[some spoilers within]
We’ve all been there. You’re supposed to be in the middle of studying for exams and all of a sudden, it’s 3am and you’re five seasons deep of an eight season long TV show. You know you should at the very least, be sleeping but as the low glow of your computer screen or TV beckons, you decide to watch one more episode.
It’s a classic story, particularly for those of us who grew up with the rise in popularity of TV show box sets; being able to procrastinate and waste time by jumping to a vortex of narrative escapism has been made even easier with the advent of online streaming platforms like the Netflix behemoth. Now, you don’t even need to get up to rewind a VHS or swap DVD discs. Just click and play.
And while we definitely don’t advocate ditching your important academic or social commitments to sell your soul to the TV beast, we think it’s only fair to list our personal favourite binge shows for you to either add to your collection, or go back and rewatch.
Sorry, but also not sorry.
He’s suave. He oozes physical prowess. He knows how to handle an ocelot. His name? Sterling Archer. The US animated spy comedy has been a gem for the FX network and has garnered such a strong global fan base over the course of its seven seasons. So much so, the show has recently been renewed for a whopping eighth, ninth and tenth seasons – each at eight episodes long.
What is the Archer appeal? Many things.
As a main character, H. Jon Benjamin’s Archer is self-centred, narcissistic and careless when it comes to his status as a secret agent. In the job more for the lifestyle rather than the actual work, Archer is all about fast cars, sex and shooting things. The show extends out to include the rest of the secret spy agency Archer’s mother runs, including wide-ranging characters from Pam Poovey, the agency’s hedonist HR director turned talented fighter/spy/cocaine addict, through to the classically trained but horrible taste in men having Lana Kane.
Archer has featured many guest voices including Christian Slater, Peter Serafinowicz, Jeffrey Tambor and Kristen Schaal, while also including a crossover with H. Jon Benjamin’s other notable animated series, Bob’s Burgers.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
An obvious choice here: any girl who entered teenage hood during the late nineties and the early aughts will have seen or have become hooked on Buffy at least once during its original TV run. Sarah Michelle Gellar became an iconic superhero thanks to Joss Whedon and as Buffy Summers, has become subject to much acclaim and even feminist academic study.
Buffy ran for seven seasons before being taken off the air in 2003 but even then, the wider ‘Buffyverse’ continued to expand and revolve. Season Eight, Season Nine and Season Ten were gifted to the fans in comic book form (if that takes your fancy), but of course, as a result of Buffy’s success, we also received a spinoff in Angel.
While Buffy entertained audiences throughout the years with its delve into the supernatural and US-horror schtick, fans connected with the more human storylines that ran parallel with the Scooby Gang’s nightly vampire stakeouts. Who could forget the first time Buffy and Angel met, or the episode dealing with the death of Buffy’s mother? How about when Dawn first comes into the show, or the whole Spike/Buffy relationship some fans would rather forget…
Another beloved US TV show featuring so many memorable episodes and one-liners would have to be Scrubs. The medical comedy-drama centring on Zach Braff’s protagonist, John ‘J.D.’ Dorian, has proven to be so popular that the show is still syndicated on multiple channels right round the globe – for a show that ran for nine impressive seasons, it’s a mighty feat.
If you’re a Scrubs loyalist, you’ll most likely agree that the show should have finished at the end of Season Eight, when J.D. decides to leave Sacred Heart to be closer to his son and a variety of other changes happen at the hospital that see the core cast either step into new roles or move on.
Still, with a solid list of guest stars through its run (Brendan Fraser, Colin Farrell, Michael J. Fox, Elizabeth Banks, Mandy Moore, Heather Graham), Scrubs found a way into our hearts and became a staple of procrastination TV time, especially during uni. So many memorable moments: from Turk and J.D.’s ‘eagle’, J.D. and Turk becoming fathers, the flash-forward J.D. imagines in the final episode of the eighth season… this was a show that treated its fans incredibly well.
Continuing on with our love of everything H. Jon Benjamin from the beginning of this piece, it’d be remiss of us not to feature Bob’s Burgers as one of our top procrastination tips. Since 2011, the Belcher family and their antics have been making us laugh, cringe and laugh some more.
Running a hamburger restaurant in a seaside town, Bob Belcher deals with the wildly different personalities of his three children, Tina, Gene and Louise, not to mention his outrageous wife, Linda. As the show continues, we see Bob deal with trying to best his restaurant rival Jimmy Pesto, make friends outside the restaurant and try to keep his family together.
Bob’s Burgers has become a beloved part of pop culture, recently being referenced in The Simpsons, Family Guy and The Cleveland Show. Also notably, Sleater-Kinney got involved with the show, collaborating with the Bob’s Burgers crew for their music video for “No Cities To Love”…another must watch.
British comedy The Inbetweeners is irreverent, vulgar and completely hilarious. An American version of the original was attempted to be made but only succeeded in pointing out the glaringly obvious differences in British and American humour. Although it only ran for three seasons, The Inbetweeners is a solid binge-watch favourite.
