The Unofficial Binge-able TV Show Rankings

As we work to navigate the newfound realities of the recent COVID-19 global-crisis, “social distancing” and self-quarantining have become a necessity for people of all ages. With this major shift in day-to-day life, those in isolation are likely going to find themselves much more free time for in-home activities. Some may find themselves doing puzzles, reading books, play video games… or more than likely – pull up their preferred streaming service’s queue and go to town on a number of movies and TV shows.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably gone into the Netflix app or website, and clicked through options endlessly for 10-20 minutes, looking for the perfect option that seems just out of reach. With more time on your hands at home, nights and weekends have become prime-time for some serious binge-watching behavior. I’ve compiled a top 5 list of my personal recommendations for what you should (or should not) binge during these trying times.

1. Not ‘The Office’

Listen, I get it – you love the office, and I assure you, so do I. I picked it up while it was airing toward the end of Season 2, and saw the show all the way through to it’s underwhelming close. I’ve seen it all the way through 5ish times. I can officially say I’m a proponent of once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. It’s not worth binging through on multiple occasions.

Not to get too off-topic or preach-y, but you deserve better than just re-watching the same TV comedy countless times. That being said, on a first-watch, ‘The Office’ episodes are mostly timeless, with a few exceptions (‘Scott’s Tots’ is literally unwatchable, and most episodes where the plot is totally centered around Andy were flops – ‘Get The Girl’, ‘Angry Andy’, ‘Welcome Party’). 

The message is simple, your options are endless! Watch something new and absorb it. Pretend you’re a television critic looking to provide some publicly demanded in-depth coverage to Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy. Watch that for the first time instead of ‘The Office’ for the 15th. 

For the few that have somehow never watched ‘The Office’ in-full, or close to it, you should definitely consider this as an option to kill some time while in quarantine. The first 7 seasons are very strong. Plus, season 8 is underrated based on the common perception that the show dies off when Michael Scott leaves. Technically #SpoilerAlert, but c’mon if you didn’t know that by now you probably don’t care. Robert California is a very meme-able character that aged VERY well. Episodes are perfect for passive-watching, and tame at a PG-13 compared to other contemporary comedies that are far more provocative. 

For anyone who has seen this series before – basically every television show is on a streaming service, (except for shows on your local Public Access Television – which are probably bizarre, but underrated and pretty entertaining) – you, as a television viewer have never been more empowered than you are right now. Embrace that power and watch something new!

How long are episodes? How many seasons? Where can I stream?

If you’ve seen it before, especially within the past 3-5 years – I once again recommend against re-watching with so many other options out there, BUT episodes are ~20 mins long, with 9 seasons (for a total of 201 episodes) available on Netflix (until the end of 2020 at last report

One scene to sell you on the show: https://youtu.be/a7RoP1LKMeM

2. ‘The Sopranos’

This might be too obvious, but it needs to be said. Arguably the best television drama EVER, this show needs to be on the list. Watching Tony Soprano navigate his universe is enthralling, as much as it is contagious. I’m 100% a different person when I’m in the process of watching ‘The Sopranos’, and I love that. It literally consumes me to the degree that I feel like I’m obligated to think and act like a Soprano. 

Minor tangent: In my opinion, that sensation of the viewer to take on the characteristics of the protagonist (or anti-hero) is the highest praise to a show or movie’s character. Honorable mentions to Don Draper (Mad Men), Frank Underwood (House of Cards – Kevin Spacey is #cancelled but Frank Underwood was absolutely electric on the first watch through), and Bobby Axelrod (Billions) for similarly intoxicating roles. 

Back to ‘The Sopranos’! This is not news. But, if you haven’t seen it from start to finish, and consider yourself as having a high-brow taste in television shows; it’s a top-tier binge watch option. Full disclosure, it’s something you can watch with only requiring about 60-75% of your attention. Not quite to the level of a Game of Thrones, but 

How long are episodes? How many seasons? Where can I stream?

Episodes are ~50 mins long, with 6 seasons (for a total of 86 episodes) available on HBO’s streaming platforms.

One scene to sell you on the show: https://youtu.be/Hqp1bGuiHHs

3. ‘Shameless’

I feel like the majority of people I know may have already seen ‘Shameless’. But, for those that have not – this is an excellent binge-worthy option. Just blatantly vulgar and overly sexual, I fear for the future teachers of any children who catch more than a glimpse of this show. This is the sort of content that parental controls on Netflix were designed for.

