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The (reality) shows must go on

Brian Malarkey, arguably San Diego's most famous chef, will return to the show that made him a celebrity, "Top Chef."
(Smallz & Raskind / Bravo)

Two shows to entertain, distract and comfort during quarantine

In times like these, we rely on entertainment to distract us from the harsh realities of the world. And while different people take comfort in different things, sometimes all you need is a good, old-fashioned reality TV show binge in order to (momentarily) relieve stress.

Reality shows are like a soothing balm to slather over your emotional wounds, wrapping you up in comfort. They are the sweet, frothy cotton candy of entertainment, and right now, cotton candy tastes good.

So sit back, fire up the TV and let these shows take you to another time and place (where we’re not under the threat of a global pandemic).

For Those Who are Missing Their Friends: “The Real Housewives of New York City” season 12

In times of trouble, we turn to our friends. During self-isolation, many people are finding themselves longing to reach out and make contact with friends via phone calls and Facetime chats. It helps to remind us that we’re human and that we are all in this together, right?

And sometimes, friends aren’t people you actually know, but people you’ve watched live their lives for years in front of a camera. That’s how it feels to see “The Real Housewives of New York City” back on our screens: Our friends are back and they’re here to make us feel better.

The highly-anticipated season 12 of the flagship franchise premiered on April 2, but started filming at the end of 2019. There are some familiar faces, as well as a new one. Ramona Singer, Luann de Lesseps, Sonja Morgan, Dorinda Medley, Tinsley Mortimer and new cast member Leah McSweeney are back to mix things up in the Big Apple. We’re missing Bethenny Frankel, who announced last season that she would not be returning.

It’s hard to imagine a RHONY season without Bethenny, but she’s now spending her time trying to save the planet through her BStrong organization, which aims to help people in crisis in real-time (including those affected by the coronavirus), so we can’t really be mad at her.

What we can expect from this season remains to be seen. Will the ladies welcome Leah into their already-established circle of friends? Will Luann maintain her sobriety in the midst of her touring cabaret show? Will Tinsley make the leap to Chicago for a chance at love?

Are these things important, in the grand scheme of things? No. But are they a nice respite from the daily onslaught of bad news we’re living with? They are.

Welcome back, ladies. It’s great seeing you again.

Where to watch: Bravo, new episodes every Thursday; bravotv.com/the-real-housewives-of-new-york-city

Chef Angelo Sosa, of Encinitas' Death By Tequila, is back for a third spin at the cheftestant game on "Top Chef."
Chef Angelo Sosa, of Encinitas’ Death By Tequila, is back for a third spin at the cheftestant game on “Top Chef.”
(Smallz & Raskind / Bravo)

For the Newly Minted Home Chef: “Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.” season 17

The majority of us are cooking at home now, so it’s the perfect time to get into “Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.,” which premiered March 19 and features two local chefs.

This season brings together former “cheftestants” from previous seasons to battle it out for the All-Stars title and a $250,000 grand prize. None of the returning chefs were crowned Top Chef in their competing season, so the pressure is on for them to impress judges Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons.

This season, two notable San Diego chefs compete: chef and restaurateur Brian Malarkey (of Animae and Herb & Wood, among many others) and chef Angelo Sosa (most recently of Death by Tequila in Encinitas). Both have achieved fame in the local dining world, but the title of Top Chef has eluded them (Editor’s note: Sosa was told to “pack his knives and go” on the March 26 episode). It’s an interesting time for this show to be airing, as the restaurant industry has been brought to its knees by the coronavirus pandemic. Malarkey’s restaurant group, Puffer Malarkey Collective, was recently the first local group to close operations at all of its establishments in order to curb the threat of the virus.

While the fate of the hospitality industry and the effects of the coronavirus lockdown are unclear right now, take comfort in rooting for these two San Diego chefs who are hoping to bring home the glory (and show your support by ordering takeout or delivery from a local restaurant as you watch).

Top Chef: All Stars L.A. is the perfect distraction that came along at just the right time.

Where to watch: Bravo; new episodes every Thursday; bravotv.com/top-chef


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