Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
Chef Samin Nosrat hosts this food series, which is so calming and sensually invigorating that you’ll crave more even as you walk away satisfied with what the series offers up. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is only four episodes long, with each installment focusing on one of the elements in the show’s title. Everything from olive oil to grocery store meat takes on new meaning under Nosrat’s guidance. She approaches each part of cooking with joy and curiosity, speaking to her audience without an ounce of condescension for the people at home who are still learning the best way to salt your food and what cuts of meat to choose. As she travels the world and explores the different tastes that various cultures bring to the table, Nosrat’s genuine excitement about cooking turns Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat into an experience that is at once soothing and invigorating — and one that might just ignite your own interest in the subject at hand.
One Day at a Time
Don’t let the laugh track fool you: One Day at a Time is one of the best sitcoms on television. Justina Machado should absolutely have an Emmy by now for her performance as single mother and veteran Penelope Alvarez. She shows an impressive range here, sliding effortlessly between drama and big laughs. One Day at a Time is also one of television’s most devoted shows when it comes to intersectional representation, beginning with the Latinx family at its center. The series takes on the task with a big, compassionate heart, broaching everything from racism and colorism to mental health, while also exploring a full array of reactions to Penelope’s gay daughter, Elena (Isabella Gomez). The show’s second season also features notable nonbinary representation with Elena’s love interest Syd (Sheridan Pierce). One Day at a Time also stars icon and EGOT queen Rita Moreno, which honestly should sell anybody on the series from the get-go. To not be watching One Day at a Time at this point is to be blocking yourself from joy. Cut your heart a break.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
This romantic comedy about an introverted teen girl (Lana Condor) who enters into a fake relationship with a popular boy (Noah Centineo) became an instant classic for Netflix in 2018 with good reason. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is aggressively cozy, an homage to John Hughes’ filmography stripped of some of the dicier elements of the filmmaker’s work. The colorscape of this movie is bright and warm, and so is the chemistry of its leading couple. The whole thing is earnest and lovely, and at some point in life you will probably want to understand why people keep talking about someone named Peter Kavinsky. If you haven’t watched it already, the recent confirmation of an upcoming sequel is a perfect excuse to catch up with the zeitgeist.
Both a heartrending rom-com and a hijinks-filled ensemble friendship comedy, Lovesick belongs in the pantheon of both genres. The British series follows a group of friends navigating their relationships with one another and with their romantic partners. It’s rollicking and fun, but Lovesick also boasts one of the most emotionally mature takes on love that’s ever been committed to film, at once steady-handed and sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic. This is a show that will leave you mentally spiraling about what it means to really give yourself over to somebody else. The best and worst part is that it doesn’t take that long to watch: There are only 22 half hour episodes total.
Any documentary about the wonder of dogs is an easy sell for comfort viewing, but Netflix’s original series Dogs takes that concept to a surprisingly thoughtful (and sometimes stressful) conclusion. In one episode, a documentary crew follows a family with a young daughter who has epilepsy as they prepare to welcome a service dog into their household. The process and training required to get a service dog is explored, as are the emotional ramifications — good and bad — for various members of the family. In another installment, a Syrian refugee tries desperately to reunite with the dog he’d been forced to leave behind when he fled the country. Footage of dogs frolicking through fields would have been plenty nice, but Dogs actually challenges itself to explore the dynamic relationships between dogs and humans. The series acknowledges the complexities present in how we relate to our pets. It’ll make you love dogs even more than you already do.
Following a Korean Canadian family running a store in Toronto, Kim’s Convenience is another family sitcom that promises to make you feel all fuzzy inside. Though translating anything as complex as a specific cultural diaspora to a sitcom format will never capture all the nuances of real life, Kim’s Convenience still manages to be emotionally grounded. Whether you find yourself most invested in the tense relationship between Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and Jung (Simu Liu), or in any of the show’s plethora of side characters, there might be something for you in Kim’s Convenience. Also Jung is, uh, very attractive. Go watch. You’re welcome.
Hart of Dixie
Hart of Dixie aired on the CW from 2011 to 2015 and remains one of the most comforting escape watches of the past 10 years. Starring Rachel Bilson as cardiac surgeon–turned–private practice doctor Zoe Hart, the series is set in a small town in Alabama that is quirky, charming, and utterly divorced from reality. The cast is super charming. There are genuine emotional stakes, but the series is light and fun to watch. Hart of Dixie is romantic, offbeat, and good-hearted, and if you give it a chance it might just make you believe in the power of a good TV love triangle again.
