Every single verse can make it that much worse

In which I revisit Season 6 once more, with feeling.

It’s been a little over a month since I wrote about the Buffy and Angel rewatch I had embarked on with my boyfriend — or, more specifically, since I wrote about my least favorite episodes of the show, inspired by our rewatch — and now we are somehow nearing the end. We’re on Season 7 of Buffy and Season 4 of Angel, which is, to be totally candid, not a great place to be. (Some words of warning: I am about to say critical things about at least one of these shows, so if you worked on either or are otherwise sensitive about them, which I completely understand, you should probably stop reading now so I don’t feel bad later. Thanks.) Rather than attempt to write about the flaws in these two seasons while we’re only halfway through, I wanted to write a little about the preceding seasons — Buffy Season 6 and Angel Season 3 — and why one fails where the other succeeds.

Think back, if you can, to the 2001-2002 television season. Buffy and Angel were on different networks at this point, and the occasional crossovers that had peppered the prior two seasons were suddenly verboten. (The closest thing we got here was Angel learning Buffy had been resurrected, and the two agreeing to meet somewhere between Sunnydale and Los Angeles, which is like, I don’t know, Valencia?) But in watching these two seasons side-by-side, which I’d actually never done before, I discovered some surprising commonalities: more serialized storytelling, a marked increase in darkness, beloved characters’ falls from grace, and the lack of a consistent Big Bad. Most of which, it’s worth noting, wasn’t really new to Angel, but felt like a rather jarring departure for Buffy. That might be the root of the problem.

It’s not that Buffy, whose characters were a few years out of high school at this point, shouldn’t have been allowed to play in Angel’s sandbox, but that Buffy hadn’t figured out how to do so effectively. The result is a season that feels scattered, unnecessarily bleak, and dragged down by inconsistent characterization. There are, to its credit, some high highs — “Once More, With Feeling” remains one of the show’s greatest achievements — and even a weaker season of Buffy is pretty damn good. But while I thought rewatching Season 6 would reveal it to be underrated, as so many fans claim, rewatching it alongside Angel Season 3 only served to further expose its weaknesses.

Angel has an unfair advantage here: The areas where Season 6 of Buffy falls flat were basically built into Angel’s DNA, particularly the darkness that characterized Angel from its inception. It’s not that Buffy never got dark, but that it had never — up until Season 6, that is — delved into the level of trauma and despair that was inflicted on fans. An episode like “Dead Things,” probably the most challenging Season 6 episode to rewatch next to “Seeing Red,” feels notably out of place on Buffy, a failed experiment in seeing how low every character can sink. Watching Buffy and Xander and Willow hit their respective rock bottoms in Season 6 is frankly unpleasant, not because Buffy was never a show where bad things happened, but because the bad things never happened so relentlessly. Even so, it’s less where the show arrives and more how it gets there. Here again, the comparison to Angel Season 3 is unflattering.

There were some really lovely arcs on Buffy over the years, and I don’t want to take away from that, but on the whole, Angel was stronger when it came to serialized storytelling. (On the flip side, Angel has fewer memorable standout episodes, so nyah, take that.) This really comes through when you consider the respective downward spirals of two characters on both shows: Willow and Wesley, the bookish, brainy, mostly well-behaved members of the team. Season 3 of Angel presents a compelling case for Wesley’s betrayal, and the fallout that sees him estranged from his friends and sleeping with the enemy. Season 6 of Buffy, on the other hand, turns Willow into a hardcore magic junkie over the span of two episodes. Yes, the seeds of Willow using too much magic had been planted long before then, but the abrupt shift to Willow as a literal addict — one of my biggest issues with the season — is enough to give you whiplash.

There are also, of course, parallels between Wesley/Lilah and Buffy/Spike, though I don’t think the latter’s severely toxic relationship is necessarily a mark against Season 6. It feels like both the natural conclusion of years of sexual tension and a symptom of Buffy’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. The problem comes in “Seeing Red,” when things take a sudden and nauseating turn. Here, again, the issue seems to be the show’s failure to lay the groundwork for another character’s rock bottom, and an inability to place the moment within the context of a larger arc with more cohesive characterization. It’s not so much that idea that Spike could never inflict sexual violence, but that it doesn’t really gibe with the Spike the show had been building up as a flawed demon vying for antihero status, and certainly not with his Season 7 redemption arc.

Sometimes the characters on these shows, even the “good guys,” do unforgivable things. But we do move past Angel trying to smother Wesley with a pillow in the hospital, despite how heinous that is. Spike’s sexual assault of Buffy, however, is obviously in another category, and as such it’s something the show as a whole struggles to contextualize and ultimately brushes under the rug (much like Jaime’s out-of-character rape of Cersei on Game of Thrones). It becomes just another shocking, terrible, unbelievably upsetting thing that happens in Season 6 — dark for the sake of being dark.

I realize that I am being awfully hard on Buffy, but that’s because I’m more passionate about the missteps of something I care deeply about. Buffy remains my favorite show of all time — yes, above Angel, which I also love a lot. And I think my frustration with Season 6 is that so much of it actually does look good to me on paper. There’s a version of that story that comes closer to Angel’s stunning execution of Season 3: painful and sometimes challenging but thematically rich and cathartic. And I do think, for what it’s worth, that one of Buffy Season 6’s most effective moments is thematically rich and cathartic — Buffy climbing out of the grave in the finale, with Dawn at her side. In fact, I’ll take that over glowy Cordelia floating into the heavens. Point: Buffy.

Photo via 20th Television.

State of the Housewives

In which I soothe myself to the white noise of the Miami Housewives.

Another newsletter, another reminder that I am struggling with a temporary attention deficit brought on by… (and here I am gesturing wildly again). I have mostly managed to stay on top of my Bravo shows, for better or worse. (By better, I mean Real Housewives of New York. By worse, I mean Vanderpump Rules.) I don’t feel like I have anything all that insightful to say, but since this is, on occasion, a Housewives-centric newsletter, and because I’m trying not to neglect my readers for two consecutive weeks, I figured I’d do a little State of the Housewives with some scattered thoughts on the current seasons. If you’re not a Bravo person, good news, you can go ahead and delete this email now!

The Real Housewives of New York City

Leah McSweeney. Leah McSweeney! There has not been a better new Housewife in — I couldn’t even tell you. I mean, it’s almost impossible to add to the casts anymore, because anyone who wants to be a Housewife at this point is likely severely broken in an unfun way. Which, you know, is maybe the case with Leah, whose politics are muddled, at best, and who decided to start drinking again after years of sobriety — which is totally her choice, to be clear! — and then lost her shit so thoroughly at Ramona’s Hamptons home that it looked like footage from an over-the-top anti-drinking PSA. When she threw those tiki torches, though, I cheered. When she screamed “fuck J.P. Morgan,” I felt alive.

In many ways, I feel like Leah is who everyone wants Erika Jayne to be: the fun, no-nonsense, not-so-prim-and-proper new Housewife who shows up and wreaks havoc. Erika has always been more controlled than that, though, which is why watching Leah’s descent into madness was such a delight. RHONY as a whole feels looser than it has in years, and yes, I’m willing to acknowledge that might have something to do with Bethenny’s absence. I love Bethenny, but maybe she did keep things a little too restrained, if only because the women were afraid to get that sloppy around her. This doesn’t account for huge chunks of the most recent seasons, but it’s the only real explanation I have. Well, that, and Leah is a chaos agent, bless her heart.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

I feel bad for Garcelle Beauvais, who is a refreshing addition to this series and already pushing the show in the right direction, but who can’t possibly compete for “Best New Housewife” when Leah is around. This show also feels looser, and that, I think, we can definitely pin on Lisa Vanderpump — or rather, the lack thereof. More than Bethenny, LVP held the reigns in ways I don’t think Bravo ever really wanted to acknowledge, and the show is better off without her, even if the Beverly Hills cast can’t possibly compete with the New York ladies. I mean, it’s telling that they started their season at New York Fashion Week, of all places. They know.

But I am excited about this season, despite the fact that getting excited about RHOBH is almost always a recipe for disappointment! PuppyGate is dead and gone, and we are finally pivoting to Denise Richards. I love Denise. Loved her last season, love her contributions to the culture, namely the holy triumvirate of Drop Dead Gorgeous, Wild Things, and Starship Troopers. But something weird is going on with her and her husband, and I feel like their bizarre dinner party behavior was just the tip of the iceberg. I mean. I know it’s just the tip of the iceberg, because I watched the promo for the season. Yes, I am thrilled about a Housewives show finally allowing the Sapphic subtext to become text, but mostly I am thrilled to hear Denise’s hung husband explain cancer to a very stoned Mauricio. The brain worms are alive and well on RHOBH! For all of that, I will put up with Sutton Stracke, who is Dana Wilkey by way of Southern Charm. No, thanks!

The Real Housewives of Miami

Listen. Some people are using their social distancing time to catch up on prestige shows they missed like Succession and Breaking Bad. I am using my social distancing time to finally watch The Real Housewives of Miami (and D.C., but I’m not there yet). This is not a great show. It is far from top-tier Housewives. But then, most top-tier Housewives series have ceased being top-tier at this point, so really, we should probably be a little kinder to RHOM. I’m on Season 2 now, and there’s certainly more drama than there was at the start. It still feels slighter than modern-day Housewives, but I wouldn’t say I mind that.

If anything, I appreciate RHOM for its simpler aims. Everything feels smaller and more contained. Fighting about who said what in the tabloids and who showed up to which charity event without paying? That shit seems quaint to me. And yes, I say this as the show is heating up, and Adriana just punched Joanna in the face, but honestly, there’s something really comforting to me about the Housewives of yesteryear. It’s white noise, essentially. Nothing groundbreaking. Certainly nothing requiring my full attention. As far as ways to pass the time, though, one could do much worse. And the perpetually smiling Karent Sierra is absolutely terrifying.

Photo via Bravo.

“Beer” bad, “Wild Things” worse

In which I come to the defense of “Doublemeat Palace.”

Because I’m rewatching Buffy, I’m also tweeting about Buffy, which is — let’s face it — a thing I would be doing with or without the rewatch. Still, revisiting the series (along with Angel) has been an excellent opportunity for content. (And to distract myself from the pandemic.) (And to gently encourage my boyfriend to have the same Whedonverse opinions I do.) (I digress.) Recently my tweet about “Beer Bad” being widely regarded as the worst episode of Buffy got some attention, because “Beer Bad” has its defenders, and they will pop up if you dare speak ill of it. Having just watched “Beer Bad” again recently, I can confirm that it remains not good, but I will concede, as several people suggested in my replies, that “Where the Wild Things Are” is far worse.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the other bad episodes, with the caveat that I’d still rather watch the worst episode of Buffy over pretty much anything else on TV, a testament to my enduring love of the series, and my strong desire to disassociate right now. We’re only through Season 4 on the rewatch, but I feel confident enough in my Buffy opinions (and my memory) to do this now, so here are my picks are the worst episodes of every season.

Season 1

Worst: “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date.” People rarely cite this as one of the show’s worst episodes because they don’t remember it exists, which is precisely the problem. Despite the presence of one of the all-time great lines — “If the apocalypse comes, beep me” — it might just be the most forgettable episode of the series. Well, at least until Season 7. Also, it introduces the whole Anointed One thing, which was a totally useless storyline featuring a tragically bad child actor.

Runner-up: “I, Robot… You, Jane.” Reasonably entertaining as a time capsule. Still bad.

Unfairly maligned: “The Puppet Show.” Sid is great, haters. Also has Cordelia performing “The Greatest Love of All.” Enough said.

Season 2

Worst: “Inca Mummy Girl.” Yes, we get it, Xander has hilariously bad taste in women. But “Inca Mummy Girl” (what is that title!) doesn’t cover any ground we hadn’t already covered in the also bad “Teacher’s Pet.” The cultural appropriation of that school dance hasn’t aged well, but then, the whole thing feels… insensitive, at best.

Runner-up: “Bad Eggs.” What did we do to deserve Lyle and Tector Gorch?

Unfairly maligned: “Go Fish.” Xander in a Speedo before we all hated Xander. Could do without the implication that the sea creatures sexually assault their coach, though.

