Kath & Kim
My friend suggested Kath & Kim to me three months ago, and I’ve easily watched the entire series five times through since then. The Australian sitcom, which ran from 2002 to 2007, follows a mother and daughter living in a suburb of Melbourne, a middle-class family aiming for upper-class markers but always missing. Jane Turner’s Kath is a single mom who’s proud but endearing. (“Yes, I am high maintenance,” she says in a voiceover while the camera pans by framed glamour shots of herself around her apartment, “but I think you’ve got to be.“) Her daughter, Kim — played by Gina Riley, just six months younger than Turner — is a narcissistic newlywed with outsize self-esteem, perpetually on the verge of leaving her husband. Kim’s “second best friend,” Sharon, rounds out the core trio as a hapless but ever-optimistic neighbor, regularly letting herself into their condo through its squeaky sliding glass door, opening the fridge, and eating the last of Kim’s footy franks (a snack that’s foreign to me, but seemingly hot dogs she just eats by the bowlful?). I can’t overstate how funny these women are, and it’s not surprising they started in sketch comedy. Their physicality is unparalleled. Their faux pas are spot-on and transcend region. Kath and her doting husband Kel are — and I’m not exaggerating — the perfect example of a loving, supportive relationship. It’s goofy, smart, and laugh-out-loud funny, tackling class and culture and race and family but never taking itself too seriously. I’m mad it took me 34 years to find it. —Arianna Rebolini
How to watch: Netflix
I’ve never watched any of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette. For my reality television fix, I prefer the surreal kicking and screaming (often literal!) of the Real Housewives franchise. But the buzz around Clare Crawley’s season was too delicious to deny, and so finally I started watching this season. Only three episodes have aired, but already it’s proving to be the only bit of pop culture that makes me forget that this election is — fuck me! — still happening. If you love reality TV but hate the cloying romance portion of the dating shows, this is the season for you: The Bachelorette herself is insufferable; the men are all either boring as hell or quietly ageist. (At 39, Clare is the oldest Bachelorette ever, and the show talks about her as if her age is a horrible disfigurement.) There’s already a clear plotline about Clare running off with one of the suitors after falling in love with him in about three weeks, and the show is about to bring in a brand-new Bachelorette to take her place. It’s a mess, like everything else in the world, but at least in this case I can say it and mean it: I love mess. —Scaachi Koul
How to watch: Hulu and ABC
Maybe it’s because I’m turning 30 this month and suddenly this iconic but problematic show hits different, but I’ve found myself really enjoying rewatching these white ladies navigate their friendships, romantic relationships, and careers in Giuliani-era New York over these past few anxiety-producing weeks.
While yes, there’s a lot about the show that’s dated, its candor about the realities of being a single woman of a certain age really resonates. It doesn’t sugarcoat the occasional loneliness and wracking insecurity; it honors the proudly third-wave feminist sex posititivy of Samantha, whose sexual gameness really does seem quite radical and progressive even today (“in the future, there’ll be no gender”), and Charlotte’s more rigid heteronormative fantasies. It allows you to revel in being an armchair therapist — obviously Charlotte’s marriage to Trey was doomed (they moved way too fast); Carrie was the toxic one with both Big (she kept trying to rush him into commitment) and Aidan (whom she never deserved!). As unsettlingly anti-trans, racist, and classist as the show could be, the friendships between these four women were beautiful and lived-in. And the series acknowledged a core truth (undermined a bit by its finale): that romantic love can come and go, but the relationships with your close friends can be just as profound and just as significant. Plus, the puns were often quite funny, and Carrie’s fashion sense is a fascinating time capsule of fashion in the early aughts. —Tomi Obaro
How to watch: HBO Max
Every Housewives iteration toggles between serious drama, blowout fights, and comedy. The women of New York’s drunken hijinks are famously hilarious. But perhaps no cast in the franchise provides comedic relief as effortlessly as Potomac’s does.
Maybe because it was (before Salt Lake City) the most recent addition to the already successful, sprawling franchise, the women of Potomac push the show’s conventions to outrageous heights. For instance, when the self-anointed “grande dame” Karen Huger faced the tax problems that inevitably bubble up about castmates in the news, she held a faux press conference to avoid the issue, materializing a “best friend” we’d never seen before to act as liaison between herself and the other women. In turn, Huger’s nemesis, Gizelle Bryant, sidestepped her sidestepping by wearing a #FreeKaren T-shirt.
Some of the comedy just erupts organically, like when a confrontation at a restaurant between Huger and Bryant about the latter dating someone’s husband was interrupted by a random mime thirsty for screentime (prompting Huger’s iconic line, “who are you?”).
Time and again, the women turn the show from a melodrama of moral accountability into comedy. This season has gotten dark as the fight between B-list pageant-circuit princess Candiace and aspiring podcaster Monique Samuels led to assault charges. But even amid the drama, the women’s fear of Samuels’ potty-trained African grey parrot, T’Challa, the only compelling pet in the entire franchise, could be a show unto itself. —Alessa Dominguez
How to watch: Bravo and Hulu+
Love Island UK
Love Island (UK) is the best reality show I have ever seen in my entire life. The premise is simple: Five hot women with extremely long fake eyelashes and six hot men with unbelievable abs are sent to a villa where they must couple up and compete against other hot people while trying to find true love. I never realized I had a soft spot for scaffolders from Manchester, but such is life.
Over the course of an astoundingly long — but always dramatic! — season of 50-ish hourlong episodes, an incredible anthropological game of chess ensues as hot twentysomethings are brought into the villa to wreak havoc and people are voted out by fellow contestants and the UK public alike. Almost midway through the season, when couples are seemingly feeling secure in their relationships, the men must go to Casa Amor, where they meet new women who appear to be made in a lab to their exact specifications and desires. The women who are left behind get their own new batch of muscled men to choose from. They then must face their original mates to see if they’ve stayed true or dumped them for someone new. Honestly, I’ve never shouted at my television in disbelief more in my life. Michael, you are a monster and broke all our hearts! Amber deserves better!
Filled with British colloquialisms — I will never recover from learning the term “dead ting”!!! — and flirty banter, this show will suck you in and never let you go. I started with Season 6 (the most recent), and it took everything for me to not immediately google contestants to see if they stayed together. Do yourself a favor and don’t. Instead, let fate take you on its journey. My pod and I are currently on Season 5 (we’re working our way backward), and let me tell you: I could write an entire book about my love for Ovie, a 6-foot-5-inch Black tattooed basketball player from London who needs his own show and has already written a book called You Are Dope about how to be chill. The pandemic and election cycle have been anxiety-inducing and unbelievably depressing. Taking a detour to a Mallorcan villa to watch men lift weights in an attempt to attract bikini-clad women who aren’t allowed to do anything but gossip and drink water and eat cheese toasties is exactly the escapism I’ve been looking for. —Karolina Waclawiak
How to watch: Hulu ●