Seeking sweet television shows as an antidote to the sour US election
November 3, 2016 9:53 AM   Subscribe

In the most recent election thread over on Metafilter blue, a discussion about the British comedy Detectorists and its effect as a balm to us election-weary folks has been at a gentle simmer. I am one more episode from the end (again), and am looking for a new show to watch with my mom that has a similar kind and calming feel. It need not be British (though aren't they just the best at this?), but something available on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime is ideal.

Specifics of what we are looking for: kind characters, gentle plots, little intrigue, but also smart. Other shows we have seen that we have quite enjoyed are Sirens, Slings and Arrows, Call the Midwife, Sports Night, Vicar of Dibley, Miranda, the first couple of seasons of Monarch of the Glen. Gilmore Girls was too....something. Soap opera-y? Fond of itself? I love Science Fiction, but it's not for mom. Shows that are subtitled in English are fine.

What you got for us in these last, fraught days?
posted by thebrokedown to Media & Arts (71 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
"kind characters, gentle plots, little intrigue, but also smart:" Parks and Recreation.
posted by General Malaise at 9:58 AM on November 3, 2016 [22 favorites]

I'm sure this is on your radar, but Parks and Recreation is the height of warm and loving comedy, and may have the added bonus of refreshing your feelings about American citizenship.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 9:58 AM on November 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

Parenthood. Doc Martin.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:03 AM on November 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:03 AM on November 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

Bletchley Circle. There is some intrigue, but I think it ticks the other boxes enough to make up for it.
posted by sabotagerabbit at 10:05 AM on November 3, 2016

It doesn't appear to be streaming anymore, but if All Creatures Great and Small come back to Netflix, I would definitely add that one to your list! It's the story of James Herriot, a veterinarian in rural England, and I think it would be a good fit.
posted by tybstar at 10:09 AM on November 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

As Time Goes By? Definitely a classic show but perhaps you haven't seen it.

Speaking of classic British TV, how about All Creatures Great and Small?
posted by selfnoise at 10:12 AM on November 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Doc Martin is basically the modern version of All Creatures...

"The goose has escaped!"
"Found it"
"I've been a bit silly."
(Gets over it.)
posted by biffa at 10:16 AM on November 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Being Erica!
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:18 AM on November 3, 2016

"Frasier." It's running in syndication now and I'm laughing as much as I did when it was on in prime time. Talk about smart!

I would also recommend "The Detectorists," a two-season Brit show. Sweet as they come, charming, and smart, too.
posted by Dolley at 10:25 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Downton Abbey
posted by jtexman1 at 10:30 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Cafe.
posted by chocotaco at 10:33 AM on November 3, 2016

30 Rock is pretty glorious, but it might be a little on the snarkier side of what you were looking for. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a little sweeter while still also being hilarious (which is impressive, given the comparatively dark premise).

I've also been watching Poirot on Netflix for the past few weeks, and while it's hard to describe a series composed nearly entirely of murder mysteries as "gentle", I think the criteria still mostly fits, and the main cast of characters in that show is just phenomenal.

Also, apparently you can watch all four seasons of Jeeves and Wooster through Amazon if you have an Acorn TV subscription (which is $4.99/mo and apparently just does British TV, so if that is a thing you know you like, this may be worth investigating?) and that show is an utter delight. This probably won't work as well if you watch TV with a Chromecast though--Amazon and Google don't play nice together.

Also: The IT Crowd is sooooo good, and is on Netflix. I was also pretty impressed with season 1 of iZombie which (again, in spite of a pretty grim premise) was a smart, fun, and mostly light-hearted show. I haven't watched anything past the first season though, so YMMV.

Also, I LOVE Northern Exposure, and that would probably tick all of your boxes, but it doesn't look like it's streaming anywhere. Bummer.
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:37 AM on November 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

For classic British humor, you can't beat Are You Being Served?!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 10:38 AM on November 3, 2016

If you liked Call the Midwife you may like Bomb Girls and Land Girls. Both are WW2 era British productions. You also may like Anzac Girls about WW1 nurses. Seconding Bletchley Circle.
Are you watching This is Us? New this season and just a few episodes in but worth a try, I'm liking it very much.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:40 AM on November 3, 2016

Can a show be sweet, but also surreal, and deal with death? I think so, so I'd recommend giving Pushing Daisies a try. There are two seasons. It's highly stylized, funny, smart, and definitely sweet. You know... plus death-related stuff. But it's definitely played with a light touch.

