We're all stuck at home now with more limited entertainment options than a resident of Branson, Missouri. One of the things that can help us get through this small-town feel is the free show and movie app Pluto TV.
It's like someone mutated a UHF TV station and unleashed it on humanity; Pluto has a large, impressive list of channels and programs for a free TV app if you don't mind the occasional commercial. It has everything: movies from all genres (except adult, because the internet pretty much has that covered), every kind of conceivable TV show, music channels, sports, news and anything else that can be streamed or broadcast.
One of the best things Pluto offers is reruns, something that seems missing from TV despite this digital day and age when we can watch whatever we want, whenever we want. Recently, Pluto TV gave us a rerun that's been sorely needed on television: an entire channel that just airs old episodes of The Price Is Right hosted by Bob Barker. Now that we're at home, we are technically part of the long-running game show's target audience.
With all due respect to the show's current host Drew Carey, there's just something comforting and welcoming about watching Barker's long run as host of TV's longest-running game show. He's witty without being jokey. He's enthusiastic without being a spaz. He's the world's most likable vegan, which stands alone as a colossal achievement.
Pluto TV is onto something here: 24-hour channels for just one show. It's genius! What else should they show on a nonstop loop (except for occasional ads for Blue Apron)?
This is the first show that should come to mind when indulging a 24-hour TV show loop fantasy. Like The Price Is Right, Jeopardy has a ton of episodes and is just as watchable going back to the days of Art Fleming as its host; it's the Superbowl of nerds and trivia nuts. Jeopardy! rewards contestants for their fast reflexes and vast knowledge — instead of their luck, like in other shows — and it's so satisfying to blurt out an answer before the contestants have a chance.
Every episode is competitive without being flashy and the only thing that changes through the show's 37 seasons is the dollar amounts on the board. We can always relive the impressive runs of its most successful champions, like Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, and rediscover the thrill of watching them lose to IBM's Watson computer, thus realizing humanity's end is just around the corner. Having two chances a day to watch new or old episodes is just not enough. Plus, we can't think of a better way to show reverence to the show's beloved late host Alex Trebek.
There was a time when this classic CBS sitcom, based on the Robert Altman movie of the same name, was on television too much. Pigman from PCU could do a thesis on it. Now that it's not on as much, we kind of miss it, even the episodes that were way too preachy and the weird first-person episode that we always skip over when we're streaming.
The show may not be in the spirit of the Richard Hooker books (according to my dad) but watching Hawkeye and/or Trapper John and BJ Honeycutt find ways to torture the inane military jingoist Maj. Frank Burns or the stuffy, snooty Maj. Emerson Winchester in ways that range from fiendishly clever to deliciously stupid could be cathartic. Who wouldn't enjoy pushing their enemies in an open foxhole and driving a Jeep over it?
3. The Simpsons (Season 1-13 only)
TV watchers love to pick on this classic animated sitcom for being on air too long, but we should fear the day new episodes won't make it to the airwaves. The Simpsons is one of the few bits of subversion on the mainstream network spectrum that still gives people what they want, no matter how stupid a plotline may seem.
It's comforting to know that no matter how bad life can get, The Simpsons can still skewer it somehow while cramming in a celebrity cameo. The show is universally beloved, and part of the reason is that it contains its own universe — one that's close to becoming as expansive as the actual universe. Getting a 24-hour channel of episodes from the first 13 seasons running around the clock would not only make for satisfying vegging out but it would also give us a chance to keep our knowledge of the show sharp for humanity's inevitable return to pub trivia.
That's right, we said Supernatural. Wanna make something of it? It's like a punk X-Files where two guys travel around the country in a cool car hunting evil, supernatural beings in their father's absence. Outsiders may view the show as eye candy for teenage girls, but it has some really inventive stories that would feel at home in an episode of The Twilight Zone. It's like someone made the Hardy Boys cool. Who wouldn't want a job that requires shooting demons in the face with a sawed-off shotgun full of rock salt?
Plus, we need another horror show featuring the gruff coolness of Jeffrey Dean Morgan — one that we actually look forward to watching.
5. Sesame Street
If you have children, you (presumably) don't want them watching television 24 hours a day, no matter how much it educated them, improved their self-esteem or nurtured their creative side. But that's not the target demo for a 24-hour channel airing nothing but Sesame Street reruns. Here's a secret no actual adult will ever admit: We watch it too.
