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The best movies and TV shows to stream when you’re working remotely

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Social distancing streaming recommendations

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In the era of social distancing that many of us now live in as part of a worldwide effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic, tons of people are now stuck at home for days or even weeks, discouraged from meeting in public places or hanging out in large groups.

That means that it’s the perfect time to kick back, relax, and catch up on all of those great TV shows and movies you’ve been meaning to catch up on. But if you need some suggestions (or have already managed to burn through your backlog), we’ve put together our best recommendations for films you can watch to distract yourself instead of staying glued to Twitter watching terrible news stream in.

Channel Zero

Look, sometimes my brain isn’t dumb. It knows when I’m trying to distract it from a primal fear with shiny, happy things. But what about something differently scary? That’s the appeal of horror anthology series Channel Zero, which favors a character-driven small-scale surrealism that’s completely unlike our grim planet-wide pandemic. The series starts reasonably well in season 1 (the reality-breaking TV show season), hits its stride in season 2 (the reality-breaking haunted house season), gets pulpy in season 3 (the reality-breaking cannibal family season), and wraps up in season 4 (the reality-breaking manifestation of childhood fantasies season). Just don’t look up the stories that inspired them, unless you’ve got enough time for an hours-long creepypasta binge, too. —Adi Robertson

Where to stream: Shudder

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

Doctors are facing huge challenges as they try to understand and fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. But they can be glad they’re not Dr. Rick Dagless, MD, star of a ludicrously awful TV series from (fictional) horror author Garth Marenghi. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is ostensibly a rerelease of this series-within-a-series, framed by commentary from Marenghi and his co-star Dean Learner (actually The IT Crowd’s Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade). It’s also a hilarious metafictional spoof of ‘80s horror and a portrait of a small, deluded, narcissistic man who’s convinced he’s a genius. Now, is explicitly laying out some shallow thematic tie with the novel coronavirus sort of contrived here? Yes. But I know writers who use subtext, and they’re all cowards. —Adi

Where to stream: Unofficially, on YouTube

Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies is ostensibly a show about death — and one mad piemaker named Ned (played by the impossibly charming Lee Pace) who can reverse it with a touch. While the premise may sound morbid, Pushing Daisies is a delightful, earnest, and wildly optimistic show about love, life, and using your magical powers to reverse death to right wrongs and solve crimes. It’s the perfect pick-me-up for anyone who is feeling down. —Chaim Gartenberg

Where to stream: CW Seed (CW’s weird free streaming site)

Cats (2019)

This is where I’m supposed to write a blurb about why Cats (2019) is a good and reassuring thing to watch. Cats (2019) is not a good or reassuring thing to watch. It is a nightmare, filled with writhing shapes and monstrous fur-and-flesh abominations that should never have been conceived, let alone rendered into horrifyingly realistic forms that cost hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of CGI.

What I’m saying is, if you are feeling bummed out about the pandemic, Cats (2019) will help alleviate those concerns by giving you something far worse to think about. —Chaim

Where to stream: It’ll be available digitally on March 17th on online stores like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play

Laid-back Camp

Laid-back Camp is my go-to show when I just need something chill to watch. The show is about a group of high school girls in rural Japan who enjoy camping, and that’s basically it. There aren’t any real conflicts or drama; you just watch them go to these amazing actual campsites around Mt. Fuji. It also teaches you a lot about how to actually camp, and it makes the idea of camping in cold weather seem appealing. —Michael Moore

Where to stream: Crunchyroll

The TV and film career of Rob Lowe

When you’re in need of something to watch, you can always find a Rob Lowe classic to keep you from going bonkers while you’re under quarantine. If you need something to soothe your political anxiety, watch Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn in The West Wing. If you just need pure happiness, watch him as the eternally optimistic Chris Traeger in Parks and Recreation. Need some non-coronavirus melodrama? Watch him opposite Calista Flockhart as the dreamy Robert McCallister in Brothers and Sisters. The possibilities are endless; there are OG ‘80s movies like The Outsiders and St. Elmo’s Fire, and there’s even a Rob Lowe show on network TV right now called 9-1-1 Lone Star. —Esther Cohen

