A Quarantine TV Survival Guide

We’re certainly living in unprecedented times with the outbreak of COVID-19 affecting everyone around the world in ways big and small. While many are braving the front lines in health care (shout out to my friends in the medical field), most of us have been ordered to stay home to help slow the spread of the disease. So what are we to do when we’ve got nowhere to go? Well far be it from me to tell you how to spend your time BUT if you were going to spend some of your quarantine watching TV, I just so happen to have a few great recommendations for you.

In the ocean of great TV shows, it can be hard to decide what to watch next. Sure you’ve got your obvious choices like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, but there’s more out there, I’m telling ya! The shows listed out here are somewhat less well known than the two I mentioned above but are no less deserving of your attention. Check out a few episodes, you might find yourself hooked before you know it:

Person of Interest

  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Length: 5 seasons, 103 episodes

A thought-provoking and action-packed examination of technology run amuck, Person of Interest feels more prescient with every passing year. The show follows a eccentric millionaire (played by Michael Emerson from LOST) who recruits a former CIA operative (Jim Caviezel, AKA Jesus from The Passion of the Christ) to use a surveillance system he created to track down victims and perpetrators of violent crime to either protect them or prevent further crime from happening.

The show deftly balances stand alone episodes with a serialized storyline about surveillance in the digital age. Perhaps my favorite part of the show is the way it evolves over its run to focus more on its overarching story. What starts as a pretty generic procedural (it originally aired on CBS) soon morphs into a daring and unique piece of genre television.

The Shield

  • Where to Watch: Hulu
  • Length: 7 seasons, 88 episodes

Forget what you think you know about cops shows because FX’s The Shield is like none of them that you’ve seen. The show follows Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his “Strike Team”, and they investigate crime in a fictional district of Los Angeles. To say too much would be to your detriment as this is a show best experienced blind, but suffice it to say, The Shield grabs you from the first frame, and it doesn’t let up until its gut wrenching series finale. This show put FX on the map as a serious player in scripted television, and once you watch, you’ll understand why.

Damages

  • Where to Watch: Hulu
  • Length: 5 seasons, 59 episodes

Do you like your cut-throat legal dramas crossed with plenty of twists and season-long flashforwards thrown in for good measure? Then Damages is the show for you! The series stars Glen Close as killer attorney Patty Hughes and Rose Byrne as her protégée Ellen Parsons, as the two women engage in various legal battles against all kinds of unscrupulous millionaires. Buckle up for plenty of double crosses and backroom deals. While the show can occasionally get a little too sprawling for its own good, its all-star cast and propulsive cliffhangers give plenty of reason to keep watching.

The Americans

  • Where to Watch: Prime Video
  • Length: 6 seasons, 75 episodes

With absolutely no exaggeration, The Americans is one of the best dramas of all time, and yet it never received the attention it deserved. The show stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell as two soviet sleeper agents living outside DC in the 80s as they balance their cover identities with the pressures of raising two kids. It also happens that their neighbor is an FBI agent (played with heart by Noah Emmerich). Things get shall we say…complicated. The show uses its espionage trappings to get you interested and slowly reveals that it’s really a story about marriage and family. You don’t regret watching this one.

Hannibal

  • Where to Watch: Prime Video
  • Length: 3 seasons, 39 episodes

Hannibal is a hard show to describe, but one thing I can guarantee is that you’ve NEVER seen anything quite like it. To call the it baroque would be an understatement. With an all-time great portrayal of classic villain Hannibal Lector from Mads Mikkelson at the center, Hannibal takes a deep and often twisted look into the very nature of violence and those who investigate violent crime. If you’re squeemish or faint of heart, this is not the show for you. But if you can handle it, this is a show you shouldn’t miss.

Chuck

  • Where to Watch: Prime Video
  • Length: 5 seasons, 91 episodes

Now for something a little more fun. Chuck follows the story of one Chuck Bartowski (played by Zachary Levi), a tech store employee who accidentally gets a CIA super computer downloaded into his brain courtesy of his old college roommate. All of a sudden he is thrust into a world of espionage and danger along with his handlers John Casey (Adam Baldwin) and Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski). Chuck was a show that wore its heart on its sleeve and wasn’t afraid to just be fun. Maybe that’s all we need from time to time.

Voltron: Legendary Defender

  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Length: 8 seasons, 78 episodes

These days it can seem like there isn’t a lot of quality shows out there for kids (granted I don’t have kids myself so maybe I’m wrong). Even more rare than a good kids show is one that adults can also enjoy. I’m here to tell you that those shows exist and Voltron: Legendary Defender is one of them. Created by two producers who worked on Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra, Voltron follows five teens who must pilot five robotic lions in a battle against an intergalactic empire. The show is surprisingly mature and grapples with some pretty heavy subjects but not in a way that isn’t appropriate for younger viewers. With beautiful animation and a great voice cast to top it all off, I was a huge fan of this show from start to finish. Cartoons aren’t just for kids folks!

Justified

  • Where to Watch: Hulu
  • Length: 6 seasons, 78 episodes

Of all the shows on this list, Justified might be my favorite of them all. The show stars Timothy Olyphant as US Marshal Raylan Givens, who is sent home to his home town of Harlan, Kentucky after an on the job shooting puts him in hot water. Of course this is a place where he has tons of history and left behind for good reason. In the early going, Justified takes its time introducing you to Raylan and the various figures from his past. But it isn’t long before that past starts making trouble for Raylan and his fellow marshals.

What makes Justified so great is the way it balances episodic stories with ongoing arcs about the past, and it shows the ways that the sins of our predecessors can linger on. The show is filled to the brim with whipsmart dialogue, intense shootouts, and characters (looking at you Mags Bennett) that will go down in annals of TV history. There’s a lot to love here, and once you get started on this show, you won’t be able to stop until you reach the immensely satisfying end.

“We dug coal together.”


Whew, we made it! That ought to give you enough to keep you busy for a long time. Check these shows out, and let me know what else you’re watching while on quarantine in the comments below!

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