The Best TV to Binge Watch Right Now

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The Best TV to Binge Watch Right Now

Whether having this much time at home is new or old hat, one of the best ways to pass that time is to become enraptured by another world. The Paste TV writers have put together a list of our favorite TV shows to binge watch, with brand new blurbs describing why they’re great—and, we’ve split the list up by mood. First up, comfort TV; after that, thrilling series (or you can jump directly there). Both sections are full of shows that will make you want to keep on rolling to the next episode and next season without hesitation.

Of note: The “Binge Watch” button will take you directly to the series on its biggest available platform, although some are available elsewhere. It could be Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu, or in a few cases, HBO Now (soon Max) and even AdultSwim.com (because yes, it is free to watch—Bonus Note: Battlestar Galactica is free in full on Syfy.com) We will also continue to expand this list in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back for more!

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First Up: Treat Yo’self with Comfort TV:

Parks and Recreation

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Created by: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Stars: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Platt, Adam Scott
Original Network: NBC

Binge Watch

Conventional wisdom says to start this incredibly joyous and smart comedy with Season 2, which is admittedly where it hits its stride. Still, compared to many (far less successful) series, Parks and Rec Season 1 is not that bad. Over time, getting to know and love the show’s quirky band of government employees is just one part of its warm charm (thanks, in no small part, to its outstanding cast). But regardless of where you start with this series—running seven seasons in total—that focuses on the fictionalized (and hilarious) local parks department of Pawnee, Indiana, it’s one you will want to revisit again and again (and again).  —Allison Keene


Bones

Created by: Hart Hanson
Stars: Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz
Original Network: Fox

Binge Watch

It feels good to watch people be good at their jobs, and Bones’s Dr. Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Agent Booth (David Boreanaz) are extremely good at their jobs. It feels even better to see a woman know she is the best at what she does. Although Bones is a crime procedural, it’s less ripped-from-the-headlines than Law & Order, and so feels more like a respite from the outside world. Some storylines carry through seasons, but you don’t need to watch in order to understand what’s happening, making it a low commitment to stream. Pick an episode, turn it on, and be reminded of the power of a good episode where a gruesome crime gets solved like a satisfying puzzle within an hour. —Rae Nudson


Joe Pera Talks with You

Created by: Joe Pera
Stars: Joe Pera, Jo Firestone, Conner O’Malley
Original Network: Adult Swim

Binge Watch

Has there ever been as wholesome a show as Joe Pera Talks with You? Okay, fine, Mr. Rodgers, sure. But Joe Pera brings Millennial wit and (occasionally dark) humor to an incredibly light-hearted format, utilizing his dryer-than-Nathan Fielder persona to bring attention to mundane daily activities like grocery shopping and eating at breakfast diners. The whole thing is charming as hell—Pera’s a middle school choral teacher who falls for the anxiety-ridden orchestra teacher Sarah (played by Jo Firestone)—and each 11-minute episode goes by in a flash. Next thing you know, you’ve watched a whole season, and you can’t get yourself re-enter the cynical world of any other TV show. —Steve Edelstein


Grey’s Anatomy

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Created by: Shonda Rhimes
Stars:Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens, Jr., Justin Chambers, Kevin McKidd, Jesse Williams, Patrick Dempsey, Sara Ramirez, Jessica Capshaw, Sandra Oh, Sarah Drew, Camilla Luddington, Caterina Scorsone, Kelly McCreary, Eric Dane
Original Network: ABC

Binge Watch

It’s almost funny to try to list the stars of ABC’s long-running medical drama. The show is in its 16th season! It aired its 350th episode last November. Honestly, who hasn’t been on it at this point? It’s easy to take what the show does on a weekly basis for granted or mock it with some sort of snide “is that show still on?” comment. But no show is such a blissful mix of romance, interpersonal drama and medical cases. From the endless supply room hook-ups to the patients only they can save, Grey’s Anatomy has been my person for 16 years and I think it should be yours, too. There’s also no shortage of behind-the-scenes drama that has taken place on the show—the latest being the abrupt departure of original cast member Justin Chambers. Someday there will be a tell-all book and it will be glorious!—Amy Amatangelo


