I got in the habit of binge-watching TV shows (including an entire series) on a long flight. This is actually crazy considering I used to never watch TV!
When I moved to Los Angeles, The Hollywood Reporter assigned me a story on Albuquerque, the setting and filming location for Breaking Bad. Because the show was in its last season, I needed to “research” by actually watching it, and I finished all of Season 1 in a matter of days (then I went on to binge ALL seasons in mere weeks). Breaking Bad was my meth; I was obsessed (Albuquerque? Not so much.). You can read my story, How Crystal Meth Saved Albuquerque, which was the number one story on the site at the time.
Anyway, I can’t keep up with all the great TV shows airing these days! I have to watch them on long flights (which basically means I love long flights now). With my crazy schedule, a long flight is the only time I can really sit back, relax and enjoy the show. I hardly use the seat-back entertainment as my laptop screen is a lot bigger (I recommend downloading your shows as in-flight selections are hit or miss).
I’ve binged some amazing shows in the sky, and I included some of my favorites below. There’s something for everyone here (and no spoilers!), and I avoided including shows you may already watch (Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Bachelorette, etc). If there’s a show you think should be on this list or one you recommend, feel free to let me know in the comments. Happy binging!
THE 9 BEST TV SHOWS TO BINGE-WATCH ARE:
1. If you like one actor playing five characters, try: Orphan Black, Season 1
Orphan Black on BBC was such a wild success when it aired in 2013, it went on to five seasons (currently airing its 5th season now). My friend recommended it, and I watched it blindly, not knowing the plot or premise, so I won’t go into detail. I truly think the less you know, the more exciting the show is. It skews science fiction, revolving around clones (in a contemporary setting, nothing too “out there”), if that helps. In the first season, the amazing Tatiana Maslany plays at least five characters (not a spoiler; she won an Emmy for Lead Actress), which is the heart of the show. Orphan Black is action-packed and smart, with an eclectic cast of characters that revolve around keeping a group of sisters alive from some crazy-evil scientists. Anyway, the moments of suspense, intrigue and cliffhanger endings make it binge-worthy for sure! FYI: Season 4 has been the best season yet. Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%
2. If you want to see James Corden acting in smart comedy, try: The Wrong Mans, Season 1
If you think nightlife host James Corden is hilarious, see him play an adorable loser in The Wrong Mans. This BBC mini-series centers around two dudes with boring jobs who manage to get themselves involved in a kidnap/crime. It’s hilarious how they get themselves out of absurd situations, and the dead-pan comedy is reminiscent of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame). It’s only six episodes, so you can actually watch the entire season on your next NYC-LA flight. Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%
3. If you like The Walking Dead but are so over the characters, try: Fear The Walking Dead, Season 3
When Forbes writes a story titled Fear The Walking Dead Is Now Officially Better Than The Walking Dead, you know something’s up. I’m going to give it to you straight. Fear The Walking Dead Season Three is out of control. You do NOT need to see Season 1 and Season 2. They’re OK, mostly just time killers, or if you get sick and can’t leave the house and want some braindead stuff to watch. I can’t even with Season 3. There are so many shocking moments (Game of Thrones style), tons of plot twists and finally some truly evil characters. There’s also a slew of new characters where you can’t determine whether they are evil or good. Season 3 is a total psychological mindf*ck, and there’s some good Native American themes weaved in (‘Murrica). I agree that it is better than The Walking Dead, mostly because there’s a good concentration of characters you get to know rather than an ensemble cast of, like, 30 people, many of whom get zero screen time or lines. FTWD Season 3 messes with you psychologically, the character development is strong and you really don’t know what to expect. Aside from the mom, the acting is point on. Also, unlike Season 1 and 2, there are characters that you actually root for, characters you care about now. Rotten Tomatoes score: 89% (Season 3)
4. If you like thought-provoking, cinematically engaging dramas, try: The Americans, Season 1-5
The Americans sucks you in fast. It’s not really a TV show as much as it feels like theatre. It’s very dramatic. It’s not ADD friendly as there are some long, character-driven scenes with powerful, moving performances. It’s one of those shows where the heroes are actually anti-heroes. You really don’t know whether to root for them or not as they are Russian spies living the fake “American dream” in the US, so it’s also a psychological MF. Also, beware: anxiety inducing stuff here. Good luck sleeping at night. Because it’s set in the 1980s, it’s very nostalgic and fun if you’re into 80s movies and TV (those outfits and hair styles are so point on). I’m not a huge fan of CIA/FBI/KGB-type shows but this is done well/interesting to avoid cliches. It’s more about identity. I was actually happy both Keri Russell and Mathew Rhys were nominated for best actor/actress at last year’s Golden Globes. They deserved it! The show was also nominated for Best TV Drama. Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%
5. If you like batshit crazy, dystopian, character-driven stuff, try: The Leftovers, Season 2
