bowl of popcorn

8 comforting TV shows to help take your mind off the apocalypse

As the world goes on lockdown, and TV sets everywhere are switched on simultaneously, there’s one big question on everyone’s mind: why on earth is Netflix is recommending Pandemic and Quarantine in its ‘must watch’ list?

I mean, we don’t NEED to watch movies about pandemics and quarantine, do we? That’s not entertainment: that’s just LIFE now. And how freaking bizarre is that?

Needless to say, I’m not going to be following Netflix’s recommendations on this one (To be fair, it looks like Quarantine isn’t actually about a virus, but it still sounds a little bit too dark for me under the circumstances…). No, what I need right now is something light and comforting that I can lose myself in for a couple of hours: and, with that in mind, here are some of my recommendations for anyone in need of a bit of gentle escapism…
bowl of popcorn

Detectorists

I’ve written about this show before, but it’s so good that it’s worth mentioning again. Any time I’ve recommended it to someone, ‘gentle’ is the word I’ve wanted to use to describe it, and ‘gentle’ it is. It follows the adventures of two metal detectorists as they hunt for buried treasure, and I know that sounds boring as all hell, but trust me: it’s awesome. It’s also a real comfort watch for me: there’s just something about it that soothes that soul, and I kind of wish I hadn’t already seen it so I could watch it all over again. (Which, let’s face it, I’ll probably do anyway…)

Call the Midwife

OK, I can’t claim that Call the Midwife always makes for happy watching, exactly: it’s a drama about midwives working in one of the most impovrished areas of London during the 50s and 60s, so happy endings aren’t always guaranteed. Even the sadder storylines, however, have something heartwarming about them in this show, which might centre around childbirth, but which also provides a fascinating insight into the social history of the time. 

Ultimately, though, it’s the story of good, honest folk, doing good, honest things, and you’re basically guaranteed a birth scene in every episode – so if you’re looking for an excuse to have a good old cry – and I think most of us ARE right now – this could be the show for you. 

(Oh, and the 7th series just finished here in the UK, so it should keep you occupied for … well, maybe a couple of days at least, assuming you’re experiencing lockdown without young children…)

Friends

I’m going to assume here that I don’t need to explain Friends to anyone, so all I’ll say is that this is still my ultimate comfort-watch: like many of my generation, I’m pretty sure I know almost every episode by heart, but despite having watched all of them dozens of times now, it STILL never gets old.
8 comforting TV shows to help take your mind off the coronavirus pandemic

Monarch of the Glen

An oldie but a goodie: Archie MacDonald is forced to give up his fast-paced London life to return to his family estate in the Scottish Highlands, and take over its running from his eccentric father, the Laird of Glenbogle. Hilarity ensues: and, OK, sometimes a bit of tragedy, too, but, overall, this is another heartwarming kind of comedy/drama that’s perfect for a bit of escapism, and worth watching for the Highland scenery alone. 

The Trip

Sit back and watch Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon travel around the UK, Italy, Spain and Greece, eating in swanky restaurants and bickering over who can do the best James Bond impression. Sounds pretty dull when you put it like that, but it’s surprisingly hilarious, occasionally poignant, and the kind of show Terry and I still regularly quote to each other 10 years after the first season aired. Right now it also makes for a nostalgic trip down memory lane, taking us back to the days when people still used to travel and eat in restaurants: so, a few weeks ago, then…

Gavin & Stacey

Speaking of Rob Brydon, I couldn’t fail to include Gavin & Stacey in this list, although I’m pretty sure most of you (At least here in the UK, anyway…) will be very familiar with it. If you’re not, you’re in for a treat: and if you are, well, you’re STILL in for a treat, because the BBC have just announced they’re going to be re-screening it on Saturday nights, in a bid to boost everyone’s spirits during lockdown.

Anne With an E

If you loved the Anne of Green Gables books – or any of the various TV adaptations of them that have been made over the years – this should be right up your street. It’s not 100% faithful to the books, and I personally felt it jumped the shark a bit in season 3, when it almost entirely departed from the original, and everyone in it suddenly became woke as hell, but the first two seasons are charming and moving, so you can have a bit of a cry, and feel comforted by it, all at the same time. 

Once Upon a Time

Finally, another show I’ve written about before, Once Upon a Time posits the idea that the fairytale characters we know so well are all actually real, and living in a small town in Maine, with absolutely no idea who they are. So, Snow White is a school teacher and Prince Charming’s been in a coma for 28 years, without ageing. Sweet. From this, you’ll obviously gather there’s a very large suspension of disbelief involved in watching this one, but doesn’t that sound like a pretty nice holiday for your brain right now? Because I think so.

Got any other recommendations for non-scary, non-apocalyptic comfort viewing for me? Because, trust me, I’ve never been more in need…

[Photo @Lesia.Skywalker via Twenty20]

COMMENTS
  • Thanks for the tips 🙂

    March 27, 2020
  • Julie

    REPLY

    I’m loving Virgin River on Netflix and although it’s set in California it’s filmed in the stunning scenery of British Columbia.

    March 27, 2020
    • Melissa

      REPLY

      I shall give these a go. I’m enjoying the new series of Queer eye. And I always enjoy Gilmore Girls. Kimmy Schmit is quite gentle if bizarre. Tho it gets a bit samey after a while. Moving art is very soothing too.

