Home entertainment ideas for if we have to self-isolate - and 11 TV box sets to catch up with

Friends stars Matt Le Blanc, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston. Pic

Friends stars Matt Le Blanc, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston. Picture: PA Photo - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Many of us are expecting to spend more time at home in the next few weeks - not just because of self-isolation, but also for other reasons, from maternity leave to holidays at home. So how can you keep yourself entertained?

Daytime TV can quickly become boring - let's face it, there's a limit to how many episodes of Bargain Hunt or Homes Under the Hammer anyone can stand. And watching rolling news for hours can make you feel a bit anxious.

Fortunately, we can now all access a staggering range of other entertainment choices, so the only problem is choosing which ones to prioritise. Well, the only problem apart from actually finding time. Even when you are supposedly relaxing at home, you can easily spend all your time on DIY and cleaning. But let's not!

Have you binge-watched these 11 shows yet?

A huge number of TV series are now available to watch from beginning to end, whether via Netflix and other streaming services, on BBC iPlayer or on DVD or blu-ray.

You may also want to watch:

Here are 11 series which are popular choices to binge-watch:

The Crown: This royal saga is one of the shows which made binge-watching really catch on, with whole seasons arriving on Netflix rather than having to wait for individual episodes. There are three seasons available so far, which would take more than a whole day to watch in all.

A scene from The Crown. Picture: Robert Viglasky / Netflix

A scene from The Crown. Picture: Robert Viglasky / Netflix - Credit: Netflix

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Star Trek: The Next Generation. All seven seasons are now available on Netflix - but many Trekkies say the show really got going in its third season. For those who really can't get enough, brand new follow-up series Star Trek: Picard, starring Patrick Stewart, is available to watch on Amazon Prime, with new episodes currently being added each week.

The Stranger: Richard Armitage and Dervla Kirwan star in this thriller series, about a husband searching for answers after a shocking claim is made about his wife. Many viewers have been watching all eight episodes close together since it was released on Netflix in January.

Liar: The second series of ITV's addictive drama-thriller, starring Joanne Froggatt, is currently being screened. If you missed out on series one, the six episodes are available to watch via the ITV Hub.

Killing Eve: This cult spy thriller has a huge following, but, if you have missed out so far, two seasons are currently available on iPlayer.

Line of Duty: BBC2's most popular current drama series, this series about a police anti-corruption unit has steadily built up a following. Five seasons are currently available on iPlayer.

Downton Abbey: If you're tempted to watch this hugely popular costume drama from the start, one option is to buy the complete series as a box set - with 52 episodes in all. You can also stream episodes via Amazon Prime or the new Britbox service.

Liar is an addictive thriller series. Picture: ITV

Liar is an addictive thriller series. Picture: ITV - Credit: ITV

Peaky Blinders: This epic gangster saga set in Birmingham might be a period drama, but it couldn't have less in common with Downton! It's available on various platforms, with the most recent season being currently available on iPlayer.

Last Tango in Halifax: If you're looking for a gentler, quality drama, the award-winning tale of a couple reunited after 60 years apart could be the answer. Anne Reid, Derek Jacobi and Sarah Lancashire star. There are 23 episodes available via iPlayer, and it is also available via Britbox.

Black Mirror: A cult following has built up for this satirical sci-fi anthology series, created by Charlie Brooker. Five seasons are available on Netflix.

Friends: They'll be there for you if you are stuck at home and need some uplifting comedy. One tempting way to watch is to choose a 30-disc box set containing every episode, or alternatively stream the 10 seasons on Netflix.

Readers and staff suggest...

Suzanne Day is looking forward to some catch-up viewing. She writes: 'With under a month to go until I go on maternity leave, I am naively excited about having time to watch some Netflix - specifically The Crown. A new obsession with royal documentaries and all the recent press coverage surrounding Prince Andrew, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, has made me realise that the firm has never been adverse to a scandal or two! I know there has been criticism of The Crown for not being factually accurate - but I am not planning on watching it for a history lesson, just a spot of relaxation before the new baby arrives and maybe even some entertainment during night feeds.'

The Simpsons - Homer Picture: Twentieth Century Fox

The Simpsons - Homer Picture: Twentieth Century Fox - Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

The ultimate survival guide

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis writes: 'If I was stranded at home, these are the only things I'd need.

'1. A box set of all seasons of Friends. I grew up watching them and no matter how many times I see them, I never tire of their antics. Watching Ross, Rachel, Joey and Co gives me some weird sense of peace. Also, they're hilarious and humour is what we all need at the moment.

'2. Another box set. This time Sex and the City. The popular 'shoebox' collection of the early noughties is something many gals like me went giddy for and it was probably one of the most-gifted series at the time. My hubby bought it for me while I was pregnant with our daughter. During the latter stages of pregnancy, when I was too fat (and frankly couldn't be bothered) to leave the house, I binged on this, feet up, surrounded by chocolate. A great way to waste hours, days, weeks.

'3. I'm a bit of a Prince nut, so my prized collection of his albums would keep me going in a quarantine. At the moment, top of the pile is Originals - a remarkable album of demo hits, written for other artists and restored from the artist's vault. Even though they're just demos, the quality of every track is exceptional - from Manic Monday (written, of course, for Ms Lauper) through to his beautiful rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U - written for The Family, and later murdered (in my opinion) by Sinead O'Connor.'

From The Forsyte Saga to Thunderbirds

Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones, Kristin Davis as Charlotte York, Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Brad

Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones, Kristin Davis as Charlotte York, Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw and Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes in Sex And The City 2. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Paul Geater has been gathering up DVD sets of past favourites, and has quite a stack of viewing in store for when he gets time.

He writes: 'I've got three box sets of old television series I've been meaning to watch for years. Firstly, the second half of the original (black and white) Forsyte Saga - the part of the series that has Susan Hampshire playing Fleur Forsyte. I remember watching this as a child and, while I quite enjoyed re-watching the first half of the 26-part series, we just never started the second half. Then I've got the box set of the 1970s Colditz series that I loved as a teenager. I watched the first couple of episodes as soon as I bought it about 10 years ago, but I remember thinking the wobbly sets and the 'Tally-ho Blinko!' dialogue didn't really fit in well with the 21st century. 'But I do think it would be worth settling down with and giving another chance. And if I'm feeling really childish, I've got the box sets of two Gerry Anderson series from my childhood to enjoy - the original 1965 Thunderbirds and the original Captain Scarlet from a couple of years later. But, with all of those, I would need to be abandoned on the desert island (or cooped up in my room) for a very long time if I was to get through the whole lot!'

The Simpsons and Alias

David Hannant writes: 'A desert island television box set would be a no-brainer for me - although with a few conditions.

'While its day has long since past, there is nothing more entertaining than The Simpsons when it was at its very peak.

'I would take the box sets for seasons three through the seasons 13, when truly there was nothing better on television.

'Witty, well-written, charming, layered and unique, I can watch peak Simpsons over and over again, noticing a different joke every time.

'It's just a pity it has been allowed to continue so long after 'jumping the shark'.'

Simon Weir chose the TV series Alias, saying: 'For revisitable box-set satisfaction, this JJ Abrams series takes some beating. It's a suspend-your-disbelief spy story starring Jennifer Garner chock full of stupendous action sequences, glamorous locations, a little bit of Tomb-Raider-ish mystery and more plot twists than the entire Agatha Christie back catalogue.

'With five seasons to get through, it's ideal for a prolonged period of self-isolation.'

And Twitter user Joan said: 'I would like to see The Edge of Darkness again.'

Epic reads to enjoy

Hilary Mantel has just released the third huge instalment in her Thomas Cromwell series, The Mirror and the Light, which sold more than 95,000 copies within three days of release. If you are looking for a major reading project, you could embark on the new book - or even start at the beginning, with Wolf Hall.

Judy Rimmer writes: 'I had been meaning to read the Wolf Hall series for years, and really enjoyed the TV adaptation..

'Towards the end of last year, an online book group spurred me on to try Wolf Hall. I was soon hooked, and loved this fictional slice of Tudor history. I have just completed book two, Bring Up the Bodies, and am gearing myself up for the even more enormous book three in the trilogy. It would be perfect holiday or stay-at-home reading.

On Twitter, Adrian B named the Stephen King Dark Tower series of books as his top choice to read.

And Erica Dean commented: 'I'm not into watching box sets, or reading a series of books.' She added that she does read series, but prefers to do so over a period of time.

'My fault is that I read them sporadically and out of sequence! I liked the Agatha Raisin books, and I am into the Tom Thorne books by Mark Billingham and the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series by Val McDermid. But their lives are confusing due to them being out of sequence!'

The Millennium series by Stieg Larsson, starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is another popular epic read. If you can't get enough, there are also three follow-up novels by another author, David Lagercrantz.

Desert island music

Of course, it was music that started the whole desert island idea, with the long-established radio show Desert Island Discs.

These days, it's more likely to be a case of desert island streaming. Many of us will have a stack of albums we've been intending to listen to via Spotify or another service.

However, if you are looking for inspiration, Spotify's top artists of last year in the UK included Suffolk superstar Ed Sheeran, who was the most-streamed artist, Lewis Capaldi, whose song Someone You Loved was the top track of 2019, Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande. Ed Sheeran and Drake were the most-streamed artists of the decade.

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