Your self-isolation will pass in record time with these bingeworthy TV shows!
Oh, for the sweet escape of TV in these troubled times, eh? Luckily, the streaming giants have plenty of quality entertainment squirrelled away for just such an occasion, and we’ve been having a gander to find a few for you to watch. Whether they’ve clocked up four seasons (about a week’s worth of TV, perhaps?) or twenty-two (surely enough to get you to the post-pandemic stage), these excellent, bingeworthy TV shows will help you escape the news cycle for a little while. Kick back, ship your fave couples, and marvel at the drama, with Secret London’s guide to the best TV shows to see during a pandemic.
(Oh, and in case you get to the bottom of this list and think I’ve overlooked it, I refused to put The Big Bang Theory in here because it is both tragically unfunny and relentlessly awful, and the world is depressing enough already right now. Not even sorry about that.)
1. Breaking Bad (5 seasons)
You’ve heard of this one for sure. If, like a certain Secret London Editor, you inexplicably missed the boat on this one during its heyday, self-isolation is the perfect time to catch up.
2. Better Call Saul (5 seasons)
Handily, once you’re done with Breaking Bad, you can move over to prequel series Better Call Saul, which follows criminal lawyer Jimmy McGill in the years before he became Saul Goodman.
3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (14 seasons and counting)
Never seen this one? Imagine the traditional sitcom format, just populated with the shittiest people imaginable, and you’ll get It’s Always Sunny. Best enjoyed with a glass of Fight Milk.
4. Mad Men (7 seasons)
Could quite easily have been a voyeuristic look at the “good ole days” of the patriarchy, but instead became a brilliant, meditative study of ambition, feminism, and power in a 60s ad agency.
5. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (6 seasons)
Considering bankruptcy essential forced Will Smith to make this show, things turned out bloody well didn’t they? For bonus points, perfect ‘The Carlton’ during your time in isolation.
6. Glee (6 seasons)
What makes high school more bearable? Singing your feelings, of course. Wayyy too much drama to fully recap here, so you’ll just have to watch it.
7. How I Met Your Mother (9 seasons)
This will always have a special place in my heart, as it’s the TV show that finally replaced Friends as my favourite sitcom. Whatever you think of the ending, it’s still a fun ride today.
8. BoJack Horseman (6 seasons)
Okay, so if you’re feeling down about the state of the world, maybe avoid this jet-black animated comedy about depression, celebrity, and the struggles of modern life for now. It is seriously good though!
9. RuPaul’s Drag Race (12 seasons and counting)
Because we all need to feel a little fabulous these days, RuPaul is here to help. Watching the finest drag queens in the US lip sync for their life should take your mind off things, if only for an hour or two.
10. Orange is the New Black (7 seasons)
Well, we appear to be in for a stretch, so this darkly comedic look about life inside a women’s prison should make for interesting viewing.
11. Friends (10 seasons)
I hesitate to recommend this one since you were almost certainly all watching it before coronavirus anyway, but sometimes you just need Central Perk and the gang to brighten up your day.
12. Peep Show (9 seasons)
“Four naan, Jeremy, four? That’s insane!” Well Mark, since the world is looking a little off its axis right now, I think we all bloody need four naan…
13. Grace and Frankie (6 seasons and counting)
The cast alone – Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston – is worth it, and when you throw in the premise of two women forced into friendship when their husbands announce they’re in love with each other, you’ve got one hell of a show.
14. Jane the Virgin (5 seasons)
Immaculate conception must have been quite the sales pitch, but this telenovela-infused gem won a legion of fans upon premiering in 2014.
15. Star Trek – The Next Generation (7 seasons)
Captain Kirk may be gone by this point, but fan favourite Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) & co are here to take up the mantle. Nip on over to Amazon Prime when you’re done and you can catch newly-released sequel Picard.
16. Gossip Girl (6 seasons)
You know you love me. Thus spake Gossip Girl, who charts the lifes, loves, and scandals of the high society of New York in some damn near unmissable television.
17. Gilmore Girls (7 seasons)
A curious thing happens whenever I mention Gilmore Girls: without fail, the person I’m talking to will say “it’s absolutely your show, you’re going to love it”. Do I just project Gilmore Girls vibes? Anyhoo, the highs and lows of life in Stars Hollow are available on Netflix right now.
18. Pretty Little Liars (7 seasons)
If you’re going to go ahead and keep dark secrets, the last thing you want is a shadowy figure popping up and threatening to reveal them, isn’t it?
