Due to the coronavirus, multiple cities have already entered lockdown. Sports ― as a whole entity ― are canceled. But never fear: Streaming television is an excellent way to pass the time for those stuck at home with limited entertainment options. Indeed, Nielsen predicts that Americans will spend up to 60% more time with streaming services over the next few weeks of self-isolation. And with the anxiety and fear that comes with this particular situation, turning to a “comfort show” makes a lot of sense.
Put another way ― it’s time to make like Liz Lemon and wrap up in a Slanket with some cheese on the couch and melt into contentment with content.
To get an array of recommendations for “comfort shows,” I asked my wonderful HuffPost colleagues to share what they’re turning to during this crisis. The suggestions range from comedies to reality shows to stories that fully lean into dystopian narratives (to each their own).
Read on for the full list.
And if you’d like yet more recommendations, I also put together a list of comedies with a hint of absurdity to match the moment this week.
“30 Rock” (Stream on Hulu or Amazon Prime)
My husband and I watched a “30 Rock” episode earlier this week, after I referenced it in conversation and we decided to pull it up on Hulu. Every night since then, we’ve watched one or two “30 Rock” episodes ― it’s as funny and relevant as ever, and can’t be beat in terms of jokes per minute. In this odd environment where we leave “work” at our kitchen table and walk the 3 feet to “home” in our living room, this show is the perfect way to reset and get our minds out of a social-distancing funk. If anyone could bring me comfort during a pandemic, it’s Tina Fey. ― Abby Williams, deputy audience editor
“Gilmore Girls” (Stream on Netflix)
Yesterday, my best friend texted me saying, “PSA, Gilmore Girls is really getting me through this week” and I was so thankful for the reminder that this show — which has long been my go-to comforting TV show — is on Netflix. But even before I’d heard from her, I had been finding solace in the broader “Gilmore” universe: For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been re-listening to the “Gilmore Guys” podcast, which was released from late 2014 to early 2016. The combination of the hosts’ excellent back-and-forth, the roster of comedian guests, the topic at hand — and the fact that it was all recorded in what now feel like the halcyon days of 2015 — has been giving me a much-needed mental break from the news. ― Nora Biette-Timmons, copy editor
“The Good Place” (Stream on Netflix)
I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, so I’ve been told maybe 100 times over the past few years that I am missing out on the funniest send-up of my hometown in ages by not watching this show. Stuck inside for the foreseeable future, I decided to give it a try and yes, the writing is great, the cast is awesome, and the (many) jokes about J-Vegas are perfect and on point. I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a network sitcom this much, and it makes my inability to get back home right now just a little easier. The jokes about the fleeting nature of the human experience really put it over the top at this particular moment. ― Kate Palmer, head of HuffPost Life
“The Office” (UK) (Stream on Amazon Prime)
Almost 20 years on since it was first broadcast, the themes of this Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant show never get old. Two seasons and a holiday special, I dare you not to sob at the Tim/Dawn finale. ― Lee Moran, reporter
“Jane the Virgin” (Stream on Netflix)
Everything is scary right now, so it’s nice to turn to a show that’s fun, sometimes silly and ultimately inspiring. The show’s telenovela-style drama and romance are a good distraction from the world, and its focus on how families and friends can come together to cope with real-life struggles is a reminder that there are things we can all do to support each other during troubling times. ― Elise Foley, deputy enterprise editor
“The World at War” (Available on DVD)
OK, I realize this is going to make me sound like someone’s lame boomer dad but the one show I have repeatedly watched over the years is the 1970s docuseries “The World at War.” Narrated by Laurence Olivier, the 26-episode series tells the story of World War II through eyewitness testimonials and extensive black-and-white footage, and was, at the time it was produced, the most expensive TV series ever made in Britain. The story is crisp and generally unsparing in its detail, and the aesthetic reminds me of being a kid watching History Channel shows when I was home sick from school. It’s one of only two DVD box sets I own. ― Alexander Kaufman, senior reporter