Real Housewives of New York City

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Created by: Scott Dunlop
Stars: Ramona Singer, Luann de Lesseps, Sonja Morgan
Original Network: Bravo

Binge Watch

Sometimes, you just wanna watch trash reality TV. Keeping Up With The Kardashians, The Masked Singer, The Bachelor—whatever your show is, try not to think about it so much as a “guilty pleasure” and more as quiet time for your brain. When you’re watching a truly dumb reality show (particularly one in which women over the age of 35 are screaming at each other over a cocktail), you’re probably not thinking about anything else. In fact, you’re probably not even thinking about the show itself that much. It’s glorified background noise! That’s why reality shows make for the perfect comfort TV, like the film version of mac and cheese or glazed doughnuts. And one of the dumbest, best, most pointless branches of reality TV is the Real Housewives conglomerate, and my personal favorite city to watch, is New York. This show has been on since 2008, and I still just can’t get enough of Ramona’s crazy eyes, Sonja’s relentlessly terrible business ideas, Carol’s 23-year-old boyfriends, and Luann’s latest feuds. I know, I know, there’s so much “prestige” TV I could be watching any time I choose to flip to Bravo, but I don’t care. As long as “Money Can’t Buy You Class” is available to stream, I’ll be tuning in to see what vacation these rich lunatics are taking together next. —Ellen Johnson


Felicity

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Created by: J. J. Abrams, Matt Reeves
Stars: Keri Russell, Scott Speedman, Amy Jo Johnson, Tangi Miller, Scott Foley
Original Network: The WB

Binge Watch

Way before heading to a galaxy far, far away or turning a former teen heartthrob into the Dark Night, J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves gave us Felicity. Ostensibly about Keri Russell’s titular curly-haired (then pixie-cutted, then blown-out) waif of an underclassman who gives up everything to follow her high school crush (Scott Speedman) across the country, the show now is a televised version of a weighted blanket for Gen Xers, Xellenials and others who want to halt life for an hour or so and remember college or their early 20s; years when things were simpler and the most important decisions involved love triangles and managing an after-school gig like the one Felicity had at Dean & DeLuca. The trick now is to watch enough episodes to realize, or be reminded, that Felicity’s one and only paramour should have been Noel Crane (Scott Foley), but not too long that you have to deal with the series’ finale. —Whitney Friedlander


Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Created by: Dan Goor and Michael Schur
Stars: Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Fumero, Terry Crews, Charles Boyle, Chelsea Peretti, Dirk Blocker, Joel McKinnon Miller
Original Network: FOX (Seasons 1-5), NBC (Season 6-onward)

Binge Watch

Look: I have never been shy in shouting about my love for Brooklyn Nine-Nine from Paste’s digital rooftops. At its heart, it’s a treatise on the importance of kindness, hard work, and the pursuit of concrete social justice even in the face of the entrenched moral corruption(/bureaucracy) of American law enforcement. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the ultimate comfort binge. Whether setting up for a sting, squaring off against a rival civil service department, or orchestrating a bust so that it painstakingly recreates one of the gang’s favorite movies, the 9-9 always has each other’s backs, a dynamic I never get tired of seeing on my screen. Plus, it is both so incredibly joke-dense and so deeply committed to mining the humor of iteration that a binge really gives you the best chance to catch the most laughs. To which I say: Cool cool cool. —Alexis Gunderson


Star Trek (All Iterations)

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Created by: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Literally dozens of great Shakespeare-trained actors, with William Shatner, Sir Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, and Sonequa Martin-Green as their series’ respective leads
Original Network: NBC/Syndication/UPN/CBS All Access

Binge Watch

There’s a flavor of Star Trek for everyone — it’s fascinating how you can sink into one of the franchise’s many series based on one man’s dream of “Wagon Train in Space” based on personal preference. The captains leading each series represent each show’s unique approach, while always remaining true to a specific ethos: In the future, things will be better, because people can change to make it so. —Liz Shannon Miller (*Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard are available on CBS All Access)


The Great British Baking Show

Hosts: Mel Giedroyc, Sue Perkins, Sandi Toksvig, Noel Fielding
Judges: Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith
Original Network: BBC / Channel 4 (UK)

