The only thingbetter than having a weekend jam-packed with all sorts of exciting plans is having a weekend with no plans at all—especially if it means you can dedicate a blissful 72-plus hours to hopping on the couch, firing up your favorite streaming machine, and testing your own torpidity. Rather than rewatch Breaking Bad for the 37th time this weekend, or start a months-long catch-up on all 456 hours of Law & Order you missed, why not try setting your sights on an actual achievement: watching a television series in its entirety. Whether it’s a cancelled-too-soon gem or a British series that understands that two seasons can be just as satisfying as 20, here are 10 fantastic TV shows you can consume whole in one weekend—no waiting for “next season” required.
Freaks and Geeks
Paul Feig’s coming-of-age-in-the-1980s single-season sitcom has become the model for “brilliant but cancelled” TV shows. A slew of soon-to-be stars—including Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini, Martin Starr, James Franco, Jason Segel, Busy Philipps, and Spider-Man: Homecoming screenwriter John Francis Daley—navigate the challenges of high school with what might be the most honest, awkward, funny, and painfully authentic portrait of adolescence ever seen on TV. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be glad you never owned a Parisian night suit.
Time Requirement: 13.5 hours
Where to Stream It: Netflix
If you’re looking to infuse your weekend binge-watch with nonstop, pulse-pounding action … Detectorists is not your show. However, if you like quiet and quirky character-driven comedies, you’re in luck—because this is one of the best of them. Even if you’ve never heard of it. It follows the decidedly unexciting “adventures” of friends Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones), who spend the bulk of their days searching the English countryside for buried treasure with their trusty metal detectors and attending the occasional lecture on such exciting topics as “buttons” as members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club. The show, which is written and directed by Crook (best known as Gareth from The Office, which you can also watch in a single weekend), won a BAFTA for Best Scripted Comedy yet also manages to be surprisingly moving… even if it moves at a delightfully glacial pace.
Time Requirement: 9.5 hours
Where to Stream It: Acorn TV, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix,
Tig Notaro can’t be stopped. Between Happy to Be Here (her new Netflix special), the announcement that she’ll appear in the next season of Star Trek: Discovery, and First Ladies (her upcoming Netflix feature, co-starring Jennifer Aniston), it would seem as if there’s nothing she can’t do. Then there’s One Mississippi, the semi-autobiographical series she co-created with Diablo Cody, which sees Notaro as a radio show host who has recently undergone a double mastectomy following a breast cancer diagnosis, but is forced to return to her Mississippi hometown when her mother is put on life support after an accidental fall. Like any worthwhile family drama, there’s plenty of dysfunction as Tig is forced to temporarily move back in with her anal-retentive stepfather, who seems more upset by his missing cat than his recently deceased wife. But the show is full of Notaro’s trademark dry wit and ability to mine comedy out of even the most tragic events. It’s also a fascinating look at how the way we view our parents evolves with time—when we realize that they are fallible human beings, just like us.
The show gets bonus points for the final episode, which allowed Notaro to exact some creative revenge on Louis C.K., who was credited as a producer on the series despite the her very vocal protests. (For a more surreal version of a very funny person using her personal struggles as the basis for a semi-autobiographical series, Netflix’s Lady Dynamite is a wonderfully bizarre peek into the life of comedian/voice actor Maria Bamford, and her struggles with bipolar disorder.)
Time Requirement: 5.5 hours
Where to Stream It: Amazon Prime
Yes, yes, we know: you love the American version of The Office. We do, too. But that doesn’t mean that watching the original British series from which it was adapted would be redundant. Sure, both shows are shot in a mockumentary style and follow the employees of a struggling paper company in a small city on the outskirts of a big city (in the case of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s creation, it’s Wernham Hogg in Slough, 25 miles west of London). While fans of the NBC version will recognize some overlapping jokes in the pilot, and the occasional similar storyline, the narrative roads diverge wildly, as do the paths of the incompetents at the helm of each company’s regional office. But whereas Steve Carell’s Michael Scott is a mostly well-meaning guy who just wants to be liked, Gervais’s David Brent is an intolerable guy who just wants to be liked. Just when you start to think that maybe he’s not such an insufferable human being after all, he’ll make a comment about your breasts. And your dead mother’s breasts. For fans of uncomfortable comedy, The Office rivals The Larry Sanders Show for the number of times you’ll physically cringe. (If you finish this and want even more painful laughs, Gervais and Merchant’s Extras is a nice companion piece, and will take even less time to watch. And if you’re a masochistic David Brent completist, you’ll want to shudder your way through David Brent: Life On the Road as well.)
