TV Recommendations for the Newly Shut-In

TV Recommendations for the Newly Shut-In

I’ve Been Training for this My Whole Life.

There are two types of introverts: introverts, and losers pretending to have some control over their lives. I’ve been both, which is why I’m perfectly prepared to both cope with social isolation and to help you do it too. As the world is forced to spend time in its own company, people are slowly realising that they’ve never been happy, fulfilled, or in love, just busy. This is a grim realisation, a psychological forty days in the desert that will test and find wanting most who are stupid or unlucky enough to venture into it. Fortunately, you don’t need to, because there exists a readymade distraction: Television.

Television is the teacher I listened to, the parent I still bother to see, and your saviour in this time of involuntary introspection. I come from a time when television was something that happened whether you were watching it or not, a time when you’d watch all of Passions because it was on and you were trying to work out whether Timmy was a midget or a kid. Over these brutal years and through to the abundance of the modern world, I have accumulated a list of fantastic programming that you now have all the time in the world to watch. Better get on it, when the world goes back to normal, you wanna make sure you’re still normal enough to go back with it.

A Question of Access.

I didn’t watch Passions by choice, I watched it because it was on, a now defunct concept in a Web 2.0 world. I didn’t have the option to just click about and find anything I could have ever wanted to watch. My first experience with that was Kazaa back in the early aughts, and you were just as likely to get that one video of the lady making love to a horse than you were the episode of Family Guy you missed. No, the modern world spoils you with various streaming sites and an assortment of illegal but not immoral means of finding what you are looking for.

Regarding that, some of what I mention here will be streamable, but even that is a process that can be a hassle. It may be on Australian Netflix, but not the Norwegian. HBO is nice enough to be streaming a bunch of stuff for free, but this in inaccessible in Australia. The list of hassles goes on. For these reasons, and because some of this will absolutely not be on a streaming site, feel free to pirate. I recommend https://1337x.is/home/ or https://rarbgproxied.org/index80.php for most things. These work for me in Ausland, but you may have to use a VPN or something to access them. Free versions for your browser are enough to get where you are going, so unless you’re very worried about being caught, you don’t need a paid one. If you have any further hassles, just google one of those followed by “mirror” and click around, the worst you’ll get is rejected.

Now, on with the good stuff.

The Wire

At its core, The Wire is about systemic failure with Baltimore City as the main character. It answers the questions “why are things like this?” and “why doesn’t someone fix it?” over five seasons that each focus on a different city institution and the ways they inevitably play their part in a cycle of misery.

The opening scene of the first episode is a perfect introduction to the series: beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, tragic, hilarious, and borrowed from reality. The story was a real thing the show’s creator, David Simon, saw play out while researching for his book Homicide. This use of reality is common throughout the series—real people are used instead of actors, events and characters are taken from Simon’s time as a police reporter, Simon’s own insistence that characters reflect reality rather than be built for an audience—and this permeates the show. So much so that Andre Royo, in his role as the crackhead Bubbles, was so convincing in his performance as a hungry addict that he was given free crack by a sympathetic legitimate example.

The misery on show is incredibly bitter, brutal, and tragic, but the fundamental absurdity of the situation (particularly to foreigners), the fact that the idiot-god bureaucracies that feign blindness to real solutions are often as much Gilliam as Kafka, and the fundamental wildness of some of the street tales, runs the risk of pushing the series into its own near magical reality. This could easily be some kind of alternate history or other what-if, but the fidelity to reality keeps its tone and world scathingly real.

This reality extends to the narrative structure, too, the show never lingers on characters simply because they are popular or fun. Seasons bravely ignore large elements of prior ones to shift focus to a whole new set, something you’ll find jarring until you develop as deep an interest in the new ones as you did in the old. It’s at times hilarious, hilariously tragic, tragic, and incredibly infuriating, but it is never bad. It’s the show that university courses will be structured around for a reason, and yes, it’s better than Breaking Bad.

HBO is streaming it, but you can torrent it if you aren’t an USA-ite.

Highlights.

In a show with as many well drawn characters across so wide a focus, the show has more highlights than I could mention in a day. The Fuck Scene leaps to mind, and I do love it, but my vote for best moment in the show is always going to be Snoop buying a nail gun from the start of season 4.

