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Our colleague Kelly Lawler from the USA TODAY Entertainment team is here to share 100 TV shows to get you through any long days indoors.
Movie theaters may be closed, concerts postponed and school out long before summer, but TV is still here for us.
As much of the USA stays home to fight the coronavirus pandemic, our eyes have turned to our TV screens for entertainment and distraction, and there have never been more choices. But not every TV show is right for every viewer in this tumultuous era (now is probably not a good time to watch HBO’s “The Leftovers,” wonderful as it may be).
Here are 100 TV shows worth watching while practicing social distancing, whether you want to laugh, bond with your kids or finally discover what’s behind the hype about all those “must watch” shows your friends are obsessed with.
When you need something, unabashedly, positively joyful
1. “The Carol Burnett Show” (Amazon) There are a multitude of series from the mid-20th century available to stream, when TV was a positive affair across the board. We’re partial to the timeless sketch comedy of Burnett, an American treasure.
2. “Fixer Upper” (Hulu) Chip and Joanna Gaines, their sweet kiddos, many adorable pets and can-do attitude may just give you the confidence you need to get through a tough time.
3. “Gilmore Girls” (Netflix) Although the Gilmore family has plenty of trials and tribulations, the world of quaint small-town Stars Hollow is usually upbeat in this beloved dramedy.
4. “The Great British Baking Show” (Netflix) Warm, friendly and with a focus on decent people doing their best (and doing their best to help each other), this British import is one of the happiest TV series ever made.
5. “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (Disney+) A farcical mockumentary about a high school putting on a production of “High School Musical,” the stakes are low in this Disney+ series, though they seem very high (teenagers and their hormones, of course).
6. “Making It” (Hulu) The closest thing the USA has to “Baking Show,” the series manages to find sweetness in its crafting, plus a whole lot of overalls for Amy Poehler to wear.
7. “Parks and Recreation” (Netflix, Hulu or Amazon) Nothing can stop Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), not even a pandemic. NBC’s workplace sitcom is an inspiring stalwart in this genre, full of generally good people trying to do good things.
8. “Puppy Prep” (Hulu) A short-form documentary series about service dogs in training, “Puppy Prep” is like injecting furry joy right into your veins.
9. “Queer Eye” (Netflix) Inspiration, triumph, overcoming obstacles; all those heartwarming attributes are here when the Fab Five swoop into someone’s life to offer as much help as they can in a week.
10. “Schitt’s Creek” (Netflix) Full of beautiful romance, sunny settings and plenty of humor, Pop TV’s sitcom about a rich family that loses it all but gains a little perspective is always a mood booster. (New episodes on Pop Tuesdays, 9 EDT/PDT; series finale airs April.)
When you want to travel to a new world
11. “Battlestar Galactica” (Syfy) A bold, breathtaking space opera that is one of the best shows made in response to 9/11, you won’t be able to stop hitting “next episode.”
12. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (Hulu) The story of a 16-year-old charged with protecting the world from supernatural evil is genuine classic, and most fantasy TV series still sit in its large, fanged shadow, more than 20 years after its debut.
13. “Charmed” (Netflix) The late ’90s/early 2000s fashions alone makes “Charmed” a nostalgia trip, but the sweet family stories and (slightly silly) demons also help.
14. “A Discovery of Witches” (Sundance Now) A quick, immensely satisfying binge-watch for fans of “The Vampire Diaries” and “Outlander,” the series, based on the “All Souls” book trilogy, nails a fantasy romance.
15. “Doctor Who” (BBC America and BritBox) With more than 50 years of time-and-space traveling episodes, there is no limit to where (or when) the Doctor (currently embodied by Jodi Whittaker) can take you in this British institution.
16. “The Expanse” (Amazon) Set in a slightly nearer future than many sci-fi epics, “Expanse” marries politics and space battles in the story of a future when we populate the solar system but remain culturally divided.
17. “The Magicians” (Netflix and Syfy) Something of an R-rated hybrid of “Harry Potter” and “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the superb fantasy series follows a group of adult magicians who discover a fictional world of popular children’s books is real – and dangerous.
