Sam Brooks runs down a list of shows you can binge this lockdown – including those that you really should’ve gotten around to watching by now.
Sound the emergency alert, because it’s lockdown again, and all you’ve got is time to kill (unless you have children, a job that requires you to work from home, you’re an essential worker or have to deal with any other number that put a drain on your time and life).
So what better time to start watching that thing you really should have watched already, or maybe the new thing that everybody is talking about, or just a thing that you scroll past on the carousel before settling on another episode of Kath and Kim. You know you’re doing it. It’s fine, and I see you. But it’s time to try something new.
To help you out, I’ve scoured the streaming services available in New Zealand, and picked from some good ol’ classics, some buzzy new stuff, and even thrown in a few YouTube series to help the time pass. With these hot picks, you’ll be ready to love lockdown like it’s 2008 and you’re Kanye West.
The White Lotus (Neon)
Binge time: Five hours and 39 minutes
Lockdown is never a blessing, but if you haven’t been hanging on the escapades of the worst white people on TV for the past six weeks, then having the opportunity to watch all of The White Lotus in one session might be considered one. The satire, created by School of Rock scribe and former Survivor contestant Mike White, is an excruciating, hilarious watch with amazing turns from Connie Britton, Natasha Rothwell, Murray Bartlett and in particular, Jennifer Coolidge. Just wait for the boat scene.
The Panthers (TVNZ OnDemand)
Binge time: Four hours and 22 minutes
Speaking of shows you can watch in one sitting, why not mosey on over to TVNZ OnDemand to watch a groundbreaking, locally made drama? Here’s what Dan Taipua had to say in his review for us: “The Panthers, dramatises the lives of those involved in the party and the forces that stood in their way, offering a unique perspective on real life events. As more and more of the lived history of urban Pasifika comes to light, does the fictional portrayal of The Panthers illuminate or obscure? … It’s only right that the rebellious story of The Panthers should be risky, a push against the easy solutions and style of mainstream television.”
Binge time: Two days, one hour and 30 minutes
I have to confess something: I have watched Superstore in its entirety three times this year. While the first few episodes are not the show at its best, from episode four of season one on, I think this is, moment for moment, the funniest sitcom of the past few years. The show is about the employees of a K-Mart-type store in the midwest and their antics, but as it progresses it becomes a surprisingly (or depressingly) salient commentary on how race, class and gender clash in a work context. Plus, it’s got America Ferrera in it, and she makes anything about five times better simply by association.
Binge time: Seven hours and 42 minutes
This is a bit of a cheat, but Unraveled is one of the most joyous things I’ve had the pleasure of watching, and rewatching, umpteen times. The show follows Brian David Gilbert, a ridiculously charismatic and watchable geek, as he dissects incredibly specific bits of video game culture. Episodes include him reading all 335 books in Skyrim, making every recipe in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, ranking all 200 Megaman robots and explaining storytelling via the convoluted time-travelling plot of Kingdom Hearts. This often comes at the cost of Gilbert’s sanity, but his cost is our gain. Essential watching for gamers, and highly recommended even if your gaming experience goes no deeper than Candy Crush.
Bob’s Burgers (Star via Disney+)
Binge time: 3 days and 23 hours
I’m not sure if Bob’s Burgers is the best animated sitcom out there – I’m still a Family Guy stan, 20 years on – but damn if it doesn’t make me feel warmer and fuzzier than any other series does. This weird as hell family who run and live around a burger joint have remained charming for 11 seasons and as time goes on, the characters haven’t flattened out or ended up as caricatures of themselves. With 216 episodes, that’s pretty impressive!
The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)
Binge time: Nine hours and 45 minutes
This definitely falls into a “you didn’t watch this, that’s OK, but you really should have” category. The miniseries, directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) tells the story of the Underground Railroad with a magic realist twist – rather than being a network of abolitionists, hidden routes and safe houses to help slaves escape from the South into the North, it’s a literal underground railroad. Even though the series debuted to rave reviews, it seems to have gotten lost in the most crowded year for miniseries in recent history. But you’ve got time to check it out now! So do it.
Friday Night Lights (Neon)
Binge time: Three days and four hours
In the year of our Lorde 2021, I shouldn’t have to tell people to watch Friday Night Lights, but here I am, spreading the good word. On the surface it might appear to just be about a high school football team, but it’s really about the community that surrounds the team, and their interpersonal dramas. OK, that’s not necessarily selling it either, but trust me on this one: it’s one of the most wildly satisfying and compelling series you’ll ever watch, and the Taylors – Coach Eric (Kyle Chandler), his wife Tami (Connie Britton), and daughter Julie (Aimee Teegarden) – might just be the most aspirational family on television.
Youth Wings (YouTube)
Binge time: One hour and 20 minutes
If you want to keep your bingeing to less of a meal and more of a snack, then dig into this six episode series from The Spinoff about the lives of members of youth wings of our political parties. It’s funny, it’s charming, but mostly it’s highly illuminating about what might lie in the future of politics in our country. (The final episode debate, hosted by our very own Toby Manhire, is a highlight.)
All the Studio Ghibli films (Netflix)
Binge time: 21 hours and 29 minutes
Exactly what it says on the tin. Netflix currently has every Studio Ghibli film available to watch (with the exception of Grave of the Fireflies, which is, uh, not the most fun of their films), and if you want to fill your day with wonder then you can really do no better than sitting down with Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro or pretty much any of their films. If you’ve got kids, I’ve prepared this handy guide to the appropriate ages for introducing them to all these gems, too.
The X-Files (Disney+)
Binge time: Nine days and two hours
Oh, the 90s. When the conspiracy theorists were on our TVs, rather than in our phones. There are 218 episodes of this sci-fi-slash-will-they-won’t-they classic to make your way through, which is enough episodes to get through pretty much any lockdown . Bring Mulder and Scully into your bubble, and you won’t regret it. The 90s! They just did TV differently back then.