The Ten Best Shows to Binge Watch

“Binge watching”– the continuous viewing of multiple episodes of a certain series in a prolonged time period without much movement or change in activity. Watching a show that makes you happy for an extended period of time may be bad for your physical fitness, but it can mentally help you to de-stress and release “happy” endorphins. Everyone has done it at least once in their life. Some people wish they had the time to do it more often. Others have simply ran out of decent material to stare at for hours on end. If you fall into the latter category, check out this list for some new ideas:

1. Parks and Recreation

Credit to IMDB

Credit to IMDB

Pawnee, Indiana may seem like a boring old town, rampant with apathy and childhood obesity, but in Leslie Knope’s eyes, it’s the perfect place to call home. Leslie begins the show working as a Parks and Recreation employee, moving up through the seasons to City Councilwoman and eventually director of the Midwest branch of the National Parks Service. Leslie’s friends and co-workers provide for further hilarity to her already fun and perky attitude and actions. April and Andy are the world’s craziest young couple, focusing on “world domination” and “being a rock star,” while Tom is the self-proclaimed “swagmaster” of the town. Donna is a strong diva, while Jerry/Gary/Larry is the lovable klutz of the office. Leslie’s best friend Ann ends up falling in love with another equally adorable co-worker, and finishes the series with a huge surprise. Former accountant Ben Wyatt joins the town after the first season, and soon Ms. Knope becomes Mrs. Wyatt (but keeps the name Knope because she a strong independent woman in the government). Ron Swanson provides a unique kind of comedic relief– a total libertarian and anarchist, he does everything in his power as Director of the Parks department to make his government run inefficiently. Each episode is full of laughs, and the characters are so easy to relate to it’s almost impossible to not become emotionally invested in them. If you sit down and binge watch this treat, I promise you’ll be crying in a few days when you hit Season 7.

2. Lost

Credit to IMDB

Credit to IMDB

The plane-crash-island-survival-turned-magical-sci-fi-fantasy that is lost is almost impossible to explain to people who haven’t seen at least a few episodes. Just know this: it’s amazing. The character list is forever long, and the personality summaries and backstories of those characters even longer. Each is breathtakingly captivating and appealing. The basic plot seems simple: Oceanic Flight 815, headed to LAX from Sydney, Australia, crashes after separating in mid-air onto a mysterious island somewhere in the the South Pacific after the pilot lost communication six hours into the flight and turned back towards Fiji. Rescue seems unlikely for the 40+ fuselage survivors, and the tail end survivors are on the other side of the island. A boring story of leadership and survival is not what “Lost” is. “Others,” hostile inhabitants of the island, are out to get the crash survivors, and the whole island is shrouded in the confusing mystery of the Dharma Initiative, the “button,” “Jacob,” and the “monster.” Oh, there’s also polar bears running amok. Sound crazy enough yet? Wait until seasons 3-4 Time travel gets thrown into the mix. “Lost” is absolutely captivating. I watched the entire series as a freshman, and started re-watching it a few weeks ago just because I missed it that much.

3. Orange is the New Black

Credit to IMDB

Credit to IMDB

The Netflix corporation itself recently began producing its own online-only TV shows, and “Orange is the New Black” made a huge impact. The award-winning show features a diverse cast of strong and powerful women, representing minorities that are refreshing to see in the midst of today’s standard “white-washed” Hollywood expectations. Focused around a true story, the 3-season spectacular production features new and naive inmate in a Connecticut prison Piper Chapman, her ex-girlfriend Alex Vause, and a slew of other amazing and intricate supporting characters. Red is the scary Russian cook who is doing her time for a relation to the Mob, while Pennsatucky serves her drug-related sentence by violently proclaiming “God’s word.” Emotional, powerful, riveting, and heartbreaking scenes are balanced with romance and humor, and multiple side plots that feed into one overall idea leave no watcher disappointed. Netflix is currently planning on releasing the fourth season of the show June 12.

4. Law and Order: SVU

Credit to IMDB

Credit to IMDB

The darkest and most riveting of all crime shows, SVU makes me cringe in the most curious way. The show focuses on the cases that land on the desks of Detectives Olivia Benson, Elliot Stabler, John Munch, and Fin Tutuola (give or take a few minor characters and guest appearances). Crime cases involving children or sexual acts. The show is a thriller, showcasing the evil minds of the scariest bad guys; murdering pedophiles, serial rapists, etc. No case is just a cut-and-dry “oh, here’s the DNA, John Smith did it.” Each has its own twist and complexity that makes every episode a treat. The show has been on since 1999, and watchers have gotten the pleasure of seeing their favorites characters grow, mature, and change over the decades. If you’re dedicated enough, you can get that pleasure too– just sit down and binge watch it for a while.

