After getting key supplies for sheltering in place, the next item on the agenda is figuring out the best shows to binge watch the nights away. And, lucky for us, there are plenty of great shows to finally watch now that we've all got the time in the world.
We've picked a wide variety of shows in here, something for everyone in your household. From seriously gripping dramas to funny comedies, each series has multiple seasons of situations to distract you and keep your minds preoccupied.
- The best Netflix series to watch
- Best streaming services
- This just in: Netflix's Tiger King, explained
All of these shows spark debate and discussion, drawing your minds away from the seemingly never-ending topic of coronavirus concerns, cancelled events and whose turn it is to do the dishes. So, join us on the couch, and let's do what we do best: devour TV.
Looking for more? HBO is making 9 of its best shows (and multiple docuseries/documentaries) of all time free to watch online. The list includes The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Succession, True Blood, McMillion$ and Veep. The freebie offer is available through HBO Now and HBO Go, and begins on Friday, April 3. It will be available "for a limited time," according to TVWire.
Oh, and if these picks seem a little traditional for you, our Netflix hidden gems guide is filled with a strong set of shows and movies that flew in under the radar.
The Good Place
The Good Place is focused on Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), who died as she lived, procuring bottles of margarita mix. In the afterlife, Eleanor meets Michael (Ted Danson), who calls himself an Architect, and lets her know that she was a great enough human that she's made it to The Good Place, and not that other place. If that sounds like a premise that will run out of gas quick, here's the twist: Eleanor knows she doesn't belong here. Over the course of 4 incredibly strong seasons, The Good Place makes you laugh, tricks you into learning about philosophy and also makes you feel a ton of feelings. It even got me to appreciate a relatively simple-minded DJ named Jason who cares more about Blake Bortles than anybody ever should.
This is a great show to binge-watch, and I say that as someone who wasn't the type to binge-watch. I liked to spread shows out, let them breathe. Then, during the week and a half before The Good Place ended, I had the best time inhaling the comedy series. Unlike a lot of sitcoms, each season is practically a movie, providing a long, connected narrative that's perfect for sequential viewing. — Henry T. Casey
Jane the Virgin
When you’re stuck at home facing the same monotonous routine day after day, Jane the Virgin will provide all the zing you need. The acclaimed show, which ran on The CW for five seasons, was based on the Venezuelan telenovela Juana La Virgen. So, it’s chock-full of romance, intrigue, thrills, and insane plot twists.
The series starts with Jane Gloriana Villanueve (Gina Rodriguez) getting accidentally inseminated. Even though she’s dating cop Michael (Brett Dier), she decides to go through with the pregnancy with the support of the biological father, handsome hotelier Rafael (Justin Baldoni). Many wacky hijinks ensue, including a long-lost father, long-lost twins, secret identities, love quadrangles and murder mysteries. But through it all beats a warm and generous heart. This is, first and foremost, a show about the powerful and unshakeable bonds of family. — Kelly Woo
Sometimes, self-care means looking at Timothy Olyphant in a cowboy hat. He looked damn good in one on Deadwood and he takes it to another level in Justified, which ran for six seasons on FX. But unlike Deadwood, Justified fully utilizes Olyphant’s roguish smile, wry line delivery and unending charm.
He stars as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, a quick-shooting lawman who returns to his home state of Kentucky to chase bad guys. Raylan grew up in a backwater town, where his father is a petty criminal and his one time friend, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), robs banks and all kinds of other illegal activities. Justified balances episodic, procedural cases with long-running arcs centered on highly watchable villains (including one played by Margo Martindale). The cast members’ firecracker chemistry, coupled with witty writing, make this series eminently bingeable. — KW
Halt and Catch Fire
While so many people are working from home, straining the capacity of the internet, consider that the internet wasn’t even a thing until the early 1990s. Halt and Catch Fire, a critically-beloved but little watched drama that ran on AMC for four seasons, chronicles the development of personal computers and the eventual creation of the World Wide Web.
