What are YOU watching to provide comfort during these trying times?
Filmmakers, artists, critics and writers chimed in with their personal favorite shows and films to watch when in dire need of checking out and calming down, which, let’s face it, is pretty commonly needed these days.
See what they came up with below.
First, since you asked, I’ll give you just a few of mine (thankfully, I have many go-to shows and movies I curl up with when going into the fetal position, which is 2020’s favorite pose). In no particular order and with no deep introspection about why, other than that these all make me feel better about the world while distracting me from the worst elements in it, I give you: Parks & Recreation, The Simpsons, Breaking Away, Local Hero, Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and every other Miyazaki movie, every Powell & Pressburger film, Singin’ in the Rain, Great British Baking Show and Making It, Young Frankenstein, Adventure Time, What We Do in the Shadows, Community, and, as a child of the 80s, MASH. My partner can’t get enough of any Agatha Christie adaption ever made, and Maine Cabin Masters to remind her of gentle people actually getting stuff done and built without tearing each other down.
Now, without further ado, here are the contributions we’ve received from various talented people during this time of pandemic and anxiety.
Lawrence Carter-Long (curator/cohost TCM‘s #ProjectedImage, author of The Evolution of Disability in Film: After the Accolades, the Work Continues) writes: “Been revisiting ‘Very Special Episodes‘ of sitcoms and made-for-TV movies of the ’70s/80s/90s with my colleague & friend, @infamouslyshort. A blast from our recent past on social issues can be quite refreshing when pondering the difference a few decades can make.”
Chris Metzler (co-director, Rodents of Unusual Size): “Everybody talks about how great The Wire is and no doubt it must be true as I’ve now watched it in full three times. Strangely in these times of chaos, and to my wife’s chagrin, I have turned to it again as my TV comfort food, as it helps me make sense of how we all live together and the effect that failed institutions have on us all.”
Bernardo Ruiz (director, Harvest Season, Latino Vote): “At the start of the pandemic, like many New Yorkers I couldn’t sleep. Late nights found me doom-scrolling on Twitter for political news and updates about the pandemic in my hard-hit neighborhood. To take the edge off, I went back to some of the films of my childhood from the mid-1980s, when I would rent VHS cassettes from Mr. Video in Brooklyn (a serious treat when we could bring home two cassettes.) One of my favorites from that era is Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero starring the great Peter Riegert and featuring an oversize cameo from Burt Lancaster.
“The film is definitely a cultural product of that era, but it also has a wonderful timeless quality. It is an understated film that sneaks up on you, infused with a kind of quiet humor and most importantly a love of people from all walks of life. It also toys with audience expectations about people in small towns, always weaving in a surprising twist. Hard to imagine it being made today—what streamer’s algorithm would greenlight it? For me, it was like eating food from a familiar neighborhood restaurant that has long since past being cool, but is deeply comforting nonetheless.”
Lois Vossen (Independent Lens Executive Producer): “I began to re-watch The West Wing. Many of the storylines (gun violence, police brutality, climate change, etc.) could be taken from today’s headlines and it’s a bit depressing to see how little things have changed in the past 20 years. And there are some storylines and characters who would rightfully be facing a reckoning in our post #MeToo and #TimesUp culture. On the other hand, President Bartlett appointed the first Latino to the Supreme Court in 1999 Hollywood-world, and Democrats and Republicans at least still speak to each other [on the series] so it’s been fun going down this time-warp rabbit hole.”
Ursula Liang (director/producer, Down a Dark Stairwell): “I’ve been binging What We Do in the Shadows. I met the EP’s Jemaine [Clement] and Taika [Waititi] when their feature version and my first film 9-Man were both at Hawaii International Film Festival a few years ago. They do mockumentary like no one else! Laughter and escapist worlds are great comfort viewing, and I always try to support work by BIPOC creatives.”
Arthur Jones (director of Feels Good Man): “At the beginning of COVID, we really enjoyed Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 12. Also, I’ve found the social media feed of New York Nico to be the best documentary viewing during the pandemic. His feed is a welcome break from the doom scroll. He spotlights small businesses struggling to stay open and celebrates New York for all resilient eccentricity.”
Giorgio Angelini (director of Feels Good Man): “I’ve been watching Grand Designs on Netflix, on Arthur’s recommendation. I have a background in architecture, so it’s nice to see a home remodeling show that actually deals with the pitfalls of the process in a detailed and authentic way. It’s also nice to experience a bit of innocent schadenfreude during these trying times, watching first-time home builders make disastrous decisions about how to build their dream home.”
Billy Luther (director of alter-NATIVE: Kitchen and alter-NATIVE): “I click on The Golden Girls. There hasn’t been a series that I can watch over and over like this. I remember watching it growing up, then watching it on the Laguna reservation with my grandparents. I still laugh out loud at each episode, even though I know them word for word.
“The timing, the acting, the writing. It’s all too much. I love the episode where Rose tells the mean neighbor to drop dead, and she does. And the one where the women are arrested for prostitution, and Sophia has to bail them out, only to steal their tickets to the Burt Reynolds movie premiere.
