What we’re watching in coronavirus lockdown

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Julia Koh/The Occidental

From beloved baking shows, to exotic tigers, to zombie contagion, our editors have joined viewers around the world in turning to TV for solace amid the coronavirus pandemic. If you’ve finally run out of episodes of The Office and need new characters and dramatic plotlines to fill your hours of social-distancing, try out one of our favorites.

“Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” (Netflix)

Only a show this insane can distract me from obsessively reading the news. When watching “Tiger King,” my thoughts are “WHAT THE—” and “Obviously Carole Baskin killed her husband.” What seems to be a documentary about zookeeper Joe Exotic and his big cats quickly spirals out of control. Everyone on this show is a terrible person (and the tigers deserve better). But I’m still trying to figure out who is the most sane character — maybe it’s the Libertarian Walmart manager turned campaign manager? Even more than the chaotic storyline, I am in awe of Joe Exotic’s flamboyant aesthetic. His bleach-blond mullet, barely-hanging-on eyebrow ring, sequin tiger print tops and music videos are all impeccable and have inspired multiple fashion TikTokers to recreate his looks. The drip never takes a backseat (even in the face of tiger danger), and I commend him for that. I’m currently trying to recreate one of his looks for my next BlueJeans class. Kristine White, Opinions Editor

“Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” (Hulu)

In times of strife (so, right now), there’s one show I always turn to: “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.” The show follows mild-mannered Midwest transplant June as she moves to New York City to pursue her dream job and rooms with the titular “b,” a hard-partying con artist/socialite named Chloe. Naturally, this odd couple become friends and get caught up in endless feuds and hijinks alongside Chloe’s best friend, the real actor James Van Der Beek (played by himself to incredible effect). While the show occasionally becomes repetitive over its two seasons, the energy brought by the entire cast keeps it afloat. Furthermore, the insanity of the show will likely pull your mind far from the reality we live in. So dive in, and as Chloe says, “Go where the bender takes you!” —Pablo Nukaya-Petralia, Features Editor

“Selling Sunset” (Netflix)

Through the countless hours I have spent watching the “Bachelor” franchise and my recent binge of “Selling Sunset,” I am slowly becoming convinced that reality television is the best escape from reality. The eight episodes follow the Oppenheim Realty Group as they broker multi-million-dollar homes in the Hollywood Hills and get drunk on what I have to assume are overpriced cocktails on the Sunset Strip. The show has all the hallmarks of mindless reality television, from unexpected proposals to character assassinations. Watching from my suburban Minnesota living room, the frequent shots from balconies and rooftop decks of Downtown LA make me nostalgic for the hike I took in Griffith Park just weeks ago. With all its lavishness and drama, I can’t decide if “Selling Sunset” makes me miss LA or want to move further away, but I definitely know it makes me wish I had a private pool to social distance in. —Kayla Heinze, Culture Editor

“Girls” (HuluHBO NowAmazon Prime Video)

There is something comforting about rewatching a show during a time of crisis — or in this case, international mayhem. There are no surprises, and you feel in control of the plot. I have already seen Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” yet it was the first show I put on when I arrived home from LA. As a native New Yorker, watching television shows based in New York City provides an indescribable sense of solace and comfort. Watching Hannah waltz around her Brooklyn walk-up discussing boy problems and weak job prospects reminds me of a simpler time, back when everything was “normal.” Hannah’s dry sense of humor and story-filled life provide a much-needed distraction from the realities of the current epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. Even as the unexpected keeps happening in my real life, it’s comforting to be able to have some control during a time like this. —Elizabeth Brewer, Culture Editor

“The Walking Dead” (Netflix)

For the past week, my boyfriend and I have been binging “The Walking Dead.” My family doesn’t get why we’d want to absorb ourselves in a situation even more apocalyptic than the one we’re all living through — and I’m not sure we totally understand it ourselves. But in a time like this, it can be comforting to see our very real fears metaphorized, made more entertaining and easier to process. In “The Walking Dead,” the fear of contagion is embodied by zombies (or “walkers”), who can only be killed with a violent strike to the brain. Stabbing a walker in the eye is basically the in-show equivalent of slathering on hand sanitizer, but the fantasy version is way more cathartic. We also see the characters craving order as society crumbles around them — institutions can’t be counted on, travel is nearly impossible, supplies are scarce and people are trapped in small groups together for months on end. All of that might sound uncomfortably familiar, but “The Walking Dead” imbues the situation with a spirit of adventure. Its characters aren’t stuck in their parents’ houses watching glitchy lectures on BlueJeans but instead roaming through a desolate landscape to fend off walkers, hunt for a permanent home and build a new society. The show’s conflicts are simultaneously relatable and outlandish, reassuring us that while things in the real world are looking pretty rough right now, at least we don’t live in constant fear of morphing into ravenous, filthy, brain-dead monsters.

