The SSI staff shares some entertainment recommendations to help you pass the time during your coronavirus quarantine.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world are quarantined thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. To put it simply, our lives have been turned upside down — though we are fighting COVID-19, not demogorons (boom, Stranger Things reference).
So what’s a person to do during quarantine? Now that the weather is getting nice, it’s the perfect time to start spending more time outside. However, depending where you live and how many people are around, that may not be possible.
Fortunately, we are living in an age where we can watch pretty much anything, and do it in the palm of our hand. Multimedia has never been more accessible.
Since you’ve probably binged every season of The Office three times over by now, I figured it would be a good time to put together a list of recommendations to watch and listen to.
In order to ensure a variety of tastes, I enlisted the help of the SSI team, including Editor-in-Chief Scott Goldfine, Senior Editor Rodney Bosch and Account Executive Dan Wilkins.
Without further ado, here are SSI‘s TV show, movie and music recommendations to get you through your coronavirus quarantine.
- “McMillion$” — For all you true-crime aficionados out there, this documentary series is about the McDonald’s Monopoly scam of the late 90’s where a man stole $24 million worth of winning game pieces and sold them to close friend and relatives. The breakout star of the series though is a fun-seeking FBI agent that seems like he belongs in a buddy-cop movie. (HBO)
- “Brooklyn 99″ — If you like The Office or Parks and Recreation, this show is for you. B99 follows a NYC police department that can’t help but end up in zany hijinks. One of the main characters, Jake Peralta, is obsessed with Die Hard, so you’ll encounter plenty of references. (NBC/Hulu)
- “The X-Files” — This Sci-Fi classic still holds up today. Just try not to let any of the show’s conspiracy theories leak into real-life. Plus, with 11 seasons worth of one-hour episodes, this series will last you a while. (Hulu)
- “Commando” — I’m a sucker for 80’s action movies — and pretty much anything starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme. This movie is one of the best though. Turn your brain off and marvel at the over-the-top explosions, cheesy one-liners and Arnie’s guns that never run out of bullets. (iTunes, Vudu, Google Play)
- “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” — A “Spinal Tap” for the millennial generation, this mockumentary follows a Justin Bieber-type singer as he navigates his career. Created by The Lonely Island (the guys behind SNL Digital Shorts like Lazy Sunday and D**k in a Box), this movie is insanely funny. Almost every sentence contains a joke. (iTunes, Vudu, Google Play)
- “Drive” – Ryan Gosling plays a quiet, nameless driver that risks his life to save his neighbors after a heist goes wrong. Between all the neon lights and synthy music you’ll feel like you’re watching a film from the 80’s. Really the only way to describe this movie is, cool. (Netflix, iTunes, Google Play)
- “Is This It” by The Strokes — The Strokes just released their first album in seven years (it’s very solid), so what better time to revisit their debut album that spawned countless modern rock bands in the early 2000’s? The album is a classic without a single skippable song.
- “Scream Dracula Scream” by Rocket From the Crypt — If you like no-nonsense, high-energy Rock & Roll with a touch of horns, this is the band for you. I picked this album because I think it’s their most accessible, but if you dig it I recommend checking out their debut, Circa Now, my personal favorite.
- “How Did This Get Made?” — If you like “good bad movies” or if you just want a good laugh, there is no better podcast. The hosts of HDTGM spend each episode tackling a different movie — everything from the Fast and the Furious franchise, to classics such as Face/Off, Roadhouse and Deep Blue Sea.
