I know that many of us are currently working from home and practicing "social distancing" to help contain the spread of the Coronavirus. While staying in may make you feel a little stir crazy, there has never been a better time to stream.
If you are stuck on what to watch or where to begin with the thousands of options, I have six suggestions.
1. Cheer (Netflix)
Cheer is a six-part documentary series that follows the cheerleading team at Navarro Community College in Corsicana, TX. They are 13-time national champions, seeking their 14th title.
Now, before you say, "Why would I ever watch a show about cheerleading?" This is about so much more than cheer. It's about the coach, Monica Aldama, and her role in these kids' lives. She has her bachelor's degree and her MBA and she gave up her dream to work in finance in New York City to coach this team. She's found a deep sense of purpose in this role and serves as a mentor and mother figure to many of the kids on the team.
Even more than the story of Monica, the part that reeled me in was the backstories of the members of the team. There's Lexie, whose had trouble with the law, but also possesses incredible talent as a tumbler. There's La'Darius, who grew up in a foster home, was tormented by his older brothers, struggled to come out and now leads the team with more fire than anyone else on the mat. There's Morgan, who was abandoned by her parents, suffered from deep depression and has now found a sense of family at Navarro. There's Jerry, who lost his mom to cancer and still remains the most positive and supportive team member on the squad.
More than anything, Cheer is a show about resilience. You won't be able to stop watching.
2. Sex Education - Season Two (Netflix)
I loved the first season of Sex Education, but I have to say, I loved season two even more! Otis and his best friend Eric are back, navigating the awkwardness of high school. This time, Otis' mom joins the school's staff to help educate the students about sexual health. The only problem? She doesn't know about Otis' little side business.
Maeve is also back this season and gets a very meaty storyline. She earns a spot on the Quiz Heads, the school's academic competition team. Her mom returns and moves in with her in her trailer. At the trailer park, she finds a new love interest.
This show has so many amazing supporting characters - Ola, Adam, Lily, Jackson - and they're all back and even more layered.
This show will make you laugh, swoon over the stunning landscapes and covet every single thing in Otis' mom's wardrobe (played by Gillian Anderson).
3. Four Weddings and a Funeral (Hulu)
Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton, the producing team behind The Mindy Project, rebooted the 1994 rom-com into a 10-part series for Hulu. Mindy started promoting the series as early as the casting calls and I couldn't wait to see it.
For me, the star of the series is Kash (played by Nikesh Patel). When we meet him, he's engaged to a woman named Ainsley. He calls off their wedding, falls in love with her best friend, loses his banking job and decides to pursue his dream of being an actor. He's from a traditional Pakistani family and all his father wants to do is arrange his marriage.
I also loved the character of Maya, played by Nathalie Emmanuel of Game of Thrones. Her life is in complete turmoil as she falls for her best friend's ex, takes on a new job in politics and considers a move from London back to New York.
The series has all the things you love about romantic comedies, sprinkled with that signature Mindy Kaling sparkle.
4. The Spy (Netflix)
If you love Homeland and The Americans, The Spy on Netflix will scratch your espionage itch! Sacha Baron Cohen stars as Eli Cohen, a spy for Israel's Mossad. The script is based on the book The Spy Who Came From Israel, written by Uri Dan and Yeshayahu Ben Porat.
Eli Cohen was recruited by the Mossad, trained and then given a new identity as a wealthy businessman named Kamal Amin Thabet. He traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to make connections with the powerful Syrian diaspora. Once he'd made a name for himself, he moved to Syria, where he earned the trust of several leaders, ultimately becoming a minister of defense inside the Syrian government.
There were many moments during the series where my heart was pounding; where I was sure Kamal was going to get caught.
There's also a very emotional element to show, as Eli tries to maintain his relationship with his wife, Nadia, played by Hadar Ratzon Rotem. There's a scene where he comes back to Israel after being away from a long stretch and he cannot seem to shed his role as Kamal. He gets mistreated in a department store and has an absolute meltdown in public, since as Kamal he is used to getting everything he wants.
This is a six-part series. Each episode is one hour. I guarantee you won't be able to watch just one at a time!
When you finish, you are going to have so many questions about what was actually true. Reward yourself by reading this piece in TIME called, "The True Story Behind the Netflix Series The Spy."
5. The Crown - Season Three (Netflix)
In November, Netflix released the much anticipated third installment of The Crown. In chapter three, all of the lead actors have been replaced. Olivia Colman steps in to play Queen Elizabeth, Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. Erin Doherty joins the cast as teenage Princess Anne and steals the whole show.
Check out these photos in Oprah Magazine of the actors side-by-side with the members of the Royal Family. The likeness is uncanny!
Olivia Colman's portrayal of the queen is stoic. When Clare Foy occupied the role in the first two seasons, she played the queen as having more vulnerability. She was new to the job and had to be honest about what she didn't understand. In season three, which begins in 1964, Elizabeth has settled into her role as monarch and is much more firm in her convictions.
As Prince Philip, Tobias Menzies confirms that Philip is the absolute worst! He's a terrible husband and an absent father. In episode four, the Royal Family is the subject of a cringe-worthy documentary, mostly because of Philip. In episode seven, Philip is obsessed with the 1969 moon landing. I took notes as I watched each episode and I had written down, "He is loathsome and I can't believe they wasted an entire episode on him!"
I loved Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret. I thought she was perfect in every way. Helena Bonham Carter carries the torch of the sister who is heartbroken about being second fiddle. Episode two is a flashback to young Margaret (in 1943) expressing how badly she wants to be the queen. By the end of the episode, you feel convinced that her life is a constant quest for attention. In the 10th and final episode, Margaret's husband has an affair. She describes their relationship as, "Brutal fight to the death is our mating dance." She retaliates by taking up with a young man at the family's house in the Caribbean. That episode is particularly sad, because it's so clear how broken Margaret is.
For me, the most interesting part of this season was the four-way love triangle between Princess Anne, Andrew Parker Bowles, Camilla Shand and Prince Charles. I knew that Charles and Camilla had dated when they were younger, but I did not know the Royal Family sent Charles away on military assignment and basically arranged / accelerated the timeline of Camilla's marriage to Andrew. Drama!
Of all three seasons of the show, this one is definitely the slowest. That said, the years it covers were not some of the most eventful in the Royal Family's history. We will meet Diana in season four and I cannot wait!
6. Spinning Out (Netflix)
A friend recommended this show to me, calling it "The Cutting Edge, but darker, bitchier and more exciting." If you aren't familiar, The Cutting Edge is a 1992 movie about a figure skater and a hockey player who are paired together for a skating competition.
Spinning Out centers around three women: Kat, Serena and Carol. Kat is the older sister, Serena the younger sister and Carol is their mom.
Kat is played by Kaya Scodelario. When we meet her, she is considering giving up figure skating. She had a terrible fall, resulting in a head injury and she's now tentative about doing any jumps.
Her younger sister, Serena, takes that opportunity to step into the spotlight. Serena is played by Willow Shields, Prim from The Hunger Games.
January Jones play Carol, the girls' mom. She is bipolar, as is Kat, which dramatically impacts the family dynamics.
There are some moments of levity, including cameos from Johnny Weir and Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness.
I grew up obsessed with figure skating, so I was completely sucked into this show. It really brings you behind the scenes of these training sessions and competitions, as well as the class tensions.
One warning: there is some pretty gruesome self-harm shown on screen, so if that is triggering or makes you uncomfortable, you should probably skip this one.
Looking for even more to stream? I am also planning to watch the Oscar movies I didn't get to see before the award show and some series I've had on the back burner for far too long, like Killing Eve.