The Leftovers on HBO with Justin Theroux (Jennifer Aniston’s husband) is one of those shows where you think you might have it figured out, but then you don’t. Not even close. There’s so many twists here, but what makes it engaging is the emotional connections you make with the characters (no, seriously!). Everyone is flawed to a degree, and trying to figure out their place in a very dystopian world (where five percent of the population disappeared). It’s very dramatic, often disturbing, with unexpected surprises in every episode. It’s definitely character driven with some top-notch acting and themes exploring life, death, grief, immortality, love, madness, end of the world, sacrifice and miracles (or the lack thereof). The perfect ensemble cast deals with loss in nontraditional ways, and some situations are haunting yet brutally honest. While Season 1 was the most “WTF?” (in a good way), Season 2 was notoriously better. Critics across the board said it had the perfect ending for a series (which is why there were mixed feelings for a Season 3, which I just finished, and it was definitely rewarding). I don’t think it’s necessary you see Season 1 (you mostly get caught up in Season 2) but it’s recommended. Just know that Season 2 will blow your mind. Season 3, the last season, was almost perfect. Also, Justin T has an insane amount of nude scenes and epic, banana smuggling in jogging pants situations. To be honest, every main character gets fully nude at some point. That’s really getting into character, y’all… Rotten Tomatoes score: Season 1: 81%; Season 2: 93%; Season 3: 98%
6. If you like American-style comedies you didn’t think the Brits could pull off, try: Crashing (UK)
To be honest, I watched the first episode of Crashing by mistake (I had thought I was watching HBO’s Crashing). It was definitely a blessing in disguise. The mini-series revolves around six young millennials that live in a disused hospital. It’s basically the UK version of Friends, only there’s some racier situations. Expect unrequited love, bad cooking, is he/isn’t he gay? subplot, a lot of sex and some fart jokes. I think the actors made the show work with their solid comedic timing and silly/slapstick moments. I know the show didn’t do well in the UK, but I think it’s mostly because it’s very American humor (not British). There’s only six episodes (30 minutes long) so you can easily watch the entire series in one flight. Google users: 96% (not Rotten Tomatoes rated)
7. If you are obsessed with Danny McBride: Vice Principals, Season 1
Eastbound & Down on HBO is an epically oddball TV series (oddball for HBO, that is) that ran three seasons for its slapstick, irreverent, low-brow and cruel comedy. Millions of bros still quote lines from it today. People literally worship comedian Danny McBride, the main actor, who starred in Vice Principals on HBO last year. It’s basically everything you would expect from Eastbound & Down, only he plays a vice principal at a high school plotting various ways to get the promoted principal fired. This is the show that was impossible to watch on a plane (there were several times flight attendants would stop by to ask me what I was watching because I was basically dying from laughing). The humor is Bridesmaids level but definitely geared toward a more dude-centric audience. Rotten Tomatoes score: 64% (Audience score: 82%)
8. If you like Golden Globe-winning TV shows with an all-star cast, try: Fargo, Season 1 and 2
It’s not common for a movie to be adapted into a TV show, and Fargo does it well. While we know the general plot at this point, they elevated it with a great cast, darker humor, tons of cynicism and some gripping moments. It takes that cliche “edge of your seat” and elevates the hell out of it thanks to smart screenwriting. Every episode is like an art film with commanding landscapes and thoughtful camera angles, though it’s the acting that delivers. You really never know how a character will get out of some serious shit. I thought Season 2 (actually a pre-qual to Season 1) was more anxiety inducing (in the way of Walking Dead or Breaking Bad with the cut-throat tension, I couldn’t watch it at night as I’d be too amped up to go to sleep) where the central plot revolves around a murder and how three families’ lives merge (at the heart of the show, it’s about family). With imaginative story telling, there are genuinely shocking scenes and situations, which is pretty mind-blowing when you remember all of this is based on true events, and the plot in Season 2 was a little more engaging (maybe because, unlike Season 1, we had no idea what would happen with the characters). It’s a dream cast, including Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Jean Smart, Ted Danson, Jeffrey Donovan and even Nick Offerman and Kieran Culkin, all of whom get a fair amount of screen time. Fargo Season 3 is currently airing. To be honest, I think it had big shoes to fill and it hasn’t been as exciting as the first two seasons (also, there’s less A-listers here, aside from Ewan McGgregor). Watch Season 1 but also watch Season 2, which was, in my opinion, more captivating, and you’ll see why Kirsten Dunst was nominated for a Golden Globe. She was amazing!! Rotten Tomatoes score: Season 1: 96%; Season 2: 100%
9. If you like bloody “who’s the killer?” shows with hot actors and little brain effort, try: Scream, Season 2
My close friends know I’m a huge horror movie fan, which turned me on to Scream on MTV, based on the hit Scream films directed by Wes Craven . It was awful. It was beyond low budget with poor writing and actors with no or little acting history. I only finished Season 1 because I wanted to know if it redeemed itself with a clever killer reveal. It didn’t. This summer, when I was sick, I randomly started watching Season 2 on Netflix. Mind blown. You could tell Scream got a bigger budget, the actors finally seemed point on, the writing was sharper and the twists were exciting. Horror fans will appreciate it because there’s A LOT of blood. It’s obviously not as epic as the movies, but it was just a fun show to watch. It’s intended for teenagers, so don’t expect any life-changing moments of clarity. You don’t have to see Season 1 to enjoy Season 2. You’ll get caught up right away. All you have to know is that someone is trying to kill a bunch of hot high school students. Rotten Tomatoes score: 83% audience scoress