My favorite things to do when I’m not working (and I don’t have any other obligations) are reading, watching movies, or getting sucked into a television series.
In fact, our living room TV is mounted above the fire place, surrounded by books that live on the mantle. My desk, where all the writing takes place, is only a few feet away. It’s like all my favorite things in one place!
Kind of like this, except not.
(Unrelated: I really do love exposed brick. And old typewriters. And liquor.)
It used to be you had to wait painstaking week, after painstaking week, for a new episode of a favorite show. And, even if you were able to find a show to watch after it finished airing, you had to hope that Blockbuster or the library had it in stock. Even when Netflix first started, instant gratification by way of streaming video hadn’t happened, so you had to wait for that little red envelope to arrive in the mail with your next-in-the-list selection.
These days, binge-worthy TV shows aren’t hard to come by, especially with services like Netflix streaming, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video. You can watch on your television with devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and Apple TV—or, stream them right on your laptop, tablet, and even your smart phone! (Note: My 20-year-old self from the ’90s just said, “MIND. BLOWN.”)
The instant gratification of playback, coupled with vast quantities of shows and movies is pretty amazing. In fact, there are SO many options out there, it’s easy to get a little snow blind as you’re scrolling through the titles.
Thankfully Facebook and Pinterest make it easier to stay on top of your friends’ favorites, and Netflix and Amazon are quick to suggest shows “you might like” as you’re browsing through the titles.
In any event, if you’re at a loss for something to enjoy, here are are 10 binge-worthy TV shows I’ve watched over the years—and loved.
A few years ago, after dozens of friends espoused their love for all things Crawley, I finally decided to find out what all the fuss was about with this Masterpiece show called Downton Abbey. So I began Season 1, which easily flowed into Season 2, and so on—and, you should, too.
Show description: Downton Abbey—a sprawling, lavish Edwardian mansion nestled in the Yorkshire landscape—needs an heir. Dame Maggy Smith stars as Violet, the stubborn Dowager Countess of Grantham matriarch of Downton. Hugh Bonneville stars as her son, the stoic, unflappable Lord Crawley. Elizabeth McGovern is his far-sighted American wife, Cora.
(Admittedly, I initially thought it was about a church in bustling turn-of-the-century downtown London. Until I realized it was DOWNTON not DOWNTOWN, and the abbey had nothing to do with a place of worship.)
Get started with the original, un-edited, first season of Downton Abbey, here!
Sherlock, staring Benedict Cumberbatch, is another example of a show with so many fans, but for some reason I never caught as it aired. Thanks to Netflix, I was able to catch up on all three seasons in about a week’s time, just before this January’s “Abominable Bride” special aired. It’s both helpful (for binge-watching) and annoying (because you want more) that each season is only three episodes long. I could easily watch four times as many stories per season.
Show description: A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London.
Get started with Sherlock, here!
Lost first aired in 2004 and kept its fans mesmerized—yes, me included—and on the edge of their seats for six seasons. Unlike some of the other shows I put off watching until I could stream them endlessly over the course of a weekend, I watched Lost real-time. Like, week-to-week, with horrendously long pauses between seasons.
Each episode left me hanging, and desperately waiting for the next Sunday to roll around so I could see what the next twist and turn would be for Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Jin, and the rest of the group. There were online groups devoted to predicting future plots, and uncovering hidden clues within the story. ABC started airing “pop up video” style reruns of prior week’s episodes in advance of new ones, so that fans could get even more in-depth intel on what the heck was going on with the story. (Spoiler: it’s near impossible.) Lost was a phenomenon.
Show description: After their plane crashes on a deserted island, a diverse group of people must adapt to their new home and contend with the island’s enigmatic forces.
Pro tip: More than any other show, you MUST watch this one in order, starting with episode one in the first season. Don’t skip ahead; don’t start in the middle. Watch them in order.
Get started with Lost, here!