Oddly enough, I really enjoy streaming “Westworld” these days. There is something comforting about watching sentient, human-like robots slowly becoming self-aware, discovering a new purpose, and taking back power from their overlords. It’s a perfect fantasy. — Carla H. Russo, Reporter
“Parks and Recreation” (Stream on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu)
Always. — Carla H. Russo
“Chopped” (Stream on Hulu)
It follows the same formula each episode so you know what you’re getting every time. (I’m pretty sure Ted Allen has about 10 lines that he picks and chooses from for each episode.) They throw in different themes to make it exciting and it’s fun to see where all the contestants come from, what inspired them to cook, and all the different foods they incorporate in their dishes. You can let your mind drift in and out without needing to rewind and see what you missed. — Hayley Miller, senior reporter
“Seinfeld” (Stream on Hulu)
Most people pretty much know every episode by heart so it’s another one you can drift in and out of. There’s a comforting nostalgia to it and a lot of the humor holds up. — Hayley Miller
“The Golden Girls” (Stream on Hulu)
For me, this is comforting in the same way Seinfeld is, except it’s centered on women and I LOVE THEM ALL. — Hayley Miller
It always comes back to “The Golden Girls” for me. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen every episode so many times I can essentially act them out. I feel a sense of instant relief the second I hear the theme song and see that pastel wicker sofa. Sure, the 1980s duds and specifics may be dated, but the comedy is just as fresh and forward-thinking ― even daring ― as it ever was. — Curtis Wong, senior culture reporter
“Vanderpump Rules” (Stream on Hulu)
In these truly wild and scary times, nothing brings me comfort more than watching reality TV. “Vanderpump Rules” is escapism at its finest, and features an array of personalities so there’s a hero and a villain for everyone. The best part is that who you feel allegiance to one season can completely change in the next. And don’t dismiss this show as useless programming, either: They’re doing a really good job this season of highlighting important mental health issues, like anxiety and depression. (Yes, I’m being totally serious.) I love this show, and it’s the one program that is sincerely bringing me some respite from the news right now. — Lindsay Holmes, senior wellness editor
In times of stress, I always turn to the dysfunctional crew at SUR to soothe my soul. Nothing distracts me from the world’s problems quite as well as investing in the petty problems of a group of friends who work or used to work at ex-“Real Housewife” Lisa Vanderpump’s West Hollywood restaurants. It’s worth starting from the beginning, but the show really hits its stride in season two. ― Mollie Reilly, deputy managing editor of breaking news
“Bob’s Burgers” (Stream on Hulu)
I might be a 33-year-old woman, but I love watching “adult” cartoons. One of my favorites is “Bob’s Burgers” ― I think the writing is so clever and the show is hilarious without relying on crude or offensive jokes (not that I don’t appreciate those too). I can rewatch episodes without getting bored and often put it on when I don’t feel like delving into a super intellectual or complex storyline ... though I do relate with Tina on a deep level. — Casey Bond, reporter
“Star Trek: The Next Generation” (Stream on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu)
The crew of the Enterprise-D are like old friends to me and their resourcefulness, camaraderie and optimistic humanity are ideals that we all want in our lives. — Ron Nurwish, senior audience editor
An errant movie recommendation I’ll allow due to these wild times: “Lord of the Rings” (Rent on Amazon Prime)
This is a cheat, because I don’t really watch TV. Who has time for that?? But when I am ill or just a little down, I like to watch the complete extended version “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, back-to-back-to-back. An incredible experience if you have never done it — just be sure to block out a whole day.
