors.
With the coronavirus outbreak forcing people to “socially distance” and in some cases self-quarantine, we’re all likely to have a lot more idle time on our hands as we stay at home in hopes of slowing the illness’s spread. But how to fill that extra time? By binge-watching comfort shows, of course. And if you don’t already subscribe to Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX +1.52% , Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +1.72% Prime Video or Disney’s /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS +0.47% Hulu, now wouldn’t be a bad time to start.
Here are 25 series — some old, some newish — that should help the hours pass. A few parameters: nothing too obvious (of course you can still rewatch the classics, like “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men” or “The Wire” ); nothing too stressful (sorry, “Breaking Bad” and “The Shield” ); nothing too apocalyptic (looking at you, “The Leftovers” and “The Walking Dead” ).
Instead, these series offer something more comforting — humor, heart, fun and in some cases, just plain relaxation. We’re in for some trying times ahead: Hopefully these shows can offer some relief, if only for a few hours at a time.
Dramas that aren’t too heavy
“Terriers” (Hulu, one season): Few series fit the “brilliant but canceled” description as well as this one. This 2010 neo-noir follows a pair of scruffy unlicensed private eyes (Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James) solving crimes and slowly unraveling a conspiracy in a Southern California beach town. While at times dark (it’s not called “noir” for nothing), the series’ sharp sense of humor and underdog attitude keep it from becoming too bleak. It’s hard to describe exactly why it’s so great — maybe it’s the completely lived-in world the characters inhabit, and Logue and Raymond-James’ easy chemistry — but it IS definitely great.
“Lodge 49” (Hulu, two seasons): A quirky, surreal, thoroughly warmhearted comedy/drama starring Wyatt Russell about lost souls finding community through a social club amid the wreckage of late-stage-capitalism in America. Another weird one to describe — it’s almost more of a vibe than a show, but it really sticks with you.
“Halt & Catch Fire” (Netflix, four seasons): Painfully under-watched when it ran on AMC, this drama about tech entrepreneurs in the ’80s and ’90s realized midway through its first season that its two female side characters (played by Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishé) were more interesting than the male leads (Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy), then shifted its story to focus more on them, and the series was much better for it. It’s about innovation, visionaries and balancing creativity with cold-hearted business, and it’s utterly, devastatingly brilliant.
“Justified” (Hulu, six seasons): In a word: rollicking. Timothy Olyphant stars in this Elmore Leonard-inspired modern-day Western about a U.S. marshal in rural Kentucky. The first season is fine, but it’s the second season where the show rises to something special. The villains, who in various seasons include Margo Martindale, Jere Burns and Walton Goggins, are tremendous.
“Money Heist” (Netflix, three seasons, with Season 4 coming in April): Totally ridiculous and featuring more twists than a phone cord, this Spanish heist drama about an “Ocean’s 11”-type crew robbing the Royal Mint in Madrid is also ridiculously fun and cliffhanger-ey, reminiscent of a peak season of “24.”
“The Good Wife” (Hulu and CBS All Access, seven seasons): Probably the best drama on network TV in recent years (that’s not saying much, but…). Friends turning into enemies (and sometimes vice versa), legitimately shocking twists and cliffhangers, consistently high stakes and an always winking sense of humor make this legal drama starring Julianna Margulies extremely binge-worthy.
“Jane the Virgin” (Netflix, four seasons): A twist on a classic telenovela, this lovable, twisty rom-com starring Gina Rodriguez is so, so full of heart. If you walk away with dry eyes, you’re a monster.
“Tremé” (Amazon Prime, HBO Now, four seasons): David Simon’s love letter to post-Katrina New Orleans. There’s a plot, but it’s secondary to a deeply immersive peek into the richly drawn lives of the characters, along with fantastic music. There’s sadness and tragedy, but there’s also triumph and redemption and a real sense of rebirth and hope.