Snoop is a small but lethal killer for local drug lord Marlow Stanfield. She’s not even human enough to be vicious about it, treating it instead like as dry a task as rearranging books in a library that focuses entirely on programming languages, but for about five minutes she has a genuine connection with a middle-aged, male hardware store employee. They bond over the hassles of weaker nail guns and the fact that they always run out of juice right in the middle of a “contract”. The whole scene has an awkward tension, like either party could say one of any number of things you’d expect them to say that would burst this fragile moment and summon an ugly alternative, but it never comes. It’s two entirely separate and completely hostile worlds coming together over something perfectly innocuous, and never quite realising what’s taken place.

Oh, and fun fact, it’s where this gif comes from.

The Joe Schmoe Show Season 1

The human need for recognition and control is so strong it can, when threatened, wholly override any need to belong or be liked by a group, and this principle has found its zenith in the early 2000s reality show freaks. You know the ones I’m talking about, the jerks and mutants they populate these shows with to conjure up drama or torture for our grotesque amusement. The Joe Schmoe Show was predicated on this idea but turned the whole show into a prank on one of these jerks where all the other contestants were actors and the whole thing was staged. There was just one problem, their planned fall guy was a genuinely nice human being.

The result is a fascinating piece of television. A fake reality show designed to parody reality shows turns into a real reality show because their subject doesn’t want to act fake for a reality show. He broke the game and forced the actors, host, and producers to react, creating the most honest reality show story ever broadcast.

There are two other seasons, but I wouldn’t bother with them. The first is a perfect piece of amazingly accidental meta that can never be recreated.

I can’t find a torrent, but it seems to be available on YouTube and DailyMotion if you poke around.

Highlights.

There are some fun, “Hey, it’s that person!” moments in this show like Rickety Cricket (David Hornsby) from Always Sunny is here as The Asshole and Kristin Wiig is here in a pre-SNL role as The Crazy Marriage Counsellor!

The Sumo episode is a good one, but really, the show is like a novel in that it shines brightest in its fullness.

Monkey Dust

Have you ever tried to make your cat laugh, only to find yourself pondering whether the little animal is even capable of finding something funny? What about dogs? They’re pretty clever. Dolphins, gotta be able to make a dolphin laugh.

The science behind funny is poorly researched (at least, as of 2014 when I was still a student), but the theory I hang my hat on is that laughter began as a calming call following an erroneous threat signal. Monkey screams “Tiger!” but there’s no tiger, so he makes an ass of himself while the rest laugh to negate the fear, that sort of thing. This idea of humour to counter horror persists in a lot of us today.

Making the dark funny requires some kind of fundamental twist, George Carlin suggested rape could be funny if it was Elmer Fudd being raped by Porky Pig. The joke is shifted from rape, to the horror of the idea of rape being paired with beloved children’s characters.

Monkey Dust is an animated sketch comedy show that takes that idea to truly horrifying extremes.

What if something is only a joke because it is in a sketch comedy show? It’s a meta approach to the above theory that makes Monkey Dust’s excruciatingly cruel “Divorced Dad and Timmy” sketches so fascinating, and worth the time of anyone curious about the nature of comedy. Fortunately, there are other, less experimental, jokes too. The Paedofinder General, serial killer Ivan Dobsky, a woman trying to breastfeed cats, and Noodles the Laboratory Rabbit are all there to lighten things up.

In less competent hands, the material would be mindlessly crass, but Monkey Dust understands the points of the jokes, and the deeper jokes those points draw out. It’s the difference between an invented language with its own grammar and syntax, and someone howling incoherently. The result is troubling but challenging, a richer experience than simply being kicked in the dick and told it’s a prank. Great soundtrack, too.

It’s on torrent sites.

Highlights.

If there’s one thing British sketch comedy can do, it’s come up with catchphrases you’ll be using long after. I still point a shaking finger at friends and threateningly accuse them of “Peeedopheliaaaaa”. The show abounds in them so you’ll no doubt find your own.

