Social Distancing Marathon: Landmark TV Shows You Never Got Around To, But Should Watch Now
It seems like streaming platforms are multiplying by the day. The availability of TV shows and movies bodes well for us while we’re all doing our part to socially distance and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. While it’s fun to latch onto a new show and get your mind off of things, it’s equally exciting to discover a program you missed out on back in the day. We all have those shows — the ones we added to our lists and never actually turned on. From groundbreaking dramas to landmark comedies, here are just a few genre-spanning must-sees that we can’t wait to (re)visit while we’re making the most of the great indoors.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Joss Whedon’s seminal series about a teenage vamp killer has a still-rabid fandom for a reason. Not only did Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel like a breath of fresh air back in the day, but it also laid the groundwork for supernatural teen dramedies for decades to come. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as the titular Slayer, the show follows her exploits as "The Chosen One" — a teenager caught between wanting a normal life and sacrificing her own happiness to save the world. You know, the usual.
The Adventure Time theme song suggests "Come on, grab your friends — we’ll go to very distant lands" and, right about now, we could all use that kind of peppy escapism. Created by Pendleton Ward, the animated fantasy series follows the (mis)adventures of a boy named Finn (Jeremy Shada) and his best pal Jake (John DiMaggio), a dog with magical shape- and size-shifting powers. Yes, Finn and Jake live in the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo, but the show’s quirky vibe, sardonic humor, catchy tunes and compelling plotlines make this the one end-of-the-world-themed series worth marathoning.
Just a few years after HBO debuted its groundbreaking hit The Sopranos, the premium cable network launched crime-drama The Wire, which went on to cement its place as one of the greatest television shows of all time. The Baltimore, Maryland-based show introduces a different (dysfunctional) institution each season, from the illegal drug trade to the school system, in order to highlight the city’s relationship to law enforcement and criminal justice — and the folks who are on the receiving end of the actions these institutions take.
Canadian sci-fi thriller Orphan Black has one of the most gripping pilots of any TV show to date. In it, con artist Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) witnesses a woman’s death by suicide — and, much to Sarah’s surprise, that woman — a cop named Beth Childs (also Maslany) — is her doppelganger. Sarah assumes Beth’s identity, which opens up a world of self-discovery — and trouble: Sarah and her "sisters" (all played by Maslany) are part of an illegal human cloning experiement and, now, they’re being hunted down.
Regarded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time by outlets like Time and Rolling Stone, American Western Deadwood was set in the 1870s in the titular South Dakota town, both before and after the area was annexed. As such, the series charts the town’s evolution — a camp becomes a full-fledged town, complete with all the crime and bustle of the lawless West. The ensemble cast was led by Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant, whose characters were based on real-life Deadwood inhabitants of yore. Even some historical figures, like Calamity Jane and Wyatt Earp, cropped up, making for a swell time.
Sure, Pose has only been airing for a few years, but it’s an instant classic — and, if you haven’t seen it, that needs to change. When the Ryan Murphy-produced Pose premiered on FX in 2018, Janet Mock made history as the first transgender woman of color to write and direct an episode of TV. The show focuses on the folks who participated in the trans and queer ball culture of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which was established by Black and Latinx performers who found themselves pushed out by the largely white New York drag scene. In this underground culture, dancers, models and performers compete for recognition with the support of their chosen families, or Houses.
Twin Peaks & Twin Peaks: The Return
In the ‘90s, director David Lynch collaborated with Mark Frost to create Twin Peaks, a trailblazing show that inspired so many future creators. In the show, residents of the titular town are shocked when model high school student and homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is murdered. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) comes to town to solve the mystery but ends up on a surreal — sometimes darkly funny, sometimes darkly disturbing — odyssey. The show centered around the question "Who killed Laura Palmer?" After pressure from network execs forced Lynch to reveal the central mystery sooner than he would have liked, the show suffered and was cancelled after season two.
HBO’s acclaimed political satire boils down to VP Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her motley crew of political advisors and lackeys attempting to leave a legacy. Namely, Selina thirsts to claim the title of president — not for any higher political purpose, but to best everyone around her. Now hailed as one of TV’s greatest comedies, Veep had a mixed start, but, eventually, the sharp writing, rapid-fire insults and undeniable chemistry of the cast helped the show soar to new heights.
Before Friends, there was Living Single, the original comedy about six 20-something friends living in New York — though these pals trade Manhattan for a Brooklyn brownstone. One apartment is shared by three independent women: Khadijah James (Queen Latifah), editor and publisher of the monthly Black magazine Flavor; naive-but-kind-hearted aspiring actress Synclaire James (Kim Coles); and Regina "Régine" Hunter (Kim Fields), a boutique buyer who’s in search of a well-off partner. The cast is rounded out by Maxine "Max" Shaw (Erika Alexander), a witty attorney who is Khadijah’s college best friend, and flatmates Kyle Barker (T.C. Carson), a stockbroker, and Overton Wakefield Jones (John Henton), a friendly maintenance man.
Sense8 is a science fiction show created by The Matrix (1999) directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski that features a multinational ensemble cast. In the world of the show, eight strangers from all over the world (later dubbed "sensates") discover they are all mentally and emotionally linked. The sensates can not only communicate with one another, but they can also share their knowledge, skills and experiences. (This leads to the best use of the one-hit wonder "What’s Up?" by 4 Non Blondes and some incredible action sequences.) Plot-wise, it leads to a game of cat-and-mouse when the sensates discover they are being hunted.