I do this once a year. My wife, however, watches the Will Ferrell/Adam McKay film “Step Brothers” every time she gets sick, and so this has also become a kind of comfort viewing by proxy for me. It is tiresome but also genuinely delightful. — Zach Carter, senior seporter
“The Simpsons” (Stream on Disney+)
It is the ultimate binge watch with 30 seasons’ worth of episodes. Not only does it provide some much-needed comedy relief right now but with its familiar characters and episodic storytelling, it’s as comforting and low-stakes as a slow simmering pot of tomato sauce on a Sunday afternoon. — Michael Caravella, cinematographer
“Schitt’s Creek” (Stream on Netflix)
In these isolating times, things can get dark. So why not brighten up your life with a show about a wealthy family of four who suddenly find themselves very broke in a small, middle-of-nowhere town. Created by father-son duo Eugene and Dan Levy, “Schitt’s Creek” is a pure delight and will have you laughing in no time. So, c’mon, David(s)! Watch already! — Leigh Blickley, senior entertainment reporter
This show is an absolute gem and always puts me in a good mood. The characters are hilarious, the storylines are upbeat and the overall message focuses on love and family. It’s been a great distraction. — Caroline Bologna, life reporter
“Blown Away” (Netflix)
In this glass blowing competition, artists create amazing glass sculptures. There is something mesmerizing about the work itself ― the molten glass, the insanely hot ovens, the whiff of danger. And then there’s the terminology! Turns out glory hole means something very different in the world of glass blowing. I loved this show and it is tailor made for this moment. — Lydia Polgreen, editor-in-chief
“The Goldbergs” (Stream on Hulu)
I come from a loud but loving Jewish family, so this show is like a warm bowl of matzo ball soup for me. Plus, it takes place in the ’80s and it’s nice to be nostalgic about a time before social media and this pandemic. The acting, jokes and characters are all great — especially the side characters who begin to pop up in later seasons. It’s also based on creator Adam F. Goldberg’s family, so there’s a lot of related fun home footage from his childhood that plays during the end credits. Speaking of plots, admittedly the ones on this show are pretty formulaic, but at this time, that predictability is soothing. — Elyse Wanshel, reporter
“The Walking Dead” (Stream on Netflix)
Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic shows are just what the doctor ordered for me (not really, but I couldn’t resist the turn of phrase). Season 4 is particularly topical because a mysterious flu breaks out at the prison. Since my anxiety is all-consuming and there’s really no way to get around it, channeling that anxiety into something fictional but relevant helps. The idea of living during a pandemic was unfathomable to me a few months ago, so putting myself in these characters’ shoes and watching them survive in a similar (but much more dire) situation gives me hope for the real world and a — an albeit manufactured — sense of control. — Wendy Lu, copy editor/producer
“Fleabag” (Amazon Prime)
The show is always entertaining even after watching it multiple times. Will laugh out loud every time. — Amita Patel, supervising producer
A combined recommendation for “30 Rock,” “Broad City,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Superstore” (Varied streaming services)
These are comedies that I have already watched in their entirety but find solace in because they are about like, everything but a pandemic. I also like that I don’t really have to pay attention to the plot, because I can barely do that anyway. And there are a lot of episodes in the well to go back to! — Kate Sheppard, senior enterprise editor
“Pitch Meetings” (YouTube)
I’ve been binging “Pitch Meetings,” a YouTube show with six-minute episodes in which comedian Ryan George imagines what pitch meetings might have been like for more than 100 movies and shows.
It’s always a writer pitching a producer, both of whom are played by George, and the setting changes only slightly, with a different label on the door and different computers in the background based on the supposed decade. I love that it’s deadpan, with the characters remaining enthusiastic about the movie or show even as they are pointing out all its inconsistencies and shortcomings, and they use catchphrases that nearly always seem to work for the situation.
I’d suggest starting with “Cats.” There’s also a “Pitch Meetings Pitch Meeting” that essentially explains the concept, in honor of its 100th episode. — Jennifer Kho, director of strategic innovation
“Puppy Prep” (Hulu)
I’ve also been watching “Puppy Prep” on Hulu. It’s BuzzFeed’s reality show about puppies training to be service dogs in Arroyo Grande, California. Who will graduate? Who will flunk out? I found myself caring about the characters after only two episodes. It’s super cute but also moving, as these dogs prepare to help someone in need (and there are segments about graduates and who they’ve ended up with). — Jennifer Kho
“Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO)
I’ve been unwinding with episodes from the new season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” The long-running HBO show, starring “Seinfeld” creator Larry David, is so outrageous this season that it’s become a great escape. I’ve even started re-watching episodes from Season 1 dating back to 2000. It’s filled with dated technology like cordless telephones, but with the same characters and, of course, the painfully honest sense of humor we’ve come to know over the last 20 years. — Lauren Moraski, senior editor
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (Stream on Hulu)
This effervescent workplace comedy about a Minneapolis TV producer was seminal in its depiction of a single 30-something woman who doesn’t rely on a man for her stability, Today, it’s just as watchable; a cheerful escape that also offers a window into 1970s social mores. You can see how it influenced decades of sitcoms, from “Laverne & Shirley” and “Living Single” to “New Girl” and “The Office.” — Matthew Jacobs, entertainment reporter