Favorite TV shows formulate in your consciousness in a different way than favorite movies do. Favorite movies often stem from sometime in childhood, when you had ample time to watch and rewatch and when obsessions were encouraged. These are less likely to fade away from your favor because they’re so reminiscent of how you became who you are. These stay embedded in your mind, serving as an ever-faithful time capsule that triggers your brain to recite lines and reenact scenes like nobody’s business.
Favorite TV shows are liable to change over time, molding to fit the phase of life you’re in, and you may outgrow these more quickly. Such is the case for me with this list, and the favorite shows I decided upon only were mostly newer shows that feel particularly monumental to who I am and what I’m drawn to.
This is the most constant of my TV favorites. It hooked me from an early age, so it really blows my mind when I hear about people in their late teens and twenties watching it for the first time. I don’t watch it as often as I did then, but its take on friends-as-family, clever wordplay, and physical comedy is the ultimate recipe for comfort in my book. The Thanksgiving episodes remain a must-watch every year, and, yes, I’m a total Monica with underlying qualities of Chandler and Ross.
I’ve mentioned before that finishing Lost inspired me to pursue entertainment journalism, and as a gradual result, I was lucky to spend almost two years in a dream position in that field. It was the first series I watched that showed me the power of television storytelling and how the medium could be used to its full potential. I stick to the belief that it kicked off the flashback trend in TV dramas, and as seen with NBC’s Manifest, its mystical plot and ensemble cast are still inspiring the basic structure of so many shows.
3) The Middle
In addition to Everybody Loves Raymond, The Middle is the closest existing TV portrayal of my family. We watched this one from the beginning, and our real-life situations always closely mirrored what was happening on it at the time. Reruns provide a dose of nourishing nostalgia and, seeing as I once watched episodes on a international flight that was homeward bound, revisiting it will always feel like coming home.
The America’s Next Top Model binge fever has spread through my house, and now my sisters have recently rewatched Cycles 6 and 7, two classics that are just so fun. I’ve also just discovered the Jays Chat videos starring Jay Manuel and J. Alexander as they recap their memories of each cycle. So in conclusion, ANTM really is the perfect quarantine viewing.
I’m aware of her legendary status in the world of ’70s TV, but I’m of the age that only knows Marlo Thomas as Rachel’s mom on Friends. Still, after seeing this CBS Sunday Morning piece about her and her husband, I’m so interested in reading their book of interviews with long-lasting celebrity couples.
Similarly, the always handsome Tony Dokoupil charmed me with his package on working from home alongside his wife, MSNBC anchor Katy Tur (who wrote a fascinating memoir about covering Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for NBC News).
I don’t understand why the Harry Potter At Home project involves some actors unaffiliated with the franchise (Dakota Fanning?), but Daniel Radcliffe and Noma Dumezweni’s readings of the first two Sorcerer’s Stone chapters were so soothing and delightful. I listened to them on Spotify, and I’m hoping for more appearances from the people tied to the stage show and the Potter and Fantastic Beasts films (and, in Stephen Fry’s case, the original UK audiobooks) than random celebrity fans.
Archie as a little bookworm demanding another book before the first was finished captured my heart. To me, he has Meghan’s eyes but everything else is Harry. Also, Princess Anne is fantastic and underrated, and her low-key dedication comes across so well in this chat she had with a World War II veteran in honor of the 75th VE Day anniversary.
On a related note, all of the royals’ anniversary chats with vets were sweet. While watching them, it really hit me that this is likely the last major VE Day milestone that the majority of these people will live to see, and they’re forced to celebrate alone from their homes. Obviously that is currently out of our control, but let’s never neglect our elderly population and what they’ve seen when a sense of safe normalcy has been restored.
I recently took in Forget Paris, a ’90s rom-com that Billy Crystal produced, directed, co-wrote, and starred in. Its dialogue style is fairly similar to When Harry Met Sally, so it sounds exactly how Billy Crystal talks, which I love. He’s one of those New York celebrities who emulates home for me. In addition to just being a low-stakes, slice-of-life story, the movie’s packed with a fun cast, including a pre-West Wing John Spencer, a very dashing and dark-haired Joe Mantegna, the second mom from Air Bud, and Joey’s dad from Friends. Keep your ears open for the actress behind Marge Simpson to pop up!
The Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist finale was devastatingly beautiful. I’d already been feeling a little emotional (blame the general state of the world for that), but that episode and its final scene just about did it. But on a fluffier note, how swoony is Skylar Astin as Max? I don’t envy the network executives who have to figure out TV renewals right now, but I have my fingers crossed for a second season.
Any day Ray Romano does a talk show appearance with one (or in this case, both) of his cute twin sons is a great day in my book.
Miranda is perhaps the silliest and most delightful thing I’ve watched in recent years, and the cast’s in-character lockdown reunion on BBC’s charity special was just as charming. Its use of clips from the show made me laugh out loud, just as they did the first time. Maybe a quarantine rewatch is in store?
