Did you know that we humans are actually wired for binge-watching? Well, to be more specific, we are designed to enjoy story-telling because it allows us to experience empathy. We’re able to understand different scenarios and viewpoints in this way, and marathoning episodes of a particular show allows us to escape into narrative for an extended period of time. According to a study conducted on behalf of Netflix, 73% of Americans indulge in binge-viewing on a regular basis, which just means watching multiple episodes in a sitting. They often enjoy viewing shows with others, and 37% of those surveyed would often delay watching a new show so they could stream it later. Wait a week for a new episode? Madness!
When it comes to your viewing entertainment, you need have no guilt if you prefer to consume your media in a lavish feast rather than little bites. And though we’ve all engaged in a TV marathon involving the couch, a blankie, and cookie crumbs strewn over our pajamas (if you haven’t, just shush), this doesn’t have to be a sedentary activity. Nothing like a good show to get you through an elliptical torture session workout.
So, now that we’ve validated you, here are our staff picks for shows to marathon:
Seasons: 1 (partial – 14 episodes)
Aired: 2002 (Follow-up movie, Serenity: 2005)
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Sean Maher, Jewel Staite, Morena Baccarin, Ron Glass
Nanea Hoffman says: If you love futuristic sci-fi westerns full of adventure, humor, and fantastic characters, you’ll love this show set 500 years in the future. You’ll also hate Fox for cancelling it midway through its first and only season, but if you watch these episodes, you’ll understand why a huge fanbase (we call ourselves Browncoats) sprung up around this fictional universe and why that fanbase was so insanely dedicated that they managed to get a movie made three years after the show had been cancelled. You’ll both love and curse Joss Whedon for making you care so much about the motley crew of this Firefly class starship. Our own Barbara Sirois Doyle has introduced her tween-aged sons to it so they can learn that life is both awesome and full of pain. Enjoy.
Aired: 2009 – 2013
Starring: Aidan Turner, Russell Tovey and Sinead Keenan (Series 1 -3) Lenora Crichlow (Series 1 – 4) Damian Molony, Michael Socha and Kate Bracken (Series 4 – 5)
Barbara Sirois Doyle says: If you love supernatural dramas with deeply realized and authentic characters you will love this show.
A vampire and a werewolf rent a house and find that it’s haunted by the world’s sweetest ghost. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? Turns out that while there are some moments worth chuckling over, this is actually a surprisingly warm and engaging series about three misfits who find the connection that they yearn for in each other. The performances are genuine and ring true, especially from Turner, Tovey and Molony, and the writing is strong. It’s easy to make a supernatural character into a caricature, stripping them of any depth. Thankfully, these all-too-terrifying monsters are incredibly human, with layers and nuance and moments hilarious and heartbreaking. I miss these guys. You will too.
Aired: 2011 to 2014
Starring: Sam Witwer, Sam Huntington, Meaghan Rath and Kristen Hager
Barbara Sirois Doyle says: If you love the stories and tone of the UK counterpart with a decidedly US vibe you will love this show.
As a rule, I am not a fan of US remakes of UK series. I greedily watched the first three seasons of the UK version of Being Human just a few days before the premiere of the US series, and when I heard that the first few episodes were essentially the same scripts I was dubious. What saved it? The chemistry between the three leads, especially between the two Sams. Witwer and Huntington (a personal favorite actor of mine) took their version of the show in directions both familiar and new, retaining most of the endearing traits of their UK counterparts while adding their own interpretation of their strengths and flaws. The ending of the series was very different than it was in the UK, and I found it deeply touching. I’m glad I overcame my aversion and learned to care for this supernatural trio almost as much as I loved their counterparts from across the pond. (Bonus? Mark Pellegrino as a big bad. As always, he’s delicious.)
Aired: 1998 – 2006
Starring: Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kuni, Aston Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Wilmer Valderrama, Debra Jo Rupp, Kurtwood Smith
Jessica Hancock says: If you love: 8-tracks, feathered hair, shag carpet, and the care-free attitude that comes with bell bottoms, then this is your jam. Set in Point Place, Wisconson during the 1970’s, you follow a group of teens who are just trying to make it in a small town. Deep (smoky) discussions conducted in the ever popular circle style, the local water tower, high school life, and some pretty free-love hatin’ parents are just a few things you get to enjoy all over again. Learn to live while riding around in your first car, kissing the girl next door, and pondering the wonders of your future with your friends in Eric Forman’s (Topher Grace) basement. The beginning years for this all-star cast will have you laughing, crying, and wishing you owned a Vista Cruiser.
Aired: 2000 to 2007
Starring: Lauren Graham & Alexis Bledel
Shandle Blaha says: If you love super smart dialogue, pop culture references, and COFFEE, Gilmore Girls is for you. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll make you wish you had Lorelei as a mom and Rory as a daughter. Also: if you’re a fan of Supernatural, you should watch a young and dreamy Jared Padalecki in his first big role. The writing is fast and witty and the characters are perfectly quirky.
Aired: 1997 to 2002
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Allyson Hannigan, Anthony Head, Charisma Carpenter, James Marsters
Nanea Hoffman says: If you love badass heroines, snarky dialogue, rich character development, epic good vs. evil battles, and vampires who don’t sparkle, you’ll love Buffy. You’ll follow the exploits of Buffy Summers, cheerleader turned vampire slayer turned savior of the world, and her gang of faithful Scoobies. This is the show that made Joss Whedon (Avengers) famous and created an entire legion of devoted fans.
