Five series to help you keep the quarantine blues at bay
We’re all in the same boat right now: told to stay at home as much as possible, to practice social distancing, and generally to not interact with the outside world to help flatten that curve. It’s easy to get bored during this time, but thankfully Netflix has a plethora of programming to keep you from going slowly stir-crazy. But because of the amount of choices, what should your first pandemic binge be? Where do you even start? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are the five series I always go back to when I’m in the mood for a good binge and need to forget about the madness of the world.
First up is Gilmore Girls. I’ve watched the series front to back about three times now, and it is just as good on each repeat viewing. All seven seasons are on Netflix, with a bonus follow-up mini series, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, to go through when you’re finished. It’s set in Stars Hollow, the most aesthetically pleasing small town I’ve ever seen (besides Sackville), with inhabitants that are delightfully quirky and dialogue that is so clever and fast-paced it still boggles my mind to this day.
For the uninitiated, Gilmore Girls follows the lives of mother-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. In the pilot, Rory gets accepted to an elite private school that Lorelai can’t afford, so she reaches out to her wealthy parents for help. Their one condition? Every Friday night, Lorelai and Rory join them for dinner to keep them involved in their lives. The rest of the series follows the Gilmore family, Rory’s relationships and all the people of Stars Hollow as they try to navigate this messy, complicated, beautiful thing called life. Gilmore Girls is easy to blow through with no high stakes, and also feels like coming home, especially for those of us no longer in Sackville.
My second recommendation is very different: Castlevania. Based on the video game from Konami Studios, the animated series is incredibly compelling and has some of the best fight sequences that I’ve ever seen in hand-drawn animation. Castlevania follows the team of Trevor Belmont, a monster hunter; Sypha, a spell-caster; and Alucard, the half-vampire son of Dracula, who are on a mission to take down Dracula himself after he set the armies of Hell upon the world (or, specifically, the country of Wallachia). As a warning for the faint of heart, this series does contain quite a bit of violence and gore, so if that’s not your speed, I’d skip this one. I like to think of Castlevania as an animated, vampire-centric Game of Thrones tonally.
Speaking of Game of Thrones, if you’re looking to get your medieval fantasy kick, I’d recommend checking out The Witcher, another Netflix original series. It’s based off the video game, which is based off the book series all of the same name. For a majority of the first season, the show follows three separate timelines that all eventually converge, which is done very well but could turn off a few people as they don’t give dates and timestamps on the show, leaving it to the audience to figure out.
Henry Cavill stars as Geralt of Rivia, who is another grouchy monster-hunter just trying to make it to his next day, until he meets the bard Jaskier (Joey Batey), who starts to put him in a decent light with the public. Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) is a mage, plucked from obscurity and trained in magical means. But those magical powers come with a price, one that she has to decide for herself many years on if she regrets or not. Ciri (Freya Allan) is a princess on the run after one of the neighbouring kingdoms attacks her home and effectively kills her grandmother. Ciri’s grandmother’s final words to the princess are what sets everything in motion: “Find Geralt of Rivia.” In a Game of Thrones void, Netflix has stepped up to the plate with great success, with season two hopefully arriving soon.
But let’s say you’re looking for something a little more light-hearted, something a little more homegrown, with a good mix of humour and drama to keep you invested. I’d send you to watch my fourth pick, Anne with an E. This series is a co-production between CBC and Netflix, meaning that it is a beautifully put-together show with high production values but also that cosy feeling you know and love from the original story. It is yet another take on the well-known story of Anne of Green Gables, but it is full of lovable characters (both new and familiar), beautiful locations, and so much heart that it is bursting at the seams. The first two seasons are on Netflix in Canada, but don’t worry, because the third (and bittersweetly final) season is available to stream from CBC Gem. Yes, the series is a bit sad at the start as it takes a bit of a darker approach to showing what Anne went through at her orphanage, but the show does get significantly happier, and it’s a joy not only to watch Anne grow up on the show, but also to watch the actress who plays her (Amybeth McNulty) grow up as well.
Maybe you want a good old-fashioned traditional sitcom that you don’t have to think about too hard but is still entertaining to watch. I give you my final pick, One Day At A Time. Netflix cancelled the show after three seasons, but thanks to fan uproar its fourth season is premiering March 24 on PopTV in the United States (and you can likely find it online later with some creative Googling). One Day At A Time follows a Cuban-American family living in California. Penelope is a single mother, a full-time nurse and a former army nurse. Her daughter Elena is big into activism of any kind, and is later revealed to be gay. Her little brother Alex is… well, he’s a teenage boy, so there’s plenty of drama there. And, of course, there’s grandmother Lydia (played by EGOT-winner Rita Moreno), who originally immigrated to the United States from Cuba and now lives with her daughter, providing dramatic shenanigans galore. The show is well-written, hitting on some very current issues, and the cast is also incredible – I don’t know how they managed to get Rita Moreno, who is a legend in every sense of the word, but I’m endlessly grateful they did, as she’s the best part of the show.
Hopefully, one of these shows will keep you from scrolling Netflix endlessly for however long social-distancing protocols are in place. There is a series out there for anyone, so even if none of these are quite your vibe, you’ll definitely find something. For now, though, I’m going to be sitting on my couch listening to Carole King sing the theme song for Gilmore Girls on loop until this all blows over.