7:30 pm EDT, March 31, 2020

The best streaming TV to get you through social isolation

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our coverage will be reduced. We can't wait to get back to serving you all of the latest fandom news as soon as we can.

The coronavirus may have closed down theaters and pushed back theatrical releases, but streaming services have more than enough great TV to keep you entertained.

Whether you’re looking to find your next favorite trash TV show to distract you or want to lose yourself in a fascinating story that isn’t the apocalyptic themed dystopia taking place outside our homes, the broad variety of streaming services available has you covered.

Check out our recommendations below, sorted into a handy little menu depending on what you need at any given moment.

Sci-fi that forces you to pay attention so that you don’t constantly check social media updates on COVID-19

Westworld

Westworld season 2
Streaming on: HBO

Westworld is a show that’s so deliberately perplexing, so intentionally intricate, that you have no choice but to put your phone down, sit up, and pay attention.

The story initially takes place in a highly advanced Wild West-themed amusement park filled with android “hosts” who cater to high-paying human “guests,” who are free to act without inhibitions and reveal their truest selves because all of their actions are against non-human hosts who aren’t allowed to hurt them.

But what begins as a tour of futuristic theme park, soon becomes an exploration into sentience, identity, and personhood.

Westworld is an ambitious sci-fi narrative and a dense mystery story all wrapped up in a thoughtful meditation on the nature of life. As an added bonus, we’re reviewing the third season week-by-week as it releases, so you’ll be able have some small measure of human interaction as you watch the show.

The Expanse

The Expanse on Amazon
Streaming on: Amazon Prime

I picked The Expanse as my favorite show of the last decade, and things would have to go off the rails completely for me not to pick it as my favorite show of this decade as well.

The Expanse is sci-fi storytelling at its best, telling the story of human history and human nature on a grand, space opera scale, in the far future when humanity has colonized the Solar System. It’s gritty without succumbing to nihilism, thoughtful without being pretentious, and unexpected without relying on shock-value violence.

I’ve previously described it as what The 100 wanted to be in terms of the way it approached conflict and character complexity, and what Game of Thrones thought it was in terms of immersive world building and political storytelling.

So if either of those two shows rank among your favorites, then put The Expanse on your list of must-watch shows immediately. I promise you won’t regret it.

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica
Streaming on: SyFy

I initially wasn’t going to put this show on this list, even though I think it’s an absolute must-watch for everyone, simply because it wasn’t available to stream anywhere.

However, given the state of the world, SyFy saw fit to give us the gift of the GOAT sci-fi space opera that is Battlestar Galactica, and all of us social isolationists are better for it.

In a sentence, Battlestar Galactica is the story of a war between sentient robots called Cylons and the human race. Or, rather, what’s left of the human race after the Cylons genocide a great part of it.

However, Battlestar Galactica isn’t just a story of survival set in space; it’s an exploration into the human heart, tackling ideas of identity, morality and humanity with grace and complexity.

It uses the vastness of space and the close quarters of spaceships to tease out all the things that make humanity tick and asks interesting questions about what makes us human. If you haven’t watched it before, now’s the perfect time to watch all four seasons and finally understand why this show is consistently on every “Best of TV” list you’ve ever seen.

Reality TV that is admittedly trash but also weirdly addictive and a lot of fun

The Circle

The Circle
Streaming on: Netflix

If watching people live out their pre-pandemic lives makes you want to scream at your TV for everyone to move six feet apart, then Netflix’s The Circle is the reality show for you.

Basically, eight strangers move into an apartment building, where they live in isolation and are only able to communicate with one another via The Circle app, which allows them to create a profile, update their daily status, and send text messages to one another.

The goal is to be the most popular person in the game, as all contestants rank each member week by week — which means there’s plenty of embellishing, fibbing, and straight up catfishing throughout. There’s plenty of pettiness, absurdity, and laughs to go around — which is just the perfect cocktail of emotions to go along with your actual cocktail that you’re sure to be drinking while watching this.

Love is Blind

Love is blind pods
Streaming on: Netflix

The first few episodes of Love is Blind could really be called “Love in the Time of Quarantine,” given that the show’s main conceit centers around prospective partners going on “dates” where they’re isolated in pods and can’t see and touch one another.

Which means, you watch a lot of scenes of two people talking to one another, having wine together, saying “I love you” after two days (!!!!!) together — all through a frosted glass window.

The couples can only meet if and when they are engaged, and from there, the show takes a more traditional reality TV path. The couples go on vacation together, live together, and plan a marriage together in the span of four weeks.

The first season follows five couples from their initial meeting all the way to the altar, and it is an incredibly wild ride filled with at least two clear villains, some fantastic fights, and one couple that you genuinely hope will make it.

Love Island

Love Island
Streaming on: Hulu

Admittedly, Love Island isn’t the best reality TV show to make you want to stay indoors, given that it takes place on — you guessed it — a gorgeous, sunny island.

