What to Watch Next? Yarn Store Edition
January 14, 2018 6:28 PM   Subscribe

At our yarn shop, we host a weekly nerd night where we watch a couple of TV episodes and knit or crochet. Star Trek (especially TNG and now Disco) has been a popular favorite, as has Doctor Who and Stranger Things. We did Firefly a couple years ago, and we've done some Miyazaki movies in between. The plan was to get people hooked on the Expanse, but it looks like we may need a plan B. We knew the Expanse was dark and complicated, and if we can't get people into it, we need another option.

Our audience is adults, but they like more upbeat, fun shows (Game of Thrones is way too violent). Can't be subtitled, because people are looking down at their knitting a lot. Science Fiction or Fantasy preferred, but a good dubbed anime that is neither could work--there has to be a nerd connection somehow. Too much continuity is not great because we don't get the same people week to week, and long series are also not great unless there a good guide to what is skippable.

I'd say Buffy would be perfect, but its gender politics have become pretty dated, and Joss Whedon has gone from hero to zero. Our group is mainly women, gay guys, and trans folk, so it can't smack of exploitation or backward gender norms.
posted by rikschell to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I have no help but...I want to go to there. What about Galaxy Quest or Fifth Element? Do they have to be shows?
posted by Bistyfrass at 6:36 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

What about Chuck? Not science fiction but very nerd-focused, light and fun.
posted by andraste at 6:43 PM on January 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

Oh my God, what an amazing idea! I would also love to attend a knit night like this.

Is history-nerd okay? If so, definitely look into the living-history series that the BBC does with Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn. They're all archaeologists, and they spend a year living on a farm in a different historical era in England. They all know enough that there's a pretty high level of competency for basic tasks, but they have to master the technology of the era, plus all the usual stuff around dealing with a farm. The series so far are:

Tales from the Green Valley (1620's)
Victorian Farm (mid-19th century)
Edwardian Farm (very early 1900's)
Wartime Farm (WWII, and holds the record as the one that made me cry)
Tudor Monastery Farm (1500's-ish)

There are a lot of related series and one-offs, but my heart lies with the Farm ones. They're largely available on YouTube, although admittedly not always in pristine condition.
posted by kalimac at 6:51 PM on January 14, 2018 [11 favorites]

Fringe? Not sure if that has too much continuity.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:57 PM on January 14, 2018

The first three that come to mind are Killjoys, The Orville and Red Dwarf. I was thinking of the more fun/less serious sci-fi that you were seeking.

Xena and iZombie for fantasyesque shows.
posted by liquorice at 6:58 PM on January 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Cowboy Bebop! And then (it's by the same director) Samurai Champloo.
posted by capricorn at 6:58 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

A Series of Unfortunate Events
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
The Good Place

Slightly darker:
Teen Wolf
Sleepy Hollow
The X-Files

Along the lines of kalimac’s suggestions, Manor House and Regency House Party

While not fantasy, something like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries might also work.
posted by chrisulonic at 7:06 PM on January 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Would you want to binge watch any tv shows? You could do 4 or so episodes of a tv show (the good place? Rupauls drag race?) and show them for a few weeks.
posted by andreapandrea at 7:07 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Argh why are you in NC? They will love the expanse. Please franchise and move to L.A.
posted by stewiethegreat at 7:09 PM on January 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh, man, what Kalimac said--those shows are ridiculously fascinating to crafty nerdy types, in my experience.

The Good Place requires continuity, but "a couple episodes" of an hour-long show is basically a whole season of it, so it might work?

MST3K episodes might work.

