There are some days when the weather outside is so frightful that all you want to do is curl up with a bowl of soup and watch TV for hours. Or maybe you’re like me, and hate going outside, so you’ll stay in with that bowl of soup and TV show even if it’s a sunny spring day (ew, nature and pollen, no thank you).
There are a lot of shows you may want to watch to feel comfortable, though I thought I would comprise a list of show that I think should go on your to-watch list. However, before I get into my real list, let me say five obvious ones to save us some time:
- The Office (US Version, 2005-2013), streaming on Peacock
- Parks and Recreation (2009-2015), streaming on Peacock
- Schitt’s Creek (2015 – 2020), streaming on Netflix
- Gilmore Girls, (2000-2007, 2016), streaming on Netflix
- BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (1995), streaming on Hulu (though if I were you I would just buy the DVD)
If those suggestions have satisfied you, then please feel free to watch one of those excellent shows. But if you’re curious for something a little different, then I’d keep reading.
How would you like to spend the day? Would you like to go on a picnic with peppermint tea and cucumber sandwiches? What about going to the park to earn a girl scout badge? Maybe you would like to spend the evening with your mum, eating homemade chicken pot pie and playing board games?
Or would you like to go into the forest with your witch friend and meet a less-than-friendly troll?
These are possible in Hilda’s world, a series about a young girl living in a modern world with a fantastical twist, first imagined by Luke Pearson. In Hilda’s world, a school day could be interrupted by a troll baby, or a local mad scientist could be using her powers to manipulate the weather. And Hilda (voiced by Bella Ramsey), a bright, kind, courageous girl, will do everything she can to save the day. I’ve mentioned this show before in my article about holiday shows, and I’m thrilled to say it is one of my favorites, although there are plenty of non-holiday episodes to satisfy the grinchiest of people.
“Hilda” is one of the most wonderful shows I have ever had the pleasure to watch. It is beautifully animated and kindly told, featuring a fun cast of characters as they navigate fantastical scenarios. The show has been favorably compared to the artistry of Hayao Miyazaki films, and for a good reason. Part of the joy of Hilda is that although the show takes place in a fantasy world with Lindworms and trolls, the story is still remarkably modern. Much like a Miyazaki film, the show successfully romanticizes daily life while also adding a touch of magic to the ordinary.
“Hilda” is the perfect kind of show to watch on a rainy day, or really on any day. Hilda’s world is a wonderful place where magic and adventure lay waiting around the corner, especially when we least expect it. The show also manages to navigate a tricky topic: the pain of change and growing up. Hilda is constantly forced to deal with change in her life and has to adjust to these new experiences. It’s hard, but with the help of her family and friends, she manages to find her way. It’s a sweet reminder that if Hilda can grow from change, maybe we can as well.
Suggested snack pairing: Peppermind tea, cucumber sandwiches, veggie broth, and pot pie.
Hot dog, this show makes me want to move to a small Alaskan town, even though I know that’s a terrible idea. “The Great North” is about the close-knit Tobin family, a family of fishermen led by Beef Tobin (voiced by Nick Offerman), their loving and insecure patriarch. Beef is a wonderful father. After his flakey wife, Kathleen, leaves him and their four children, Beef devoted his life to caring for them and is now coming to terms with the fact that some of his beloved kiddos are growing up.
Created by Wendy and Lizzie Molyneux, the same creators behind “Bob’s Burgers,” this show has many of the same hallmarks that made their first show so much fun. The characters are warm, funny, and engaging. The family has diverse interests, from sensitive Wolf’s intense love for movie quotes to little Moon and his love for the outdoors, but they all support each other and celebrate their successes, no matter how odd or seemingly unimportant.
It’s a show about a weird family in a weird Alaskan town that genuinely loves each other. The show even manages to romanticize the less-than-perfect parts of small-town living, like the one overrated Italian restaurant and the run-down shopping mall. In the hands of the Molyneux sisters, this crap Alaskan town becomes a wonderland I’d love to visit.
Suggested snack pairing: Fry bread and dip served in an old-timey chamberpot, smoked salmon, and cake that looks like a human being. And maybe Wolf’s Wolfies, if you feel like getting drunk and spiking your blood sugar.
As an accountant, I spend a lot of my day engaging in maladaptive daydreams in which I dramatically quit my job and run off to do something exciting. Some days, that “something exciting” involves moving to another country. Sometimes it’s successfully sliding in Pedro Pascal’s DMs and getting him to fall in love with me. And other times, that something exciting involves working in a small, cozy bookshop.
Manny is an accountant who hates his job and dramatically quits to be an assistant in “Black Books,” the exact type of shop I used to dream of, except this shop is owned by the grumpy, misanthropic, alcoholic Bernard Black. Bernard Black is played by Dylan Moran, aka the guy who was violently disemboweled by zombies in “Shaun of the Dead.” Moran also wrote and created the show, but I’ll always think of him as “Intestines Guy.”
