Three TV Shows to Get You Through Quarantine
After spending your whole day in class on Zoom, aimlessly staring at your laptop screen, it makes sense that the last thing you’d want to do is spend your free time watching TV. But for those of us who can’t seem to quit our streaming service addictions, here are some TV show recommendations for the new semester. Consider these “hidden gems” — all three of these series are superb but criminally underseen. If you’ve already burned through the classics and find yourself spending more time browsing the homepage of your favorite streaming service than you do actually watching a show, try out one of these instead of binging “The Office” for the fifth time.
1) Ramy (Hulu, 2019 - Present, TV-MA)
“Ramy” is a incredible Hulu series about, well, Ramy, a young Muslim man in New Jersey and his complicated spiritual journey. The show is so specific in its detailing of the American Muslim experience, and yet I found it crazy relatable. Think Modern Orthodoxy but Islam. Give it a chance and you’ll immediately recognize so many similarities to your own life. Sometimes they’re the little things, like the way the characters throw “inshallah” (the Arabic equivalent of “im yirtza Hashem”) at the end of random sentences. But there are some major themes explored here as well: the struggle between davening maariv with a minyan and hanging out with friends, tension with machmir parents, choosing a rebbe and the reality of being a religious person tied to your morals in a secular world that increasingly tells you that your beliefs are obsolete.
The show is also a masterclass in blending comedy and drama. While being bitingly funny, the episodes still carry real stakes and Ramy’s journey is heartfelt. For example, after an eye opening visit to Egypt (where his parents are from) in the first season finale, the second season finds Ramy “flipped out.” This is of course mined for laughs, but it also explores important questions about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and respecting the needs of others.
Two seasons of “Ramy” have already dropped with a third on the way. Catch up!
2) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix, 2015 - 2019, TV-14)
Kidnapping-victim Kimmy Schmidt is rescued from an underground bunker after 15 years in a cult. Sounds like the plot of a gritty crime drama, but it’s actually the premise of Netflix’s best original comedy. The basic shtick is that Kimmy is perpetually stuck with the brain of a cheerful and optimistic middle schooler, despite being a grown woman. After being saved she moves to New York City and tries to make her way through the modern world.
The joke per minute ratio here is insane. Creator Tina Fey packs every frame with so many gags and one-liners that you can’t possibly catch them all on first viewing. The cast is amazing, especially Ellie Kemper as the titular character. I could heap praise on this show forever. The writing and performances are just so clever that even when an episode or story arc among the four seasons doesn’t land perfectly, it’s still laugh out loud funny.
3) Homecoming (Amazon Prime, 2018 - 2020, TV-MA)
The two shows above are primarily comedies, so I figured I should include a drama. “Homecoming” is a phenomenal mind-bending thriller that actually shares one thing in common with Ramy and Kimmy Schmidt: despite its intensity, it too contains its episodes to a half hour runtime at most. In the age of stretched out HBO epics, it’s refreshing to have a show get right down to business and not waste any time.
“Homecoming” stars Julia Roberts as Heidi, a woman who used to work at a government facility treating soldiers with PTSD. One problem: why can’t she remember anything about her time there? If you’ve seen any of “Mr. Robot,” this show shares the same creative team, including showrunner Sam Esmail, and Homecoming shares that same sinister viber. After just the premiere, you get hooked on the mystery and the payoff is well worth the investment. If you’re a fan of the spy or conspiracy genre, this one’s for you.
Photo Caption: The first two seasons of Ramy are now streaming on Hulu.
Photo Credit: Barbara Nitke/Hulu