Pandemic Entertainment Is A Thing
My colleague Megan Fox was guest-hosting a radio show earlier in the week and was kind enough to have me on as a guest. We got to talking about what we’ve been binge-watching on the various streaming services during this Year of the Chinese Bat Flu. I’d been kicking around the idea for this post for a few days because I wanted to have some end-of-the-year fare that was upbeat.
In a normal year, it would be easy to keep this to ten but we don’t do normal anymore, do we? Still, this is a blog post and not a New Yorker article about transgender Swedish otters so I’m going to keep it fairly tight. This list should probably be a Top 50. Maybe we’ll have ongoing discussions about it and I will do a follow-up or two.
While so many businesses have struggled during the pandemic, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and newcomer Disney Plus have been thriving. I know I’ve watched more television in the past ten months than I did in the previous five years. I know that I’m forgetting some that should be on this list. I’ve recently queued up a few shows that I thought I hadn’t seen only to remember during the first episode that I’d watched them earlier in the year.
A couple of the Prime Video shows on the list are only available with a BritBox subscription added on. It’s worth the money to me because I watch a lot of British television, mainly because I’m not beaten over the head with American leftist nonsense when I do. I highly recommend it.
In no particular order (I’m assigning them numbers just to make the post cleaner) are ten shows I’ve enjoyed and would recommend. I’ll throw in some clips for a few of them.
1: The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
I tend to like anything about chess, but this show is really about what a hot mess the chess prodigy is. Honestly, I really didn’t think I’d like it but I gave it a chance because there was so much chatter about it. Binged it in a day, I believe (I have these things on all day and night when I’m working, and I work a lot).
2: Hinterland (Netflix)
A dark, Welsh police drama. Not gonna lie — I needed subtitles. The dark (content and scenery) stuff draws me in every time.
3: Tales from the Loop (Amazon Prime)
If you’re in the mood for something very different this is worth a look. It’s the kind of thing you want to watch to break out of a genre rut.
4: Queen of the South (Netflix)
Imagine Narcos but with a hot female drug lord. One of my fave binges all year.
5: After Life (Netflix)
There are two seasons of this sometimes wrenching, often hilarious poignant comedy that Ricky Gervais created, writes, and stars in. Comedians often make fantastic dramatic actors (Richard Pryor got an Oscar nomination for Lady Sings the Blues) and Gervais is brilliant in this.
6: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Disney Plus)
This computer-animated show takes place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith and is a must-watch for hardcore Star Wars fans. It ran for seven seasons so there is plenty to gobble up and keep you entertained.
7: Death in Paradise (Amazon Prime/BritBox)
This is a drama that has a lot of comedic elements. It’s an often-campy murder mystery that is set on a fictitious Caribbean island. The murderer is revealed at the end of each episode when the brilliant detective gathers all the suspects and explains in detail how he figured it out. SJWs will probably complain about British colonialism after watching it and that’s reason enough to check it out.
8: Unforgotten (Amazon Prime)
Another twisted British murder mystery. This stars Nicola Walker, who has been fantastic in everything Brit show I’ve seen her in.
9: Shetland (Amazon Prime/BritBox)
The murder stuff is in Scotland this time. Another dark one that I couldn’t stop watching. BBC One says two more seasons are on the way as soon as all of this pandemic stuff can be figured out.
10: Norsemen (Netflix)
I mistakenly thought that this was a drama and avoided it for a long time. It’s one of funniest shows I’ve ever watched. I’ll let you know upfront that the humor can get very raunchy in this one. The funniest thing about it though is that the Vikings are all speaking 21st-century corporate and motivational dialog. It’s brilliant. Each scene was filmed once in Norwegian and once in English, which sounds like a lot of work. It’s ridiculous fun.
A Few More
There are some I didn’t add to the list because so many people are already watching them but I’ll mention them on the off chance that some of you haven’t yet. The Mandalorian has been a delight so far. I would also recommend Disney Plus for anyone who likes documentaries. Disney Plus has some great ones, including a lot of NatGeo docu-series.
Bosch on Amazon Prime is another winner. It’s actually not on the list because I haven’t watched it this year. I’ve been saving the latest season because it’s one of my favorites. I’ll probably start it this coming weekend.
Sci-Fi fans should definitely be watching The Expanse on Amazon Prime. I’ve also been reading these books and am currently on the one that’s covered by the current season, so I haven’t seen that yet.
Way back in early quarantine times (April) I re-watched the brilliant 1994 Ken Burns documentary Baseball. I didn’t know that two updated installments had been added in 2010, so it was like getting a surprise gift.
This is all very subjective, of course. These are just some that I liked. You may notice some popular streaming shows like Stranger Things and Cobra Kai missing. I didn’t last very long with either of those. I didn’t watch the second season of Amazon’s The Boys because I still hate myself for watching all of the first one. That’s perhaps the worst Amazon original I’ve ever seen.
I hope I’ve mentioned a few things here that you haven’t heard of. Again, we can do a follow-up. If you have any suggestions for me, I would love to hear them.
Happy New Year (I mean that) everyone!
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PJ Media Senior Columnist and Associate Editor Stephen Kruiser is the author of “Don’t Let the Hippies Shower” and “Straight Outta Feelings: Political Zen in the Age of Outrage,” both of which address serious subjects in a humorous way. Monday through Friday he edits PJ Media’s “Morning Briefing.” His columns appear twice a week.