These days, with some 90 percent of Americans currently self-isolating at home, streaming has become an essential service. But where does one turn when their go-to faves have been watched—and re-watched—into oblivion? Moreover, as the coronavirus pandemic continues, everyone is looking for shows to help them cope in these uncertain times. To that end, we put together a list. Below are WIRED’s picks for some of the best TV shows currently on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Disney+, tailored to the various moods you might find yourself in while sheltering in place.
When You’re Missing Your Coworkers: The Office (BBC)
Generally, there are two kinds of people: those who excel when working from the quiet of their homes, and those who thrive when surrounded by spider plants, fluorescent lighting, and actual human coworkers. But The Office makes the case that there’s something to be said for being spared daily interactions with chatty colleagues who can’t take the hint that you’re on a deadline, chronic oversharers, and bosses from hell. David Brent (Ricky Gervais), the general manager of Wernham Hogg Paper Merchants in Slough, England, happens to be all of those things—and oblivious to his own obnoxiousness. Four years before America was introduced to Dunder Mifflin, Gervais and Stephen Merchant cocreated this painfully awkward workplace comedy that is as cringe-y as it is hilarious. Though it features some of the same basic archetypes as its American adaptation—the lovesick paper salesman (Martin Freeman), the engaged secretary who wants to be an artist (Lucy Davis), and the authoritarian assistant to the manager with a host of bizarre hobbies (Mackenzie Crook)—the original version of The Office is largely David Brent’s show, and all the better because of it.
Where to stream it: Hulu
When You Think You Could Get Used to Working From Home: The Office (NBC)
Cubicle life isn’t for everyone, but it’s hard to imagine that a day at Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton, Pennsylvania, office could ever be described as dull. Four years after the BBC premiered The Office, Greg Daniels adapted it for American audiences. Though the pilot episodes for each series share the same basic script, the two shows diverged wildly from there—especially considering that NBC’s version ran for a whopping nine seasons. While one could make a case that Michael Scott (Steve Carell) has a lot in common with David Brent, there’s a vulnerability to Carell’s character that elicits empathy from viewers. While he may have a knack for saying exactly the wrong thing, Scott’s heart is (usually) in the right place. Even before Carell departed the show in season 7, The Office was much more of an ensemble comedy with non-Michael storylines—including the relationships between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer), Dwight (Rainn Wilson) and Angela (Angela Martin), and Ryan (BJ Novak) and Kelly (Mindy Kaling)—getting just as much screen time. It’s the kind of show that reminds you that you share more than just carpet and a kitchen with your coworkers.
Where to stream it: Netflix
When You’re Desperately Seeking Spirituality: Fleabag
It’s good to be Phoebe Waller-Bridge. In the past five years, the 34-year-old London native has created three acclaimed TV series (Crashing, Fleabag, and Killing Eve), starred in two of them (as well as season 2 of the hit murder-mystery Broadchurch), played a droid in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and been personally asked by Daniel Craig to polish the script for the upcoming James Bond movie No Time to Die in order to imbue it with a bit of her humor and no-holds-barred honesty. Nowhere is this trait more apparent, or seemingly personal, than in Fleabag, which started as a one-woman-show and turned into a two-season series on Amazon. In addition to dominating the 2019 awards circuit, Fleabag was hailed by The Guardian as one of the best TV shows of the 21st century—and it’s no hyperbole. While the first season finds our heroine (Waller-Bridge, as an unnamed character known as Fleabag) self-soothing in a messy haze of sex and alcohol to avoid dealing with the death of her mother and best friend, season 2 finds Waller-Bridge’s character in a healthier but lonely place, having been largely ostracized by her family. But her father’s upcoming wedding brings them all back together and introduces a new character—Andrew Scott’s “Hot Priest” (yes, you’ve heard all about him)—who forms a friendship with Fleabag that turns into more for both of them. While the ending may not have been the one viewers for hoping for, it’s the most honest one. Waller-Bridge’s chemistry with the entirety of her cast, including Scott, makes every moment of the series deeply felt—and truly does make it a contender for one of the most perfect seasons of television ever.
Where to stream it: Amazon
When You Need a Politically Incorrect Laugh: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Turn on the news on any given day and you’re sure to be inundated with a barrage of horrific stories about the state of not just your city or country, but the world at large. Just as you can count on that daily dose of news to leave you feeling anxious, angry, saddened, and/or depressed by the tragedies that are taking place, you can be sure that the comic masterminds behind It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are listening. And plotting ways to poke fun at these stories by exaggerating them to such a degree that there’s no room to mistake the show for anything than exactly what it is: one of the most daring and biting satires to ever grace the small screen. The series follows a group of five self-centered friends (Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, and Danny DeVito) who own a run-down Irish pub in Philly, but mostly spend their days getting drunk, arguing, and scheming. While in any other context you couldn’t imagine chuckling at storylines that revolve around racism, drug abuse, abortion, pedophilia, or sexual harassment, the Sunny gang lays it on so thick, and does it so cleverly, that it’s impossible not to laugh at the absurdity of it all. There’s a reason why, 14 seasons in, it’s the longest-running sitcom on the air.