5. Mad Men

Credit to IMDB

Credit to IMDB

In the 1960s New York high-pressure advertising business, sex, scandal, treachery, and insanity held prominent positions in society. This thrilling peek into the past chronicles the brilliant, dashing, and successfully twisted Don Draper as he tries to stay afloat the pool of Madison Avenue’s pressure. Each character in the show’s complex personality and story draws the watcher in and refuses to let them go. I could watch the entire series in a week (and there are a lot of seasons). The costumes in the show are beautifully accurate, and the 1960s setting gives appropriate nods to what would have been going on in the sociopolitical current events of the time. The show transports the watcher to the past. It’s worth every minute.

6. How I Met Your Mother

Credit to IMDB

Credit to IMDB

This iconic sitcom tells the extended story of how Ted Moseby “met his kid’s mother:” each episode is meant to be a flashback as Ted recounts his fateful journey to his kids years in the future. Ted’s friends, Lilly, Marshal, Robin, and Barney, are absolutely hilarious, and each episode is packed with laughs as they take on their New York City lives together– while mixing in important lessons about love and independence. Barney is the All-American ladies’s man, never stopping his attempts at wooing anything remotely female. Robin, former Canadian popstar turned American news anchor, is strong and feminine all at the same time. Lilly and Marshal are the epitome of the perfect high school sweethearts, and the entire crew is perfect at pulling across raunchy jokes and silly references. Each season brings the water closer to finally finding out who Ted ends up marrying, showing each misleading girlfriend along the way.

7. The Walking Dead

Credit to IMDB

Credit to IMDB

While a bit too gory for me, the Walking Dead is a masterful example of what zombie apocalypse movies and shows should be: a combination of the terror that monsters bring, the ties of family that can’t be broken, and the even scarier ruthlessness of humanity. The show focus on a group of apocalypse survivors led by former policeman Rick Grimes, and follows the group’s experiences as they constantly try to find a safer home and regain a slice of the lives they once had. Opposing survivor group and the ever-growing threat of total annihilation by the growing zombie population pose obstacles and challenges along their journey, but the biggest challenge of all proves to be the cruelty that they themselves are capable of. The show asks a pointed question: Which is worse? The cruelty humans choose to inflict? Or the pain that mindless monsters cause?

8. Breaking Bad

Credit to IMDB

Credit to IMDB

“Breaking Bad” has made a huge splash in the pool of modern TV culture. Winner of multiple awards and inspiration for thousands of Halloween costumes, this dramatic classic tells the story of a high school chemistry teacher who turns to cooking Crystal Meth after learning he is dying from lung cancer. Teaming up with Jesse Pinkman, Walter White delves into the complex and dangerous drug world of the Southwestern United States. The show has a good mix of nail-biting drama, criminal actions, emotional moments, and flat-out hilarious scenes. Its cult-like following could list the “pros” of the show for hours, and I only have one “con” to report: the beginning episodes are a bit slow to get hooked on. But, like the drug the show centers around, once you’re addicted, you’re stuck.

9. Dexter

Credit to IMDB

Credit to IMDB

I love crime shows for their semi-realism and dark peek into the crueler side of humanity. “Dexter” comes with a delightful twist. While, yes, like so many crime shows, the main character is a forensic detective, he is also Miami’s bloodiest serial killer. And an even more complicated twist is put on that one– Dexter only kills criminals he knows the justice system won’t be able to do justice to, and he does so with ceremonial meticulousness. Each episode is a stand-alone treat, but dedicated (or binge) watchers will enjoy the underlying plot that progresses through each season. Dexter has a severely dark backstory, a secret sibling, a tough adopted sister, and a new girlfriend that may or may not be good for him. The show provides not only a basic rush of mystery and criminal discovery, but a psychological thrill as watchers grow attached to the characters and hold their breath every time the plot thickens.

10. Gossip Girl

Credit to IMDB

Credit to IMDB

This girlish hit makes the bottom of my list simply because I prefer action and mystery over soap-opera style drama, but this show is definitely worthy of a few days of snacks and non-stop binge-watching. Fans become addicted to the absurd unreality of it– they feed off of this idea that what they’re watching is a completely separate world from their own. The main characters, Serena, Blair, Chuck, and Nate, all attend Ivy League schools and come from rich and powerful families. Rather than hitting the books and proving their intelligence however, they spend their time engaged in complex relationships, thrilling scandals, and unbelievably impeccable outfits. Chuck and Nate draw female viewers in with their dashing good looks and bad-boy personalities dripping with emotion that scream “help me.” The classy but devious girls of the program may be inspirations for Pinterest outfit boards or “relationship goals,” their criminal acts and catty personalities make for a good show, but for bad role models. “Gossip Girl” may not keep you hooked until the end of the series, but it will definitely entertain you for a few hours.

This list is based off of the author’s own opinion. If you have any further suggestions for good TV shows, share them in the comments below.