As you well know, we’re living in an unprecedented era for TV. No longer do you have to endlessly flip through channels to find something you want to watch—all you need is a laptop and a subscription to a streaming service.
And with it comes the wonderful guilty pleasure of spending hours on the couch eating junk food and watching whole seasons of great shows.
Here are some of the many shows on Netflix worth binge-watching:
Parks and Rec
The best part of Parks and Rec is the characters. From the ambitious, overly optimistic Leslie Knope to the lovable, childlike Andy Dwyer to the stand-offish, breakfast-loving Ron Swanson, the show is full of iconic characters you can’t help but want to be friends with. Parks and Rec ended its final season this spring, and what better way to mourn the loss than to go back and watch from the beginning?
There’s a reason why many critics consider Breaking Bad one of the best TV shows of all-time: Not only is it incredibly acted, shot and paced. It takes the modern hero archetype and turns it on its head. Breaking Bad isn’t about redemption. It’s about consequences. It’s about the slippery slope of sin and the tragedy, heartbreak and destruction that comes when people make the decision to break bad.
With Tina Fey at the helm, 30 Rock is the definition of quick-witted comedy. (Seriously, it has the highest number of jokes per minute of any popular sitcom). Smart, wacky and detailed, 30 Rock is the type of show that moves so fast it’s impossible to catch all the jokes—but you catch more of them with each subsequent watching.
Of the many adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes stories, BBC’s modernized take is among the best. Each season is a series of three beautifully crafted 90-minute movies that stick closely to the original source material in the ways that matter (Sherlock’s obsessive personality, for example), but innovate and update the mysteries to keep viewers on their toes.
Arrested Development‘s genius was not recognized in its time, but perhaps it would have fared better if Netflix had existed when it first aired. With clever running jokes and story arcs that span episodes and even seasons, Arrested Development is the kind of show that’s made for binge-watching.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This new Tina Fey-helmed, Ellie Kemper-starring sitcom isn’t just Netflix’s most successful foray into comedy—it’s the best new sitcom in ages. Kemper is a marvel—a perfect blend of the candy-eyed ball of mirth she played as Erin on The Office with a new, heretofore undiscovered fire and backbone. Give this show some time and it might ascend to heights 30 Rock never did.
If you’ve heard anyone talk about Broadchurch, you’ve probably heard it described as “sad” (more likely, “devastating” or “heartbreaking,” but “sad” works.) That’s true, but it undersells just how powerful this miniseries is. It follows two detectives investigating the murder of a young boy in a small town, but the police procedural takes a backseat to the absolutely searing exploration of just how murder and secrets can tear a community apart. It’s masterfully done, it’s unforgettable and, yes, it’s very sad.
The West Wing
Sure, House of Cards is getting all the attention now. But for fans of political drama, Aaron Sorkin’s early ’00s look at the administration of President Bartlett (played with memorably charming gravitas by Martin Sheen) can’t be beat. The West Wing exists in something of a fantasy world, in which all politicians are noble geniuses looking out for the good of the common man. It may not be entirely accurate, but it’s awfully inspiring to watch.
Friday Night Lights
At this point, there are two kinds of people on Netflix: those who’ve watched Friday Night Lights and those who’ve heard that they really should watch Friday Night Lights. Both kinds of people would do well to binge watch FNL again. Both will find themselves up on their feet, cheering into their television screens, wiping tears from their eyes.
Shows to Make You Smarter:
TEDTalks feature some of the world’s most creative thinkers talking about some of society’s most interesting ideas. Binge-watching lectures from cultural thought leaders may not seem like the easiest way to burn through a couple of hours, but TEDTalks—which are listed in Netflix by a variety of topics—are as entertaining as they are informative.
Neil deGrasse Tyson’s remake of Carl Sagan’s classic educational science miniseries is a mind-bending look at what makes the universe tick. But beyond CGI-voyages on the “Ship of the Imagination” through the far reaches of the galaxy, Tyson looks at the history of science, its intersections with faith and its impact on culture. Not since your third-grade trip to the planetarium has space been this much fun.
Adapting Scripture into a 10-hour dramatic miniseries isn’t an easy task, but the sheer scope of History Channel’s epic journey through the Bible is worth experiencing. The filmmakers spared little expense to bring some of the Bible’s most well-known stories to life. It’s not hard to see why it was one of cable TV’s most successful experiments.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
TV’s bad boy chef isn’t interested in tourist attractions or glamorous resorts. Parts Unknown lives up to its name as Bourdain takes viewers to places like the remote mountains of Columbia, the back alleys of Tokyo and the shores of the Mississippi Delta to sample local cuisine, and immerse himself in the real culture of some of the world’s most unique cities. Netflix viewers are just along for the ride.
Dargan is a former RELEVANT editor turned freelancer. Find her online at darganthompson.com or follow her extremely random train of thought on Twitter @darganthompson.