An expert’s guide to reality TV for every self-quarantine mood

Lala Kent, left, and Ariana Madix in "Vanderpump Rules."
(Casey Durkin / Bravo)

It’s clichéd at this point to note that our reality feels like it’s been scripted by the writer of a horror film. But maybe that’s why reality TV has become such a desirable distraction from what’s happening IRL.

If you’re looking for shows to keep you glued to your couch — or at least keep you entertained enough not to venture outside unnecessarily — we’re here to help. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, it’ll hopefully introduce you to a show you wouldn’t have sampled were you not doing your part to stay at home. In fact, some were discoveries in my own early days of staying home (cough “Guy’s Grocery Games” cough).

Katie Maloney Schwartz, left, Brittany Cartwright and Lala Kent of "Vanderpump Rules."
Katie Maloney Schwartz, left, Brittany Cartwright and Lala Kent of “Vanderpump Rules.”
(Casey Durkin / Bravo)



If you just want to collapse and watch something that will make you say, “What???” when everything else makes you want to cry...


“Vanderpump Rules”

Let me hook you with this: Apparently Martin Scorsese, he who has thoughts on whether Marvel films are cinema, is a fan of the show. (Of course, the veteran filmmaker has yet to publicly confirm or deny the claim, but Rihanna definitely digs it.) With eight seasons under its belt, it’s likely you’ve heard of this gem. It’s a spinoff of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and revolves around former and current employees of West Hollywood’s SUR (an acronym for Sexy Unique Restaurant), owned by “RHOBH” alumna Lisa Vanderpump. The series is like the love child of every soap opera and and young-adult drama that’s ever aired on TV. It’ll have you Googling recipes for beer cheese; trying to understand the reason for SUR photoshoots; questioning if it really was about the pasta; and looking up Redfin listings in Valley Village. (Just watch, it’ll all make sense.) You’ll be wondering how the editors of the show haven’t won an Emmy.

Available on: Bravo, Hulu

Also try: “90 Day Fiancé" and any of its spinoffs (TLC); “Below Deck” (Bravo); “The Circle” (Netlix); “Nailed It!” (Netflix)

The "Restaurants on the Edge" team in Malta.

If your vacation got canceled/postponed, but you want to pretend your staycation is more exotic...



“Restaurants on the Edge”

If you sit close enough to your TV, you can feel like you’re on the coast of Malta or Costa Rica. This six-episode restaurant makeover show features a team of experts — a restaurateur, a designer and a chef — helping to revive a struggling restaurant by exploring its surrounding community for inspiration. The first episode, which journeys to Malta, features a look at how sea salt is harvested — it’s as soothing as anything on the Calm app. Then there are the sweeping shots as the camera glides over expansive vistas that will have you longing for the day you can start booking trips again. And, hey, after you watch, you might be compelled to check out what restaurants in your area could use your business.

Available on: Netflix

Also try: “House Hunters International” (HGTV); “Making the Cut” (Amazon); “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” (Hulu)

In the workroom on an episode of "Project Runway."
(Barbara Nitke/Bravo)

If you need a reminder on how to put together an outfit that’s more presentable than joggers and a T-shirt, watch this:


“Project Runway”

I was skeptical, but the new version of “Project Runway” — back on Bravo after 11 seasons at Lifetime — has returned the series to my TV fold. The decision to cast former contestant-turned-red carpet guru Christian Siriano in the mentor role previously occupied by Tim Gunn was an A+ move. Judge Nina Garcia, the editor of Elle, is the only remaining original cast member. She’s joined by new judges Elaine Welteroth, the former editor of Teen Vogue, and designer Brandon Maxwell, with model and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss taking over as host. The 18th season, which wrapped last month, had some colorful moments. That time a contestant made a quip about Kloss’ relationship to the Kushner family (Kloss is married to venture capitalist Josh Kushner, whose brother Jared is married to Ivanka Trump), for instance, or the many delicious occasions on which Garcia was clearly peeved with designer Sergio Guadarrama. If going through the whole catalog is overwhelming, consider catching up on the revamped seasons (17 and 18).

Available on: Bravo app, On Demand (some past seasons on Hulu)

Also try: “Next in Fashion” (Netflix)

Husband-and-wife hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV's "Fixer Upper."
Husband-and-wife hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”

If your Zoom backdrop has you thinking about how you’ll redecorate when life returns to normal...



“Fixer Upper”

Spending endless hours at home has a funny way of pulling your focus to all the things you wish you could change about your decor. Cue “Fixer Upper,” hosted by home renovation all-star couple Chip and Joanna Gaines, which has been helping me get my fix of impossibly white walls, shiplap, giant wood candle holders, barn doors and oversized clocks. Maybe mute the moments where they talk about the home prices if you want to keep the viewing experience pleasurable.

