I’ve decided that an excellent way to spend my self-isolation time is watching light-hearted, well-written shows that have a slight edge of absurdity to fit the moment. Anything too saccharine and cheery will make me jealous. I want happy and funny, with a hint of insanity to match my now perennial mood.
For those who think laughter sounds pretty good right now, I’ve compiled a list of eight shows to watch during your solo time.
I’ve shied away from shows that get too existential like “The Good Place” and “BoJack Horseman.” My recommended shows only nod at societal darkness.
A few of these shows aren’t readily available to stream, but you can buy them for around $20 on a platform such as Amazon Prime. With theatrical movies like “The Hunt” now charging $20 to rent online, I’d argue that if you’re considering making that purchase, you’d be better off spending money on multiple hours of a high-quality comedic television season instead.
Read on for the recommendations.
And one other thing to note: A Twitter post has gone super viral recommending a Google Chrome extension that allows users to stream Netflix shows at the same time. The app is called Netflix Party. Reviews suggest it may be a bit spotty and is probably overwhelmed by the attention right now. But if you’re separated from your friends and loved ones, this service has the potential be a decent way to connect a little bit better during this time.
“Detroiters” (Comedy Central)
Premise: Two fledging ad men make janky-but-endearing commercials for local businesses. The money is never great, but it’s enough to fund their hijinks.
Setting: Contemporary Detroit
Why watch now? “Detroiters” and Tim Robinson’s other show, “I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson,” have made me laugh harder than any other shows in the last year. This one balances the heart of two people trying to make it in a city on the brink with comedic absurdity. That feels just right for this moment.
Runtime: 20 episodes of roughly 20 minutes
Notable Cast: Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO)
Premise: Comedian Larry David plays a grumpier version of himself as he occasionally works on passion projects, but mostly uses his immense time and wealth to pick wild fights. The David character wanders the world, dishing out observational humor and social commentary while aiming to destroy anything that annoys him along the way.
Setting: Contemporary Los Angeles
Why watch now? As we all hunker down with extra care, there’s something joyous in being able to watch a cranky man of David’s age stroll around Los Angeles yelling at people over extremely trivial complaints.
Runtime: The new season is 10 episodes of roughly 35 minutes. You can jump right in, but there are also nine previous seasons.
Notable Cast: Larry David, Susie Essman, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines and J.B. Smoove
“Key & Peele” (Comedy Central/Stream on Hulu)
Premise: Two sketch comedians portray various exaggerated characters. The sketches typically subvert some aspect of society.
Why watch now? “Key & Peele” was the best sketch show of the 2010s, and the humor reached a broad audience. Unlike with “Saturday Night Live,” which caters more to the news of the day, turning on an old episode of “Key & Peele” guarantees comedic material that’s still relevant. A perfect zone-out show for the moment.
Runtime: 53 episodes of roughly 21 minutes, plus a special. But you can pick and choose or watch out of order.
Notable Cast: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele
“Nathan For You” (Comedy Central/Stream on Hulu)
Premise: Nathan Fielder tricks small businesses into letting him try terrible ideas. The money-making schemes are inherently silly, but the true comedy comes from the real interactions with customers and the owners as they discover what they’ve gotten themselves into.
Why watch now? Many businesses are closing right now, and the economy is tanking. “Nathan For You” can serve as a palate cleanser to the news with its ridiculous levity toward a subject now in crisis.
Runtime: 31 episodes of roughly 21 minutes, plus a special. But you can pick and choose or watch out of order.
Notable Cast: Nathan Fielder
“The Other Two” (Comedy Central)
Premise: Two aging millennials feel as if they haven’t accomplished their dreams yet and don’t know how to improve their situations. Then their little brother becomes one of the biggest pop stars in the world with formulaic youth-driven songs.
Setting: Contemporary New York City
Why watch now? “The Other Two” was an underrated comedy in 2019. The subject matter of this show doesn’t necessarily fit the moment in any particular way. But I’m recommending it as a quality comedy that you probably missed.
Runtime: 10 episodes of roughly 21 minutes
Notable Cast: Ken Marino, Molly Shannon, Drew Tarver, Case Walker and Heléne Yorke
“Review” (Comedy Central)
Premise: The host of a little-watched show reviews different life activities ranging from eating way too many pancakes to killing someone. The host always values his work over his life, so his relationships and sanity deteriorate over the seasons.
Why watch now? Life is scary right now. Watching a protagonist head straight into the darkness with satirical reviews is kind of perfect.
Runtime: 22 episodes of roughly 21 minutes.
Notable Cast: Andy Daly and Megan Stevenson
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (FXX/Stream on Hulu)
Premise: A group of friends runs a bar that never seems to have any customers. Since keeping the bar running is only a passing concern, the gang passes the time with insane schemes.
Setting: Contemporary Philadelphia
Why watch now? If you’re social-distancing correctly, you probably won’t be going to a bar anytime soon. Perhaps you can live vicariously through these well-worn characters’ adventures.
Runtime: The new season is 10 episodes of roughly 21 minutes. You can jump right in, but there are also 13 previous seasons.
Notable Cast: Charlie Day, Danny DeVito, Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson.
“Chernobyl” (Scratch that... just kidding, now is not the time!)
“Schitt’s Creek” (POP/Stream most on Netflix)
Premise: A wealthy family loses everything except the rights to a small town that they bought as a gag gift. The family makes a new life there as they adjust to poverty and learn how to make deeper connections with people.
Setting: A contemporary small town
Why watch now? This family’s world falls apart and then they prove resilient enough to create a happy new life. That’s the kind of story I personally want to get lost in right now. “Schitt’s Creek” is also the best sitcom of the last few years. Maybe you’re at a point where you really need to turn off your brain and watch something pleasurable and funny. If that’s the case, “Schitt’s Creek” is a solid bet.
Runtime: 80 episodes of roughly 21 minutes
Notable Cast: Chris Elliott, Dan Levy, Eugene Levy, Emily Hampshire, Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy