A fine addition to the Journalism of Nothing genre, call it an adjunct to the “Rednecks In The Midst” genre, the “Rednecks In My Netflix Trending” panic piece:

What Is Virgin River, the Show Topping Netflix’s Charts?

Lately I’ve come to think of the list Netflix provides on its homepage of its Top 10 most popular shows and movies at any given time as the streamer’s version of the roll call at the Democratic National Convention this summer: Taking it in, one can only marvel at what a big country this is and how many, many different people, with very different entertainment preferences, occupy it. Where else does one find prestige programming like The Crown and The Queen’s Gambit cheek by jowl with docufiction about aliens, a Christmas movie from 20 years ago, and, always, between one and five options you’re convinced don’t actually exist beyond their thumbnail images?

For the past week or so, the honor of most fake-seeming show on the list has belonged to something called Virgin River. In contrast to the monthslong publicity campaigns that precede some Netflix releases, others, like Virgin River, just seem to show up one day, their Rotten Tomatoes pages suspiciously lacking in reviews. With its blandly scenic setting and its generically good-looking leads, Virgin River feels, even more than most Netflix shows, like it could have been generated entirely by artificial intelligence. So what is it? Where did it come from? Why were so many people watching it last week? And should you? Allow me to be your River guide as I attempt to answer those questions. Surprise No. 1: There was actually already one season of this show last December, and this is another one.

The lingering suspicion that someone somewhere might like a TV show you’ve never heard of. They might be Trumpers enjoying themselves or wrongthinkers not binging The Crown as they are supposed to. Pearls clutched. Heavens forfended.

My Stint as a Government-Sanctioned “Cuddling Companion” During Lockdown

When the government announced “KnuffleContact,” I was having dinner with a friend. Then Beth texted me: “OK, Esther, it’s time to choose who your best friend is.”

Thinking about it, it’s a very funny question—it sounds like one of those things from kindergarten—but in this time of pandemic, it was a serious matter. In Belgium, during the second lockdown, the government added a very surprising act of humanity in its restrictive measures to protect citizens: the KnuffelContact, literally a “cuddling companion.” Everyone could have one, and singles could have two, a novel measure designed to help people deal with the second wave of confinement, which began on Nov. 2 and will continue until Dec. 13. You can choose your boyfriend or girlfriend, of course, but friends or whoever you want as your KnuffelContact as well. She or he must be a person you trust, because you will have dinner together, hug each other, and lead life together, just like a family. Following the rules is essential, though, because you cannot become a dangerous presence.

(SugarFree could not be reached for comment.)

Covid: ‘How a picture of my foot became anti-vaccine propaganda’

The picture showed purple and red sores, swollen and oozing with pus.

“Supposedly this is a [vaccine] trial participant,” read the message alongside it. “Ready to roll up your sleeve?”

Within a day, those same feet had been mentioned thousands of times on Instagram and Facebook. The picture went viral on Twitter as well.

“See they are trying to deliberately hurt us with the vaccine,” one tweet read.

The feet belong to Patricia – a woman in her 30s living in Texas. And it’s true – she was a participant in a trial for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that started to be administered on Tuesday.

But this is also true: Patricia never received the actual vaccine. Medical records show that she received a placebo, a small injection of salt water. (Researchers do this as a matter of routine, to compare groups that receive a drug or a vaccine with those who receive the placebo.)

Her illness had nothing to do with injections. But that didn’t stop activists twisting her story to advance their own agendas. And on top of the physical pain caused by her condition, Patricia received a wave of online abuse.

Would you cook it first, or would that kill the authentic infected blister flavor?