It’s not news to anyone that as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, we all have more time on our hands. Some may choose to use the time productively: learn a skill or language, read more books… write a blog, you get the gist.
Another example of an activity to pass the time (translation: kill the boredom) is to catch up on all those wonderful television shows and films that your friends and family recommended that you promised to get around to, but never did… until now. Or maybe you just want to revisit old favourites.
The examples below are things that I have seen and enjoyed, including examples that I introduced to my family for the first time.
See what takes your fancy!
ONCE UPON A TIME (ABC; 2011-2018)
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Robert Carlyle
Once Upon A Time is a fairy tale/fantasy based series that aired from 2011 to 2018. The basic premise is that classic characters you know and love – Snow White, Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella to name just a few – have all been ripped away from their happy existence in the Enchanted Forest and taken by the Evil Queen to a town in Maine named Storybrooke, where none of them remember their true identities.
This remains the case for twenty-eight years.
Their only hope of rescue is a bailbonds person from Boston named Emma Swan, who unbeknownst to her, is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. She was sent to our Real World with the hope that one day she would discover who she truly is and break the curse that robbed her parents and their friends of their lives and memories.
While fairy tales are traditionally associated with children, this is definitely not exclusively for them. The creators also worked on Lost, which means there are some pretty dark moments in the series. There’s family drama, action, adventure, romance and fantastical magic elements.
Expect to see these tales in a way that you never have before. None of what is on Once has been told before in the traditional stories.
Once Upon A Time, all seven seasons, can be found on Netflix.
westworld (hbo; 2016 – present)
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins
Ah, Westworld. You’re in for one hell of a ride if you haven’t watched this show yet.
Imagine an amusement park – forget Alton Towers or Chessington – think a futuristic cowboy Western setting. Lifelike, humanoid robotic attractions named Hosts were created to serve the guests’ every whim. And I mean every. Yeah, this is an 18+ show.
Explore the dynamics between the Hosts, guests and park staff, all with different wants, desires and needs.
Still, the cast (some of whom I listed above) and the writing (Jonathan Nolan; The Dark Knight Trilogy, Interstellar) is fantastic. Twists and turns, the story takes directions you would never expect.
Another advantage is that each season (there are currently three) only has 8-10 episodes, meaning you could easily binge each one in only a few days, if not less time.
RESERVOIR DOGS (1993, DIR. QUENTIN TARANTINO)
Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Quentin Tarantino
Even if you know nothing about films, Quentin Tarantino is at least a familiar name, right? If the answer is no, let me fill you in. He’s a now-iconic director whose work includes Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight.
Before all that, however, he was an up-and-comer who needed to start from somewhere… and that was Reservoir Dogs.
The basic plot follows a group of jewel thieves, identified by colour-coded nicknames, after a heist goes wrong (we never see the heist due to budgetary constraints) and the dissension among the group as they try to work out who ‘the rat’ that informed the police was.
It’s certainly a unique film in that some of the major characters’ names are not revealed until the end. Instead, each of the men are referred to as Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, Mr. Brown, to name a few examples.
harry potter (2001-2011)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane
For a lifelong Potter fan (aka Potterhead) like myself, the idea that some people have never seen these films blows my mind. Yet, this is the case and already, new fans have been sharing the viewing experience, whether simply stating so on social media or sharing their reactions on YouTube.
Even if you haven’t seen the films, I would be surprised if you didn’t at least know the basic plot. If not, I hope you’re enjoying that rock you’re living under. Anyway, here goes nothing: In the first film, an 11-year-old orphan named Harry Potter, who lives with his cruel uncle and aunt, discovers he is actually the son of a powerful witch and wizard, as well as the fact that he is a famous wizard also.
The next seven films following this track Harry’s journey into the Wizarding World; studying at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, making friends for the first time, becoming familiar with magical culture and the ever-present threat of Lord Voldemort, the dark wizard who murdered Harry’s parents but failed to kill the boy, who wants to complete the task.
futurama (fox/comedy central; 1999-2003, 2008-2013)
Starring: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David Herman
Futurama, from the mind of Matt Groening (who also created The Simpsons and Disenchantment) ranks, in my opinion, not just among the all-time greatest cartoons but also as a high quality television show in general.
The series follows Philip J. Fry (the redhead in the above picture), a pizza delivery boy who, on New Years Eve 1999, accidentally cryogenically freezes himself, thawing out in the year 3000.
Fry, as he is commonly referred to, has to carve out a new life in a new century. He connects with his descendant Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth and gets a job working for him at his delivery company Planet Express, alongside his new friends – Leela, a cyclops and an alcoholic robot named Bender.
While a hilarious and every entertaining show, there are also moments that are genuinely heart-wrenching and emotional. If that is more your preference than comedy, I can recommend Luck Of The Fryrish (Season 3, Episode 4), Jurassic Bark (Season 5, Episode 2) and Leela’s Homeworld (Season 4, Episode 5) off the top of my head.
