Public Media Arts Hub

TV recommendations for the stay-at-home era


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: With so many of us sheltering at home, it is no surprise that television viewing, especially streaming video, has seen a dramatic rise.

A recent Nielsen analysis showed an 85 percent rise in streaming from a year ago and a steady increase week to week in March.

But what to watch?

Jeffrey Brown gets some recommendations from Los Angeles times critic Lorraine Ali, for our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Jeffrey Brown: Well, Lorraine Ali, thanks so much for joining us.

Let's talk first about the moment we're in. Television is one thing that really hasn't changed for people.

Lorraine Ali: Right.

I mean, when you look at what's going on, you can't really go to concerts anymore, you can't go to see a film in a theater. And really what's there for us is television.

And that whole idea that we had, maybe two or three weeks ago, there's so much, I'll never be able to see it all, well, now we're actually in the unfortunate situation where, yes, we do have the time and we are home and we can see it all.

So it is there for us now.

Jeffrey Brown: So help us out, so a few recommendations.

Start -- let's start with some something new, some new dramas, a couple of them.

Lorraine Ali: There's a great new drama on Netflix called "Unorthodox."

And it's based on a book by a woman who lived in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn and escaped your marriage, fled to Berlin, tries to start a secular life there. And it's just sort of about that whole challenge of leaving that community and then also that community coming back after, not lighthearted, but certainly takes you into another world.

Jeffrey Brown: OK, one more?

Lorraine Ali: I would say Hulu's "Little Fires Everywhere," kind of a nighttime soap opera, if you will, Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, about class, race and the American dream, flipping it on its head, not deep and heavy, but definitely kind of like some good stuff to sink into.

Jeffrey Brown: Now, one kind of real escapism would be to taking us outdoors. That would be animal, the nature shows, right?

Lorraine Ali: Oddly enough, one of the things I really like to watch when I just kind of want to unwind is Dr. Pol, who is on NATO Geo Wild.

He's -- I think there's something like a billion seasons of it. But he is a vet in rural Michigan, goes out to farms, has his own practice, and you kind of follow him and his team. And while it sounds a little goofy, it's really nice not to have people drama. It's animals, and it's saving animals, and it's people being able to do something.

Another one on Animal Planet is called "Secret Life of the Zoo." And it kind of takes you behind the scenes of the zoo.

Olivia Colman: Today, the pups are being microchipped.

Lorraine Ali: The excellent part is, you also have Olivia Colman, who is your narrator, so it's got this kind of high end of a really A-list actor in there.

Jeffrey Brown: There's a true crime docuseries called "Tiger King" that's getting a lot of attention. Tell us about that one.

Lorraine Ali: Sure.

It's one of those Netflix docuseries where truth is really weirder than fiction in this case.

Joe Exotic: My name is Joe Exotic. And this is Sarge.

Lorraine Ali: A big cat breeder in Florida, meaning tigers, lions, gets caught up in this whole murder-for-hire scheme.

It's just this cast of really eccentric characters. And it kind of goes deeper and deeper into this very, very strange subculture. And it is fascinating.

Joe Exotic: And nobody's going to tell me any other way.

Jeffrey Brown: As you said, we all have a lot more time.

What about old familiars, something to just -- sort of the comfort food of television?

Lorraine Ali: One of my favorites is a British detective series. It's called "Father Brown."

And, again, there's like a billion episodes of it, and you're following a father who solves crimes. And it's really, really comforting, but he's also solving these murders in this tiny little town, where lots of murder seem to happen all the time.

Jeffrey Brown: You were telling me before we started that are, of course, all these series that are very specifically set in cities. Many of us now cannot go walk around our own cities.

Lorraine Ali: While we're sequestered in our houses and missing our city outside, if you're in L.A., "Insecure" is really great for that.

It takes you all over the city. In Atlanta, "Atlanta," of course, is great for that. In D.C., I think "Veep." As depraved as "Veep" was, it takes you all over D.C., or "Master of None" for New York.

They keep you kind of into this real locals places, and also the bigger kind of landmarks.

Jeffrey Brown: What about for people who just really want to go right there into pandemic scare mode? There's plenty for them too?

Lorraine Ali: I don't understand that, but I can say there is plenty out there. And now the ratings on these are soaring as well, "Containment" "2012, "Pandemic."

All of the streamers have something out there for you, though, seriously, I really recommend just watching a cute animal show, because I don't know how you can do that right now.

Jeffrey Brown: I know you're always looking ahead. And it looks like we might be in this situation for a while.

Are there things you want us to be on the lookout for?

Lorraine Ali: So coming up is this great series called "Mrs. America." It's FX, Hulu, and it's starring Cate Blanchett. And it's kind of looking at the women's equality movement in the early '70s.

It's excellent. Rose Byrne plays Gloria Steinem. So that's going to be out in a couple of weeks. That's something to look forward to.

Jeffrey Brown: OK, recommendations for what to watch.

Lorraine Ali from The L.A. Times, thank you so much.

Lorraine Ali: Thank you.

Judy Woodruff: I love the puppies. What else can I say?

Support Canvas

Sustain our coverage of culture, arts and literature.

Send Us Your Ideas
Let us know what you'd like to see on ArtsCanvas. Your thoughts and opinions matter.