It's available free on the CW and CW Seed apps on AppleTV and Roku. (On the CW app, look under the "Seed" tab.) I think you'll know after the first episode if it's for you or not.
posted by The Deej at 10:41 AM on November 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

Grace and Frankie has some tension, but it's ultimately about a bunch of people who love each other and want each other to be happy, even if that happiness is of a different kind than they expected.
posted by Etrigan at 10:46 AM on November 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Pushing Daisies.
posted by Shutter at 11:04 AM on November 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Grinder! Only one season but it's a charmer. On Netflix.
posted by 6thsense at 11:05 AM on November 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Danish miniseries Hjørdis was on Netflix, and is a delight - about a clever elementary school teacher putting on a pageant to teach her students about bullying. Also, the teacher is named Hjørdis! I spent a week walking around the apartment bellowing Hjørdis, which is another one of the positive features of the show.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:11 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another thread for suggesting Eureka! I don't like SciFi either, and despite Eureka appearing on the SyFy channel, it's not very sci-fi to me, and the characters are generally just good people, and are meant to be very smart! They are also fairly diverse, which is a bonus. There is some intrigue, but it's mostly fun and slightly campy, to my mind.
posted by freezer cake at 11:13 AM on November 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

A new one that just started this year: The Good Place!

Also Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
posted by MsMolly at 11:16 AM on November 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

To be honest I haven't watched this in aaaaages so I may be looking through rose colored glasses, but I know that The Dick van Dyke show is on Netflix, and I have fond memories from my undergrad days as that being a gentle and generally loving comedy.
posted by DingoMutt at 11:22 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know the shows you list are all fiction, but for calming and optimistic and yet engaging, you really cannot do better than The Great British Bake-Off. Many seasons are available streaming on Youtube, and at least two seasons are available on Amazon/Netflix.

It's so great, and will make you feel better about the world.
posted by suelac at 11:26 AM on November 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

There's at least one episode of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. I know it's a reality TV show, but it's really very soothing and the contestants are kind and supportive of one another. It's also really enjoyable if you plan on having a nice snack or treat while you watch (the descriptions of the recipes make me hungry!).

Edited to add: Ha! Glad I'm not the only one to find the show soothing.
posted by annaramma at 11:28 AM on November 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

Listeen very carefullee, I shall say this only wahnce: 'Allo 'Allo!
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:29 AM on November 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Grinder, as mentioned above, is fantastic. Nthing Parks and Rec, too.
posted by getawaysticks at 11:33 AM on November 3, 2016

Still Game, the adventures of two pensioners and their lifelong friends, for good or ill, in a Glasgow neighborhood.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:37 AM on November 3, 2016

Outnumbered. Very funny & (mostly) heartwarming.

Somewhat older, but still a classic series: The Good Life. Tom & Barbara try to go back to the land in Surbiton, much to the horror of their aspirational middle class neighbours Jerry & Margot.
posted by pharm at 11:44 AM on November 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Great British Sewing Bee is sweet, funny, and delightful. The mutual support the contestants give each other is lovely.
posted by Lexica at 11:48 AM on November 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Lots of good suggestions. I was at my husband's grandparents place and turned up an old VHS of The Darling Buds of May (starring a very young Catherine Zeta Jones). Holy moly. It's exactly what you're looking for!
posted by jrobin276 at 11:49 AM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Paradise is on Netflix and I rewatch it regularly for the soothing factor. There's a few people that are grouchy but I've ended up with a soft spot for them all.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:30 PM on November 3, 2016

The Great British Bake-Off is definitely the reality-show version of Detectorists, right down to the pastoral views.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:33 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Death in Paradise is a very light hearted british mystery series on Netflix. My family enjoyed it and they also liked the Detectorists.
posted by machinecraig at 12:39 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Derek is available on Netflix and stars Ricky Gervais as the sweetest guy ever who works as an aide in an assisted living facility in Britain. The staff is so sweet and so are the residents. It's a real feel-good show.
posted by pintapicasso at 12:52 PM on November 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Yes, there are murders involved, but it still manages to be lighthearted and fun.
posted by Neekee at 1:17 PM on November 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

Xena is pretty great too

Nthing these, I've watched all of them:
Parks and Recreation (heartwarming)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (I grew up in a similar atmosphere, turned out a lot like Kimmy, and frickin' love this show)
iZombie (easy watch and yet surprisingly insightful)
The Great British Sewing Bee (loooove)
posted by fraula at 1:26 PM on November 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Brooklyn 99 is a light-hearted comedy about a police department. The characters are loveable and diverse and it's hilarious but also pretty sweet.
posted by emd3737 at 2:10 PM on November 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've no idea if it's available anywhere, but oh I urge you to track down Roger and Val Have Just Got In.

