An Isolation Entertainment Guide

A full isolation entertainment ranking system of all the best TV, movies and books? Doesn’t that seem a little self-indulgent and unnecessary? Yeah, probably, but most people aren’t leaving the house much these days, and we’re in the same boat. Something that isn’t necessarily all that different for us. For me, it basically just means more writing, reading and watching than normal. Oh, yeah, and learning Portuguese online. I am getting pretty good at telling people that the cat drinks milk. The dog, too.

Of course, usually a lot of our time is spent planning our future travels. Unfortunately, as I discussed previously in 23 Ways the Coronavirus will Change Travel, that doesn’t necessarily seem like time well-spent at the moment. But since we finished our 10-day Rota Vicentina trek all our plans went on hold and we’ve had plenty of time on our hands. I know that a lot of other people are probably having a different experience. Such as the essential workers for whom it is still business as usual, except for the constant fear and worry, of course. We greatly appreciate what you’re doing and hopefully this list will come in handy for you some time in the future when this all dies down. Those who are stuck at home, though, probably fall into one of 4 categories:

1) You are struggling to work from home even though it isn’t the type of job that really works that way.

2) You are trapped in your house with children that somehow seem to be multiplying and your head is on the verge of exploding.

3) You have both #1 and #2 going on at the same time.

4) You are laid off, unemployed, retired or just not doing a very good job of motivating yourself to work while at home.

Groups 1 and 2 will probably find this post aggravatingly trivial, Group 3 – maddening. Group 4, though, have we got some great entertainment options for you! Of course, I haven’t included any of the hundred other things you could put on your 2021 bucket list do while in isolation, such as games, puzzles, fixing things, cleaning things, weird sex stuff, homeschooling kids, throwing stuff out, etc. This is either because I have no need (kids, clutter), no intention (cleaning, puzzles) or no ability (fixing, weird sex stuff) to do any of those things.

Instead, here is a comprehensive list of all the best entertainment choices to help pass the time if you’re suffering through social isolation with no sports on TV and have already run through all your usual stuff on Netflix. Fair warning, I have not researched where you can find any of these, that part is up to you. But I’m sure that anyone who is bothering to read this list already has a pretty good idea how to find out.

Finally, anything not numbered is still in order from “very best” to “not quite the best”. Although I could probably go through them hourly and make changes every single time. So maybe don’t get too caught up in that part. Obviously, not everyone will agree with all – or even most – of these recommendations. But don’t worry, that just means you’re wrong. Not about everything, necessarily, just this.

TV Series

Classic Dramas

1) Breaking Bad – A guide to life after teaching.

2) The Leftovers – What if 2% of the people in the world suddenly disappeared, and none of them were your in-laws?

3) Game of Thrones (up to Season 6) – Finally, socially acceptable dwarf sex.

4) The Sopranos – The touching tale of a hard-working immigrant family.

5) Mad Men – Celebrating a time when it was acceptable to drink whiskey while working. Like it is now.

6) The Americans – You just need to get past the unrealistic idea of Russians trying to mess with America.

7) The Wire – I finally understand that teen drug dealers are pretty awesome.

8) Halt and Catch Fire – IMDB description: “Follows some players in the 80’s technological revolution that lead to information society.” Which is why it’s the best show you’ve never heard of.

9) Boardwalk Empire – A 1920’s period piece built around Steve Buscemi’s animal sexuality.

10) Justified – Smart-ass southern law enforcement in a cool hat.

Recent Dramas

1) Succession – A show about a bunch of rich assholes that somehow doesn’t suck.

2) Sherlock – Not your great-great-great grandmother’s Sherlock.

3) The Deuce – The evolution or devolution of middle Manhattan, depending on how much you miss pimps in fur coats.

4) Better Call Saul – Walter White’s lawyer has a life, too, you know.

5) The Handmaid’s Tale – A reluctant sex slave makes that red dress really work for her.

6) Mr. Robot – Global conspiracies and personality disorders overshadowed by some baller typing skills.

