The Pandemic Diary: The TV Watch List

binge watching, television, TV Watch List, PandemicLike most people who are sheltering in place to avoid catching Covid-19, we have watched a fair amount of television over the last month and a half.

We don’t watch during the day—too many other things to do—but once the evening news is over, we split our time, and attention, between the television and the devilish jigsaw puzzle slowing (slowly) taking shape on the coffee table.

We have put shows on our TV Watch List and dropped some off. We have watched new seasons of old favorites and new shows that have popped up.

New Shows / Old Favorites

Some shows on the TV watch list we like and keep watching; others we have abandoned. We have Comcast on Demand, Netflix and Amazon Fire, so there’s a lot to choose from. But we decided not to spend any more money on new streaming services like CBS All Access, Hulu, and Acorn.

TV show menu, TV watch list, binge watching, new seasons, old showsFor that reason, I had to bid goodbye to my beloved Outlander because Starz left Comcast and now wants more money. Adieu, Claire. Ceannaich math Jamie. I read the books, so I know what’s gong to happen. I miss you, though.

Likewise, we signed off on Strikeback because Comcast no longer carries it On Demand and Cinemax moved it to Cinemax Go. Farewell Section 20. We will no longer follow your fast-action adventures and unbelievable stunts. It was fun, but now it’s over.

New Shows on Our TV Watch List

Here, in alphabetical order, are the new shows we have tried and liked since the beginning of the year. You may want to add some of them to your TV Watch List.

Baptiste: We jumped onto this PBS Masterpiece mystery without knowing that it’s a spinoff from The Missing. That’s okay. It takes Julien Baptiste to Amsterdam to find a missing woman. We’re in. When the series ends, we’ll go back and try The Missing.

Dispatches from Elsewhere: This strange little show on AMC pulls you in gradually. “Feeling as though there’s something missing in the lives, four ordinary people stumble across a puzzle hiding just beyond the veil of everyday life, and their eyes are opened to a world of possibility and magic.” Viewers work their way through the puzzle with the four team members. Who gives up on a puzzle?

Letter for the King: This Netflix show borders on young adult but has possibilities. “A young knight in training contends with ancient prophecies, magical powers, and fickle companions as he sets out on an epic quest to save his kingdom.“ We only watched one episode and haven’t decided yet.

Star Trek Picard: Although this show runs on CBS All Access, Sir Patrick Stewart teamed up with the network to make it free for a time. Star Trek fans will love these further adventures of Jean-Luc Picard and some old friends. A non-fan will find it tough to pick up who the characters are and what’s happening. If you love Trek, jump on this. Otherwise, not so much.

Tales from the Loop, AmazonTales from the Loop: If the Twilight Zone all took place in one small town, it might look like this Amazon series. “The townspeople who live above “The Loop,” a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe, experience things previously consigned to the realm of science fiction.” If any actual company was as careless with their inventions as The Loop is, they would go out of business. I like it better than my husband does.

Old Favorites and New Seasons

Here are 11 favorites with new seasons that have recently been broadcast or begun streaming.

Michael Connelly, Upside down LA, Los Angeles, Bosch,Bosch: One of my all-time favorites, this police procedural set in Los Angeles features good writing, tight, believable stories and a stellar performance by Titus Welliver in the role of Harry Bosch. Like all good detectives, he has his own methods and rubs authority figures the wrong way but always gets his man. We’re just finishing up Season 7 on Amazon and I’m looking forward to the next season already.

The Expanse: For my money, this is the best hard science fiction show ever to hit TV – and better than many movies. It started on SyFy and, when they canned it (as they do with most of their really good shows), Amazon picked it up. Season Five was even better than previous seasons and the production values are excellent. It takes you out into space and shows you what it would really be like to live and work there.

Homeland: I am sad that this excellent series on Showtime is ending after this season. Carrie Matheson was always an improbable character but everything about the spy program works. This season features wicked takes on John Bolton and George W. Bush. Still gripping after all these years.

Killing Eve: Each season has a different writer and thus a different focus. We’re watching Season Four, currently running on BBC America. Season One by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who created the series, was brilliant but this one is no slouch, either.

The Magicians: We just finished the sixth and final season of this SyFy show and I’m so sad to see it go. Imagine Hogwarts with sex, drugs, booze and rock-and-roll and you’ve got Brakebill’s Academy. That’s where the series starts but it goes into whole other realms from there. I will most miss the character of High King Margot, a fearless feminist and foul-mouthed ruler who owns every scene she’s in.

