EW's favorite feel-good TV shows, episodes, and characters to quaran-stream
From comedies like The Golden Girls and New Girl to the inspiring speeches and paternal authority of one Coach Taylor, EW's staff suggests the TV shows, episodes, and characters to help put you at ease.
As people look for things to occupy their time while sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic, television has perhaps been the biggest beneficiary. Ratings and viewership are up on networks and streamers alike, where shows past and present have more eyes on them. While things happening in the real world are uneasy, to put it lightly, there's nothing like some feel-good TV to take your mind off things we can't easily control or fix. So EW's staff has picked some series, episodes, and characters to quaran-stream that provide the perfect dose of comfort.
While trapped inside my cramped, one-room apartment, I have found solace and escapism in the greatest network on television: HGTV. Shows like Love It or List It, Property Brothers, or the holy jewel House Hunters allow me to virtually visit (and judge!) strangers’ homes, without ever leaving the comfort of mine. There are no real problems in HGTV’s America, no viruses or money troubles or sense of creeping dread about global affairs. There are only issues that can be solved in a neatly packaged hour or half-hour of television, issues like a hideous brown kitchen or the need for a spare bedroom.
Watching HGTV on repeat has a soothing sameness; you can flip on the channel at any time of day and hear the same overused jokes about how he needs a man cave or how she loves the enormous closet, but where is he going to put all of his clothes! Chuckle chuckle, fade to commercial. When I’m feeling anxious or lonely, the endless parade of renovations and real estate helps me dream of a brighter, more aesthetically pleasing future. The world may seem like a carpeted bathroom right now, but HGTV reminds us that hey, there might be some hardwood floors hidden underneath. —Devan Coggan
The Golden Girls
It’s been more than 20 years since my grandmother passed so my memories aren’t as clear, but one thing I’ll never forget is her laugh — throaty at first, before swelling to high notes. And, thanks to four women who lived together in Miami, I know my grandmother’s laugh will stay with me forever. At the time when I would snuggle next to her on her bed to watch The Golden Girls on her little TV, I was far too young to understand the jokes, and now at 41 I’m still barely old enough to get all the references. But that was the magic of the Girls: No matter how old they were, they somehow never aged and yet were always ahead of their time.
I returned to the Girls as an adult, when my health became a mess of terrifying uncertainty and I needed friends to keep me company during the day between specialists’ appointments. Their whip-smart jokes complemented the cheesecake-heavy moments and became one of the few medicines I wasn’t prescribed but so needed. One day it occurred to me somewhere between picturing Sicily and hearing a St. Olaf story for the thousandth time, that for my grandmother who lived by herself and whose memory was slowly but surely being stolen from her, this was probably what she needed too; friends she could rely on every day to make her laugh that same crescendo.
To this day every single time I see that plane flying with the sun behind it, and I hear those four opening notes, I am — more than anything — thankful. —Lacey Vorrasi-Banis
Bravo & Below Deck
Bravo’s lineup of docusoap farces is the soothing schadenfreude America needs right now. With much love for Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives of New York, the network’s current gem is Below Deck: Sailing Yacht, the wind-powered brand extension of the network’s Love Boat But For Hate workplace reality-com. The generally likable, occasionally loathsome lineup of humans working onboard the Parsifal III have a delightfully awful time catering to their one-point-five-percenter clientele. The yacht’s in Greece, which makes for a lovely visual getaway in these cloistered times. The fact that almost everyone on screen is having dramatic relationship problems makes home feel even cozier. —Darren Franich
When New York City got those “safer at home” guidelines last month, the first thing that crossed my mind (outside of generalized pandemic anxiety) was that this could finally be the time I scale my personal TV Everests: The Sopranos and The West Wing. But the more I thought about it, the less appealing starting any show from scratch seemed. I wanted something comforting during this weird time, fictional people I was already familiar with. So I found myself turning to New Girl on Netflix, which ended up being exactly what I needed. (My colleague Derek Lawrence started watching right after I did and laid out some great reasons for why it’s the perfect quarantine binge.)