I feel like a lot of 90s scifi and fantasy had entertaining pilots--Dark Angel, Forever Knight, Earth 2, Xena, SeaQuest, Sliders? I don't know that anyone would want to sit through an entire series of any of them, at this point, but the pilots can be entertaining viewing.
posted by mishafletch at 7:10 PM on January 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is outside some of your stated parameters, but nerdy knitting tv made me think of The Bletchley Circle, a crime/drama/mystery series. It's about 4 women who were codebreakers during WWII and are now fitting back into civilian life in 1952. It's not sci-fi, but it's nerdy in that the characters are all smart AF and it's amazing to watch them figure out stuff. There is also occasional gorgeous knitwear that made me briefly aspire to knitting garments (I have never even finished a scarf). Alas only 7 x 45min episodes were ever made.
posted by Cheese Monster at 7:11 PM on January 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

Would TV comedies work? Futurama, The IT Crowd, and Better Off Ted are all fun, and the gender politics are no worse than Dr Who.
posted by mrmurbles at 7:14 PM on January 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I don't recommend the Orville. I'm mostly thinking of the third episode, but it involves a sex reassignment surgery for an infant and it is not handled in a particularly woke way. They try, but they really fail. If you steer clear of that episode it's mostly okay though.

What about a podcast? Nightvale is pretty solid. I recommend Summer Reading Program. If you explain beforehand that it's weird and supernatural, everything else makes sense without too much explanation.
posted by Bistyfrass at 7:14 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

For me, I need a knitting show to be fairly talky, so that I can spend a lot of time looking at the screen. One of my favorite knitting shows, therefore, is Dark Shadows. It's goofy and fun and hilariously overwrought, and if you miss something because you dropped a stitch, they'll recap it for you in the next episode.

Or Farscape, because I will recommend Farscape for anyone who needs a new nerd show.
posted by darchildre at 7:23 PM on January 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Seconding Dirk Gently and Better Off Ted! (I also love Futurama, but so many of the jokes are visual that it doesn't seem like the best fit for knitting.)

Travelers is a little dark, but probably no more so than Deep Space Nine, and most of the episodes are pretty interesting.
posted by snaw at 7:55 PM on January 14, 2018

For fun, upbeat, quirky and highly episodic, how about Psych? The first three seasons in particular are ridiculously entertaining and easy to binge watch. Or for similar vibes with more of a magical realism feel, how about Pushing Daisies?
posted by the thought-fox at 7:58 PM on January 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

If you did want to throw a podcast into the mix, this sounds like a crowd that might like The Bright Sessions.

It might require too much actual screen watching for a craft night, but The Quest is pretty fun. Cheesy, yes, but in a very amiable way — for the most part, everyone rolls with the premise well and seems to be having a good time with it.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:03 PM on January 14, 2018

While I'm a big Farscape fan, I think it's a bit too convoluted with too much continuity for the poster's needs. Plus it can go a bit dark.

My suggestion for this would be Timeless. Yes, you have to understand the basic narrative thread, but it's a light time-travel show with a female lead and if you just accept that they're chasing a bad guy through time to correct the timeline, you can go from there. There has only been one season so far (so it's not long) and the show is supposed to be coming back for a second season.

(I also really want to say D.C.'s Legends of Tomorrow, but that mainly works if you skip to the current season--where they ramped up the fun factor--but it might be a tad continuity heavy as well, especially if you've skipped ahead and haven't watched Arrow and Flash for the backstories of some of the characters.)
posted by sardonyx at 8:10 PM on January 14, 2018

Well hell why not Quantum Leap? Miss Fisher is also fun. If they would watch animation, then Avatar: the Last Airbender, or the new Voltron, would also be enjoyable.
posted by emjaybee at 8:32 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Better Off Ted is nerd friendly. The boss is so far over the top from having a clue, that aspect could have been played by Mr. Data. It's laugh out loud funny.
posted by Homer42 at 9:53 PM on January 14, 2018

Leverage is all about found family and silly heist shenanigans. It feels pretty darn scifi despite being supposedly grounded in realistic possibilities a lot of the time, and it has plenty of character development while remaining pretty episodic.

Pretty much any of the animated Batman shows might work well. I implore you to give Batman: the Brave and the Bold a try, it's hilarious and exceedingly clever while maintaining a childish glee that's missing from any of the live action Batman stuff after the Burton movie.