Moran is wildly funny in this odd show, which often feels more like a live-action cartoon than a straightforward comedy. In one particular episode, Moran’s character is accidentally locked out of the safe confines of his shop and must walk the streets of London until morning. His experience in the outside world is borderline Dickensian – he has no money, and at one point, he gets a job at a fast-food shop to have a place to stay to avoid the rain.
Bernard Black may be an anti-social recluse, but he is resourceful. He also seems to live in a world entirely of his own understanding, like in that same episode when he spent two hours sitting in an empty cinema and assumed it was an experimental film, rather than realize that the movie was canceled.
Bernard Black is a strange man in a strange world, but I have very much enjoyed stepping into and living in that world. Combined with Manny, the anxious assistant, and their kind but self-destructive friend, Fran, the three amigos live in constant chaos but still find time to wind down from that chaos with cheap merlot. It’s the kind of show that makes you sad there are only eighteen episodes.
Suggested snack pairing: The cheapest bottle of wine you can find and a sandwich.
After World War II, times were booming, and the main output was babies. This “baby boom” ran rampant in the East End of London in the 1950s. Nurse Jennifer Worth practiced nursing and midwifery there for a few years and wrote a trilogy of best-selling memoirs about her experiences. Times were challenging. The people in Poplar, London, suffered from extreme poverty, and with poverty came a host of other issues: illness, malnutrition, abuse, and negligence. These challenges could have been overwhelming, except for the loving help of Nuns of the Order of St. Raymond Nonnatus, lead by Sister Julienne (played by Jenny Agutter from “Logan’s Run”).
Through the tireless work of the nuns and nurses at Nonnatus House, the people of Poplar were able to receive the care and attention they deserved. As an American living in the 21st century, I found it wild that a nurse would perform a house visit and treat you for free. The show is lovely because the main cast of characters, featuring a mix of dedicated nuns and secular nurses, are all good women who are unfailingly devoted to their cause. They want to help as many people as they can, and the natural conflict comes from the complexities of life.
In between bouts of helping babies into the world and caring for Poplar’s various maladies, the people at Nonnatus house, even the nuns, lead rich inner lives. Several compelling storylines involve older, single women, which feel wildly subversive given our youth-obsessed culture. My favorite storyline was of the gentle love that blossoms between Dr. Turner and Sister Bernadette and how that romance shapes the show’s future. I also really enjoyed the secret relationship between Nurse Delia Busby and Nurse Patience Mount. Although they have their ups and downs, I think any viewer would be satisfied with the direction of their relationship. The show takes place in the 1950s through the 1960s, but it handles complex social issues with boundless compassion. There’s a reason that this show has lasted for over 11 years.
Suggested snack pairing: Well-sugared tea, custard cream biscuits, and coconut cake.
Can science fiction be cozy? Of course, it should be, but I rarely see anything that fits the genre. Except for one of the best shows to come out of the 1980s: “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The crew of the enterprise continues to boldly go where no man has gone before, but unlike many other exploratory shows, the enterprise is more than just a vehicle. It is essentially a self-contained city. People don’t just work on that ship, but meet their friends, develop hobbies, and raise their families.
“Star Trek: The Next Generation” is lovely for several reasons. It contains the same philosophical tone as did the original series (and no, you do not need to have watched that show to enjoy this one), and the crew often embarks on adventures to unknown, exciting places, but there’s more than just those stories. Behind every adventure is a noble purpose to advance humanity’s knowledge and understanding of other cultures. In the Federation, there is no capitalism, and citizens work to better themselves and others. In essence, the crew of the Enterprise hail from a utopia where there is no hunger, poverty, or despair. They want to share this security with the rest of the universe, but they do not force their views onto other cultures. Rather, they encourage other cultures to do better.
The creators of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” put a lot of care into set design, so when you watch the show, you understand how people can build a home on a ship so far from earth. The interior colors are warm, the chairs look squishy, and the equipment has soft edges, as though the Federation purposefully designed the ship to be a place of refuge. The enterprise is a ship where you can find a nice place to sit, chat with your coworkers, and get into your workflow. And when you’ve finished with your work, you can go to the local bar and chat up the bartender, or play a game in the holodeck, or return to your spacious quarters and pursue your hobbies.
Gene Roddenberry, a noted Humanist, believed that humanity would solve its problems through reason and compassion. Once we moved past our distrust and petty grievances, then humanity would ascend to a higher level of being and be able to transverse the galaxy and bang sexy aliens. This dream is on full display throughout “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
Suggested snack pairing: Tea, earl grey, hot. Unless you’re like me, and think that earl grey tea is revolving (it tastes like pencil lead). Then I would suggest something a little more familiar to Deep Space 9 fans: Cajun food. Curl up with an episode of “The Next Generation” and make yourself a plate of crawfish etouffee, then follow that with a cafe a lait, and a few beignets.