Ten binge-worthy shows that got us through the pandemic

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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Documentary subject of “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” Joe Exotic

By Karissa Schaefer, Deputy Living Arts Editor

Since the COVID-19 lockdowns began about a year ago, we’ve been given a plethora of TV shows to binge on streaming platforms. Whether it was a show returning for a new season, a brand new series, or an old classic making a comeback, there are many new options to choose from. Between numerous streaming platforms, here’s a top 10 list of shows that kept us busy during the pandemic. 

  1. Little Fires Everywhere – Hulu

Starring Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon, who play moms Mia Warren and Elena Richardson respectively, this limited series premiered on Hulu on March 18, 2020 and ran through April 22, 2020. 

This miniseries is based on the book of the same title by Celeste Ng, taking place in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Mia is an artist and single mom who moves around with her daughter, Pearl. They are portrayed as a low-income family, which contrasts with Elena’s picture-perfect family. However, cracks begin to emerge once Elena lets Mia into her life. 

I binged this show in December and I sat on the edge of my seat through all eight episodes in one day. When you finish the show, you’ll be wanting more. 

  1. Tiger King – Netflix

If you asked anybody what they did at the beginning of quarantine, I’m sure “watching Tiger King would be one of their answers. This eight episode documentary series was released on March 20, 2020 and dove into the world of big cat breeding. 

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The one-season Netflix show focuses mainly on the life of former zookeeper and current felon Joe Exotic. Other key players in this newfound underworld include Doc Antle, owner of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species, and Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue. 

 This show was a huge pop culture influence for 2020, as a popular TikTok parody sound between Exotic and Baskin went viral—and who could forget the many Halloween costumes that came out of it? This show has everything from tigers, humor, drama, crime, and a whole lot of crazy. 

  1. Victorious – Netflix

Although this show isn’t a Netflix original, Nickelodeon’s Victorious trended all over social media when it came to the streaming giant in fall 2020. While Disney+ may have, well, everything Disney related, Netflix is stepping up their game by adding childhood Nickelodeon shows many of us grew up with. 

Although I’m personally more of an iCarly fan myself—which is also now on Netflix—side characters like Andre, Beck, and Jade in Victorious really make the show special. It’s a walk down memory lane and a throwback to 2010, a nostalgic, simpler time for many of us. You can watch the first three seasons on Netflix (sorry season four fans). 

  1. Bridgerton – Netflix

This more recent show, based on the book series with the same title, premiered on Netflix Dec. 25, 2020. For all the romance lovers, this show is for you. The series (yes, there is a season two on the way), set in 1813 London, follows different siblings in the Bridgerton family and how they find love. 

The first season focuses on eldest sister Daphne during her marriage season debut and how her relationship grows with Simon, the Duke of Hastings. There’s even the 19th century version of “Gossip Girl,” Lady Whistledown, who sends out gossip papers about the town’s secrets and scandals. A mystery unfolds as the Queen and Daphne’s sister Eloise search for the secret writer.  Plus, the classical versions of modern pop songs that are played throughout the show are bangers. 

  1. The Mandalorian – Disney+

Despite premiering on Nov. 12, 2019 months before the nationwide shutdown, this show was a big hit throughout 2020. Season two was released Oct. 30, 2020, so there was plenty of time to binge the first eight episodes. 

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the first live action Star Wars TV show, I’m sure you’ve seen images of Baby Yoda somewhere. This show was made for die hard Star Wars fans, as the series picks up five years after Return of the Jedi. Every episode is like a mini movie and it’s noticeable how much effort Disney put in for this original show. 

  1. Dead to Me – Netflix

This two season (soon to be three) series first arrived on Netflix on May 3, 2019, with season two arriving May 8, 2020. The comedy follows two grieving women who meet each other in therapy, starring Christina Applegate as Jen and Linda Cardellini as Judy. 

Jen loses her husband in a hit-and-run while Judy claims to grieve her fiance who died from a heart attack, emphasis on “claims.” Jen tries to unravel the mystery behind the hit-and-run driver as she finds herself in a dark place. This contrasts with Judy, who has a positive outlook, leading to a deep bond between the two. Although the show has some dark themes, it’s effective in its dark humor.

  1. Big Mouth – Netflix

Following in the footsteps of adult cartoon shows like Family Guy and American Dad, Big Mouth continues to make me laugh. The fourth season premiered Dec. 4, 2020. It’ll keep you laughing, entertained, and frequently asking yourself, “what the hell am I watching?” 

The show follows a small group of middle school friends as each of them begin going through the trials and tribulations of puberty. A main feature of the show are the hormone monsters, and they’re the funniest characters. There are many famous comedian voice actors on the cast, such as John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, and Maya Rudolph. The animated show is a gem among many live action shows, and hopefully it sticks around for a bit longer. 

  1. The Queen’s Gambit – Netflix

Released Oct. 23. 2020, this limited series features Anna Taylor-Joy and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in a coming-of-age period drama. It’s based on the book of the same title, exploring the life of orphan Elizabeth Harmon, who is a chess prodigy. She works her way up to becoming the greatest chess player in the world while battling a drug and alcohol addiction. 

Take it from someone who knows nothing about chess, this miniseries is much more than board games. It brings Taylor-Joy to another level of acting, differentiating from her previous characters in Split and Emma. Only being seven episodes long, it’s easy to binge watch for a full day, though with no more content left, the audience wants more. 

  1. Schitt’s Creek – Netflix, CBC, Pop TV, Hulu (with Live TV), Amazon Prime

With its last season premiering in 2020, the six season sitcom kept many entertained. The show follows real life father and son duo Eugene Levy and Daniel Levy as on screen father and son Johnny and David, respectively. The pair have successfully created a hysterical show that anyone can enjoy on a multitude of platforms. 

Since quarantine kept us stuck inside our homes with our immediate family, it was a perfect go-to for everyone in the household to watch at once. The series showcases the ups and downs of the wealthy Rose family when they lose their money and have to resort to their final asset, the town of Schitt’s Creek. In 2020, the themes hit close to home, and they’re also reflective of the realistic endings each character received. 

  1. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – HBO Max

Premiering June 28, 2020 and running through Aug. 2, 2020, this six-part HBO documentary was the perfect summer TV show. Written by Michelle McNamara and Liz Garbus, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is based on the book of the same title (also by McNamara), which explores the Golden State Killer case from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

This is a great miniseries for any avid true crime lover like myself. Any time a streaming platform releases a new documentary, especially if it’s crime focused, it’s bound to be a hit.

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