Where to stream it: Hulu
When Your Fellow Grocery Shoppers Have Hoarded All the Flour and Yeast: The Great British Baking Show
If you’re someone who bakes and has been to a grocery store recently, you may have noticed an odd sight in the baking aisle: a severe lack of flour, active dry yeast, and other essential baking ingredients. While half the country seems to have decided that now is the best time to learn how to bake homemade bread, you just may have to settle for a box of Twinkies and seven seasons worth of The Great British Baking Show, aka The Great British Bake Off, aka GBBO. Even if you don’t know how to turn on a stove, there’s something oddly absorbing about this reality baking series, where home bakers spend their weekends in a tent in the British countryside making all manner of breads, biscuits, and pastries with very little direction. Unlike American reality shows, which tend to run on drama, GBBO is the streaming equivalent of Xanax.
Where to stream it: Netflix
When You’re Longing for a Kinder, Gentler Political Landscape: The West Wing
Though the presidency of Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) wasn’t free of controversy, it’s hard to imagine that the Oval Office could ever be occupied by as dedicated a man, and as likeable a team, as seen in The West Wing. That’s why humans invented television shows in the first place: to create worlds that they can only dream will one day exist. That’s something most folks could use right now—and it also explains the enduring popularity of Aaron Sorkin’s award-winning political dramedy, which ran for seven seasons between 1999 and 2006. In true Sorkin style, The West Wing offered up a buffet of carefully crafted, three-dimensional characters who you spent years caring about, rooting for, and wishing were real. Just imagine if CJ Cregg (Allison Janney) was handling all those White House press briefings today.
Where to stream it: Netflix
When You Realize You’ve Never Seen Breaking Bad: Breaking Bad
You’ve never seen Breaking Bad? That needs to be rectified. How else will you know what someone is talking about when they dub themselves “the one who knocks”? Even if you have seen Breaking Bad, it’s a series that begs to be watched more than once. High school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a loving husband and doting father with a baby daughter on the way when he is diagnosed with lung cancer. As he also happens to be a genius chemist, he determines that he can’t leave his wife with two children to feed and no money in the bank, so he makes a plan to become a temporary meth cook in order to ensure the financial security of his family. But Walter takes the business, including the more violent parts of the job description, a little too seriously and changes everything about his life. Creator Vince Gilligan carefully plotted out every detail of the series, so much so that there’s something new to discover each time you watch it. And when you’re done with Breaking Bad, you can check out El Camino, Netflix’s recent Breaking Bad movie, as well as the show’s equally accomplished spinoff, Better Call Saul.
Where to stream it: Netflix
When You Want to Watch Something Like Breaking Bad: The Wire
When talk turns to the best series ever made, there are usually three titles that end up being mentioned: The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and The Wire. While the first two shows boasted huge ratings and earned tons of awards and nominations, David Simon’s The Wire remained largely under the radar throughout its five-season run. While it has never been short on acclaim, it is a deeply textured show where—to quote Detective Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters)—“all the pieces matter.” Which means this isn’t the kind of show you can throw on in the background while you work or pay some bills. Every character, every scene, every word spoken, every action taken—they all set certain plotlines in motion, and sometimes you might wait a whole season to see what that is. Simon used to be a crime reporter for The Baltimore Sun and that work is evident here. The Wire isn’t just a police drama, it’s a show that over the course of five seasons laid out the ways in which the education system, the politicians, the media, and even the drug dealers and their clients all have a role to play in the problems cities like Baltimore face. It also demonstrates the ways they could make it better.
When You Start Mistaking Political Headlines for Onion Articles: Veep
Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is the vice president of the United States and a “political leper” (her words). She has no real power, yet she and her team spend their days wheeling and dealing in an attempt to earn her some respect in the political world, mostly by concocting some of the most inventive swearing television has ever seen this side of the Atlantic (more on that below). She is aided by a crack team of sycophants and cynics, most of whom are just looking for a way to use their position to climb up the political ladder. Except for bagman Gary Walsh, played by Tony Hale, who is doing an ever-so-slightly more self-aware version of his Buster Bluth character from Arrested Development, with Selina as his de facto Lucille. Though there’s not a single weak link in the long chain of comedic actors who pop in and out of scenes as they make their way around the Beltway, it’s Richard Splett (Sam Richardson)—who joined the show as a minor character in season 3—who ended up stealing much of the show.
When You’re Dreaming of Becoming an Expat: The Thick of It
Before there was Veep, there was The Thick of It—political satirist Armando Iannucci’s (In the Loop, The Death of Stalin) BBC series that proved the British government is just as dysfunctional as America’s. Future Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi earned four BAFTA nominations (and won one) for his portrayal of Malcolm Tucker, the prime minister’s right-hand henchman who is a master of spin and perfectly worded insults. Even if he has clearly never seen a Star Wars movie. Though the series, which ran sporadically for four seasons between 2005 and 2012, seems ripe for a comeback, Iannucci has said it won’t happen because “the political landscape [is] so alien and awful that it’s hard to match the waves of cynicism it transmits on its own. Fiction is winning out because fact is no longer making sense.”