- “Better Call Saul” — This prequel to another must-see Vince Gilligan show, “Breaking Bad,” is immaculately written, acted and staged. It flawlessly balances tense drama and amusing quirkiness within a rich tapestry of compelling characters. If you have already seen this one, they try Netflix’s “Ozark” as an alternative. (AMC, Netflix)
- “Justified” — This Elmore Leonard-inspired current-day western stars the smirking, likable Timothy Olyphant as a U.S. Marshal policing the backwaters of rural Kentucky. While it can be ultra-violent and brutal, the show can also be quite funny, albeit often in a dark, twisted fashion. It’s all highly entertaining with sharply drawn characters and dialog. (Hulu)
- “Green Acres” — This 1960s sitcom about a New York attorney who leaves the rat race of the big city to settle he and wife into farm life is more inventive and funny than most may give it credit. From a pig who acts like a human to a county agent who can’t remember why he begins sentences to a huckster trying to sell the protagonist everything imaginable, this program serves up zany hilarity — and who couldn’t use more of that about now? (Prime Video, iTunes)
- “1917” — An amazing World War I movie that takes the viewer on an immersive mission with a pair of front-line soldiers attempting to deliver a critical message to abort a planned attack. Directed by the fantastic Sam Mendes, whose credits include the Oscar-winning “American Beauty” (another streaming recommendation). (iTunes, Vudu, Google Play)
- “Hell or High Water” — A terrific modern-day western focusing on bank-robbing brothers fighting back against the system. Set in Texas, the film includes a fabulous turn by Jeff Bridges as the wily old Ranger hunting the pair down. (Netflix, iTunes, Google Play)
- “Apocalypse Now” — This Francis Ford Coppola-directed classic from 1979 stars Martin Sheen as a Vietnam soldier sent to terminate the post of a commander who has lost touch with reality (Marlon Brando). This picture takes the viewer on a surreal journey into the madness of war, with many scenes, especially the one with Robert Duvall’s character saying, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” among the most striking ever filmed. (HBO, iTunes, Google Play)
- “The Bookends” by Eric Gales — If you like blues and incredible guitar playing (think Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan), then look no further than this unbelievably gifted yet too unsung player-composer-singer. Now in his 40s, I have followed Gales’ career since he released his first album as a 15-year-old prodigy and seen him several times live. He is not to be missed.
- “Hit n Run Phase II” by Prince — This was the last album released before the untimely death of the man I believe to be the most talented musician of modern times. Like most of his works, the album deftly dips into a multitude of genres and serves up the most fully realized songs from the last couple of years preceding his April 2016 death.
- “Go for Your Guns” by the Isley Brothers — If you like when funk, soul and hard rock collide then this is an album for you. From start to finish, this 1977 offering from one of America’s all-time greatest acts does not let up for a single note. One of my desert-island records, it spotlights why Ernie Isley might be the greatest guitar player you aren’t very familiar with. Time to change that.
- “One Strange Rock” — I’m a sucker for a good nature documentary series and this one, well, rocks. The whole nature show genre — thanks to high-def tv, advanced filming techniques and streaming services — has become such a great way to experience Mother Nature’s glorious diversity. This 10-part series from National Geographic, hosted by Will Smith, is unique in the way each of the episodes is narrated by one of eight astronaut storytellers. Get up close — and way above — this 4.5-billion-year-old planet we call home. (Disney+, iTunes, Google Play)
- “Godless” — This Western miniseries stars Jeff Daniels and Michelle Dockery along with a slew of attention-grabbing characters that will vie for your attention. And so too will the gorgeously captured landscapes and wide-open spaces that harken big screen Western classics. The story thread includes the expected clashes between the bad and the virtuous, but there are also tensions around race, gender orientation, among other intrigue that provide the series an updated distinctiveness. (Netflix)
- “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — I’m including Larry David’s side-splitting sitcom series, now in its 10th season, for those (like me) who may have only seen a smattering of episodes, if any. Yes, there are a few of us. Of course, David is the co-creator and writer of Seinfeld. Not long after that cultural landslide of a show ended, David created Curb Your Enthusiasm for HBO. What began as an hourlong special ended up becoming the long-running, legendary sitcom. (HBO)
- “Bone Tomahawk” — Has Kurt Russell performed some immensely entertaining roles in his time on the silver screen or what? This part classic Western/part pulp horror (with some comedic guffaws to boot) is no exception. As a sheriff in the wild west, Russell’s character whips up a posse to rescue a local doctor after she’s been abducted by a tribe of mutant flesh-eating Troglodytes.
- “Keeping the Faith” — A rabbi (Ben Stiller) and a priest (Ed Norton) fall in love with the same woman (Jenna Elfman). All three were childhood friends. When Elfman’s character returns to New York years later and reacquaints with her two pals, rivalries and personal dilemmas ensue. Worth a watch when in the mood for something more lighthearted. The supporting cast includes no less than Anne Bancroft, Ron Rifkin and Eli Wallach.