The voice actors are among the best in their field which, combined with great writing from over-qualified writers (who held three PHDs, seven Master’s and collectively over fifty years of Harvard education), helped make the show that beloved classic that it now is.
the flash (cw; season 1, 2014)
Starring: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Rick Cosnett, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh and Jesse L. Martin
The Flash first sped onto the small screen back in 2013, with a guest appearance on Arrow before Glee alum Grant Gustin became the lead of his own show the following year.
This series follows Barry Allen, who starts the series as a forensic investigator for the Central City Police Department. During the pilot episode, Barry is struck by dark matter-charged lightning which gives him the power of super-human speed.
Since he was eleven, Barry has been haunted by one singular event: his mother’s murder. His father was wrongly arrested and imprisoned for the crime. However, Barry saw the actual culprit – a man in red and yellow moving faster than humanly possible – and has been trying to prove the existence of such anomalies ever since.
While there are currently six seasons of The Flash, I would recommend season one if I had to pick any to watch.
Firstly, seeing as you need the beginning of a story for it to make sense, it would smart to watch this season. More importantly, I believe that season one is a perfectly told, satisfying story from beginning to end, that is very bingeable.
shrek (2001-2010, Film Series)
Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, John Lithgow, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Jennifer Saunders
I suspect that these are likely films that you have seen before. However, I think watching them again could be very fun. I did this myself recently, before all the panic and really enjoyed the experience.
In particular, the first film is full of adult-oriented jokes that many innocent minded kids would not have picked up on at the time. Rather than give any away, go back and watch for yourself. See if you can find them.
Despite being an ogre, Shrek is a very relateable protagonist. His desire to be loved and accepted by others, rather than being seen as a monster, is comparable to some people’s real lives – at least on some level.
For what is marketed as a children’s, Shrek is a complex, layered (see what I did there) individual individual. The stories are strengthened even further by the strong character that surround Shrek.
Of course, there is his wife Fiona, best friends Donkey and Puss In Boots. Additionally, we have the eclectic line-up of fairy tale creatures; Pinocchio, The Three Little Pigs, Big Bad Wolf, Gingerbread Man and The Three Blind Mice.
family guy (fox; 1999 – present)
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Mike Henry, Patrick Warburton
Created by and starring Seth MacFarlane (he voices Peter, Stewie, Brian and Quagmire), Family Guy has been on television screens for over twenty years. The series follows the adventures of Peter Griffin, a buffoonish blue-collar worker who lives in the fictitious town of Quahog, Rhode Island with his wife Lois, their three kids (Meg, Chris and Stewie) and their talking dog, Brian.
If there was ever a show to watch to forget some of the stressful things happening right now, I think Family Guy would be a great choice. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and the plots are usually fantastical and implausible, which allows you to be immersed in the cartoon world for the duration of an episode.
Much like Springfield on The Simpsons, this show is filled with a variety of different, quirky characters who live in Quahog alongside the central Griffin family. These include pilot/sex addict Glenn Quagmire, paraplegic macho police officer Joe Swanson, African-American deli owner Cleveland Brown, eccentric Mayor Adam West (played by the late actor Adam West) and drug store owner Mort Goldman, who is a caricature of Jewish stereotypes.
love simon (2018, dir. greg berlanti)
Starring: Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Tony Hale
Released in 2018, Love, Simon is an unconventional Hollywood romantic comedy film. For the very first time, there is a gay, male teenage protagonist at the centre of this story. It is based on the novel Simon vs The Homosapiens Agenda, written by Becky Albertalli.
Simon Spier comes from a relatively wealthy background, has a supportive group of friends and a nice life but has one big secret… he’s gay. He hides this from everyone he knows and loves, until one day, he opens up to someone… sort of.
You see, Simon’s school blog, “Creeksecrets”, allows people to post anonymously, without fear of being judged. After another student, calling themselves “Blue” reveals publicly that they are gay, Simon reaches out (using the pseudonym “Jacques”) and the two form a romance over email, not knowing each other’s true identities.
After Simon’s secret and relationship with Blue is threatened, he spends the rest of the film in an uncomfortable situation while also trying to discover his love interest’s true identity.
Do they get a happy ending? Guess you’ll have to watch to find out.
toy story (1995-2019)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Jim Varney, R. Lee Ermey, Blake Clark, Laurie Metcalf, John Morris, Erik von Detten
With four films spanning between 1995 and 2019, the adventures of cowboy Woody, space ranger Buzz Lightyear and the rest of their toy friends truly are timeless.
The kids that originally grew up watching these movies are now adults, some may even have their own children to show these to. Now, a modern generation of kids can enjoy Toy Story for themselves.
While the main characters are toys, “a child’s plaything!”, the acting from the talented ensemble cast including Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, humanises them in a way that makes the characters feel very real. It is very easy to empathise and feel an emotional connection to these toys, especially after having been in our lives for so long.
In my opinion, none of these films are “bad” but some are better than others. My sentimental favourite is Toy Story 2, with the order following as Toy Story 3, Toy Story and finally, Toy Story 4. That’s just my personal feelings, though. It’s entirely possible that you feel the exact opposite way.
Each of the film’s storylines, while vastly different, incorporate the same, familiar themes. These include acceptance, love, friendship and family – which is what many, if not all of those watching would want in their lives.