What I Watched: Binge-worthy Television

Living alone, I often have something—music, the news, a podcast, sometimes even an audiobook—running in the background as I putz around doing chores, making dinner, or whatever it is I’m up to at the moment. I enjoy a bit of quiet alone time now and then, but more often than not, I prefer to have something  on. It makes the space feel less empty, I suppose, but it’s also a great way to fit in something entertaining or edifying or maybe both.

Working from home these days, I find that I’m consuming more content than ever. I sit at my dining room table for hours on end, plugging away at whatever client work is top of the list, and I usually have some television series streaming while I do. 

This is not when I’m watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones or something, of course. If it’s TV I’m really invested in, or a film I’m dying to see, I set aside the time to actually watch. But when I’m drafting a press release or following up on pitch emails or building out social media schedules, having a show on to keep me entertained while I do it is a perfect way to make the tasks—and the time—fly by.

Here are a few of my favorites these days:

Somebody Feed Phil – I’ve talked about this one a lot. Here and here, and I wrote a whole post about it here. You’ll want to watch this one through once; after that, it’s great to circle back to and have on in the background. Every episode is filled with incredible destinations and food to match; there’ll be a breathtaking view or delicious-looking place on screen every time you look up from your work. What’s more, Phil Rosenthal is an absolutely joy to spend time with, making this one a feel-good favorite. Watch it (and I’ll Have What Phil’s Havingon Netflix.

You’re the Worst – This one may not be for everyone, but if you’re of a certain (younger) demographic and still fighting your way through the jungle that is dating in 2018, it’s a must-watch. The series revolves around Jimmy and Gretchen, two fairly horrible people (though really, they’re not) who end up falling for each other in a complicated, messy world. They’ve each got their baggage, for sure, and the plot lines teeter on the absurd once you loop in their best friends. But the way in which the show balances big laughs with genuine conversations around depression, identity, adulthood and love is what makes this one a modern marvel. Watch it on Hulu.

Peaky Blinders – If, like me, you have a soft spot for great gangster stories (doesn’t everyone watch The Godfather trilogy at least once a year?), you must, must, must watch British import Peaky Blinders. Starring Cillian Murphy, one of the best (and most gorgeous) actors of our generation, the show is set in 1920s Birmingham, where war hero Tommy Shelby (Murphy) runs a crime family of Irish gypsies who make their money in gambling, racing, liquor and the like. It’s a lush, epic show that plays more like hour-long films than television episodes; there are four seasons now, with a fifth in the works. And it can’t get here soon enough. Watch it on Netflix.

Master Chef Junior – I am not big on cooking shows or reality television. The exception, of course, is my obsession with The Great British Baking Show. For the longest time, I assumed that would be the only reality cooking show I’d make time for. Then I discovered Master Chef Junior, and I was forced to add it to my list of non-threatening, delicious competition shows worth watching. Like its grown-up counterpart Master Chef, the show brings in a new brood of young home cooks each season and pits them against each other in cooking challenges until one is crowned the winner. Unlike that version with adults, however, the show is less about undercutting the competition and doing whatever it takes to win and more about those essential lessons we learn as kids but all too often forget as we age: trying our best, keeping a positive attitude, being a good sport and cheering each other on. Watch it on Hulu.

Episodes – This show is about as wonderful as bingeing on your favorite bag of potato chips. Every single episode is wonderful—sharp and hilarious—that you can’t help but stick around for the next one. And they go by so quickly, you’ll be sad when you reach the end, which will come more quickly than you think. It’s a Showtime series that ran from 2011 to 2017, just five seasons with around nine episodes each; they could make five more seasons and I’d watch them all. The premise finds successful British TV writers (and spouses) Sean and Beverly Lincoln imported to Hollywood to recreate their smash show. Of course, LA has its way with their ideas and soon, the show is so “Americanized” it looks nothing like the original and it stars TV’s Joey, Matt LeBlanc. LeBlanc essentially playing himself is one of the many great gags of a smart, witty show. Watch it on Netflix.

I’ve gone through plenty more shows than these, of course. I watched all of Cheers over the course of a month or so (Netflix), and I finally caught up with Silicon Valley (HBONow), which is so spot-on about tech start-up culture it’s scary/hilarious (scilarious?). I got through all of Homeland (Hulu), though if I never have to look at Claire Dane’s quivering chin while she cries again it’ll be too soon. I tried keeping up with Westworld, but it proved too confusing to stick with into season 2, so instead I’m re-watching Game of Thrones for the umpteenth time before the final season starts next year.

What shows have you watched lately?