Quarantine TV Shows
Updated: May 26
Everyone watching a lot of television lately? Me too. I wonder why. Catching up on TV shows and watching movies is about the only good thing going for many of us right now. But watching TV shows and movies is what I do when things are normal. Hmm. Anyway, after countless Zoom meetings with my delightful colleagues (myself) and without movie theaters to frequent (I) for new release reviews, I thought I’d write up an update on what TV shows the Malone Matinee team (me) has been enjoying amidst the quarantine, social distancing, and federal government incompetence. These are all great shows that are worth your time but, you don’t have to dip your chip in my sauce, these are just my insights. Enjoy whatever gets you through this, friends. When I’m not experimenting with my facial hair, pondering how convinced I am that Carole Baskin killed her husband, and drinking Dos Equis instead of Corona (just doing my part to fight back), these are the shows I’ve been relishing.
Joking but not really? It’s like comedy television on your phone? Kids these days are hilarious.
Better Call Saul (AMC)
Breaking Bad’s spinoff prequel show is wrapping up its fifth season airing on AMC Mondays at 9 PM ET. But the first four seasons are on Netflix if you’re looking for a brilliant, entertaining spinoff that simultaneously builds on the richness of Breaking Bad and completely stands a lot more than six feet away from its predecessor (successor in the story timeline). With Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and then El Camino, I wouldn’t mind if showrunners Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould never left the Bad universe. They may be incapable of writing other things because they’re just too skilled residing in Albuquerque. I doubt that though, one cannot be too contingent on a place like Albuquerque, even though it is the perfect setting for incongruous characters like Walter White and Saul Goodman. No one does character arcs like Gilligan and Gould. With Saul, they have made a completely refreshing story and character study out of a spinoff of one the greatest TV shows ever made and when people inevitably, and always, make that list (not hating, I’m a big list guy myself), Saul will be right up there with it. There’s no fan servicing, no unnecessary callbacks, and no futile easter eggs; these are always utilized as devices for plot and even character. It’s as rich and rewarding and original as Breaking Bad and while Bad invariably takes the cake, Better Call Saul is baking right there with it. With season 6 renewed as the final season possibly in 2021, you have nothing but time to catch up on this great show before it ends with what’s surely going to be, in Gilligan’s hands, an unconventional bang.
Westworld is just one of those shows. Do you know what I mean? Let me explain. It peaked in season 1. Now it’s just one of those shows that is still solid enough to sustain one’s viewing, but at the expense of having certain episodes where one asks themselves, why? Season 3 is currently on HBO, airing Sundays at 9 PM ET and it’s been a bumpy ride so far. It actually helps that it feels like an entirely different show going all cyberpunk and acting all Blade Runner in a futuristic meritocracy. That’s why when episode 2 reverted back to the Delos labs with Westworld’s recursive plot-twist gimmicks and unavailing reveals, it was jarring and frustrating. Yet this episode, like many episodes in the exhausting (but solid) second season, sets up a collision of powerful forces that I can’t wait to see later on. Westworld is officially out of Westworld and it needs to stay that way. The rest of the season has been well, solid! Simply put, Westworld is mainly neat style boldly searching for some profound substance; there’s always some very interesting ideas and conflicts, but they aren’t executed to the highest degree as they could be. However, when it does occasionally find the substance, it is really cool, worth contemplating and makes the style much sweeter. Showrunner Jonathan Nolan is just like his brother Christoper, always asking the big questions. I swear the pace of every other episode is exactly like a Nolan film too. Also, Aaron Paul and Evan Rachel Wood are the sexiest platonic pairing on the small screen right now.
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
I was actually watching this before everything went to virulent hell and just recently finished up season 3. This Hulu original is a great show, dismal and hard to swallow sometimes, but it provided a comfortable catharsis for me. Nothing can compare to what the women characters go through in this show, but watching Offred/June consistently fight back and hold onto hope and love in a world where personal liberties are stripped away and loss is plentiful, it’s easy to ascribe it to our own current situation and find inspiration to rise from our own despondency to search for hope and love. Season 4 was supposed to arrive this Fall, but production has been postponed. If production doesn't continue soon, look for a possible 2021 release, on Hulu.
Devs (FX on Hulu)
Another show I’ve been catching on Hulu with new episodes every Thursday is Devs. Alex Garland, the mind behind modern sci-fi classics Ex Machina and Annihilation, wrote and directed every episode of this miniseries. A thoughtful murder mystery in Silicon Valley involving a software engineer, her boyfriend (and ex-boyfriend), and the CEO of a tech company (Nick Offerman). However, with Alex Garland there’s always more to it than that. It’s a confounding show, with exquisite production design and cinematography. Unlike Garland’s films, the set-up and dialogue is a bit wonky. While his films methodically and suspensefully unveil the bigger ideas they are going for, Devs works best when it finally gets to the reveal, opening up a much more interesting, and abstract, concept. It’s a fascinating watch, and proves that Garland is one of the best minds in Hollywood.