On the Air

I often think about Invader Zim creator Jhonen Vasquez, his early work on comics like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac (a graphic work about a homicidal maniac) and how Nickelodeon saw that body of work and decided his kid’s show would be great, only to bail on it in season 2 while work was still being done on season 3. I can’t stop wondering what people were expecting when they looked at his work, at him, and gave him money and a timeslot.

David Lynch is a fucking lunatic which makes him a fine artist. His early non-narrative film work permeates his narrative film work, and the result is a truly distinct cinematic language. He is also a fucking lunatic, and once campaigned on behalf of Laura Dern for an Oscar for her role in his film Inland Empire, by parking himself, a live cow, and a large picture of Laura Dern with “For your consideration” printed on it on a street corner in Hollywood. He’s been like this his whole life. He was like this when he made Eraserhead. He was like this when they gave him Dune. He was like this when they let him do Twin Peaks.

In spite of Twin Peaks, the ABC network let him do a sitcom, a fucking SITCOM, and only aired 3 episodes of the 7 that were filmed because it was weird. Now, if you don’t like David Lynch, you will not like this. If you do, or if you are open to the idea, then get amongst it. It’s about a 3rd rate 1950s television network, Zoblotnick Broadcasting Company (ZBC), and their attempts to produce a variety program called “The Lester Guy Show”. The first night is a debacle, resulting in the unintended stardom of the demented innocent Betty, with the rest of the series being about her dealing with her new fame, and Lester Guy’s plans to ruin her.

Lynch’s mad realities, while sometimes very fucking funny, have never been comedies. They’re also rarely this short. So, this is Lynch going for yuks in a very short format, which tightens his surreal dreamscapes into the kinds of hits you’d normally have to inject into the vein under your scrotum.

There’s a torrent of it where the first and second 3 episodes are lumped together and then the 7th is stray, but they’re there to be found.

Highlights.

The Hurry-Up Twins. Bozeman’s Simplex. Betty forgetting her mother’s name. Generally realising that this is the live action Far Side series that could otherwise never exist.

Gravity Falls

The world of children’s animation has come a long way from my childhood of glorified toy commercials and He-Man episodes that were clearly written by a brain embolism. The adult themes and jokes that began as sly winks to otherwise bored parents were used as foundational material by new generations of creators, leading to series with complex serialised stories, characters, and depth. The best example of all of these being Gravity Falls.

The show is about twins Dipper and Mabel, great nephew and niece to Grand Uncle (Grunkle) Stan, a grifter who runs a mystery spot tourist trap in the eponymous town of Gravity Falls, and Dipper’s quest to unlock the mysteries of his obviously mysterious surrounds. It’s a perfect setting that gives each episode fantastic creative license and adds a terrific narrative drive to the series.

Appealing to both young and old usually starts at one end and works its way toward the centre. Adventure Time is a wacky kid’s program that grew into a more complex work. Regular Show is a sitcom about dead-end twenty-somethings that replaced beer with soda. Gravity Falls weaves between both with such sophistication and care that none of what it does ever feels like a cover for something it couldn’t say. A perfect example would be the primary romantic tension. Dipper’s futile, 12-year-old crush on Wendy, the 16-year-old cashier of his uncle’s business, is exposed as the immature, creepy thing that it is, and Dipper grows as a result.

That growth is a common thing for the series and one of its strongest elements. Unlike a lot of children’s television, each episode is a full half hour, and the series is serialised, so there’s an inevitable maturity to it that follows from a narrative world that has inescapable consequences. Unlike a lot of adult television, it is a planned program running only two seasons, a completely told story without any filler. There’s no retconning or sloppily added lore, so everything builds beautifully to an impossible crescendo of madness I’ve not seen since Evangelion.

It has great action, meaningful stories, amazing animation, and a finale that earns the title, Gravity Falls is an all timer.

It’s on Disney+

Highlights.

There’s a moment in the first episode where you realise you were very deliberately and very cleverly hoodwinked by a rigged Chekhov’s gun. The reveal of the first episode’s mystery hooked me on the series immediately, so it’s a gem. Additionally, the episodes “Fight Fighters” and “Soos and the Real Girl” are fantastic stories with great pixel art by Paul Robertson.

