I’ve made a couple rounds of recommendations of things to watch while self-quarantined, but with several more weeks of lockdown to go—at least—I’m starting to worry about our screen time. As in, I cannot possibly be the only person who’s had to shut off the screen time monitoring app on their phone because it was becoming passive-aggressive about how far over the set limits we’ve gone recently. So, here are some recommendations for things to pass the time that do not involve looking at a screen. Specifically, here are some non-music things you can listen to.


Audible has radio plays

Audible, the popular audiobook app, also has a category of recordings that are, basically, radio plays. They fall under the “Audible Originals” tag, and they are scripted stories performed by frequently A-list casts in a format that originated in the bygone golden days of radio. Some are broken up into “chapters”, others go with a more typical episode format, but these are just radio plays reborn for the app era. And some of them are good! I recommend exploring the “Audible Originals” tag and just trying whatever strikes your fancy—Audible offers a 30-day free trial which you can easily connect to your Amazon account—but I will specifically shout out two series I enjoyed, Escape from Virtual Island and Heads Will Roll.

Escape from Virtual Island comes from John Lutz (30 Rock’s Lutz) and stars Paul Rudd—who is ALL OVER Audible, he’s got a whole second career narrating audiobooks—Amber Ruffin, Jack McBrayer, and Paula Pell as a group of resort workers who have to try and rescue a missing guest from a virtual reality resort. It takes a surprisingly sweet, sentimental turn though it remains committed to its wacky premise. 

And Heads Will Roll is from Kate McKinnon and her sister, Emily Lynne, and is about an evil queen (McKinnon) and her cursed-princess-raven sidekick (Lynne) trying to put down a peasant rebellion. It might be the isolation talking, but Heads Will Roll really worked for me, especially the fake medieval “commercials” sprinkled throughout for things like mirrors and floors. If you’re sick of watching things, listening to a comedy series is a solid alternative


Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds

I admit this is not especially restful, but have you ever actually heard Orson Welles’ famous broadcast of War of the Worlds? No? Well now is a great time to get caught up on one of the most famous broadcasts in pop culture history. The remastered version is available for free on Youtube.

Welcome to Night Vale

This long-running podcast about the strange little town of Night Vale can be intimidating, given the sheer number of episodes (over 160 in the main series), but for those of us with literally nothing but time on our hands (while appreciating the sacrifices of our frontline workers), this is the perfect opportunity to start. I finally took the plunge and immediately got hooked on the local radio updates about the goings-on in Night Vale. Also, the show creators, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, advocate listening in any order you want, so you don’t have to start at episode one if you don’t want to. If you’re a fan of Twin Peaks, Unsolved Mysteries, and/or Supernatural, Welcome to Night Vale is for you. Now is also a good time to get into this podcast, before it makes the leap to TV and becomes the must-watch television show of 20-whenever-we-can-leave-our-homes.