- “Free Solo” — Not familiar with this epic display of nerve? Picture Yosemite Valley’s El Capitan in your mind’s eye — 3,000 feet of shear granite wall — and you’re tagging alongside famed climber Alex Honnold who is ascending this monumental stretch, sans ropes or safety equipment. Hold on for dear life during this visual sensation. The behind-the-scenes, in the moment work of the camera crew — expert climbers themselves who capture gravity-defying cinematography — is worth the price of admission alone.
These selections are served up in homage to the memory of three greats we recently lost.
- “Fair & Square” by John Prine — Prine, who died on April 7 from complications of the coronavirus, was counted among the best storytellers and chroniclers of the human condition. Fair & Square came out in 2005, Prine’s first album of new songs since beating cancer eight years prior. The album is replete with his rootsy, country-folk stylings. A couple of my favorites here are “Long Monday” and the up tempo “Bear Creek Blues.”
- “Still Bill” by Bill Withers — Everybody has their favorite gem from this R&B legend. Maybe it’s “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Ain’t No Sunshine” or [your pick]. Mine happens to be the groove-filled “Use Me.” This whole album cuts across smooth soul, funk and down-home blues. Withers passed on March 30.
- “The Real McCoy” by McCoy Tyner — Tyner rose to fame as a member of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking 1960s quartet and went onto become one of the most influential pianists in jazz history. He passed on March 6, leaving a colossal discography to be mined for generations to come. “The Real McCoy” was released on Blue Note in 1967, just after Tyner had departed Coltrane’s group. The landmark album features saxophonist Joe Henderson, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Elvin Jones (a fellow Coltrane quartet alumni). Suggested nuggets: “Search for Peace,” “Blues on the Corner” and “Passion Dance.”
- “The Americans” — The Americans is one of the best series of the past decades and is shockingly under-watched. This show plays a suspenseful twist on the traditional suburban family drama as the “Americans” are undercover Soviet spies. (FX, Amazon Prime)
- “Mad Men” — If you haven’t seen this one yet, you have no excuse but to put it at the top of your list. Don Draper is one of the most compelling characters in modern television history and Mad Men dives brilliantly into a man that is superficially flawless and internally broken. Through 5 seasons, Mad Men never loses a step. (Netflix)
- “Fargo” — Another under-watched gem, this anthology series is loosely tied to the Coen brothers’ 1994 classic film of the same name. To fans of the original film—this one lives up to every expectation you might have. Through the first three seasons, we get three masterfully told stories, full with the campy small-town Minnesota feel and maintaining the Coen brothers’ theme of true good versus true evil with clumsy, ordinary people caught in between. The fourth season comes out next week, so get ready! (FX, Hulu)
- “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy —What better time to return to classic series than now? Lord of the Rings tops the list and was the first thing that my wife and I turned to during our quarantined evenings. (iTunes, Vudu, Google Play)
- “Harry Potter” Series — One fantasy classic to the next. Watching all eight movies should keep you busy for a while. (iTunes, Vudu, Google Play)
- “Cloud Atlas” — Might as well finish the list with a final fantasy/sci-fi film and one that pretty much flopped on release. It’s a rollercoaster of a movie and takes a few viewings to really digest (not to the mention over 3-hour run-time is a lot to sit through), but it is a uniquely awesome storytelling accomplishment with a very rewarding pay-off if you are able to make the commitment. (iTunes, Vudu, Google Play)
- Blink 182 — As a millennial, it’s pretty much my duty to include this on any list. Have I grown up to listen to better quality music? Perhaps, but I’ll always hold Blink in my heart from my childhood.
- “Marketplace Podcast” —My favorite source to keep up with our nation’s markets and the economy as a whole. It doesn’t matter if you are well-versed in finance/economics or not, the content is easy to digest and interesting regardless of your knowledge.
- Jack White — The greatest rocker still in his prime. Anything Jack White puts out is worth listening to in my opinion.