A Handful of Wholesome: TV Shows To Warm The Soul

It’s no secret that we find solace in watching television; whether it’s to stay up to date with pop culture before you see any spoilers on socials, unwind from the endless stresses and pressures of the workday by binging the latest true crime doco to perspectively make your life feel better by comparison, or to indulge yourself senseless in an unrealistic amount of reality tv, but often our television consumption can be negative and draining. With no shortage of negativity in the media and a correlation between the decline in mental health and the never-ending news cycle, finding a little bit of positivity can be difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, watching the women of the Bachelor compete over this year’s generic Ken Doll or the Real Housewives complain about problems none of us at home can relate to is a completely justified way of escaping reality with your limited free time. However, at the end of the day, this content can add to that niggling feeling of “the world is doomed”. Though anyone with a qualification that comes within a few miles of a mental health profession would suggest swapping your doom scrolling and media binging with exercise and meditation to help shoo away the negativity, I know that I will still have the tv on no matter what. So like fighting fire with fire, here are my top television picks that can offer you a heart-warming chicken soup style 20 – 40 minute break from the rampant negativity.

Parks & Recreation

Though Parks & Rec is by no means an unknown show, being not only the little sister to the American adaption of The Office but the brainchild of Greg Daniels and Mike Schur the creator and lead writer respectively, it goes above and beyond its predecessor in terms of wholesomeness. Where The Office can often leave viewers cringing between awkward silences and big laughs, Parks & Rec takes the time each episode to not only remind you of the good in the world but encourage you to go out and make that good yourself. The bubbly and bright Leslie Knope, played by the sensational Amy Poehler, leads a ragtag team of underachievers in a minor branch of local government that is consistently disrespected and underappreciated by its constituents, with the enthusiasm and positivity of someone who has never had to deal with the general public. Despite numerous setbacks, jokes at her expense, and even having dog poo thrown at her, Leslie’s ability to endure, under even the most negative circumstances, not only inspires her colleagues to give a damn about their jobs, albeit for her sake, but also the audience to go out and care for something. Not only does Parks & Rec have seven seasons of heart-warming content, but its final season neatly summarises each characters’ story arc several years into the future which will have you creating your own Knope-style five, ten, and fifteen-year planning binders.

Making It

Following on neatly, the American competitive craft series Making It, hosted by the leads of Parks & Rec Amy Poehler and actual canoe-creating woodworker Nick Offerman, brings a handful of wholesomeness to the reality tv world. Where most competitive television shows focus on unnecessary drama or contestant sob stories, Making It holds its focus on creativity, friendship and joy as contestants craft it out to make, often imperfect, but whimsical creations. What adds to this shows all-around goodness is Poehler and Offerman’s skit-style interludes of comedy quips about craft. Their comedy is a breath of fresh air on reality tv giving the audience a light hearted laugh to remind you that despite these crafty people’s talents, everyone has something to offer, even after they’ve left the competition.

Bob’s Burgers

As a long running animated adult tv series, it’s easy to flick past this odd cartoon and lump Bob’s Burgers in with others like Family Guy or South Park which are comedic, but by no means wholesome. Bob runs a mediocre burger restaurant with his overly enthusiastic wife Linda, and his three children Tina, Gene, and Louise who, despite being his children which he loves, are all terrible at their jobs and he would fire them all if he could. Through self-deprivation, a myriad of food and business puns, regular pop culture references, and allusions that rival those in Community, the family face numerous regular life challenges that any run of the mill family would experience – but they do it with immense love and support of one another. Each of the kids has their unique quirks that many would find unpleasant from Tina’s inappropriate erotic friend fiction stories, to Genes obnoxious musical hobbies, and Louise’s flair for the dramatics that err on the side of dangerous, they are encouraged every step of the way to always be themselves, support one another, and love thy family.