Veep

In May of 2019, two of HBO’s series came to an end. One was the culmination of years of work, the payoff to complex plots that reflected everything that had come before and wound itself into a satisfying conclusion. The other was Game of Thrones.

Veep stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as former senator, now Vice President Selina Meyer, a woman who’d be tragic if she could just not be a giant cunt for five minutes. Surrounding her are a mix of the burdensome leftovers of White House function, the aids and advisors sent to her only because executing them is illegal. The series charts this awful woman’s fight to get what she deserves, the office of President of The United States of America.

Veep is one of those comedies whose strength builds as the series goes on. This is not to say that the early seasons are weak, just the late ones are so strong it can’t help but look small by comparison. The density of jokes, characters, and stories are the kinds of things a lesser series would find itself tripped up by, but Veep’s writers navigate it ease. Each episode is a half hour artfully packed with an hour’s worth of callbacks within callbacks, wrapped in wordplay and insight, peppered with creative profanity and delivered by the cruel to the cretinous. It’s high farce, evil withheld only by incompetence, with a depth that gives its story world the means to survive as satire even when the real world grew madder around it.

While it’s written like a series version of the perfect comeback you think of moments after the fact, the critical point is the characters and cast. Highlights include Tony Hall’s Gary, Selina’s assistant, a man who may have once been a parasite but has spent so long doing it he’s been subsumed into his host like an advantageous gut bacterium. Gary Cole’s Kent, House Mentat and dehydrated wit. Clea DuVall’s Marjorie, Meyer’s bodyguard and extremely sensible lesbian. Sam Richardson’s Richard Splett, what you’d get if Nintendo character Kirby swallowed Barack Obama. And Timothy Simons’ Jonah, initially a presidential aid and perpetually a colossal piece of shit. Each would be enough for a show individually but together they form amazing constellations of hilarious interactions.

But beyond the comedy is the tiny but important moments of character depth that eventually builds each into horrors more horrifying because we begin to understand them, and through that, how close we are to them. They are also what makes the finale so poignant, a genuine sense of familiarity and care that adds jokes where none are made simply because we know the characters well enough to see the comedy in their situations.

Veep is a fantastic binger because it’s 22 minutes an episode and about 8-10 episodes a season. It’s on HBO or you can torrent it if they’re being dicks about your country.

Highlights.

Almost too many to mention. Anything said by Congressman Roger Furlong is an absolute miracle of vile cruelty and artful comedy, but the sly MVP for the series is really Uncle Jeff. Played with savage gusto by Peter MacNicol, Uncle Jeff is a terrible human being made an avenging angel by being pointed at an even more terrible human being, his ghastly nephew Jonah. He only has a few scenes across the whole series, but I rewatch them regularly and still laugh every time.

Atlanta

I hate Donald Glover’s music career. Not so much because I dislike his music, though I don’t really care for it, but because anything that gets between him and finishing this series is the kind of crime I cannot watch happen.

The series focuses on Glover’s Earn, his rapper cousin Al/Paperboi, and Al’s advisor/friend Darius on Earn’s quest to make something of himself by managing his cousin’s rap career. But Atlanta is a bit like The Wire in that what it’s about and what it’s about are two different things.

Because, yeah, it’s about Earn trying to manage his cousin’s rap career, but it’s also about how a man navigates his last chance. It’s about the weird hassles of seeing your dealer. It’s about the self, and what that means when the shifting nature of your reality shows you how much of it was just a reflection of your surroundings. It’s about the little frustrations in life, and how they can pile up or hit you at the wrong time. It’s about how modern socioeconomic realities force hyper-commodification of your world and, ultimately, you. It’s about the hassles involved in trying to get a haircut or buy something second hand.