Where to stream: Depends on your Rob Lowe movie or TV show of choice

Sex and the City

Sex and the City

For the past week, I’ve been curling up with a glass of wine (and sometimes Chinese takeout) and hanging with some new friends of mine: Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. Yes, I’m a little late to the game, but honestly, this is the perfect time to watch a show portraying a warm NYC in the late ‘90s. Central Park in bloom, not a subway to be seen — or even mentioned — the women attend great clubs and fancy meals: all things that are far from the current state of NYC (let alone my experience of NYC for the six years I’ve lived here). And if that wasn’t dreamy enough, there are landline phones! They weren’t constantly getting news updates on a 1998 antennae flip phone, the dream. —Alix Diaconis

Where to stream: HBO

The Vampire Diaries

The days of extreme vampire hype are over, but this has long remained one of my guilty pleasures. The acting is cheesy, the style is very dated (the show’s first episode aired in 2009), and the fashion is a not-so-welcome blast from the past, but all of this only adds to the charm. With a whopping 171 episodes over eight seasons, this show is certainly a time commitment and very suited for working from home. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it, the storyline sucks me in every time. Elena Gilbert is a character I love to hate, but she really encapsulates what it’s like to grow up in the face of tragedy (after tragedy, after tragedy, after tragedy). Vampire Diaries is truly a story of grief, friendship, love, and monsters. —Kaitlin Hatton

Where to stream: Netflix

Kedi

Sometimes, you just need more cat content. Well, the truth is, you always need more cat content. Kedi is one of my favorite films to watch. It’s about seven street cats who live in Istanbul and wander freely around the city, making connections with the people and communities around them. Meet Duman, or “The Gentleman,” who made friends with the owners of a fancy deli. Then there’s Aslan Parcasi, or “The Hunter,” who lives at a famous fish restaurant. Every cat has a different personality, and it’s lovely to watch. But even better is seeing the compassion people have for them. I highly recommend watching this with a package of Oreos and a kitty by your side. —Dilpreet Kainth

Where to stream: Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes

American Horror Story: Hotel promotional images (FX)

American Horror Story

Pandemics are scary. Murder is, arguably, less scary — especially when murder comes in the form of witches, haunted carnivals, ‘80s camp slashers, and an actual murder house. American Horror Story used to stream on Netflix, but then FX’s deal with Netflix seemed to come to an end, and it disappeared. Now, thanks to FX’s new “FX on Hulu” hub, every season is available to watch. If a good portion of us are going to be working from home for the foreseeable future, we need shows that we can binge throughout the day. American Horror Story is campy and perfect. Plus, Evan Peters... need I say more? I’d recommend starting with Murder House (the first season) and then jumping around the seasons to meet your fancies. My personal favorite is still American Horror Story’s second season, but the third season has Stevie Nicks. Again, I ask: need I say more? —Julia Alexander

Where to stream: Hulu

Law and Order: SVU

I grew up watching procedurals on sick days. Bad cold? Criminal Minds. Flu got you down? ER. Have to stay home for an uncertain but lengthy amount of time? Law and Order: SVU. The nice thing about procedurals is they don’t take much brainpower. You can probably guess who did it about 20 minutes into the episode! And since they all tend to blend together at some point, it’s the perfect background show to have on throughout the day when you’re working from home and pretending to pay attention in video meetings. There are a number of Law and Order series to choose from, but SVU is my favorite. —Julia