Dave (FX on Hulu)
Lil Dicky is a rapper and a person. That seems to be the only point of Dave, Dave Burd’s new FX on Hulu show airing Wednesday’s 10 PM ET. In real life, Dave Burd is an established comedian and rapper (stage name Lil Dicky) who made a name for himself with his, well, prurient lyrics (you can hear his newest verse in Justin Bieber's new song "Running Over"). Dave is a hilarious show centered on the neurotic Dave Burd attempting to, with some help from his eccentric buddies, become a really famous rapper. It is an engaging comedy, with highlights including some special moments on mental health, acceptance and tender male friendships. Overall, it appears to be nothing but a showcase for Lil Dicky and what he is like when he’s not rapping about genitalia. I’m here for it though, if nothing else Dave induces some belly laughs. If you want a show about a rapper trying to make it with some help from his eccentric buddies but also has a lot more depth, look no further than…
Quarantine has finally allowed me to catch up on Donald Glover’s fantastic show. Atlanta is smart, bold, and funny. It’s also very real and genuine. Not to mention surreal and satirical. It has everything, tackling race like no other show has done before. It doesn’t matter that it is a bit on-the-nose, there’s never been a show like this and Atlanta captures so much of what is hardly said but needs to be spoken. The first two seasons are on Hulu. Season 3 is set for 2021.
Damon Lindelof is one the greatest TV writers to ever do it. I’ll be honest, this show didn’t grab me right away but I’m beyond glad I stuck with it and I don’t know much about the comics or Zack Snyder’s 2009 film. All I know is this one is a sequel of sorts to the story from the comics and is set in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Plus it’s super good. Regina King is phenomenal as Sister Knight, continuing the legacy of the Watchmen and fighting white supremacists. HBO was smart to leave this as a miniseries with Lindelof moving on. Without him, the show would undoubtedly decline.
The Leftovers (HBO)
Speaking of Lindelof, he is also the co-creator of my favorite show of all time. I’ve revisited a couple of episodes of The Leftovers during quarantine to remind myself of its greatness and to find some catharsis. Telling an enigmatic story with only three seasons, it is one of, if not the best, television show ever. That’s no hyperbole. There is absolutely nothing like The Leftovers. This show says so much about grief, life, death, family, religion, love and pretty much anything of depth and meaning that crosses your mind. It is impeccably acted, written, and directed, and goes to thematic territories few dare to cross. It demands your attention and your attention is well-rewarded. Justin Theroux stars as a cop who, along with his family and many others, try to reconcile with the “Sudden Departure”, an event that, on a normal, inconspicuous day like October 14th, took away 2% of the world, evaporating them into thin air. No one knows where they went, whether they are dead or alive. The genius of the show is that it never lingers on that question, only focusing on the characters that are still with us on earth as they navigate this near apocalyptic moment. How does life go on after a thing like that? Watch and find out. Traversing through New York, Texas and Australia, The Leftovers is life-changing and brutal and sad and beautiful all at once. It’s also very life-affirming, it will destroy you emotionally and your head may hurt from wonder, but that’s the point. To feel and think and search, that’s living.
Parks and Recreation (NBC, on Netflix)
I do love The Office, but I’ve always been in the Parks and Rec camp. It’s better and perfect for some much needed laughs during this time. I believe Leslie Knope to be one of the best ever characters on television.
New Girl (FOX, on Netflix)
This was truly one of the last great comedies of the 2010s. Hilarious, relatable, and sweet. Every character in this show is awesome and so well written.
It’s no longer on Netflix so I’ve been catching it on cable. Even when I’ve seen every episode a million times and I know what each character is going to say, I still laugh. Forget the millennial hate, Friends still rules and my generation is way too cynical and serious.
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Revisited “Battle of the Bastards.” Remember this time last year when our biggest worry was whether season 8 of Thrones was going to be good or not? And then we all united on social media once a week to relay our thoughts and make hilarious memes about it? Those were good days.
On my priority watchlist:
The End of the F*****g World Season 2 (Netflix)
A second season wasn’t necessary, but season one was wonderful so here I go.
I Am Not Okay With This (Netflix)
This looks really good. Nice to see Sophia Lillis in a starring role instead of playing the younger version of redhead actresses.
Altered Carbon Season 2 (Netflix)
I really enjoyed season one when I watched it two years ago. Anthony Mackie in season two? I'm all in.
It may be hard to believe but I do other things as well. You know, like watch movies. Here are the rest of the shows I plan to catch up to during quarantine and even after, when our lives are back. May write down my thoughts on them, who knows.
The Outsider (HBO)
Fargo (FX, on Hulu)
Hunters (Amazon Prime)
The Plot Against America (HBO)
Too Old to Die Young (Amazon Prime)
Normal People (Premiering on Hulu April 29th)
Finally, I want to promote this show coming to Hulu at the end of April. Based on Sally Rooney’s novel which I just recently finished reading and it easily became one of my favorite books. It’s astounding and a must read/see for lovestruck millennials. Trailer below.