12 Series & 1 Podcast to Soothe Your Socially Isolated Mind

Hey folks! So I know a lot of us are isolating at home right now and it’s a scary time so a lot of us are probably anxious and scared and generally not feeling great about stuff. It can be easy to get so worked up with fear and anxiety that we let go of the basics so let’s all take a shower, drink some water, breathe deeply, and remember to give ourselves a break from the 24/7 news cycle. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that when things are bad and scary, everything we do must be super helpful and important but I really do think its important to take time to unwind and soothe our troubled minds.

Truth be told, I’ve actually been isolating at home for the last year or so (what’s up debilitating, treatment-resistant depression?!) and so I’m a bit old hat at this right now. Also, because my depression comes with RAGING anxiety I’m also familiar with the feeling of just needing to soothe yourself. There are many ways to accomplish that but today we’re focusing on a super-easy one: television.

As this tweet shows, most of us are not strangers to the idea of comforting television:

But what to do once we are out of episodes of Queer Eye and The Great British Bake-Off (both available on Netflix)? Good question! As someone with a LOT of comfort-watching experience under my belt I will now share with you some of my favorite media to consume when the world is too much. Some of these are things you’ve probably had recommended to you a lot and some might be brand new so strap in and let’s get down to it!

Here are 12 series and 1 podcast that I have relied on when I needed some comfort food for my brain. Check it out!


30 Rock

My partner jokes that this (along with all things Muppet) fit in a category of JoEllen watching labeled “people who want to create stuff but are being driven crazy by everyone around them”. Brought to us by the wonder that is Tina Fey, this show has been a favorite of mine for YEARS. It’s especially awesome for theatre folks like myself but even if you’ve never dealt with an actor meltdown there’s plenty of fun to be had here.

Note: The Queen of Jordan episodes are extra special bits of magic.

Where to watch: Hulu


Bob’s Burgers

Bob’s Burgers is, in my opinion, one of the best animated shows ever created. It’s funny, frequently musical, smart, and surprisingly sex positive. Seriously, in season 3 (in my opinion the BEST of 10 very good seasons) they aired, back to back, an episode where teenage Tina proposes a triad relationship to two boys and an episode set in a swinger community.

Note: Hulu experimented with playlists last year and that resulted in a “Belt it out with the Belchers” playlist that features some of the show’s best episodes all in one place.

Where to watch: Hulu


Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has one of the absolute best casts on television today. Andy Sandberg, Chelsea Peretti, and Joe Lo Truglio are always funny to me but  Terry Crews and Andre Braugher were the comedic gift I didn’t know I needed in my life. Check this one out and you’ll understand why, when Fox (unwisely) tried to cancel it, fans made so much noise that NBC picked it right up. Also, a lot of shows go downhill as they age but in my opinion Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still killing it. Last month’s “Pimemento” episode was easily one of the show’s best.

Note: When I was a kid, I went to dance school with Melissa Fumero (Amy) and here’s some hot goss: Even as a child she was a sweet, kind, delightful person and it is truly a joy to see her succeed.

Where to watch: Hulu


The Good Place

Clever, whimsical, unique and surprisingly thought-provoking but also, somehow a very easy watch. The Good Place will have you laughing, thinking philosophically, and remembering that Ted Danson is an absolute gift to humanity. Speaking of gifts to humanity, a show that can entertain while encouraging us to think about what we, as people, owe each other (a super important question as we get into self-quarantining) is a home run in my book. Also, bonus points for consistently amusing and unexpected plot twists.

Note: This show is why my phone is named Janet.

Where to watch: Seasons 1-3 on Netflix


Happy Endings

Whenever people start talking about shows that were cancelled too soon, I think of Happy Endings. It was a delightful comedy that was dreadfully mismanaged by ABC (seriously, I’m convinced that, had it been on NBC, Happy Endings would have run for YEARS) and thus ended before its time. Hilariously funny, endlessly quotable and featuring a gay lead character who has no time for sitcom stereotype nonsense, it is, in a word, A- MAHzing (watch the show and you’ll understand) I have watched all 3 seasons of Happy Endings repeatedly and recommend that you give it a shot.

Note: Part of the mismanagement of this show is that season 1 was aired completely out of order and is still a mess on Hulu. Check out this page that gives you the order in which the show was intended to be watched.

Where to watch: Hulu


The Hotwives of Orlando/Las Vegas

Real talk, I’ve never seen any of the Real Housewives shows, which are exactly what Hotwives is lampooning. Honestly, maybe I’d find it even funnier if I had but as it was, I devoured both seasons of this brilliantly done parody show. Check it out and you’ll be saying “I gots to be Phe Phe” for weeks to come. Also, I just love that they went with the term hotwife for the name of the show.

Note: The Hotwives of Orlando and The Hotwives of Las Vegas are listed as separate shows on Hulu. They do, however have almost the exact same cast, most of who play completely different roles on each one.

