The 25 best TV shows to binge-watch
Since the advent of streaming made binging shows possible, fans have been devouring content like it's their second job. But with the sheer excess of TV shows coming out every week, it can be difficult to filter through all the titles and find something that's actually worth watching.
Whether it makes us laugh, gives us an inside look into history, scares our pants off, or hooks us to the point that we forgo sleep to watch it, a good series is truly something special. So kick back, order some food, and get ready to watch a new favorite or a reliable classic in a single sitting or over a weekend. Here are the 25 best shows for your next binge.
Ted Lasso (2020-present)
Based on a brief promotional campaign for NBC's coverage of the English Premier League, the character Ted Lasso evolved from a marketing pawn to the center of an 11-time Emmy-winning series that has stolen viewers' hearts everywhere. Jason Sudeikis is fantastic as the mustachioed, metaphor-making poster of positive masculinity that agrees to take a head coaching job for AFC Richmond in London despite not knowing anything about soccer. Ted Lasso follows his exploits to make a difference not only on the sidelines but off the field as well, roping the rest of the lovable cast into his genuine world. Co-starring Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, Juno Temple, Phil Dunster, Brendan Hunt, and Nick Mohammed, Ted Lasso is currently in its third (and possibly final) season, so now is the perfect time to catch up and laugh until you cry — or cry until you're smiling.
In this British political drama, Richard Madden portrays David Budd, a war veteran suffering from PTSD and serving as the security detail of conservative Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes), but their political differences are difficult to reconcile. Bodyguard is an absorbing series, particularly due to Madden's powerhouse, Golden Globe-winning performance. His face is a canvas of emotions that make us care deeply for him, whether he's grieving, trying to save friends and strangers, or making decisions that put his own life at risk. The show was an immediate success in Britain, which grew to a worldwide following of viewers drawn in by themes of governmental oversight, mental health, and flawed leadership. It's a show that's hard to turn off, and the six episodes fly by as we delve deeper into the world of domestic terrorism and political misgivings.
Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
Fans of Freaks and Geeks still can't believe they only got one season of this cult classic from Paul Feig and Judd Apatow about teenage life in the early '80s Detroit suburbs. Following burnout "freaks" and their smoke-clouded misadventures in contrast to the underclassmen "geeks" who are just trying to survive school between D&D sessions, the show has all the heart of an after-school special while tossing the moralizing out with the disco records.
Since it hit streaming, new generations of fans have discovered this earnest comedy series that touts big 21st-century stars in some of their earliest roles, launching the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, Busy Philipps, John Francis Daley, Martin Starr, and Samm Levine. As Segel told EW, "It was this really amazing cast before we really knew anything."
Of all the Star Wars shows Disney+ has been churning out, Andor is one of the best — and certainly the most bold. The prequel to the prequel Rogue One, Andor follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as he escapes from the Empire and reluctantly finds his way to the rebellion. Cassian's journey is particularly compelling thanks to smart scripts and enticing side characters, like Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård), an undercover goods dealer doing everything he can to keep the rebellion alive; Bix (Adria Arjona), a loyal friend who risks her life for Cassian; and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly), a passionate senator alone in a world faced with hard decisions to keep hope alive.
For fans of Star Wars, Andor — a show about fighting fascism — is a quality entry in this decades-long saga, and one of the better sci-fi series from the past few years.
Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
From Bryan Fuller (Hannibal), Pushing Daisies is a comedy series about Ned (Lee Pace), a pastry chef who has the power to bring dead people back to life and uses it to solve murder mysteries. Ned is joined on his escapades by his childhood sweetheart, Chuck (Anna Friel), a private investigator (Chi McBride), and a lovesick waitress (Kristin Chenoweth). Pushing Daisies was a short-lived, two-season wonder that EW's critic lauded for its "persistent, admirable inventiveness," shining across bright sets, fun plotlines, and wacky supporting characters which propelled this comedy to legendary status.
Another two-season gem that was canceled due to low ratings, Enlightened is an underrated and short-lived series from HBO following Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern), a self-destructive woman who is trying to make amends with her past relationships while finding passion in her work and life. Dern teamed up with The White Lotus creator Mike White to craft this dark comedy that is utterly hilarious and effectively moving. Her mental breakdowns and failed attempts at being a good person don't just play for laughs, but also serve as illuminating looks at the human condition. In her argument for why it's "the best show nobody is watching," EW's Melissa Maerz writes, "the more maniacal Amy's antics, the funnier and more poignant Enlightened gets."
