At this point, binge-watching is a lifestyle. There is nothing quite like hunkering down on the couch for a long Sunday of endlessly binge-watching everything On Demand, Netflix, HBO, and Amazon have to offer. From shocking thrillers to light-hearted comedies, there’s no shortage of binge material and in fact, many shows are written to accommodate our new favorite pastime. As it turns out, though, there are some shows you just really shouldn’t binge-watch.
That sounds blasphemous in 2018, but hear us out. There’s something to be said for nuance, which is easy to miss when you front load an entire season of episodes in one day. There’s also something nice about taking time between episodes to really absorb what you just saw and to discuss the plot using actual words out loud to real-life human beings! Some shows, like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, are just made for binging. Others? Not so much. From Bloodline to Broadchurch, here are 16 TV shows you should take your time watching.
Here’s the odd thing about Bloodline. If you take it at face value, it is designed to hook people in for marathon binge sessions. In the first episode, we are introduced to a tragedy and to the fact that the cause of that tragedy will eventually be revealed. From there, the show is meant to give us a chase, leaving us running from episode to episode to figure it all out. But while the major plot line is certainly one that’s binge-worthy, there is a more subtle B-plot that’s worth considering: the devolution of a family. When it comes to appreciating their collective downfall, nuance is key. If you binge, you miss out on the winning substance of the series.
15. Black Mirror
Black Mirror is a heavy one. The anthology series is packed to the brim with disturbing plots about the state of technology today and its future that are sometimes a little too on-the-nose. Basically, it’s a disturbing look into what could lie ahead. For that reason, it can weigh pretty heavily on the viewer. Beyond its psychological thrill, though, there is the fact that every episode of this show brings something new to the table — something that warrants discussion between stunned college roommates and couples curled up on the couch.
14. The Twilight Zone
A lot of what makes The Twilight Zone a show you should stop and sit with is similar to what makes Black Mirror one of those shows. While not as inherently existentially threatening as its newer counterpart, The Twilight Zone broaches social subjects that remain relevant today and open up a lot of conversation. Plus, it’s just plain weird.
13. Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks, and particularly its first 1990s iteration, is another one that, like Black Mirror, you’d be better off sitting with for a bit. There’s so much going on in the plot (which frankly, was a ballsy one to present to ’90s TV viewers) that deserves discussion. After all, speaking things out loud can commit them to memory, and that’s a pretty huge part of fully appreciating this bizarre thriller.
12. This Is Us
And the winner for Best Punch-You-In-The-Gut Series goes to… This Is Us. If you’re anything like the rest of America, then you’ve grown unhealthily attached to Jack, Kate, Kevin, Randall, Beth, and the rest of the This Is Us crew. Attached as you may be, however, waiting a few weeks and then catching up all at once via On Demand is ill-advised, unless you’re someone who likes being kicked when they’re down and sobbing into oblivion. In that case, binge away. What we’d really recommend is watching it the way it was meant to be watched – one forty-five minute episode weekly. It’s just a better way to keep all those feels under control.
11. The X-Files
While The X-Files is certainly a great show, there are some episodes that are downright hard to get through. This is another case of a serial TV drama not translating well to the Netflix binge-watch format. Some episodes you just have to trudge through for the sake of perpetuating a narrative arc that’s better suited to a long-standing show than a season-by-season, short-lived Netflix original. That can make the binge life feel kind of exhausting.
With the advent of Netflix, we Americans have been given access to what is arguably one of the best bits of television out there: the art of British crime drama. Unlike our Stateside crime shows, like SVU, British dramas like Broadchurch take one case and spin it into a thrilling drama that spans an entire season instead of tackling a new one every episode. Because Broadchurch is such a wild ride, you’re better off savoring it. Plus, it’s one of those shows that, if you binge it, you get to the end and think, “Holy crap. How did I miss that?” So don’t! Don’t miss anything. Watch the episodes one at a time and try to super-sleuth your way to the conclusion. It’s more fun that way. (Plus, it’s no longer running, which is truly depressing.)