Season 3

Worst: “Beauty and the Beasts.” There’s something really icky about the whole allegory here, and the domestic violence metaphor is especially uncomfortable when Pete gets grouped together with Angel and Oz. (We’re better off not thinking about the fact that Buffy and Willow’s romantic partners are occasionally violent, unless the issue is being handled with real depth.) Plus, it’s boring. A real dud in the show’s most consistent season overall.

Runner-up: “Dead Man’s Party.” Not really a bad episode, even, but everyone is kind of dick, and it’s annoying.

Unfairly maligned: “Anne.” Though certainly not a top-tier Joss episode, it works well enough as a season opener. Maybe I just have a soft spot for Chanterelle/Lily/Anne.

Season 4

Worst: “Where the Wild Things Are.” Just like, tremendously uncomfortable to watch. I think even if you like Buffy and Riley as a couple — which, how come? — you can be grossed out by the relentless fucking. It’s amazing that Giles singing “Behind Blue Eyes” can’t redeem this mess, but it’s seriously such an unpleasant episode of television, and after my recent rewatch, I felt like I needed a shame shower when it was over.

Runner-up: “Beer Bad.” Episode bad, Buffy punching Parker pretty.

Unfairly maligned: “Living Conditions.” Actually kind of fun? Kathy is allegedly annoying because she listens to Cher a lot and has a Céline Dion poster, which in retrospect is low-key homophobic. She’s a gay icon, and we have to stan.

Season 5

Worst: “Listening to Fear.” I always confuse this one with “Shadow” — they are both part of a really depressing arc that I don’t mind as a whole, despite the tragic ending, but man are these episodes rough. To that end, I’m not sure if “Listening to Fear” is any worse than “Shadow” (and that horribly fake snake demon), but Joyce’s tumor-induced ramblings are certainly more uncomfortable to watch.

Runner-up: “Into the Woods.” Fuck Riley and fuck Xander and fuck the men on this show, just in general. (“Shadow” could also go here, but I feel like we’ve covered that.)

Unfairly maligned: “Buffy vs. Dracula.” Dracula is great, the end. Plus, it ends on one of the most iconic “what the fuck” moments in TV history.

Season 6

Worst: “Wrecked.” Remember the good old days when magic was a metaphor for lesbian sex, and then the show had to go and make it a metaphor for drugs for some reason? This is really the low point in the series’ bleakest season. (For what it’s worth, I think Season 6 is somewhat better than Season 7, but they’re the weakest overall.) There were so many ways to show Willow’s spiral that didn’t involve that bullshit with Rack.

Runner-up: “As You Were.” Because Riley. But let’s be honest, there are a number of episodes I could list here, and you’d nod sagely at all of them.

Unfairly maligned: “Doublemeat Palace.” You heard me. More clever and self-aware than it’s given credit for, along with a delightfully phallic demon and some horribly depressing alley sex. What’s not to love!

Season 7

Worst: “First Date.” Special guest star Ashanti! I think one of the things Buffy did so well in the early seasons was show the conflict between Buffy’s higher calling and her desire for a normal life. Like, yes, apocalypses happen, but you still have to let loose sometimes. “First Date,” on the other hand, just feels forced and woefully out of place. Sometimes it’s just not the right time to embark on a new relationship, is the thing!

Runner-up: ...Any number of episodes in the middle. You expect me to distinguish between “Never Leave Me,” “Bring on the Night,” and “Showtime”? I’m sure there’s a worst, I just couldn’t tell you what it is.

Unfairly maligned: The thing about Season 7 is that the good episodes stand out, and people talk about them. And the bad episodes — well, we pretty much agree. But those good episodes are honestly really good!

Photo via 20th Television.

Quick bites

In which I let YouTube fill my days and nights.

“How are you holding up?” replaced “How are you doing?” so suddenly that I barely even noticed. And yet, here we are, assuming a baseline of misery that’s completely appropriate given… you know, everything. It’s fair to assume that anyone who claims to be doing well, or — horror of all horrors — ”thriving in quarantine,” is actually just a bad person. Even if you, specifically, are managing decently amid the pandemic, basic human compassion should preclude you from thriving. The correct answer to “how are you holding up?” is either “not well” (and you can elaborate, if you choose to) or “fine, all things considered.” Personally speaking, I am fine, all things considered.

I have, however, found that my attention span is completely shot, which means I’m struggling to get through the backlog of television I have, and I’m not watching any of the must-see movies on my list. It’s kind of amazing that I’ve completely abandoned any pretense of a social life, and I’m still behind on everything, but well, we live in hell, and coronavirus was never going to allow me the satisfaction of being on top of my shit. (I remain employed, and more grateful for my job than ever, so I do at least have some excuse for why I’m not just finally getting through Ozark.) In times of intense anxiety, I find that I can’t really focus on anything for very long. Like, I’m theoretically watching the final season of Homeland, but that’s really more something I put on while I nervously read Twitter, glance in horror at breaking news stories, and count the minutes between texts from loved ones.

One of the many consequences of my inability to get my shit together and watch most TV and movies is that I’m also having a really hard time finding things to write about in this newsletter. I’m behind on all horror, theater is depressingly non-existent, and while I have managed to stay on top of all the Housewives, I haven’t really been able to muster an opinion beyond that this is the worst season of Vanderpump Rules ever, and the timing could not be worse. Mostly, I watch a lot of YouTube videos, which is what I did after I got laid off and was unemployed for the bulk of 2019. YouTube videos are short and easily digestible — which I think is at least part of the mission statement of Quibi, but I refuse to write about Quibi or otherwise acknowledge that Quibi exists.

Because I didn’t want to leave you hanging forever, I thought I’d offer a brief look at the YouTube channels that have been keeping me (relatively) sane. There is no real method to this madness: I can’t explain why I watch the videos that I do. But maybe you’ll find them just as compulsively watchable and distracting. And I promise one day, when things feel a little bit more normal or when I’ve at least managed to repress all the terror, I’ll get back to the content you subscribed for.

Bon Appétit: I love the Bon Appétit YouTube channel more than I love most things in life. The test kitchen chefs are my literal family (with apologies to my literal family reading this). Claire Saffitz is the best thing that’s ever happened to me specifically, and you should read my newly updated ranking of Gourmet Makes episodes if you haven’t already. All of which is to say, these videos are the ultimate comfort food for me, which is ironic because I have not exactly been using my social distancing time to learn how to cook. I’m especially enchanted by the recent videos of the chefs cooking in their homes, which provide the same voyeuristic thrill as therapy over Zoom. There was a time when Bon Appétit felt like a cool, under-the-radar thing, but now everyone knows these videos amazing, so I’m preaching to the choir here. Good!

emmymadeinjapan: Still not cooking, still watching every video Emmy releases without fail. Emmy is a powerful force for good. She may be the purest person on YouTube. (One time she made a dick joke, and I literally screamed.) Her videos are deeply soothing to me, and when she says that we’re going to get through this, I actually believe her. Recently she’s been doing live hangouts where she chats while eating lunch, and I’m getting a little choked up just thinking about it. Without fail, Emmy keeps me grounded. I watch her videos because she makes delightful and exciting things, but also because she’s maybe the best person on the internet.

The King of Random: I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t really know why I can’t stop watching these videos. It feels super off-brand for me. There’s an occasionally unnerving bro-y tone here that I find vaguely icky. But also, fun experiments! Often involving food! I scroll past the “blowing shit up” videos and focus on the videos about freeze-drying things that should not be freeze dried, and making cotton candy out of things that should not be cotton candy. And then I go back and watch the “blowing shit up” videos, because well, I’m only human. Science is neat. So is putting inappropriate things in the microwave.

Simply Nailogical: I do paint my nails sometimes, but I haven’t in months, and yet, I cannot stop watching Cristine’s videos. I understand that she is a very popular YouTuber, and I’m late to the game here. I just think she’s really fucking funny, and I have a crush on her boyfriend, Ben. I can’t really explain it. Her sense of humor just works for me, and I think she has great screen presence. OK, I guess I just explained it. And while watching cooking videos has not made me try to cook more often, and watching nail painting videos has not made me paint my nails, I’m confident at some point I might try to do… something. In the meantime, Cristine mellows me out.

Photo via Bon Appétit.

I’m awake in a lonely room

In which I mourn live theater and my emotional wellbeing.