18. “The Mandalorian” (Disney+) The first live-action “Star Wars” TV series lived up to the storied franchise, and not just because of Baby Yoda.
19. “Outlander” (Starz, Netflix) The sweeping, time-traveling romance verges on the melodramatic with its century-hopping plot, but it barely matters as the central love story never loses its chemistry or verve.
20. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (or any “Trek”) (CBS All Access, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu) A winning combination of great science-fiction storytelling and a sense of hope and optimism, the “Trek” franchise is the kind of inspiration we could all use right now, and “Next Generation” remains the best of the bunch.
21. “Wynonna Earp” (Netflix and Syfy) If you’ve already seen “Buffy,” try this similar story of a super-powered young woman protecting her small town, this time a descendent of Wyatt Earp charged with keeping his undead enemies at bay.
When you want to watch a comedy with the whole family
22. “Black-ish” (Hulu) Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross do some of their best work as the parents in an upper-middle class black family in this hilarious and profound sitcom.
23. “The Big Bang Theory” (local stations and TBS, available to buy digitally) The hangout sitcom starring Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco was TV’s most popular show for a reason – its big, broad humor and nerdy characters are comforting and familiar.
24. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Hulu) If you’ve already seen “Parks and Recreation,” try this similar workplace comedy, set in a police precinct, from the same producer with the same upbeat tone.
25. “Community” (Hulu until March 31; Netflix April 1) This slightly zany comedy about a group of diverse friends attending a local community college has its ups and downs, but its funniest, most ambitious installments are among the best TV episodes ever made.
26. “Friends” (local stations, TBS; available to buy digitally) The hugely popular sitcom isn’t streaming anywhere until HBO Max debuts in late spring, but catch it on TV to hang out with Monica, Joey, Chandler, Rachel, Phoebe and Ross.
27. “Golden Girls” (Hulu) They don’t make them like they used to, right? A visit from Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia is always funny and calming, no matter if you’re just discovering the beloved sitcom or rewatching it.
28. “Jane the Virgin” (Netflix) The telenovela-style story of a virgin who’s artificially inseminated by accident started strong and rode high for five excellent seasons. Although the moving series is more a dramedy than a laugh-out-loud sitcom, its moments of joy and levity are plentiful.
29. “The Middle” (IMDb TV) Never as flashy as its ABC family-sitcom cousins, “Middle” is a stalwart, sweet comedy with great performances and nine long seasons to binge-watch.
30. “Modern Family” (Hulu; ABC, Wednesdays, 9 EDT/PDT; local stations and USA Network) The Emmy-winning series has an incredible cast and relatable laughs for families and married couples. And if you hurry, you can catch up on all 11 seasons before ABC’s April 8 series finale.
32. “One Day at a Time” (Netflix) Like the Norman Lear original, this family sitcom, about a Cuban-American family in Los Angeles, is expert at combining a frank discussion of social issues with hilarity (new episodes on Pop TV, Tuesdays, 9:30 EDT/PDT).
33. “Speechless” (Hulu) Gone too soon after just three seasons, this comedy about a family in which one son has cerebral palsy is representation of disability like you’ve never seen before, with searing satire and riotous laughs.
34. “Superstore” (Hulu; NBC) This series, about employees at a big box store, is something of a modern day “Cheers,” a workplace comedy set outside a traditional white-collar office in a place we all have wandered into at some point. (The blue vests of the fictional Cloud 9 store might remind you of a certain chain).
When you want to watch a comedy after the kids go to bed
36. “Catastrophe” (Amazon) For fans of dry British humor who feel stable in their marriages, this sitcom from Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan is a beautiful portrait of a relationship that begins with an unplanned pregnancy but becomes so much more.
37. “Cheers” (Netflix) You can’t visit a real bar right now, but you can still go where everybody knows your name in this classic NBC comedy starring Ted Danson.
38. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Netflix) CW’s poignant musical comedy about one woman’s (Rachel Bloom) mental-health struggles has a tune for every emotion, and you’ll be happy to hum them for weeks after finishing all four seasons.
