For me it was Downton Abbey in late 2011. For friends it was Sons of Anarchy and Cheers in 2012. In a great episode on IFC’s Portlandia, it was Battlestar Galactica ⎯ and the characters emerged a week later without jobs or additional episodes.
Over the past few years, our TV consumption has drastically changed. In years past, it was dictated by air times and VHS recordings. Then came DVDs, TIVO season pass and DVR series’ recordings. But with the proliferation of Netflix, iTunes and instant streaming, our viewing was no longer dictated by a schedule. We could consume multiple episodes or entire seasons whenever we wanted, and as quickly as we wanted.
So if you’re sick, or if the weather is crappy, or if you just feel like being antisocial, here are the TV shows available on Netflix streaming that are well worth a daylong bender. Just make sure you haven’t made any other plans before starting.
Slings and Arrows (18 episodes)
Let’s face it. Though this season of Smash (in my opinion) is much better—the plot more stable, the irritations, reduced—it will ultimately be its last. So get over the impending cancellation, the constant feeling of being let down since the pilot, and experience the giddy joy of Slings and Arrows. This Canadian import chronicles the inner-workings of the fictional New Burbage Theater Festival and is filled with egomaniacal directors, out-of-touch actors, and put-upon backstage staff. But in three short seasons, the show makes you believe what Smash never could: that someone would actually want to work in the theater.
Spaced (14 episodes)
Fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz should check out this quirky, nerdy British series starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
Party Down (20 episodes)
Okay, I’m cheating here. Party Down isn’t available through online streaming (unless you’re a STARZ channel subscriber). But if there is a reason to actually get Netflix DVDs again—you know, those silvery-disc things—it’s to watch this show. Starring Adam Scott, also from Parks & Rec, the show follows a group of unemployed actors and writers who make ends meet by working as cater-waiters. Because of its incredible cast, it is one of the funniest TV shows of all time. No wonder, even years after its ending, people are still clamoring for a reunion.
Sherlock (8 Episodes)
Elementary is fun and has been a big hit for CBS this year. But it pales in comparison to the BBC’s cerebral, riveting retelling of the Sherlock Holmes story (with a third season hopefully airing later this year). And it stars the greatest named actor of all time: Benedict Cumberbatch.
Damages, 1st Season (13 Episodes)
There are four seasons of this drama currently on Netflix, but it is the first season that is essential viewing. With stellar performances from Glenn Close, Ted Danson, and Željko Ivanek, the edge-of-your-seat drama leaves you breathless for answers.
Arrested Development (56 Episodes)
Whether you’ve never seen it before or know each episode by heart, it’s time to watch one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Get (re)acquainted with the Bluths before all-new episodes appear on Netflix later this year. And remember: “There’s always money in the banana stand.”
Sports Night (45 Episodes)
Long before The West Wing, The Social Network, or The Newsroom, there was Aaron Sorkin’s backstage story of a sports program. Starring Peter Krause, Felicity Huffman and Robert Guillaume, it was way before its time. Don’t be put off: The jarring laugh track only lasts through the first season.
Freaks and Geeks (18 Episodes)
Besides My So-Called Life, there is no greater TV show to have chronicled the high school experience. And like MSCL’s Claire Danes, a premature cancellation after only one season couldn’t eclipse the careers of its cast. In this case: Jason Segal, James Franco, Busy Philipps and Seth Rogen.