Normal People (2020)
Sally Rooney's best-selling novel received a smash-hit small-screen adaptation in this affecting romance drama. Normal People follows Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal), two lovers who meet in secondary school, as they navigate relationships and their own emotions throughout their teens and 20s. The miniseries owes much of its success to the chemistry between the two leads, as viewers see them fall in and out and back in love multiple times over, all while helping each other through the seasons of their young lives. Beyond the perfectly cast magnetism between Mescal and Edgar-Jones, the script is finely tuned in its exploration of sex, depression, and relationships while never loosening its grip on your heartstrings.
Over the Garden Wall (2014)
When creator Patrick McHale adapted Over the Garden Wall from his short film Tome of the Unknown, he gifted Cartoon Network one of the greatest hidden gems of the 2010s. The beloved animated adventure sees two brothers, Wirt (Elijah Wood) and Gregory (Collin Dean), as they embark on a journey across a fantastical forest realm to return to their home. Over the course of five nights and 10 brief episodes, viewers are treated to world-building that's both charming and frightful, often at the same time — pumpkin-head cults, trees as soul prisons, a familial bluebird curse — between meeting whimsical creatures voiced by the likes of Melanie Lynskey, Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, John Cleese, and more. As EW's writer notes, "Rich, somber and surprisingly dark, [Over the Garden Wall's] world is evocative of early 20th-century animation and classic fairy tales."
Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag is a hilarious and poignant series about a young woman just trying to get by in London while coping with the loss of her best friend, tensions with her family, and her own inability to not be completely inappropriate in any given situation. Writer Waller-Bridge doubles as our nameless star, the fourth wall-breaking, sexually deviating, guinea pig cafe-owning main character who is the master of her own undoing, but not without garnering every ounce of our sympathies. The anti-hero often addresses the viewer directly, as each episode peels back the layers of her emotional state and relationships with her strung-out sister (Sian Clifford), passive-aggressive stepmother (Olivia Colman), and an alluringly sexy priest (Andrew Scott). Though it only spans 12 short episodes, these gut-punch chapters are more than enough to bring you to your knees, possibly in prayer, but more likely in tears.
Mare of Easttown (2021)
By the time Mare of Easttown debuted on HBO Max, there were already a large number of high-profile crime dramas starring some of the biggest names in Hollywood (See: True Detective and Fargo). Yet, Easttown showcases enough acting prowess and surprising mystery to suck viewers in. Kate Winslet portrays Mare, a tired, emotionally spent detective who becomes consumed by the murder of a young teenage mother in their small Pennsylvania town. Everyone becomes a suspect and answers are few and far between, though Mare already has plenty on her personal plate as she and her mother (Jean Smart) care for her grandson after her son's death, attempt to connect with her teenage daughter (Angourie Rice), and deal with her ex-husband (David Denman) living next door.
The bleak atmosphere and experienced ensemble cast immerse the audience in moments both beautifully human and totally tragic. As EW's critic writes, "Winslet plus Smart equals a megazord of intimidating acting talent," which makes the supporting cast's stand-out performances all the more impressive. Also joining Mare is the hot professor who sees something great in her (Guy Pearce) and the eager Detective Colin Zabel played by Evan Peters, who received his first Emmy nomination for the role.
Abbott Elementary (2021-present)
ABC struck awards season gold with Abbott Elementary, the fantastic new workplace comedy about public school teachers trying to do their best for their Philadelphia students. Creator Quinta Brunson stars as Janine Teagues, an optimistic second-year teacher at Abbott in which every day is a new, hilarious challenge. She works alongside the awkward but well-meaning Jacob (Chris Perfetti), the tough-loving Melissa (Lisa Ann Walter), the no-nonsense Barbara (Sheryl Lee Ralph), the devoted Gregory (Tyler James Williams), the underqualified principal Ava (Janelle James), and the quirky janitor Mr. Johnson (William Stanford Davis). If you haven't started watching this Emmy-winning series, now is the time to catch up on the antics, the laughs, the romances, and the touching ode to American teachers.
Along with Freaks and Geeks, Firefly is a highly underappreciated, single-season series that has since found a large following. Starring Nathan Fillion as Mal Reynolds, captain of the Serenity, Firefly is a brilliant Western-style sci-fi story following a crew of independent rebels on the run from the totalitarian Alliance in a fully realized and unique future world.