Binge Watch

Comfort TV at its absolute finest: The Great British Baking Show (a.k.a. The Great British Bake Off in the UK). Each gentle season features amateur bakers from across England competing in a tent situated on a grand estate, all working towards … flowers and a plate. Although, given the show’s popularity, no small amount of fame is also at stake. But really it’s all incredibly wholesome, and will actually inspire you to want to try out some baking experiment of your own. The antithesis of American competition series that pit opponents against one another and mine participant’s stories for tragedy to exploit, GBBS is quiet, clever, matter-of-fact, and, above all, surprisingly collaborative. Contestants helps each other out and encourage one another, because at the end of the day it’s about a love of baking. And we love it.  —Allison Keene


Frasier

Created by: David Angell, Peter Casey, and David Lee
Stars: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leeves, Peri Gilpin
Original Network: NBC

Binge Watch

There are few things that put life into perspective that the soothing ebb and flow of a good sitcom. Problems arise, then recede as equilibrium is once again met. A sitcom is always coming back to status quo, that’s as dependable as death and taxes. It’s especially helpful when the problems aren’t anything like death OR taxes; preferably they’ll be petty, fancy, and totally silly. That’s why Frasier, the sweet-hearted show about two upper-class doofus brothers and their blue-collar dad, is so nice to binge. It’s funny, yes, but it’s also like washing your worries away in one of Frasier Crane’s patented blends of bath spices.—Jacob Oller


Gilmore Girls

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Created by: Amy Sherman-Palladino
Stars: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Scott Patterson, Melissa McCarthy
Original Network: The WB

Binge Watch

Oy with the poodles already!” If you’re unfamiliar with Amy Sherman-Palladino’s beloved television odyssey Gilmore Girls, the soapy-yet-smart tales of a tight-knit mother/daughter pair and the kooky characters who inhabit their fictional New England town, then you probably don’t know what that phrase about the poodles means. The thing is, even if you are—like me—supremely familiar with the show (I’ve seen it all the way through twice, at least. It literally doesn’t get old), you still may not have a good grip on what the hell mother Lorelei and daughter Rory are talking about. That’s the beauty of their relationship—they almost have a secret language. Silly lines like “Oy with the poodles already!” and “You jump, I jump, Jack!” permeate nearly every episode of the series’ seven seasons—eight if you count the 2016 Netflix reboot. So if you, like Lorelei, believe “Life is short, talk fast,” then escape to the best bench on Stars Hollow square, pour yourself a cup of coffee and tune in (or out—this is comfort binge TV, after all) to the never-ending witty banter of the Gilmore Girls. It’s money in the bank. —Ellen Johnson


Adventure Time

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Created by: Pendleton Ward
Stars: Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio, Hynden Walch, Niki Yang, Tom Kenny
Original Network: Cartoon Network

Binge Watch

Any time is a good time to be Adventure Time, but there’s something special about bingeing Jake and Finn’s oddball escapades around Ooo. Taken with enough space, it’s easy to digest the quick animated marvels as delicious flashes of absurdity. But, strung together in quick succession, all of Adventure Time’s lore and worldbuilding start to congeal into one of the most fleshed-out, beautiful, original, and subtle fantasy settings on TV. It stops simply being ridiculous and funny (though it continues to be both) and becomes about exploring a world, an alternate future, through the silly adventures of a boy growing up—he just happens to do it with a magical dog.—Jacob Oller


Broad City

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Created by: Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson
Stars: Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson, Hannibal Buress
Original Network: Comedy Central

Binge Watch

Broad City very often functions like a sitcom in the sense that each episode features one main plot and a handful of subplots and finds our main characters getting themselves into some kind of wacky shenanigan that is usually resolved within 25 minutes. Now you may not consider sitcoms to be great binge fodder—but I’d argue that sometimes sitcoms are the best shows for a hungry TV appetite. In Broad City’s case, there’s enough action to keep you entertained, but no plot so serious that you’d miss something if you left the couch for a few minutes to go to the bathroom or make a sandwich. Illana and Abbi—who play exaggerated versions of themselves on the show—are codependent best friends running around New York City, playing hooky and smoking baseball-bat-sized joints whenever they can, and they’re a joy to behold every second. Smart, topical humor served with a side of Millennial woke-ness are what you’ll get in every episode of Broad City, not to mention quotable anecdotes and the always-lingering question to swap with your best friend: “Are you an Ilana or an Abbi?” —Ellen Johnson


30 Rock

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Created by: Tina Fey
Stars: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski
Original Network: NBC?

Binge Watch

A friend recently joked on Twitter that just about all of the shows coming to the new, bizarre-sounding streaming service Quibi “sound like something from 30 Rock.” The NBC comedy, which star Tina Fey created, was a jam-packed half-hour of some of the most biting and scathing commentary on media, thanks to parody shows-within-shows like “MILF Island” and “Queen of Jordan.” But it also spoke to issues of representation, relationships, and being a working parent (see Season 6’s “Murphy Brown Lied to Us “ for an example of that last one). 30 Rock is a show that can make you feel better about your own workplace and co-workers while also making you feel smart because you caught that obscure reference to another bingeable series, Lost. To reference one of Fey’s Liz Lemon’s most-quoted lines, just writing about 30 Rock makes me want to go to there. —Whitney Friedlander


The Magicians

Created by: Sera Gamble and John McNamara
Stars: Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Hale Applebaum, Arjun Gupta, Summer Bishil, Olivia Taylor-Dudley, Jade Taylor, Brittany Curran, Rick Worthy, Trevor Einhorn
Original Network: Syfy

Binge Watch

The Magicians is not, on its face, a comforting, feel-good kind of show. Following a group of disaffected American twentysomethings as they grapple not only with their heretofore hidden (and still dangerously unpredictable) capacity for magic, but also with the fact that the fantasy world they grew up reading about as kids is both real and home to (among other nightmares) a psychotic, moth-faced serial killer, it somehow also manages to find the time to shroud its characters in some of the deepest darknesses being human can entail—depression, addiction, rape, child abuse, slavery, PTSD, death, grief. (So much grief.)

The Magicians is the ultimate binge. For one thing, it’s a consummate ensemble piece, the thorny emotional arcs of each of its extremely! many! characters ebbing and flowing enough that you get a better sense of all their journeys when just giving in to the narrative tide. For another, when the show gets fun—and it can get just so fun, both in individual scenes (see: all things Margo and Eliot) and in whole episodes (so many musicals!)—catching those moments mid-binge can feel like biting into a sugar-crusted lemon. That a rip-it-off-quick binge is the best way to get through what is honestly one of the most incomprehensibly paced first seasons committed to screen? Icing on the cake.

Beyond all that, though, with as many characters as it has, delving into has much darkness as they do, in as many timelines as the series eventually loops both them and the audience through, The Magicians offers enough complexity that even re-watch binges are rewarding. Rewarding and—despite all the darkness, death and grief—ultimately, comforting. —Alexis Gunderson


Community

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Created by: Dan Harmon
Stars: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong, Chevy Chase, Jim Rash
Original Network: NBC

Binge Watch

Many comedies might call themselves zany when they just mean that it’s a show where witty characters get involved in hijinks. Chronically overlooked, Community’s particular flavor of community college study group-turned-chaotic-family ensures that if Troy (Donald Glover) goes downstairs to get the pizza, Pierce (Chevy Chase) somehow ends up getting shot with the gun hidden in Annie’s (Alison Brie) purse. Does that make sense? It shouldn’t. Community’s biggest flex is its ability to truly be any medium in any genre it wants to be. A binge-watcher may actually experience a bit of decision fatigue figuring out which parody episode to watch. Though the moments of emotional darkness Community feel remarkably raw, its distinctive humor, pop culture obsession, and hard-won dynamic between the leads elevate the show to a classic cult show. —Jane Song


Happy Endings

Created by: David Caspe
Stars: Eliza Coupe, Elisha Cuthbert, Zachary Knighton, Adam Pally, Damon Wayans Jr., Casey Wilson
Original Network: ABC

Binge Watch

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Happy Endings never should have been canceled in the first place. That’s just an indisputable fact. But when you’re bingeing it (again and again and again), it’ll almost seem like it never was. While there have been a handful of sitcoms that have somewhat matched the comedic sensibilities and tone of Happy Endings since its cancellation—The Mick, David Caspe’s Marry Me and Champaign ILL, and LA to Vegas—no show has yet to truly fill the void left by the loss of Happy Endings. From its stellar comedic cast (even in the case of typically dramatic actors like Cuthbert and Knighton) and their beautiful, instant chemistry to its endless pop culture references and non-stop joke machine approach to comedy, Happy Endings was the ultimate contemporary hangout sitcom. All of the pile-ons and the “DRAMAAAAA” and the “amahzing” (not a typo) jokes are reason enough to miss the show every day… but at least it’s available for you to binge and pretend the gang is your group of dysfunctional friends.. — LaToya Ferguson


Bob’s Burgers

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Created by: Loren Bouchard and Jim Dauterive
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal, Eugene Mirman, Dan Mintz, and Larry Murphy
Original Network: Fox

Binge Watch

Bob’s Burgers is what I turn to when I can’t sleep, when I want background noise, or when I want to feel a little bit better about the world. The Belcher family’s great love for each other while they run the restaurant they own provides heart-warming and hilarious 30-minute episodes, perfect to relax after a busy day. If you watch closely, you’re rewarded with catching long-running jokes about Gene’s (Eugene Mirman) possibly imaginary albino friend Ken or seeing moments of Bob’s (H. Jon Benjamin) great admiration for and friendship with trans sex worker Marshmallow (David Herman). If it’s on in the background, you will still hear the show’s catchy songs and hear Tina’s (Dan Mintz) anxiety-ridden groans and feel just a little less alone. —Rae Nudson


Kath & Kim

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Created by: Jane Turner, Gina Riley
Stars: Jane Turner, Gina Riley, Magda Szubanski, Peter Rowsthorn, Glenn Robbins
Original Network: ABC TV

Binge Watch

Kath & Kim is the apex of TV comedy. From beautifully poetic malapropisms to surreal character study, Kath & Kim defined an entire generation of Australian TV and created innumerable phrases now endemic to Australian lingo (“Throw your handbag in a river” is now forever synonymous with “lesbian” on the continent). Seriously, it’s the “Torn” of TV, breaking several ratings records across its four seasons, spurning two films and an incredibly bad American spin-off starring Selma Blair and Molly Shannon. Jane Turner and Gina Riley are masters of comedy, and they deserve credit for creating one of the most enduringly great sitcoms in history. It’s nice. It’s different. It’s unusual. —Austin Jones


Beverly Hills, 90210

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Created by: Aaron Spelling
Stars: Jason Priestley, Shannen Doherty, Luke Perry, Jennie Garth, Ian Ziering, Brian Austin Green, Tori Spelling, Gabrielle Carteris
Original Network: Fox

Binge Watch

There is no show that holds a fonder place in my heart. Return with me to the granddaddy of all teen shows. Without 90210, there would be no Dawson’s Creek, no The O.C., no Gossip Girl. As the kids say, let that sink in. The world of Brandon (Jason Priestley), Brenda (Shannen Doherty) and Dylan McKay (Luke Perry), the best bad boy the medium ever created, had a comfortable predictability. There was one restaurant—the Peach Pit. One night club—the Peach Pit After Dark, obviously. One college—California University, naturally. One place to hang out in the summer – the Beverly Hills Beach Club. There were fires, cults, stalkers, car crashes, addictions and, most egregious of all, matching formal dress. But the gang always came out okay. The show, the first to take the problems of teens truly seriously, broke the TV taboos of its time and now there’s something almost quaint about watching Brenda agonize over losing her virginity to Dylan. To paraphrase Kelly Taylor, I choose 90210 over and over and over again.—Amy Amatangelo

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Ready for Something a Little Stronger? Check Out These Thrilling Series:

Bodyguard

Created by: Jed Mercurio
Stars: Richard Madden, Keeley Hawes, Sophie Rundle, Gina McKee
Original Network: BBC One (UK)