The whole journey has been a delight, but I’ll fully admit which episode I was most excited to revisit: Season 2’s “Cooler,” a.k.a. The One Where Jess and Nick Kiss. It’s one of the best episodes of the entire series, easily one of the best TV kisses ever — Nick’s initial “Not like this!” followed by the payoff at the episode’s end (“…I meant something like that”) is still superb on second (or third) viewings — and a perfect example of New Girl at its best: A hangout sitcom (loft shenanigans, a raucous round of True American) with Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel’s chemistry anchoring its rom-com heart. —Jessica Derschowitz
Broad City's "Stories"
In the season 5 premiere, Ilana and Abbi celebrate the latter’s 30th birthday with an epic adventure traversing from the “tipity top” of Manhattan all the way down to the “tipity bottom.” (Can you even fathom all that outdoor time?!) Shot almost entirely as an Instagram story (though a way better-edited and highly-produced livestream than any of us could ever create), the girls’ fun day out includes everything from normal birthday celebrations like bottomless brunch and shoe shopping, to less typical activities such as (accidental) child abducting, falling in a manhole — ahem, sorry, womanhole — and witnessing a triple rainbow. While it’s as hilarious and endearing as any installment of the Comedy Central series, what makes “Stories” the ultimate comfort-watch is the episode’s true celebration: female friendship. Ilana and Abbi are as dedicated to one another as always, as Ilana pulls out all the stops to make her bestie’s big day one that’ll live in their memories long after the Instagram story expires. —Ruth Kinane
DC's Legends of Tomorrow
During these trying and crazy times, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is the show I turn to for comfort. An Arrowverse spin-off, the galaxy-brained show is about a team of superhero time-travelers who move through the timeline fixing problems they often caused themselves. Sure, the action is always exciting and their adventures are often very wacky — from a Bollywood musical number set in Elizabethan England, to breaking reality and turning into puppets — but in the past month, I’ve started connecting even more with the strong sense of family between Captain Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), Zari (Tala Ashe), Nate (Nick Zano), and the rest of the titular team, and their ultimate desire to not only help each other but people who may be suffering in one way or another. —Chancellor Agard
The Mindy Project
If you’re looking for some rom-com goodness in your life in a more bite-sized format than movies, look no further than Mindy Kaling’s eternally sunny (and hilarious) The Mindy Project. Kaling stars as the outrageous, but often relatable Mindy Lahiri, an OBGYN looking for love in all the wrong places. The rotating wheel of eligible guest stars is a true platter of thirst, but it’s the enduring love story with Dr. Danny Castellano (a winning Chris Messina) that makes the show truly irresistible. It’s both a charming ode to Kaling’s favorite rom-coms (never more so than in its glorious season 2 finale), and a fiercely intelligent examination of how to marry feminism/the female gaze with romance on television (two words: Diamond Dan). The show had some bumps, particularly once Messina’s role was reduced, but in the end, it’s a hot-pink, joy-soaked, girl-power-infused ode to the eternal quest to find your happily-ever-after. —Maureen Lee Lenker
Available to stream via Hulu
The Twilight Zone
Many original episodes of The Twilight Zone remain timeless masterpieces of suspense, sci-fi, and horror, with the decades adding layers of cozy nostalgia. Since all but a few episodes were shot on film, the series still looks terrific when streaming in high-definition on Netflix. Creator Rod Serling’s morality plays are rather extraordinary for how much character and story they jammed into a 24-minute tales shot on the slimmest of budgets, and for tackling rather adult themes that defied censors. Here are a few of the best episodes: “Living Doll” (a precursor to Chucky and Annabelle haunted doll stories), “To Serve Man” (aliens visit Earth and set up a famous twist), “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (William Shatner in a riveting performance of a man recovering from a nervous breakdown), “It’s a Good Life” (the tale of a six-year-old with extraordinary powers that remains genuinely unnerving), “Mirror Image” (Psycho’s Vera Miles in an episode that inspired Us), “A Game of Pool” (Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters sparring in a game of life and death), and “Eye of the Beholder” (one of the show’s most stylish episodes and best messages). —James Hibberd
Friday Night Lights' Coach Taylor
