For some people, staying in and watching movies and shows on their television, computer, tablet, or phone is a classic way to get through winter in Vermont and avoid cabin fever. Because of the pandemic, however, the stay-at-home season seemed to persist through much of 2020 and into the beginning of 2021, making streaming shows and movies more popular than ever.
At the end of 2020, combined U.S. streaming services subscriber numbers were more than 50 percent higher than a year earlier, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal published Jan. 31. Households in the U.S. now subscribe to 3.1 streaming services, up from 2.7 a year ago, according to the article.
Three out of four households subscribe to at least one streaming service, and 60 percent of U.S. households use Netflix. That company’s dominance is explained by its large library and its spending on original new series and films such as “Tiger King” and “The Irishman,” according to the Journal.
As viewing exploded, new services have been joining existing streaming companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Apple TV+ and Disney+ were launched a little over a year ago, and two other major players, HBO Max and Peacock, went live more recently.
With all these choices, what to watch? Critics have been suggesting viewers stream the movie “Hamilton” and fictional series such as “The Queen’s Gambit,” “Lenox Hill,” and “Baghdad Central,” and later in this article we’ll look at the suggestions of some local viewers. But let’s look first at the most popular shows nationally.
According to Nielsen Global Media, the top five streamed series in 2020 were “Ozark,” “Lucifer,” “The Crown,” “Tiger King” — all on Netflix — and “The Mandalorian” on Disney+. The top five streamed movies, according to Nielson, were “Frozen II” (Disney+), “Moana” (Disney+), “Secret Life of Pets 2” (Netflix), “Onward” (Disney+), and “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” (Netflix).
But more popular than any movie or new series was the old TV series “The Office,” which Americans spent 57 billion minutes in all watching in 2020, according to Nielsen. The other most popular “acquired series” in 2020 were “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Criminal Minds,” “NCIS,” and “Schitt’s Creek.” All of these shows were on Netflix in 2020, although “The Office” left Netflix for Peacock at the beginning of 2021.
Are Vermonters’ viewing tastes any different than national preferences? We couldn’t find any specific Vermont streaming statistics, so we decided to ask for recommendations on social media and reach out to a few more locals, and we did find some additional titles not listed above.
Leah Tedesco of Plainfield came up with three suggestions that she says she picked “because they tell stories of finding and nurturing connections and community in the face of isolation and adversity,” a very appropriate theme for the pandemic. Her suggestions: “Star Trek: Discovery” (CBS All Access), “Lovecraft Country” (HBO), about a 1950s road trip, and “Doom Patrol” (Amazon Prime), featuring a superhero team of the same name.
Jess Dewes of Montpelier enjoyed these shows this year: “Schitt’s Creek ”(Netflix), “The Beforeigners” (HBO), and “Barry” (HBO). “‘Schitt’s Creek’ was recommended by multiple friends and was, frankly, a little hard to warm up to in the first few episodes. However, once season one got rolling, I was hooked.” Dewes said. “Barry,” a dark comedy, is also well-written and has very strong characters.
“The Beforeigners” is a really interesting take on a traditional cop show genre,” Dewes said. “First, it’s Norwegian, set in modern-day Oslo. But the premise is that people keep showing up in the harbor from the past. Specifically, the Stone Age and Viking eras. Very nice escapism.”
Montpelier resident Dave Kidney said he liked “The English Game,” available on Netflix, a short series about working-class English men breaking into and forever changing the game of soccer, which had been considered a game for gentlemen only. Another soccer-themed series he recommended was “Ted Lasso,” a “heart-warming comedy” about an American football coach hired to coach an English premier soccer team, available on Apple+. Finally, Kidney suggested the Justin Timberlake movie “Palmer” (Apple+) about “an ex-con who reluctantly befriends a kid from a dysfunctional family.”
If you like foreign video and don’t mind subtitles, part-time Montpelier resident Thierry Guerlain has some suggestions of shows available on Netflix. One is “Call My Agent,” a French series that he said is “very fun and not violent.” Another French series he likes is “Lupin,” a mystery-thriller starring Omar Sy, a Black actor who first gained notoriety in the 2011 comedy-drama film “The Intouchables.” Guerlain also recommended “Merli,” a Spanish series about an unconventional high school teacher and his students.
Like some other rural residents in the area, Sharon Newcomb of Worcester said poor internet service does not allow streaming shows at her house, so she and her husband Tim have found other ways to watch movies and TV series, including by checking out DVDs from the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. For example, they used library disks to watch “The Queen,” a series about the English royal family, and “Shetland,” a crime thriller set in the Shetland Islands. She recommended both.
Newcomb also recommended two shows that can be watched at any time on TV with a PBS Passport, a member benefit. One is “All Creatures Great and Small,” based on a novel by James Herriot about a Yorkshire veterinarian. Another is “Beecham House,” a series set in India that she says transports you to a very different and beautiful part of the world.