One of my absolute favorite things is recommendations. I love reading, watching, listening to something, and then being reminded of someone. They will LOVE this. And then the next time I see them, I throw that show, book, movie, whatever into their face. About half the time, people will come back and say, “You were right, I really loved it.”
I don’t know about you all, but I am really struggling these days. I am tired and unmotivated. Depression, a blanket I know well, is starting its creep on me, and I try to combat it the best way that I can. In caring for myself, I’ve revisited some of my favorite pieces of entertainment, and so I thought I would share some of my all-time favorite movies, TV shows, podcasts, etc. My goal here is not to take out all the best, but the things that really bring out the tears of joy and the warm fuzzing feelings that maybe are humans OK. Pieces of work that uplifting and rooting at the same time. Also, this is not my extensive list of everything I love because they are darker, more intense entertainment I like (See Barry), but I wanted to keeper it to the things that I know will brighten people’s spirits during this time. So, if you are looking for recommendations for wholesome content, here is mine:
This pandemic is causing destruction that will be felt for decades, but some genuinely wonderful things have also come out of it. One such thing is John Krasinski’s Some Good News, or SGN. Each week, he produces a TV show about some of the best good news that happened recently. And, then he usually focuses on one story to bring even more joy. I have never not cried at these episodes. This week’s episode (see top), in which he marries a couple, had me cry/laughing. It was pure joy.
If you and I have talked recently, I have definitely brought this web series up to you. I started watching it a month, and I have watched almost every episode. This video series comes from the magazine, Bon Appetite, and features the divine pastry chef Claire Saffitz in her attempt to recreate popular snack foods. From Starburst to Pringles to Snicker Bars to Pizza Rolls, Claire uses her skills and expertise to reverse engineer these over-processed foods into something delicious. It’s incredibly satisfying to see someone who is smart and good at her job fail over and over. Sometimes she produces something infinitely better than the original and other times it’s just good enough. But, it’s incredibly human and binge worthy. Here she makes Combos:
First of all, I will watch pretty much anything with Mike Schur’s name attached to it (Parks and Recreation is probably my all-time favorite show), but this show is unlike any others. Mike came up with the concept for the show when he noticed that when he was at coffee shops and he moved to put change into the tip jar he only did so when the barista was facing him. He wondered why it was so important for him that the barista knew he was tiping him, and thus the show was created. It’s about the moral and ethical dilemmas we face as humans, and it is simply wonderful. It’s bright, funny, and makes you believe in the good. Also, the finale was simply perfect. My cheeks were not dry.
Replay of Sports
I know that many people are sad that we basically don’t have sports right now, but I’ve found this a wonderful time to back and watch some of my favorite sports moments. On Boston Marathon, the Olympic Channel played races from the last five years, and I watched nearly all day. I only took a break to hop over to the NBC Sports channel because they were recasting all of Michael Phelp’s gold medal wins in Beijing. It was so fun to rewatch those races, and I felt almost as nervous and excited as I did the first time. Sports run on a continuum, and rarely are we lacking something new to watch, but this pause in time has given us a chance to go back and relive some of those athletic triumphs:. It’s pretty special. Here are two of my favorites:
One of the most epic relay finishes in Olympic Swimming history:
A championship 108 years in the making:
This is the most charming, heartwarming podcast out there. Each episode, Jonathan Goldstein helps people go to a piece of their lives that they wish they could redo or re-explore, and he helps them make amends with who they became along the way. It’s a podcast that shows you that most people are good people, just trying to do their best.
Stand By Me by Ben E. King
I remember hearing this song for the first time during music class in the sixth grade, and since then, it has been my all-time favorite song. Even before I met my husband, I knew this would be the song I danced to at my wedding. Now, when I am sad, I listen to it and think of that gorgeous day in June.
There are LOTS of competition shows out there, but none are like Making It. First, it’s hosted by Amy Poeler and Nick Offerman, arguably the two best hosts on television. It invites crafters from all over the country who specialize in different mediums to make gorgeous beautiful things. Not only is everything they make done with incredible amounts of skill, precision, and talent, the contestants are genuinely good people who help each other out. It’s a hug for the heart. Plus, there are so many puns.
Let the Sunshine In
On Sundays when I am not working, I attend church with my friend Kera, and each year, the church holds an auction as part of its annual fundraising efforts. An item up for bid is to pick a song that the choir will play during its yearly music service. During the first time I attended this service, the winning bidder chose “Let the Sunshine In.” I had heard this song before, but to be in that gorgeous church with it’s floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing the blue sky, green trees, and passing birds brought a whole new way of listening. On bright sunny days, I listen to this song and dance as I walk to the train.
I can’t remember when I first discovered this column in The New York Times, but it’s always been a favorite of mine when I need reminding of the hope and love in the world. Each essay is different, and not all are written by professional authors, but the column reminds us that love is often complicated and messy and always worth it.
Sabli by Amadou and Mariam feat. Theophilius London.
This is a song we listened to a lot in Peace Corps Niger. It’s a remix of the Mali’ band, Amadou and Mariam, with an American-Trinidadian rapper. The sweet lyrics—”Avec toi cherie, la vie est belle)—always take me to a different place, and for that, this song will always be special.
Holocene, Instrumental Version
Bon Iver’s Holocene is my second favorite song of all time, right after “Stand By Me.” That album came out shortly after I returned home from Niger, and I listened to it on repeat as I pieced my life back together. I saw Bon Iver in concert a few months later, on a perfect September night in Nebraska, shortly before I left for Lesotho. Over the years, I’ve written thousands and thousands of words to this song on repeat, and when I was planning my wedding, I knew it had to be a part of the ceremony. We found this perfect instrumental version, and it played as I walked down the aisle.
Honorable Mentions for Things I Love but Didn’t get into Here:
Parks and Recreation (anyone else cry super hard at the reunion show?)
This American Life, specifically “Rest Stop.”
Things You can’t Binge but are Still Wonderful and Wholesome:
Cheering on Friends as They Find a Way to Run Their Race Anyway
Playing with Face Filters with my Nieces and Nephews
Friends who Deliver Baked Treats/Delivering Baked Treats to Friends
Games over Zoom/House Party