Prior to Atlanta, I’d have sworn a series like this would have to be an hour, as half would be losing too much. What this series does, though, is have the confidence to tell single stories with a tight focus that eschews the awkward need to have every character get a moment in every episode. There’s a subsequent intensity of purpose to each story that melds with the meandering quality of the reality presented. Glover described the show as being like Twin Peaks with rappers, which wound up being more accurate than I first thought, but whereas Twin Peaks is a non-narrative filmmaker who is good at narrative, Atlanta is the inverse. The result is the unsettling dreamlike quality that permeates every frame of Twin Peaks, lingers, sometimes threateningly, sometimes invisibly, in the periphery of Atlanta. Like a dust mote, it will draw your attention, even cross your line of vision, but never enough for you to get a real good look at it. Episodes can move from mundane slice-of-life moments, surreal horrors, and existential breakdowns in the same, imperceptible way physical space shifts in dreams. Everything Atlanta does feels like it’s the sole purpose of the show.

It’s a genius work but he’s too busy messing around with music so each of the two seasons has had a year or so gap between them, with the last one two goddamn years ago.

It’s on FX or you can pirate it.

Highlights.

This is another series with a lot to choose from. Overt things like Teddy Perkins, the almost cyberpunk hypercapitalism of Zan, and the honestly masterful “Laffy Taffy” scene are obvious candidates but I’m more struck by the smaller moments in the show. For me, Brian Tyree Henry’s Al, lost in a forest, and shedding a single tear as he looks up at the moon is an image that pops up whenever I think of it. Well, that and Tobias Walner.

Mike Tyson’s Mysteries

Adult Swim’s 15-minute format has given us a lot of garbage over the years, mostly because it looks like they never say no to an idea, but that attitude has also produced some gems. One of which is this shiny example, about former heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson, his adopted daughter Yung Hee, a ghost played by Jim Rash, and a pigeon played by Norm MacDonald, driving around in a van solving mysteries.

The standard MO for Adult Swim shows is to just throw shit at a wall and see what sticks, which may well have been how this happened, but Mike Tyson’s Mysteries winds up standing out for how well the core concept and elements actually work together. The lynchpin of the whole thing is Tyson, whose total inability to voice act, general batshit insanity, and live-action closing comments gives the whole series an impossibly vérité feel. The result is a perfect foil for the absurdity around him, a straight man who can go from accepting the absurd as though it’s everyday, to reacting like a normal human would when presented with such nonsense and neither feeling forced. It’s the ground that provides context and meaning to the ridiculous leaps, a thing most of these shows forget.

There’re four seasons, which I only found out last week so I’m only halfway through season 3. It’s proving quite weak as it’s doing that thing where the writers mistake no story for a funny story, but seasons one and two don’t have this problem. They’re the best kind of snack sized episodes you can watch a few of in between chores.

Highlights

There’s a run of dialogue at the start of the second episode “Ultimate Judgement Day” where Mike talks about machine code with his daughter that moves through so many misunderstandings and jokes so fast you’ll have to rewatch it a few times just to get them all. It’s brilliant, a feat that is, again, really made by Tyson’s plain delivery.

Get a Life

Right now, you’re staying sane by convincing yourself that your current turn as a pointless loser is a temporary imposition by vast forces beyond your control and that things will eventually return to normal. Whether or not that’s true, it’s not, you’re a loser now and the best way for a loser to feel better is to lord themselves over an even bigger loser. Like a 30-year-old paperboy.

Get a Life, a bit like On the Air, was the almost predictable result of giving Chris Elliott, a man whose comic credits included the creepy guy who lived under David Letterman’s stairs, his own sitcom. The result was a wildly ahead of it’s time work of postmodern sitcom subterfuge. Chris starred as Chris, a 30-year-old paperboy and anthropomorphic melanoma on the otherwise blemish free skin of an idyllic sitcom world. His loving but long-suffering mother, cranky father, best friend, and various side characters, are all the exact pieces of set dressing you’d see in any other banal sitcom. The all-seeing sitcom lighting making them nearly as two-dimensional as the wallpaper world that surrounded them.

In the pilot, Chris was a loveable wise cracker. The scripts that were submitted for Fox’s approval were standard, sentimental, family fare. The pilot was a lie to get the show picked up. The scripts were lies, the writers would change them before filming. The series was about what would happen if Dennis the Menace grew into a borderline psychopath of an adult.

