Television has long been my connection to home. White Walkers ushering in an apocalyptic winter, Cold War sleeper agents going rogue, robots running amok in an Old West theme park — all of these have but a passing resemblance to my former life in New York. However, beyond mere entertainment, the act of watching in the moment puts me back in sync with millions of fellow viewers back home.

A third of the way through Season 2 of "The Handmaid's Tale," it occurred to me that a little bit of distance might be a good thing. Those who have read Margaret Atwood's novel by the same name will already know its themes of misogyny and social control taking place in a dystopian U.S., where environmental catastrophe and epidemic infertility have given rise to a theocratic authoritarian regime called Gilead. Cleaving to the bones of the original novel, the first season of the show debuted in April 2017 and found resonance among many in the age of Donald Trump. A year later, with the U.S. in the throes of anti-feminist backlash and reports of family separations at its borders, it feels like "The Handmaid's Tale" has become too real.

Ironically, it has been a reality TV show that has offered welcome relief. "Terrace House" is a Japanese show on Fuji TV and Netflix in which six attractive young strangers live together under one roof. At first I resisted because it seemed vapid and derivative, reviving a concept pioneered by "The Real World" that sought to find out "what happens when people stop being polite ... and start getting real." On "Terrace House," however, people remain polite and the show eschews the histrionics, confessionals and other contrivances we now associate with the genre.