7) Black Mirror – A glimpse into the darkness of our technological future. With guest stars!

8) Killing Eve – The sexiest assassin since Lee Harvey Oswald.

9) Watchmen – A how-to guide to running in high heels and a leather duster with the hood up.

10) The Morning Show – Workplace sexual harassment has never been this fun!

Anthologies

1) Fargo – Only Fargo can make torturing a guy in a cabin hilarious.

2) Chernobyl – Not your garden variety microwave radiation, that’s for sure.

3) True Detective – It’s about the time we got to the bottom of some stuff, wouldn’t you say?

4) Bodyguard – Apparently there’s more to being a bodyguard than having sex with Whitney Houston.

5) American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace – One of the most important things I learned was that Gianni Versace was assassinated.

6) Catch-22 – War is weird.

7) Escape from Dannemora – Why is it always the escapees that want to have sex with you?

8) The Night Of – Turns out being an Arab-American accused of murder in New York can be unpleasant.

Classic Comedies

1) The Office (U.S.) – The number one reason most American kids want to grow up to sell paper.

2) Seinfeld – A subtle, multilayered dissection of the minutiae of life. Plus, Kramer falls down a lot.

3) Flight of the Conchords – Traditional ballads from New Zealand put to real music.

4) Review with Forrest MacNeil – Finally, learn what it’s like to eat 15 pancakes.

5) Community – A group of community college misfits bond over Alison Brie’s breasts.

6) Veep – A hilarious look at the lesser-known dishonest side of politics.

7) Kids in the Hall – 30 Helens Agree: The Chicken Lady has really big orgasms.

8) Catastrophe – Unplanned overseas pregnancy. I think the name says it all.

9) Extras – Famous asshole Ricky Gervais playing a much less famous asshole.

10) 30 Rock – Sex, lies, puberty, betrayal and relay races.

Honourable Mention

Party Down

Friends

Parks and Recreation

Current Comedies

1) Rick and Morty – Despite what you may have heard, time travel and multiverse theory can still include an old man turning himself into a pickle.

2) Fleabag – A dysfunctional British woman with no particular fear of foxes.

3) What We Do in the Shadows – Staten Island vampires go shopping and stuff.

4) Barry – A classic tale of traumatized war veteran turned assassin turned actor.

5) State of the Union – Divorce can be pretty awesome in 10-minute increments.

6) Atlanta – Not every famous rapper started out as a blond white kid.

7) The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – And you thought women didn’t get funny until Kathy Griffin came along…

8) Big Mouth – A trip down memory lane watching a group of kids guided through puberty by profane hormone monsters.

9) Master of None – A small Indian man gets a surprising amount of action.

10) Documentary Now – All the dry documentary interviews with none of the useful information.

Honourable Mention

Better Things

High Maintenance

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Archer

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Reality

Survivor – In general, reality TV doesn’t appeal to me but, what can I say, I find the whole physical/mental competitive social interaction dynamic of Survivor fascinating. The fun part; if you’ve never watched Survivor but want to start, they are currently on Season 40. So that should keep you busy for awhile.

P.S. We have not watched any of the current season yet, so no spoilers!

The Amazing Race – It would be kind of weird if we didn’t watch this one, I suppose.

The Amazing Race Canada – Sort of like “travel lite”. They don’t go as far, only leave the country once or twice, and they fill the cast with as generically Canadian people as possible. Nice, a bit funny, but kind of boring. Actually, I think that quote can be found in every Canadian passport.

