Bethonie Butler, Emily Yahr, Travis M Andrews & Sonia Rao
THE WASHINGTON POST – It may seem counterintuitive to re-watch shows in the era of Too Much TV, but certain occasions – weeks of social distancing, for example – can be ameliorated by returning to bygone favourites.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a guide to the shows we think are worth watching a second (or even third) time.
As always, remember this list is subjective – feel free to add your go-to shows in the comments.
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (2015)
Come for the weird musical comedy about a quirky 20-something still obsessed with an ex-boyfriend she met at a teen summer camp; stay for the thoughtful exploration of what it’s like to live with a mental illness, punctuated by witty dialogue and catchy songs (many co-written by late Fountains of Wayne singer Adam Schlesinger) that will make you laugh through your tears. – Bethonie Butler
I recently watched Season 5, Episode 12 to write about a suddenly timely scene that shows how infection can spread – and found I couldn’t stop.
Even though it might seem like a strange time to watch a show set in a hospital, “Scrubs” expertly walks the line between goofy humour and somber reflection better than any other comedy.
Frequently described as the most accurate medical TV show, it’s also a good reminder of how medical professionals are often unsung heroes. (Added bonus: Zach Braff and Donald Faison just launched a podcast this week called Fake Doctors, Real Friends where they will re-watch the entire series and discuss each episode.) – Emily Yahr
Frustration abounds, so why not channel some of that energy into yelling at Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath as you revisit her exasperating – but human – missteps?
For all the criticism Girls received during its original run, the HBO series never felt trite. The dynamics between its 20-something characters are honest and likely recognisable in many of our own relationships, making this a great show to re-watch virtually with friends. – Sonia Rao
THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL (2018)
Adapting the novels of spymaster John le Carré is an exercise in insanity.
His books exist on two levels – on top there’s simple intrigue of European intelligence work; beneath that is the severe psychological battles taking place in everyone’s souls. Park Chan-wook’s six-episode adaptation of his finest novel for AMC/BBC One is hyperaware of those levels, and his camera explores not only gorgeous locales throughout Western Europe (where it was shot on location) but the deeply expressive face of his lead Florence Pugh, who plays Charmian “Charlie” Ross, an actress-turned-Mossad-spy tasked with infiltrating a radical Palestinian group – where her allegiance becomes … let’s say … blurry.
The result is a wonderfully twisty, turny spy tale that explores what it means to learn about yourself – when your script may already be written by more powerful forces. – Travis M Andrews
LIVING SINGLE (1993)
Before Friends, there was this classic sitcom about a group of 20-something professionals living together in New York City.
Living Single is quintessentially ’90s in many ways (few Gen Z-ers can afford to live in a Brooklyn brownstone), but its humour and heart are timeless.
It’s also pretty unparalleled in terms of representation: it wasn’t until the show came to streaming two years ago that I realised just how influential Khadijah (Queen Latifah) and the other independent, ambitious black women in her friend group had been for me as a child.
I find myself revisiting them when I feel nostalgic for my post-college NYC days – or that iconic theme song. – BB
GOLDEN GIRLS (1985)
While we’re on the subject of friend groups and iconic theme songs, it doesn’t get much better or funnier than this sitcom about four older women living together in Miami.
The most striking thing about re-watching Golden Girls is its spicy dialogue – from innuendo to the blistering insults the close-knit quartet tossed around its ranks. I’ll never get tired of Dorothy’s acerbic wit, Rose’s epic St Olaf’s stories, Sophia’s deadpan sarcasm or Blanche’s shameless thirst. It’s also fun to be reminded of the show’s amazing guest stars: Burt Reynolds, George Clooney and Leslie Nielsen among them. – BB
Ray McKinnon’s SundanceTV series follows Daniel Holden (Aden Young) as a wrongfully convicted man who spent nearly two decades on death row being released into a world not ready for him and one which he isn’t ready for.
All four plaintive seasons, beautifully shot on location in Georgia, are bolstered by what might be my favourite performances ever to hit the small screen as Holden and his family attempt to adjust to a “new normal” while ruminating on the true meaning of being alive. If that doesn’t sound like a story ripe for the coronavirus age, I don’t know what is. – TMA
THE LEFTOVERS (2014)
Set in a world where two per cent of the population vanishes without explanation, “The Leftovers,” based on Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, might not be the best pick for escapists. But for those seeking art that reflects some of our current feelings of grief and helplessness, Perrotta and Damon Lindelof’s HBO adaptation, anchored by Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon’s stellar performances, deserves another watch. – SR
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (2005)
I haven’t watched this CBS sitcom since it went off the air, so why did I decide to now?
Unclear! But I think one reason is that the show, while technically about Ted’s search for the mystical Mother, is about how often your friends really become your family.
That idea seems more important than ever right now. And even though the character of Barney Stinson is way more horrifying than I remember, it’s weirdly comforting to hear the sounds of an audience laugh track. – EY
While the work of Elmore Leonard, the best crime fiction writer to ever live, has been endlessly adapted, it usually suffers into that strange transmutation from page to screen.
That’s probably one reason I initially stayed away from FX’s Justified, which revolves around Leonard’s plays-by-his-own-rules US Marshal Raylan Givens, who patrols the hollers of Harlan County, Kentucky, in an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse with his old mining buddy-turned-white-supremacist-turned-criminal-mastermind Boyd Crowder. My mistake. Because with the two leads portrayed by Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins in two star-making turns and in the hands of showrunner Graham Yost, the series has all the dry wit, biblical justice and killer dialogue found in the best Leonard novels. One tip: The show becomes far more serialised (and better) after the first season. – TMA
SIX FEET UNDER (2001)
Like many Six Feet Under fans, I don’t think I’ll ever get the achingly beautiful final scene of Alan Ball’s beloved HBO series out of my head.
But even knowing how it ends, it’s worth returning to this show about the Fisher family and their funeral home – particularly in moments of grief or nostalgia for the people who know you best. – BB
PARKS AND RECREATION (2009)
I re-watch Parks and Recreation for the same reason many people re-watch The Office: It just makes me feel good.
I love so many things about Michael Schur’s beloved comedy: Leslie and Ann’s unwavering friendship; Ron’s deadpan rants; Andy pretending to be an FBI agent called Burt Macklin. There’s nothing quite like treating yo self to a Parks and Rec marathon at the end of a long day. – BB
HAPPY ENDINGS (2011)
Want to feel like you’re on another planet? This truly bizarre cast of characters delivers, especially because the chemistry between the five friends gets even sharper over time.
There are so many jokes and pop-culture references that I catch new ones every time I watch it – and delightfully strange plotlines make it easy to keep you distracted for a solid 22 minutes. – EY
Perhaps I should do some soul-searching about the fact that I’m perpetually eager to watch Hugh Laurie’s grouchy Dr Gregory House insult his patients and staff on an endless loop.
But I keep coming back to House because of its dark humour and the fact that it’s decidedly less soapy than your typical medical drama.
It also feels especially relevant amid a global pandemic that not everyone is taking as seriously as experts say we should: lately, I’ve been thinking that we could all benefit from the fictional diagnostic guru’s caustic bedside manner. – BB
THE WIRE (2002)
An obvious choice, sure. But when it comes to crime dramas, it really doesn’t get any better than David Simon’s poignant series about Baltimore and the various facets of its criminal justice system. HBO recently announced it was making The Wire and a few other rewatchable shows (including Veep, The Sopranos and the aforementioned Six Feet Under) temporarily free to nonsubscribers, so now is a particularly great time to revisit it. – BB