7. Breaking Bad
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn
Jordan Rosenfeld says: The answer to how many seasons this show had should be: Not enough. Frankly if you are still teetering on the fence about this show, let go, give in, surrender to the sublime writing and acting. If you love characters so strong and complex and layered that you can’t look away even when they do horrible things, if you love edge of your seat drama, and taking a good, hard look inside the truly complex world of meth, this show is for you. But really, it’s all in the acting. Bryan Cranston acts the hell out of this role.
8. House M.D.
Starring: Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard
Jessica Hancock says: If you love the brilliant-minded, quick witted but completely self-destructive protagonists, House is for you. Gregory House is a diagnostic physician who chooses the cases he wants to work. It can be nothing less than completely baffling and misleading or it is not for him. Along with a hand picked team from different medical departments, he works his way through the maze of clues. Manipulating the people around him is his strong suit. Did I mention that the general rules of practice do not apply to him? Not because there are none, but because that is how many fucks he gives. If you enjoy a good medical mystery, inappropriate and dark humor, and gross misconduct in the name of things deemed “necessary,” then you will love to hate the doctor that you will wish was yours.
Seasons: 3 series, 2 movies
Aired : 2008 to 2010, with the movies in 2011 and 2014
Starring: Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, James Buckley, Blake Harrison
Barbara Sirois Doyle says: If you love hilarious, somewhat raunchy coming of age comedies like Superbad you will love this show.
Here’s the thing: I wanted to compare this show to the American Pie movies but it is so. Much. Better. The Inbetweeners are four teenaged boys who are battling their way through a high school mine field of boring, weird teachers, broken (both logistically and emotionally) families, and fellow students, some sexy, some stupid. Simon, the brain, is the voice of the show, and his witty, sardonic narrative is the perfect frame for the misadventures he has with earnest and hapless romantic Simon, dumb but happy Neil, and the super pervy but hilarious Jay. I laughed a lot watching this show, and my husband and I still quote lines from it years later. The movies aren’t nearly as strong, but they do wrap up the series nicely and, if you like the series they are worth a watch. (Side note? Avoid the attempt MTV made at a US remake. It’s too pale to even be a comparison.)
Starring: Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Alexander Gould, Kevin Nealon
Shandle Blaha says: If you love anti-heroes, Nancy Botwin is the original. She’s a weed dealing mother willing to do anything to support her loveable dysfunctional family. If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad you’ll love this more tongue-in-check view of the suburban drug lord world. It’s smart, sexy and full of amazing characters.
11. The West Wing
Aired: 1999 to 2005
Starring: Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Rob Lowe, Richard Schiff, Janel Moloney, Dule Hill
Nanea Hoffman says: If you love fast-paced, snappy dialogue, political drama, admirable but flawed characters, and intriguing plotlines tempered with humor and poignant moments, this is the show for you. This is one of my favorite shows of all time. The lines are some of the best ever written for television (just put on the pilot and tell me if you aren’t hooked) and the opening score will make your heart swell. You’ll fall in love with the characters and also want to shake them hard. You’ll be fascinated and sometimes appalled by the workings of government and inspired by the ideals that drive public service. You’ll wish Jed Bartlett was president in real life. Some of Aaron Sorkin’s finest work.
12. Six Feet Under
Aired: 2001 to 2005
Starring: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall (Before he was Dexter!), Frances Conroy
Jordan Rosenfeld says: If you love big feelings, mind-blowing acting, to laugh, cry, cringe and yell all in one episode, to be reminded of the importance of life through examining our precious mortality, you will enjoy this show, about this dysfunctional California family that runs a funeral home. Darkly comic—but definitely dark at times.
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter and James Remar
Shandle Blaha says: If you love dark and gritty crime shows that keep you on the edge of your seat Dexter is for you. The show mastered the cliffhanger season after season and left you begging for more blood.
14. Black Books
Aired: 2000 – 2004
Starring: Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Tamsin Greig
Barbara Sirois Doyle says: If you love dark comedy with a bitter, angry and utterly hilarious protagonist and an odd couple rapport you will love this show.
I have an undeniable, even unhealthy attraction to the character Bernard Black. I’m sure some psychiatrist would have a field day with that, because he may be the most bitter, hateful, moody character that has ever appeared on television. He is also sharp as a tack and pee-your-pants funny. Bernard owns a bookshop, though he treats it more like a personal library. The shop is unsuccessful, probably because he loathes his customers, hates selling things, and does his best to never interact with others. Manny (the sweet accountant/assistant he hires while drunk) and Bernard’s kooky retail neighbor Fran spend many an episode trying to integrate Bernard into society, and make him into a decent person. Thank God they don’t succeed.
15. Veronica Mars
Aired: 2004 to 2007 (Movie: 2014)
Starring: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni
Nanea Hoffman says: If you love television noir, you’ll enjoy this twist on the genre starring Kristen Bell as a feisty teenaged P.I. who works at her father’s agency. School misfit by day, ass-kicking private detective by night. The dialogue is well-written and full of great one-liners, and the characters have interesting depth for what was sold as a teen drama. You’ll quickly become embroiled in the surprisingly tawdry affairs of small town Neptune, and you’ll fall in love with Veronica. There’s a reason that Marshmallows (Veronica Mars fans) everywhere rejoiced when they finally got a movie, 7 years after the show’s cancellation, that wrapped up the story lines that were left dangling at the end of the 3rd season. Also, the theme song by the Dandy Warhols is one of the catchiest ever.
Is your favorite show to marathon on this list? What did we miss? Let us know in the comments.