Seconding Xena, btw, if you have any slightly older lesbians in the group I guarantee you that if asked they will happily provide a top ten best episodes list, or theme ideas.
posted by Mizu at 10:30 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you can get your hands on it, The Almighty Johnsons. Nerdy, fun, and very talky.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:33 PM on January 14, 2018

If you like Better Off Ted also try Andy Richter Controls the Universe, which is basically the same show with different actors. I was always sad there were so few episodes of Better Off Ted so was thrilled to learn this!
posted by fshgrl at 10:42 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Love the series, couldn't get into the book (I'll try again in the future).
Night Gallery, Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. Classic Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone).
Anything Vincent Price.

And your crafting group sounds amazing.
Have you checked with the local library? Maybe they have some DVDs. Masterpiece Theater is good, as are American Experience, Nature and Nova. Explore some of their non-fiction titles -- I can listen to Julia Child all day.
posted by TrishaU at 11:41 PM on January 14, 2018

I've been re-watching "Star Trek: The Next Generation" for like the fifth time in my life while knitting. It's great – sometimes a bit eyebrow-raising, but still so reassuringly human. And Picard's sweet jokes are all the better with Sir Patrick Stewart being the awesome person he is. I've even come to appreciate Riker more this time around. I never thought I would say that. Also good for knitting because you don't have to keep your eyes on it.

Netflix also have DS9 and Voyager.
posted by fraula at 12:57 AM on January 15, 2018

Not science fiction or fantasy, but definitely fun and upbeat with a nerd connection: The Detectorists
posted by crLLC at 4:46 AM on January 15, 2018

Scandal is my knitting show right now; it’s so ridiculous that it’s practically scifi, and while it has dark bits, it only gets ABC primetime dark. House would also be in this category.

Seconding Avatar, Samurai Champloo (the dub is decent), Leverage, MST3K. The Good Place has some continuity to keep track of but is sooooo goooood.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:05 AM on January 15, 2018

The Middleman is a little tricky to get your hands on (as far as I can tell, it's not available from Netflix DVD or any online streaming service), but it's pretty great. It's basically a sillier hour-long TV version of "Men In Black", with a kick-ass female lead played by the criminally underemployed Natalie Morales.

I'll also second Better Off Ted and Andy Richter Controls the Universe. However, I would caution you about IT Crowd, since there are a few episodes that smack of gay/trans panic (or, at least, aren't particularly nuanced); you may want to vet the episodes before airing them.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:47 AM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Babylon 5.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:54 AM on January 15, 2018

Not sci-fi/fantasy, but how about RuPaul's Drag Race? Definitely fun and upbeat and one can pretty much jump in and out of any given season and any given episode without missing a ton.

I'm finishing up a knitting project that is just a chore, and about the only thing keeping me from adding it to the back burner pile is the treat of sitting and watching old Drag Race episodes. Probably helps that the new All Stars season starts soon.
posted by chaoticgood at 5:55 AM on January 15, 2018

The Good Place is nice because you can get much enjoyment from it even if you aren't familiar with the whole series. Basically the end of the first season is the only time it really matters and if you've seen any of the other S1 episodes you'll still get it.

I suspect that's what made Doctor Who a hit. For next time I suggest episodes of The Making. It's like how it's made, but way better, though in Japanese. (Some episodes are subtitled, but again it isn't really about the words so much.. It's just fun to watch people make ping pong balls and such. Torchwood might also be an option. Everybody loves Jack.
posted by wierdo at 6:37 AM on January 15, 2018

Argh, why are you in Asheville? :) Please come down to Greensboro... :)

I think the first couple of seasons of Warehouse 13 would be lovely for this. It's a diverse cast, passed the Bechdel Test, and it's mostly fun (there are a couple of dark and heavy episodes, but the one betrayal arc gets resolved pretty quickly, for example). If I remember correctly, the longer story arcs don't really pick up until season 3 & 4 and it's mostly monster of the week until then.
posted by joycehealy at 6:39 AM on January 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Librarians is goofy, low stress fantasy. Some episodes riff on mythology, fairy tales or computer games.
posted by Botanizer at 7:09 AM on January 15, 2018

Person of Interest is worth a look.
posted by simonw at 8:17 AM on January 15, 2018

The Librarians
Warehouse 13
Grimm (may be too much continuity?)
Murdoch Mysteries (mystery series set in 19th century Toronto - not sf/fantasy, but Murdoch is a scientific whiz and there is a lot of nerd catnip in the form of cameos from Tesla, Houdini, etc.) (this might be too long though - the series is ongoing)
posted by posadnitsa at 8:45 AM on January 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Miss Fisher and The IT Crowd.
I'd also throw down for Battlestar Galactica.
posted by dotparker at 9:58 AM on January 15, 2018

Not sci fi or fantasy, but what about QI? Very nerdy in the trivia sense, and most of the humor is vocal, not visual. Plus, Stephen Fry! (For most of the seasons, anyway, and Sandi Toksvig is great too.)

