As COVID has upended life as we know it and the Delta variant rages, tension abounds. What’s the antidote to processing the news, heading to the office wherever that may be and trying to stay safe? Taking in some lighthearted entertainment could do our soul and temperament good. Our heads and hearts could benefit. If you’re going to watch something on your TV, computer or phone anyway, why not make it a refreshing experience with uplifting themes and even rip roaring fun? Here are 10 suggestions to take your mind off the outside world and smile.
“Terrible name, terrific sitcom: how Schitt’s Creek became a surprise hit.” The title of a post in The Guardian about this series says it all. Well, not all, but a lot. This Canadian TV product from the Levy boys – son Dan and father Eugene – tells the riches-to-rags story of the Rose family. The patriarch, Johnny, who once reigned over a video store empire, loses all of his money thanks to his unscrupulous business manager. Left destitute after an elaborate embezzlement scheme, the Roses find themselves without hearth and home. They relocate to Schitt’s Creek, a rural town, the deed to which the dad bought for his son as a gag gift years back. This extravagant and avant garde family doesn’t mesh with the town residents, at least not initially and pretty much for the 80 episodes over six seasons. But they give it a go in their own most unusual ways. The concept for the series came from Dan Levy’s musings about what life could be like if wealthy people hit rock bottom. Although the reception to this show was middling for the first two seasons, it hit the heights when production moved to Netflix. “The Rise of Schitt’s Creek” explains: “Thanks for a daffy charm – a winning combination of its characters’ caustic wit and the show’s fundamental warmth… the series rose from humble origins to the pinnacle of TV acclaim.” It “set a new record for most Emmy wins by a comedy series in a single season.” Watch it on Netflix; it’s also on Amazon Video and syndicated TV at times.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
The TV program Seinfeld was supposed to be “a show about nothing.” Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, which started as a web series, masters that theme via the directorial and hosting skills of Jerry Seinfeld himself. The 84 episodes over 11 seasons follow the same basic formula. Seinfeld, a fan of vintage cars, selects one just right to ferry a particular guest to and from a café. They talk and talk some more in the vehicle and the restaurant. No, that’s not exactly right. They enjoy one another’s company and engage in banter, repartee and musings of the very funny kind. That’s better. Most of the segments last between 12 and 20 minutes. They move quickly as jokes and laughter whizz by. Get ready for a star-studded line up, which includes comedy greats Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks together in one show. There are many others, such as Aziz Ansari, Stephen Colbert, Larry David, Kevin Hart, Eddie Murphy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Silverman and Garry Shandling. In one of the top-rated installments, Alec Baldwin “steals the show and makes an appearance as Jack Nicholson.” In a mirthful moment, Baldwin says to the host: “Your life has been one unbroken boulevard of green lights, hasn’t it?” You’ll see why Screenrant.com says: “The idea of the show that is nothing more than two people driving around and getting coffee doesn’t sound like entertaining television. However… Jerry Seinfeld… turned Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee into a truly great talk show.” Suggestion: don’t watch this series on an empty stomach when streaming it on Netflix.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
It’s “a sitcom with one of the most outlandish premises one would ever see. Yet it manages to strike a universal chord with viewers, making almost anyone relate to the show’s characters.” That’s how TheCinemaholic characterizes Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. This series, which ran on network TV and transitioned to Netflix, where it is now, is about rebirth. Why? Kimmy and three other women were kidnapped and held captive by a doomsday cult in a town in Indiana for 15 years. These were not pleasant times for these victims. They lived in an underground bunker, brainwashed that an apocalypse was in the offing. As the series starts, the authorities rescue the group. They open the doors to the bunker and the ladies emerge to see the light of day. But now what? Do these “mole women,” as the media refers to them, go back to their roots and resume their former lives? Not Kimmy. She decides to venture to New York City to start anew. There she quickly meets an eccentric landlady and an equally unconventional roommate and employer. These three form and ensemble cast that is, in a word, zany. “It’s a Miracle!” is a phrase in the catchy theme song, which frames the upbeat nature of the show. Rolling Stone says that this “off-kilter comedy remains true to its roots as an always absurd, often poignant show that survived, like its title character, against the odds.” And TheCinemaholilc adds that Kimmy’s “optimistic attitude proves to be infectious and makes the show one of the best feel-good productions of recent times.”