“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” No matter what the situation may have been, Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) always knew exactly what to say and when to say it. As the head coach and paternal figure for the entire Dillon Panthers team, his words would play in the team’s head (as well as our own) during every episode, even after Friday Night Lights ended its five-season run. If there was anything that could give us the nurturing we needed from week to week, it was the words of Coach Taylor. Looking for some words of wisdom from the man who warms everyone’s hearts? Just listen to one of his iconic motivational speeches. Perhaps when he treated Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) with tough love in “Wind Spirits." Or when he was the father figure Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) needed in “Leave No One Behind." Maybe even his classic pre-championship pep talk in the season 1 finale, “State." When looking for comfort during this trying time, put on any episode of FNL and look to Coach Taylor. —Jess Leon
Curb Your Enthusiasm
If you have the luxury of living with someone of an older generation during the coronavirus pandemic, you’ve likely heard some major tea spillage at the dinner table. Either it was about your grandma’s grudge against a co-worker who couldn’t stop picking their nose or your uncle’s high school sweetheart who never understood how to signal at a left turn lane. They’re never big problems, rather, petty grievances. So, why tell it in the first place? It’s the theatrics that makes their stories pure gold. That imbalance is the engine that keeps Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm purring, an HBO comedy that is 20-years-strong. Each episode revolves around a comedy of errors and misunderstandings, mostly from David’s daily nitpicks. It is guaranteed to keep your mind off the big issues, while entertaining you about how hot coffee should be. —Omar Sanchez
Parks and Recreation
If you want to pretend like we’re not living in a time of fear and governmental incompetence, turn to this series focusing on good people doing good in the world. There’s no problem Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) can’t solve, especially when her team’s around. And in this darn-near utopia, it’s nice to know there are still some kooky characters to keep it real (like Aubrey Plaza’s April) and unpredictable (like Ben Schwartz’s Jean-Ralphio). Yes, our current situation is the “wOoOoOrst,” but if any show can fill you with hope and laughter — pretty much the only thing you can ask for these days — it’s our favorite civil servant from Pawnee, Ind. —Rachel Yang
The Masked Singer
The Masked Singer has — much to my surprise — brought a lot of joy into my life since I was first told I had to watch it as part of my weekly duties as an EW writer. What started as a begrudging assignment has turned into a full-blown love affair for the kooky singing competition show, in which masked celebrities belt it out in an attempt to avoid going home and being unmasked. In the wake of the global pandemic, it’s been clutch. Every week, I eagerly await the performances, new clue packages to decipher, more hilarious audience reactions to laugh at, and the oft horrible guesses of the judges to pick apart. The show leans into its silliness, and at a time where the world is full of stress and uncertainty, a little unadulterated silliness is just what the doctor ordered. —Lauren Huff
Season 3 of The Masked Singer currently airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox, but all episodes of the show can also be streamed on Hulu.
The town of Virgin River is a place where everyone takes care of each other, and for that reason, this Netflix romance series will absolutely warm your heart. Nurse practitioner Mel Monroe (Alexandra Breckenridge) leaves behind bad memories and L.A. for a new life in this charming town full of supportive people with good intentions, even when they get all in her business. When things get rough — crime, PTSD, heartbreak are a few of the issues the characters face — Mayor Hope McCrea (Annette O’Toole) and the rest of the town are there to fix whatever problem any member of the community faces. Virgin River brings viewers in and allows them to get lost in the small-town charm, which is a beautiful escape with lower stakes the world around us. —Alamin Yohannes
In the Dark
When it comes to guilty pleasure shows, most are In The Dark (sorry, I had to) about this CW series, which follows a hard-drinking, one-night-stand-indulging blind woman (Perry Mattfeld), who's on a mission to solve her friend’s murder. With its whip-smart dialogue and colorful array of characters, the unabashedly fun show often subverts typical TV tropes. The light-hearted mystery also offers a steady stream of clever twists – not to mention an applaudable level of thoughtful LGBT and minority representation. There’s also an adorable guide dog named Pretzel. Need we say more? Those who plow through season 1 on Netflix can move right on to season 2, which debuted April 16 on The CW. —Justine Browning