Hello, and welcome to your custom-made virtual reality center inside Bunker 5488. We trust that your stay thus far has been comfortable, or at least as comfortable as any underground shelter can be. You made a wise choice back in 2017 to purchase this abode in case of potential worldwide calamity related to the election of Donald Trump, and we here at Protect-U-Mart appreciate you spending your money with us. We especially appreciate the timing of your purchase: As you know, that the concept of money went up in flames along with most of North America.
My name is Leonard, and I’ve been chosen amongst 500+ virtual personalities to help guide your entertainment choices while we wait for the earth to become inhabitable. The Protect-U-Mart questionnaire that you filled out when you purchased this model suggested that I would be best to ease your transition back into the world of mass media. I don’t know if you got here before everything went south, or if you had to kill several of your neighbors in order to secure your place in this bunker. It all depends on what warranty you initially bought. But I do know what kind of shows you’ll want to watch now that breathable air has been cancelled until further notice.
Given the responses on your questionnaire, you seem like a pop-culture savvy individual. So you probably remember the concept of “Desert Island Discs,” in which people selected the albums they would want to have with them should they ever be stranded on a desert island. “Stranded on a desert island”: Doesn’t that sound positively delightful right now, compared with your current circumstances? But Leonard digresses. He’s here (in the third person) to take that concept at tweak it slightly: He’s taken it upon himself to analyze your psychological profile and suggest some shows to keep you sane in the post-apocalypse.
To be sure, these aren’t the five “best” TV shows of all time, whatever that would actually mean. Sure, I’m a computer program, and work in the world of binaries. But even I know that trying to give you the objectively best TV shows would not only be a fool’s errand, but also past the point. Even if society could all agree that The Wire was the best show in the history of the world, is “a bleak examination of the inability of institutions to do right by its populace” really what you want right now? That’s not to say that relentless optimism is the only way to go here, but clearly there’s more at play than the concept of quality.
Leonard thinks you need shows that provide wins that reality didn’t provide, shows that give you a small bit of hope in this hopeless time, and when all else fails, allows you the chance to mentally livetweet the stupidity of your ancestors. I mean, that’s still fun. The mushroom clouds took away a lot, but not our ability to snark at strangers, am I right?
So please select from one of these programs. Note that while bingewatching is encouraged, make sure your bunkmates don’t plot against you while you mainline an entire season of these programs. Your Protect-U-Mart jumpsuit is knife-proof but not bullet-proof. Now sit back, relax, grip that baseball bat next to your recliner good and tight, and choose from one of the following shows.
Lost: Take a cue from Desmond Hume on how to live indefinitely underground. It’s all about routine: Make breakfast. Work out. Listen to some classic music. Enter in a code that may or may not prevent the end of the world. You might get mad about the end of season six, but that’s a lot better than being mad about the end of Western Civilization.
Parks and Recreation: Hope. It was a thing that actually existed at one point, like dinosaurs and gasoline. And while there are a few dips in quality in later seasons, on the whole this a surprisingly titanic achievement of a television show. It suggests that change is possible, that people are flawed but ultimately good, and that hard work can actually be rewarded. Think about this the next time you are mad that it takes six months to grow a single Protect-U-Mart cabbage in your enviro-lounge.
Alias: Who wants to be themselves anymore? The old you is a thing of the past. Try on a new persona. A new name. A new wig. A new outfit. A new cliffhanger that will be resolved in the cold open of the next episode. Call your bunkmate Spy Daddy. Pray that doesn’t get you punched. Be sure to take a 47-minute break in between episodes. Rambaldi would want it that way.
Friday Night Lights: Look, I get it: the metal roof leaks. The ground around you periodically shakes, either due to seismic anomalies or the rumble of tanks above ground. Life’s HARD. But with Eric Taylor providing pep talks and Tami Taylor being the mother we all needed even when the very soil beneath our feet wasn’t radioactive, it’s possible to overcome the misery that consumes your every waking moment for just a little while.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia: Given this crew’s behavior, attitude, and habits, no one on this should have survived the pilot episode. They were the human equivalent of cockroaches, essentially unkillable creatures that drew others into their sphere and emerged unscathed from the unwitting killing fields. Watch them. Study them. Be them.
Tiny House Hunters: Long before the group known now as The Marauders invaded and occupied bunkers in what used to be known as “Minnesota,” people actually allowed themselves to be filmed being smug about their life choices as well as complaining about the reality of their whims. Behold the roughly 5,000 episodes that all boil down to people complaining that their tiny homes are too tiny, which in theory was the entire point and yet they had the nerve to complain about a sink that was also a toilet which was the only way to fit both into a 112-square foot shelter box and oh boy Leonard needs a drink.