When the shelter-in-place orders went into effect, streaming services were ready and waiting with too many shows to name. If we’re going to be increasing our screen time, it makes sense to put that time to good use, so the Love Thy Nerd writers have compiled a list of TV and anime that restore our faith in humanity.
DISCLAIMER: Not all of the following shows will be suitable for all viewers. Some of them contain mature content including sexuality and violence. Love Thy Nerd does not specialize in telling people what they should or should not watch. We do, however very firmly believe that you should listen to your conscience and do your own research about what is appropriate for you and/or your family. We highly recommend commonsensemedia.org for detailed reviews that delve into this very subject.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
When I first watched Avatar: The Last Airbender I was in college and I was captivated by its main cast of characters. On one level it is a pretty classic show of a protagonist who must fight a “big bad” to achieve his destiny and save the world. But on another, it is a story of redemption for all the characters involved, as each of them must overcome their flaws. Avatar: The Last Airbender sets its characters apart from similar shows by having deep characters that feel real, even through all their bending, and is the perfect reminder that when we think bigger than ourselves, and put down our differences, we can bring balance to the world. – Cameron Franklin
When I started my rewatch of Battlestar Galactica this month—the first time I’ve watched it since it first aired in the late 2000’s—I didn’t expect how much life in the Colonial Fleet would reflect my own in the midst of COVID-19. But like us, the last remaining citizens of the Twelve Colonies (as well as the Cylons) must decide who to trust, how and when to prioritize the common good—and the survival of the entire human species—over their own individual interests, and how to carry on with life in the face of continuing and collective trauma. Their relationships suffer, their ability to adapt is tested, and they compromise their integrity. But in the midst of all this, they learn how to forgive and be forgiven, how to admit when they were wrong, how to accept each other despite their deep brokenness, and even, amazingly, how to love their enemies. If they can do that even as their numbers dwindle and their hope of survival, of finding a new planetary home, hangs by a thread, then I have to believe that the citizens of this planet can, too. – April-Lyn Caouette
The main characters of Community follow the hero’s journey in every episode. Over the whole series, their egos get deconstructed, challenged, rebuilt and they accept themselves and one another—even though they had nothing in common to keep them together at the outset. Their biases are challenged and they grow realistically. They start the show as defensive folks performing who they think they should be, and at the end, they are folks who have embraced their inner child, accepted their shadow-selves, and are better for it. – Kevin Ireland
The Expanse is set a few hundred years in the future. Mars is an independent military state and earth is vastly overpopulated causing many people to flee to the “The Belt,” for decent paying jobs. The show follows one such person who fled to the belt for work, James Holden, and the crew of the Rocinante, the ship he ends up captaining as they find themselves trying to get to the bottom of a conspiracy that could throw the solar system into all out war. Everything could fall apart at any moment and there is constant high stakes political drama. What makes the show worth watching, however, is the crew of the Rocinante and their faith in one another despite their deep-seated differences. It is that commitment to one another that motivates the crew of the Roci both to fight for peace and to see the good in other people even when they don’t deserve it. – Drew Dixon
The Imagineering Story
My parents brought me to Walt Disney World for vacation for the first time when I was four years old, and to this day the resort is one of my happy places. What continues to fascinate me about the Disney parks as an adult is discovering just how much love, care, creative genius, and technological innovation have been at the root of their operation from the very beginning. I love learning Disney insider secrets and park history, but many of these secrets—such as glimpses inside the Utilidors, the legendary tunnel system beneath the Magic Kingdom—have long been guarded from the public to preserve the “Disney magic.” Watching The Imagineering Story has felt like taking a virtual vacation to the parks and getting a VIP backstage tour and history lesson, all from the safety of my living room. More than that, it reminds me that looking at the world through a lens of wonder and possibility can bring fresh perspective to the most frustrating of situations. – April-Lyn Caouette
Little Witch Academia
Everyone loves a good training montage, and what better way to get your fill than by watching three young women learn how to use their magic at Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy. Little Witch Academia follows three roommates as they learn to trust each other and believe in themselves through harrowing challenges and hijinx. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses—especially our poor protagonist, Akko—but they remind us of the lesson we should all remember: we can each improve ourselves, but we are strongest and most successful when we work together. – Madeline Turnipseed
This show is difficult to describe. Mental health meets vaporwave aesthetics and is melded into a pharmaceutical fever-dream? Maniac follows two drug trial participants as they wrestle with their own minds and keep crossing into the mind of the other. Even with the wild twists and turns it takes to get through, Maniac reminds us that reconciliation with family is painful and cathartic, but makes us more healthy, functional people. – Madeline Turnipseed
Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of the first season of Schitt’s Creek. The story of a rich New York family losing their money and having to live with “commoners” felt stale and while the jokes were funny many of them felt obvious. I am extremely glad I continued watching, though, because the way the Rose family adjusted and grew was extremely well done. Alexis and David specifically have amazing growth as they come to grips with their own history and they must make a choice whether or not to grow out of it. The characters of Schitt’s Creek are a reminder that money isn’t everything and finding the best in a surprising situation can often be a matter of gaining a new perspective. – Cameron Franklin
A Series of Unfortunate Events
It’s kind of weird to say that a show is bingeable or restores faith in humanity when it tells you to “Look Away” because of the, um, unfortunate events that occur. A Series of Unfortunate Events, while chronicling all the awful things that happen to the Baudelaire children, also chronicles all of the people—the Volunteers—who stand with them against the forces of Count Olaf. Though the Volunteers often fail, the presence of people who are willing to do what is right because it is right—even knowing they may not win—is a constant encouragement. Even though we may feel very much alone, even though we may feel that there is no hope, there are people who will stand with us and do what is right. – Madeline Turnipseed
Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia
When awkward high schooler Jim Lake Jr. finds himself whisked away to a world of trolls and gum gums (evil trolls) hidden beneath his hometown of Arcadia and chosen as the next Trollhunter (defender of good trolls), he quickly proceeds to break nearly every established convention in the trollhunting playbook. Most notably Jim often breaks the second rule of trollhunting: “Always finish the fight.” Instead, he shows mercy, and many of those he spares end up becoming some of his most trusted allies. Additionally, Trollhunters of yore always worked alone, but Jim constantly leans on his friends and as a result, they build a team of mutual support and trust that empowers them all to overcome evil forces they never could have on their own. Jim and his friends remind us that true heroes stand up for what is right, even when that means breaking the rules. – Drew Dixon
Uchuu Kyoudai (Space Brothers)
Uchuu Kyoudai follows two brothers on separate paths trying to reach the same goal—becoming astronauts and exploring outer space. This series is fun to watch at any age, but there’s something especially for adults who watch this, as the true message is really about following your dreams, even if it takes you a while to achieve them. The series is not only heartwarming as you follow these colorful characters, but it’s also educational as well: great research was done to show the detailed process of becoming an astronaut and the impact they have on the world. You’ll feel the passion that this show has to offer and leave wondering if there’s something more for you out there, as this show is really more about the journey rather than the destination. – Andrea Racoti
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead is not a show about zombies, it is a show about people who have to deal with zombies. Say what you will about the show’s many ups and many more downs, the heart of the show is the rawness of the human condition exposed in extreme circumstances. The Walking Dead consistently demonstrates who people are at their core. Sometimes it’s the worst, but every so often you will see the absolute best in humanity: self-sacrifice, perseverance, the power of community to hold back the darkness. The human spirit thrives in adversity and is refined in the crucible of hardship, and what world is harder than this one? – Jake Corn
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