Schitt’s Creek

There is no doubt that this show has made a phenomenal positive cultural impact, but if the name, concept or pilot put you off, I strongly urge you to give this gem a second chance. The Roses are an off-putting parody of a dysfunctional rich and famous family whose lack of attention end them up penniless in a town they once bought as a joke, you guessed it, Schitt’s Creek. Though their initial introduction as a money-hungry businessman with no time for family, a washed-up self-righteous soap star, an overly sensitive artistic snob, and a rule-defying selfish high school dropout, is the least bit wholesome. Stay with me. As their story of a family in ruins slowly rebuilding their lives in a simpler and more meaningful way as they adapt to small-town life, is the very definition of wholesome. From loathing to loving, each character’s journey to becoming a better version of themselves is packed full of life lessons, laughs, and learning to love yourself and friends for the right reasons. Next time you’re feeling up shits creek, give this show a go.

The Good Place

Pitching a show about death and the afterlife is quite a hard sell as is, but adding high concept ideas with college level philosophical constructs doesn’t scream wholesome viewing. But if anyone can make death and philosophy wholesome, it’s the previously mentioned Mike Schur writer and later producer on The Office and co-creator of Parks & Recreation and Brooklyn 99. Mike Schur, alongside being a comedy genius, is also a well-documented actual good guy, who instead of canning his writers’ jokes puts them in a “candy bag” for future use. He’s renowned for having a genuine “no bad ideas” approach to his staff, and over the years has attracted and aligned himself with the best people in show biz who work tirelessly to execute his visions from costume designers to casting directors, writers, and of course top tier actors like Ted Danson and Kristen Bell. Though the A-List actors are a get, the entire ensemble of The Good Place brings this fantastical show to life, exemplifying good both on and off screen. If that’s not wholesome enough, the entire show is about how we can become better people and, that at the end of the day, despite so much opposition, dread, and difficulties in the world, it’s other people that help us all be good. So go find your own good place, snuggled up on the couch watching The Good Place.


A common theme throughout this list is there are a number of repeat-offenders who are drawn to creating wholesome content, of course, Kristen Bell is one of them. Bell was the executive producer and host of Encore!, a series that reunites classmates who performed together in their high school musicals years later. There is no catch, these people (in the most part) did not go on to be performers, singers, dancers, or theatre professionals, many moved away from their hometown, and even more lost contact with their fellow castmates, which seems like bringing them together to once again perform their high school musical may be a bit of a train wreck. It’s not though. With the help of some Broadway level choreographers, coaches, and directors, these classmates are able to put together a show in just under a week. The nostalgic experience for the participating individuals was cathartic in many different ways, and seeing the excitement and confidence of adults grow with each musical number is nothing short of wholesome. Besides, who can be sad when listening to show tunes?

Ted Lasso

Bless Bill Lawrence. This show was a welcome surprise from the creator of Scrubs and co-creator of Spin City and Cougar Town, as someone who doesn’t enjoy sport as much as they enjoy theatre. Though watching soccer is nearly at the bottom of my to-do list, pipped only by competing in a triathlon or putting together more Ikea furniture, I was drawn to this show due to the glowing reviews of its ‘wholesomeness’. It’s the content we are all here for, so why not bear-down and endure some soccer? To my relief, Ted Lasso doesn’t necessarily focus on sport (though soccer, sorry, football fans will enjoy many aspects of the show) but relationships, and the ability to stay positive even when the odds are stacked against you. Ted Lasso is an American NFL coach renowned for his charming yet unconventional coaching techniques, who is spitefully imported to train an English soccer team despite having no knowledge or experience with the sport or culture. Despite originally being depicted as a potentially annoying and naïve character, a Ned Flanders if you will, as the series unfolds Lasso becomes a fully fleshed-out man of positivity and hope who goes out of his way to make the lives of those around him better in any way he can. He is basically an effective Michael Scott from The Office, having his own unique management style and offbeat comedy – that doesn’t cause people to cringe or feel personally assaulted when he enters the room. Though fair warning, this show is so wholesome it may result in tears.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or the news has got you down, please enjoy one of the approximately 33 seasons of wholesome television content I have so expertly assessed here in my living room. And, if you are like me and need even more wholesome content, stay tuned. I will be bringing you more chicken soup-style suggestions soon.

– Courtie