Binge Watch

Your limits in watching Bodyguard (which runs a tight six episodes) are totally up to how much your heart can take. This thrilling show about a war veteran-turned-politican’s-bodyguard (Madden) is not only full of shocking and emotional twists, but it is also one of the most anxiety-inducing series I’ve ever watched. Much of the action takes places in tight spaces, heightened by a tension of place and the safety of others that will have you hyperventilating in the horror and anticipation of what might come next. The show does leave us with plenty of questions (and may not return for a second season, since it was meant to be self-contained), but moment-to-moment it is one of the most exciting series available (thankfully) to binge.  —Allison Keene


The Americans

Created by: Josephy Weisberg and Joel Fields
Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Keidrich Sellati, Holly Taylor, Noah Emmerich, Costa Ronin, Alison Wright, Annet Mahendru
Original Network: FX

Binge Watch

Tooth extraction sans Novocain. The origami of stuffing a dead body in a suitcase. There are moments on The Americans that still haunt me —none more so than the devastating series finale which will be remembered as one of the greatest of all time. To the uninitiated, the FX drama follows two KGB agents (Russell and Rhys) hiding in plain sight in a suburb of Washington, DC in the 1980s. By day they appear to be your friendly travel agents, by night they’re stealthy killing people with their bare hands. To say more would ruin the show for those who haven’t seen it. Suffice to say the acting is superb, the plot twists jaw dropping and the wreckage the characters leave in their wake unrelenting. This is one not to miss, comrades.—Amy Amatangelo


My Love from the Star

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Created by: HB Entertainment
Stars: Jun Ji-hyun, Kim Soo-hyun, Park Hae-jin, Yoo In-na
Original Network: SBS

Binge Watch

Korean drama My Love from the Star was an international sensation when it aired six winters ago, responsible for rising sales of chicken and beer, Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and a shortage of YSL lipstick. At a tight 21 hours, My Love from the Star is the three-month story of the stoic 400-year-old alien who moves next door to a famously bad-tempered actress. Not only does the show pack in the markers of a classic romance-fantasy k-drama, but it also perfectly balances elements of crime, melodrama, a bit of philosophical meditation, and legitimate comedy. Ending each episode on a frustrating cliffhanger, this binge-watch is all killer, no filler. While the drama is skillfully-plotted, what makes My Love from the Star suitable for binge-watching is the show’s grounding in the color and sparkling chemistry of the two leads.—Jane Song


Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Angel

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Created by: Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer); Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt (Angel)
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, Anthony Stewart Head, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, James Marsters, Glenn Quinn, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Amy Acker
Original Network: The WB / UPN

Binge Watch

It’s hard to imagine any Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Angel fan who hasn’t re-watched the series a number of times, first via boxsets and then on streaming, even with all of the complaints about the aspect ratio issues of the latter. It’s simply what you do with these shows, so arguably, they’re the most bingeable shows of all time. Obviously, both shows are thrilling, but at this point, there is more a sense of comfort that can come from watching them. Like a security blanket with fangs. Start from the beginning, start from your favorite season, or even just go with your favorite episodes. Just remember: “Beer Bad” is good, actually. —LaToya Ferguson


The Wire

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Created by: David Simon
Stars: Dominic West, Idris Elba, Wood Harris, Wendell Pierce, Lance Roddick, Clarke Peters, Sonja Sohn
Original Network: HBO

Binge Watch

The Wire used to be a yearly re-watch for me, because it’s one of the greatest TV stories ever told. It deserves to be in your rotation, too. Airing in what seems like 100 years ago (2002-2008), some of its cosmetic elements seeming dated; but the series’ truths about the institutions it investigates (the police, schools, dock workers, media, and the drug game itself) remain as relevant and revealing as ever. Because the truth is, urban life hasn’t changed that drastically in the 21st century, and The Wire’s Dickensian portrayal of the highs and (mostly) lows of its players from the streets on up is tragedy on a grand scale. But don’t let that scare you off—it’s also incredibly funny, heartbreaking, engrossing, and most of all, its characters will leave their mark on you. Long after you finish, you’ll still be quoting their most famous lines, yet never forgetting the complicated, haunting context.—Allison Keene


Scandal

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Created by: Shonda Rhimes
Stars: Kerry Washington, Darby Stanchfield, Tony Goldwyn, Guillermo Diaz, Joshua Malina, Scott Foley, Joe Morton
Original Network: ABC

