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CONVERGE | Entertainment

10 Forgotten TV Gems To Get You Through Quarantine

July 13, 2020

Popular oldies but goodies.

Life is...weird right now. But despair doesn't have to come in the form of endless scrolling through your streaming platforms, looking for something new to catch your eye. Maybe what you're really looking for is something old.

What's great about TV from years past is the work has already been done for you — the cream rises to the top, as they say — so what sticks around is only the best of what's been.

So, for your enjoyment, here are 10 forgotten gems, all available to stream from the comfort (and safety) of your couch/chair/bed/blanket fort.

1. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)

Rob Petrie is a TV writer in New York City and a husband and father in New Rochelle. This mid-century show is about the misadventures of both halves of his life. This show broke the mold for its time period. Previously, fathers in comedies would “go to work," then disappear from the action of the show until it was time to come home for dinner. But Rob takes us with him — to the writer's room of a comedy show, where he and his long-suffering (and hilarious) staff labor under the thumb of their self-centered boss. 

The show is in black and white and perhaps not visually dynamic enough to make you pause as you scroll through options, but it's all about the writing. Sharp and funny and so quick it takes you a moment to catch up, the rumor is that sometimes the audience would laugh so hard that they would have to turn off the cameras until they calmed down and the actors could continue.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

2. Community (2009-2015)

It all starts when disbarred lawyer Jeff Winger enrolls in Greendale Community College. He spies on a hot girl in his Spanish class, and, trying to get some time with her, asks her for a study date. The “study date" turns into a 'study group," and the ragtag bunch that gathers form the show's — you guessed it —"community." Under-appreciated in its time, Community blew the sitcom genre out of the water. 

The bullet-proof cast nails every tightly written episode in the season arc. And there are episodes that explode what you know about sitcoms. The paintball season finales, the CSI episode, the chaos theory episode, the video game episode. This show does not know when to quit — it pushes the envelope in ways no other show does — and it's amazing. Come for the comedy, stay for the imaginative exploration of what TV can be. But do yourself a favor and skip Season 4 — it's not up to the same standard. Trust me!

Available to stream on Netflix.

3. The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)

Andy Taylor, sheriff of North Carolina's Mayberry, has virtually no crimes to investigate, which leaves him ample time to just be folksy. The “slice of life" formula centers around Andy, his family, his harebrained deputy Barney Fife, and the colorful residents of their small town. 

It's funny and sweet and occasionally goofy, with Barney providing the best of the slapstick bits. It was probably built into his contract, but I have no complaints when Andy pulls out his guitar and sings what are now mostly forgotten folk songs with an assortment of incarcerated musicians (why so many, Mayberry?) and hillbillies of the musical prodigy variety. A funny, sweet, peaceful show.

Available to stream on Netflix.

4. Little Lunch (2015-2016)

This Australian show flew mostly under the radar, but if you're home with kids, it's a must-watch. A documentary-style show (in the style of The Office), the episodes center around “little lunch", which, as far as I can tell, is just regular lunchtime, and the misadventures the kids get up to with their time out of class. The cast is funny and charming and the show is genuinely funny — this is one you won't mind sitting down to watch with the kids.

Available to stream on Netflix.

5. Wings (1990-1997)

Joe and Brian Hackett own Sandpiper Air, a small airline company on Nantucket Island. It's a tale as old as time! One brother's responsible, one brother's impetuous! They're pilots! They're adorable! A really charming show set in a small town, the brothers are surrounded by a colorful cast of characters. And, if that wasn't enough (they're adorable single pilots, for crying out loud!), the show exists in the same universe as Cheers, and characters from that show occasionally make appearances. Will wonders never cease?!

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

6. Monk (2002-2009)

Adrian Monk is a brilliant private detective, but nobody likes him. With good reason! He's got some...challenges because of his obsessive-compulsive disorder, but he's got good reason for that, too. What he's also got is a quick mind and a delightfully offbeat way of seeing things that makes it really fun to inhabit his world for a while. A quirky character, the actor playing Monk (Tony Shalhoub) really brings him to life, and he's surrounded with a cast of long-suffering straight-men who are the perfect foil to his many fixations. He's a Sherlock-type observer, so this is a winner for anyone with a taste for mysteries.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

7. Third Rock from the Sun (1996-2001)

You've heard this story a thousand times: It's an extraterrestrial research team posing as a normal family just outside of Cleveland. Tale as old as time, right? This show's best bits come from the team's often unsuccessful attempts to mirror “normal" human behavior, and their assurance of their own superiority — all while not being at all superior. There's also so much fun to be had in their haphazard placement in the “nuclear" family and the power dynamics at play. This inventive, original series deserves a place in your heart—and your queue.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

8. The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978)

A variety/sketch show, this one is an absolute classic of the genre. Ms. Burnett was actually offered a sitcom, as a CBS head explained that variety was a “man's genre." However, Burnett insisted on doing a variety format. The Carol Burnett show had a live audience, bullet-proof cast and sketches that can still slay to this day (see: “As the Stomach Turns", a soap opera parody, and “Went With the Wind," her infamous Gone With the Wind send up).

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

9. Call the Midwife (2012- now)

This sleepy little British gem is still producing new episodes, but it's worth talking about anyway. Based on a memoir, this female-led series is about a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London in the late 1950s and 1960s. The series tackles the Post-War baby boom, East End poverty and immigration, but handles all topics with a delicate, nuanced touch. Sweet and funny, every episode ends happily (an important sell for me!). This series is so beautifully cast, costumed, and designed — you'll be swept away.

Available to stream on Netflix.

10. The West Wing (1999-2006)

You might think a series about the lives of presidential advisors and staff might be dry and dull, but, it's not. Not when Aaron Sorkin is writing those lives, anyway. The West Wing is one of the most influential television series of all time, winning countless awards, but what really matters is how smart and engaging it is. 

The cast is so charming and seem to inhabit a world that feels so real and so true, it's a slight shock when the credits roll at the end of each episode. Smart, funny, incisive, wise and heartrending. Probably not forgotten, but a true gem.

Available to stream on Netflix.

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