39. “Don’t Trust the B**** in Apt. 23” (Hulu) This quirky series about a nightmare roommate didn’t last long on ABC, but made great comedy while it was on, with Krysten Ritter and James Van Der Beek, playing a fictional version of himself.
40. “Happy Endings (Hulu) One of the many “Friends”-like hangout sitcoms to emerge over the past two decades, “Endings” is on the quirkier, more heightened side, following five thirtysomethings in Chicago.
41. “High Maintenance” (HBO) Because there’s only one recurring character – a New York weed dealer – in every episode, you can start anywhere in this HBO anthology series and always know you’re going to get a tight episode that shows a slice of life with authentic dialogue and gorgeous cinematography.
42. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (Hulu) If you like crass, cringe comedy, 150 episodes lovingly poke at Philly, with a lot of mishaps along the way.
43. “Key & Peele” (Hulu) If you’re more interested in morsels of comedy rather than long narratives, this Comedy Central sketch show, which jumpstarted the careers of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, is perfect and requires very little commitment to get a laugh.
44. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon) With mile-a-minute dialogue, impeccable costumes and an incredible cast, this dramedy about a 1950s housewife (Rachel Brosnahan) turned stand-up comic is a pastel pink-covered treat.
46. “Seinfeld” (Hulu) If you’ve never seen Jerry Seinfeld’s landmark show about nothing, it’s a great time to start. You might want to skip the disappointing series finale, though.
47. “Veep” (Amazon, HBO Go/HBO Now) Some of the political satire’s bite has faded as our world has become more absurd and shocking, but that doesn’t dull the sharpness of star Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s performance.
When you want a taste of reality
48. “The Bachelor/Bachelorette” (Netflix, Hulu) If the bachelors and bachelorettes of ABC’s long-running reality dating franchise can find love in front of millions of TV viewers, then there’s hope for the rest of us, too.
49. “Blown Away” (Netflix) Watching artists blow glass might seem like watching paint dry, but it’s a fascinating and soothing sight to behold in this competition show.
50. “Chopped” (Hulu) If you need inspiration on how to turn random pantry ingredients into a delicious meal, Food Network’s competition series, in which four chefs cook with odd and challenging mystery ingredients, might get you to zest up your pasta.
51. “The Big Family Cooking Showdown” (Netflix) The positivity and focus on good, old fashioned home cooking makes this show, with British families competing to be named the best, stand out among its hyper-competitive peers.
52. “House Hunters” (Hulu) If you prefer reality TV that’s less sappy and more voyeuristic, HGTV’s real-estate series lets you judge the choices of home buyers across the country.
53. “MasterChef Junior” (Hulu) Almost any reality series is improved by swapping out boring adults for adorable (and talented) children, and this pint-sized version of the amateur chef competition is far sweeter than the original.
54. “Project Runway” (Hulu) The first four seasons of the original fashion reality show are a perfect mix of artistry and drama, although later ones, with help from mentor Christian Siriano, are almost as wonderful.
55. “Survivor” (CBS All Access) It’s hard to travel or escape from the news while social distancing, but CBS’s survival series offers glimpses of far-off landscapes, and peeks into the human psyche.
56. “Top Chef” (Hulu) There are dozens of food shows and chef competitions on the air, but this Bravo staple remains the best, pitting a group of chefs in a series of grueling competitions.
When you want to bond with the teens (and still be entertained)
57. “American Vandal” (Netflix) The rare series in which teen problems are taken seriously, “Vandal” is also a hilarious mockumentary that pokes at overly serious true-crime documentaries like “Making a Murderer.”
58. “Beverly Hills, 90210” (Hulu) With big drama and even bigger hair, the 1990s high school staple has inspired many shows, but nothing beats the original (or Luke Perry’s sideburns).
59. “Derry Girls” (Netflix) This Irish series, best watched with subtitles, follows a group of Catholic teens in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, a period of religious violence in the region. The series is a great comedy about trying to live a daily life amid social unrest and upheaval.
60. “The Fosters” (Netflix) The series follows an interracial lesbian couple with a mix of biological, adopted and foster children, and the unique challenges and emotions that come with that kind of family.
