Fire up your telly, because TV addict Vicki Notaro knows just what you need to gorge your eyes on right now.
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Sometimes there’s nothing more comforting than something you know inside out and upside down, can talk along with and that never really gets old to you – enter the sitcom. That could be Friends for you, lovingly devouring the Ross and Rachel ferris wheel and all the Joey-isms, it could be Fraiser (on every morning on Channel 4) with its comedy of errors and pompous but loveable psychiatrists, or it could be Seinfeld with its witticisms and surrealism. Whatever it is, it needs to be short, filmed in front of a studio audience and include canned laughter.
Take a small Connecticut town, a young single mum and her bright, beautiful teenage daughter. Add in some zany, quirky villagers that helped to raise the aforementioned daughter, a kitsch diner and picture-perfect inn, plenty of mild sexual tension, junk food and wacky adventures, and throw in some conflict with older, wealthy and out of touch parents, and what have you got? Pure escapism, complete with rat-a-tat dialogue and a breathy soundtrack. Perfect
A cooking show with a difference on Netflix, this series follows actor and director Jon Favreau (Elf, Iron Man, The Lion King) and his celebrity chef mate Roy Choi cooling with their famous friends and eating delicious things. They met when Jon needed a consultant for his movie Chef (also very comforting, about a Michelin starred restauranteur switching to a food truck) and forged a deep friendship that is always informed by eating. See also Ugly Delicious, also on Netflix and following renowned chef David Chang.
Okay, hear me out, because I know that the subject matter here is grim. However, it’s the perfect pandemic watching because it makes you feel safe and grateful to be in your home, not out on the mean streets of New York City where rapists, abusers and murderers lie in wait. It’s also comforting because nine times out of ten, the good guys win and Olivia Benson swooshes in with her fabulous hair and take no shit attitude and locks up the baddies. It’s got the formula, it’s easy to just switch on and tune out, and Ice T is a mothafuckin legend. Don’t @ me.
This is one of my visual comfort blankets, a show that I can put on and curl up and let wash over me but also make me feel something pretty much every time. I always glean something new from the ladies the older I get, and while it’s somewhat problematic in modern woke times, I find it endlessly enjoyable. And the debates still rage on about Big V Aiden, something SJP even weighed in on last month on Instagram.
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I love cooking shows and travel shows, and this is a delightful combination of both. Phil Rosenthal is a comedy writer best known for creating Everybody Loves Raymond, and somehow he managed to swing a Netflix show where he travels the world and eats all the local specialities. He’s adorable and it’s like a little holiday when we can’t get away. He even visits Ireland in one episode, touring Dublin and Cork.
This show is some people’s absolute nightmare (my husband’s, for one), but if you’re into cheesy bops and musical theatre along with ridiculously precocious American teenagers, this is a salve for the soul. Or you could just do what I do and TouTube the best performances when you’ve had a few drinks. I recommend anything featuring Jonathon Groff and Darren Criss.
Any reality show competition will work here, but I’m writing about this on because I discovered it while flicking one day. Showing on cable channel W most evenings, it’s basically America’s Next Top Model, only with cooking. You’ve a little challenge, a big challenge, harsh judges and an elimination every episode; similar also to RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is all on Netflix with season 12 streaming lately. Get caught up in the sniffly drama, you won’t regret it.
I adore The West Wing because it’s witty, it’s loving, it’s charming and it’s totally educational – I wouldn’t know what a caucus or a filibuster was without it! But it’s also a breath of fresh air when it comes to American politics, a reminder that things haven’t always been the way they are now in the White House and that it is possible for a good guy to prevail. You will absolutely wish that Martin Sheen was the real POTUS, and you’ll get swept up in the family and romantic aspects too. A must-watch.
This is on pretty much every time I turn on E! these days, and is as watchable as ever. What’s most fascinating is observing the changes from the early, completely scripted episodes to now – and I’m not talking about anyone’s face here, okay. Kim has matured from a spoilt, vacuous Beverly Hills brat into a wife, mother, campaigner and justice reformer; Kylie has gone from a bratty kid to a billionaire businesswoman. Khloe’s had a tough run of it with men, Kourtney has pretty much decided to opt out after sharing her life and relationships for over a decade, and perhaps most shockingly, dowdy dad Bruce became her true self as glamour puss Caitlyn – season ten is particularly eye-opening.
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Many prefer the earlier seasons before it all blew up and when Mary Berry was still ruling with her iron, er, whisk, and some love the comedy and youth of the newer Channel 4 series with Noel Fielding. But whichever you’re into Paul Hollywood’s blue yes, delicious cakes and soothing pastels are all present, along with willing bakers who will do just about anything to avoid a soggy bottom. There are several series on Netflix to enjoy too.
I will personally confess to never having been a huge fan of this show, on Netflix now, but those who have preserved past the first half of season one tell me that it’s not only a work of comic genius but has real heart too. It tells the story of a wealthy family who suddenly find themselves completely down on their luck, and have no idea how to adjust to ordinary life. It recently had its finale, so there’s a complete series there start to finish for anyone looking for something new.
The American version of Ricky Gervais’ cult classic mockumentary spanned a much broader playing field than its predecessor, and made huge stars of Miny King, Steve Carrell and John Krasinski thanks to its sharp scripts and loveable characters. And ditto Parks and Recreation, known for its one liners and surprising warmth. Both are good shouts right now, as is Krasinski’s YouTube series Some Good News, in which he attempts to cheer us all up from home every week. Do check it out, especially episode two.