Written by Jeremy Pewter
It used to be you knew you were really into a TV show because you would eagerly await its airtime once a week. Wednesdays at 7:57 p.m., you knew exactly where you were going to be—sitting on the edge of your couch with a few of your best friends, wearing your favorite fan garb, nothing else between you and the next episode of Lost.
Now, you know you’re really into a TV show because you tell time by how many episodes of it you can watch. For example, you might watch four Game of Thrones episodes before you have to leave for dinner, and your lunch break is one Breaking Bad episode long.
For better or for worse, binge-watching seems here to stay, at least for a while. The good news is you no longer have to wait a week for the resolution of that cliffhanger. The bad news is, you are now not going to be doing anything else with your week. Here are some of the best shows available for binge watching and why you should waste a few weekends catching up on them.
The beauty of binge watching on Netflix is that it allows you to watch an uninterrupted classic series at your leisure—or, more often, at your tireless breakneck pace. Mad Men doesn’t rely on cliffhanger endings to keep you hooked but is just such good television that you easily become addicted to the series.
The quiet, understated acting, the fully formed characters that only get more complex as the show progresses, the gorgeous cinematography and spot-on production design—all of it creates a world you’re more than happy to spend your weekend in. And, more than this, the show has taken on near classic status, entering part of the pop culture mainstream, like the Sopranos before it. If you haven’t already, here’s your chance to catch up on some of the best TV out there.
Cillian Murphy—the man has eyes so blue you could lose yourself in them. Peaky Blinders—the show is so good you could lose a few weeks in it. While it hasn’t quite attained the cult binge-watcher following a few of the other shows on this list have, it only seems a matter of time. The Peaky Blinders audience is building, and if you hop on now, you’re in luck: they're only three seasons so far, so you can manage to catch up in a couple days.
The show takes place in England just after World War I, following the struggles of an Irish gang. The period looks perfect and completely believable, and the show takes the bold step of using contemporary music as its soundtrack, creating an interesting contrast. It is equal parts gruesome and fascinating (well, okay, maybe a little more gruesome) and is well on its way to being the next big deal.
Archer feels sort of like an honest James Bond, only in cartoon form. He is as rude, misogynistic, sex-ed up, and drunk as you would expect the real James Bond to be—all while effortlessly being an amazing spy. He’s also hilarious.
The show keeps this obnoxious, offensive character from becoming too one-note by complementing him with a cast of equally unique and bizarre counterparts, who all regularly and thoroughly take him to task. The episodes have plot lines, yes, and they even connect up to form a loose arc over the course of the season, but undoubtedly the most fun of the show is the characters.
As they develop, you become more familiar with their quirks and habits, and there is nothing the show loves more than taking a gag from a few season ago and bringing it back around, just to see if anyone notices.
As offensive as it is hilarious, Archer is a great guilty pleasure. Don’t be surprised if you breeze through the episodes too quickly and start to wish there were more available. But, don’t worry, you can always start watching them all over again.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
Orange is the New Black is arguably the best show Netflix has produced to date. Not nearly as overblown or operatic as House of Cards, OITNB consistently balances the line between being a show that is funny and a show that is serious, without really trying to seem like either one. Yes, for a prison show it feels surprisingly light, but that’s not to say it washes over the issues or challenges of a prison. And, yes, for a comedy it deals with some pretty heavy issues, but it does so in a way that still leaves you reliably laughing.
Perhaps the boldest move of the show is their choice to step away from the protagonist Piper Chapman. While she still plays an important part throughout, the show seems to acknowledge that if it’s going to be about a woman’s prison in today’s world, it needs to be about more than just a white privileged woman’s experience within that.
Because the other characters are so thoroughly developed (and well performed), this move doesn’t feel forced, but comes across as natural. And, as the show makes this transition, whole new worlds open up for where the plot can go, with some of them being disturbingly dark. OITNB is definitely worth catching up on, if for no other reason than it’s a show that will hopefully be around for some time to come.
This show is the most current darling of binge-watchers everywhere and for very good reason. Imagine ET crossed with a handful of Stephen King novels, all soundtracked by the Halloween score. Only imagine that and make it a few times better. Stranger Things perfectly nails the mid-80s nostalgia tone it aims for, but this alone wouldn’t be enough to make it the remarkable show it is.
It also has some pretty amazing performances, both from the child actors that make up the main band of boys, as well as a surprisingly impressive performance from Winona Ryder. But, above all, the writing and pacing are just remarkable. The show will suck you in almost immediately and not let go until the season ends. It calls each episode a “chapter,” and they do feel much this way, as if the show is really just an 8-hour long film broken up into pieces. It remains to be seen whether the second season will be able to deliver on the high expectations the first season has set, but, for now, clear out your weekend, get your spot on the couch, and enjoy the ride.