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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

TV and Movies to Watch While Stuck at Home—and How to Stream Them

Whether you’re officially quarantined or simply self-isolating, you’re likely stuck at home with a fair amount of time on your hands—and desperate to be entertained. Let’s face it: Working from home means you need to fill the void of the office chatter you’d normally find tedious and distracting. In between your regular video chats with coworkers, you’ll need something to put on in the background while you toil away at home. Not to mention what happens after working hours are over, or when the kids have finally given up on this whole “homeschooling” nonsense.

Luckily, there’s an abundance of entertainment to stream online. But you can’t rely on Netflix for all of it? Here’s a guide to all of the services currently available, filled with movies, TV shows, documentaries, kid’s programming, sports, and theater to make your quarantine a little more cultured.

For TV Lovers

When it comes to original content, Netflix beats all of the other streamers in quantity, which also means it’s sometimes difficult to find the best of the crop. For starters, seek out shows that lasted longer than two seasons, especially if you’re looking to binge-watch. Orange Is the New Black, Stranger Things, BoJack Horseman, Big Mouth, GLOW, Grace and Frankie, Queer Eye, and Narcos—all of these are solid. And while the streaming giant is slowly losing the syndication rights for shows about to make the jump to soon-to-launch competitors like HBO Max, it’s still got plenty of long-running and critically acclaimed series like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, American Crime Story, Pose, Schitt’s Creek, Shameless, Twin Peaks (the original series), The Office, Parks and Recreation, Outlander, and Riverdale. That right there is plenty of comfort TV to last you a few months (but we won’t judge if you’d just rather watch Grey’s Anatomy all over again).

While most of the HBO lineup is absent from Netflix, you can always turn to HBO Now for all of its original content (as well as its current film offerings). If you happen to be an Amazon Prime customer, many of HBO’s first wave of prestige shows are on the service, including Sex and the City, The Sopranos, The Wire, True Blood, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Oz, Enlightened, and Game of Thrones. (And while you’re browsing Prime Video, there’s always Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the site’s two best original shows.)

Hulu remains the best resource for network shows, but the streamer's original programming shouldn’t be overlooked. Yes, there’s The Handmaid’s Tale, The Act, The Looming Tower, and the four-part documentary Hillary if you’re anti-escapism. On the other hand, PEN15, High Fidelity, Harlots, The Mindy Project, and Shrill all offer some lighter alternatives to Hulu’s more popular—and more depressing—programming. Stephen King enthusiasts can also find comfort in the anthology series Castle Rock and alt-history thriller 11.22.63.

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For Movie Buffs and the Art-House Curious

With a few exceptions, Netflix’s original movies aren’t so great, and its catalog titles don't hold up once you start looking for anything made before 1990. But hey, if you still haven’t seen The Irishman, now is your chance! (Just consider it, and its three-and-a-half-hour run-time, like an ’80s-era TV miniseries—only with a lot of swears.) Amazon, meanwhile, almost has too many titles. (Let’s face it, both services would rather you binge-watch TV shows, so they’re more inclined to suggest those.) So, here’s a pro tip: If you’re looking for something specific, check Netflix first, then Amazon; if neither offer them up for free, you can rent pretty much anything on the latter streamer.

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But if you’re trying to be optimistic about quarantine entertainment—and are willing to let a service curate its programming for you—then there are plenty of alternatives to the big streamers. Classic movie lovers can turn to TCM’s app WatchTCM for the cable network’s entire lineup. Yes, you need a cable subscription login to access the library (call your parents, get their password!), but it unlocks an almost endless run of movie classics from the 1920s through the 1980s.

The Criterion Channel’s lineup is even more impressive, especially for movie fans who want a deeper dive into art-house cinema (or are art-house curious). Featuring plenty of Criterion Collection titles, the reasonably priced streamer is an excellent asset for both Criterion fans and those who might not want to shell out $40 for a Fellini Blu-ray. It’ll also give you the opportunity to expand your knowledge of celebrated auteurs like Luis Buñuel, Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Agnes Varda, Abbas Kiarostami, Jean-Luc Godard, and Federico Fellini; delve into Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project; take a tour through film series like Scores by Quincy Jones, Pioneers of African American Cinema, Film Plays Itself, and Spy Games; finally, sit down and watch all three-plus hours of Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels. Just think about how cultured you will sound when you can finally meet up with friends again at a bar!

For Sports Fans

Alas, major league sporting events—from March Madness to Major League Baseball’s opening day—are postponed indefinitely. While ESPN+ might not have much new content to watch, it’s still full of documentaries and scripted TV to fill the void. The app may be worth it for the 30 for 30 collection alone.