I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands recently. Anyone else? And while many of us seem to be more productive than ever, using social distancing as an excuse to finally move forward on creative projects, I have mostly been sitting around watching YouTube videos and trying not to scream. Which I think counts as self-care, so I will not be shamed for it! I couldn’t get my act together to write a newsletter earlier in the week — I wasn’t sure what to say. And so I made this playlist, because I miss theater and human contact, almost equally. You can listen to it on Spotify, and read my annotations below.

“Lonely Room” (from Oklahoma!). I mean… mood. Patrick Vaill felt like the right way to start this playlist. Any playlist, really.

“Greenfinch and Linnet Bird” (from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street). This isn’t exactly my favorite song from Sweeney Todd — I included that one later on the list — but it’s one of Sondheim’s best about captivity. Teach me to be more adaptive, please!

“Stay With Me” (from Into the Woods). This is an Into the Woods-heavy playlist, because, well, I made it. There are just so many songs from this show that work for our current moment! “Don’t you know what’s out in there in the world?” Yes, which is why I’m self-isolating. We are all Rapunzel.

“Waiting for Life” (from Once on This Island). I tried to group the playlist into thematic categories throughout. Thus begins the “I Want” section, with Ti Moune singing about how much she wants to get the fuck out. Relatable!

“In My Own Little Corner” (from Cinderella). Did I mention categories? How about a sub-category? That’s right. It’s the princesses! Anyway, I have definitely felt like Cinderella over the past week, except I’m cleaning much less.

“Out There” (from The Hunchback of Notre Dame). OK, Quasimodo isn’t a princess, but like, close enough. And either way, we’ve reached the sub-sub-category of Disney. (Friends, I put… too much thought into this.) Anyway, despite being safe behind these windows and these parapets of stone, I am struggling!

“Part of Your World” (from The Little Mermaid). I started crying as soon as I tried to explain this song choice. You get it. Moving on.

“When Will My Life Begin?” (from Tangled). Yes, I cheated. It’s a movie musical, so this isn’t actually a showtune. But given that this song became a quarantine meme on Twitter — and because I already had a Disney section of the playlist — it only felt right.

“Home” (from Beauty and the Beast). I wasn’t sure about this one, since being home is the problem right now. But: “Am I here for a day or forever?” Preach, Belle.

“Santa Fe” (from Newsies). Much like Jack, I need space and fresh air.

“If I Had a Fine White Horse” (from The Secret Garden). And much like Martha, inside I’ll have to stay!

“Anything But Lonely” (from Aspects of Love). I confess that I’m not an Aspects of Love fan, but I couldn’t resist a song that opens with “anything but lonely, anything but empty rooms.” Points were made!

“Around the World” (from Grey Gardens). No one practiced social distancing quite like the Beales of Grey Gardens.

“I Read” (from Passion). OK, Fosca is also a social distancing icon.

“Our Little World” (from Into the Woods). More Into the Woods! Here’s everyone’s favorite song — you know, the one they only included in the highly maligned revival. But it felt like the right way to kick off this thematic category of “isolating with someone else.”

“I Will Never Leave You” (from Side Show). I mean, I realize that Daisy and Violet didn’t exactly have much choice in the matter. Nevertheless!

“Last Night of the World” (from Miss Saigon). When you’re in love and no one else understands, it can feel like you’re the only two people in the world. And when you’re in love and quarantined together, it’s probably kind of the same? (This is the sub-category of “isolating with someone you’re in love with.”)

“Only Us” (from Dear Evan Hansen). See above. Nobody else but the two of us here, indeed!

“You Walk With Me” (from The Full Monty). One of the most underrated Broadway love songs of all time. This song always makes me cry, and it’s perfect for the walks I’ve been taking recently. By myself.

“I Am My Own Best Friend” (from Chicago). Baby’s alive! But baby’s alone. (I’m baby.)

“Sitting Becalmed in the Lee of Cuttyhunk” (from A New Brain). If I hadn’t included a deep-cut Bill Finn song on here, I would never have been able to forgive myself. Also: “Here I am, detestor of small spaces. Unable to breathe, I turn loquacious.”

“Wig in a Box” (from Hedwig and the Angry Inch). I don’t know, this song just makes me think about making your own fun in challenging times. And the strangest things do seem suddenly routine.

