Are We There Yet?

18 Great TV Shows You Can Start & Finish Before The End Of Quarantine

From chaotic reality series to classics you now finally have the time to watch.

Abc-Tv/HBO/BSkyB, Moviestore/CBC/ITV/Kobal/Shutterstock

Before the pandemic, I never understood the appeal of The Real Housewives. Why would I want to watch a bunch of egregiously rich women argue about salad forks? But as quarantine wore on and I found myself making increasingly uncharacteristic and unhinged choices, I discovered the question I should have been asking myself is, “Why on earth wouldn’t I?”

I started with Real Housewives of New York, and though it admittedly took some time to get into, I was soon fully invested in the petty, drunk antics of the Upper East Side’s haut monde. It turns out that watching a bunch of grown women scream about bad cabaret makes you feel a lot better about the fact that you can no longer interact with anyone you don't live with. And there is truly nowhere else you will see someone slam their prosthetic leg down on the table in the middle of a ritzy cocktail party.

Eleven months later, I've finished RHONY and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and am now making my way through Real Housewives of Atlanta as well as the newly debuted Real Housewives of Salt Lake City (which, and I cannot stress this enough, stars a woman who married her step-grandfather as part of her grandmother’s will). So if you’re looking to distract yourself from the shred of cardboard holding up American democracy, I highly recommend beginning your own Housewives journey. If that’s not your thing (or if you've already watched it all), no problem: Bustle’s writers and editors have recommended 18 other shows to get you through the ongoing vaccine rollout and to a (hopefully) restored semblance of normalcy within the next six months. See you on the other side.

Mad Men (AMC+)

I first discovered Mad Men after I got my wisdom teeth out in high school. My cheeks were swollen, I was on a steady supply of painkillers, and I hadn't eaten in days. Basically, I was just as uncomfortable and out of my mind as quarantine has made me — just for far different reasons. The chaotic life of Don Draper became my balm and I couldn't recommend more strongly that it become yours, too. The show follows Don through what seems like a relatively quiet 1960s existence. He works at an ad agency, has a beautiful wife (shout out to my favorite unhinged Instagram icon, January Jones), and two young children. But beneath the surface is a far more troubled man: one who has stolen an identity and is forever running from the truth of his past. Come for the incredible set pieces and ‘60s costumes, stay for the way Jon Hamm rocks a suit. —Samantha Leach

Love Island UK (Hulu)

I never thought I’d find myself bawling my eyes out while watching two British club kids confess their undying love for each other, but that’s the power of Love Island UK. It’s initially easy to write the show off as a trashy dating series (I did!), but when you really get into it, Love Island is more akin to radical performance art. It follows a rotating group of single people as they spend eight weeks getting tan and trying to find love in a tropical villa. In quarantine, it’s a welcome portal into a world in which you could still open-mouth kiss a stranger. And each of its six seasons have 40 to 50 episodes (filmed daily so you never miss anything), so once you’re in, it’s for the long haul. Pro tip? Watch the seasons in this order: 5, 3, 6, 2, 4, 1. —Ivana Rihter

The Sopranos (HBO Max)

The Sopranos is one of those rare shows that’s actually as good as everyone says it is — so much so that we’re writing this blurb jointly after both claiming the show .25 seconds after being asked for contributions in Slack. Still, it’s difficult to summarize why it’s so good in just 150-some words. The HBO series, which follows the exploits of crime boss Tony Soprano and his family, is simultaneously a mafia show, a family drama, and a time capsule of early noughties north Jersey. You get a little spasm of dopamine every time Adriana whines “Christopha!"; the many B- and C-plots — like when Dr. Melfi’s ex-husband turns out to be a member of an Italian anti-defamation league — provide ripe dinner-table conservation; and the memorable one-liners (“So what, no f*ckin’ ziti now?") remain endlessly quotable even 20 years later. Watching just one episode a night will take you 86 days, and it’s fully worth the time investment to find out what everyone’s been talking about for the past two decades. —Melanie Mignucci and Christina Amoroso

The Wire (HBO Max, Hulu)