Chris Elliott has has a knack for playing characters who radiate the kind of mad energy that makes you wary of getting within arm’s reach of them. He used this to full effect as he sat in front of a television audience from 19fucking90 and proceeded to pull the wings off the still beloved family sitcom, gurgling with glee the entire time. The show would dive headlong into absurdity, like a paper delivery competition against a giant robot delivery boy/mobile command vehicle, building his own submarine, and becoming a male model (the episode was famously the inspiration for the quite terrific group Handsome Boy Modelling School). Then there’s season two.

The series was cancelled at the end of season one, only to be bafflingly revived for another on the proviso Chris’s character exhibited some growth. The series decided to take advantage of/punish that by having Chris move in with a different old man, but also had him die in around ten episodes, only for it to not be mentioned in the next. The series is a Frankenstein’s Monster, a foul looking beast made from parts that have no business being together, let alone moving on their own, but that contain an amazing mind with commentary we wouldn’t see for at least another decade.

Besides Elliott, the show was written by a soon to be The Simpsons alum, David Mirkin, and a pre-Mr Show Bob Odenkirk, and it shows. The show has a threatening quality to it, like it’s daring you to watch it, and the reward you get is a surreal journey into an emotion toward sitcoms that’s neither love nor hate, but twice as intense as either. Get a Life ran so shows like South Park and Community could walk.

You can get DVDs on Amazon which have a lot of good bonus features. Amongst which is another ahead of it’s time thing, stripping the laugh track out. Not only does it really reshape the series, but you can occasionally hear crew laughing at lines. Otherwise, pirate it.

Highlights.

Fucking Spewey.

Lookwell/Heat Vision and Jack

Now these are actually two different shows, I’m pairing them together because they only have one episode each. Both were pilots that weren’t picked up, because fuck.

Lookwell comes to us from Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel, who you’ll recognise as the man behind some of the most comedically important episodes of The Simpsons and the guy behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, TV Funhouse, The Dana Carvey Show, and innumerable SNL and Late Night with Conan O’Brien bits. Naturally, what they made is fucking hilarious.

Lookwell stars the late Adam West as Ty Lookwell, a 3rd rate actor who played the TV detective Bannigan and has since failed to pick up any other roles. He now wanders around with the Lucite cube sealed honorary detective’s badge he was given, thinking he can solve crimes. When not solving crimes, he teaches an acting course, and wrangles some of his students in to help him on various stakeouts and stings.

Firstly, West nails the character perfectly. It’s a hard line to have him wander about, brandishing a badge-cube, and thinking he can order plainclothes police around, without having him look thoroughly delusional, but West walks this perfect line of madness and lucidity that holds the show together. He never acknowledges he’s wrong, he never notices setbacks, he… can’t… help… but make… deductions! And he is so convincing you can’t help but believe him.  

Heat Vision and Jack comes to us a little later, 1999, but still too early for what it was. It stars Jack Black as Jack, a NASA astronaut whose miscalculated flight near the sun filled his brain with solar goodness and makes him the smartest man on Earth whenever he’s in direct sunlight. NASA naturally wanted to weaponize him, so Jack fled on Heat Vision, his erstwhile best-friend whose mind was fused into a motorcycle. Pursuing them is the relentless character actor, Timecop villain, and NASA fixer, Ron Silver, playing character actor, Timecop villain, and NASA fixer, Ron Silver.

Like, Lookwell, the premise alone is great and enough to see why it was never picked up. The series was going to work a bit like The Incredible Hulk, with the pair going from town to town, getting involved with people’s lives as they try to stay one step ahead of Ron Silver. The episode we get features a malicious, green alien energy form called Paragon, who seeks to kill all monkey sluts. Like a lot of formula shows, the story hinges around Jack getting some sunlight onto his noggin and declaring his catchphrase, “I…KNOW…EVERYTHING!”, before defeating the villain.

It’s the brainchild of Ben Stiller, and his direction in the episode is that shade of skilled that was rare for all but premier television at the time. It has a tone that has a sly wink to it, but not one that looks into the camera, so the story world is a secure thing that doesn’t get polluted by the eccentricities of the concept. This is important as it was written by Rob Schrab and a young Dan Harmon, meaning there’s a lot of wild lines that would have punched a hole in an otherwise weaker universe. Instead, both elements work together to create something that you’ll curse the heavens for denying us more of.

Both are on YouTube.

Highlights.

