TV Shows Worth Binge-Watching

The era of on-demand programming and instant streaming has provided an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the selection of TV shows we can watch. Older television becomes new again thanks to services such as Netflix, which often provide series in their entirety, so that you don’t miss anything. While this level of accessibility is fantastic, it also has the unfortunate side effect of providing too much choice, to the point where it can be very difficult to decide which programs are work the time investment (because let’s face it – binge-watching is very time-consuming). For those looking for a show worthy of their time, the following are excellent series to “binge-watch”. Most of these series are readily available to watch in their entirety on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Crave TV, Hulu, Disney+ or others so get to it!

20. Chuck

For anyone looking for a fun TV show with likable characters, the action-comedy Chuck should fit the bill nicely. A highly referential spy show, Chuck casts the title role, played by Zachary Levi, as a smart underachieving retail clerk who gets sucked into a CIA operation after he mentally absorbs a computer database known as “The Intersect”. Anchored by his two handlers, the sexy CIA agent Sarah Walker, and the no-nonsense NSA agent John Casey, Chuck is pulled into the world of spies, often with a goofy, entertaining twist on familiar genre tropes. Over the course of its five seasons, Chuck successfully mixed action, comedy, and a bit of romance to form a show that was continually inventive and fun. It’s not the deepest show out there, but not every good show has to be.

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19. 30 Rock

Sometimes, it’s nice to take a break from excellent, but depressing dramas and sit down and watch something that makes you laugh. 30 Rock is one such show, and it’s one of the best comedies to emerge from the 2000s. Focusing on the head creator of a fictional TV show, played by the always funny Tina Fey, 30 Rock is a great comedy show because it never takes itself too seriously, allowing the show’s writers to have fun and be clever by creating a show about making television. In addition to Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan are unforgettable in their roles as Tina Fey’s co-workers. 30 Rock, for whatever reason, was never that popular with audiences, but it garnered huge critical acclaim and multiple Emmy awards throughout its run.

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18. You

For anyone who still thought of Penn Badgley as the charming, yet worst friend ever Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl, be ready to see him in a whole new light in YOU. The series is one of the most buzzed about in recent years thanks to Badgley’s creepy and intriguing performance that has had fans absolutely captivated. The dark and unsettling subject matter is set off by a very entangled storyline, and many can’t stop watching because they simply have to know what will happen next!

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17. Doctor Who

This entry is a bit of a cheat, considering Doctor Who is still on the air, but there is such a massive backlog of seasons that it’s the perfect show to start binge-watching. While at first glance Doctor Who seems to be an insurmountable titan in terms of the viewing commitment required (the show has 50 years-worth of programming), it is not necessary for new viewers to start at the very beginning. The best place to start is the modern era of Doctor Who, which was introduced in 2005. There have been 7 seasons since then, with an 8th on the way, making Doctor Who a great show to get invested in. The adventures of the time-travelling Doctor are not for everyone (its distinctly British tone and style may put off some viewers), but it’s worth a look for anyone seeking a different kind of television experience.

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16. The Office

Building off what was started by comedian Ricky Gervais in his original U.K. edition of The Office, the American version quickly established itself as one of the most original and funny comedies of its time. Focusing on a paper company office branch in Pennsylvania led by the well-meaning but inept boss Michael Scott (played by Steve Carrell), The Office helped popularize cringe-comedy and a documentary style of filming. The Office was popular with viewers because it tapped into a deep-seated dislike of the drudgery of the common workplace shared by many Americans. Fortunately, while The Office frequently reveled in the pathos of its underachieving characters, it just as often showed them having fun at work, leading to many quotable lines and hilarious moments. While it declined in its later seasons, The Office is still worth watching, especially considering the impact it had on comedy television.

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15. Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge absolutely swept the 2019-2020 awards show for the British comedy-drama Fleabag which she not only created and wrote, but also stars in! Waller-Bridge based the series off of her one-woman show that she began in 2013, and since its premiere in 2016, it has been devoured and loved by fans from all demographics. Even those who are not normally drawn to comedy-dramas have praised the show for its smart, somewhat dark humor and of course Waller-Bridge’s outstanding performance. Fleabag is certainly not a series to miss out on.