Each character within the family that the show is focused on has their own very unique subplot to follow – making for a whirlwind of a show. While one of the major subplots is a little too similar to ‘Good Will Hunting’, which felt corny. But, overall, for a show with such a fast-pace, it’s an impressively honest and emotional watch that deserves the attention it gets. 

The beauty of this show is not the acting (which is solid), nor the plot, and not even the blatant vulgarity! It’s the ease of which one can watch this. It’s perfect for passive-watching, where you read some news articles, clean your house, play with your dog, etc. without feeling like you’re missing out on some huge moment (i.e. Game of Thrones, Westworld, etc.)

How long are episodes? How many seasons? Where can I stream?

Episodes are ~50 mins long, with 9 seasons (for a total of 110 episodes) currently available on Netflix. You can find season 10 (with 12 more episodes) on Showtime’s SHO streaming platform.

One scene to sell you on the show: https://youtu.be/BcqNOzfHCvs

4. ‘Billions’

This show already mentioned briefly (due to the ELECTRIC pace and tenacity of one of the main characters, Bobby Axelrod), is my choice as the best currently airing TV show that could seize the attention of the masses in a few years when they announce their final season.

The rapid pace of this show is an understatement. Episodes are like television’s form of Red-Bull. They cause an increased heart-rate and a longing to take up day-trading as a means to ridiculous wealth. The show is loosely based on the real-life back and forth between a billionaire hedge fund manager and US Attorney. While it’s certainly a show that takes a bit more of your attention/focus than ‘The Office’, or ‘Shameless’, it’s enthralling and a show that I found sending me into the wee hours of a night, fighting my better judgment and sleepy eyes to consume just one more episode before I fell asleep.

The dynamic between the main 2 characters while they flip-flop between roles as protagonist and antagonist is the main draw. On top of that, the peripheral characters add flair. Plus, there’s a ton of great one-line quips to use on your friends.

How long are episodes? How many seasons? Where can I stream?

Episodes are ~55 mins long, with 4 seasons so far (for a total of 48 episodes) available on Showtime, and Hulu. 

One scene to sell you on the show: https://youtu.be/Us2ilqf4qWI

5. ‘Succession’

Another HBO show, but one that is only 2 seasons deep, giving you ample time to hop on the train before it’s THE show that captivates the masses, and warranting an entire conversation about the previous night’s episode on Monday mornings at your office’s proverbial water-cooler. 

‘Succession’ takes the viewer into the world of a billionaire family empire of a global media and hospitality conglomerate. With many critics noting some parallels to the Murdochs (but no official admittance of this being based on any wealthy family’s business empire), there’s a bit of satirical spite directed at the dysfunction of a family-run multinational corporation. The power-struggles that ensue within the show are entertaining and ever-fluid, almost like a ‘House of Cards’, within a corporate environment. This is overlooked after a 1st season that started sort of slow. But it built up for an exhilarating finish that took us into an excellent 2nd season. It’s topped off with a rewarding, yet shocking season finale. 

While I wasn’t a film major or expert in theatrical performances in college, the acting in ‘Succession’ is incredible. From top to bottom, I genuinely love this cast so much for what they each bring to the show. The seemingly serious tone of the show sets the stage for some one-liners to be laugh out loud funny, in a series that falls under the satirical comedy-drama genre. The show is meme-able enough that a totally non-affiliated ‘No Context Succession’ Twitter Account has over 50,000 followers.

I said this before regarding ‘Billions’ but ‘Succession’ also has the potential to be the next ‘Game of Thrones’-level show where a few years down the road, the whole world watches together as the series comes to a much-anticipated close. 5th on my list, but #1 in my heart, I implore you to give ‘Succession’ a chance.

How long are episodes? How many seasons? Where can I stream?

Episodes are ~60 mins long, but only 2 seasons so far (for a total of 20 episodes) available on HBO’s streaming platforms. 

One scene to sell you on the show: https://youtu.be/0y4zBrBsUxY

Comment or @ me on Twitter to tell me why I’m wrong (or right) about the above abbreviated list!

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-Mike Gilligan (@BigGilli, and @SmallStateTakes Podcast) – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/small-state-big-takes/id1432138166

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