Lang’s World: A Quarantine Viewing Guide

I should start by telling you that I have no idea what to tell you.

I’m guessing most of you right now are as flummoxed by the state of the world as I am, with COVID-19 running through the land as wild as Hulkamania was back in the ‘80s.

There’s no sports. I can’t go outside my house without feeling like there’s a chance that any and every little thing I touch might get me sick. I’ve wiped down every surface inside my house, more than once, but I still look at things like forks and pens and remote controls mad suspiciously.

Hey man. Yeah you. You got any hand sanitizer? Alcohol can apparently kill the virus, which is good to know. That is, if you can find wipes or sanitizer on store shelves. I’m currently workshopping a theory that alcohol can kill the virus through consumption, as well.

Wait, was that a cough I just heard? Worse, was that a dry cough I just suppressed? Does my throat feel a little sore? Is my head warm? OK, let me just turn on a game, some sport, any sport, something to help me escape… and there’s nothing.

It’s all unprecedented. My kid’s school is closed for the next few weeks. So is my wife’s office. Church is cancelled. The gym is closed. And I’ve gone from being a content creator to a homeschool teacher. OK, time for science class! (Puts on Jurassic Park.)

What are we supposed to do now? We’re all cooped up, trying to hide from something we can’t see, with no clear answer as to when things will return to the way they were. If they ever even do. Furthermore, we have no idea if these measures are working to the degree we pray they work. Are we overreacting? Is it possible to overreact to something classified as a global pandemic?

For now we wait, and attempt to be calm, and try to appreciate that while all the stuff we generally take for granted is gone, at least we still have the internet to keep us all connected, so we can read columns like this one and play video games against other humans and watch seasons worth of stuff we’ve been meaning to watch for seasons. I can’t provide my usually brilliant sports analysis when there are no sports to analyze, but I can perhaps help you pass the time a bit better. Here are some of my own recommendations for ways to pass the next few… well, however long it takes. We all might be practicing social distancing, but you don’t have to be socially distant.

 

Video Games – If you’ve never played video games, this is your moment. Order a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox, then start downloading games. Miss the NBA? Play a whole season in NBA 2K20. MLB The Show 20 just came out, so you don’t have to worry about baseball being postponed. And then there’s games like Grand Theft Auto V, which can burn at least a dozen hours just doing the story mode. And then you can spend weeks doing everything else in Los Santos, as well as biking and hang gliding out in the countryside. Red Dead Redemption 2 is also worthwhile if you fancy a long horse ride through the countryside.

Grizz Gaming

Love is Blind (Netflix) – While I’m not big on reality/dating shows, I stumbled over this one a week ago and it’s such a train wreck I haven’t been able to turn it off. This show is “hosted” by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, who apparently got paid to show up, deliver an opening monologue, then disappear for a few episodes. In the meantime, a group of men and a group of women gather together to try to find their perfect match. The catch is they never get to see what the other sex looks like – they’re all in their own quarantine, of sorts. It’s a fascinating conceit, and weirdly (or perhaps predictably) things really go off the rails once the people start to actually be with each other.


Ugly Delicious (Netflix) – I still miss Anthony Bourdain, the chef-turned-author-turned-TV host who turned eating your way around the world into compelling television. Bourdain left us almost two years ago now, and while nobody will ever replace him, David Chang’s Netflix show “Ugly Delicious” explores many of the same themes and ideas. Chang, the chef behind the lovely delicious Momofuku empire, travels the world eating and drinking and learning about different topics. While this show usually comes back to food, it’s not always that way: The recently released first episode of season two is all about Chang’s impending fatherhood, and turns out to be deep and emotional and really, really sweet. While this show bounces around from country to country and idea to idea, at the end of the day this is a show about curiosity. It’s nice to see people on TV who understand that there are still things left to learn. (And if you’re into cooking shows, Netflix also has the great Chef Show and The Great British Baking Show.)


Parasite (on demand) – This Korean film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, so surely folks are aware of this movie, but I’ve also talked to so many people who haven’t actually seen the movie. Which is a shame because it’s such a great flick. The title makes it sound like a horror movie, but it isn’t, at least not strictly speaking. But it is full of surprises and speaks to many things, including class division and income inequality.


The Boys (Amazon) – This is a superhero show on Amazon Prime, but it doesn’t feature any superheroes you’ve likely heard of before. These folks are wildly flawed, and they patrol a dystopian present in which heroes have been privatized and rented out to local and federal governments to patrol cities and help keep the peace. This is basically a superhero show for adults. And it’s great.


The Outsider (HBO) – I spent the last 10 weeks watching this series, which is about well, I don’t want to spoil it. It’s based on a Stephen King story about a series of murders, as we try to figure out who (or what) is behind everything that’s happening. This aired sequentially on HBO, but now that all 10 episodes are out of the can, you can binge them all at once. And speaking of HBO…


Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO) – “Seinfeld” is my favorite sitcom of all-time, and this show from “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David isn’t far behind. A few years back we had what many fans thought would be the final season of “Curb,” until this season came along and set a new standard. Each week I laugh out loud and shake my head and come away with a new phrase (“spite store”). Pret-ty, pret-ty good!


New Waves (Amazon) – I am one of those rare people out there who still reads books. Almost every night, before I nod off, I squeeze in a few pages, and when traveling I have hours to read. The latest book I started is this one written by one of my former editors at GQ, Kevin Nguyen, who is so smart and funny that there is no way this book can’t be great. Seeing as it begins with a quote from The Legend of Zelda, I don’t think I can go wrong.


Knives Out (on demand) – This movie was in theaters a few months back, but never really got a lot of attention. It’s a fun murder mystery set in an old house filled with a bunch of quirky characters, played by a bunch of interesting actors, such as Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stanfield and even Don Johnson(!). This movie actually won an Academy Award for best original screenplay, which is very well deserved.


Ozark (Netflix) – This show is set not far from Memphis on the Lake of the Ozarks, where a Chicago man has moved his family to try and figure out how to launder millions of dollars in drug cartel money. That’s not a spoiler, that’s basically the setup for the show, and it all unfolds from there. Jason Bateman is great as the series lead, and since two seasons of this show have already aired, there’s plenty of content already posted to burn through. Season three is set to drop in 11 days.

 

Stay safe, everyone.


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