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14. 24

When 24 premiered in late 2001, it did so right on the heels of the September 11th terrorist attacks, which was actually in the show’s favor as 24 tapped into a cultural appetite for entertainment that reinforced pro-American ideals like freedom and safety, which at the time seemed to be in danger of being lost. Kiefer Sutherland stars as a counter-terrorist agent who has to stop national threats. 24 was an innovative series, as each season took place over the course of one day, with each episode happening in real-time, hour-to-hour. While this device required a certain suspension of disbelief (it was hard to believe that so many things could happen in 1 day), it was ultimately successful as it heightened the show’s tension. With nine seasons, it is a gripping show to dive into.

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13. Futurama

Co-creator Matt Groening of The Simpsons fame brought this show to air all the way back in 1999 where it aired for four seasons until its cancellation in 2003. Fortunately, the series was resurrected by Comedy Central in 2007, leading to several TV movies and three more full seasons. Futurama focuses on the exploits of an inter-planetary delivery crew in the year 3000, and much of the enjoyment of the show is seeing the frequently-creative ways the show imagines the future. Suicide booths, robots that run on alcohol, and a Harlem Globetrotters team that literally travels from planet-to-planet are just a few of the ridiculous things viewers will encounter.

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12. Hell’s Kitchen

For those who are more reality TV fans with just the right amount of drama than Hell’s Kitchen is definitely one to check out. Hell’s Kitchen has become one of the most popular food-based series on television, and Gordon Ramsay is widely regarded as the man who launched the popularity of cooking competition series. With nearly 20 seasons completed, there is more than enough of Hell’s Kitchen available for a truly extended binge-watching session. Plus it doesn’t get much better than watching Ramsay call contestants “donkeys” or “idiot sandwiches.”

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11. Luther

A BBC-produced police drama starring acclaimed British actor Idris Elba in the title role, Luther should appeal to anyone who finds American police procedurals too bland and predictable (but fans of these types of shows would also do well to check it out). John Luther is a brilliant London detective, but his brilliance is hindered by personal demons that threaten to interfere with his job performance. The main draw of this series is its commitment to gritty, harrowing crime drama and the central relationship between Luther and sociopathic murderer Alice, whom he can’t legally prove committed any crime. Luther is a quick watch, having only 20 episodes across five seasons, but this brevity makes it all the more watchable, especially considering the plotlines can get downright depressing.

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10. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

If you are in need of a little less drama and a little more “laugh out loud” humor than Brooklyn Nine-Nine is definitely worth a binge watch. The beloved cop comedy series has an absolutely fantastic cast that has you invested in every character and every storyline. The humor is truly funny but also smart and catchy. Plus, the show is so addicting that if you decide to watch it won’t be surprising if you get sucked right into binging it.

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9. The Shield

Yes, The Shield is yet another police drama, but it’s one of the best ever made. Focusing on Detective Vic Mackey and his corrupt but effective LAPD strike team, The Shield explores the ethics of crime fighting and how far some cops are willing to go to get results. The Shield is in the tradition of other popular programs like Breaking Bad that feature anti-heroes that you can’t help but root for, even if their actions are sometimes despicable. Each season builds on the last, as Mackey and his team become further mired in the numerous crimes they commit to stay ahead of the internal affairs team that are looking to bring them down. The Shield is thrilling, brutal, and one of the best cop shows of all time.

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8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

One of the biggest cult shows of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a devoted fan base and was the show that made creator Joss Whedon (of The Avengers fame) a household name in geek circles. At first glance, Buffy seems like a straightforward teen drama that just happens to feature vampire slayers and demons, but it’s really an ensemble drama featuring a diverse cast of interesting characters. The best part about this show is that it gives equal consideration to male and female characters – even characters that seem poorly-written at first, like popular, ditzy Cordelia, are revealed to be more complex than they first appear. Seven seasons of Buffy were made, and the show was so popular that a spin-off series, Angel, was also created (and is also worth a look).

