SO you’re at home social distancing and now you’ve got a problem: there’s too much stuff to watch, and you don’t know where to start! I know that feeling, but thankfully for you I just finished a PhD on television and part of my “research” was watching absolutely everything I could get my little mitts on! So, I thought I’d write you up some of my favourite series as recommendations! I’ll do four categories, depending on what you feel like watching, outlining two recommendations in each category along with a longer list of recommendations sub-categorised by streaming service. ALSO, if you’re looking for a good, FREE, streaming service then look no further than either ABC’s iView or SBS On Demand—they’ve both got an excellent selection and are completely free! SBS On Demand has more internationally famous content, while iView has better Australian content. For each, you just need to register an account, but no card details or anything else like that. Sound good? Let’s go.
Quintessential Easy-Breezy series are shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons. These series are things you want to watch without feeling guilty if you start scrolling through your phone or leave the room entirely. That is not to say that they’re vapid or simple—quite the opposite! The very best easy-breezy series are those that are excellent while you’re watching them, but don’t stop making sense if you do something else for a while. You can drop in and out of them at your leisure, but they will continue to be comforting background noise even if you haven’t been watching for the past two hours. Here are my three recommendations!
The Office (US) (Rated M) Available on STAN and Amazon Prime
For my money, I think this might be the best easy-breezy sitcom to ever come out of the United States. Steve Carell is amazing to watch as Michael Scott, the Scranton manager of paper company Dunder Miflin. His incompetence and socially inappropriate personality are as compelling as his heart of gold! The writing can be a bit sloppy in its first season, but from season two onwards it is just dazzling. The reason you watch this series is for the characters, as with any sitcom, who consistently deliver fun stupidity while also being reassuringly heart-warming. If you want a hilarious comedy that never tries to be too deep or meaningful, then The Office is a series you should start watching right now!
Episodes to Whet Your Whistle: ‘Diversity Day’ (Season 1, Episode 2), ‘The Dundies’ (Season 2, Episode 1), ‘The Injury’ (Season 2, Episode 12), ‘Casino Night’ (Season 2, Episode 22), ‘Beach Games’ (Season 3, Episode 22), ‘Stress Relief’ (Season 5, Episodes 14 and 15).
Peep Show (UK) (Rated MA 15+) Available on STAN
Peep Show at its worst is better than most comedies at their best. The first six seasons are amazing, though it is frequently gut churning in their awkward hilarity. It probably shouldn’t be defined as a “cringe comedy”, but sometimes it can be very cringey. The humour is very dark, I must warn you, and it’s full of unsavoury content including drug use, depictions of sex, and swearing, but it’s never gratuitous and always enhances the comedy. It’s called Peep Show because the series is always filmed from the point-of-view of its characters, usually one of the two protagonists, Mark (David Mitchell) and Jeremy (Robert Webb). They are terrible people with, maybe, hearts of gold? If you want to see if it is for you, start off with the episode ‘Stag’ (Season 4, Episode 5). Mark is getting married to a woman he doesn’t love, but he is paralysed by his own inadequacies. It all comes to a head when Jeremy takes him away for a stag weekend on a houseboat in the Shropshire Union Canal. The episode involves them meeting a nice family with a young woman who Jeremy starts a relationship with, until he accidentally kills her dog, ‘Mummy’.
Episodes to Whet Your Whistle: ‘Warring Factions’ (Season 1, Episode 1), ‘University Challenge’ (Season 2, Episode 4), ‘Mugging’ (Season 3, Episode 1), ‘Stag’ (Season 4, Episode 5), ‘Jeremy’s Manager’ (Season 5, Episode 5).
Fleabag (UK) (Rated M) Available on Amazon Prime
It’s won awards for a reason! Pheobe Waller-Bridge is an amazing writer, a charming actor, and a makes her pseudo-titular character both sympathetic and unenviable at the same time. She runs a failing café that she once co-owned with her best friend, whose death is left unexplored beyond the fact that it traumatised Fleabag. Sounds pretty funny, right? Well, trust me it is hilarious, drawing on excellent characters that have no right to be as fleshed out and nuanced as they are, considering that each of the two seasons contain only six episodes, and each episode is less than half an hour in length! I put this on the easy-breezy list only because I re-watch it so much. The first time I watched it I was glued to the screen and no amount of alcoholic swabs could remove me. All you’ll need is six hours from one day of quarantine and you’ll be able to see the entire thing… And then, like me, you’ll scour the internet looking for a shred of hope that there will be a third season.
Episodes to Whet Your Whistle: There are only twelve, and I recommend watching them all many times.
More Easy-Breezy Recommendations
Netflix: Sex Education, Santa Clarita Diet, Arrested Development, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Rick and Morty, South Park, Feel Good, GLOW, The Good Place, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Star Trek (TNG, DS9, VOY, Enterprise), That 70s Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Avatar: The Last Airbender (NOT THE MOVIE!!).
STAN: Friends, Frasier, Seinfeld, Community, Scrubs, The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Peep Show, Broad City, Spaced, Friday Night Dinner, The Mighty Boosh, Red Dwarf, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.
Amazon Prime: Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Seinfeld, Community, Monk, The Nanny, The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Married with Children.
SBS On Demand: Faboriginal, Future Man, The Last Man on Earth, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Orville, New Girl, The X-Files.
ABC iView: Doctor Who, This Time with Alan Partridge, Hard Quiz, Whose Line is it Anyway?, Get Krack!n, Shaun Micallef’s MAD AS HELL.
Other: The Simpsons, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dollhouse, Moonlighting, Nathan For You, Review with Forrest Macneil (US), Malcolm in the Middle, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Stay tuned – next Friday I’ll present my list of Binge-Worthy shows
All the best,
Peter Ellis PhD