The premise is familiar — a group of hot 20-somethings compete for a cash prize on an island. However, rather than the weekly elimination of The Bachelor or Big Brother, Love Island requires contestents to work in pairs, with anyone left single at the end of the “Coupling Ceremony” given the boot.

It’s truly absurd and prurient television, but isn’t that why we watch reality TV anyway?

Good ole’ detective stories that will keep you distracted as they unfold

Bosch

Bosch on Amazon
Streaming on: Amazon Prime

Based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling detective book series about the show’s titular character, Bosch is a detective show that delivers a more grounded depiction of the nature of detective work than we’re normally used to seeing.

Plenty of police procedurals show you the dramatics, but Bosch shows you the drudgery that goes along with it — the long hours, the grind of following every lead, the internal politics of the police force.

And even though the two are completely different in tone, I sometimes like to think of Bosch as Brooklyn 99 if Brooklyn 99 were a hard-nosed drama rather than a breezy workplace comedy.

Yes, Titus Welliver’s Harry Bosch is more Captain Holt than Jake Peralta when it comes to personality, but both are seasoned detectives who are great at their jobs and are constantly going above and beyond the call of duty in pursuit of criminals.

And though the series is named after its lead detective, Bosch is just as much about the detectives who work at the Los Angeles Police Department as it is about Harry Bosch’s personal and professional life — all of whom are fascinating characters in addition to being fantastic detectives.

Mindhunter

Mindhunter
Streaming on: Netflix

Mindhunter probably isn’t the show to watch if you’re looking to get a good night’s rest — as I can attest to from experience — but it is the show to watch if you’re looking for something that’s both a good detective story and a deep dive into the minds of serial killers.

Based on the true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, the show follows FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench who, along with psychologist Wendy Carr, interview imprisoned serial killers in order to understand how they think and hopefully, create a profile that will help them apply their newfound knowledge to solve ongoing cases.

It is a fascinating study of sociopathy and psychopathy, with enough true crime elements in it to satisfy the true crime addicts among you, enough good detective work to satiate the mystery readers out there, and enough back and forth bantering between Jonathan Groff’s Holden Ford and Holt McCallany’s Bill Tench to hold the attention of those who love buddy-cop films.

Just take my suggestion and don’t bingewatch too many episodes before you go to sleep at night.

Luther

Luther
Streaming on: Hulu

BBC’s Luther stars Idris Elba as Detective Chief Inspector John Luther, a brilliant and tenacious detective with a penchant for skirting the rules (if he’s not completely flouting them), a wicked temper, and vindictive nature.

In fact, if I’m really being honest, any one of the members of law enforcement in this category would probably arrest John Luther if they were ever forced to work a case with him, but that kind of loose canon approach to detective work is exactly what makes Luther such a captivating show.

The show follows DCI Luther as he solves the most difficult crimes that befall the Serious Crime Unit in London, and along the way, we get to watch his personal flaws and foibles sometimes help, sometimes hinder, his professional life.

The detective part of the storylines sometimes get lost in its more sensationalized elements, but at the very least, you get to watch Idris Elba grace your television screen in some great coats while he’s chasing bad guys. That alone makes the show worth watching.

Teen TV shows that will distract you with how ridiculous they are and surprise you with how evocative they can be

Elite

Elite Netflix
Streaming on: Netflix

Elite has everything you’ve come to expect from modern teen shows: copious amounts of drugs, way more sex than should probably be happening in high school and — weirdly enough — murder.

The Spanish-language teen thriller centers on a group of students at Spain’s Las Encinas, the most exclusive private school in Spain attended by children of — you guessed it — the country’s elite. Initially, the storyline follows the clashes between three scholarship students from the poorer area in town and their rich classmates.

However, the clashes surrounding social standing and class soon give way to forbidden relationships, fraught love triangles and — yes, you guessed it — a murder mystery.

Elite relishes in its sensational stories and does them better than almost any teen show I’ve seen, all while giving us complex characters and complicated relationships that you will, surprisingly, want to root for.

Basically, take all the best parts of The OC, Gossip Girl and Skins, add a dash of Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars at their best, and you have Elite. What are you even waiting for?

On My Block


Streaming on: Netflix

Like Elite, On My Block has all the modern markers of a teen show, but it grounds them with realism and seeks to unpack those markers of teen life, rather than sensationalizing them for their drama.

There are drugs, though our characters more intent on running away from those dealing it than snorting it; there is sex, though it’s never the central focus of the characters or their storylines; and though murder is a reality, it’s treated as a tragic part of life in a rough neighborhood rather than a salacious plot point.

On My Block takes place in an rough inner-city neighborhood and is a coming-of-age story that focuses on four life-long friends — Cesar, Monse, Jamal and Rub — as they leave behind middle school and step into the halls of high school.

And though the show does touch on real issues that affect teens of color living in low-income neighborhoods, On My Block never makes it about their hardships or their suffering.

Rather, this is a true coming-of-age show — they go through the normal ups and downs of love, heartache, and growing up, and the show gives plenty of time and storyline to normal teenage absurdity and comedic shenanigans. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking and a little bit ridiculous — just like growing up itself.

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