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
There are a lot of good sweaters, hot people, and romantic gazes in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and sometimes that’s all you need. The film takes place in the years right after WWII on an island that was occupied by the Nazis, and the plot twist in the second half may raise some eyebrows. But The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society succeeds as quality comfort viewing regardless, mostly because its core cast (which includes the beautiful Lily James and Michiel Huisman) are so good at playing isolated people who find solace in one another while looking great in 1940s apparel. Watch it in your favorite sweater with a cup of tea in front of you, and maybe a plate of potatoes.
A Little Princess
Alfonso Cuarón’s recent film Roma is gorgeous, on Netflix, and highly recommended, but it didn’t make this particular list because it doesn’t feel built for warmth and comfort. Cuarón does have a movie that fits here, however: his 1995 film A Little Princess, adapted from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel of the same name. Following a young girl named Sara (Liesel Matthews) whose life falls to pieces when her father goes missing during WWI, the film glows with the hope and energy that the act of storytelling can provide. As Sara tells herself and her friend Becky (Vanessa Lee Chester) stories that remind them of better things outside their circumstances, whole worlds form in their imaginations. The film’s colonial B plots haven’t aged well, but A Little Princess is still lush and magical in plenty of other ways that make it worthy viewing in 2018.
Anne With an E
As the so-called gritty reboot of Anne of Green Gables, Anne With an E can sometimes veer a step too far into dark reality. Still, there is plenty to love in the updated series, as Anne With an E also works to incorporate gay characters and black people into the type of period piece that traditionally has refused to even acknowledge the existence of anyone who isn’t white and straight. Anne With an E — like Anne of Green Gables before it — is a series about a passionate young woman finding family and friendship, and the show is at its best when it leans into the joy of that. The second season also includes one of television’s most absolutely delightful portrayals of old-timey queer people. Even if you don’t feel compelled to dive into the whole series, the episode “Memory Has as Many Moods as the Temper” is a lavish, beautiful ode to the fact that queer people have existed and built communities for themselves throughout history, despite the hostilities of oppressive, dominant cultures.
The new “fab five” became household names so quickly after the debut of the Queer Eye reboot for a reason: This show has a knack for highlighting both the struggles and triumphs of being human. Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Bobby Berk, and Antoni Porowski all have their own individual charms and skill sets, but the series is not really about them. Queer Eye is, at its heart, about finding people who are not living up to their full potential, and helping them make adjustments to see beauty and value in themselves. Sometimes that means sitting on your couch at home laughing at someone’s wardrobe; other times it means sobbing with them as they come out to their family or come to terms with a major life change.
The first installment of one of the most purely delightful film franchises of all time is sitting on Netflix right now waiting for you to watch it on repeat. You should really get on that. Mamma Mia! knows it’s ridiculous — neither the first film nor its sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, even bothers to adhere to the basic logic of time or space. It knows that neither Pierce Brosnan nor Dominic Cooper can sing. It knows that at least half of ABBA’s lyrics are ludicrous. Mamma Mia! is still perfect, not in spite of all of this but because of it. This is a film that looked at esteemed actor Colin Firth and thought, Let’s put him in some sparkly bell bottoms. Mamma Mia! has “Dancing Queen.” Mamma Mia! has Christine Baranski. Mamma Mia! is incredible. Why aren’t you watching it right this second?
The Great British Bake-Off
The Great British Bake Off is an institution in the business of joy at this point. It’s one of the most legendary comfort-views of our time, helped along by the fact that most of the contestants and judges are just so damn polite. Watching nice people do nice things — like bake sponge cakes! — is an underrated genre of entertainment, and The Great British Bake Off is the peak of the form. Unlike a lot of reality television, no one is going to say into the camera that they are “not there to make friends.” Baking is their friend, and The Great British Bake Off is yours.
Although Schitt’s Creek has a harder edge to its humor than a lot of the other series and movies on this list, the show can be surprisingly lovely. It was responsible, after all, for one of the most tenderly romantic TV scenes in recent memory. Schitt’s Creek saw a word-of-mouth boom in 2018, which means that if you jump on the bandwagon right now, you’ll have a lot of people to gush about it with — and a lot of people to force to watch it with you once you fall in love with it.
Jane the Virgin
Jane the Virgin is one of the most inventive, brilliant, and emotionally intelligent shows on TV, and its first four seasons are currently on Netflix. The show’s fifth season, which will be its last, is set to air on the CW this spring, so this winter is the perfect moment to catch up in time to see how the whole thing will end. Jane the Virgin started out with a wild concept — the titular Jane (Gina Rodriguez) gets accidentally artificially inseminated while she’s still a virgin waiting ‘til marriage to have sex — and went on to play with the telenovela genre in some truly memorable ways. The series is warm and funny and dramatic and wonderful. It really is one of the best things out there, with enough twists and laughs to help you momentarily forget anything cold and unkind that might be happening in the outside world.