It's so lovely, and absolutely hits that Detectorists sweet spot. It's a two-hander starring Alfred Molina and Dawn French as married couple Roger and Val, each episode set in their suburban home just as/after they get in from work.
posted by penguin pie at 2:10 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Jam and Jerusalem has been a sweet, pleasant thing to watch during a few hard times.
posted by AllShoesNoSocks at 2:42 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Further to my suggestion above - the mere title of this clip shows you how sweet Roger and Val Have Just Got In is - I give you: Pam Bagnall's Got a Collage, wherein Val tells Roger about the latest exploits of her arch-nemesis and rival for their school's deputy-headship.
posted by penguin pie at 2:56 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

No one's mentioned Malcolm in the Middle? (All seasons available on Netflix.)

The "mom" of that show should run the universe.
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:44 PM on November 3, 2016

Please Like Me!
posted by sideofwry at 4:33 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hart of Dixie - kind of a Northern Exposure/Doc Hollywood premise, 4 seasons and they had enough notice of their impending cancellation to make a really satisfying finale.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:06 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm gonna go off the deep end here...

The election sucks because the politics suck. You need idealists you can relate to.

Start watching the first four seasons of The West Wing.

It'll inspire you.
posted by Thistledown at 5:47 PM on November 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you want gentle and nice, you must watch Lark Rise To Candleford. It's on Amazon Prime. It can be a bit twee at points, but it's very sweet and will absolutely chase away all stress of the elections and other real life cares.

You also might like Royal Pains. It's a very cute show from USA's "Blue Skies" era (they were sort of committed to kind, gentle programming without much darkness) about a doctor who practices macgyver-like medical feats on rich people in the Hamptons, who are somehow always getting sick or injured without a hospital or an ambulance around. He has a cute funny brother, and a nice, kind, physician's assistant, and he meets a succession of quirky but kind people for 7 straight seasons. It's very low stress but the medical stuff is interesting, and hardly anybody has serious outcomes, I think he loses a grand total of two patients in the entire series. It's on Netflix.
posted by katyggls at 7:48 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding "Lark Rise to Candleford", but skip the last season.
posted by Neekee at 7:59 PM on November 3, 2016

"Cranford" is nice too.
posted by Neekee at 8:01 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

As for shows subtitled in English, I've gotten into Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. Each episode tells a new story, but the bulk of each story is set in a little late-night pub on a side street in Tokyo, and features the wise and stoic chef that runs the place. Thus far the stories are all sweet but grounded. Kind of realistic and idealistic at the same time.

Also, when I'm down about American politics, I usually watch The West Wing and just imagine I live in that reality instead...
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:36 PM on November 3, 2016

nthing Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. There's 2-1/2 seasons available on Netflix (3rd season was only 8 episodes) and that's all there are. Set in 1920s Melbourne, Phryne Fisher is a rich flapper who becomes a detective for something to do. She swans about in fabulous clothes and a splendiferous Hispano-Suiza car, takes lovers, has a gold-plated pistol, and has no fear. Witty and fun.
posted by MovableBookLady at 9:01 PM on November 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Came in to second Derek. It has some definite grownup humor and has gotten some criticism that I think is somewhat due to Gervais other work, but is otherwise a show with a big heart.
posted by cnc at 9:30 PM on November 3, 2016

There's a sweet new Canadian family comedy called Kim's Convenience that you can watch online- it's got a warm funny pleasant vibe and is quite fun to watch. If you look closely you'll see a few familiar faces from Slings and Arrows, as both shot in Toronto.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:45 PM on November 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also check out this recent AskMe: Interesting TV shows (or movies) with kind, loving characters

Nth-ing The Great British Bake Off (titled The Great British Baking Show for the US). I'm not much of a reality show fan but this is like the polar opposite in tone from the competitive reality shows in the US. The hosts Mel and Sue are silly, punny, nerdy, and yes, very supportive. The show even has brief interesting historical insights into baking, and there are actual hugs at the end of each episode. There are cakes and pies and breads and other wonderful treats, some of which I'd never heard of before watching this show.

It's such a breath of fresh air (and I'm not even much of a baker). Start a season from episode 1 and go in order to get the full experience (the later seasons run 10 episodes; the earlier seasons were shorter). As mentioned above, a few seasons are on Amazon Instant Video and Netflix.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 12:38 AM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also meant to say: the US seasons are out of order compared to the original BBC series. So if you want to watch chronologically:
Bake Off Series 4 = Baking Show Season 2
Bake Off Series 5 = Baking Show Season 1
Bake Off Series 6 = Baking Show Season 3
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 1:04 AM on November 4, 2016

My favorite smart, funny BritComs: "One Foot in the Grave" , "Friday Night Dinner" and "Love Soup"
posted by james33 at 6:57 AM on November 4, 2016

While I love Parks and Recreations, all of the characters, even the "kindest," relentlessly mock and harass the one older employee. This is played for laughs. I can't image people saying "everyone is nice" if the sole person of color or LGBT character were treated in this way. Age discrimination flies under the radar.

