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What to binge-watch during the pandemic: Suggestions from CTV News Ottawa
Nathalie Emmanuel, Emilia Clarke and Conleth Hill in a scene from "Game of Thrones." (Helen Sloan/HBO via AP)
OTTAWA -- Looking for a new bingeworthy book or TV show to help pass the time during the COVID-19 pandemic?
CTV News Ottawa staff are sharing their recommendations for shows, books and movies you should check out while you’re staying home.
Graham Richardson – Chief News Anchor
TV show: Game of Thrones (HBO/Crave)
Re-watching Game of Thrones from the start. I appreciate the subtlety in the early episodes character development, John Snow, Daenerys Targaryen...and her awful brother. Watching the early episodes reminds me how young they were, and how long I have been watching this monumental series.
Book: “Educated” by Tara Westover
This book stopped me in my tracks this year and I could not put it down. I have shared it with my family and people in the newsroom. It tells the horrible story of a woman raised in rural Idaho, home schooled and abused. The book is Tara Westover’s stunning autobiography, after she completed her university education at Oxford. A story of will power, survival and succeeding against great odds. It is a breathtaking story.
We are facing a radical change in how we live...for the next little while. This film is a great reminder that other generations have lost more, sacrificed longer, and have faced much greater danger, the challenge Covid-19 poses for us.
Music: John Prine
Going through all of John Prine’s incredible catalogue. Such a tremendous loss.
Patricia Boal – CTV News at Six co-anchor
TV show: Parks and Recreation (Amazon Prime)
Knope, it’s never too late! If you’re like me and happened to miss this the first time around, Parks and Rec is worth some solid couch time. Amy Poehler is amazing as Leslie Knope heading up a sensational cast dealing with one municipal headache after another in the unremarkable yet hilarious town of Pawnee. I’ve loved her as a Golden Globe host and Tina Fey sidekick but this is her best stuff. Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman are all great. The kids are loving it too. And by kids, I mean teenagers. The comedy is not for eight-year olds!
Book: “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens
A little bit mystery, a little bit ode to nature, and a whole lot about resilience, isolation and the value of human connection. Read this last year but it might be the perfect self-isolation read. The 2018 novel was nominated for numerous awards and was a New York Times bestseller. If it doesn’t make you cry, you’re stronger than me. Keep tissues nearby in case you’re not J.
Movie: Just Mercy (Cineplex Store)
This is a better than average legal drama. Just Mercy is based on the real life story of black lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) who moves to Alabama to defend a wrongly condemned death row prisoner beautifully portrayed by Jamie Fox. The movie is occasionally heavy-handed and there’s a very tough electrocution scene to watch, but the message is powerful. Stevenson went on to become a world-renowned civil rights attorney. What is most amazing is that the story told is very recent history but has the feel of something pulled from the 50s or 60s. Worth spending a few bucks.
Leanne Cusack – News at Noon Host
TV show: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video). “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is the most delicious escape. Funny, thoughtful, beautifully executed.
Movie: I always like a good drama, but for this time in our history, I am going to suggest two classic “rom-coms”…or romantic comedies: “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Books: While dreadful at choosing favourites (I even like too many flavours of ice cream to choose a fav…!), I will suggest a few Canadian authors: Miriam Toews’“Summer of My Amazing Luck”or “All My Puny Sorrows.” Always happy to suggest Newfoundlander Wayne Johnston and Ottawa’s Elizabeth Hay. I recently read—and really enjoyed—Elizabeth Gilbert’s, “City of Girls.”
Joanne Woo – Executive Producer
Book: “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee. A beautifully written novel. A tale of hardship over four generations. Love, empathy and loyalty.
Movie: Can’t go wrong with Lethal Weapon movies. #dontjudge
TV show: The Fall (Netflix). A British-Irish crime drama … starring Jamie Dornan.
Joey Lavergne – Electronic Graphics Artist
Book: “Do Not Open This Book” by Andy Lee
Won’t lie: the only books I’ve read in the last three years have been kids’ books. With that in mind, I recommend “Do Not Open This Book” by Australian comedian Andy Lee. There are actually, I think, four books in this series. The whole concept is there’s this character asking you to, as the title suggests, not open the book/turn the pages, and every time you do something funny happens. Our little guy absolutely loves these books and cracks up every page.
