Social isolating? Here's a few things to watch to feel better about it.

The best feel-good TV to watch in a time of true strife

Looking for something safe to watch on the telly? Tara Ward has some suggestions. 

Chucking on the old gogglebox is the perfect way to escape the bewildering shitstorm we currently call “the real world”, especially if you’ve built yourself a comfortable throne out of your many, many stockpiled rolls of toilet paper. That’s why we’ve gathered together a selection of easy, breezy television shows that will lighten the load and brighten your day, if only for a few precious moments.

Whether you’re self-isolating or just want a distraction from reality, these shows will make you feel better. They’ll entertain you, they’ll make you laugh, and they’ll make you want to buy a dirty hunk of clay and transform it into a beautiful vase, like you’re Demi Moore before Patrick Swayze turned up and interrupted her creative flow with all his man needs. They’re smart and warm and wholesome, and best of all, none of them involve watching Contagion.

Reality

Blown Away (Netflix, 10 episodes)

Nothing more soothing than seeing some glass getting blown.

It’s the Canadian reality show where glass artists compete to win a $60,000 prize. Turns out watching people blow glass is fascinating, and you’ll finally discover the difference between your punty and your glory hole. Blown away, indeed.

Flirty Dancing (ThreeNow)

Strangers falling in love through the art of dance sounds ridiculous, but last month we were high fiving with reckless abandon and now look at us. Either way, Flirty Dancing is wholesome and joyful and possibly the most delightful piece of television you’ll ever shake your freshly sanitised jazz hands at.

Lego Masters USA (ThreeNow, new episodes weekly)

It’s a simple premise: People build cool shit out of Lego. You’ll still wince when you stand on a piece in bare feet, because telly can’t fix everything, mates.

Next in Fashion (Netflix, 10 episodes)

Keep us happy, Tan France!

Smell you later, Project Runway, because Next in Fashion is the fresh update of the classic ‘designers compete to win a prize’ reality concept. Featuring a diverse international cast of talented designers, Next in Fashion is all about passionate people creating incredible things.

The Great British Pottery Throwdown (online)

Shout out to the Real Pod Cornies for this show, which is basically Bake Off with clay. It’s hiding in the dark corners of the inter web (one word, two consonants, rhymes with NouPube), but it’s a gem worth seeking. One of the judges is constantly bought to happy tears, which is exactly the type of sentimentality we need right now.

Drama

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (Amazon Prime Video, 3 seasons)

Keep us safe, Mrs. Maisel!

If you’re a Gilmore Girls fando your optic nerves a service and dive into this colourful whirlwind of fabulous costumes and rapid fire comedy about a 1950s housewife who becomes a stand-up comedian.

Rake (Netflix, 4 seasons)

A brilliant Australian comedy-drama about the narcissitic but loveable Cleaver Greene (Richard Roxburgh), a brilliant lawyer who defends the indefensible while his own life goes down the toilet. Razor-sharp writing with a satirical bite makes this a must-see.

The Bold Type (NEON, 4 seasons)

Back in the old days, we used to buy things called ‘magazines’. Relive that classic time with The Bold Type, a fun, feisty and feminist drama about three friends who work at a New York women’s magazine, loosely based on Cosmopolitan.

Virgin River (Netflix, 1 season)

About as wholesome as it gets.

There are no surprises in Virgin River, a drama about a midwife who applies for a job in the Californian mountains, only to discover small-town life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Hunky love interests (hello, Martin Henderson) and gorgeous scenery make Virgin River a completely undemanding and quietly enjoyable binge watch.

5 Bedrooms (NEON, 1 season)

Created by the team behind Offspring, this Australian rom-com follows five singles who decide the only way they’ll ever own a house is to buy one together. Greatest idea ever, or a recipe for disaster? You decide.

Comedy

The Good Place (Netflix, 4 seasons)

The cast of The Good Place.

Elinor (Kirsten Bell) arrives in the afterlife to discover she was sent to the Good Place by mistake, and has to hide her many flaws until she can transform herself into a good person. Light in tone and funny as hell, The Good Place will make you snort laugh, but in a good way.

Lovesick (Netflix, 3 seasons)

A highly underrated British comedy about an unlucky-in-love bloke who discovers he has chlamydia and has to inform his previous girlfriends. Much funnier than it sounds, unlike chlamydia, which has no sense of humour at all.

Mad About You (TVNZ OnDemand, 9 seasons)

Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser in the 90s classic, Mad About You.

There’s a whopping 176 episodes of this classic ’90s sitcom, including the latest 2020 season which sees Jamie and Paul entering a new phase of married life as empty nesters. The world’s changed a lot since 1992, but the Buchmans haven’t, and there’s something reassuring about that.

Schitt’s Creek (Netflix, 4 seasons)

With the final season dropping in May, it’s the perfect time to discover this smart comedy about the once wealthy Rose family, who are forced to move to a town they once purchased as a joke. Stars the brilliant Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy, and is definitely not schitt.

Derry Girls (Netflix, 2 seasons)

Just some wholesome Catholic fun.

Proof there’s levity in the darkest situations, this comedy follows a group of Northern Irish teenagers as they grow up during the Troubles in the early ‘90s.

Documentaries

Cheer (Netflix)

Put on your activewear and cartwheel into this incredible series about a squad of Texan cheerleaders as they prepare to compete at national level. This is hard core athleticism, where one wrong move leads to disaster and where both hearts and ribs are easily broken. FYI Jerry is an angel, and we’re all making mat.

Pecking Order (TVNZ OnDemand)

Competitive chooks, why not!

Pecking Order celebrates all that’s good and quirky about this fine country of ours, as it follows a group of poultry-loving Kiwis preparing to compete in the high-stakes world of the National Poultry Show. Delectable from start to finish.

McMillions (NEON)

Keen for a true crime drama series where nobody dies? McMillions focuses on the bizarre but true story about the McDonald’s Monopoly game scam during the ‘90s, as told by the FBI agents and the prizewinners involved.

Dancing with the Birds (Netflix)

Make sure to stay at least two metres apart, birds.

Hornbag birds try to convince other hornbag birds to get jiggy with it. Count us in, Stephen Fry.

Fat Salt Acid Heat (Netflix)

Back in the days when toilet paper hoarding was just a crazy dream, chef and food writer Samrin Nosrat explored the four ingredients at the heart of any great dish. Part travel, part cooking show, FSAH will inspire and rejuvenate the soul, while also making you love salt more than you already do.

Panel Shows

Have You Been Paying Attention (TVNZ OnDemand)

It’s the news, but funny. Hosted by Hayley Sproull and featuring a revolving panel of Kiwi comedians, HYBPA lets us laugh in the face of current affairs, because these days who doesn’t need to have a quiet chuckle at the steaming cesspit we like to call ‘Earth’?

Taskmaster (TVNZ OnDemand)

The perfect show for when the chaotic and the unpredictable becomes the norm. With comedians acting out pointless challenges like ‘roll three exercise balls up a hill’ or ‘make the most tremendous pair of legs’, the joyfully manic Taskmaster brightens the darkest of days.



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