by Zach Yanowitz
As you have probably experienced yourself, quarantine has meant a lot of hours spent on the couch looking for ways to pass the time — even more than usual. With so many recreational activities currently on pause, streaming movies and TV shows has been a source of comfort and joy in a scary and uncertain historical moment. As the pandemic continues to stretch on and you’ve already rewatched every episode of The Office for the umpteenth time, I figured I’d gather my thoughts and offer recommendations on some of my favorite pieces of streaming quarantine media.
This is an obscure program that most people have probably never heard of, but The Sopranos actually aired on HBO from 1999-2007 and was nominated for 111 Emmy Awards, winning 21! I’m not sure why it took me so long to watch this show, but it became immediately apparent why it’s such a pop cultural behemoth. The New Jersey mafia world is fleshed-out and visceral, the acting is exceptional — notably James Gandolfini and Edie Falco — and the gritty crime stories pack in as many laughs as they do shocked gasps. I would be lying if I said this show hasn’t inspired me to cook more Italian food during quarantine, from Carmella’s rigot pie with grapefruit to a nice beef braciole *kisses fingers*. Give this a watch if you’re looking to jump into a lovingly-portrayed story full of rich performances, Italian curse words, and thoughtful new perspectives on well-worn mob movie tropes.
I’ve watched a lot of anime during quarantine, as the bright colors and fantastical settings have been very soothing to my stressed-out brain. While highlights include Serial Experiments Lain, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Re: Zero, my favorite by far has been Dorohedoro. Based on the manga by Q Hayashida, this Netflix-produced series follows the amnesiac crocodile-headed Caiman through life in a post-apocalyptic city called Hole as he seeks to find the sorcerer who erased his memory and changed him into a big reptilian monster. The story delves into the magical underworld of the city with exceptional art design and voice acting, but mostly it’s just about a wacky guy who loves to eat dumplings and fight wizards. Although the series is definitely hyper-violent at times, the underlying tone is always quirky, upbeat, and optimistic. Check this out to jump into a wholly original fantasy world packed with weird magic powers, gorgeous character models and backgrounds, and the surest sign of anime goodness — a baseball episode.
Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi
Anybody who knows me knows that I am first and foremost a Top Chef devotee — you can even see me in the background of the Halloween episode from the New Orleans season — which means that I have sworn my life to Padma Lakshmi. In her new Hulu-exclusive show, Padma travels the country to examine the stories of immigrant groups through their cuisine in an attempt to find common ground and a human aspect to an increasingly divisive political topic. From Thai immigrants in Las Vegas to the Peruvian community in New Jersey, Padma’s adventures and conversations are as empathetic as they are mouthwatering. This show will make you understand the perspectives and dreams of immigrants as much as it will make you desperately want to eat Persian koobideh or Hawaian poke. This show is more important than ever to our current moment and I highly recommend you give this a watch — for your brain and heart as much as your stomach.
What We Do in the Shadows
Based on the 2014 mockumentary by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, this similarly-structured show focuses on the daily lives (deaths?) of four vampire roommates on Staten Island. Individual episodes follow such escapades as feuds with local werewolves, confusion over chain emails, and an attempt to gain American citizenship — but the heart of the series is the ever-suffering human familiar Guillermo, who only wants to serve his master Nandor the Relentless and one day become a vampire himself. This is the funniest show I’ve seen in a long time thanks to sharp writing, excellent guest appearances, surprisingly good special effects, and an iconic performance by cult-favorite comedian Matt Berry as the sexually ravenous vampire (and volleyball enthusiast) Laszlo Cravensworth. Even if you haven’t watched the documentary the show was inspired by, you absolutely need to give this series a try if you want a laugh after a long day of being freaked out by the news. Thank you to my friend and coworker KT for originally recommending it to me!
I honestly don’t watch a lot of movies, but I also love basically anything that The Lonely Island is involved in so I gave Palm Springs a shot when it was added to Hulu. This Groundhog Day-esque romantic comedy takes place at a hipster desert wedding in southern California, where sister of the bride Sarah (Cristin Milioti) accidentally joins depressed goofball Nyles (Andy Samberg) inside an eternal time loop on the day of the nuptials. A refreshingly original take on both the time loop and romcom genres, Palm Springs features a standout supporting performance from J.K. Simmons — not to mention an extended dance scene in a biker bar that must have taken hours and hours of choreography practice. Milioti is exceptionally charming as ever and the eternally-boyish Samberg shows surprisingly dramatic chops in a role with true emotional depth. In a COVID-19 world where time has seemed to lose meaning and each week feels the same, Palm Springs offers a quirky and memorable take on how to make the most of every day (even if it never ends).
What have been your favorite shows and movies to stream during social distancing? Let us know — because we’ve got more time to kill than we know what to do with.
Copy editor and Community Manager Zach has really been leaning into this whole “introvert” thing over the past four months, but he still misses his friends and going out to breakfast.