The best TV shows to watch and stream during coronavirus quarantine

The best TV shows to watch and stream during coronavirus quarantine

During an uncertain time, audiences usually want two different things from TV: escapism, and assurance that other people have gotten through similar experiences (or worse). Here are the best TV shows you might have missed that are available to stream now in both categories.

1. “The Leftovers,” HBO Go

In between the years that he was disgraced for the end of “Lost”” and redeemed himself with HBO’s “Watchmen,” Damon Lindelof made a brilliant apocalyptic drama “The Leftovers,” (2014 to 2017) which stars Justin Theroux and follows the people left behind after 2 percent of the world’s population mysteriously vanishes. Brimming with philosophy, despair and hope, the show is just three seasons with a great ending. It’s a gorgeous meditation on getting through loss — and one of the secret best shows of the decade.

2. “Lovesick,” Netflix

This show falls into the pleasant escapism category, a wildly underrated British comedy starring Johnny Flynn (“Emma.”) following a group of friends through various romantic misadventures. What makes “Lovesick” stand out from other shows with similar plots is the way it jumps around in time, telling its story in a nonlinear way.

3. “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” Amazon

This period-piece miniseries was overlooked when it came out in 2018, but well worth a watch. Starring Natalie Dormer and based on the 1975 movie of the same name, it’s both escapism and commiseration for our current times — as it follows people trying to make sense of an inexplicable situation (in this case, a group of girls mysteriously disappearing from their Australian boarding school in 1900).

4. “Derry Girls,” Netflix

Set in the tumultuous era of Derry, Ireland, during the 1990s, this hilarious comedy follows a group of teen girls (and one perpetually exasperated nun). It will make you laugh and also remind you that life goes on and people are people, even during uncertain times.

5. “Pen15,” Hulu

This Emmy-nominated, inventive and audacious comedy follows actresses and comedians Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle as they play fictional versions of their preteen selves. The adult actresses pretend to be 13-year-olds, alongside a cast of real 13-year-olds. It’s unique, smart and laugh-out-loud funny.

6. “Alias Grace,” Netflix

While “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the most famous and talked-about TV adaptation from legendary author Margaret Atwood, miniseries “Alias Grace” is secretly the best. Set in the 1840s, it’s both a murder mystery and a psychological drama. Complete at just six episodes, it’s a brief yet satisfying watch starring Sarah Gadon (“True Detective”) and Zachary Levi.

7. “Black Sails,” Hulu

If you miss the escapism of “Game of Thrones” and want to sink your teeth into an epic (that also won’t let you down in the end), pirate drama “Black Sails” is four seasons with stellar acting and writing, breathtaking visuals, and a great ending. Criminally underrated when it aired (2014 to 2017), it’s perfect for fans of “Thrones,” “Vikings,” or even more sedate period pieces such as “Downton Abbey.”

8. “Justified,” Hulu or Amazon

If you missed the gritty FX drama when it first aired (2010 to 2015), now is the time to watch the five seasons of “Justified,” starring Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins. Although it didn’t get quite as much buzz as “Breaking Bad” in its heyday, it will appeal to anyone who loved that show.

9. “Peaky Blinders,” Netflix

This post-WWI-era gangster drama, currently five seasons and counting, boasts an all-star cast including movie stars, such as Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy and Adrien Brody. While its writing sometimes slides into pulp and absurdity, it’s rollicking fun with lots of swagger.

10. “The Expanse,” Amazon

Epic escapism in sci-fi doesn’t get better than “The Expanse.” It’s a sprawling political drama, but it might have slipped through your radar since it switched networks (after Syfy cancelled it in 2018, it jumped to Amazon). It’s perfect for fans of “Westworld” or “Star Trek.”

11. “Babylon Berlin” (Netflix)

A tormented detective (Volker Bruch) fights post-traumatic stress disorder while rooting out corruption in 1929 Berlin and helping a poor young typist (Liv Lisa Fries) rise through the ranks. No matter how heinous the crime, there’s plenty of divine decadence in this sumptuous, sexy German crime drama. Watch it with subtitles: In the dubbed version, everyone sounds as if they’re on “Leave It to Beaver.”

12. “Fosse/Verdon” (FX)

Michelle Williams swept the awards season for her sympathetic portrayal of Broadway dancer Gwen Verdon, the unacknowledged collaborator and long-suffering wife of genius choreographer/director/creep Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell). Neither a ratings hit nor a hagiography, this limited series shows the flaws of their marriage and its disastrous effects on their daughter. Call it Broadway Babylon.

13. “The People v. O.J. Simpson”  (Netflix)

For every “Versace,” Ryan Murphy gives us a dud like “The Politician.” But he deserved every award he won for this brilliant, limited series about Simpson’s infamous murder trial, examining it from several points of view with a rich cast of characters.

14. “Killing Eve,” Season 1 (BBC America)

“Killing Eve” is one of those series that caught on with awards voters when it was past its prime, and that was only in Season 2. Season 1 — tense, taut, funny and full of seductive European locations — was perfect. By now you know the plot: A bored MI5 agent (Sandra Oh) becomes obsessed with a gorgeous and ingenious Russian assassin. This thrilling cat-and-mouse game introduced us to Jodie Comer, who, as the assassin, justly picked up a Best Actress Emmy.

15. “Narcos” (Netflix)

“Narcos: Mexico” continues the chilling story of the rise of Mexico’s drug cartels, but nothing is as fascinating as the original “Narcos,” which chronicles the spectacular rise of Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura). Like James Gandolfini without the charm, Moura gives a compelling performance as a shrewd and amoral fiend who brought a country — and the DEA — to its knees.

16. “Succession” (HBO)

This story of the power struggles of the very rich Roy family exerts a cold fascination. You find yourself cheering when the children of media mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) are humiliated and cast aside after tearing each other limb from limb. As the patriarch, Cox is a master puppeteer, barely blinking while he pulls the strings.

17. “State of the Union” (Sundance)

A series of 10-minute encounters in a British pub between a husband and wife before their weekly marital-counseling sessions may not sound like much of a show. But the innate Irish charm of Chris O’Dowd and the regal poise of Rosamund Pike draw you in, as these perfectly reasonable people wonder what happened to their high hopes — and their marriage. It’s written by old pro Nick Hornby.

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