      March 27, 2020
  • Cheila Martins

    REPLY

    Hey! My favorites are Outlander, This is Us, Masters of Sex (nothing dirty, just too doctor pioneers on research of human sexuality in the 40’s, it’s very good) and Working Moms.

    March 27, 2020
  • My current fun watch is “crazy ex girlfriend”.

    March 27, 2020
  • JoAnn Moran

    REPLY

    I love Monarch of the Glen. I’ve watched it twice and might watch it again. I don’t know why I love The Spiderwick Chronicles. I’m a grown woman, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s good escapist fun. Of course, The Great British Baking Show comforts me.

    March 27, 2020
  • Jana

    REPLY

    Try 100 Humans. 3 hosts with no scientific backgrounds experimenting on 100 humans to answer questions like who is better at multi-tasking, men or women? Good laugh, especially at American idiosyncrasies.

    March 27, 2020
  • What excellent suggestions! Detectorists is my husband’s favorite show of all time, I do believe. Always loved Monarch of the Glen (although I think Archie is a bit of a twat). In the same vein is Ballykissangel, and Lovejoy – good 90s fun. Adore the Midwives (athough their Christmas special in Scotland was a bit confusing). Being in the US, I haven’t seen Gavin & Stacy, but it’s on my list. I will watch Downton Abbey at the drop of a hat, but there’s a big chunk about the Spanish flu of 1918, so maybe not now. If you can get Modern Family, it is a hilarious send-up of all our American stereotypes – it’s very tongue-in-cheek, and we usually guffaw out loud several times per episode.

    March 27, 2020
  • Brenda

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    Schitts Creek is hilarious; my (older) kids have been loving “Love is Blind”; Brooklyn 99 is good; I love stand-up comedy, so Taylor Tomlinson, Iliza Schlesinger (my favourite), Fortune Feimster are all hilarious… my kids have The Office (US version) on constant rotation… I was shocked too, that Contagion and Pandemic were on the top watch list for Netflix! Crazy!!!

    March 27, 2020
  • Candice

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    I’ve been obsessed with gilmore girls lately! Definitely going to check these out.

    March 27, 2020
  • Valaurie

    REPLY

    I actually really enquire the documentary series ‘Pandemic’, we keep hearing about all the scientists busy at work for a vaccine and it was nice to see some of the faces behind that work and knowing that there were people preparing for such an event. For comforting shows my household has been rewatching ‘Doctor Quinn Medicine Woman’, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and waaayyy to much Little House on the Prairies. Netflix also has another season of ‘Nailed It’ coming out soon and I can hardly wait to watch a bunch of baking fails!

    March 27, 2020
  • JoAnn Moran

    REPLY

    Also, Kate and Leopoldo if you can get it. If you have never seen Gran Torino or Inception, they’re worth watching too.

    March 27, 2020
  • Oh, I LOVE The Dectectorists! And that was the first word I thought of to describe it – gentle. It’s a show with no one really awful in it, just mildly annoying. I will definitely watch it again.

    I really like This Country and The Young Offenders on BBC I-player which are very funny but with poignant bits too. Derry Girls on C4 is brilliant, of course, and Friday Night Dinner also on C4 is very funny.

    March 27, 2020
    • And forgot to mention Still Game and Two Doors Down on BBC. Great Scottish shows! You’ll love TDD if you don’t like people just knocking on your door, albeit from an “I’m glad that’s not me!” point of view.

      March 27, 2020
  • Myra

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    I’ve started watching a Netflix series called Heartland and I love it. It’s about a horse ranch, which I’m sure you’ll love. It’s about the horses, many of which have been damaged and a girl who is a horse listener rather than a whisperer, and cures them. It’s also about relationships. Very easy to watch.

    March 27, 2020
  • I’ve just finished watching both series of Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing on the BBC iplayer and it was lovely – the premise is Paul Whitehouse teaching Bob Mortimer to fish after he had a triple heart bypass. It reminded me of The Trip but I think I liked it better because they’re not playing versions of themselves; they’re just two aging men talking about their health and trying to catch fish. As a basically lifelong vegetarian I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the fishing aspect but it’s catch and release and it’s sort of magical to see how amazing the fish are!

    March 28, 2020
  • Currently binging on Star Trek and The Goldbergs. The utopian aspects of The Next Generation make it great escapist fun with some great drama as it goes on. The Goldbergs is just really nice as it’s like stepping back into my 80s childhood. It’s warm, cosy and so identifiable. The TV equivalent of mac n cheese.

    March 28, 2020
  • We love “Heartland” – it gets off to a bit of a dramatic start, but see it through and you will be rewarded with a lovely, gentle, family-oriented series – the location is gorgeous too.
    Another favourite is “When Calls the Heart” – one of my favourites, I wish they’d release the new seasons here in the UK, but there are about 5 seasons to get you started.
    Finally, Chesapeake Shores – a feel-good, fun series based on the books by Sherryl Woods.

    March 29, 2020
  • Kimberley V

    REPLY

    If you have amazon prime, the marvelous mrs maisel is worth a watch for the humor and costumes

    April 1, 2020
  • Nita Schmid

    REPLY

    I’ve started watching Grace and Frankie and it’s so lovely! I tend to read more than I watch TV but it’s a good, solid, funny women-centred story so far.

    April 18, 2020
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