In a time where it’s easy to shelter our minds into ignorance along with our sheltered bodies, the aspiration to be WFH (woke from home) is an admirable goal. We’ve heard the trope that isolation is a great time for reading and self-education, but at the end of the day, quarantine life is rough, so it’s nice to just sit back and let yourself be entertained.
It’s safe to say our methods for consuming culture organically in the outside world have been shot to sh*t. But with the right taste in TV, you can get the same culturally enlightening experience from the comfort of your couch. It’s nice to watch things that have a way of making you feel connected to the rest of humanity.
Here are some of the top series at the moment that do their part to enrich the mind and soothe the soul. From heartwarming custom exchanges, to mouthwatering cuisine appreciation, here’s what you should binge-watch to expand your cultural knowledge from home:
Street Food: Asia
One of the best ways to discover culture viscerally is through food. So while we can’t be scoffing down dumplings on a ‘gap yaar’ in Thailand anytime soon, this series takes us through the strict and crucial customs behind street food, so perfect, that some have even reached Michelin Star status. With the sheer work these remarkable people take on, they could justifiably be considered chefs/ business owners/ supply managers and more, but they’re fighting to exist in a world that just views them as street vendors and some governments that see them as leeches. Watching them keep the tradition alive in the modern age, from stews to currys and sweets, is equal parts inspiring as it is mouth-watering. Besides all that, it’s also a nice chuckle to see iconic street food, ‘pani puri’, described as ‘spiced water balls’ for the viewers understanding.
Queer Eye Japan
If you thought US-based Queer Eye was enough to make you cry, just wait. The immersive and wonderfully heart-warming experience this show gives you in this series is unmatched. You get a glimpse into Japanese culture through all the vehicles of the Fab Five, food, culture, grooming/beauty, fashion and home. If you had to cancel a trip to Japan during this time, this is the perfect feel-good replacement escape.
Finally, a pleasant and painless way to watch something educational, without it being so specified you can’t understand it or so patronising that you want to fight your TV/laptop. The episodes are a digestible length of under 20 minutes each, deep-diving into some niche, and some relatively broad topics, from ‘the exclamation point’ to ‘music’. While genuinely all or any are worth the watch, specifically for expanding cultural knowledge, some stand-out episodes are definitely monogamy, the racial wealth gap, cults and tattoos. And those are just the first season. If you’re looking for some more stimulating answers during this void of physical contact, try the separate series: Sex, Explained to tell us the things we really want to know.
While the second food/travel show on this list, this one is really a great watch. I see it as somewhat of a next-step to the sentiment behind ‘Street Food’. Where the earlier-mentioned series emphasises the importance of keeping traditional cuisines alive, rightfully so, Ugly Delicious doesn’t shy away from the importance of experimentation when it comes to food. Even when some organisations of people so sternly disapprove. In fact, in the first episode, you discover that there’s actually an official association in Naples that determines the validity of a true Neapolitan Pizza. This scene is comically placed after a scene of David Chang sitting down in Tokyo with Aziz Ansari to eat a tuna and mayonnaise pizza. With a mix of showcasing some seriously opulent restaurateurs along with mom and pop places, this series does a good job of showing all the layers to modern dining culture by just having a really great dish minus the glitz and glam, you can still attract godly status within the food world.
Story of God
Listening to Morgan Freeman explain absolutely anything in his honey-like voice is a cathartic experience for even the most stressed-out of people. While tackling humanity’s toughest on-going questions is a pretty heavy burden, this series really does do it with style and grace, without shying away from the intensity of existence. If there were ever a show to remind you that you’re human, this show does it. Rediscovering or newly uncovering how loads of people handle and define death, creation, good and evil respective to their culture, is a captivating way of reminding yourself there is literally always more to learn.