Due to poor advertising and a lack of faith in this series, Firefly was too late in proving itself as an engaging, thought-provoking program with a great cast (featuring Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, and more). But, even from the beginning, fans of the series saw something special in Joss Whedon's vision, as EW's critic noted in his original review, "count me as being on board for this sucker." While the show is easily one of the most bingeable seasons of television, fans are now able to once again see their favorite crew in the high-budget, emotional sequel film, Serenity (2005).
Squid Game (2021-present)
In the age of social media, TV show fandoms can spread like wildfire. One of the most popular series of all time, Squid Game lit the fuse better than any show before it, uniting the internet in favor of this unique South Korean thriller series. Created by Hwang Dong-hyuk, Squid Game was a global phenomenon about a group of debt-ridden people who compete in deadly games for an absurd cash prize. Viewers couldn't help binging the series as fast as possible to talk about it with friends who were just as mesmerized by the engaging plot and moving acting, with turns from Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, O Yeong-su, and more. The hype even spawned a reality series (which may have missed the underlying themes), but nonetheless kept the Squid Game craze going. Luckily, Netflix has given the green light for a second season, so it's the perfect time to binge the first installment before the much-anticipated new chapter, which begins filming in summer 2023.
The Bear (2022-present)
"It would be weird to work in a restaurant and not completely lose your mind." Created by Christopher Storer, The Bear is one of the hottest new shows out right now. It stars Shameless' Jeremy Allen White as Carmy, a fine-dining NYC chef who returns to Chicago to run his family's sandwich shop after his brother commits suicide. With the added pressure of massive debt, Carmy works to keep the restaurant going with manager Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), new sous chef Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), passionate baker Marcus (Lionel Boyce), and defiant line cook Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas). The show — which has a second season dropping in June 2023 — is often funny, very tense, and offers an incredibly detailed look into the back door of the restaurant business, anxiety and all.
Adam Scott leads an ensemble cast in this inventive sci-fi drama about a group of co-workers whose brains have been surgically split between their work lives and their personal lives. From the first episode, the show sets up a chilly atmosphere of gray sparsity in the workplace as Mark (Scott) and his colleagues careen toward unknown truths about the nature of their jobs. Christopher Walken, Patricia Arquette, Britt Lower, Zach Cherry, Tramell Tillman, and John Turturro join Scott in this surprising series that was one of 2022's best.
Executive producer Ben Stiller, who directed the majority of the episodes, perfectly sets up the world and mystery, leading to a finale that is full of, as EW's Kristen Baldwin writes, "cloak-and-dagger intrigue and artful weirdness as Mark's parallel lives careen toward intersection." Severance is currently gearing up for a much-anticipated second season with a slew of new characters joining, so now is the time to get in on the oddness before more answers are provided.
Adapted from a webcomic by Alice Oseman, Heartstopper is a joyous comedy-drama series about young love as Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick (Kit Connor) explore their ever-deepening relationship. Serving as the showrunner, Oseman has brought her series to a global audience that celebrates its story and LGBTQ representation.
Looking ahead to the upcoming second and third seasons, Locke spoke with EW about Heartstopper's themes of mental health and acceptance, saying, "I think what our show has really done well so far is tackling issues, but from an optimistic lens. I think it'd be really great to look at that more." Until then, you can join the millions of fans who can't ignore Heartstopper's charm.
I May Destroy You (2020)
Michaela Coel created and stars in this can't-miss drama about modern dating and the distinction between liberation and exploitation. The miniseries begins with Arabella (Coel), a young writer spending an evening in London who is, at one moment, out drinking with friends, and the next, back to worrying about a deadline while experiencing memories of sexual violence. Partially based on Coel's lived experiences, I May Destroy You is an engaging, personal series that holds up a mirror to the nuances of our modern world. As EW's Kristen Baldwin praises, "Coel lets her characters grapple with knotty questions of consent and responsibility without ever judging their actions or promoting answers that don't actually exist."
The Night Of (2016)
Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) stars in The Night Of as Naz, a young man who wakes up after a night of partying to find himself charged with the murder of a woman (Sofia Black-D'Elia) whom he met the previous evening. As crime dramas are increasingly common these days, each TV series must attempt the daunting task of standing out from the herd. And The Night Of is one that announces its power outright and only revs up from there, grabbing viewers and not letting them go until the finale. Between the acting of the main cast — which includes John Turturro and Bill Camp — and the complexities of modern-day law and order, The Night Of is, as EW's review puts it, a "spectacle of people wrestling with their consciences and overcoming their weaknesses and their stories to serve true justice and do the right thing."