Actually, I’m typing this in front of the TV while eating pasta for breakfast, and I may or may not have showered in the past 48 hours. Maybe “The Walking Dead” isn’t as far from reality as I thought. —Natalie Ray, Editor-in-Chief

“Wild Wild Country” (Netflix)

Though a few years older than some of the entries on this list, “Wild Wild Country” (2018) — a six-part Netflix documentary series following the unexpected rise and spectacular fall of an Indian religious commune settled, incredibly, in the middle of the 1980s Oregonian countryside — presents a so-strange-it-must-be-true story of love, faith, spirituality and betrayal. As followers of the charismatic but controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh buy and develop a remote ranch into a commune of over 2,000 people complete with its own police force, scientific laboratories and political system, local residents begin to push back. Confrontations escalate, bringing in local government forces and even the FBI, and then boil over to involve arson, murder plots, poisoning schemes, immigration fraud and a transnational manhunt (just to name a few things). In the process, the American legal system’s tenets of tolerance and religious freedom are called into question, and the lines between loyalty and naivety, self-protection and nativism, utopia and hell are blurred beyond distinction. But what’s truly remarkable about “Wild Wild Country” is the cast of interviewees it assembles, all of whom were intimately involved in that 1980s drama, and the parity it achieves. Ultimately, the makers produce not a reductive dramatization of good versus evil but a beautifully ambiguous portrait that preserves all of its characters’ admirable intentions, raw emotions and deepest regrets. —Zach Goodwin, Opinions Editor

“Dirty Money” (Netflix)

Thankfully, in addition to mass quarantine, March also brought us the second season of Netflix’s “Dirty Money.” The documentary series takes a look at large-scale fraud and controversies conspired by large corporations and monopolies. The first season had a wide scope, covering everything from Volkswagen and Valeant’s scandals to the ruthless maple syrup market of Quebec. From my first episode, I was hooked. The scale of the damages the companies inflict disgusts the viewer, only to reveal that in nearly every case, they are able to walk away without any consequences from the government or whistleblowers. The new season offers some compelling stories, featuring prominent names like Prime Minister Najib Razak and Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. I’m looking forward to further immersing myself in the dysfunction of the world’s most powerful governments and organizations — especially after watching them fail to stop the coronavirus and lock us in our homes. —Charlie Finnerty, Sports Editor

“Baby” (Netflix)

I may not be in Rome anymore, but “Baby” makes me feel like I never left. I’ve learned about the glitz and glamour of elite Italian prep school students from the comfort of my own bedroom — the show mixes the debauchery of “Skins UK” and the high society of “Gossip Girl,” but make it Italian. The teen drama series centers around 16-year-old Chiara, who’s a promising student athlete with a seemingly perfect family life. She befriends a girl named Ludovica (Ludo for short), a free spirit and a troublemaker who exposes her to the world of sex work. Compared to other teen dramas, “Baby” doesn’t dilute heavy or controversial themes. It addresses racial and homophobic tensions within Italian culture — specifically with characters such as Damiano, who has an Arab father, and Fabio, who is gay. The genius behind “Baby” is the same genius behind movies such as “Good Boys,” depicting children and teenagers as actual people who use vulgar language and have multifaceted conflicts within their day-to-day lives. —Esmé Epstein, Former Opinions Editor

“The Great British Baking Show” (Netflix)

As many have turned to baking as a coping mechanism, all the local stores here are out of flour. So I’ve been watching others bake. When I need a break from taking walks through my Sammamish, WA neighborhood and playing Animal Crossing to distract myself from impending paper deadlines, I join my mom, stepdad and three cats on the couch to watch “The Great British Baking Show.” For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a rare kind of reality show where the contestants, hosts and judges actually collaborate and support one another, even throughout seasons of high-pressure baking competition. The show’s main source of conflict has been described as “man versus nature,” which feels relatable in today’s circumstances. Even as I’m dearly missing my friends, the sun and speaking to other human beings in person, it’s been nice to have unanticipated time with my family spent rooting for our favorite contestants and speculating about Paul Hollywood’s dating life. Peri Wallent, News Editor

“The West Wing” (Netflix)

Call me a high-maintenance TV viewer, but with the day-to-day stress of a pandemic already demanding every neuron of my brain power, I’m in no state to allocate emotional investment to a new series. Instead, I seek comfort in the familiar. For me, that’s “The West Wing.” Lovingly described by fans and critics alike as “political pornography for liberals,” The West Wing is the perfect mixture of lighthearted wit, political drama and grand calls to morality. Its late ’90s setting is distant enough that you’re safe from reminders of our current state of affairs, but relevant enough to hold your attention: escapism for the political junkie. The hallway walk-and-talk scenes will even give you a momentarily false sense of productivity and social interaction, one that you just can’t get from pacing the rooms of your quarantine home. —Emily Jo Wharry, Community News Editor