Following teenager Will McKenzie as he adapts to life as a child of divorce and a relocation of schools, the show takes the viewer through failed attempts at losing one’s virginity, a crumbling school system, bullying and the general mundane nature of teenage life in the suburbs.
Two movies also followed the TV series’ end, also worth a watch if you’re into seeing how much embarrassment and mortification these four characters can be put through both in Greece and of course, Australia.
MARVEL’S JESSICA JONES
2015’s Netflix roster included the introduction of Krysten Ritter’s former superhero-alcoholic private detective to much anticipation and acclaim. Of course, any new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was to be critiqued and approached with a fine tooth comb, and Jessica Jones was no exception. Luckily, the show stood up to the hype and came through.
Casting David Tennant as the menacing and mind-controlling Kilgrave stands out as probably one of the show’s best moves; taking Tennant who was best known to American audiences from Doctor Who, and putting him into another fictional universe with that same British accent and sharp sense of dress threw one fandom into a complete frenzy while a whole new one was introduced to his versatile acting abilities.
Subtle crossovers with Captain America and Daredevil make their way into the show as well, so for fans of the wider Marvel universe, Jessica Jones proved to be a nice little taster of what’s still to come.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK
One of the juggernaut successes under the Netflix flag, Orange is the New Black has had worldwide audiences hooked since its first season debuted in 2013. Most recently, fans have seen the death of a fan favourite in 2016’s Season Four, not to mention the turmoil Litchfield Penitentiary has been thrown into, now in the public eye.
While Taylor Schilling’s Piper Chapman was the audience’s way into the goings on of Litchfield in Season One, the writers have cleverly made the show now simply about one character, instead fleshing out backstories of many and establishing strong plotlines all weaving in at the same time. The prison is segregated, as many are, but as the episodes roll out, you forget that this is the case.
Thrilling performances from the likes of Laverne Cox, Uzo Aduba, Yael Stone and Danielle Brooks have helped form the first three seasons of the show, while Season Four saw Samira Wiley, Lori Petty and Cox completely take over and captivate.
SEX AND THE CITY
Now, say what you want about this show only appealing to women of a certain age but I know that there are plenty of dudes who have tuned into Sex and The City over the years and have gotten just as much out of it as the ladies have. Hell, they may have even learned a thing or two. Curiosity, after all!
Possibly one of the best shows to binge on, the episodes are shorter than some of the others on this list and the comedy is hilarious. Even if you can’t stand Carrie Bradshaw’s endless questions as she types out her weekly sex column that can somehow pay for her brownstone apartment and unhealthy shopping addiction, there’s something about one of the other three ladies’ lives that will have you hooked.
The male characters too, whether it’s Aidan, Big or Steve, or any one of Samantha’s conquests throughout the show’s six season run, provide endless laughs, moments of realness and drama.
The original British version of Being Human is another example of a show the Americans should never have touched. With a showrunner in Toby Whithouse, who until that point was well known for his work on Doctor Who and Torchwood, sci-fi fans were hooked in fairly quickly.
The show’s fourth and fifth seasons continued some central storylines that had been running since the beginning of the show but admittedly, the complete change in cast and the loss of the original three made Being Human lose steam. With Aidan Turner leaving the show after its third season (and arguably, when it was at its peak) to join The Hobbit franchise, Being Human suffered a huge blow when it became without its brooding Irish vampire, Mitchell.
When Russell Tovey left the show an episode into Season Four (not to mention Sinead Keenan’s off-screen exit prior to the beginning of that season), the central cast took another hit. While Lenora Crichlow steered the ship as ghost Annie through until the end of the fourth season and the introduction of the new household, it didn’t feel quite the same.
Incorporating supernatural themes with comedy, drama and horror, Being Human focused on three supernatural characters trying to exist as the title suggested. A werewolf, a vampire and a ghost flat-sharing in Bristol (and then Wales) is so British, but as the show continued to gain traction and popularity, it’s potential was truly realised. But like Scrubs, it would seem that the show could have wound up earlier.
Girls is one of those shows that has the ability to hook you in as a viewer, even though you can find a multitude of reasons to hate every single character on the show at least once (perhaps with the exception of Zosia Mamet’s Shoshanna…). Originally proclaimed by many TV critics as a kind of Sex and The City for Gen Y, Girls has proven to be remarkably different.
Yes, it’s still set in New York City but that’s as far as the SATC similarities go. Instead, Lena Dunham and the show’s writers take the viewer into a world focusing on young people finding out who they are through relationships (both failed, successful and bizarre), burgeoning career and study paths and more. Each of the females characters in the show are so different from one another and to have watched their relationships with each other as girlfriends twist and change over the show’s five season run has been one of the main drawcards that’s kept us sucked in.
By the end of the show’s run, the girls will be either in their mid to late twenties and considering the show’s demographic is roughly around the same age, in terms of a majority, it’s been striking to watch episodes with narratives that strike close to home, whether that be in failing a university course, falling in and out of love, or running away from family drama.