61. “Friday Night Lights” (Hulu) The drama on NBC’s acclaimed high school football series is undeniably one of the best shows to binge-watch, equally entertaining for teens and adults.
62. “My So-Called Life” (ABC.com, IMDb TV) This short-lived 1994-95 Claire Danes series is one of the best portraits of teen emotion and angst, not to mention the very real traumas adolescence brings.
63. “The O.C.” (Netflix) Travel, via your TV screen, to California and spend some time with Summer, Seth, Ryan and Marissa. Relive the drama and romance when a working-class kid moves in with a rich family. (But skip the last season.)
64. “Pretty Little Liars (Netflix) Although this soapy thriller sometimes goes off the rails, early seasons are gripping and addictive, spinning delicate webs with the mystery of the disappearance of a teen girl, her left-behind friends and their mysterious harasser.
65. “Riverdale” (Netflix; CW, Wednesdays 8 EDT/PDT) “Riverdale” takes pages out of the “Liars” playbook when it comes to mixing murder with teen hormones, but its Archie Comics inspiration makes it a familiarly fascinating series.
When adult animation beckons
66. “Archer” (Hulu) Spy games are never funnier (or sillier) than in this FXX series, which features the voices of Judy Greer, H. John Benjamin and Chris Parnell.
67. “Bob’s Burgers” (Hulu) Heartfelt, offbeat and full of visual humor, the series about a family and its burger joint is the model of modern adult animation.
68. “BoJack Horseman” (Netflix) Not the cheeriest comedy, but one of the most affecting, Netflix’s showbiz satire found unexpected depths by juxtaposing animated, bipedal animals dealing with serious contemporary issues.
69. “The Simpsons” (Disney+; Fox, Sundays, 8 EDT/PDT) Disney+ isn’t all princesses and Pixar – the entire library of this seminal comedy is ready for you to stream at a time in which the quirks of Springfield feels less odd than real life.
When you want to hang with detectives and lawyers
70. “Alias Grace” (Netflix) A stunning miniseries based on Margaret Atwood’s historical fiction novel, “Grace” adds new layers to the case of Canada’s most infamous accused murderess.
71. “American Crime Story” (Netflix) Whether you tune to the O.J. Simpson or Gianni Versace season of the FX true-crime anthology series, you’ll find sharp writing and a dissection of recent events from new perspectives.
72. “Damages” (Hulu) Glenn Close plays a high-powered lawyer and Rose Byrne her young protégée, and each serialized season deals with a different case, which separates it from other legal dramas.
73. “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight” (Amazon, CBS All Access) Whether your lead character is Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) or Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), these dramas about Chicago lawyers are enthralling.
74. “Law & Order: SVU” (Amazon; NBC, Thursdays, 10 EDT/PDT) There’s a comforting sameness to the hundreds of “SVU” episodes: Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) investigates the crime, finds her perp, justice is served. It’s an appealing simplicity right now.
76. “NYPD Blue” (Hulu, Amazon) So many cop shows are derivative and basic that it can be hard to remember series like “Blue,” which transcended the genre as it followed Det. Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) and the rest of the 15th Precinct as they investigated homicides.
When you want to finally figure out what all the fuss is about
77. “The Americans” (Amazon) The best show of the 2010s is a delicate portrait of two Soviet spies (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) working undercover in suburban Washington, D.C., that’s also a layered examination of family and marriage.
78. “Atlanta” (Hulu) Donald Glover’s audacious series about a college-dropout father trying to climb the economic ladder as a manager for his rapper cousin (Brian Tyree Henry) is proof of the multi-talented artist’s creative prowess.
79. “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” (Netflix; “Saul” also on AMC, Mondays, 10 EDT/PDT) “Bad,” with its celebrated Bryan Cranston performance as a high school teacher turned drug kingpin, is the quintessential antihero tale. Spinoff prequel “Saul” is just as good (or sometimes even better).
80. “Fargo” (Hulu) FX’s superb anthology crime series, based on the Coen Brothers film, captures its spirit in each distinctive season.