4. Breaking Bad
I never thought I’d find a story about crystal meth, and the characters involved, captivating. But, there I was, binge-watching Breaking Bad over the course of a couple weeks, cheering for Bryan Cranston’s character (and tearing up for him, and angry with him, and laughing with him, and…).
Show description: A high school chemistry teacher dying of cancer teams up with a former student to secure his family’s future by manufacturing and selling crystal meth.
Get started with Breaking Bad, here!
5. The Walking Dead
My most recent binge-fest was The Walking Dead. I was immediately sucked in, hungrily trying to wrap head around what the heck was going on, all the zombies, and how in the world anyone could even begin to survive in such a precarious and frightening situation. Five-and-a-half seasons (and two weeks later), I’m eagerly awaiting the second half of season six to air in real time.
Show description: Rick Grimes is a former Sheriff’s deputy who has been in a coma for several months after being shot while on duty. When he awakens he discovers that the world has been ravished by a zombie epidemic of apocalyptic proportions, and that he seems to be the only person still alive. After returning home to discover his wife and son missing, he heads for Atlanta to search for his family. Narrowly escaping death at the hands of the zombies on arrival in Atlanta he is aided by another survivor, Glenn, who takes Rick to a camp outside the town.
Get started with The Walking Dead, here!
After reading the first in the Outlander book series, streaming the television show was a no-brainer. You can read all my thoughts about the book and the show in detail, here.
Show description: While on a second honeymoon with her husband, British combat nurse Claire Randall is transported back in time to 1743 Scotland. Accused of being a spy, she is catapulted into danger and finds herself torn between two men in vastly different times.
Get started with Outlander, here!
7. The West Wing
An oldie but goody (I can’t believe The West Wing counts as an “oldie” these days, but it started in 1999, sooo…), you’ll get sucked into the lives of President Bartlet and his staff almost immediately. And, season after season you’ll wonder why we can’t always have a president just as endearing, smart, full of heart, and thoughtful.
Show description: This powerful political epic chronicles the triumphs and travails of White House senior staff under the administration of President Josiah Bartlet.
Get started with The West Wing, here!
I have a special place in my heart for Mandy Patinkin and Clare Danes, thanks to obsessions with The Princess Bride and My So Called Life in the late 80s and early 90s. That being said, their characters in Homeland couldn’t be any more different than those they play in their respective decades-ago movie and TV show. So, naturally I was skeptical that I’d enjoy Homeland at all. Boy, was I wrong. Totally hooked.
Show description: When Marine Nicolas Brody is hailed as a hero after he returns home from eight years of captivity in Iraq, intelligence officer Carrie Mathison is the only one who suspects that he may have been turned.
Get started with Homeland, here!
9. Game of Thrones
An epic story of Middle Earth proportions, Game of Thrones is filled with wonderful character development, crazy good story lines, and dragons. You can read all my thoughts about the show and cool resources to bookmark while you watch, here.
Show description: While a civil war brews between several noble families, in Westeros, the children of the former rulers of the land attempt to rise up to power. Meanwhile a forgotten race, bent on destruction, return after thousands of years in the North.
Get started with Game of Thrones, here!
10. The 100
I happened to stumble upon The 100 after finishing Sherlock. I was looking for something new to watch, and hadn’t yet found The Walking Dead. It was a Netflix suggestion for something I might like (love that feature), so I took a chance…and I’m glad I did. It’s like The Maze Runner meets The Hunger Games, with a twist of Divergent—in a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, action-drama, kinda way. The new season starts soon, and I can’t wait to watch more!
Show description: A century after Earth was devastated by a nuclear apocalypse, 100 space station residents are sent to the planet to determine whether it’s habitable.
Get started with The 100, here!
Subscribe here to have delightfully chic (and sometimes snarky) opinions on must-have experiences delivered straight to your inbox!Note: Our posts might contain affiliate links. In case you don't know what those are, let us break it down for you. You buy the things we recommend; we get some cash. And when we say cash, we really mean change. Like, thirty-one cents. Fortunately, every little bit helps and we appreciate that you like what we like.