Technology entrepreneur Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) teams up with computer engineer Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy) and programmer Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) to create an IBM clone. Later seasons see Cameron and Gordon’s wife Donna (Kerry Bishe) partnering on an early online community, then all four racing to launch search engines. It’s a real kick to get a fictionalized view into the humble, messy origins of what is now an indispensable and ubiquitous part of our lives. — KW
Much like the fabric of our society is tearing away right now, so it does in truly apocalyptic fashion on Battlestar Galactica, Syfy’s reboot that aired for four seasons. The series begins with the destruction of the Twelve Colonies by the android race known as Cylons. Only 50,000 humans survive, escaping on a ragtag fleet of space vessels led by the eponymous military ship.
While that sounds like bleak viewing for the current situation, BSG is really about how these humans band together, form a new society and survive. The cast is great from top to bottom, but the standouts are Edward James Olmos as Commander Bill Adama and Mary McDonnell as President Laura Roslin. The show offers an exciting and propulsive mix of action, political maneuvering, intrigue, humor and philosophy. Can robots feel? That’s just brushing the surface of what BSG explores. — KW
With many restaurants and cafes closed right now, we’re all missing out on the delectable dishes created by talented chefs and cooks. Watching Top Chef may help fill that void (in your heart, not your stomach). And I always prefer reality competition shows where the contestants are actually good at what they do — call it competence porn.
All 16 seasons of Top Chef are available on Hulu, so you can go back and watch from the first season in San Francisco (winner Harold Dieterle) to season 16 in Kentucky (winner Kelsey Barnard Clark). Witness judge Tom Colicchio, host Padma Lakshmi and a host of revolving guests taste the dishes. Of course, the Top Chef contestants aren’t always at the top of the game; the Restaurant Wars episodes tend to bring high drama. But more often than not, their cooking looks amazing and will make you want to eat at their restaurants. When establishments re-open, get ready to make those reservations. — KW
Watching doctors treating urgent cases at a hospital may seem batty, but hear me out. First of all, ER is one of the best dramas of all time. Second, there are 331 episodes, so you can binge this until the coronavirus pandemic is over. And third, and most importantly, it’ll give you an even deeper appreciation for the doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals on the front lines right now. They’re saving lives, often at the risk of their own.
If you’re unfamiliar with ER, it follows the staff at the fictional County General Hospital in Chicago, including Dr. Doug Ross (George Clooney), Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards), nurse Carol Hathaway (Juliana Margulies) and medical student John Carter (Noah Wyle). Critics and viewers loved the breakneck pace and almost documentary-like visual style. ER won 23 Emmys and at its peak, was watched by over 30 million viewers. And it launched/escalated the careers of Clooney, Margulies, Wyle and others. ER was the television event of its time; now, you can see what made it so. — KW
If you’re longing to go back to a better time and place, why not to 1912 and the years following on the gorgeous, rolling green estate of Downton Abbey, home to the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), his family and their servants. Well, maybe not that much better: a World War, a global pandemic and financial disaster all loom on the horizon. And don’t forget that the series starts with the sinking of the Titanic.
Still, Downton Abbey, which ran for six seasons on PBS Masterpiece (followed by last year’s theatrical film), is very high-class comfort TV, with its parade of beautiful clothes, dashing hats, elegant furnishings and sumptuous meals. Season 1’s big scandal is Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) going to bed with a man who winds up dead and the biggest question is whether she’ll marry Cousin Matthew (Dan Stevens). Later seasons introduce some heavier storylines, but they’re always balanced with below-stairs tomfoolery and above-stairs zingers from the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith). — KW
If you think finding toilet paper or hand sanitizer is hard, think about scrapping for the barest essentials against more than a dozen other players for 39 days, all trying to outwit, outplay and outlast to win a $1 million prize. Survivor changed the game for reality television when it debuted in 2000 (really, it basically defined the genre). Americans tuned in by the millions to watch regular people try to make fire, subsist on rice, dig around for immunity idols, partake in grueling challenges and bargain/bluff their way into alliances with competitors.
In 20 years and 40 seasons, Survivor has become its own universe with its own set of rules. It’s become a fascinating study of how this strange little society forms and evolves. Who is trustworthy? Who will stab an ally in the back? These are the same questions some of us are asking ourselves right now, but at least we can do it from the comfort of our own homes and without facing the prospect of getting kicked off the island. — KW
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.