Each is about 30 minutes of genius, so they’re ALL highlight, appreciate ‘em cause it’s all you’re gonna get.

Conclusion.

Naturally, the virus is still here and you’re still inside, cowering from multi-headed Polybats that have begun to spread it more aggressively (those are in Australia, if you haven’t got them yet, get used to smearing yourself in vegemite to hide your scent). Odds are, you were going slightly mad before you started watching these shows, and, to be honest, these will probably make things worse.

At first.

See, the thing about going insane by yourself inside is that fighting it just makes it stronger. You have to let it storm over you, reveal its shape to you, then wear itself out. Once it has weakened, you can put it in a little wheel with a generator attached and use it as a source of clean, renewable ego.

Feel free to discuss this material or suggest your own things in the comments, but be warned, I will judge you terribly harshly if any of your suggestions should fail to meet my rigorous standards. Now-now, don’t look like that, you’ve been coddled by a world of creators so desperate for your attention that they’ve not expected any better of you. We can’t be doing that here or you’ll only degenerate further, remember, you’re a shut-in now.

By Gabriel.

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20 Replies to “TV Recommendations for the Newly Shut-In”

  1. Don’t watch Monkey Dust if you’re feeling suicidal, because it’ll push you over the edge and it’ll laugh about it.

  2. I was expecting BoJack on this to be honest. I’ve only heard good things and seem to remember you yourself saying you watch it, any reason it didnt make the cut?

    1. Bojack lost a lot of points for the show’s failure to balance his villainy. The things he did were supposed to be so bad within the story world that he couldn’t come back, but he couldn’t go too far or he’d be so alienated from the viewers as to become unsympathetic. So everyone’s judgements of him were either wildly hypocritical in cases like Mr Peanutbutter and Todd, or just dismally petty in regards to Diane and the others.

      The need to maintain a sense of threat over the final season drew this out obnoxiously, then played off his imprisonment as though it were something worthy of how his misbehaviour was presented, even though it took maybe 120 seconds of screen time, he was never depicted suffering or even disliking it, and he was allowed out on celebrity rich guy rules, which is something the series would have normally lambasted as yet another failure of society to hold him to account.

      The tease of the death in the pool was tacky, a fakeout of how things should have ended just so they could have their cake and eat it too. The ending as is was fine enough, but didn’t fit with any of the arcs leading to it.

      It’s a good show with moments of brilliance, but sloppy tone balance and cowardice in regards to Bojack as a character drag it down heavily.

  3. I haven’t seen… well, any of these shows all the way through. Cool, I’ll get on that. Wouldn’t be able to watch The Wire unless I was quarantined for an indefinite period of time anyway.
    Also, Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law is one of the easiest shows to watch repeatedly. A good shut-in standby.

    1. Yeah, there’s a few things that almost made the list and Birdman was one of them. I opted for Mike Tyson instead because Birdman is fairly old and well known at this point. Tyson has flown under the radar a bit.

      There are a lot of almosts, so I’ll probably do more lists as the saga drags on.

  4. just getting into money dust now cheers for the recommendation, but im surprised to see venture bros missing i woulda thought that be right up ur alley.

    1. I like Venture Bros, but I do think the earlier seasons are a little weak. It builds fantastically, but without that depth, the early eps can be a dry Hannah-Barbara parody. Also, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and I wanted to highlight some older things like On the Air and Get a Life, which I seldom see mentioned.

      That said, one of my favourite lines ever comes from Billy in season two when he said, “Nice shooting William Burroughs. You hold a gun like a guy that plays Riven” which is one of the best one-two references I’ve ever seen.

  5. I started watching Gravity Falls because I wanted to justify having Disney+, besides Mandalorian, Simpsons, and Gargoyles. It turned out to be one of my favorite shows ever, well written, funny and deeply layered. My only real negative I can’t really say because it would spoil the very end of the show (it does have something to do with Stanley) but It’s only a minor quibble.

    As far as recommendations go, I’d go for Hannibal since it’s a show that evolves over time from very gory police procedural to an art house thriller. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s very gory, especially for something made for American network television and it features a great cast. It’s currently on Amazon Prime Video here in America.