For the opposite of that:

My Favourite TV Characters

1. Don Draper – Mad Men (Jon Hamm)

2. Rick Sanchez – Rick and Morty (Justin Roiland)

3. Michael Scott – The Office (Steve Carell)

4. George Costanza – Seinfeld (Jason Alexander)

5. Walter White – Breaking Bad (Bryan Cranston)

6. Peggy Olson – Mad Men (Elisabeth Moss)

7. Tony Soprano – The Sopranos (James Gandolfini)

8. Dwight Schrute – The Office (Rainn Wilson)

9. Fleabag – Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge)

10. Forrest MacNeil – Review (Andrew Daly)

Honourable Mention

Murray Hewitt – Flight of the Conchords (Rhys Darby)

Andrew Glouberman – Big Mouth (John Mulaney)

Omar Little – The Wire (Michael Kenneth Williams)

Villanelle – Killing Eve (Jodie Comer)

June Osborne – The Handmaid’s Tale (Elisabeth Moss)

Hot Priest – Fleabag (Andrew Scott)

Moriarty – Sherlock (Andrew Scott)

Midge Maisel – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan)

Jack Donaghy – 30 Rock (Alec Baldwin)

Carol/Cheryl Tunt – Archer (Judy Greer)

Movies

Classics

1) Fight Club – Brad Pitt rides a tricycle.

2) Pulp Fiction – Zed’s last feature role. Because Zed’s dead, baby.

3) Memento – The details elude me at the moment.

4) Fargo – I think the used car industry is the real villain here.

5) The Hurt Locker – A bomb tech who should probably be a lot more careful.

6) Inglourious Basterds – Buongiorno! It’s just fun to say.

7) Lost in Translation – Bill Murray fends off the romantic attention of Scarlett Johansson, for obvious reasons.

8) No Country for Old Men – The movie that taught us all a cool new way to kill people.

9) Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind – Memory is optional, as is dating Jim Carrey.

10) Kalifornia – The most effective Lucky Lager ad of our era.

Honourable Mention

Moneyball

Almost Famous

Being John Malkovich

Manchester by the Sea

Lord of the Rings trilogy

Reservoir Dogs

Kill Bill: Volumes 1 and 2

Before Sunrise / Before Sunset / Before Midnight

Saving Private Ryan

Gangs of New York

Boyhood

There Will Be Blood

The Dark Knight

Inception

The Shawshank Redemption

Glory

American Beauty

Goodfellas

Gladiator

The Usual Suspects

Surprise Favourites

Whiplash

Blue Ruin

Winter’s Bone

Short Term 12

Hell or High Water

Ex Machina

The Wrestler

Anomalisa

The Lobster

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Best Recent Movies

1) Parasite – Some Koreans fight over a hidden room because they can’t get a wifi signal and sometimes rich people are nice but still wrong. I think.

2) Marriage Story – The perfect movie to watch as a couple if you’re thinking about getting divorced.

3) The Favourite – A royal lesbian has trouble making up her mind.

4) Beast – Dating is hard.

5) The Florida Project – Apparently, Goofy isn’t the only Disneyworld tragedy.

6) Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Brad Pitt finally plays a role where he doesn’t take his shirt off. Oh, wait, there it goes.

7) The Sisters Brothers – Even cowboys fight sometimes.

8) The Rider – Even cowboys suffer serious brain trauma sometimes.

9) First Reformed – Ethan Hawke explores the fun side of mortification of the flesh.

10) Ladybird – A sassy girl with a funny nickname being sassy to her equally sassy mom.

Honourable Mention

Roma

The Souvenir

Uncut Gems

1917

Isle of Dogs

Booksmart

Wild Rose

American Honey

Midsommar

Comedies

1) Forgetting Sarah Marshall – “I saw him beat up a guy with a starfish… that guy was me”

2) In Bruges – “Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I’d grown up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me, but I didn’t, so it doesn’t.”

3) Monty Python and the Holy Grail – “We’ll not risk another frontal assault. That rabbit’s dynamite.”

4) So I Married an Axe Murderer – “You know, what this room needs is a really big oversized poster of Atlantic City…oh wait, there’s one.”

5) Superbad – “No one’s gotten a hand job in cargo shorts since ‘Nam.”

6) The Big Lebowski – “Hey, nice marmot.”

7) What We Do in the Shadows – “If you’re going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you know no one had f*#ked it.”

8) Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby – “You gotta learn to drive with the fear, and there ain’t nothing more goddamn frightening than driving with a live cougar in the car.”

9) Boogie Nights – “I have other interests. I’m a magician.”