Unlike memories of our school friends and that weird Rainbow Brite phase, Sesame Street is the one part of our childhood that's just as enjoyable as we remember it. Even if you know your ABCs and the difference between near and far, the show can be just as entertaining for grownups thanks to the wit and charm of the gluttonous Cookie Monster and the antics of Bert and Ernie. Hearing Ernie yell "Heeeeeere fishy fishy fishy!" in that fishing boat with a bewildered Bert still makes us cackle.
6. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
No disrespect to Trevor Noah, the current host of Comedy Central's Daily Show, who's done a brilliant job as American TV's new voice of reason while molding the show to his style and wit. The Daily Show isn't just an excuse to throw paper airplanes at the stuffy heads who rule us; it serves a purpose that mainstream cable news has all but abandoned: to enlighten and inform while it entertains
Having a 24-hour channel of Jon Stewart's 20 seasons of Daily Show episodes would help us breathe a little easier. Even if he's talking about the second Bush administration or Glenn Beck's forgotten relevance, it would be a privilege to turn on the TV and see one of Stewart's old episodes. It would also be comforting to remember a time when Beck was the biggest problem humanity had to deal with instead of ... you know.
7. The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
Craig Ferguson's 11-year stint as the host of the show that ran after the Late Show with David Letterman was the closest TV came to giving us an adult version of Pee Wee's Playhouse. Ferguson entwined silliness with wit, in ways few late-night hosts would dare to even try. He did the kind of late-night show he would want to watch and, for once, a mainstream network gave it time to develop and work on its own.
Ferguson's Late Late Show played with the late-night format the way a creative school kid explored with finger paint or paper mache. Clearly, there were no suits or producers getting in the way of the show's creative process to fit some marketing report's research on the ideal audience. Ferguson went for whatever crazy idea made him laugh — turning a simple rabbit puppet into a foul-mouthed, high pitched Brit or a robotic skeleton into his gay sidekick. It relied on spontaneity and human connections to create interesting conversations and the kind of hilarious moments that even the great Robert Smigel couldn't create on paper.
One of the joys of my childhood was when I first discovered Saturday Night Live, but one of the most fortunate parts of my formative time in front of the TV was when I discovered SCTV. Even though I didn't understand half the jokes at such an impressionable age, I could tell it was smarter, edgier and more subversive than any Massive Head Wound Harry sketch could hope to be.
SCTV turned the twisted puppet known as television in so many wonderful and inventive ways. It didn't parody television shows but the medium itself by building a universe around a network that seemed to operate on a budget that barely ran into more than four digits and was run by a conniving but charming huckster named Guy Caballero. Even if there are only enough episodes to cover two and a half days of programming without commercials, every generation of future comedians needs to watch at least one episode of SCTV.
9. Top Gear (The Clarkson, Hammond and May years)
The British Broadcasting Corp. has been doing everything in its power to recapture the magic of its motoring show once hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. Clarkson's off-screen actions cost him and subsequently his co-hosts one of the most sought-after spots on the British TV and American cable dial. Even though we have an equally entertaining show on Amazon with The Grand Tour, many of us still catch ourselves looking up some of the show's old car challenges about who can build the best police car and who's got the fastest van.
Top Gear is a show that's about cars in a way that fraternities are about education. Gearheads can enjoy drooling at the fast, expensive cars, but the show reached a larger audience by finding innovative and hilarious ways to talk about cars. They staged motoring competitions and races by doing things like pitting a Bugatti Veyron against a Eurofighter Typhoon to see which could reach a mile first. The Three Stooges-like camaraderie of the first three hosts made it even more entertaining and worthy of binging.
10. Adventure Time
This Cartoon Network gem may appear to be a kids' show, but it's actually for anyone who hasn't grown up yet. There are few things more relaxing than turning off your brain and watching an episode of Finn and Jack's latest adventures through a post-apocalyptic landscape of magic. Yes, we said it: There's nothing more relaxing about a show that takes place after the end of the world.
Voice actor Tom Kenny once described it as our generation's Yellow Submarine, and we cannot think of a better description. The show makes us invested in something beautiful and touching, even when it gets rough and scary.
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