Binge Watch

As absolutely crazy as Shonda Rhimes iconic Scandal is, it really is a dish best served as a binge. The twists and turns are even more engrossing this way, especially in its early seasons. It does go a little off the rails as things continue, but oh what a journey to get there! Starring Kerry Washington as a DC fixer whose catchphrase ”It’s handled” is the battle cry of all powerful women, the series deals with matters important to keeping The Republic intact … alongside some very scintillating romantic subplots, primarily between Washington’s Olivia Pope and the very married President of the United States (Tony Goldwyn). But that’s just the start of this absolutely wild ride.—Allison Keene


Mr. Robot

Created by: Sam Esmail
Stars: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Martin Wallström, B.D. Wong
Original Network: USA

Binge Watch

Mr. Robot is an intricate puzzle box, entirely bingeable, and shocking in its radical displays of mental illness, capitalism, and corruption. Sam Esmail crafted a show that, despite its bumps, portrayed humanity in a way no other show would dare attempt, and experimented with what was possible within a traditional primetime episodic setup. Of note, the third season included an incredible feat of cinematography—a continuous shot à la Birdman. More important than any of this, though, is how sympathetic the show is to the plight of the main characters, showcased by powerhouse performances from Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Carly Chaikin, and Portia Doubleday. The odyssey of Doubleday’s Angela is unexpectedly labyrinthine and thoroughly tragic. For every scratch of a head, there’s a corresponding tear to be shed. —Austin Jones


Game of Thrones

Created by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
Stars: Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington
Original Network: HBO

Binge Watch

Many—but not all—people who have known and loved Game of Thrones did so because it was a consistently thrilling buzz show. It was an event: Every Sunday night for a couple months every year or so, we watched Game of Thrones, or we set our DVRs and watched the episode before someone had time to spoil it. In my case, however, I inhaled Game of Thrones over the course of about three months and watched the series finale last October, about five months after most everyone else was beholden to its utter stupidity and chaos. I don’t think it’s a spoiler at this point to say the series finale of Game of Thrones is not great, but, lucky for you, the rest of the series is pretty incredible. The beginning of Season 1 can admittedly be a little thick and hard to latch onto at first, but once you commit to ride this dragon, over any and all of the Seven Kingdoms, in winter or summer, you will not want to get off. There’s a reason so many people love this show—it’s prestige fantasy television at its most consumable and entertaining. —Ellen Johnson


Happy Valley

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Created by: Sally Wainwright
Stars: Sarah Lancashire, James Norton, Siobhan Finnegan, Steve Pemberton
Original Network: BBC One (UK)

Binge Watch

Who knows why, but it’s true: The Brits are kings of small-town crime stories. Americans and Scandinavians have tried to make a play, but UK crime series remain a cut above. That is certainly true for Happy Valley, at least, which also puts a no-nonsense middle-aged female police sergeant in a role usually reserved for a rogue male protagonist. Here, Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) must deal with her divorce, her recovering addict sister, and—above all—that fact that the young man who raped her daughter eight years ago (which produced a child and led to her daughter’s suicide) is now out of prison after cursory drug charges. Cawood is on a manic mission to see that her grandson is protected and that her daughter’s attacker sees justice, and the series’ riveting pace and unique setting (in a particularly beleaguered rural area of England) makes this one you won’t be able to stop until it’s all done. It all plays out, so far, in two swift six-episode seasons, and then you’ll join the rest of us in hoping we one day see a Season 3.  —Allison Keene


Breaking Bad

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Created by: Vince Gilligan
Stars: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Giancarlo Esposito, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks
Original Network: AMC

Binge Watch

Years from now, when scholars look back on the era of transition from traditional television to streaming, Breaking Bad will stand out as an important focal point. The availability of early seasons on a service like Netflix helped turn this under-the-radar AMC drama into a cultural force that led to an explosion in the ratings during the later seasons. And once you’ve watched Vince Gilligan’s thrilling exploration of morality, as seen through the prism of a seemingly good man who gets drawn to exploring his darkest qualities, it’s hardly a surprise that people are still getting addicted today.  —Liz Shannon Miller



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