Stressed and in search of escape? Here are 5 TV shows to relax you

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In the endless anxiety factory that is 2020, watching TV is as stressful as walking on hot coals. Between the coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest, unemployment, wildfires and partisan resentment, we are bombarded with news that is distressing.

So how about de-stressing us for a change? As we try to be good citizens and stay informed, escape viewing has never felt more necessary. Thanks to streaming services, there is a batch of shows – some new, some old – that can take us, at least for a little while, to places where nature is calming, the competition is cheerful and the worst. things that can happen involve cakes that don’t rise, crunchy pottery, or insufficiently glamorous doggy makeovers.

Here are some ways to temporarily relax. Because who couldn’t use a “happy little sky” now?

“The great British pastry fair”: The go-to choice for televised comfort food has found a quarantined way to film a new season, even amid the coronavirus concerns. The new release, which began airing on September 25 on Netflix (reruns of previous seasons can still be found on OPB and Netflix), will feature new episodes every Friday, three days after their UK premiere.

The show, which in the UK is called ‘The Great British Bake Off’, encountered some bumps after the departure of original co-judge Mary Berry and co-hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, in 2016.

Prue Leith joined Paul Hollywood to judge, and Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig were the new co-hosts. But after three years, Toksvig announced earlier this year that she was leaving. Matt Lucas takes his place in the new season, which shares a background in sketch comedy with Fielding.

It’s unclear whether the new season will overcome recent missteps, relying too much on competitors who seem chosen more for their Instagram followers than for their cooking skills. On the bright side, the first episode of the new season features 12 new hobbyist bakers who seem likable.

The first challenges were to make a ‘Battenberg Cake’, a rectangular confectionery wrapped in marzipan, an overturned pineapple cake and a bizarre ‘Showstopper Challenge’, in which the bakers had to create a bust of cake – it that is to say a sculpture modeled on someone famous. This challenge yielded results that more closely resembled Netflix’s “Nailed It!” than the usual “Great British Baking Show” rate.

While it was quite entertaining to see how difficult it is to carve a cake, that’s not really the point of the show. Hopefully the season throws stunt ideas like this in the trash, as they say, and focuses more on sweet reviews (“It’s a little mushy”) and supporting demonstrations (a baker chokes sympathy when a competitor accidentally drops cakes on the floor) that makes “The Great British Baking Show” such a great company. (Netflix)

“The great discarded pottery“: If this series, featuring amateur potters, reminds you of” The Great British Baking Show “, it is no coincidence. Both are from Love Productions and “The Great Pottery Throw Down” shares a high-spirited competitive feeling with its better-known brother.

The first three seasons, streamed on HBO Max, focus on competitors who, like the bakers on the “Great British Baking Show,” tend to be self-effacing, hardworking, and self-governing (“It’s a disaster” is a commentary. that you frequently hear from competitors on both shows).

The show brings the potters to Middleport Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent, which has been known for hundreds of years as a center of the English pottery industry. You see, you will learn so much by watching this show!

Sue Pryke, Keith Brymer Jones and Melanie Sykes in “The Great Pottery Throw Down”. (Photo: Mark Bourdillon / Courtesy of HBO Max)

What we’re also learning is that there’s a reason this scene in “Ghost,” starring Demi Moore on a pottery wheel and a shirtless Patrick Swayze kissing her, happened. . Making pottery, we are told more than once, is surprisingly sensual.

Competitors say things like, “It’s a very sexual feeling when you work with clay.” By “pulling” on the handles to attach them to the containers, the potters see how difficult it is to do this without resorting to phallic innuendo.

While all the sultry pottery talk can get a bit too much, the show is absorbing in the same way as “The Great British Baking Show”. So much can go wrong and contestants have no way of knowing how their designs will turn out until they get out of the heat.

While the contestants are attractive, the real strength of “The Great Pottery Thrown Down” is judge and “Maverick Master Potter” Keith Brymer Jones. While he’s quick to point out shortcomings, Jones is also a big old softy, who has become known for his tendency to choke and shed tears when touched by the creations of his competitors.

“To me pottery is incredibly moving,” Jones says, and after seeing him kiss a potter who is struggling to meet the challenge, you’ll want to give him a handkerchief and a heartwarming pat on the back. (HBO Max)

“High Dog”: Another competition series, this one also seems to be influenced by Netflix’s “Nailed It !,” with an emphasis on humor. Comedian Matt Rogers is the exuberant host, and the judges are comedy veteran Robin Thede (“A Black Lady Sketch Show”) and Jess Rona, an actress and comedienne who has also found success as a dog groomer. of celebrities.

In each episode, three groomers must complete two tasks, with the winner taking home $ 10,000 in prizes. The tone is campy, with music and graphics that will remind you of game shows or TV series from the 70s.

"Dog High"

Host Matt Rogers spends time up close and personally with one of the dogs in the “Haute Dog” dog grooming competition series. (Photo: John P. Johnson / HBO Max)

It’s pretty easy to pick up, if knowingly cornball – dog word games are happening at a breakneck pace (get it?). Interspersed with shots of groomers working outside, photos of dogs, with wacky captions.

It’s not at all clear if dogs like to get an Elizabeth Taylor-inspired makeover involving hair extensions, earrings, and trims that suggest a doggy neckline. But if you’re looking for something completely silly and sparkling, “Haute Dog” does the trick. (HBO Max)

“The joy of painting with Bob Ross”: NBCUniversal streaming service Peacock is still figuring out what it wants to be. How many consumers, I wonder, want to watch a “Deal or No Deal” channel, or the “Today All Day” channel, as if four hours of “Today” programming in the morning is not enough?

Grumpy aside, Peacock also has a channel devoted to episodes of “The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross,” and I’m telling you, I’m totally here for this one. The half-hour episodes (made from 1983 to 1994) typically feature the calm-voiced, frizzy-haired painter Bob Ross, who stands at an easel, dabbing a canvas with brushes and creating landscapes.

The paintings are unlikely to be hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But there’s nothing more calming than watching Ross brush Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue, Titanium White, Sap Green, and Van Dyke Brown as he explains how he paints a “happy little sky,” “happy little clouds” or a “Good little water line.”

Today I happened to tune in just in time to see Ross, who died in 1995, holding a little bird perched on his fingertip. “It’s as precious as it gets,” Ross said of the bird. Thanks, Bob Ross. I needed this. (The “Joy of Painting with Bob Ross” channel is on Peacock)

“A calm world”: In what could be a move to take relaxing television to new heights, HBO Max is launching “A World of Calm,” inspired by the Calm app that helps you fall asleep. The half-hour episodes feature beautiful imagery and voiceover narration from Mahershala Ali, Lucy Liu, Idris Elba, Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet.

An example of what to expect, an episode titled “Living Among the Trees,” features a narration by Keanu Reeves. We see footage of treetops, blankets of fog and mist, a Lativan man using “ancient wood crafts” to make a canoe, pictures of wild animals (squirrels, a bear, deer) , redwoods in California, aspens in the Colorado Rockies, etc. .

The episode does not require us to stop and reflect on climate change, or contemplate the destructive impact of wildfires. Instead, like the Calm app, the goal is to make us slow down and breathe. Reeves reads the storybook style words leisurely and reassures us, “The trees take care of us, as they take care of theirs. This is the wisdom of trees. »(Broadcast on HBO Max from Thursday, October 1)

More of our coverage:

NBCUniversal’s Peacock launches with intriguing originals (‘Brave New World’) and old favorites

HBO Max: how it compares to other streaming services, what it costs, shows, launch date

– Kristi Turnquist

kturnquist@oregonian.com 503-221-8227 @Kristiturnquist



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