Where to stream: Hulu

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

Whether people want to accept it, Keeping Up with the Kardashians is the pinnacle of American pop culture. This is a family that went from being B-list celebrities, thanks to their father who helped another lawyer in OJ Simpson’s trial, to arguably the face of new American celebrity in the mid-aughts. Early seasons of Keeping Up with the Kardashians are a bizarre time capsule. Like procedurals, reality TV requires no thinking, and it’s impossible not to get caught up in. If you ever thought, “I should see what the hype is all about,” now’s the time. Keeping Up is ridiculously addicting, and, at the heart of it, the show is a story about sisterhood that really comes through as they become the influencers we know them as today. —Julia

Where to stream: Hulu

I Am Not Okay With This

A quick little fact about me: I love teen dramas. Anything that’s clearly inspired by John Hughes movies immediately has me invested. Teen dramas are hit or miss. They start off great but go off the rails (Riverdale), they’re classic WB or CW shows (One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl), or they just miss the mark (Jane by Design). Lately, Netflix has ushered in a new era of great teen storytelling. There’s the Spanish show about wealthy teens hooking up and killing each other (Elite, which I would also recommend if you need a new show), post-apocalyptic comedies (Daybreak, also worth your time), or bizarre series based on a warped sense of dark humor I devour every time (The End of the F***ing World, easily another top recommendation). I Am Not Okay With This is my favorite show in recent memory. The soundtrack slaps, the cast is charming, the storyline is sensational, and, perhaps best of all, it takes three hours to watch it in its entirety. The show is about an angsty teen with superpowers that all ties back to a possible government cover-up that her late father was involved in, and it’s better than it has any right to be. Seriously, make time for this one — it’s so worth it. —Julia

Where to stream: Netflix

A Goofy Movie

Sometimes, you just need to tune out all of the chaos in the world and watch an animated Disney movie. When people think of animated Disney films, they most likely think of classics like Aladdin, Hercules, and The Lion King. But there’s one animated Disney film that was released in the mid-’90s that I feel is the most underrated film of that decade: A Goofy Movie.

It’s a heartwarming story that focuses on the importance of family, unconditional love, and seizing your moment. Also, did I mention how amazing its soundtrack is? —Taylor Lyles

Where to stream: Disney Plus

Terrace House

You may not be able to live your normal life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live vicariously through others. Terrace House is just about the most laid-back reality show there is. It’s about six young Japanese people who are put together in a house, and they mostly just live their life. There are no challenges, and no one forms alliances. Yes, there’s romance and the occasional drama, but there’s also genuine friendship and people trying to help each other out. In one early episode, the house has a meeting because they’re worried that a budding baseball player is slacking off too much. The biggest Terrace House drama to date involves someone eating a steak that wasn’t theirs. Mostly, though, you’re watching awkward first dates and young people struggling to find their true passion. When someone feels their time on the show has come to an end, they simply leave, and another 20-something takes their place. The show is slow-paced yet strangely engrossing, and it’s anchored by a group of hilarious hosts who dissect each episode at various points. The best part: if you haven’t watched it yet, there’s a lot to dig into, with four seasons set everywhere from Tokyo to Hawaii. —Andrew Webster

Where to stream: Netflix

A British mystery series

There’s something extremely comforting to me about a British mystery series. The best ones feature a quirky detective / police officer / lawyer in an interesting, often scenic setting solving mysteries by interrogating lots of suspicious people with interesting accents. Even those series that try to be more gritty are usually reassuring, as the protagonist does their best to act ethically while bringing justice to the world. My personal favorites are Vera, which features a middle-aged, grumpy, brilliant police detective in rural northeast England, and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, in which a smart, pushy private detective solves mysteries in 1920s Australia (okay, Australia’s not Britain, but what the hell) while dressing fabulously and inviting good-looking witnesses into her bed. One hint: if you want to understand what everyone is saying, keep the closed captions on. —Barbara Krasnoff

Where to stream: Acorn

Shaun of the Dead

“Take car. Go to mum’s. Kill Phil, grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?”

(Note: probably don’t go to The Winchester, given that large public gatherings at places like bars may not be the best idea right now.) —Chaim

Where to stream: Starz

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