On day 600,000 of Illinois’s stay-at-home order, it happened to you. You’re on your living room floor. You’re doing a 1,000 piece custom-ordered jigsaw puzzle of Cardi B and Bernie Sanders photoshopped partying at Tao. You jab one of the dozens of blue pieces into a spot with no luck. You sigh, devastated. This puzzle is just not cutting it anymore. Something’s missing. You need gossip. Real gossip. You need reality TV. OK, stop protesting. Let me finish. You DO need it.
Reality TV gets a bad rap for being “trash” and “the mental equivalent of incinerating your brain.” And what’s wrong with that? If there’s a time I want to toss my brain into a blender, ma’am, it is now. Reality TV turns your brain off. It sucks you into a new, addicting universe with its own rules. It promises hours of escape, and all you have to do is sit in one place and hit play. Don’t think of reality shows as trash TV. Think of them as documentaries that you don’t have to lie about enjoying. Sure, Blackfish was “important” but, uh, have you seen Vanderpump Rules? If you’re new to reality TV, here’s a guide on where to get started based on how your quarantine is going.
If you’re overwhelmed with dozens of new quarantine hobbies, you should watch: Property Brothers (Hulu)
You’re baking bread. You’re reading books. You’re knitting. You’re basically the perfect 1800s homemaker. Laura Ingalls Wilder is posthumously writing you into Little House on the Prairie. Somehow, you’ve fought off the unending, nightmare-induced sluggishness that many of us have felt during quarantine. Congrats! You might like Property Brothers, HGTV’s reality show about a pair of small-mouthed twins who fix up busted up homes for a lucky couple every episode. Watching it makes you wonder, “Wow, how do they do it? Could I renovate a house? I probably could if I tried, right? I could probably do it. I did Habitat for Humanity in high school.” Feeling like you did something is actually its own type of accomplishment.
If you’ve become a quarantine homebody a little too easily, you should watch: 90 Day Fiancé (Hulu)
You only wear soft clothes now (pajamas). No crunchy clothes (jeans). You’ve rebooted back into your middle school self, where Neopets, pizza rolls, and wondering if you’ll ever have sex one day are your version of The Good Place. Sure, you live with your partner, but they’re busy doing puzzles on their phone, and you kind of have to talk to your succulents, so . . . You need something that you can watch for hours at a time. TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé is like watching a trainwreck, but also, a lot of these couples earnestly do seem to love each other. And boom, you’re invested! Another reason to ignore Zoom calls.
If you’re an essential worker, you should watch: The Real Housewives franchise (Hulu)
While a lot of folks are grumbling about being stuck at home, you’re out there going to work every day. You deserve a lot, like paid sick time, vacation, hazard pay, proper PPE, and I hope you’re getting that. You also deserve messy bitches, which is why The Real Housewives franchise is for you to devour. Leave it to Bravo for creating reality TV that sucks you in and keeps you mentally sedated. Have a glass of wine and a Klonopin and enjoy the true American pastime: watching rich women hurl drinks at each other.
If you’re short-circuiting from the lack of social life, you should watch: Terrace House (Netflix)
You’re double-booking Zoom calls. You’re mixing yourself elaborate cocktails like you’re at the bar. You’re wearing your prom tux to the grocery store. You practice eye contact in the mirror, anticipating a meet-cute on your next sanity walk. Uh, you need Terrace House, a Japanese reality show on Netflix. It’s arguably the most realistic reality show. No talking heads, no contrived drama—just six hot people moving into a beautiful house and getting to know each other. I mean, contestants still go to their day jobs at this show. Unlike your average reality show, Terrace House residents say things like “hello” and “how was your day?” Normalcy, baby!
If you’re ignoring social distancing guidelines and hanging out with your friends like normal, you should watch: The Bachelor (Netflix, Tubi)
There are 22 seasons of The Bachelor, which means in order to catch up, you have to quarantine (like, really quarantine) for fourteen days, in front of your laptop. For the safety of others, please DO NOT leave your home until you are FINISHED with The Bachelor. AFTER you finish watching 22 seasons of The Bachelor, DO NOT leave your home until you’ve watched it all again. Repeat until public health officials say it’s okay to see your friends. I know it’s inconvenient putting your life on pause to watch The Bachelor, but look, there have been books written about this show. Maybe you’ll become so passionate about it that you’ll write your own Bachelor thesis, and that will help keep your ass inside.
If you’re breaking quarantine to hook up with someone from a dating app, you should watch: Too Hot to Handle (Netflix)
Too Hot to Handle is a show about hot people trapped on an island with other hot people. Tragically, they can’t hook up, lest they want to risk losing prize money. Yes, this show is kind of boring. Yes, there is a contestant who compares not being able to have sex for a summer to the idea of her mom dying. But there’s an important lesson to take away here: If these hot people can more or less keep their hands off each other, then you and Crouton Billington, 29, from Hinge, can settle for a Zoom date. I mean, really? Do you need to endanger the lives of others for some mediocre peen? Is commuting for Pandemic Peen worth it to you? No, “‘Pandemic Peen’ would be a great reality show” is NOT the point.
If you’re fluctuating between being very horny and being very sad, you should watch: The Great British Bake Off (Netflix)
We all need to be gentle with ourselves right now, and that includes those of us that are experiencing, uh, complicated feelings during all this. The Great British Bake Off is therapeutic. It is as relaxing as a glass of warm milk (and also, way less disgusting than drinking a glass of warm milk). It’s got a variety (a VARIETY!!!) of soothing British accents; it’s got contestants rooting for each other; it’s got elaborate desserts that are nice to look at. Will this make you less sad? Probably. Will this make you less horny? I don’t know! Will you start using the word “chuffed” in everyday conversation? I hope so! v