Where to watch: Hulu


How Did This Get Made?

For a LONG time I listened to almost nothing but true crime podcasts. Then, last December I decided I needed to stop thinking about murderers all the time and that’s when I found How Did This Get Made. How funny is this podcast about bad movies featuring Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael (who can alway be counted on to serve as the voice of feminist reason), and Jason Mantzoukas? So funny that when I listened to the My Stepmother is an Alien episode while driving home from the Oregon Coast I had to pull over for a minute because I was laughing too hard to safely drive through the Oregon Coast Range. We all deserve that level of funny in our lives.

Note: The bulk of the episode archive is behind a paywall (this show may be the only reason I pay for Stitcher) but they do this cool thing where they periodically rotate which episodes are available free so you can keep listening and have new stuff even if you aren’t paying.

Where to listen: Select episodes available most of the places you find podcasts, Full archive available on Stitcher


Making It

Nick Offerman, Amy Poehler, folks who love crafting, and a very Great British Bake-Off vibe all come together to make this crafting competition show an absolute joy. Each episode features two rounds and winners are awarded patches (which is just adorable). One of my favorite things about this show is that while they do give the winner money, they don’t let the show be about that. No constant “you are competing for ________ THOUSAND DOLLARS!” (see, I can’t even remember the amount!) and that is pleasant.

Note: Nick Offerman with a beard. That is all.

Where to watch: Hulu


Nailed It

It’s a baking competition show where the competitors, self-professed bad bakers are given huge challenges and unrealistic time frames in which to finish them. It sounds like it might be stressful or mean but, trust me, it is a blast. I just adore host Nicole Byer and she and Jacques Torres are the comedy team no one saw coming. Plus, Nailed It consistently features awesome guest judges who make everything even more fun.

Note: The holiday seasons of Nailed It are listed as a separate show on Netflix (here they are!) and I highly recommend you check them out. The 2019 holiday season was Nailed It at its absolute best.


Where to watch: Netflix


Parks and Recreation

It almost feels cliché to recommend Parks and Recreation at this point but you know what? Clichés are often clichés because they are true and seriously it is 100% true that this show is a delight. With a stacked cast, super-talented writers, and a recurring mini-horse, Parks and Rec is funnier than any show about local politics has a right to be.

Note: The first 2 seasons have some great episodes but the show really hits its stride in season 3. In fact season 3 actually kicks off with a recap that gets folks up to speed if they want to just jump in there.

Where to watch: Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime (apparently it’s leaving everywhere this fall so get in there now!)


Schitt’s Creek

This show led to the following exchange between me and my brother:

Me: Catherine O’Hara is a national treasure

My brother: Um, she’s Canadian.

Me: What, Canada doesn’t get treasures?!

Whether you already know O’Hara and Eugene Levy from classics like Waiting For Guffman, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind or you have no idea who these people are at all, this one is worth your time. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Dan Levy who plays David and is also the show’s creator and one of its writers is BRILLIANT. Also, yes, he’s Eugene’s son.

Note: I know for me, the title of this one was off-putting and so I resisted it for ages but, seriously, it’s well worth your time.

Where to watch: Seasons 1-5 on Netflix



Yep, it’s a sitcom about the staff of a fictionalized Wal-Mart type store. That doesn’t sound great but, seriously, it is. Superstore is smart, funny, touching when it wants to be, and noteworthy for featuring women with a variety of body types who are all recognized as sexual beings with agency. Seriously, there are multiple pregnancies where the characters maintain their sexuality throughout. It’s just delightful.

Note: Season 1 has a big dramatic ending and then season 2 kicks off with an olympics-themed episode that seems to take place in the world of season 1. It’s confusing. My advice? Watch the season 2, episode 1 before the season 1 finale. Or don’t do that, whatever. Just know it’s a thing.

Where to watch: Hulu


Too Cute

This is pretty much the ultimate brain candy. Each episode follows three litters of puppies or kittens (and sometimes other animals) from birth through adoption. It does require that you put aside any feelings you may have about breeders but, seriously, so many puppies toddling around and falling over. It’s adorable.

Note: Too Cute’s tendency to label at least one baby animal in each episode as the bumbling doofus is why my partner and I now reference “Doof Doof” constantly. Ex: “Here’s Doof Doof, falling face first into his kibble!”

Where to watch: Hulu


But, JoEllen, what about movies?

Good question. For me, when I’m stressed I tend to find TV series “easier” but I have some comfort watching movie recs that, conveniently, I listed in a tweet last year!

Well, that’s what I’ve got today, folks. Take care of yourselves. Wash those hands, maintain your social distance, and don’t forget to give your worried mind a rest sometimes.

Get my book The Monster Under The Bed: Sex, Depression, and the Conversations we Aren't Having!

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