19. Schitt’s Creak (5 seasons and counting)
You’ve either never heard of Schitt’s Creek, or you think it’s the best show on TV right now. When a wealthy family loses everything, they’re forced to retreat to the only asset they have left – the little town of Schitt’s Creek, bought as a joke.
20. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (6 seasons and counting)
Nine-NINE! Zany schemes, lovable characters, and a twisty Halloween special every season combine to make this one of the most popular shows on television right now.
21. The Americans (6 seasons)
Honestly, this is one of the greatest shows that nobody really seemed to watch. It’s brilliant, compelling stuff, which follows the lives of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, a pair of travel agents who live out their uneventful suburban existence in 80s Washington DC. Oh, except they’re actually Russian spies actively working to undermine the US government, without blowing their cover. Outstanding TV, truly.
22. Parks and Recreation (7 seasons)
There’s nothing more wholesome during a global pandemic that big-hearted Leslie Knope and her relentless quest to improve the small town of Pawnee, Indiana – aided and abetted by a somewhat less interested team.
23. House (8 seasons)
Hugh Laurie is so convincing as maverick malcontent doctor Gregory House that plenty of people were surprised to find out that he isn’t actually American. A new puzzling medical case every week should keep you entertained, and as with any medical drama, there are plenty of personal life problems to go around…
24. New Girl (7 seasons)
Do you remember a time before Zooey Deschanel became the go-to adorkable romantic lead? Nope, me neither. Seven whole seasons of offbeat fun, Winnie the Bish, and True American await you here. (In fact, self-isolation is the perfect time to actually understand and subsequently play True American…)
25. The Office (9 seasons)
It’s the US version, which to be honest most people regard as the superior one. It’s also the TV show that launched a thousand Buzzfeed listicles and endless pop culture references, so if you’re behind the curve, it’s time to catch up.
26. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (7 seasons)
Cult TV at its finest. Standing alone against the forces of evil, Buffy Summers and her ragtag crew must save the world whilst navigating high school. Absolute cakewalk, really.
27. Futurama (10 seasons)
Quite confusingly, Amazon claims to have ten seasons whilst IMDB insists there are only seven. Whatever the case may be, every episode of the Matt Groening-created space comedy is here to view.
28. Downton Abbey (6 seasons)
Once upon a time, you couldn’t move for Downton Abbey spoilers. Such days have passed, however, so you’re free to binge your way through the changing times of Edwardian England. It’s also good prep for whenever you get round to watching the film.
29. Heroes (4 seasons)
Another TV show that was absolutely freaking everywhere during my adolescence, Heroes has found a new life on Amazon Prime – although it may leave you wanting superpowers…
30. The O.C. (4 seasons)
A classic, and about the right level of drama for the current situation. The only possible downside is when Hide and Seek starts playing and all you can think of is the SNL skit…
31. One Tree Hill (9 seasons)
I’ll be honest with you, I’m forever getting these two muddled up. Love, life, basketball, and yes, drama collide in the small town of Tree Hill, North Carolina. Head to 4oD for Dawson’s Creek and you can complete the holy trinity of “era-defining angsty coming-of-age dramas”!
32. Psych (8 seasons)
We’ve all told small fibs in our time, but when that little fib lands you a job working as a psychic detective for the Santa Barbara PD, you’d best find a way to keep the pretence up, no?
33. Bones (12 seasons)
Can it be cheesy? Yes. Do the gruesome deaths get ever more outlandish? Yes. Does it matter? Nope, because you need entertainment and Bones – which is loosely based on the work of forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs – provides it in spades.
34. The X-Files (11 seasons)
The sci-fi show against which all other sci-fi shows must be measured stands the test of time, with Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny turning in excellent performances as agents Mulder and Scully.
35. The Walking Dead (8 seasons and counting)
OK, so Amazon Prime might not be quite up to date with The Walking Dead – which is about to launch into season eleven – but there’s more than enough zombie action to keep you occupied for the time being.
36. Justified (6 seasons)
No need to justify watching this, because there’s plenty of time on your hands. US Marshal Raylan Givens is reassigned from the bright lights of Miami to his hometown in the foothills of eastern Kentucky – and it’s not exactly a welcome homecoming…
37. Suits (9 seasons)
Best known for being the starring role of former Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, this legal drama had a legion of fans long before the monarchy got involved.
38. MasterChef Australia (10 seasons)
Without a word of a lie, this ties The West Wing for my favourite TV show of all time. Making the subpar British MasterChef look like something that curdled in the pot and got swiftly dumped in the bin, MasterChef Australia features bigger challenges, slowly ratcheting tension, and a rotating cast of all-star chefs. You will live and die on the risotto challenges, I promise you that.