Time Requirement: 7.5 hours
Where to Stream It: Netflix, Hulu
American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson
Most people tuned into The People vs. OJ Simpson expecting a slightly cheesy rehashing of the same old scenes and details we’ve seen and heard again and again in the near-quarter-century since the former football star was acquitted of murder. What they got was something much different: a surprisingly well-crafted retelling of what went on behind the scenes of the trial, that focused more on the attorneys tasked with either defending or prosecuting Simpson that the defendant himself. Yet it doesn’t shy away from playing up the nostalgia aspect and employing levity when it’s needed, and manages to keep audiences enthralled throughout—even if you know how it’s all going to end. That creators Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (who co-wrote Problem Child, by the way) were able to dedicate much of a single episode to the public response to deputy district attorney Marcia Clark’s bad haircut—cheekily titled “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”—tells you everything you need to know about its distinctive tone.
Time Requirement: 8.5 hours
Where to Stream It: Netflix
Before he was abusing women with their permission in the 50 Shades movie franchise, Jamie Dornan made his mark as the world’s hottest fictional serial killer. That’s not just a random observation: whether you realize it or not, the fact that Paul Spector (Dornan’s character) is easy on the eyes is actually part of what makes The Fall so compelling. Same goes for the fact that he is seemingly happily married, adores his two young children, and makes his living as a bereavement counselor. It’s this upstanding citizen façade that allows Spector to fly under the radar as a suspect in a series of gruesome murders, and the stark contrast between his outward appearance and what he does in the shadows makes the series genuinely terrifying. Especially as there’s no guessing game here: even the trailer for the first season makes it clear that Spector’s a cold-blooded killer. Only adding to the show’s appeal is Gillian Anderson as a badass DSI who is brought to Belfast from London to find the killer before he strikes again. Sure, it’s grim—but addictively so.
Time Requirements: 17.5 hours
Where to Stream It: Netflix
The struggling Hollywood artist trying to make ends meet with a dead-end job is a trope we’ve seen in thousands of movies and TV shows, but it’s never been more relatable (even to non-Hollywood types) than in Party Down. A group of Hollywood wannabes (and has-beens) spends their days attempting to achieve/recapture stardom and their evenings passing hors d'oeuvres to porn stars, Russian mobsters, community theater actors, aspiring orgy kings, and ‘80s superstar Steve Guttenberg. While there’s a definite throughline, each episode works as a standalone piece of comedy, making it an easy binge. With a stellar cast that includes Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr, Ryan Hansen, and Megan Mullally—plus a rotating group of guest stars, including J.K. Simmons in the role of a lifetime—it still hurts that Starz didn’t give the series more of a chance; it was cancelled after just two seasons, which is definitely a Ron Donald Don’t.
Time Requirement: 10 hours
Where to Stream It: Hulu
Much like Freaks and Geeks, Joss Whedon’s Firefly—a space Western that ran for the 2002-2003 season—is one of the first titles that’s likely to be mentioned when the topic of TV shows that were canceled too soon is brought up. Nathan Fillion leads the cast in charm as Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, the leader of a renegade crew aboard the Serenity spacecraft who, following the decimation of Earth’s resources (the show takes place 500 years in the future) must find ways to survive in outer space, be it via legal or illegal means. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen the series, it’s worth revisiting; if you’ve never seen it, you’d better do it now and be prepared should it ever get the reboot that audiences have spent the past 15 years begging for. Time Requirement: 11.5 hours Where to Stream It: Hulu
Eastbound & Down
Danny McBride has built a career on playing assholes. And Kenny Powers, the former pro baseball pitcher he played for four seasons of Eastbound & Down, might just be the biggest asshole of them all. That’s a compliment. And a boon for fans of offensive comedy, who get to witness the dark side of fame as Powers falls from grace and desperately tries to mount a comeback—then another one, and yet another—at any cost. And it’s not just a one-note joke: the storyline undergoes a dramatic shift from one season to the next as Powers sacrifices everything he has and loves (as much as a narcissist can love) to chase the high that fame brings him.
Time Requirement: 14.5 hours
Where to Stream It: Amazon Prime, HBO Go
This one’s going to take a little longer to get through, but for horror fans—and gothic horror fans in particular—the time will fly by. Like a Universal Monster Movie mash-up for the Twitter generation, Penny Dreadful brings together a host of literature’s most famous (and terrifying) characters in order to help a mysterious explorer (Timothy Dalton) and breathtaking clairvoyant (Eva Green) do battle against a host of supernatural entities that are terrorizing Victorian London. Dr. Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and his Creature (Rory Kinnear)—plus Frankenstein’s Bride (Billie Piper)—are all here, as is the decidedly less frightening Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney). With stellar acting (by Green especially), great writing (not surprising since it was created by three-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan), striking visuals, and genuine scares, it’s amazing that the show managed to slip right past so many viewers. This weekend is as good as any to right that wrong.
Time Requirement: 24 hours
Where to Stream It: Netflix, Showtime Anytime
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