I've already seen The Sopranos, the most perfect show ever created, so that was out as my quarantine series. But I wanted something on the same elite level. I remember literally Googling "best show ever created," and right alongside The Sopranos was The Wire. My fiancé and I subsequently spent at least one hour a night watching Detective McNulty deal with all sorts of crime in Baltimore. It has the case-cracking appeal of Law & Order with a touch of The Sopranos’ mafia drama, given the tension between the police force and residents of the city. Each season has a slightly different storyline, and each gets a beautifully wrapped up ending — especially the last one. It takes some time to get used to the pace and the many characters, but once you're into it, you'll be hooked. —Rachel Lapidos

The Leftovers (HBO Max, Hulu)

The Leftovers encapsulates our current moment almost too perfectly. In the wake of a mass casualty event, characters struggle to find meaning in a senseless tragedy that fundamentally and irrevocably re-shaped their world. They all react to their trauma and grief in different ways: some cling to any shred of normalcy, others tear their lives down to start anew, and several join a fanatical cult that enacts increasingly violent acts of terrorism as an outlet for their feelings of anger and powerlessness. Watching Damon Lindelof's underrated HBO drama in 2021 may seem like an act of self-flagellation, and it kind of is. But it's also surprisingly funny, cathartic, and hopeful. —Jefferson Grubbs

Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)

What better way to ignore your problems than by getting lost in someone else’s? In this gem of a Canadian comedy, the Rose family is forced to move to a small town they purchased as a joke after losing their fortune. There, they have to deal with the eccentric townspeople while trying their best to GTFO, though they ultimately end up growing into better, more compassionate people. There’s a reason the critically beloved series swept the 2020 Emmys: it’s both genuinely touching and legitimately funny. —Kayla Blanton

Game of Thrones (HBO Max)

If you’re one of the few people on the planet who still hasn’t seen Game of Thrones, being confined to your home during a global pandemic seems like as good a time as any to finally see what the hype is about. Even if you typically hate the fantasy genre (*raises hand*), there’s a little something for everyone: ruthless murder, juicy incestuous relationships, action-packed war scenes. The high-budget series is basically a cinematic masterpiece, and with eight seasons of episodes that each clock in at well over an hour, it’ll keep you occupied for several months to come. Plus, there are plenty of explainers, theories, and Reddit threads to eat up your time after the credits. —Jordyn Tilchen

The Americans (Amazon Prime)

Six months is just the right amount of time to properly immerse yourself in FX's still-underrated spy drama without becoming so invested that you begin to think your apartment is bugged by the Russians. In six near-perfect seasons (and one series finale that belongs in the pantheon of Satisfying TV Finales), it builds out a well-researched and mostly historically accurate depiction of Cold War-era espionage. If you're not into spies, that’s fine — at its core, The Americans is a drama about family and trust. You might come for the nail-biting spy scenes, but you'll stick around for the truly heartbreaking exploration of identity. —Samantha Rollins

Steven Universe (HBO Max, Hulu)

Steven Universe may look like a goofy, animated kids' series, but the five-season show (which also features a musical movie and a "post-happily ever after"-style epilogue season) is actually quite emotionally nuanced. Following Steven and the Crystal Gems — a rebel group of magical aliens who revolted against their imperialist galactic overlords to protect Earth — it's the perfect watch for anyone looking for something lighthearted and silly that also explores serious themes like non-traditional families, LGTBQ+ relationships, and intergenerational trauma. On top of that, the animation is beautiful! —Justice Namaste

Grey's Anatomy (Netflix)

The idea of watching a medical drama amid a global pandemic may feel counterintuitive, but the increasingly bonkers cases are actually kind of a nice break from reality. Across over 300 episodes, the show follows the personal and professional lives of surgical interns at Seattle Grace Hospital. Yes, medicine is a big part of the show, but it's the characters’ misadventures and messy love lives that will hook you. Expect to laugh, cry, and scream at the TV. Bonus? The soundtrack is *chef’s kiss* and there are some excellent celeb cameos – including a very young Demi Lovato and baby Millie Bobby Brown. —Sam Rogers

Survivor (Hulu, CBS All Access)

