Being stuck in self-isolation might feel like the pits, but it does allow you the opportunity to get your pop culture knowledge up to date.
We’ve already tried to help by suggesting podcasts you should listen to and live concerts you can stream daily, but for those who want to spend their time on the couch catching up on all the TV they’ve missed out on, you’ve come to the right place. From mafia epic The Sopranos to the funniest sitcom of all time (Seinfeld), here are seven of the greatest TV shows to binge-watch while quarantined.
The Wire – Although it struggled during its initial run, critics and fans have universally praised The Wire as one of the defining shows of modern television. This Baltimore-set crime drama focuses on both the police and criminals and is unlike any show that came before it. What sets it apart from similar cop dramas is how each season is centred around a certain issue (illegal drugs, the port, city government, education, and the print media) and the effect this has on the everyday lives of the characters. Brilliantly written with a cast of then unknowns (including Idris Elba, Michael K. Williams and Dominic West), The Wire is the shit. It’s also President Obama’s favourite show, so you know it’s worth watching.
Deadwood – Sadly cut short after just three seasons, David Milch’s take on the western genre is a foul-mouthed (fuck is uttered on an average of 1.56 times per minute) and violent look at America in the 1870s. Weaving historical characters and events into a narrative about the gold rush town of Deadwood, the show is anchored by Milch’s incredible dialogue, complex characters and career-defining performances from Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant. The unfortunate axing of Deadwood left fans with more questions than answers, but after 13 long years, a feature-length film was finally released, tying up loose ends and rewarding fans with a suitable climax.
Seinfeld – Whoever thought a show about nothing would go on to become the greatest sitcom of all time? Despite a less than stellar finale, Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer managed to get themselves into all sorts of trouble—usually through their own actions—with hilarious results across nine seasons. What makes the characters so lovable (or hateable) is that we all know someone as neurotic as George or as selfish as Jerry, making the wild situations they find themselves in all the more relatable. The series also gave us one of the greatest TV dad’s in the form of Frank Costanza. ‘Serenity now, serenity now!’
Lost – I’ll be the first to admit Lost goes off the rails during the final season (let’s not talk about that finale), but it remains one of the most creative and compelling shows of the past 20 years. A group of strangers trapped on an island is nothing new, but the strong writing from creators J.J. Abrams (Alias, Star Trek, Star Wars) and Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers, Watchmen) manages to turn a seemingly simple disaster show into a jaw-dropping experience. Supernatural elements, conspiracy theories, well-scripted flashbacks and flashforwards, and a fantastic cast only add to the enjoyment of this series.
Breaking Bad – I was slow to jump on the Breaking Bad phenomenon. Three seasons had already aired by the time I got around to watching but I soon devoured it all like a methhead. No show has better encapsulated a man’s descent into evil as loving father and cancer survivor Walter White transforms into a merciless drug-dealing killer. Bryan Cranston, better known as the dad in Malcolm In The Middle, is a revelation as teacher-turned-drug baron White, while Aaron Paul has never been better as his hapless sidekick and addict Jesse Pinkman. Breaking Bad is TV gold with a thrilling final season that delivered a worthy ending.
Curb Your Enthusiasm – If Seinfeld is the best of comedy of all time then Curb Your Enthusiasm is a close second. Following the trials and tribulations of Seinfeld creator Larry David, playing an over the top version of himself, the show is laugh-out-loud funny and loaded with cringe-worthy moments. The absence of a laugh track only heightens David’s embarrassing behaviour, while the celebrity cameos are an added bonus. Curb is universally loved by all the Monster staff, with our editor listing his seven most memorable episodes earlier this year for those yet to bask in the glory of Larry David.
The Sopranos – When it comes to drama no show does it better. On the surface, The Sopranos is a show about mob boss Tony Soprano and the challenges he faces being part of the mafia, but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover The Soprano’s is about Tony’s increasingly fragile mental state as he struggles to balance his work life with his family life. The late James Gandolfini is unbelievable as Soprano, and supported by an incredible cast, including Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, and E-Street Band member Steven Van Zandt as Tony’s consigliere Silvio Dante. The Sopranos helped put HBO on the map and shaped the future of American television, with an ambiguous ending that still gets fans talking today.