Monday, July 13, 2020
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20 Shows to Binge Watch on Streaming Services

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We are all frustrated with being locked inside, but as a television-obsessed writer, there is no place I would rather be. In the last three weeks, my husband and I have binged seven complete seasons of various TV shows – and that doesn’t include news, reruns, and currently-airing network television. Thankfully, there are an abundance of streaming sites, and thousands of TV shows to binge watch.

But which shows should you watch? I have selected 20 of my favorite modern classics. Use this time to relax, fill in your television knowledge, and escape the real world for a few (hundred) episodes. Let us know if you have more suggestions for shows to binge watch in the comments below!

The X-Files is one of our shows to binge watch

The X-Files

Streaming on Hulu
A personal favorite of mine, this classic sci-fi series has over 200 episodes divided among 11 seasons and two feature films. The X-Files is an FBI division focusing on unexplainable cases: aliens, monsters, and the like. It is run by Fox Mulder, whose interest in the cases stems from his sister’s abduction when they were children. He is joined by Dr. Dana Scully, a sceptic, who is initially sent to “spy” on Mulder. Along the way, the two fell in love and literally invented the term “shipping.”

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

Streaming on Netflix
One of the greatest TV shows ever made… and you never saw it. Well, now is your chance. A mild-mannered high school science teacher learns he has lung cancer and it sends him into a midlife crisis. As it is, he barely makes enough money to support his wife and son; he certainly can’t afford treatment, too. So he decides to “break bad” and start cooking meth to cover his bills. He enlists a druggie student to handle the business side of things while he focuses on the science. His endeavor quickly spirals out of control and he becomes the biggest drug kingpin in the state of New Mexico. The show was only five seasons and sixty-two episodes, but there is a sequel film, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, available on Netflix and a prequel series, Better Call Saul, currently airing on AMC.

The Sopranos

The Sopranos

Streaming on HBO (HBO GO and HBO NOW)
The Sopranos is often cited as the first “prestige” television show. Tony Soprano is the head of a New Jersey-based crime family. The show’s initial hook was the dichotomy of Tony’s criminal activities and his visits to a psychiatrist, but the show tended to move away from this format, and focused on his attempts to balance his work/life relationships. The Sopranos ran six seasons, 86 episodes, and has a series finale that you either love or hate – there is no in-between.

Mad Men

Mad Men

Streaming on Netflix
Set in the 1960s, New York ad man Don Draper is the up-and-coming star of his advertising firm. Don is a man of his era: he has a family, but is also a philanderer. He loves women, but is disrespectful to them. He is an alpha male, but he evolves over the course of the series to become… a little more enlightened. A wonderful cast, sharp writing, and beautifully-detailed costumes and props make this an easy seven season, 92-episode series to binge through. Bonus: you won’t have to wait what was sometimes a year and a half between seasons.

Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under

Streaming on HBO (HBO GO and HBO NOW)
It’s a show about death, and yet it is very life-affirming. A family drama set in a funeral home, Fisher & Sons, run by two brothers, a sister, and their mother after the patriarch dies. Each episode opens with a death that generally sets the tone for the episode. For example, an episode that opens with the death of a guy who ran a pyramid scheme shows the Fisher family dealing with their father’s will. Five seasons and over 60 episodes gives a range of different deaths, from the typical (cancer) to less typical (autoerotic asphyxiation). Bonus: the final episode is one of the best series finales in television history.

Hannibal

Hannibal

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Hannibal is short (three seasons, 39 episodes), but it is a favorite of mine that I feel never got enough attention when it aired. Following the characters of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novel Red Dragon, the show is a sumptuous and horrifying feast for the eyes. Many of the murders are displayed like artwork, and one is gorier than the next. There is always a chance it will be picked up by another network, after it proved too violent for NBC, but that hope seems to dwindle with each year.

Gilmore Girls

Gilmore Girls

Streaming on Netflix
If you like coffee and witty women who speak quickly, why haven’t you watched this show yet? Lorelai got pregnant at 16 and ran away from her obnoxiously-wealthy lifestyle to raise her daughter, Rory, her way. They live in the quaint, quirky town of Star’s Hollow, with very little contact with the elder Gilmores, until Lorelai needs money for Rory’s tuition. Gilmore Girls is a delightful, feel-good show that will have you feeling good for a while: seven seasons, over 150 episodes, and a four-part miniseries a decade after the show signed off.

Dexter

Dexter

Streaming on Showtime
The ultimate anti-hero, Dexter is a Miami crime scene investigator with an unusual hobby: murder. It was something his adoptive father saw in him from an early age, and gave him a strict code of who to kill so he didn’t go nuts and turn into the Zodiac Killer. Dexter hunts murderers and sexual predators who, for one reason or another, escaped justice, so Dexter delivers justice to them. The series ran for eight seasons, nearly 100 episodes, but as a warning: it has what is possibly the worst series finale in the history of television.

30 Rock

30 Rock

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu
30 Rock is one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, but I feel like it isn’t talked about much. Let’s try to change that. The show follows the neurotic showrunner of a late-night, female-driven sketch show; her high-maintenance star; the equally high-maintenance star the network forces her to include to boost ratings; and the megalomaniacal network head. The focus isn’t on the show-within-the-show; it is about all the insane shenanigans that go on behind the scenes. There are seven seasons and 138 episodes to enjoy. The first season is a little slow, but don’t get discouraged; skip it if you need to.