Many of the shows on this list fell unjustly on the network chopping block, and one of the more devastated fan bases in recent years is that of Sense8, a sci-fi series about a group of people whose minds are inexplicably connected, causing them to be hunted by those who see them as a threat. Created by the Wachowski sisters (The Matrix) and J. Michael Straczynski, Sense8 is prime binging material, having enchanted viewers with a diverse cast and an intricate, imaginative plot. The show's subsequent cancellation was indicative of the diversity problem in mainstream streaming platforms, leaving dedicated fans angry and heartbroken (though they still received a two-hour finale special to round out the story). Regardless of its rushed goodbye, Sense8 is a groundbreaking, inclusive, and engaging series that needs to be viewed in its entirety.
The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Told over the course of many years, The Haunting of Hill House is an intimate drama about a fractured family left to reconcile with the supernatural terrors that drove them from their home. Creator Mike Flanagan (Midnight Mass) dutifully adapts this Shirley Jackson classic for the modern era, making it as eerie for audiences as it is for the fictional Crain children (played by Michiel Huisman, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, and Victoria Pedretti).
Beyond the scares, the series is also a spine-tingling look into human psychology, adeptly drawing on Jackson's themes of trauma in the original novel. As Flanagan told EW, "I find myself drawn to human stories, often stories of family, because the ghosts we get to explore really are extensions of very relatable relationships and dynamics in our lives."
This animated series brings the video game League of Legends to a wider audience in a moving tale about two sisters, Vi and Jinx, who find themselves on opposing sides of a conflict between the rich and oppressed. Voice actresses Hailee Steinfeld (Dickinson) and Ella Purnell give emotional weight to this story that was well-received by both longtime fans of the game and casual viewers who found their next binge watch.
Over the course of the first season (another is on the way), Arcane takes viewers into a complex fantasy world full of expressive animation and intriguing characters, setting records at Netflix as the most-watched show in the first week it was released, making it a global phenomenon. For fans of science fiction, animation, and drama in general, Arcane is well worth your time.
The Queen's Gambit (2020)
The Queen's Gambit, based on the novel by Walter Tevis, stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, an introverted chess prodigy who becomes a world-renowned player while struggling to deal with fame and addiction throughout the '50s and '60s. While "star deals with substance abuse" is a tired trope, The Queen's Gambit works so well because of director Scott Frank's eye for the era and Taylor-Joy's multifaceted performance. She's a wonder as a young teen discovering her escape in the game while trumping overconfident men, and as an actualized woman facing the consequences of celebrity status. The miniseries also wowed audiences with its dramatization of the game of chess. As EW's critic writes, "It's an environment of cerebral swagger, diffident competitiveness, and geek love."
Winner of 10 Emmy awards, including Outstanding Limited Series, Chernobyl is a striking retelling of the 1986 nuclear disaster told through the lens of the scientists, government officials, and everyday people affected by the fallout. The show follows a stellar main cast headed by Jared Harris as Valery Legasov, a chemist who leads the response to the disaster, Stellan Skarsgård as council chairman Boris Shcherbina, and Emily Watson as nuclear physicist Ulana Khomyuk.
The first episode painstakingly recreates the explosion and immediate devastation with such dramatic flair that you'll hold your breath as if you were a part of the historic day. The rest of the series explores the aftermath with carefully constructed scenes depicting often-overlooked pockets of the disaster, from the doomed workers stripped down to their skin burying radioactive materials to the men assigned to execute pets left in the quarantine zone. Chernobyl is a show seeping with tension, and its five-episode run will stay with you long after you complete it.
Love, Death & Robots (2019-present)
This anthology series from Tim Miller and David Fincher is a masterpiece of adult animation. Each episode of its three seasons comes from different animators, giving audiences an assortment of stories, themes, and styles that are all interconnected in some way to the titular big three: love, death, and/or robots. The project, initially pitched as a reboot of the film Heavy Metal, was in development hell for years before Miller was able to pitch it to Netflix as a series. And the show only gets better with each passing episode, finding a balance in tone and thematic material while also continuing to astound viewers with impressive visuals.
Sports Night (1998-2000)
Among the most underrated gems of the late '90s is Sports Night, a workplace comedy-drama centered around two best friends and anchors (Josh Charles and Peter Krause) of a nightly cable program of the same name. Created by Aaron Sorkin — who went on to global fame for his series The West Wing and movies like The Social Network and The Trial of the Chicago 7 — this series struggled to find an audience on ABC and had a premature end, but the two seasons that did air are full of irresistible romances and fast-talking, witty characters that are reminiscent of Sorkin's later work.