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7. Boy Meets World

A little dose of nostalgia is exactly what is needed sometimes and there is no better show to turn to than Boy Meets World. The iconic series ran for seven seasons from 1993 to 2000 and brought fans life lessons, lots of laughs and some truly heartfelt moments. Boy Meets World might seem a little cheesy by today’s standards, but it is an easy-watch and more than worth it for the many classic Eric Matthews’ lines. Disney+ of course has many great nostalgic Disney Channel shows, but Boy Meets World is one to definitely binge-watch.

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6. The West Wing

It’s hard to find a better political drama than The West Wing, especially when its premise deals with the highest office in the USA. With an all-star cast including Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe, The West Wing ran for seven years, spanning the end of the Clinton era and almost the entire Bush administration period. As written by famous screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing was an optimistic depiction of American politics, as its characters were largely aspirational, which is a separation from the jaded, corrupt political landscape in which it was written. Garnering multiple Emmy nominations and awards, The West Wing is frequently cited as one of the best shows of the 2000s. Anyone looking for a thought-provoking political drama cannot afford to miss this show.

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5. Friday Night Lights

A high school drama focused on a small town Texas football team, Friday Night Lights is the rare sports-focused show that can appeal to those who don’t even like football or sports in general. That’s because Friday Night Lights is, at its heart, a character-driven drama; the football focus is just the delivery method. In truth, Friday Night Lights is one of the best portraits of small-town American living ever done on TV. For most of the show’s characters, football is the only thing they have and often the only hope they have of breaking free of their small-town existence. Friday Night Lights was in danger of cancellation throughout its run, but luckily 5 fantastic seasons were created.

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4. Lost (2004-2010)

One of the most popular and significant television programs of the last decade, Lost’s mysterious and mind-bending premise captivated millions and, many of its plot points have become pop culture touchstones (who doesn’t remember the mystery of the hatch or the infamous numbers, not to mention the polar bear?). Lost had its highs and lows, particularly in the 3rd season, where it became apparent that the writers didn’t really know where they were going. Luckily, things picked up again in the 4th season, where the show transitioned from a mystery thriller to a drama with full-on sci-fi tropes like time travel. Many fans are divided on some of the directions the show took, but it’s still one of the most interesting and original TV shows of the last decade.

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3. The Wire

Widely considered to be one of the best television shows ever made, HBO’s The Wire is a crime drama that depicts the conflict between the Baltimore drug scene and law enforcement. Known for its realism and intricate plotting, it’s hard to find another show quite like The Wire. Many critics have noted that The Wire is very literary in nature, like a novel unfolding on the screen, and it’s not hard to see why. The show was ambitious with its storytelling, with each season progressing to different aspects of the city of Baltimore, from the drug trade to the school system, contributing to a deeply complex portrait of inner-city life. The Wire’s lofty and ambitious premise will not appeal to every viewer, but those with a discerning eye who crave deep storytelling will be hard-pressed to do better.

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2. Battlestar Galactica

A reboot of the late 1970s television show of the same name, Battlestar Galactica enjoyed critical praise and a loyal fan-following over the course of its four season run. A science-fiction program with a gritty realism aesthetic, Battlestar Galactica, or BSG for short, tells the story of the crew of the space vessel Galactica, which carries the last surviving humans after the Cylons, a group of robots they created, commits genocide on the human colonies. Full of complex moral issues such as terrorism, race relations, and the aforementioned genocide, BSG established itself as a series willing to tackle hard-to-answer questions, while depicting thrilling human (and sometimes not human) drama in space. It is essential viewing for anyone with even the remotest interest in sci-fi.

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1. Breaking Bad

It’s difficult to call any show a “must-watch” considering that no TV show is going to appeal to everyone. With that in mind, everyone should at least give Breaking Bad a chance, as it is one of the very best shows ever made. Detailing the rise and fall of Walter White, a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher turned crystal meth dealer as a result of a terminal cancer diagnosis. The crowning achievement of the recent anti-hero genre of television, Breaking Bad is practically essential viewing for anyone who loves dramatic television. Each season further ups the stakes as Walt gets deeper into the drug trade and his own personal downward spiral into a full-blown villain. With a mix of smart plotting, excellent characters, a unique visual style, and dark comedy, Breaking Bad is simply the number 1 show that you have to binge-watch.

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