“On My Own” (from Les Misérables). Can you believe I almost forgot to include this classic? If there is a better song about social distancing walks, I don’t know it.

“Alone in the Universe” (from Seussical). On the one hand, Seussical is a supremely silly show. On the other hand, I am absolutely getting emotional thinking about closing my eyes and flying to Solla Sollew. We are all so tender and isolated right now!

“I Don’t Need a Roof” (from Big Fish). I’ll be honest: I’m not sure this one fits. I just really like it. But it’s a song about how it doesn’t matter where you’re sheltering in place if you’re sheltering in place with the person you love.

“A House Is Not a Home” (from Promises, Promises). This one is probably more apt, as it’s about sheltering in place without the person you love. We’re not meant to live alone, OK? (Incidentally, have you been following Cheno’s quarantine content? Truly exceptional work.)

“If I Have to Live Alone” (from The Baker’s Wife). We’re in the living alone section of the playlist. This song felt appropriate.

“Sonya Alone” (from Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812). “I will stand here right outside your door” because social distancing.

“You Learn to Live Without” (from If/Then). When I read the lyrics to this song — which is about grieving the death of a spouse — I was honestly shocked at how perfectly they fit our current situation. Because while the context is vastly different, the themes of personal sacrifice and adjustment to dramatically different circumstances is… relatable.

“Losing My Mind” (from Follies). I’m not sure who the “you” is in my quarantine playlist-specific inclusion of this song. Coronavirus? It’s like I’m losing my mind.

“Johanna” (from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street). See, I told you I’d make room for the best Sweeney Todd song. Isolation, loneliness, longing, city on fire. It’s all here.

“No One Is Alone” (from Into the Woods). It’s not just a comforting reminder at a time when the feeling of being alone is overwhelming — it’s also a reminder of how important our individual choices are. There is nothing like a pandemic to show us how connected we are, for better and for worse. “You move just a finger, say the slightest word, something’s bound to linger, be heard.” Anyway, I’m weeping again.

“Edges of the World” (from Fun Home). Yeah, this was kind of a dark choice for the playlist, but uh, welcome to my mind after a week alone in a studio apartment. It’s a constant push-and-pull between falling into nothingness and flying into something so sublime.

“Memory” (from Cats). I wanted to final arc of this playlist to be something approaching hopeful. I kept it pretty bittersweet, because, well. But is there anything more resonant than belting “touch me” right now?

“Wicked Little Town (Tommy Gnosis Version)” (from Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Personally, I find the lack of mystical design to be comforting, but your mileage may vary.

“Answer Me” (from The Band’s Visit). God, this song was gutting every time I saw The Band’s Visit, and it’s that much more gutting now. “That’s the sound of longing.”

“Being Alive” (from Company). “But alone is alone, not alive!” Add ‘em up, Bobby, fuck. (On a personal note, Company was the last show I saw before the Broadway shutdown, and… ouch.)

“Some Other Time” (from On the Town). This song always hits hard. When you’re not sure when you’re going to be able to see and hold your loved ones again, it hits really hard. Oh, well!

“Time Heals Everything” (from Mack & Mabel). Sticking with the theme of time and the uncertainty of it all. When will life be back to normal? Some Tuesday, Thursday, April, August, Autumn, Winter, next year, some year…

“Hold On” (from The Secret Garden). Seriously, though, we need some hope now. We deserve hope. And so: “It’s the storm, not you, that’s bound to blow away.”

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” (from Carousel). And speaking of storms, “at the end of a storm, there’s a golden sky.” The overall message of this song is also particularly useful during a time of occasionally devastating isolation.

“We’ll Meet Tomorrow” (from Titanic). I probably should have thought twice before including this song during the inspirational section of the playlist, but it’s a lovely sentiment if you ignore what happened to the passengers on the Titanic.

“Home” (The Wiz). As I said with the other “Home” on this list, I wasn’t sure about including a song about longing for home when we’re all so homebound. But if you think of “home” as the world as we know it — a reprieve from the upside-down reality we’ve found ourselves in — it certainly fits.

“Light” (from Next to Normal). And this felt like the right way to end things. You find some way to survive! At this point, I think the best we can hope for is not going back to normal, but finding something next to normal. And with that in mind, there will be light.

Photo via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

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