New Girl creator Liz Meriwether, who covered the RNC and DNC for Vulture, can't stop thinking and writing about the election. So for the next three months, she’ll be doing that here.
It’s the first week after the political conventions, where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were named as presidential nominees. You come home from work and check the news on your phone, because you are a responsible citizen of this country and you want to know what’s happening. You come across something like a clip of Eric Trump saying his sister Ivanka wouldn’t be sexually harassed in the workplace, because she’s “strong” and “powerful.” You feel the white-hot rage that’s become familiar at this point in the election, then you stare at the wall for a couple minutes because sometimes the only thing you can do is take a minute to let your mind evaporate.
A weird amount of time passes. You’re still staring at the wall. Maybe you’ve taken your shoes off. Maybe you’ve taken your pants off, and you’re sitting in your underwear with your socks on and your husband walks in and says something like, “Hey buddy.” You know it’s just another day in the election from hell, and that there are so many days ahead of us. You know you can’t be this angry all the time. You still have three months to go until November 8. You have a job. You have a family. You promised yourself that you were going to finish reading the Elena Ferrante books. You need something to make the buzzing in your head go away. You decide to watch Netflix until you fall asleep.
If this is you or someone close to you, I have a Netflix recommendation that has helped me these past few months. This show is not “binge-worthy.” You will be able to leave and come back whenever you need, from now until Election Day, like an enormous box of cereal or your oldest, most boring friend who has no opinions and never gets her heart broken. The name of this show is Poirot.
Poirot is the perfect antidote to the 2016 election. It’s one of those Agatha Christie British mystery series where characters regularly have “figurine collections.” More than one episode features a “precious figurine” that has been “stolen.” Do you remember how scared you felt when, at the end of season one of The Wire, Wallace decides to leave the hideout in the country and head back to his friends in the city? You will never feel that way about figurine thieves. I’ve gotten more upset receiving a piece of mail with the wrong name on it than I’ve ever gotten watching Poirot. But that’s exactly what makes the show perfect for right now. I don’t need my entertainment to have greater stakes than that; I already have too much at stake in this election. Stolen figurines are what I can handle.
Of course, not every episode is about a stolen figurine. Some are about stolen jewels. Others are about people getting murdered after writing a new will. (If you’re rich and British, don’t tell people you’re writing a new will! Just call your barrister and fucking do it.) The plots are just interesting enough to keep you technically conscious, though I challenge you to watch it after 10 p.m. and not fall asleep.
You can go into a semi-hypnotic state just staring at the tiny border of glue around David Suchet’s mustache, which sits on his face like a wet, black Band-Aid. His mustache looks like he recently fell face-first onto wet asphalt. It’s one of the worst facial-hair applications I’ve seen on television. If you’re a makeup artist, you may not be able to stand it. As you begin to watch the show, the mustache is so distractingly bad that you’ll find it hard to pay attention to any of the dialogue. After a while, though, you come to accept the mustache for what it is, then you find yourself needing it. You find yourself unable to go to sleep without it. The sight of Poirot’s mustache will become the signal your brain needs to know that the day is done, work is over, Trump isn’t the president yet, and you are safe.
Here are some things to know about Poirot:
- Hercule Poirot is a detective from Belgium, but he lives in London in the 1920s and 1930s.
- Murderers underestimate people from Belgium.
- Any time Poirot goes away on a vacation, someone he is with will be murdered.
- Poirot continues to go on vacation.
- Poirot is a dandy, but he is “not gay.”
- Poirot usually solves the murder in the middle of the episode. He just likes to wait and see if he’s right, which usually means that someone else has to almost get murdered.
- There’s a character named Miss Lemon who is tragically in love with Poirot, but you have no desire to see that story line realized. You actually just want her to suffer in silence, tweezing off all of her eyebrows alone on a Friday night.
- Poirot has an awful rich friend named Hastings who likes cars and is the dumbest human in all of England, and even Poirot seems to hate him. This friend is also apparently a womanizer, but we only know this because the camera lingers on his face a beat or two longer when an attractive woman is introduced, and Poirot is always, like, rolling his eyes afterward. Hastings is the worst.
- Poirot often refers to his brain cells as “my little gray cells.” His brain is all he ever needs to catch the criminal. This is not an action show. The most action you will see is a wide shot of someone running away wearing some kind of cap, or a close-up of Poirot putting scented liquid on his face.
- Poirot hates British snobbery, but he is addicted to the finer things in life. He must live with this paradox.
- Avoid an episode called "The ABC Murders." Too intense. Try an episode with the word “adventure” or “jewel” in the title.
- Watch out for disguises. They will get you every time. (Obviously, it’s hard to tell if a character’s facial hair is supposed to be “real” or if it’s supposed to be a “disguise.” This is part of the challenge.)
If Poirot isn’t making the election-rage go away, try other British Netflix shows like Life Story, a nature documentary narrated by David Attenborough that makes you feel like you’re falling asleep in your grandfather’s arms while taking a cruise where rich people learn about birds. Avoid Call the Midwife. That show will trick you into a false sense of calm, and then all of a sudden, a woman will be screaming at the top of her lungs trying to get a sideways baby out of her while lying on some dirty table in a postwar North London flat.
Aerial America is another one of my secret weapons. Save this show for the worst days to come, like when Trump finally calls Hillary the C-word. This show is not on Netflix, but you can find it on the Smithsonian Channel on Apple TV, or if it all gets bad enough, you can buy it on iTunes. It is exactly what it says it is: Each episode is an American state or region as seen from above. You watch minute after minute of slow-moving aerial photography as an anonymous man lists various facts and synthesizers play. Aerial America is so boring that it will make you begin to question if time actually moves in a straight line. It is so boring that you begin to understand what it would feel like to be very old and very young in the same moment. You begin to wonder if anyone really dies or if death is just an endless loop of Aerial America played forever.
The only show I could imagine being more boring would be a show called Front Lawns or a show called Airport Delays or, even worse, Aerial Airport Delays, which just films people’s airport delays from above. But none of those shows exist yet, so we should all be thankful for Aerial America. Five minutes of watching, and your brain will just give up. You will stop seeing objects as distinct from each other. Donald Trump will fade away. His smug grinning face will be transformed into the top of a New England forest as a man with no name says something like, “New England has many forests.”
I hope this helps. Take care of yourself. The election is a little less than 100 days away.