Lost

Lost

Streaming on Hulu
Lost is a show you either love for its weird existentialism or hate for its weird existentialism. The series follows the survivors of a plane crash who are forced to exist on a seemingly-deserted tropical island with a mysterious security system, underground bunkers, a “smoke monster,” and, for some reason, a polar bear. It is a complex series with a large cast and dense storylines that unfold over six seasons and 121 episodes.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation

Streaming on Amazon Prime Video, HuluNetflix, and YouTube TV
The show got off to a slow first season, but it found its footing in the second season and never let up. Set in a small town in Indiana, it offers a picturesque view of local government: the weird battles, the smallest victories, and the strange personalities that make government work. It is an uplifting series that makes you think that some branches of government can do good. The series ran for seven seasons and 125 episodes.

The Office

The Office

Streaming on Netflix
You may actually miss your office after all this time at home. Since you can’t go in, trade it for a fictional office. Based on the British series of the same name, The Office is set in an office that sells paper. If nothing else, it will make your job seem far more interesting. The ensemble cast is made of weird characters that don’t fit into easily-defined stereotypes. There is the well-meaning office manager whose sense of humor and efforts to help his branch often fall short; the utterly humorless beet farmer who is obsessed with Battlestar Galactica and gets easily sucked into prank wars with one of the other sales managers, who is engaged in a “will they or won’t they” romance with the office receptionist. With nine seasons and just over 200 episodes, you will have plenty of time to meet the rest of the staff.

Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

Seasons 1 and 2 streaming on Hulu and Netflix; Season 3 on Showtime
You have heard about Twin Peaks but never sat down to watch it. It’s not the kind of show you can just have on in the background. Then again, it’s a David Lynch show, so even paying attention can leave you a bit lost. The best way to watch is to sit back and give in to the weird. FBI agent Dale Cooper shows up to a small logging town to investigate the murder of Laura Palmer. She was the all-American girl, until Cooper starts peeling back the layers, and discovers a dark underbelly of drug use, prostitution, and molestation. The show is haunting and yet very funny. Even by today’s standards, it is hard to believe that the first two seasons aired on ABC. Twin Peaks only ran three seasons — less than fifty episodes — but there was also a prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Streaming on Hulu
Into every generation, a slayer is born. But in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she didn’t just slay vampires – she also fought against demons, witches, mummies, robots, even a giant praying mantis creature. She did it all with a group of friends — nicknamed the Scooby Gang — and a sharp sense of humor. Buffy was not the “perfect” girl. Sure, she was pretty and athletic, but she was a middling student and had more than the usual amount of boy problems. The show spanned seven seasons, 144 episodes, two networks, and a spinoff (Angel).

Community

Community

Streaming on Hulu and Netflix
Community created the joke “six seasons and a movie.” It had rating woes throughout its run on NBC, but Yahoo! picked up the show for its all-important sixth season. Still waiting on that movie, though. Luckily, you will have over 100 episodes to keep you entertained. The show followed a dysfunctional group of students at a local community college, including a fraudulent lawyer who required just a few more credits to get his credentials back; an autistic film studies student who lived life like it was a TV show; an overachiever who just got out of rehab for an Adderall addiction; and a middle-aged, god-fearing wife. The show was insanely meta, hit all the nerd staples like puppetry, zombies, and Dungeons & Dragons, and gave birth to the term “the darkest timeline.”

The Wire

The Wire

Streaming on HBO (HBO GO and HBO NOW)
People often talk about Breaking Bad being the best show of all time, “except maybe The Wire.” So shouldn’t you watch it? Set in Baltimore, Maryland, The Wire follows the police department and the way it interacts with different elements of the city. The show is most known for the realistic way it represents drug dealers and the urban landscape, but it also deals with institutional disfunction and issues of surveillance. Five seasons and 60 episodes means it is a quick binge. Bonus: It was Idris Elba’s first starring role in an American television series.

Seinfeld

Seinfeld

Streaming on Hulu and YouTube TV
You’ve heard all the references: “Master of my domain.” “No soup for you.” “Not a square to spare.” “A Festivus for the rest of us.” Watch the series and finally understand the new vocabulary the series spawned. The show about nothing follows four friends as they live their weird lives in New York City. It is funny as hell, not political in any way, and never once had an “issues” episode. With nine seasons and just under 200 episodes, you have plenty of time to escape to the simpler time of the 1990s.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones

Streaming on HBO (HBO GO and HBO NOW)
All of your friends have said, “You have never seen Game of Thrones?” Shut them up by watching the show. Eight seasons and 73 episodes will fly by as you enjoy the fantasy series about who will rule the Seven Kingdoms. This show has it all: political intrigue, sex and nudity, dragons, gory slayings, huge battles, and a disturbing amount of incest. With hundreds of characters, binging through the series will probably eliminate your need for a character “cheat sheet” (but you can get a good one on HBO.com if you need).

The West Wing

The West Wing

Streaming on Netflix
Back during the halcyon days of the second Bush administration (when no one thought we could have a worse president), The West Wing was wishful thinking: it depicted the life of a president and an administration that was competent no matter what they were facing. Nowadays, this show seems like watching flying puppies play: a warm, comforting dream. Luckily you will have seven seasons and over 150 episodes to lull you into a false sense of security.

Bates Motel

Bates Motel

Streaming on Netflix
A new retelling of Robert Bloch’s classic Psycho, Bates Motel is set in the modern day but puts Norman in high school, when he and his overbearing mother first buy the infamous motel. With the exception of a weak second season, the series does a brilliant job expanding the legend of Norman Bates. The final season, after Norman’s mother dies and Norman has his psychotic break is truly engaging. It does nothing to destroy the legacy of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (unlike Gus Van Sant’s terrible attempt); rather, it expands on it beautifully. At five seasons and 50 episodes, it is the perfect length for a weekend binge.

In addition to our list of shows to binge watch, you can also check out some great shows that will distract your mind!

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links through which we earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase, at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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