    For those that like professional wrestling, I’d recommend No Way Out 2001 as a slightly underrated PPV that got lost in the shuffle because it sits between the best Royal Rumble and the best Wrestlemania. It really does have everything, a high work rate match for the Intercontinental championship and arguably the main event, a couple of fun trash brawls for the Hardcore and Tag champs, one of the best matches for a non wrestler with Trish vs Stephanie, and a great story in the 3 stages of hell match.

    I highly enjoyed watching this, would you have some suggestions for movies/movie series’?

    1. I avoided all pro wrestling simply because a lot of the best of it needs a lot of context to work. Moves used as callbacks to establish a narrative continuity between matches that are months or years apart are hard to explain to newcomers. Wrestling would be a list of its own that would be more about showing different wrestling to existing wrestling fans.

      Movies would be their own list, too, but just because a solid list would take up a lot of space and need to cover a wide variety of genres. As for recommendations, Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” is a very well made mystery and things like that are great if you need your mind taken off something because they demand active cognitive attention.

      In that same vein, I rewatched “Brick” recently and loved it. The first time I saw it was when it came out, and my proximity to high school made it chafe a bit, but distance let me see that it wasn’t about how high school was but how it felt. The recontextualization helped stabilise the story world and sell it like a more mature “Bugsy Malone”.

      1. Yeah, never got around to seeing “Knives Out,” I was always seeing something that interested me more, like “The Lighthouse” or “Uncut Gems,” both of which I’d recommend. It does have people I generally like seeing like Lakeith Stanfield and Ana de Armas, so I’ll probably check it out eventually.

        Honestly, as far as wrestling goes, I’ve been using this opportunity to watch promotions I haven’t really paid attention to before, like wXw, OTT, and some of the Lucha promotions. I need to watch more than WWE, AEW, and New Japan, just to get more variety.

  6. Get a Life was a show that I thought I had made up because nobody else I knew had ever heard of it. So thank you at the very least in affirming that I hadn’t hallucinated it.

  7. The worst part of this pandemic for me has been the existential dread caused by seeing other people being destroyed by living in a way not much different from my day to day life.

  8. Alright, since you brought up Gravity Falls and you made positive comments about Batman: The Brave and the Bold, I’d recommend Avatar: The Last Airbender.
    It does everything I like about Gravity Falls but in some cases even better: Mature and layered writing, comic relief and humor to give shit time to breathe (I’m gonna be honest, Mabel was always more annoying than comical for me), incredible worldbuilding and an awe-inducing multi-part finale.
    The incorporation of martial arts gives the animation enough novelty to draw you in by the visuals of the fight scenes alone (I remember you saying at some point that you do/did Tai Chi, which is one of the inspirations for one of the four main bending styles in the series). Its biggest flaw, is arguably the same as Gravity Falls’s, which is that its first season got some obligatory kids show filler, but man once the show gets going, it GETS GOING.

  9. Adult swim seems to be either garbage or brilliant, and from a description of the show you have no way of telling. I guess Mike Tyson mysteries is just another example.

  10. As with all things, even recipe suggestions, I will throw Freakazoid into the ring and refuse to back up my suggestion or explain why it is a good dish for those with coeliac disease.
    Also a good one, but probably more well known – Black Books. Goddamn, peak Dylan Moran delivery, an absolute nightmare of a main character, daft plots and cameos from a lot of the ‘Channel 4’ alums. Basically anyone you ever saw in Spaced or Shaun of the Dead.

    1. HUGGBEES! There’s always one Freakazoid fan.

      Black Books and Father Ted were both close to getting on the list. I’d be veering more toward Father Ted, though, but largely because I’ve found it a little overshadowed by Black Books these days.

  11. Speaking of shows that died too soon, Mission Hill is great watching if you can find it. Great characters, a simply manic artstyle, and humor that tiptoes between earnest and absurd. It’s a shame it only has one season, but imo that season is absolutely worth watching

    1. Mission Hill was close, I feel like if it had a second season and could bring together and refine some of its elements, it would have been a killer show. It leapt straight into the kind of stronger cast and setting it took The Simpsons a year or so to get to and is high on my list of might-have-beens.

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