Watching: If You Need to Chill

Relaxing shows for stressful times.

Author Headshot

By Margaret Lyons

Television Critic

Dear Watchers,

This oral history of the TV show “Wishbone” in Texas Monthly is a real joy. Also, it’s Fat Bear Week.

Stay strong. See you Friday.


I need something chill but smart, and free

Julia Collin Davison, left, and Bridget Lancaster on “America’s Test Kitchen.”America's Test Kitchen

‘America’s Test Kitchen’

When to watch: Now, on Pluto (free), smart TV apps (free), or the show’s website (where some episodes are also free)


I have watched two full seasons of the instructional cooking series “America’s Test Kitchen” in the last few weeks, and I can report that it has added some helpful places for my brain to drift to in moments of repose. Instead of just an endless panic loop, I can now also think about what seems to be the largest cutting board on planet earth. (Look at that thing!) There’s relief in knowing that someone is testing with real precision the squishiness of marshmallows, the stain-resistance of hot pads, the pepperiness of different brands of ground pepper.

It’s also soothing. Imagine if your biggest issue right now were not being able to soft boil 16 eggs at a time. Well, good news! You can sous vide them. But can I make a typically grilled thing in the oven, or a typically ovened thing on the grill? And how! You know, now that you mention it, I do indeed deserve only the best syrup dispenser, and no other will suffice. If you are a big Wirecutter person, you will be a big “America’s Test Kitchen” person.

“A.T.K.” went through some creative shake-ups in the past several years, including the host Chris Kimball’s departure in 2015, followed by a yearslong legal battle. Now that Julia Collin Davison and Bridget Lancaster are the hosts, the show feels more jovial, less repressed — though still prim compared to travel- or celebrity-centric food programming. It’s not goofy like “Good Eats,” but it has plenty of detailed scientific explanations and diagrams along with its discussions of flavors and techniques. And it’s the ideal background show, where recipe wisdom can just kind of wash over you. Aahh.

No, way more chill, ideally maximum chill

A scene from the “Living Among Trees” episode of “A World of Calm.”HBO Max

‘A World of Calm’

When to watch: Arrives Thursday, on HBO Max.

This new 10-part series is based on a relaxation app, and it is indeed extremely calming. Celebrity narrators including Keanu Reeves and Kate Winslet tell you about coral reefs, glass blowing, the existence of snow, the existence of water, horses, noodles and a guy in Latvia making a canoe, and everything is gorgeous and slow. If you have ever looked at a chunk of fruit suspended in a Jell-O salad and thought, “Oh, to be a mandarin orange section peacefully engulfed in a muffling, slowly wiggling hug,” this show is about as close as you can get.



Correction: Sept. 30, 2020

The Watching newsletter on Monday misidentified which versions of the drama “Patria” are available on HBO Max. It is available in Spanish and in overdubbed English, not with English subtitles.

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