39. Bob’s Burgers (9 seasons and counting)
Delicious animated fare which sees Bob and Linda Belcher run their burger joint with the help of their three not entirely well-adjusted children.
40. South Park (22 seasons and counting)
Perhaps only The Simpsons can rival South Park’s influence on animated TV shows, and indeed TV shows in general. Plus, if you loved Book of Mormon, here’s your chance to see where that sense of humour comes from…
41. Line of Duty (5 seasons and counting)
Brilliant British fare which takes place inside police corruption investigation unit AC-12, whose officers aim to bring a variety of dirty deeds into the light.
42. Outnumbered (5 seasons)
Dysfunctional family comedy at its finest here. Of course, if you’re stuck inside with your own unruly kids, this may feel a little too much like reality…
43. Death in Paradise (9 seasons)
Quite impressive for a TV show to essentially change its lead character twice and still run uninterrupted, but Death in Paradise manages it with aplomb. Think Midsomer Murders set in the Caribbean and you won’t be too far off.
44. Luther (5 seasons)
Idris Elba may be the one man coronavirus fears, but he’s got personal demons, demented killers, and the chilling spectre of Ruth Wilson’s Alice haunting him in this gripping drama.
45. The Thick of It (4 seasons)
Would the coronavirus pandemic look different with Malcolm Tucker spinning it every which way? Maybe not, but there’d be a hell of a lot more swearing involved…
46. Call The Midwife (9 seasons)
The East End of London is the setting for this enjoyably mum-pleasing fare, following the challenges of a group of midwives in the 1950s.
47. Friday Night Dinner (6 seasons and counting)
I’ll level with you: I don’t exactly get why everyone is wild for this show – but wild for it they are, and if you’d like to see what the fuss is about, head to 4oD, where the sixth season is just starting to appear.
48. Seinfeld (9 seasons)
The seminal “show about nothing” can be seen in all its glory on 4oD, as Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer get into all sorts of scrapes.
49. Community (6 seasons (and a movie?!)
One day, we’ll get the big screen ending Community richly deserves. For now, content yourself with the first six seasons of shenanigans from Greendale Community College, which includes the enviably talented Donald Glover (pre-This Is America), and a pair of paintball episodes that might just be the most perfect 45 minutes of TV ever created.
50. The Goldbergs (7 seasons and counting)
Currently making its way through the seventh season, this lovable 80s-set sitcom relies on insane family dynamics and a mountain of pop culture references to deliver the laughs.
51. The IT Crowd (4 seasons)
One wonders if turning the world off and on again would solve the pandemic, but since that’s not possible, dive into The IT Crowd instead.
52. 90210 (5 seasons)
Updating the old Beverley Hills, 90210 for a millennial generation, 90210 is all about dramz in the California sunshine.
53. Fresh Meat (4 seasons)
All the dramas of university seem a long way off right now, don’t they? Still, Fresh Meat – which comes from the creators of Peep Show – is a good chance to dive blissfully back into the past.
54. Dawson’s Creek (6 seasons)
Oh, to be a young, carefree adolescent in the halcyon days of the 90s… Capeside, Massachusetts is the idyllic setting for a quartet of friends growing slowly and sometimes painfully towards adulthood. Try not to fall in love with Pacey Witter (❤️), I dare you.
55. Game of Thrones (8 seasons)
I’ll consider it a miracle if you’ve avoided spoilers thus far, to be honest. Anyway, if you’re missing all the power-grabs and double-crossing of the workplace, this will be savagely entertaining and perhaps oddly familiar.
56. VEEP (7 seasons)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ excellent turn as power-hungry yet surprisingly incompetent Vice President Selina Meyer deservedly won her all the awards, and with the US presidential elections currently taking a back seat news-wise, this should be all the political drama you need.
57. Curb Your Enthusiasm (10 seasons)
Larry David – whom sadly younger generations best know as Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live – stars as himself in this witty, self-deprecating look at the comedian’s life and times.
58. The Affair (5 seasons)
There’s always more than one side to the story, and this enjoyably twisty drama shows just that, providing multiple viewpoints of a love affair that starts one summer on Long Island…
59. Dexter (8 seasons)
Good grief Dexter was cracking telly. Cresting the wave of society’s serial killer obsession came this, a deliciously dark look at the hidden life of a serial killer who only kills the bad guys. Worth catching up on if you missed it the first time around!
Alternatively, if you’d like to spend your isolation helping others, check out these wonderful community aid groups!
Also published on Medium.