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When it comes to binge-watching TV during a pandemic, sometimes comfort ranks above quality.

By Kristen Baldwin
January 28, 2021 at 11:00 AM EST
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Read more from EW's 2021 Happy List — a collection of pop culture pleasures to make your year even better.

In these pandemic times, everything is relative: What it means to "get dressed"; how early is "too early" to start drinking; and what constitutes a "good TV show." If you're like millions of other global citizens who've spent the last 11 months consuming way more television than usual, you've likely experienced this phenomenon: Press play on a new show, let's say Emily in Paris on Netflix. At about the two-minute mark — when Madeline (Kate Walsh) vomits into a wastebasket — realize it is ridiculous. By minute 27, when Emily (Lily Collins) causes a power outage with her plug-in vibrator (???), silently vow to stop watching. Five hours later, throw the remote at the screen when the "next episode" button disappears because the season is over.

Call it exhaustion or simply a temporary loosening of standards due to prolonged anxiety, boredom, and fear, but right now I'm grading television on a corona curve. Over the last 11 months, we've all found ourselves enjoying some truly questionable TV. A very unscientific sampling of pandemic-proof series reveals that many of them take place in an Instagram-filtered reality that approximates, but is much nicer than, our own: A glittery, pre-virus Paris; the sun-dappled small town of Serenity, S.C., in Sweet Magnolias; the bucolic virtual resort that serves as the afterlife in Upload; the gloriously gaudy, multimillion-dollar homes on Selling Sunset. Heck, even the very bright, very loud ABC reboot of Supermarket Sweep features a spotless grocery store with luxuriously wide aisles and no need for masks.

Right now, we must take our fantasies where we can get them. So fire up another episode of that very implausible YA drama about teen girls trapped on a desert island (love ya, The Wilds!) and embrace the curve... until we flatten the other one, at least.  

A version of this story appears in the February issue of Entertainment Weekly, which you can order here — one cover features LaKeith Stanfield and the other Daniel Kaluuya — or find on newsstands now. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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