4 Binge-Worthy Shows That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity
I don’t know about you, but I’m at one year of #pandemiclockdown, and there are some things I finally feel like I’ve gotten the hang of. One is that I’ve realized which kind of binge-watching serves as worthy distraction and which kind gives me anxiety, even nightmares. Hence, yes to the cartoon destruction of Avengers movies, no to true crime or fictional serial killer content.
The best binge of all, though, are the shows I’ve found that restore my shaken faith in humanity. Shows that looks at humans, warts and all, and find the vulnerabilities behind the flaws, and the humor to balance the pathos. Part of the reason I love Kinder Beauty is because it's trying to create a kinder world by offering vegan, cruelty-free beauty products at affordable prices. Well, the shows below can also create a kinder world (I'm pretty sure of it); at the very least, they will make you feel really, really good.
Check these four shows out and be immediately uplifted. But not in a cheesy way.
Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Ted Lasso was the unexpected show of 2020 for me. My expectations were not high. I like both sports and a good sports movie or show, but I’m no European football fan. I also had no reason to expect Jason Sudeikis to be the actor of the year (he’s reaping those awards right now). The rest of the cast was unknown to me, and the name of the show itself ... well, it doesn’t tell you much. I sat through the first episode skeptically. I was concerned that the two primary female characters were going to be hastily sketched stereotypes, and even the larger contingent of male characters looked like they could be easily put in their own well-worn character buckets.
Instead, the ten-episode first season surprised, touched, and entertained me so much that I sat down on New Year’s Day and re-watched the entire season in one day to start 2021 off in the right spirit. There are great leadership lessons, sure, but there are also simple tropes avoided that make Ted Lasso a rich, rewarding, deeply satisfying experience.
Schitt’s Creek (Netflix and PopTV)
Schitt’s Creek is a slow burn. You may start out in Season 1 wondering if you can stick it out. If you’re like me, you want characters to root for, and there’s no denying that the Rose Family starts out self-absorbed, entitled, clueless, and just not that likable. But stay! If you really make it to the Season 2 finale episode and don’t feel completely sucked in, then sure, you’ve put in the time; you have my permission to go. But I’m pretty confident that you will, by then, be in love.
Schitt’s Creek’s special sauce is that it follows the evolution of its characters over six seasons, and no, they don’t all magically evolve to be perfect humans. They all evolve, though, at different rates, and to different levels of likability, and it makes the Rose family come to life and become incredibly easy to root for. By the sixth and final season you will find yourself crying more than laughing, and it will feel cathartic!
The Good Place (Netflix, Apple TV+, and NBC.com)
On the face of it, a show that explores the great philosophical questions of humanity—the meaning of life, what is good, what is bad, is there a heaven and hell, and what gets you there, what happens to you when there, does the ends justify the means, should you sacrifice the individual for the greater good, what makes us happy?—seems a little weighty for an NBC must-see TV comedy. Especially when we get short lessons about the history of philosophy along the way. The Good Place can handle the weight, and in fact provides an accessible channel via which to consider such issues at a time when having a moral philosophy seems like table stakes. Anchored but never dominated by comedy stalwarts Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, the show features a diverse cast of characters who we come to know, love, and see ourselves in—the good, bad, and ugly.
Along the way, it brings us love and friendship to root for and poignant portrayals of letting go. All while adding new verbal idiosyncrasies to our common lexicon ... I mean, what the fork?!
One Day At a Time (Netflix, PopTV, CBS.com)
Take a Norman Lear comedy from the 70s and update it for a new era and a new America, and you get this modern take on One Day At a Time. The single mom and her two kids (a son and daughter rather than two girls) are now the children of Cuban immigrants, and their grandmother played by National Treasure Rita Moreno (who should seriously trademark this as her official name) lives with them. The issues the family deals with have gotten an update, too. Sexual orientation, gender identity, undocumented immigration, PTSD, the expansion of what makes a family, and more are common threads, and with the shorter seasons of modern TV series, it does sometimes feel like every episode is a “very special episode”— but during lockdown, the earnestness and open-heartedness of ODAAT hit all the right notes for me.
To see all the typical conflicts and issues of any family-based series play out within the culture of a multi-generational Latinx family (spanning immigrant to second generation Americans) proves both that representation matters and that all families share commonalities, no matter who is in them or where they’re from. A worthy message today.
You might discern from my list that I love a good story about flawed humans who nonetheless turn out to be really good company. I love shows that sometimes make my heart explode. That sometimes have me smiling through tears. That don’t always spoon feed me the lessons or the laughs, but which get me there eventually. I hope you check out at least one of these shows you haven’t seen and that they, even momentarily, restore your faith in humanity! Here's to a kinder world!
Elisa Camahort Page is a speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur, best-known for co-founding BlogHer. She’s the host of The Op-Ed Page podcast and co-author of Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All. Learn more at elisacp.com.