The news is terrible. It's always terrible, but right now it's especially terrible. And while I'm sure we're all doing our due diligence in watching cable news or local live streams or Twitter or whatever else, it's OK to take a break, too. Unfortunately, this being a Tuesday close to the end of a television season, there's not much on TV tonight. (Unless you want to watch 19 Kids and Counting or The Voice, in which case you'd be better off with the cable news.) So here are some selections available on Netflix Instant that I'd recommend as good distractions tonight. Just because.
The L Word: Did you know that all six seasons of Showtime's semi-ridiculous lesbian soap are on Netflix? Well, they are. So why not spend the evening exploring the world of West Hollywood sapphism, specifically that of the pretty twenty- and thirty-somethings who hang out at the local cafe The Planet. There's steady couple (in the beginning, anyway) Bette and Tina (Bette is played by Jennifer Beals!), Pam Grier as the (straight) elder stateswoman Kit, Mia Kirshner as the hilariously detestable Jenny, and then there's the slinky Katherine Moennig as Shane, who will likely make you question your sexuality no matter how you're oriented. No one's arguing that this show is good, per se, but as a sun-splashed way to forget the cares of the real world, it's certainly an engrossing option.
Immortals: On the other side of the eye-candy coin is this swords 'n' sandals battle-of-the-gods nonsense from Tarsem, the director of The Cell and The Fall. (And Mirror Mirror, god help us all.) As with The L Word this is not by any means a cultural property of any actual quality. But! There's him and him and him (nice hat, Emmett!) and him. And, hell, her and her. There's a lot to look at, is what I'm saying. Plot-wise? You'd do better elsewhere. But who cares about plot?
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: This is an actually good thing. There are seven seasons of FX's frequently brilliant comedy on Netflix, but if you haven't got the time, maybe jump into season two, when the show really got into its groove. I'm thinking particularly of S2E04, "Dennis and Dee Go On Welfare," an episode as potentially offensive to scores of people as it is blissfully funny. Season two is chock-full of terrific episodes, among them "Dennis and Dee Get a New Dad" and the eloquently titled "Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass." If those titles sound a little cheesy, like they're trying to be super edgy, don't worry. The show is a lot sharper, smarter, and slyer than the titles suggest. A gem of a show, season two is one of Sunny's strongest runs.
NYC Prep: Have you not seen NYC Prep? Good grief, what is wrong with you? Bravo's greatest television series to date, this short-lived look at the ridiculous teens of elite Manhattan prep schools offered all the drama and thrills of a grownup series with all the comfortingly low stakes of the fleeting teenage years. In some ways a bizarre and cruel experiment, but in others an oddly goodhearted series, NYC Prep glimmered briefly in the summer of 2009 and then never returned. Because obviously no parents would let their kids be on that show after the disaster of the first season. But it's a beautiful disaster, painfully familiar despite its rarefied world. If reality doesn't quite float your boat but you're looking for something in the YA realm, there's always the much better than expected Teen Wolf or, hitting a little older, the wonderful college comedy Greek, an ABC Family series that was actually exceptionally well-written.
Tiny Furniture: Hey, why not see what all the fuss is about and watch the movie that put Girls creator Lean Dunham on the map? You'll get to meet her real-life mom (you know, the famous artist that everyone has heard of, right?) and her real-life sister. And you can see her real-life apartment! But really the attraction of Tiny Furniture is that it's a funny, surprisingly thoughtful little film. If New York navel-gazing isn't really your speed these days, or any days, there is a wealth of other good indie comedies on Netflix, from Bernie (which isn't really a comedy) to Bottle Rocket.
Louie: For god's sake, just watch Louie already. The first two seasons of television's most original comedy (is it a comedy?) are readily available, and if you have not seen them yet, you must. What Louis C.K. does with a half-hour feels like a revolution. A corny word to use about television, I know, but here it feels applicable. Louie is unfortunately not as silly or upbeat as we're trying to go with this list, but it's well worth the time anyway. And there are definitely big, satisfying belly laughs to be had throughout. Come on. Get smart and watch this show for crying out loud.
The Queen of Versailles: Yes there is a lot in this fascinating documentary about the depressing financial slump of this once-great nation, but mostly it's a spectacularly enthralling look at one particularly strange, and particularly wealthy, family who once set out to build the biggest home in America. (They built the bones, but the rest has yet to be filled in. Though it might be soon!) If you're not looking for an allegory about America's economic ruin — charming and oddly sweet as it is! — maybe go for First Position instead, a look at kids competing in America's most prestigious youth ballet competition. Some heartbreak is had, to be sure, but mostly it's about young people soaring gracefully. It's a joy to watch. And joy is a good thing, right now and always.