This madcap streaming series has perfected the recipe for great laughter. Recruit a pleasant, yet pointed comic host and a world-class pastry chef who oozes easygoing charm. Add a roster of happily self-effacing amateur contestants to collaborate as daring duos and assign them amped-up baking projects to recreate from intricate models. Then, after too short a time, ask those aspiring to win the $10,000 grand prize to reveal their entries. When they do, they shout “Nailed It!” in more than a bit of hopeful jest. Do their works resemble the masterpieces? A hilarious judge who knows nothing about baking, similar to the emcee of the show – not a clue – also weighs in on the verdict. Oh, the decision makers have to not only view the pastries, but also sample them. The winners of the first of the two challenges in every episode receive giant golden chef hats, which they wear on air. Everyone gets along and has a blast for all 46 episodes – no sore losers here. Netflix, which airs Nailed It! describes it as: “Part reality contest, part hot mess.” By the way, the phrase “nailed it” refers to “the successful, skillful, or clever completion or performance of something. It’s often used sarcastically in reference to efforts that comically failed.” How has this series fared? It received “critical acclaim and was nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards, including twice for Outstanding Competition Program and once for Outstanding Host for a Reality of Competition Program.” The celebrity chef took this role because other cooking shows “are too serious.” This one is not!
Warning: Beware of belly laughing! Humorous and heartwarming, Kim’s Convenience will delight you. Every 25-minute episode opens with a brief sketch, which pokes fun at the incongruities of life. Appa, Korean for dad, who appears in all of them, is shrewd most of the time and a pawn for social commentary at others. He is Mr. Kim, owner of a neighborhood general store in Moss Park in Toronto. He and his wife, who their children call Umma, or mom, left their Asian homeland for greater opportunity in Canada. But this series does not focus on the Kims exclusively; there’s more to it. Vanity Fair on “Why Kim’s Convenience Matters,” claims this is “a show about an Asian family that isn’t just about an Asian family.” It tackles a cross-section of social, business and other issues in mainly a cheerful way. The series originated as a play written by a co-creator of it, who wasn’t getting acting roles at the time. He based it on his own experience, which parallels the main plot. How do influencers regard Kim’s Convenience? The first season, which aired on CBC TV in Canada in 2016, received “100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 12 critics’ reviews.” One called it “a clever, generally engaging screwball comedy with an eye on entertainment.” Another said “the dialogue is sharp, on point and borderline subversive,” and added “it has the potential to be a future classic. It has bite. It’s funny and true, but not a reality we typically see reflected on television.” Watch all five seasons on Netflix.
“Make an appointment with the brilliant but socially awkward and neurotic Doc Martin,” suggests Amazon. To that it adds the plot line. “When Martin develops an aversion to blood, he abandons his career as a celebrated London surgeon and becomes the only doctor in a sleepy small town where his tactless manner soon has the whole town in an uproar.” This description covers some of the bases; but It doesn’t cite the strong comedic pull of the series, which stems from the doc himself and the villagers. This brilliant medical practitioner has no filter. He tells his patients – and everyone for that matter – exactly what he thinks. Gasp! It’s shocking, refreshing and a source of wonderment and perhaps envy. As for the denizens of Port Wenn, they have eccentricities in the nicest and most amusing of ways. Put it together and it’s an Rx for a streaming experience that is sure to capture your attention and likely your devotion. What’s more, you may even learn something about medicine and maladies in the process. Doc Martin aired originally on British TV before being picked up by Public Broadcasting in the U.S. The New York Times celebrated its arrival in a post on “Small-Town Crank Finds His Following” and refers to it as a “fish-out-of-water comedy.” A post on “3 Reasons Why We Love Doc Martin” sites countless ways but highlights: “he’s socially awkward; despite his lack of warmth, he’s always honest; the good doctor does have a soft-spot.” So will you for this series. Watch it on Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Acorn.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
In real life, aspiring comics hang out on the stand-up circuit for years until – or, more likely, if – they make it. In this series, the lead character Midge Maisel, who starts out as a housewife, performs a spontaneous set on stage in a drunken state after her husband leaves her. He, by the way, is the one who desires a career in comedy. And she, by the way, is good. Make that “marvelous.” Oh, that’s just the beginning of this witty series, which provides a cultural tour of the 1950’s/’60’s, complete with couture galore. Other regulars in the cast form a tightly knit ensemble of the most sidesplitting type, e.g., Midge’s theatrical agent and Midge’s dad. The creator of the series, Amy Sherman-Palladino, is known for her “caffeine-powered dialogue that’s laced with pop culture references aplenty.” Her father, by the way, did stand-up initially in New York City. All of this comes through clearly and happily in this “effervescent comedy.” The pilot episode, which aired in 2017 on Amazon Video, was one of its most successful ever; the average viewer rating achieved 4.9 on a 5-point scale. The A.V. Club ranked the production design as “outstanding” and noted: “this is a series that’s as confident as its heroine – and what a heroine she is.” In its three seasons – with one more in the works — the series won award upon award. Examples include Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy and Emmys for directing, writing, lead actress, supporting actress and actor – just about everything. Watch it on Amazon.