10) Hot Tub Time Machine – “God. Relax. It’s like you haven’t seen a little cum on your friend’s face before.”

Honourable Mention

Knocked Up

Swingers

The Hangover

The Full Monty

Wedding Crashers

Dodgeball

Tag

This is the End

Groundhog Day

The Big Sick

Don’t Think Twice

Old School

Reading

Yes, sometimes it is good to stare at a different kind of screen, one without any moving parts. Or at the remnants of long-dead trees, if you’re the nostalgic type who still reads “actual books”. Personally, I prefer my ereader. I tried to read a paperback again recently, you know, for old time’s sake, and it seems I have strangely lost the ability to hold books open with one hand. The technique simply eludes me now. Like brushing my teeth if I accidentally get out of sequence.

As to recommendations, obviously you’ll be wanting to start with the Routinely Nomadic Trilogy, an epic, uncouth journey from stories of our early years travel through to an in-depth look at our first Camino de Santiago and culminating – thrillingly, I daresay – with a comprehensive list of the best trips in the world. And, despite what you may have heard, lesbian grandmothers are really just a small part of the story.

From there, I would suggest making your way through the extensive archives on this site. Combing through all 405 posts could easily keep you occupied well into May. Actually, you’re nearly finished this one already, so that only leaves 404 more. You’re almost there! Fair warning, though, re-reading more than 10 or so in a single sitting even makes me want to punch myself in the face. Chances are it won’t take you as long.

If you want to stick with the travel theme, check out the Travel Blogs We Follow page – all kinds of great info from entertaining travellers.

Then, if all of that hasn’t wiped your brain out completely and killed enough time until your next Office marathon, it just so happens there are quite a few pretty amazing novels that have been written over the last century or so. These ones would be a great place to start:

Classic Novels

1. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

2. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

3. The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

4. East of Eden – John Steinbeck

5. The Cellist of Sarajevo – Steven Galloway

6. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

7. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

8. Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk

9. The Riders – Tim Winton

10. Life of Pi – Yann Martel

Honourable Mention

Millennium Trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) – Stieg Larsson

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut

The Beach – Alex Garland

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

Cider House Rules – John Irving

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

number9dream – David Mitchell

Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

Recent Novels

1. The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt

2. The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

3. The Year of the Runaways – Sunjeev Sahota

4. The Moor’s Account – Laila Lalami

5. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

6. Washington Black – Esi Edugyan

7. Purity – Jonathan Franzen

8. The History of Wolves – Emily Fridlund

9. 4 3 2 1 – Paul Auster

10. Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

Honourable Mention

My Sister the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite

An Orchestra of Minorities – Chigozie Obioma

St. Mazie: A Novel – Jami Attenberg

Ablutions – Patrick deWitt

A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman

The Sellout – Paul Beatty

American War – Omar El Akkad

His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet

Ill Will – Dan Chaon

The Narrow Road to the Far North – Richard Flanagan

The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward

The Power – Naomi Alderman

Days Without End – Sebastian Barry

All That Man Is – David Szalay

Sci-Fi / Fantasy Series

1. A Song of Ice and Fire series (5) – George R.R. Martin

2. The Wheel of Time (14) – Robert Jordan

3. The Lord of the Rings (3) – J.R.R. Tolkien

4. MaddAddam (3) – Margaret Atwood

5. The Sword of Shannara (3) – Terry Brooks

6. The Magicians (3) – Lev Grossman

7. The Death Gate (7) – Margaret Weis / Tracy Hickman

Well, there you have it, 198 entertainment ideas (602 if you count the rest of my blog) to keep you occupied when this whole isolation business drags on well into summer, like I suspect it will. The big question for most of you, though, is of course, where exactly is that piece of paper with the code that unlocks the adult channels?

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Other useful articles you may want to check out:

23 Ways the Coronavirus Will Change Travel

How to Travel on a Budget

Universal Packing List

Save Money and Travel the World

Roam: The 9 Greatest Trips on Earth

Burning Travel Questions

World’s Best Road Trips

Slow Travel – Settling in for the Long Haul