9. Game of Thrones
If you’re like anyone else who didn’t hop on the Game of Thrones bandwagon until seasons later, then you probably know exactly how it feels to binge this HBO hit. In a word, terrible. Remembering all those names and places is hard enough, and it’s compounded by the fact that they’re names like Daenerys Targaryan. If everyone had names like Bill and Susan, life would be much easier. But alas, they don’t, so to get the most out of everyone’s favorite fantasy drama, just take it easy on yourself and move slowly.
8. Anything in The Arrowverse
While DC Comics never really took off on the big screen like Marvel did, the former has carved out a cozy little place on TV that attracts millions of viewers. Shows like Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, and Supergirl all exist in what is called the Arrowverse or CW’s Multiverse. Because we love a good crossover, there are tons of crossover moments among the many series, which means that spoilers abound if you binge-watch all of one series before moving onto the other. Be strategic in your viewing and watch them in the order in which they appear on TV.
7. The Wire
Given that we as a society are getting more social justice-minded by the second, topically relevant shows like The Wire are must-watch TV. While retaining the same characters, The Wire approaches a new topic each season in the city of Baltimore. Because the show brings up so many relevant social issues, it’s important that we use all of this great material to discuss similar problems that pop up in real life. A binge session isn’t really conducive to that.
6. Six Feet Under
While not as popular as other shows on this list, HBO’s Six Feet Under is a drama about one family that runs a funeral home as they, in a subtly ironic twist, try to parse out the meaning of life. In short, the show is just heavy. It’s emotionally draining and brings up a lot of existential issues we’ll all have to contend with at one point or another. Grappling with mortality is exhausting business, so it’s best to take all that in slowly.
5. Mad Men
There are two very different camps on the Mad Men front. One side sees it as a feat of modern television. The other just doesn’t understand the hype. Binge culture could be to blame for that. Unlike binge-friendly shows with distinct, forward-moving plots that leave us hurriedly running into the next episode until the season is through, Mad Men is more of a slow burn. It’s a show about life in a specific time. Life doesn’t always come with perfect narrative arcs that drive episode after episode, which is why this show is best watched in small chunks. Anything beyond that can feel like drudgery.
Hannibal got a lot of flack upon its release for the fact that it appears to be riding on the coat tails of a franchise that fascinates us to this day, but this contemporary take on Dr. Lecter has a ton of merit all on its own. It’s well-acted, well-written, and really engaging. The downside? It is so psychologically disturbing that it makes Criminal Minds seem like child’s play. It’s best consumed in small doses.
This is yet another triumph of the British crime drama model, though it never built up quite as much traction as shows like Broadchurch and Luther. Because there are two major plot lines in Marcella — the downfall of the protagonist’s personal life and the heinous crime she’s out to solve — there are a lot of narrative nuances that are missed when you keep hitting “next episode.” The inner workings of Marcella’s mind very much factor into her professional approach, so it’s important to have a handle on both.
Ah, Sherlock. After the first stellar season, the Benedict Cumberbatch-led detective drama looked like it was slated for greatness. Sadly, however, the show went downhill from there according to critics and diehard fans. For that reason alone, you shouldn’t binge this one. Savor every twisted, complex episode of the first season before running through the last ones. Thank us later.
Foreign-language series Dark ended up being a runaway success on Netflix, and like Bloodline, it is set up to drive the binge. That said, the plot is so fascinating and rich that it warrants a slower approach. It gets pretty complex toward the middle and end when you figure out that we’re dealing with a space-time continuum shakeup. Time travel is tough to wrap your brain around, so do yourself a favor and get the most out of this show by taking your time. That way, the big reveal at the end will leave you feeling amazed and satisfied instead of confused and stupefied. As much as we all love a good binge-watch sesh, there really is something to be said for doing things the old-fashioned way every now and then. Sometimes, you just really shouldn’t binge at all.