More Old Favorites

Midnight Diner, Tokyo Stories, NetflixMidnight Diner: In Japanese with English subtitles, this modest 30-minute show on Netflix won’t be everyone’s cup of sake. Patrons of a diner that’s only open from midnight to early morning find simple, yet profound connections with one another and insights into their own lives based on love of a particular dish. The food changes with each show. At the end, they show you how to make the dish.

My Brilliant Friend: In Italian with English subtitles on Netflix. It’s a low-key, modest coming-of-age story about two girls in 1950s and 60s Naples. It will grab you from the start and keep you watching with its combination of friendship, rivalry, challenge, and false triumphs. We just finished Season Two.

The Outsider: Made from a Stephen King novel (one of the few I haven’t read), it’s waiting for you on HBO. “The Outsider begins by following a seemingly straightforward investigation into the gruesome murder of a young boy. But when an insidious supernatural force edges its way into the case, it leads a seasoned cop and an unorthodox investigator to question everything they believe in.” If you read the Mr. Mercedes novels or watched the series, here’s more Holly Gibney.

Ozark: Okay, I confess: I worry about these people. Like, between seasons I wonder what they’re up to. Season Three on Netflix gave me even more to worry about. The acting by Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner and the rest of the cast is uniformly excellent and the cinematography is gorgeous. If Tom Pelphrey doesn’t get an Emmy nomination for his performance in Season Three, it will be a bigger crime than money laundering.

Westworld: I’m finding myself much less engrossed in Season Three than I was in the first two. The HBO series has become overly complex with shades of Battlestar Galactica as we try to figure out / remember who’s human and who is a “host.” Not to mention, who is a good guy and who’s a villain. Watching, but not thrilled.

Tried It and Moved On

Free Rein: We didn’t even make it through the first episode. For horse-loving children only.

Locke and Key: We thought it had possibilities so we watched several episodes but finally let it go.  Note to writers: When kids grow up along a seacoast, they understand how tides work.

The Pending TV Watch List

Deadwater Fell: On Acorn, so iffy. A doctor and his teacher wife live in a Scottish town until a fire destroys their home and forces everyone around them to question what they knew about their friends. My question is, can we understand David Tennant or will he be speaking incomprehensible Scottish?

Extraction, Netflix, Chris Hemsworth, Extraction: About to start on Netflix. I’m hoping this action show starring Chris Hemsworth will fill the gap left by Strikeback. “A hardened mercenary’s mission becomes a soul-searching race to survive when he’s sent into Bangladesh to rescue a drug lord’s kidnapped son.” Section 20 may have met their match.

Run: On HBO. “…half-hour comedy series RUN follows a woman whose humdrum life is thrown upside down when she receives a text from her college sweetheart inviting her to drop everything and meet him in New York to fulfill the pact they made 17 years previously.”

History and Fantasy 

The Umbrella Academy:  I’m waiting eagerly for the start of Season Two. It took us a while to get into this weird show on Netflix but then we were hooked. Estranged siblings, a dead father, an enormous mansion, shocking family secrets, and a threat to the world will reel you in as well.

Versailles: Despite loving historical dramas, I admit totally blanking on this one. “In 1667, 28-year-old all-powerful king of France, Louis XIV, decides to build the greatest palace in the world – Versailles. But drained budget, affairs and political intrigues complicate things.” I hope my husband likes it so I can watch all the seasons without finding “me” time.

World on Fire:World on Fire is an adrenalized, emotionally gripping and resonant World War II drama that follows the intertwining fates of ordinary people in five countries as they grapple with the effects of the war on their everyday lives.” I’m usually not big on WWII dramas, a PBS obsession, but I’m willing to try this one.

Your TV Watch List

TV Watch List, PandemicThere you have it. If you have missed some of these, put the ones that sound good on your TV Watch List. Not everyone likes science fiction or fantasy but there are lots of different options here. They should keep you busy until we get a vaccine or a cure and the country opens up again.

2 thoughts on “The Pandemic Diary: The TV Watch List

  1. What a great list! Many thanks for the great recommendations. I look to you as the arbiter of worthy Sci Fi! I am struggling with The Loop and passed on Lock and Key after one episode. I am currently watching Letter for the King and occasionally veer off into Merlin because I really love King Arthur. I am just finishing up Designated Survivor (quite a few parallels!), will start Killing Eve next week and my kids tell me Homeland is the best show I never watched.

    • That depends on whether you watched The Americans. But Homeland comes in a close second. As is often the case, the first season was the best but the remaining seasons have been better than most other series. I love the current season because of how it shines a light on the danger of a weak president.

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