“I’ve [also] noticed I’ve watched Showgirls three times in the past 6 months. I saw this in the theater when it came out and hated it. But now I can’t stop watching it. It’s brilliant! It’s high art. Elizabeth Berkley gives it her all. I love movies set in Las Vegas. And this movie makes no sense—but who cares? There’s a documentary that just came out about the film, which made me love it even more. So many people have their interpretation of it.”
Filmmaker Maxine Trump (director of Should We Kid or Not, and To Kid or Not to Kid): “I try and include some laughs in all the work I do—not many laughs in documentaries these days, we need more comedy docs! Right now I need to laugh—or to languish in beautiful countryside, but since I can’t actually languish in reality, here is where I languish in my imagination: I go for laughs, to my female comediennes, Issa Rae is amazing. And to replace my obsession with Phoebe Waller-Bridge there’s a new woman on the block: Daisy Haggard. Okay, I’m a little biased as my film was about not having children and her series Breeders really does tell the truth about having children (starring the immutable Martin Freeman too), but her series Back to Life is brilliant too. And to travel the world to be in lush landscapes, I’ve finally got ’round to watching reality show The Amazing Race…amazing, so many seasons to watch. Now to tell you about the books, Jane Campion and French wine films I’m watching—too much?! It’s fair to say I have more time on my hands to indulge.”
Jason Asenap (writer/screenwriter/filmmaker from New Mexico/Oklahoma/Texas, a.k.a. Comancheria): “The Circus on Showtime to make sense of the political climate, same with Real Time with Bill Maher but with less success. I watched Dances with Wolves recently with a friend and enjoyed the nostalgia factor. Ah, youth and idealism.”
Eric J Edelstein, actor (you may have seen him in some things, like Drunk History and We Bare Bears as Grizzly!): “More baseball than I’ve ever watched in my life, Columbo, Hawaii 5-0 (Jack Lord version please), Claire Saffitz, This Week in Baseball, and now Cobra Kai.“
Ron Brodie (co-director Driver Radio: Jamaica): “For my comfort viewing, I love rewatching episodes of Parts Unknown or catching up on the latest season of Last Chance U. I also can’t deny the fact that I love Sunday night premieres. These are a variety of seasonal shows that debut Sunday nights on many of the well-known premium networks (HBO, Showtime, now even Netflix and Amazon!). Most recently, I’ve been digging Michaela Coel’s series I Will Destroy You. From the writing and representation to the cinematography and editing, I find the series so inspiring! The best premium TV seems to occur on Sunday nights. I will never change the channel on the movies Step Brothers or Black Panther, but really, I’m looking forward to getting back to the theater to catch a flick on the big screen!
“Oh and the 2018 Jamaican film Sprinter by Storm Saulter. It feels great to see [Jamaican] culture producing at bigger and better levels (Better Mus Come). Also The Day After Tomorrow is scary stuff, but tomorrow will come for sure.”
Don Brodie (co-director, Driver Radio: Jamaica): “I Will Destroy You has been everything for me. I have often been running on fumes in the late hours, causing me to rewatch an episode or even taking a few days to make it through about 30 minutes. In turn, I commit to really enjoying and thoroughly digging into the messages within the show’s situations. I am super excited to do the same with Lovecraft Country. Watchmen was the original binge. For movies: Black Panther and Queen and Slim has been so relevant during these uncertain times. Comic relief: I Am Legend or 28 Days Later. Some must-watch movies: Babylon, Wah Do Dem. I have really enjoyed working at my own pace through amazing TV and movies, however, much like my brother, I am a theater guy and can’t wait to dedicate 100% of my attention to a screen in a dark room filled with strangers.”
Julie Saunders (writer): “So far I’ve rewatched all of these from the beginning AT LEAST once: The Great British Baking Show; Parks & Recreation; Schitt’s Creek; Kim’s Convenience. I’ve become really attracted to shows where the core characters obviously love and care for each other. Also: The Office (US), especially seasons 1 and 2, has been my anxiety go-to for years. I can’t even count how many times I’ve watched that one.”
April Neale (writer and critic): “I default to NGC, DIY, HGTV, Netflix’s array of British shows and Columbo reruns. PBS’ Last Tango in Halifax (all seasons) is great too. I wish GoggleBox Channel 4 UK edition were streamed here. Currently, I am all about Lovecraft Country, The Alienist (wrapped but it was SO good) and Love Fraud on Showtime. For food shows, if you haven’t seen David Chang‘s Ugly Delicious [on Netflix] get on it.”
Heather Archuletta (writer; blogs: “Women of the Space Agency,” “Meet the Mavericks of Science and Medicine“): “Definitely old Star Trek stuff. Doctor Who re-runs, the goofier the better. We recently got Peacock streaming service, and I’ve been watching all the old Carol Burnett Show comedy hours. Such great memories of watching those with my Nana when I was a kid! And how could I forget Clone Wars? Trying to get through all those in preparation for the new season of The Mandalorian, where we hear Ahsoka Tano has a live-action part. Should be interesting. 👍🏽 Can’t wait for new Baby Yoda stuff in October.”
What are YOUR go-to comfort “food” TV shows and films? Share what you watch when you need a hug, in the comments below.