One of my favorite things to do on a rainy Sunday is to immerse myself in a binge-able TV show. You may not be familiar with the term, but I bet you've done it! According to dictionary.com the definition of binge watching is: the practice of watching multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming. Binge watching might sound like an an indulgence, and it is, but it lets me escape reality for a bit, forget my own troubles and focus on those of a fictional character instead, or it just makes me smile. There are dozens and dozens of shows on NETFLIX, HULU and other streaming services to choose from no matter what your in the mood for. Here are my six favorites, all of which I seen "cover-to-cover" at least once and in some cases, multiple times.
Grace & Frankie – Five Seasons on NETFLIX
When Grace & Frankie’s husbands announce that they are leaving them for each other, the two 70+ women are thrown together in a way they never expected. This isn’t a show about divorce, or gay marriage, or being in the closet, or being single in your twilight years. This is a show about friendship. Grace is a no-nonsense business woman. Frankie is an artistic bohemian. This unlikely pair forge a relationship that is enviable despite its painful beginnings. This is the most authentic view of friendship that I have seen on TV. They love and support each other but they also disagree, argue, and annoy the hell out of each other. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are spectacular, and the supporting cast is phenomenal.
Broadchurch – Three Seasons on NETFLIX
This is the show that got me completely hooked on British crime dramas. Unlike most American TV detective/crime shows like Law and Order and NCIS that focus on a new murder every episode, Broadchurch takes the whole season (well actually the first two!) to weave an intricate plot and solve the crime. It’s compelling and absorbing and I was distraught when it was over. Season three is not a murder but revolves around a violent rape in the small seaside community of Broadchurch. Although I thought the topic would be too stressful to watch, I gave it a shot and by the end of the first episode I was hooked again. After Broadchurch, I sought other British shows that use this same formula of one crime per season and hit the jackpot with Happy Valley (NETFLIX), The Tunnel (AMAZON PRIME) and Safe (NETFLIX).
Ally McBeal – Five Seasons on HULU
I had only watched an episode here and there when this quirky off-beat show was on in the late 90s and early 20s. When it showed up on my ‘recommended for you’ feed on HULU, I decided to give it a real look, and I’m so glad I did! The cast of characters are just outlandish enough to be entertaining but not absurd. Beyond the legal cases and courtroom shenanigans, they tackled themes and problems that are still relevant today. Ally and her cohorts deal with sexual harassment, misogyny, mental health, love, singledom, bad decisions, and accepting that being a flawed person is okay. While the show revolves around Ally, she is not one of my favorite characters, in fact, she is my least favorite; too whiny and boy crazy for me. But I loved the rest of the cast enough to keep watching until the credits rolled at the end of the series.
Mindhunter – Two Seasons on NETFLIX
It will take 16 and ½ hours to watch all episodes of both seasons of Mindhunter, but it will be worth every minute if you like crime thrillers. But this show is so truly unique, I’m not sure it really fits neatly into any one genre. It’s sort of a blend of cop show, true crime drama, documentary, historical non-fiction and FBI serial. The show is based on the non-fiction book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit which was written by a retired FBI agent about the advent of criminal profiling. The show’s lead characters, Holden and Bill, visit several incarcerated serial killers and interview them in an attempt to understand how they think, ultimately to use the knowledge and insight they gain to help solve other ongoing cases. The killers in Mindhunter are modeled after actual criminals and the prison scene dialogue is taken from real interviews. Good news: Netflix is planning at least three more seasons!
The Great British Baking Show – 7 Seasons on NETFLIX, plus Specials and Extras
I’m completely obsessed with this show, and not just because of the food. Who wouldn't love a show all about dessert? What I really love is that unlike American reality shows, this one is so, hmmm what’s the word, civilized. There is no backstabbing, sabotaging, undermining, over-acting, manufactured drama, or even ill words for the other bakers. They are genuinely supportive of each other; crying over someone's deflated soufflé and cheering others' showstopping masterpieces. It’s calming, almost Zen like, delicious looking and inspirational. I’ve successfully made a few of the desserts highlighted on the show including Victoria Sponge Cake (pictured and made by yours truly) and a raspberry Charlotte Russe.
Firefly - One Season on HULU
I know, I know, only one season?!? Believe me, the legions of Firefly fanatics, or brown coats as we like to call ourselves, are still cursing FOX for pulling the plug on what has become a "cult" classic. This show is just fun. Although it takes place in the future, it's closer to a western than Sci-fi. With lovable characters and scenarios that only the brilliant Joss Whedon can write (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and Angel), Firefly is escapist TV at it's best, and the adorable Nathan Fillion is a good enough reason to watch any show! If you love the show, check out the "sequel" movie Serenity.