I watched a few early seasons of Survivor as a kid and had absolutely no desire to revisit it...until I found myself trapped at home and desperate for anything to help unglue my eyes from the news. I’ve since discovered that it has everything you could possibly want from reality TV: constant backstabbing, outrageous power plays, and even some sneaky romances. Some of the seasons have not aged well and should be skipped, but with 40 seasons and counting, you have more than enough content to choose from. It’s also a great show to watch with a buddy. Set up a virtual viewing party or group chat to discuss the chaotic decisions the contestants make — and how grateful you all feel to be stuck indoors instead of outside on a beach eating raw clams with your bare hands. —Danielle Colin-Thome

Glee (Netflix, Amazon Prime)

Despite my better judgment, Glee has become my comfort show. I’ve been a reluctant fan of the musical dramedy since it premiered in 2009, introducing us to the histrionics of William McKinley’s high school glee club. Every time I watch, I find a new reason to justify why Ryan Murphy and Matthew Morrison must be stopped. And yet I come back time and time again for the celebrity guest stars, delightful cover songs, and sheer theater of watching a show fumble so many serious topics. If your quarantine mantra is to embrace the chaos, now is the time to watch all six perfectly unhinged seasons (plus a concert movie!). —Shannon Barbour

Avatar: The Last Air Bender (Netflix)

Yes, Avatar is technically a kids’ show, but hear me out: it's immersive, beautifully animated, and much more emotionally mature than you’d expect. Following Aang, the titular Avatar, as he embarks on a journey to master Earth’s four elements and save the world from impending doom, it's a fine balance of heartfelt nuance and action-packed adventure. At only three seasons, it’s a little on the shorter side, but I cannot stress enough how quickly you'll want to go straight into its sequel series The Legend of Korra, which has four more. -Zosha Millman

Frasier (Hulu, Peacock, CBS All Access)

A spinoff of Cheers, Frasier aired for eleven seasons on NBC from 1993 to 2004 and won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy five years in a row. But it’s more than one of the greatest forgotten sitcoms of the ‘90s. The show holds up better than contemporaries like Friends and Seinfeld, with a sense of humor that was years ahead of its time. It’s filled with sharply drawn characters, smart dialogue, great acting, and most importantly, fantastic jokes. It’s also very easy to stream, with all 264 episodes available on three different platforms. —Johnny Brayson

Psych (Amazon, Peacock)

Across eight seasons and two movies, USA’s Psych follows Shawn Spencer (James Roday), a consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department who uses his hyper-observant skills to pass himself off as a psychic detective. Joined by his much more practical best friend Gus (Dulé Hill) and the good cop/bad cop team of Juliet O'Hara (Maggie Lawson) and Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson), Shawn helps track down murderers while having a lot of fun along the way. It’s the perfect combo of mystery and comedy. —Martha Sorren

New Girl (Netflix)

I've rewatched New Girl from start to finish twice, and it never fails to make me laugh. Centering around a group of tight-knit pals who spend an obscene amount of time together, it’s perfect for fans of Friends who are searching for something new. If that doesn't convince you, Schmidt's one-liners or Nick and Jess’ epic will they, won't they romance surely will. —Sam Rullo

Kim's Convenience (Netflix)

People have been recommending the Canadian comedy Kim’s Convenience to me for years, but it took me until lockdown to actually check it out. Since then, I’ve watched all four seasons three times. Following the Kim family — who, as the show's title suggests, own a convenience store in Toronto — it expertly blends humor and sharp character dynamics while subverting stereotypes, and it's become my go-to when I need something funny and positive but still real. It's the sort of show you can watch several episodes of in a row without feeling like it was too much. Don’t be like me and wait years before finally giving it a chance! — Amanda Chan

Scandal (Hulu)

I don't know what it is that I love most about Scandal. Maybe it's Kerry Washington's exceptional turn as the ultimate fixer and political operator, Olivia Pope, or perhaps it's Tony Goldwyn as Fitz, the fictional 44th President of the United States. They are in love — at first secretly, and then in the open — and it's completely majestic. The show was created by Shonda Rhimes, so if you liked Bridgerton's heavy breathing and sexual tension you won't be disappointed. Plus, there are 124 episodes. You're welcome. — Charlotte Owen