9 TV Shows We're Watching While in Quarantine
From Tiger King to The Circle, these are the TV shows we're watching in isolation.
With so many of us self-isolating to protect ourselves and stop the spread of COVID-19, there's one trusty friend we're all turning to these days: the television. Different people find different things comforting and distracting during something as unprecedented as a pandemic, but the good news is, between Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and good old basic cable, there's something out there for everyone. To help you zone in on your next binge watch, the Best Life editors came together—virtually, to maintain social distance, of course—to share the TV shows we're watching during the quarantine. We hope you'll find your new favorite among them!
The Circle (Netflix)
I had heard a lot about The Circle earlier this year, but never found the time to prioritize it until we started hunkering down and isolating. Admittedly, on the surface, the social media reality competition seems pretty ridiculous: Contestants live in isolation and create online profiles (real or fake) to try to rise to the top of internal rankings to win a $100,000 prize. Of course, it's not hard to see why the show resonates right now: The contestants all live in the same apartment building but in their own quarantined units, cut off from the world except for text messages between the players (there's no video or voice communication allowed).
But The Circle (a remake of the British series of the same name) is ultimately less about social media and so much more about the good we all have in us—the loyalty, the candidness, the open-heartedness—which is something we could benefit from focusing on these days. As the contestants form bonds using only a few choice photos of themselves, chat messages, and emojis (or "emojos," as one player calls them), viewers watch on as unlikely personalities deeply connect without face-to-face contact. And if we've ever been able to relate to that notion, it's definitely right now. —Jaimie Etkin
9-1-1 (Fox/Streaming on Hulu)
I didn't really have high hopes for 9-1-1, a procedural about first responders in Los Angeles from the eclectic minds of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Tim Minear. And yet, over the course of three seasons, it has somehow become the most enjoyable show on television. Is it actually quality entertainment? That's not really the point. 9-1-1 could easily be dismissed as "so bad it's good," but it's actually deliberately crafted by some of the smartest minds in TV to be compulsively watchable and delightful, while also being unapologetically ridiculous. Sometimes "trash" and "high art" go hand-in-hand.
But amid my time sheltering in place, 9-1-1 has proved especially comforting. This is a series where things can always get worse: It's truly remarkable how many traumatic and life-threatening incidents the characters on 9-1-1 encounter, but they always manage to pull through. For my anxious brain, 9-1-1 is the perfect manifestation of catastrophizing, which is when your mind imagines a constantly escalating worst case scenario. Confronting that head on when there are legitimate things to be anxious about is honestly helpful to me. At this point, watching 9-1-1 from the safety of my home qualifies as exposure therapy. —Louis Peitzman
Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu)
There's nothing better than a suspenseful show to pull you in and make you forget about the outside world—something I desperately needed right now. So, when I saw that Celeste Ng's bestselling novel Little Fires Everywhere was being adapted for a limited series, I immediately tuned in.
The story is set in the '90s around a white-picket-fence community called Shaker Heights. Here, everything looks perfect, from the palatial homes to the manicured lawns, which must be mowed shorter than six inches, according to the strict town handbook. But not everything is as it seems. When a nomadic artist (Kerry Washington) and her daughter move in, they become intertwined in the lives of their affluent neighbors, the Richardson family and its matriarch (Reese Witherspoon). As the storyline unravels, secrets are revealed and disaster ensues, culminating in a massive house fire with a handful of possible suspects on the line. —Chelsea Bengier
I'm a sucker for a crime show with a female protagonist, but sadly, I've watched Law & Order: SVU so many times that my streaming service suggestions are now things like "Go outside" and "You know you don't want to do this again, Sarah" when I try to get my fix. Fortunately, Marcella has come to my rescue. The British show centers on Marcella Backland (Anna Friel), a detective who's recently returned to police work to investigate new killings in a series of serial murders that began more than a decade prior. However, her deteriorating mental health and the unreliable members of her inner circle add a layer of complexity to the character that you don't always get in faster-paced crime shows (I'm so sorry, Mariska Hargitay. I still love you the most).
And while it's unlikely that every member of the show's audience has gotten on a serial killer's bad side or blacks out for long periods of time, finding yourself dealing with some unexpected complications that make work (and life in general) a whole lot more difficult is something most people can probably relate to right about now. —Sarah Crow
Classic Doctor Who (BritBox)
I am a card-carrying geeky fan of the British sci-fi series Doctor Who, but the vast majority of my knowledge pertains to the current run, which kicked off in 2005. The modern series is a continuation of the adventures that first premiered in 1963 in glorious black-and-white and ran all the way through 1989. In normal times, embarking on a marathon of 600-plus episodes is a pretty daunting prospect; now, it's an excellent way to pass the hours.