For Theater Lovers

What happens if you bought a season pass to your closest regional theater? How about those who were looking forward to seeing a Broadway show? While you won’t find recent smash hits like Hamilton or Dear Evan Hanson, BroadwayHD still has plenty to offer, from plays and musicals on the Great White Way and the West End, made-for-TV musical movies, opera and ballet, concerts and cabaret, and lots of Shakespeare. And it doesn’t skimp recognizable shows: You can find things like The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Oklahoma!, The King and I, Kinky Boots, Sweeney Todd—and yes, even Cats!

If you’re feeling more cultured than usual, you can even catch some of the Metropolitan Opera’s most acclaimed productions from recent years online for free—a steal considering opera tickets are often well over a hundred bucks. Check out the company’s website for its daily schedule of free showings.

For the Kids

Disney+ made the surprise decision to add Frozen 2 over the weekend—three months early. That’s either good or terrible news to parents, who may now be hearing “Into the Unknown” approximately eight to 12 times a day. (But it’s great for Idina Menzel!) But beyond last year’s animated smash, the streamer has an exhaustive collection of Disney classics (with the exception of a few problematic films like Song of the South, still buried in the Disney Vault) and plenty of Disney TV to keep kids occupied.

But there’s also a lot of family-friendly programming to keep everyone at home happy. If you’re a parent who’s suddenly homeschooling an anxious brood of kids, why not let National Geographic take over? Consider it education. And with the complete collections of the Star Wars and Marvel franchises, plus every episode of The Simpsons, even older kids (and grownups) will have something to switch over to when the small ones go to bed.

But Disney doesn’t hold a monopoly over kids programming. In addition to the family-friendly shows and movies on Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu, you can also turn to HBO Now as the cable channel is the new go-to destination for Sesame Street. And PBS offers a free alternative to the subscription-based streamers with their PBS Kids app, which also allows viewers to watch live television—perfect for the working-from-home parent who can’t monitor the TV all day long.

For the Economical Cord-Cutter

PBS’s main app has plenty of free programming for adults, from news programming to arts and music programs to British TV to all of Ken Burns’ exhaustive documentaries. (Maybe consider a donation while you’re enjoying all of this free content?) And if you’re still desperate for some movies and TV but don’t want to sign up for Netflix or Prime, then apps like Tubi and IMDb TV are your best bet. Their libraries aren’t as comprehensive as the big streamers, but there’s plenty available—if you’re willing to sit through a handful of commercial breaks, that is. (Hey, consider it another way to pass the time!)

The Best TV Shows to Watch:

11.22.63 (Hulu)

The Act (Hulu)

American Crime Story (Netflix)

Better Call Saul (Netflix)

Breaking Bad (Netflix)

Big Mouth (Netflix)

BoJack Horseman (Netflix)

Castle Rock (Hulu)

Deadwood (HBO Now, Amazon)

Enlightened (HBO Now, Amazon)

Fleabag (Amazon)

Game of Thrones (HBO Now)

GLOW (Netflix)

Grace and Frankie (Netflix)

Grey’s Anatomy (Netflix)

The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

Harlots (Hulu)

High Fidelity (Hulu)

The Looming Tower (Hulu)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)

The Mindy Project (Hulu)

Narcos (Netflix)

The Office (Netflix)

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)

Outlander (Netflix)

Oz (HBO Now, Amazon)

Parks and Recreation (Netflix)

PEN15 (Hulu)

Pose (Netflix)

Queer Eye (Netflix)

Riverdale (Netflix)

Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)

Sesame Street (HBO Now)

Sex and the City (HBO Now, Amazon)

Shameless (Netflix)

Shrill (Hulu)

The Simpsons (HBO Now)

Six Feet Under (HBO Now, Amazon)

The Sopranos (HBO Now, Amazon)

Stranger Things (Netflix)

True Blood (HBO Now, Amazon)

Twin Peaks (Netflix)

The Wire (HBO Now, Amazon)

The Best Movies to Watch:

30 for 30 (documentary series) (ESPN+)

Avatar (Disney+)

Bambi (Disney+)

Big Hero 6 (Disney+)

Coco (Disney+)

Fantasia (Disney+)

Flight of the Navigator (Disney+)

Free Solo (Disney+)

Frozen 2 (Disney+)

Hillary (four-part documentary) (Hulu)

The Irishman (Netflix)

Jeanne Dielman ,23 Commerce Quay 1080 Brussels (Criterion Channel)

The Marvel Movies (Disney+)

Pinocchio (Disney+)

The Pixar Movies (Disney+)

The Star Wars Movies (Disney+)

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