So, in the last several days, it’s been made very clear that people all over the planet can expect significant disruptions to their daily lives as we all move collectively into the next phase of the international response to the spread of COVID-19. That next phase is called “social distancing,” and it means we are all going to be spending more time at home in an effort to slow the spread of the virus so that our healthcare infrastructure isn’t overwhelmed.
If you have questions or concerns about COVID-19, we here at The Plotaholics urge you to keep up with the most current information presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. We should all be taking this as seriously as we would any other global threat, and we should be mindful of the most vulnerable among us–the elderly and chronically ill.
With that being said, there is a good chance that you’ll find yourself at home a bit more often in the coming weeks and months. To that end, we offer you the following comprehensive streaming guide to help keep your spirits up during an admittedly tense time. I’ve even invited my fellow Plotaholics, Bryan Tann, to offer his own suggestions, so without further ado, The Plotaholics presents your television episode-specific streaming guide for social distancing and quarantine.
Part 1: For Preparation
The following episodes of television deal directly with different health concerns and outbreaks. Watch these if you are home and aren’t sick yet. If you are sick already, you may not want to watch a bunch of episodes with other sick people in them. To take your mind off your current state, check Part 2: For Isolation.
Parks and Recreation, “Flu Season” (S3: E2, Netflix)
Season 3 is when Parks and Recreation really hit its stride, and this episode finds our rag tag group of social servants in the midst of planning the Harvest Festival. Leslie comes down with the flu right before a big investor pitch, and she has to delegate the responsibilities of planning to the different members of her excellent staff.
Bob’s Burgers, “Flu-ouise” (S7: E1, Hulu)
Louise is sick. When she finally takes her medicine (she doesn’t want to initially), she is plunged into a Ny-Quil-induced dream (nightmare?) featuring all of her favorite toys come-to-life. And it’s a musical!
Phineas and Ferb, “Brain Drain” (S2: E36, Disney+)
It’s one of the 104 days of summer vacation, and everyone in the Phineas and Ferb gang comes down with a summer bug. The inventive kids decide to create something of a closed-circuit television broadcast that will connect all of the friends together. Just because they can’t go out doesn’t mean they can’t hang out!
Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “The Gang Gets Quarantined” (S9: E7, Hulu)
What is there to say about “The Gang Gets Quarantined?” The group is rehearsing for an a cappella rendition of “Motown Philly” which they will perform in a bid to meet Boyz II Men. Frank runs in, panicked. One of his old (by age) friends has died of the flu, and Frank is quarantining everybody in the bar. Also, no drinking! It hurts the immune system. The end of this one is too good!
The Office, “Lice” (S9: E10, Netflix)
Pam and her dirty children have lice, which Pam brings to work. There is a witch hunt. Everyone thinks Meredith brought the lice in. Pam ultimately confesses, but not until Meredith has shaved her WHOLE ENTIRE HEAD. There is also a great scene where everyone is slathering mayonnaise on each other’s heads. This is a solid standout from one of the the Steve Carell-less episodes.
Rick and Morty, “Anatomy Park” (S1: E3, Hulu)
Rick and Morty is no stranger to wild plots, and it never has been, as is evidenced by this early episode where Rick builds a microscopic amusement park full of terrifying rides that use infectious diseases the way Jurassic Park uses dinosaurs. Of course things go sideways, but it’s hella fun to watch the chaos.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Killed by Death” (S2: E18, Hulu)*
Buffy catches the flu and has to be hospitalized. Hey, even vampire slayers get sick. While in the hospital, Buffy learns of a demon that feeds on the souls of children. Super uplifting stuff here. Buffy has to fight the demon while she’s still sick, and she wins! Good thing she kills the thing. Can you imagine being a demon and having to tell your buddies you got your ass kicked by a human with the flu?!?
Part 2: For Isolation
For those of you who have blown through Part 1 or are looking for something to take your mind OFF the global pandemic, we suggest spending some time with your good friends from television with these uplifting and fun episodes.
New Girl, “Normal” (S1: E20, Netflix)
I was never a big fan of Jess dating “fancyman” Russell, but this episode still lingers with me as the moment when the show became something. Every series that is going to be bigger than the average series has to contribute something to the pop culture experience–something that lives outside of the series from which is came. Sometimes, that thing can be a saying or a phrase (“We were on a break!” or “Norm!” or “That’s what she said!”) and sometimes it can be a place (Cheers, Dunder Mifflin, the Central Perk). In this case, it’s a game, and its rules are absurd. Here is the first appearance of True American!
The Office, “Cafe Disco” (S5: E27, Netflix)
Our boy, Michael Scott, has had a rough run in season five by the time we get to this episode. He’s quit the job he loved because of the terrible Charles Minor. He’s started his own paper company, and he’s made his triumphant return. After a several-weeks arc that saw some of the most tense episodes of The Office, we finally got to breathe as Michael converts the old closet that was the Michael Scott Paper Company into a dance club.
How I Met Your Mother, “The Playbook” (S5: E8, Hulu)
So I know that Barney’s womanizing subplots from How I Met Your Mother have not aged well, and this episode is one of the guiltiest of all. Even though Barney seems to trick a bunch of women into having sex with him, all of the sex he has is consensual. This show didn’t really understand many women outside of the main cast, using anyone who wasn’t Robin or Lilly as mostly a set piece (including the titular “Mother,” once she showed up), but there is just something so joyously absurd about this episode where Barney pulls off the “Scuba Diver” from his incredibly misogynist playbook.
Community, “Modern Warfare” (S1: E23, Hulu)
Community pulled off so many of these great concept episodes over the course of its run that it’s hard to pick just one. Watch “Modern Warfare”–an amazing episode about a paintball game that escalates into all out thunder dome status because the dean offers priority registration to the last student standing–and then watch the other paintball episodes as well as the Ken Burns’s Civil War parody about dueling blanket and pillow forts.
Glee, “Nationals” (S3: E21, Netflix)
Hey! Those scrappy losers from Lima, Ohio finally win the National Glee Club Championship (or whatever). I hesitated to include something from Glee because it’s generally considered pretty shitty at this point. But I still love it (even if some of Finn and Puck’s lines are super cringey in light of what has happened with those two). The show was always hopeful and optimistic, and I think that’s the kind of attitude I want to expose myself to right now.
Workaholics, “Real Time” (S3: E8, Hulu)
Workaholics is so under-appreciated. In this episode, the guys get hammered on the roof of their house and drunk-dial their boss’s work phone. They leave a ton of inappropriate messages and when they wake up the next morning, they realize they need to beat her to work so they can delete the voicemails. The only problem? They are still drunk. They know if they sober up too much, they will have hangovers. So, they keep drinking as they try to find responsible ways to work.
The Simpsons, “Homer the Great” (S6: E12, Disney+)*
In this episode, Homer joins the Stonecutters, an ancient secret society. After Homer’s birthmark reveals him to be the chosen one, he rises to prominence in the organization. His leadership role and power makes him feel isolated. When he suggests the group does some community service, everyone leaves and forms a new group.
During the coming weeks, we will undoubtedly see more cancellations of large gatherings of people as extreme efforts are taken in attempts to soften the blow of COVID-19. Keep in mind, though, that there is a difference in being informed and giving into hysterics. Being prepared and taking precautions do not make you paranoid.
Take care of each other, and be safe out there.
And if you want to talk, The Plotaholics will be here for you.
* Entries with an asterisk were submitted by Bryan Tann.