Just like the modern Doctor Who series (currently starring Jodie Whittaker and airing on BBC America in the States), the classic show is about a humanoid alien who travels through space and time in a blue police box with a rotating selection of companions and can "regenerate" into a new version of themselves instead of dying. (This, of course, happens whenever the current star is ready to leave the role.) While I'm used to sleeker production values, there's a ramshackle charm to the early days—with people trundling around in bulky monster suits and the occasional flubbed line. But the overarching theme couldn't be more relevant: We are all citizens of the universe, and our decisions and actions can have untold effects on others. —Sage Young
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix)
During hard times, I often find myself escaping to Netflix for a kitschy, usually teen, drama to focus on something else. After all, it's easy to forget about the anxieties of real life when you're watching a trivial love triangle play out over the course of several seasons. However, watching anything that emulates the real world we were living in weeks ago seems unbearable to me now. I don't want to see people meeting up at a coffee shop or heading off to work when I can't do either of those things.
So, I decided The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina—starring Mad Men's now-grown Kiernan Shipka—was the best choice. The show encapsulates everything you would want out of a teen drama—relationship woes and teen angst—but with more modern and weighty storylines and characters, like Theo, a transgender character played by Lachlan Watson. But what I've found most comforting about Sabrina during this time is its supernatural element (even though I exited out of Riverdale—which is produced by the same creative force behind Sabrina, Roberto Aguiree-Sacasa—as soon as they started introducing monsters and magical elements to the show). The escapism of Sabrina's other-worldly setting has been oddly refreshing for me these days. Plus, the show is only 28 episodes split into three parts, so it's quite easy to get through. —Kali Coleman
The Plot Against America (HBO)
It's pre-World War II America, only in this terrifying bizarro version, the anti-Semite, Nazi sympathizer, and isolationist Charles Lindbergh successfully defeats FDR in the U.S. presidential race of 1940. Suffice it to say, this counterfactual twist in history sets into motion events that don't exactly lead to Normandy. In HBO's The Plot Against America, where everything described here takes place, the Lindbergh-led greatest generation heads down a far darker path fueled by white nationalism and "America First" rhetoric that—no shocker here—feels all too relevant today.
So why watch it now, during the coronavirus pandemic? Going in, my wife and I couldn't really answer that question. I'd read Philip Roth's book, from which the series is adapted, when it came out in 2004, and my wife and I both love the work of David Simon (The Wire, Show Me a Hero), who helms the show. Honestly, perhaps the best answer is that we agree that nothing is more reassuring—in good times or bad—than HBO's familiar pre-show "whooooooshhhhhhh."
But we're glad we did. We're only a single episode in, and for all its big themes, it is so far an intimate portrait of a Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey, that's starting to feel the world beneath their feet crumble as unseen threats begin to eerily assemble around them. Horrifying? Completely. But oddly comforting, in that it's totally make-believe? We certainly hope so. —Keenan Mayo
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Netflix)
Netflix's Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is the kind of bizarre, immensely entertaining true crime story that we didn't know we wanted until it arrived. The seven-part docuseries, which was released on Mar. 20, plunges you into the wild world of the big cat trade and the eccentric characters at the center of a murder-for-hire plot that has to be seen to believed.
At the center of the story is Joe Exotic, a larger than life big cat zoo owner in Oklahoma who loves tigers, guns, and outcasts, and abhors Carole Baskins, an animal rights activist and owner of a big cat sanctuary who is trying to shut down his life's work. It's best to embark on the jaw-dropping journey with as little prior knowledge of its subjects as possible, so all I'll say is that both figures reveal a relentless and ruthless determination to be the last one standing, and no one is to be trusted.
A truly outrageous tale that is far, far stranger than any fiction, Tiger King is the perfect voyeuristic escapism in a time when people are stuck inside and looking for some relief from reality. —Charlie Duerr
High Fidelity (Hulu)
I'll pretty much watch anything that Zoë Kravitz does, including that weird Michelob Ultra commercial where she is just whispering. Since Big Little Lies finished up, I was craving more Kravitz in my life when High Fidelity answered my prayers. The show is based on a 1995 Nick Hornby book, which also inspired the 2000 movie starring John Cusack and Kravitz's mom, Lisa Bonet. The Hulu show does some rearranging, making the main character, Rob, a woman named Robyn (Kravitz) who goes by Rob for short. It's Kravitz at her best being moody in various Brooklyn haunts, dressing in outfits no one else could pull off, and making killer playlists.
She eventually goes on a rampage contacting five of her exes to ask why their relationships had ended. A word of warning, don't try this at home! The only thing worse than giving someone a high five during this quarantine is texting your exes. —Allie Hogan