Remember The Karate Kid movie? It’s back in the form of this comedy-drama series. It features the same main characters and those who portrayed them – Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso and William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence. Only it’s 34 years later and they have gone onto other pursuits, well at least one has successfully. Both have not forgotten the fateful All-Valley Karate Tournament playoffs; their bitter rivalry festers and continues to sear. Oh, it’s intense and a test of good against evil. Karate proves to be a path for underdogs to pursue to find their inner strength, protection against bullying, friends and especially babes. It’s all reminiscent of the Rocky Balboa saga and entertaining to the hilt. “’Cobra Kai’ is not good, but it is awesome,” declares The Washington Post. What’s the appeal? This piece cites “solid retconning and generational satire.” Retconning is short for “retroactive continuity.” That refers to picking up from where a fictional work left off with enough creative freedom to make it work. The latter – satire – is superb. “The premise is good, but the show’s humor is better.” The main characters are middle age and often lack the savvy to immediately pick up cultural cues and changes. This comes across in how they relate to teenagers, to the world at large and definitely to each other. If you grew up in the 1980’s or admire the music from that era, this series is for you, but not limited to you alone. It launched on YouTube in 2018 and has moved to Netflix. It’s sure to move you too!
The Good Place
“If you like your sitcoms surreal, thought-provoking and generally warm, this one’s for you.” That’s the word from The New York Times in its post entitled “Comforting Streaming TV Shows for Stressful Times.” The series revolves around an engaging main character and her cohorts. The woman in the starring role finds herself in an unlikely predicament with a curious outcome. After living a life of mixed behaviors, this recently-deceased person has been sent to “the good place” rather than the bad one. However, her destination is supposed to be for those on the highest end of the ethical scale. It’s a utopian-like environment, idyllic and the best after-life alternative versus the underworld. How did this mistake happen? Or did it? What’s the point? What should she do? Are others there like her too? And how can she – and they – stay true to the principles of The Good Place, such as not using profanity and adhering to other saintly rules? Each resident has a soulmate assigned, so it’s not as easy as it seems to toe the line. There’s plenty of banter and good versus evil jokes, such as “If you’re a devil, how come you’re not wearing Prada?” As the plot evolves, the characters are kept off balance and viewers are too, over the course of the series’ four-year run of 53 episodes. It’s fun and absorbing. The show received “critical acclaim for its writing, acting, originality, setting and tone.” It ran on network TV from 2016 to 2020. It’s now a Netflix property, where you can watch it in its entirety.
This series is among “The best 9 under-the-radar sitcoms you can stream on Netflix right now.” It’s unlikely and truly atypical. Why? The plot revolves around an 18-year old boy from Connecticut, who is on the autism spectrum. Make no mistake about it – it is a comedy, an endearing one at that. Here’s what the same Insider post said about Atypical: “Told with heart, it’s an elongated coming of age story, and moreover, it’s downright hilarious.” The comedic touches span the gamut, from outright clowning to dark humor; this continuum is emblematic of the tenor of the entire show. Sam, the subject of Atypical, longs to be typical in many ways. At the beginning of the show’s four-season run in 2017, he wants to get a girlfriend. He strives to achieve his wish list with the help of a therapist, who counsels him on deciphering social cues and bridging how to interact and communicate effectively with others. As the series unfolds, so too do his goals, such as attending college and moving out of his parents’ home. As for the parents and other members of the family, the series delves into how autism affects all of them. They are lovingly supportive but coping with their own battles. TV Guide proclaimed: “Atypical Remains the Most Surprising Family Comedy on TV.” It’s more than likely you will agree with that statement. To find out, go to Netflix and start viewing it. Atypical is trying and touching, quirky and elevating. The series is set to wrap up in 2021 with the final episodes in production.
More…. You may also wish to check out Grace and Frankie, Great News, The Kominsky Method, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Queer Eye. And the parting message no matter if or what you watch is: Enjoy!
About the author.
You name it, she covers it. That’s the can-do attitude Sherry M. Adler brings to the craft of writing. A polished marketing and communications professional, she has a passion for learning and the world at large. She uses it plus the power of words to inform and energize stakeholders of all kinds. And to show how all of this can make a difference, she calls her business WriteResults NY, LLC.