Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Quarantined? These Shows Can Help Pass the Time


A lot of stuff has happened since my last post. Concerns over Coronavirus have shut down all professional and collegiate sports, most theater performances, conventions, and every other type of public gathering. Those who have contracted the virus are in quarantine, and many others are opting to self-quarantine to reduce the risk to themselves or others. 

This post is not meant to make light of some serious things that are happening.
But if you’re under quarantine, or have decided to self-quarantine for the next week or two, I recommend these shows to help pass the time. None of them feature doctors or hospitals.

If you’re going to be stuck inside for a while, the last thing you want is to run out of shows to watch. There’s not much chance of that with Gunsmoke. The series ran for 20 seasons and 635 episodes. Even if you watched five shows a day, you’re covered for the next four months. 

There were better TV westerns, but this is certainly a good one, anchored as it was by the steadfast presence of James Arness as Marshal Matt Dillon. Arness received three Emmy nominations for that portrayal, but the greater achievement was keeping the character consistent, relevant and appealing through two decades of turbulent American history. From the optimistic era of President Dwight Eisenhower through Vietnam, the JFK assassination, the moon landing, Woodstock and Watergate, and long after the rest of the TV cowboys were gone, Dillon protected the streets of Dodge City, and gave millions of Americans a reassuring place to visit when the rest of the world wasn’t as safe.

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood
Yes, adults can watch this show too, and be comforted by the calming presence and innate compassion of Fred Rogers. In a world that now careens forward so rapidly even in ordinary circumstances, this series invites us to slow down, take a longer look at the wonders of the everyday, renew our appreciation for music and art, and explore the possibilities of make believe.

The Waltons
This series serves as a reminder that Americans have faced challenges before – those that were a lot tougher and lasted a lot longer than the current situation. The Walton family came through the Great Depression and World War II, and they did both without ever hoarding groceries from Ike Godsey’s general store.

In this first season episode of Eight is Enough, the Bradfords find themselves quarantined in their Sacramento home, after Mary is potentially exposed to an African virus from a boyfriend just back from the Peace Corps. 

“A thing like this brings a family closer together,” Tom offers with his fatherly wisdom. But between Susan’s cross-country training and Joanie’s play rehearsing and Nancy coping with an oddball blind date that gets stuck in the house as well, togetherness isn’t always harmonious. So if you’re quarantined, this episode might at least make you happy that it’s not with eight other people.

The Bob Newhart Show
Any sitcom from the Comfort TV era will lift your spirits. I selected this one because much of the humor emanates from Bob’s dry but amusing reactions to the craziness that often surrounds him. Whether it’s Mr. Carlin’s latest neuroses or Howard Borden’s strange ways, Bob maintains his healthy outlook and takes their eccentricities in stride. That’s a good lesson to remember if you’re in the midst of frenzied shoppers fighting over the last Butterfinger bar. 

The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams
If you’re stuck inside, you may find some vicarious pleasure from a series set in the great outdoors. This feel-good, back-to-nature adventure was shot in Utah’s beautiful national forests, as well as Arizona and New Mexico. 

Your Favorite Classic
It’s all about a temporary escape from our current troubles, and I’m sure you already have a show that fills that need. That’s where you want to go for a while. Maybe it’s Dennis tormenting Mr. Wilson, or Norton tormenting his buddy Ralph, or Mr. Mooney tormenting his incompetent red-headed secretary. Maybe it’s a song from The Monkees or The Partridge Family; Samantha’s twitch or Jeannie’s blink; the family squabbles of the Ewings or the Carringtons; Jonathan and Jennifer Hart or Steed and Mrs. Peel; Scooby and Shaggy or Josie, Valerie and Melody. As a commercial for a better kind of Corona urges, Find Your Beach. And take comfort that this too shall pass. 


  1. Mr. Hofstede, do you know how many episodes of "Quincy, M.E." dealt with diseases potentially afflicting scores of people? A 1981 two-parter entitled "Slow Boat to Madness" concerned a cruise ship.

    1. Don't know how many, but probably not the sort of thing people will flock to for the next 30 days or so.

    2. One in the second season -- it may be a two-hour episode -- is about Legionnaire's Disease in a casino (guest star: Buddy Hackett!).

  2. I am enjoying this blog more & more with each post, thanks David. (Christopher Stuart offered another fine show--growing up, we never missed Quincy!) I wanted to also say how very much I enjoyed your piece on "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet". Several months ago I developed a jaw disorder (still struggling with) which kept me in relative seclusion. After reading your Ozzie piece, decided to watch a couple of the episodes on Youtube (where I grew up, it was never in syndication). I wound up finding someone on YT (Bandstandmike) who has all 14 seasons uploaded, most with original commercials, sorted by air-date. I spent September 2019 thru Jan 2020 watching over 400 episodes, haha. But like your suggestion 'Gunsmoke', Ozzie & Harriet really helped get me thru those months alone. Sorry for the long ramble, thanks again Dave.

    1. Thanks Dug (or do you prefer Apache?). Yes, there is something unique about Ozzie & Harriet. I've given up on an official DVD release, and have also sampled some of the episodes I don't own on YouTube. It never disappoints.

    2. Doug is just fine, thanks David :) And yes I think you're right about any official DVD release, as I watched these episodes I often looked up anything/everything I could find on the Nelson family. I guess Rick's youngest son had intended to get them released, but could never come up with the funding needed. At least they're on youtube (and bandstandmike has the final season available in both b&w & color. Each episode was actually filmed twice in that last season, unreal.)