I’d suggest starting around Season 3 or later - it doesn’t hit its stride right away, and there’s no continuity to miss out on (except for the “let’s all make fun of Alan Davies” part, but you’d pick up that very quickly at any point).
posted by bananacabana at 2:13 PM on January 15, 2018

Your group may enjoy Wynonna Earp. It reminds me of Buffy in that it's a bit campy, sisters fighting supernatural outlaws. S1 is on Canadian Netflix.

From wikipedia: Wynonna Earp, the great-great-granddaughter of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, battles revenants, the reincarnated outlaws that Wyatt killed. She also fights other supernatural beings that inhabit the Ghost River Triangle, a cursed territory near the Canadian Rockies that includes Purgatory, her home town. Upon her 27th birthday, Wynonna inherited the special power to return revenants to Hell with her ancestor's 16-inch barrel special "Peacemaker" revolver, along with physical strength to fight them. She is recruited by the Black Badge Division (BBD), a secret government agency led by Special Agent Xavier Dolls which eventually includes an ageless Doc Holliday and Wynonna's sister, Waverly Earp. Nicole Haught, Waverly's girlfriend and a Purgatory Sheriff's Deputy, assists the team in her local police role.
posted by haunted_pomegranate at 8:20 PM on January 15, 2018

Oh, and I haven't watched this, but Lost Girl might work too:

Lost Girl is a Canadian supernatural drama television series that premiered on Showcase on September 12, 2010, and ran for five seasons. It follows the life of a bisexual succubus named Bo, played by Anna Silk, as she learns to control her superhuman abilities, help those in need, and discover the truth about her origins.

Also perhaps Adventure Time, and +1 for Avatar: The Last Airbender (the tv show, not the movie!)
posted by haunted_pomegranate at 8:27 PM on January 15, 2018

I wish you were in my city so I could attend.

Hmmmmm. Leverage would be great for this. It isn't technically sci-fi but it feels very "genre", there is good overall character development but the episodes generally stand alone quite well, it's upbeat and funny and fun.

Person of Interest sounds like a show your group would enjoy. It definitely does have continuity but if Stranger Things was fine, POI would be too. It's basically a Gibsonesque near-future sci-fi series masquerading as a procedural. Plenty of light moments, though Things Get Real in the last few seasons as the stakes are raised.

My go-to nerdy "background music" solution is a long run of How It's Made. It's so relaxing and it's genuinely cool to see how they make everything from roofing shingles to mascot costumes to jam.

Orphan Black is great and nerdy but might be a little too continuity-heavy or dark for what you're looking for.

If you have comic book fans, possibly Supergirl? It's adorable and upbeat in tone and also has a widely-praised plotline in the second season (I think) where Supergirl's sister comes out (and her love interest is treated the same as any other, and neither of them are killed off.) I don't watch the other DC TV shows, but my siblings do and assure me that The Flash is the fun, light-toned one and Arrow is the more grim and dark one.

Another comic option is Agents of SHIELD, which had an uneven (though I found it likeable) first season that really took off when Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out that winter. I'm not completely caught up (I have a few eps of last season to go) but I've really enjoyed it consistently throughout its run, and not ONLY because of my crush on Clark Gregg *g*.
posted by oblique red at 9:47 AM on January 16, 2018

I have knit my way through Eureka multiple times. So much fun, geeky, lots of women and PoC.

I was also thinking of Warehouse 13, but I think that one is a little harder to not give your full attention to, plus the first season was a bit slow (I thought).
posted by freezer cake at 1:47 PM on January 16, 2018

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