Where to stream it: Amazon Prime
When You’ve Watched Every Star Wars Movie in Your Collection Twice, Including The Phantom Menace: The Mandalorian
Given the rate at which Disney is pumping out Star Wars movies, some people were skeptical when it was announced that Disney+’s first original series would be yet another Star Wars project. But The Mandalorian, which sees a Mandalorian bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal) tasked with transporting the Child (aka Baby Yoda) to the Client (Werner Herzog) for seemingly nefarious purposes. But as the two form a bond through their travels, Mando’s plans change. Yes, Baby Yoda (who is not really Baby Yoda) kind of stole the show here, but the series brought back the feel of the original Star Wars trilogy. And the fact that the Baby Yoda puppet made Werner Herzog cry is just a bonus.
Where to stream it: Disney+
When You Want to Go on a Coen Brothers Easter Egg Hunt: Fargo
Oh, to be the casting director on Noah Hawley’s Fargo. Think of all the amazing actors on the other TV shows you love—Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk, Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman, Sherlock’s Martin Freeman, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Glenn Howerton and Rob McElhenney, The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon—and there’s a chance they’ll pop up at some point in this anthology series, which is more of a spiritual extension of the Coen brothers’ universe than a direct sequel to their Oscar-winning 1996 movie of the same name. Anyone who’s familiar with the Coens’ distinctive dark humor will recognize both dialog and set pieces that recall not just Fargo, but Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and more. But beyond any of that, each installment of the series brings the brothers’ clever aesthetic from everything to the dialog to the set design. In Season 1, Billy Bob Thornton is at his best as a psychotic, Anton Chigurh-like figure who kills indiscriminately and entangles unwitting insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) into his homicidal dealings, and Nygaard clearly has no idea who he’s up against. Season 2 stars Patrick Wilson and Ted Danson as police officers who find themselves in the middle of a drug turf war, yet it’s hair stylist Kirsten Dunst (in a funny and fantastic performance) who seems to be outwitting the police at every step. Season 3 features two Ewan McGregors and one Michael Stuhlbarg. Need we say more? The fourth installment of the series, which will star Chris Rock, Timothy Olyphant, Jack Huston, Jason Schwartzman, and Ben Whishaw, will take place in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1950. It was originally set to premiere on April 19, but the premiere date was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak; FX is still hoping for a 2020 release.
Where to stream it: Hulu
When You Want to Explore Wide Open Spaces: Detectorists
Mackenzie Crook may be best known to American audiences for his role as Gareth Keenan in The Office (he also had a recurring role in Game of Thrones), but in 2015 he won a BAFTA TV Award for Best Scripted Comedy for Detectorists, a delightfully low-stakes comedy that he created, starred in, and directed. Crook plays Andy, an aspiring archaeologist and best friend of Lance (Toby Jones), both avid metal detectorists who spend most of their free time exploring the vast fields of their southern England town in search of treasure. Together, they’re members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club—a local group that hosts weekly get-togethers where detectorists can show off their findings and talk about things like … buttons. Though that description may not make it sound like a “drop everything and watch this” kind of series, the show’s subtle comedy, measured pace, and sweeping shots make for a deeply meditative series and a poignant take on friendship.
Where to stream it: Amazon
When You Want to Feel Better About Your Own Life: Patrick Melrose
Between 1992 and 2012, novelist Edward St Aubyn wrote a total of five books that comprised what became known as the Patrick Melrose series, a collection of semi-autobiographical tomes that recounted St Aubyn’s tumultuous childhood in an upper-class English family. After being sexually abused by his father as a child, St Aubyn turned to drugs and alcohol to bury the repercussions of his family dysfunction. The books are an in-depth examination of protagonist Patrick Melrose’s own struggles with the same, his eventual recovery, and the challenges of becoming a father. Benedict Cumberbatch produced and starred in the limited series, which partly came together as the result of a Reddit AMA: When asked about what literary character he always wanted to play, Cumberbatch responded with Patrick Melrose. While the series is darkly humorous, its depictions of abuse and addiction mean it’s not always an easy watch. While it switches back and forth in time, the first episode in particular—which puts you in the mindset of Melrose as he spirals downward in a haze of jetlag, martinis, heroin, and whatever other illicit substance he can get his hands on—is a particularly visceral experience. That said, there’s something beautiful in its pain and Melrose’s attempts to triumph over his demons.
More Great WIRED Stories
- Special issue: How we will all solve the climate crisis
- Everything you need to work from home like a pro
- Wellness influencers sell false promises as health fears soar
- Why life during a pandemic feels so surreal
- The Postal Service’s surprising role in surviving doomsday
- ? Why can’t AI grasp cause and effect? Plus: Get the latest AI news
- ??♀️ Want the best tools to get healthy? Check out our Gear team’s picks for the best fitness trackers, running gear (including shoes and socks), and best headphones