Ever since free online and subscription TV streaming has made television an on-demand experience, “binge-watching” entire seasons of compelling TV shows has become an incredible way to experience the best TV has to offer. You can do the same with DVD box sets, too. Be selective when it comes to watching online TV and enjoy the “just one more episode!” experience time and time again.
1. “Breaking Bad”
“Breaking Bad” sounds deplorable on paper. High school chemistry teacher Walter White is diagnosed with lung cancer and decides he wants to leave his family enough money to live off of once he’s gone —by cooking meth. Walter hides his criminal activity from his pregnant wife, his teenage son with cerebral palsy and his sister- and brother-in-law — the latter of which happens to be a DEA agent. His partner in crime is Jesse, a former student of Walter’s who has connections in the drug trade.
The black comedy and addicting drama that follows as Walter descends into the madness that is the world of drug-dealing compels you to root for good-hearted people who do bad things, and then question your support for them when the line between good and evil becomes murkier and murkier.
2. “Downton Abbey”
The Titanic has sunk, and with it, the Crawley family has lost a cousin — the heir to Downton Abbey, their sprawling British country estate. Since the law requires a male heir and Lord Grantham only has three daughters, a distant cousin gets the news of a lifetime: He’s to inherit the estate and all the wealth that comes with it — although his newly discovered relations are none too happy to hand it over to their middle-class relative.
“Downton Abbey” is an upstairs/downstairs period drama that follows the Crawley family and their staff of dozens of servants who keep the estate up and running through the 1910s, World War I and the 1920s. The romantic and dramatic trials of the servants are just as must-see as those of the aristocrats.
3. “Game of Thrones”
In a fantasy world reminiscent of medieval Europe, “winter is coming” and long-forgotten dreadful creatures of myth are making their way along the winds of winter to the seven kingdoms of Westeros. The series follows dozens of characters, each as important as the last, as several men and a woman lay claim to the throne of Westeros, inspiring legions of followers to help them in their quest.
“Game of Thrones” is a must both for fans of fantasy and for fans of character drama. The story isn’t just political but mythical as well, and you’ll see zombies, dragons and gods at work. No one character is all good and many hide their true intentions in the battle for the throne.
4. “Mad Men”
Period drama is rarely as outstanding as this Emmy-winning series. “Mad Men,” set in the 1960s, follows the work and personal lives of men and women working for a bustling advertising agency in New York. Don Draper, the leading character, leads a double — or maybe even triple life — as doting family man, callous womanizer and successful ad man. Sexism, casual drinking and frequent smoking are the rule in this complex, can’t-miss tale set in a time not so long ago, but feels so far removed.
5. “The Walking Dead”
Sherriff Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma following a gunshot wound to find the hospital deserted, and the dead walking, ready to eat any living person they find. “The Walking Dead” is about Rick locating his family and best friend, leading a group of survivors and finding a way to live in a world overrun by zombies. The series is addicting not only for the zombie action, but for the character drama. In a world where survival is the only law, Rick learns to expect the worst in every person he encounters.
As CBC News explains, shows that are heavily serialized are the most likely candidates for “highly addicting” TV series you can watch in mini-marathons. Serialization makes you feel like you have to know what happens next. If there’s one downside to binge-watching TV, it’s that you’re left wondering what to do next. That’s when you pick up a new series and start all over again.
Mary Buckner is a contributing writer and TV critic for a Wyoming newspaper. She blogs on TV and pop culture news.