Speaking of rewatches, Zach Braff and Donald Faison’s Fake Doctors, Real Friends podcast is still delivering the laughs. It’s not quite a traditional recap show, but their natural comedic chemistry perfectly balances their heartfelt memories of filming Scrubs. I actually stopped watching Scrubs around Season 5, but I think its tone would be particularly comforting these days, so I might start it from the beginning soon.
Jennifer Ehle, who played Elizabeth in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries, reading each chapter of the book aloud in social media videos.
James Corden’s dad performing a makeshift concert for his neighbors, which made me cry.
Finishing an ARC of Maddie Dawson’s A Happy Catastrophe, sequel to the delightful Matchmaking for Beginners. This one was just as heartwarming, consisting of the same buttery and nourishing writing that I fell in love with. It hits shelves on May 26.
Getting approved for a NetGalley copy of The Heir Affair, one of my most anticipated reads of 2020.
Al Roker’s pure-hearted Instagram page, which is already a blessing during ordinary times, but nowadays, I adore his cooking videos and the behind-the-scenes looks at the kitchen table set-up where he broadcasts.
The TODAY Show anchors in general. I was raised as a staunch TODAY loyalist. My mother and I talk about anchors’ major life events as if they’re neighbors’ doings, I had a VHS tape of Katie Couric’s Sesame Street episode, and I spent weekdays off in high school watching Kathie Lee and Hoda. Seeing the current team talk via their Brady Bunch isolation boxes (and occasionally crack, just like we do at home) is bittersweet, but everyone’s dedication to their jobs and delivering both the news and joy is very comforting.
Several Lost alums making up for a certain co-star’s extremely selfish opinion. Daniel Dae Kim is forever as valiant and charming as Jin was. Maggie Grace is a steady voice of reason with just the right amount of bite. Harold Perrineau apparently helped Henry Ian Cusick’s son travel home safely. We have to go back…to leave Kate on the island.
Meg Cabot writing about the coronavirus outbreak from Princess Mia’s perspective.
The Broadway community fundraising, performing, and congregating via live-streamed shows. Seth Rudetsky’s “Stars in the House” series and Broadway.com’s “Live at Five: Home Edition” occur daily, and Rosie O’Donnell’s conversation with Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker during her benefit show still delights me (they’re just at home watching Columbo and doing laundry!).
Podcasts are my go-to background noise when I have a low-stakes lineup of tasks at work, but given current situations, I suspect new episodes of my followed podcasts may be few and far between soon. I still have plenty of bookmarked episodes to catch up on, but listening to an author talk about her debut book or following a debate about Nancy Meyers’ greatest film feels a little weird when you’re in such an apocalyptic mood.
So, I figured that nothing is better medicine than singing along to or just playing an uplighting cast recording or movie soundtrack. Yes, I love Hamilton as much as the next gal, and I can practically quote Fiddler on the Roof verbatim, but let’s be real — a lot of those songs are pretty bleak and depressing. The albums below might have their share of slower, reflective songs, but as a whole, they tell stories of optimism and heart, and they have happy endings. The joy entangled in these lyrics and performances is contagious, and even just listening to some of my favorite songs below helped me feel a little lighter. I hope they help you feel the same!
1) Bright Star
Standouts: “If You Knew My Story,” “Whoa, Mama,” “Sun Is Gonna Shine”
This music by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell is inspired by their own bluegrass compositions, but what really makes Bright Star such a soothing listen for me is the voice of leading lady Carmen Cusack. Her performance here scored a Tony nomination during the Hamilton year, which is an accomplishment unto itself. Her delivery is so soulful, and particularly in her single version of “Sun Is Gonna Shine,” you start to believe that everything will be okay. It might be the only cast album I can play without getting bored because every song has a little something that you can appreciate, whether it be a gorgeous note or a moving lyric.
Welp, this is a weird situation, right? Given the current global climate, I hope everyone is safe and taking care of their mental and physical health right now. After a few anxiety-ridden days, I’m aiming to take a break from news coverage this weekend, sit in the yard and soak up some sun, and dedicate this extra time to TV I wouldn’t be watching otherwise.
Most of my TV consumption this week was dedicated to that hot mess of a Bachelor finale, and now fans don’t even have the guarantee of Clare Crawley’s Bachelorette season to anticipate. Obviously, I appreciate the caution that so many industries, including entertainment, are demonstrating in these circumstances, but the possible aftermath of all of these filming delays is definitely interesting. The month-long suspension of all Broadway shows also happened at the worst possible time for theater, as the majority of new, Tony-eligible productions traditionally open throughout March and April. Just thinking about those performers, crews, house staff, and anyone slated to make their Broadway debut soon is heartbreaking. It’s better to be safe than sorry, but the thought of the financial and logistical impacts on certain fields of the entertainment industry hurts my heart a little.