Stuck at Home? The Vigornia’s TV Recommendations

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Credit: Jakarta Post

Nikola Duka '20, Editor

As of earlier this week, Massachusetts schools are officially closed for the remainder of the academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although I am disappointed that I won’t have the chance to spend my last few months in high school with my friends, I understand that our health and safety is paramount.

Distance learning has certainly lent a sense of normalcy to my life but, like many of my peers, I find myself with significantly more spare time than I had when we learned in school. I’ve found it easier to establish a sense of routine by picking up new hobbies, exercising, and cooking but I’ve also been taking more time to relax, especially by watching tv shows, both new series and ones I’ve been meaning to watch for months.

Being okay can sometimes feel like an impossibility during these times of uncertainty and anxiety, and although television is by no means a solution to or an escape from our reality, sometimes laughing with family or watching a character overcome a seemingly impossible obstacle can lend us the hope and determination we need to keep moving towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

Below is a list of 7 of my favorite shows and, no, I haven’t watched every amazing show out there so if I’m missing a few (or many) feel free to comment your favorites below! 

Westworld

Genre: Sci-fi, Drama, Western(ish)

Number of seasons: 3 (almost)

Episodes per season: less than 10

Average episode duration: over 1hr

Primary platform(s) available through: HBO Now

Westworld has been one of my favorite shows for a while now. Westworld is definitely one of the darker shows on this list but I have become pretty invested in this show because it examines how we define human life through the lens of a human creation: hosts, or humanoid robots in a park (called Westworld) where humans can do anything they want; no consequences. The first season follows Dolores, a host who strays from the storyline Westworld employees have written for her by becoming aware of her true identity (as a host) and purpose (in accommodating humans). Although I felt that the second season, which details how all of the host become self-aware and Dolores escapes to the real world (along with instigating a deadly conflict between hosts and humans), was a bit difficult to keep track of as there are several storylines, the third season takes a more strategic and symbolic approach to the complex topic of free will, both for hosts and humans. 

The Boys

Genre: Superhero, Dark Comedy, Action

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes per season: 8

Average episode duration: 1hr

Primary platform(s) available through: Amazon Prime

I’ll admit that I was hesitant to watch this show, mostly due to the title. I thought this show would be a weak, sarcastic critique of a fictional, traditionally patriarchal society but it turned out to be the furthest thing from that. Unlike many shows I’ve watched, I was hooked on the first episode, which delves into the world of image-obsessed superheroes covering up all sorts of moral transgressions, from dangerous drugs to rape and murder. Although the superhero aspect of it is entirely unrealistic, the history of cruel, and rarely publicized, actions of those in power, particularly men, is present throughout many modern societies, and this show expertly portrays the acute, lasting pain that abuse and discrimination have on their victims. The show has been renewed for a second season which is expected to air mid-2020 although this may have changed but in the meantime, this show is easy to binge-watch in a day or watch over a week.

Lost In Space (2018)

Genre: Sci-fi, Adventure, Drama

Number of seasons: 2

Episodes per season: 10 

Average episode duration: less than 1hr

Primary platform(s) available through: Netflix

Lost in Space (2018) is a remake of the 1960s original, and is slated to have one more season to be released in 2021. Although I wasn’t a hardcore fan of Lost in Space when I was younger, I remember watching a bunch of episodes and always finding the robot’s appearance pretty funny (although it’s the best they could do back then). Luckily, the robot got a makeover in the remake but modern animation wasn’t the only change Netflix made; the series is remarkably more grim (or maybe I remember the original being generally funnier) but still delivers on light-hearted, family moments. Although I thought many of the characters struck a good balance between sincerity and humor (particularly Don, who is always concerned for Debbie, his pet chicken), I was a little disappointed by Dr. Smith’s character, who turned out to be neither funny nor sympathetic. Besides that, I highly recommend this remake and if you have time (and can get past the lack of advanced computer graphics) watch the original!

The Office (U.S.)

Genre: Comedy

Number of seasons: 9

Episodes per season: about 22 (S1 and S4 are shorter)

Average episode duration: ~20 min

Primary platform(s) available through: Netflix until end of 2020 then NBCUniversal

A classic that recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, The Office is one of those shows that you have to watch if you ever want to get the endless memes and jokes about it. To be honest, I’ve been meaning to watch this show for nearly a year now but felt daunted by its 9 seasons. Fortunately, its relatively short episode length and Jim’s constant pranks on Dwight (not to mention the never-ending cringe-fest that Michael puts on) passed the time in what felt like the blink of an eye. Season 4 is personally my favorite as it includes the dinner party at Micheal’s house, saw Jim and Pam finally start dating, introduced Michael’s soulmate, Holly, and surprised us with Michael hitting Meredith with his car, but I have to admit that Michael’s movie, Threat Level Midnight (S7 Ep17), in itself makes season 7 a close second. 

Psych

Genre: Comedy, Detective Fiction, Drama

Number of seasons: 8

Episodes per season: ~16 

Average episode duration: ~45 min

Primary platform(s) available through: Amazon Prime, Philo, NBCUniversal

Psych is unquestionably one of my favorite shows ever. The perfect balance of comedy, mystery, and general ridiculousness make it the perfect show to watch with family or revisit on your own. Like The Office, each episode embarks on its own thrilling journey with crazy cases, movie references, and life lessons (courtesy of Shawn’s dad). The inside jokes and bickering between Shawn and Gus, the endless debates between Shawn and Lassiter (whom Shawn calls “Lassie”), and the heartfelt relationships, whether romantic or familial, between (mostly) relatable, brilliantly portrayed characters all contribute to the infectious joy and optimism that Psych never fails to convey. Psych is fairly long, though, so I’d recommend spreading it out over a few weeks and once you’re done with the show, you can watch the movie (and there’s a sequel to it coming out in 2020)! 

Chernobyl

Genre: Historical Drama

Number of seasons: 1

Episodes per season: 5

Average episode duration: 1hr 10min

Primary platform(s) available through: HBO Now

This mini-series is based on the real events surrounding the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukranian SSR, and is likely one of the most highly-acclaimed and watched recent historical series but it is assuredly worth watching. Every aspect of the show, from the acting and set to the screen-writing and adherence to reality, bring this show to life. It feels less like a dramatized version of reality and more like a documentary, something that I find rare in tv shows but which also can make it difficult to watch. This show is simultaneously a meaningful acknowledgement of the horrors that lie in the past and a sharp reminder of how hard we must work to prioritize employee and public safety if we hope to avoid future catastrophe. 

NOVA

Genre: Documentary

Number of seasons: 47

Episodes per season: at least 20

Average episode duration: ~50 min

Primary platform(s) available through: PBS

NOVA is an incredibly long series that has been on since the 1970s and so has had plenty of time to refine its narration of major scientific breakthroughs and conundrums. The show features interviews with a range of experts who, together, cover just about every field of science there is in an extremely thorough but not overly technical manner. Many of the episodes utilize real-world parallels and helpful visuals to increase their accessibility to a variety of audiences. Growing up, NOVA was one of my favorite shows, and I still remember many of the episodes I watched, particularly those about astronomy (The Elegant Universe, Monster of the Milky Way, and Earth’s Magnetic Shield) which inspired me to read as much as I could about our universe for years afterwards. Regardless of whether you’re interested in science, this show tells an immersive story about the world we live in and even if you’re not inspired to explore whatever topic was discussed, at the very least, you will gain a newfound appreciation for the complex beauty of humanity’s relationship with nature and itself.