81. “Fleabag” (Amazon) Hilarious, emotional and utterly surprising, the British comedy from Phoebe Waller Bridge, in which she stars as a struggling young woman, deserves the hype (and all those Emmys).
82. “Game of Thrones” (HBO Go/HBO Now) If you have resisted the pull of the blockbuster fantasy series, now is the perfect time to decide for yourself if it was worth the buzz. But you can probably skip the final season, unless you want to know why so many left it so angry.
83. “The Good Place” (Netflix, Hulu) The recently ended afterlife sitcom feels like a dose of palliative care with its bright colors, puns and visual gags. Underneath its appealing aesthetics, “Place” has great performances, great writing and some sincere thoughts about ethics and philosophy.
84. “Halt and Catch Fire” (Netflix) What started as as a “Mad Men” knockoff about the 1980s computer industry morphed into a complex story about communication, connection and women’s struggles to achieve power at home and work.
85. “Insecure” (HBO) Issa Rae crafts a distinctly millennial series in this HBO comedy about a black woman in Los Angeles who questions her life decisions, including her long-term boyfriend.
86. “Justified” (Hulu) Timothy Olyphant is at his absolute best in this cowboy tale of a U.S. Marshal with his own code of justice and deep ties to criminals in his small Kentucky town.
87. “Mad Men” (Netflix) Full of metaphor, gorgeous 1960s costumes and set design and fine performances from Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss, “Mad” was so much more than catchy ad copy.
89. “Twin Peaks” and “Twin Peaks: The Return” (Netflix, Showtime) ABC’s mystical murder mystery from director David Lynch was a phenomenon in the 1990s and returned on Showtime in 2018 as one of the most creatively successful TV revivals in our current glut of rehashes.
90.“The West Wing” (Netflix) The simplicity of politics in Aaron Sorkin’s White House drama feels almost quaint in 2020, but the rousing speeches of President Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen) still inspire and captivate.
91. “The Wire” (HBO Go/HBO Now, Amazon) Touted by many as the best TV show of all time, writer David Simon’s meticulous crime drama is gorgeously wrought and acted by the likes of Dominic West, Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan.
When you need soapy drama to keep you glued to the screen
92. “24” (Hulu) Kiefer Sutherland’s Fox espionage thriller is unparalleled in maintaining the tension and stakes high. It’s exactly the kind of distraction we need right now.
93. “Downton Abbey” (Amazon) What makes the period drama – about an upper-class British family in the early 20th century and its “downstairs” household staff – so riveting is the way it dresses up soapy drama in high-class clothes: a little trashy, a little classy and a lot of Maggie Smith asking what a “weekend” is. (Be warned, part of Season 2 covers the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, so steer clear if that hits too close to home right now.)
95. “Power” (Hulu, Starz) “Power” is so melodramatic it rivals some daytime soaps, and each absurdity makes it more fun to watch. It follows James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), a nightclub owner and drug kingpin with plenty of money and problems.
96. “Scandal” (Netflix) Shonda Rhimes’ series became a sensation with its lightning-fast plot and Oval Office relationship drama, and while the series eventually tapered off, those first few seasons had enough shock, awe and giant wine glasses to keep viewers hungry for more.
97. “True Blood” (HBO Go/HBO Now, Amazon) HBO’s Louisiana vampire series has everything you need: talent (Anna Paquin, Alexander Skarsgaard, Joe Manganiello), wild plots (fairies! psychics! humidity!) and a whole lot of blood (synthetic or otherwise).
98. “You” (Netflix) Penn Badgley is at his creepy best in Netflix’s drama about a “nice guy” who’s really a murderous stalker manipulating his way into the lives of his victims.
When you want to learn something
99. “Country Music” (PBS) Ken Burns turned his famous documentarian’s eye to a distinct piece of Americana in this calming chronicle of the rise of country music.
100. “O.J.: Made in America” (Hulu, ESPN) If the “ACS” fictional retelling of O.J. Simpson’s story has you interested in the topic, this epic Oscar- and Emmy-winning documentary tells not only Simpson’s history but the history of race in 20th-century America.
Contributing: Bill Keveney
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