Available on: HGTV

Also try: “Amazing Interiors” (Netflix), “Home Town” (HGTV)

From ‘Storybots’ to ‘Octonauts,’ we round up a dozen TV shows that will keep your kids occupied — without making you pull your hair out in the process.

Overhead views of the isolation pods on "Love is Blind" on Netflix.
“Love Is Blind,” or a how-to on dating in the time of self-isolation.

If self-quarantine is forcing you to confront your relationship status ...


“Love Is Blind”

The Netflix matchmaking show seemed absurd just a few weeks ago when it was taking the internet by storm: Its premise involves gathering a group of singles who date by talking to each other through a wall. Now, it’s basically a blueprint for how to date in this time of self-quarantine: getting to know each other while being confined to separate pods (a.k.a., your living room), advancing to FaceTime or Instagram video when the connection feels real (and you can muster the energy to look presentable), then meeting in real life only if all the talking hasn’t exhausted you. Once you’re done with “Love Is Blind,” check out our post-mortem interviews here and here. And then wait until you find yourself searching for new episodes with one of the married couples on their YouTube channel.)

Available on: Netflix

Also try: “Dating Around” (Netflix), “Love Island” (Hulu), “Catfish” (MTV)

Alex Guarnaschelli, Justin Warner, Rocco Dispirito and Antonia Lofaso facing Guy Fieri in a supermarket.
Contestants Alex Guarnaschelli, Justin Warner, Rocco Dispirito and Antonia Lofaso with host Guy Fieri on “Guy’s Grocery Games.”
(David Moir / Food Network)


If you’re missing the days when it didn’t require an elaborate game plan to go grocery shopping and ingredients were in ample supply ...


“Guy’s Grocery Games”

Just imagine it: a supermarket’s shelves fully stocked with more than 20,000 items. It’s a beautiful sight we will, hopefully, never take for granted when life gets back to normal. Hosted by Guy Fieri, whose unnaturally blond locks will serve as yet another reminder to stock up on bleach, the “Supermarket Sweep"-meets-"Chopped” food competition series pits chefs against each other in a three-round elimination contest, using ingredients found in the grocery store under guidelines set by Fieri. It’s a bittersweet luxury to live vicariously through people who can wander recklessly through a grocery aisle.

To maintain coronavirus social distancing guidelines and to calm anxiety about going out to grocery stores, here are safety tips to make supermarket shopping faster.

Available on: Food Network

Also try: “Top Chef” (Bravo); “The Great British Baking Show” (Netflix)

A black puppy in play posture and a yellow puppy eating on "Pick of the Litter."
“Pick of the Litter” follows canines working to become guide dogs.
(Raymond Liu / Disney+)

If it’s all too overwhelming and you need something to ease your anxiety ...


“Pick of the Litter”

If you read this week’s TV suggestions, you’ll have seen my recommendation for this calming show. The six-episode series follows six puppies — Amara, Pacino, Paco, Raffi, Tulane and Tartan — in their quest to become guide dogs for the visually impaired. You’ll meet the “puppy raisers” who rear the puppies from the time they’re two months old to about a year-plus; the puppy trainers who help the canines work on the skills needed to be of service; and the people they are matched with in the end. It’s not without tension: Dogs who don’t meet certain behavioral or physical standards can be “career changed” (i.e., dropped from the program). Still, it’s the sort of heartwarming content to cleanse your palate after a day of anxiety-inducing news headlines.

Where to watch: Disney+

Also try: “Making It” (Hulu); “Behind the Mask” (Hulu); “Blown Away” (Netflix)


Kris Jenner, left, Kylie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall Jenner.
Kris Jenner, left, Kylie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, and Kendall Jenner of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
(Miller Mobley / E! Entertainment)

If you’re fantasizing about returning to simpler times, consider reacquainting yourself with a classic ...


“Keeping Up with the Kardashians”

The show premiered its 18th season last week. But you might be interested in journeying back to 2007, when the transformation of this family into megastars was starting its gestation — back when billionaire Kylie Jenner was just 10 years old and Kim Kardashian was sporting Hervé Léger’s bandage dresses. It’s quite the family time capsule.

Available on: E!, Hulu

Also try: “America’s Next Top Model” (Hulu); any of the cities in the “Real Housewives” franchise (Bravo, Hulu); “The Hills” (MTV app); “Survivor” (CBS All Access, Hulu)