TV SHOW: Westworld (HBO/Crave)
An absolutely wonderful show that will leave you wanting more every episode. It starts off with a neat idea: a Wild West theme park filled with life-like robots where you’re free to do anything, and quickly dives into a massive expansive world across various timelines. Plus side: the newest season is out now so you can catch up and follow along!
MOVIE: Marvel Cinematic Universe Deep Dive
If, for whatever reason, you never got on the Marvel Movie train – maybe you’re not a “superhero fan” or “into comics” - maybe now is a good time to try it out! Trust me, beneath all the superhero action abd hoopla, there are a lot of heartfelt and funny moments. Best of all, the movies all tie in masterfully. So it really is, and should be, watched as one giant 23-part movie. If it’s your first time in, find a list online and follow the movies in proper order!
Joel Haslam – Regional Contact
Movie: Won’t You Be My Neighbour
TV show: Derek
Book: “A Complicated Kindness” by Miriam Toews
Claudia Cautillo – Reporter/Assignment Editor
Movie: Parasite (can order on demand from some cable providers including Bell)
There is a good reason this South Korean film swept the 2020 Oscars, taking home several awards including Best Picture. The movie follows a financially struggling family of four, the Kims, who infiltrate the lives of a wealthy family, the Parks, by recommending each other’s services. Before long, each member of the Kim family has become employed by the Parks as a tutor, art therapist, driver, and housekeeper. But things take a very drastic turn when the former housekeeper comes back to the Park house one night – revealing she’s left something behind in the basement.
TV show: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)
This show will transport you to New York City in the late 1950s as the charming and witty Miriam Maisel tries to make it as a stand-up comic. Maisel has the seemingly picture-perfect life for the time – a great husband, two kids and a beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side. But things take a dramatic turn when she discovers her hidden knack for comedy – and she decides to pursue it. Come for the witty banter (the series was created by the same writer who brought us “Gilmore Girls”), stay for the beautiful sets and gorgeous wardrobe. A wonderful escape.
Book: “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr
This is one of those beautifully written stories that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. It follows a blind French girl and a young German boy as they both try to survive and navigate their evolving realities during World War II. It’s haunting, heartbreaking, beautiful, hopeful. A mainstay on my bookshelf.
Josh Pringle – Digital Reporter/Producer
TV show: Ballers (HBO/Crave)
I was late jumping into the Ballers bandwagon, but I’m happy I finally started watching it. Dwayne Johnson and Rob Corddry star as financial advisers try to make a name for themselves, and turning into big money agents and NFL owners. There is also several sidebar stories in the series, including ex-football players adjusting to life outside of football, and the show looks at the issues of player injuries and a lack of health care benefits. Five great seasons you can watch in a weekend.
Hoosiers was one of the reasons I started watching basketball. The 1986 film staring Gene Hackman tells the story of a small town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship. Along the way, head coach Norman Dale (Hackman) overcomes his own demons and a push to have him fired to lead the team to a state championship.
Book: “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight
Phil Knight describes the bumps along the way as he created Nike and one of the most iconic symbols in the world – the Swoosh. Knight outlines the risk he encountered, the setbacks and the doubts along the track to creating Nike.
Ted Raymond – Digital Reporter/Producer
Book: “The Inconvenient Indian” by Thomas King
A biting, witty, self-deprecating, and thought-provoking look at the relationship between the Indigenous peoples of North America and Europeans.
TV show: The Simpsons
What better time than now to step back to the early seasons and take a new look at the brilliant satire and comedy writing in one of the most influential TV shows of the 1990s and beyond. There's lots to binge!
Movie: The Blues Brothers
I love this movie so much. Comedy, great music, and stars of blues and soul like Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, and James Brown at their very best.
Michael Woods – Digital Producer
TV show: Succession (HBO/Crave)
On its surface, Succession doesn't sound like a fun watch. A movie about a dysfunctional family running a media empire, with no likeable characters? What's so great about that? But it's excellent: darkly funny, with character arcs that draw you in. Season one is great, but season two is the best TV I've seen in years.
Movie: Arrival (Netflix)
One of those movies that stays with you and keeps you thinking long after you watch it. It's got an excellent Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve, and a great performance from Amy Adams. And it makes you think about the nature of language and how it affects the way we see the world. A great science-fiction escape.
Book: “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid
A powerful love story about a young couple escaping a country on the brink of war and journey through an uncertain world. This book has some of the most beautiful and moving writing I’ve ever encountered.
Chris Holski – News Writer, Newstalk 580 CFRA
Book: The Witcher
TV show: The Witcher
Video game: The Witcher