You might like The Waltons, which is available for streaming on Amazon. It's about a warm, loving family living through the Depression. Ellen Corby and Will Geer were wonderful as the grandparents. It was extremely popular in the 1970s.
posted by FencingGal at 7:09 AM on November 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just finished The Durrells in Corfu which should be available on the PBS website; eccentric and nearly broke British family flees dreary England for Greece in the 1930s. Chaos ensues.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:57 AM on November 4, 2016

Surprised no one has mentioned Stephen Fry's "Kingdom". Well worth it.
posted by LingeringMoon at 5:53 AM on November 5, 2016

Seconding Please Like Me if you can get it. Really, really lovely.
posted by taltalim at 7:57 AM on November 6, 2016

Oh, oh, oh! Galavant! Its hysterical, and sweet, and no one ever mentions it here on MF, but its just awesome if you want light, silly, funny, fluff! Please try it, I do so want to help get it the cult following it very much deserves.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:05 AM on November 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you don't mind sub-titles and anime, Polar Bear Cafe is streaming on Crunchy Roll, and is the gentlest slice of life comedy to ever exist. It's about a group of animal and human friends who hang out at Polar Bear's cafe, and who get into brief 15 minute adventures regarding a wide variety of life situations. No fan service, mostly no conflict, just soothing and light comedy.
posted by codacorolla at 8:28 PM on November 7, 2016

Parks and Rec and The Great British Bake Off both give me the full warm and fuzzies.

For Australian stuff, they have their own Bake Off, and a new show called Rosehaven, about two friends in Tasmania, which is also warm and fuzzy.

And cosy mysteries - your Marples, Poirots, Phryne Fishers and Midsomer Murders and the like, are quite comfort food watching for me as well. Yes, murder, but picturesque settings, frequent period details, and knowing that the truth will out and justice will be served can be extremely comforting. I prefer the Agatha Christie adaptations over all of the rest, but that's also because I read them when I was young.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:16 PM on November 7, 2016

The Honorable Woman is one of the best miniseries in recent memory - but like this election is a little heavy. Also heavy but damn good is Salamander, if you can get your hands on it.
posted by specialk420 at 1:53 PM on November 20, 2016

The Honourable Woman is great, but it is *not*sweet, kind or calming!
posted by pharm at 3:39 AM on November 21, 2016

I get vaguely embarrassed watching it, but My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is the most soothing thing on Earth. Netflix has multiple seasons, though the first couple are the best-written. Gravity Falls is another animated show that's fantastic, but I don't think that one is streaming anywhere.

My mom and I really enjoy Fixer Upper (2 seasons on Netflix, still airing). It's a Texas-set renovation show with charming hosts and very little conflict. I was going to mention The Great British Baking Show but other people beat me to it :)

Bob's Burgers has a lot of bodily-function humor, which might not be what you're looking for, but the family relationships are really sweet (if weird), and it's progressive in a sneaky way. A few episodes faeture actual peril, but most of the conflicts are low-key. There are something like 5 seasons on Netflix.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 9:44 AM on November 28, 2016

Gravity Falls is on Hulu and it's very, very good, but I don't think it's especially sweet.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:03 PM on November 29, 2016

Ooh, ooh! Steven Universe! It does have some monsters and some action in it, but overall it's just 12-minute bursts of lovely candy-colored fun, killer music and the occasional Wholesome Life Lesson.
posted by speedlime at 8:23 PM on November 29, 2016

Maybe Marion And Geoff, Rob Brydon's breakthrough comedy? 10 minute episodes of the main character (who is neither Marion nor Geoff) sitting in his car talking about his life since separating from his wife. Wry, bittersweet stuff.

(Rob Brydon also stars with Steve Coogan in the semi-improvised The Trip, which combines exaggerated fictional versions of themselves with a travel/food programme. The second series took them to Italy for more of the same. The Trip might be a bit less appealing since there's needle, oneupmanship and general smuggery between the two. Also swearing and impressions. Both series of it are also available edited together as feature films)
posted by comealongpole at 2:15 PM on December 7, 2016

"Mozart in the Jungle" has been filling this hole for me for the past month. It's on Amazon Prime. (Since you mention your mom, it does have some sex and nudity, but it's not too-too much.)
posted by purpleclover at 3:47 PM on December 19, 2016

Mozart in the Jungle
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 4:54 AM on December 30, 2016

Little Mosque on the Prairie.
posted by anshuman at 9:57 PM on January 25, 2017

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