I don’t aim to create any negative habits or inspire anyone into becoming a patron of procrastination with this post; I am merely here to feed the habit for those of us who fell down this hole a long time ago! I find that when specific situations or life in general threaten to overwhelm me (or when I just have a good chunk of time to fill and nothing to fill it with), a good television show marathon does the world of good. Whether it makes us laugh, cry, smile or think, television truly can cure a menagerie of maladies. So peruse below through my top seven suggestions for shows to watch when you’re stressed or just looking to procrastinate those essays away. Forewarning: most of the shows are British, because that is what I was raised on. And British shows are just so much better (but I guess that is a debate for another day)!
1) Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000: One Series)
Ah, the eighties. A decade dominated by MTV, economic liberalisation and the perm, or so I am told (it was a bit before my time)! This nostalgic little gem of a show is set at the start of the decade – when punk concretely considered counter-culture – in a small town in Michigan. Taking place during the school year of 1980-81, Freaks and Geeks follows two distinctly separate groups of students as they navigate the challenges posed by high school and the struggles of finding who you really are.
It perhaps sounds a tad cliche, but Freaks and Geeks’ one series (yes, one!) has become a cult classic and features an array of recognizable faces including a young Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and James Franco. Young James Franco: if that isn’t reason enough to watch, then I don’t know what is.
2) Broadchurch (2013-Present: One Series)
I love a good crime drama, and Broadchurch definitely falls in to that category. I adore the suspenseful energy that seeps into you as the plot unravels and the audience discovers more about the characters and their deep-rooted secrets. The examinations of human grief and behaviour in the wake of a tragedy contained within many murder mysteries holds a great amount of interest to me also. I think the appeal of the crime drama in general is that they satiate our curiousity in regards to what can be considered as the very worst of human behaviour; they provide us with a highly fictionalised window in to the people and processes that both commit crimes, and those that have to come to terms with their effects.
This critically acclaimed British drama captures all of these elements, as it revolves around the death of an eleven year old boy in a small town and the detectives tasked with finding the culprit. Although there is only one series of the show (and you will exhaust it quickly, trust me) another is tentatively scheduled to be released early next year, and there are many similar crime dramas to occupy you in the mean time including the BBC’s What Remains or AMC’s The Killing.
3) Q&A (2008-Present: Eight Series)
I’ve included Q&A on the list for those of you reading who feel guilty if they step away from their computer or textbooks for a sizable portion of time, but still have the urge to procrastinate. Welcome to guilt-free binge watching! Well, relatively guilt-free binge watching at the very least. Q&A (for those who do not know) is a weekly Australian political discussion panel on ABC, which aims to create discussion around contemporary social, economic and political issues.
The show takes questions from audience members and poses them to the panelists, who range from members of major and minor political parties to academics, advocates of certain issues (e.g. human rights) and media personalities. Q&A is not only informative and great for keeping up with current events, but also generates a good amount of controversy from time to time including the recent student protests in regards to proposed cuts to university funding in addition to Clive Palmer’s recent comments concerning China. All in all, definitely worth a watch!
4) The Mighty Boosh (2004-2007: Three Series)
This surreal comedy is so extremely different to anything else I’ve ever watched, that I know for certain it will distract you completely from whatever you should be doing if you start to watch it. If you plan on drinking away your study blues and are looking for something to watch, I’d imagine you wouldn’t be able to go too far wrong with this either. The Mighty Boosh ran from 2004 to 2007 in Britain, and features a signficant array of colourful characters and whimsical storylines – including an entire episode in which the life of one of the protagonists is threatened by a ‘rogue jazz cell’. Yes, a rogue jazz cell.
It isn’t really possible to explain The Mighty Boosh (and thus what makes it so entertaining), so you’re just going to have to watch this one for yourself. Personally, I consider series two and three to be more entertaining, and still find myself humming little songs from the show considerably often all these years later.
5) The Thick of It (2005-2012: Four Series)
Warning: The Thick of It is not for the fainthearted nor the easily-offended. An interest in the behind the scenes workings of politics and internal party mechanisms is particularly helpful for enjoying this one, though not necessarily required. Even though this show is set in England, is concerned with politics in Westminster and is highly fictionalised, I honestly do not think its presentation of politicians and their day-to-day decision making is too far from reality. I’m fairly certain that’s the cynic in me talking though!
But seriously, this show is hilarious. Peter Capaldi’s sweary Malcom Tucker has to be one of the greatest television character creations of the last decade. All the cast do such a wonderful job of portraying the incompetency of these signficant political actors, that the most unlikeable characters (an umbrella most characters fall under) eventually become endearing. If you fancy some highly expletive-prone political comedy, The Thick of It is as good as it comes!
6) The Great British Bake Off (2010-Present: Five Series)
I love cake. I love bread. I love pretty looking and equally as delectable desserts, way too much for the maintenance of my waistline. If you do as well (and really, who doesn’t?), then you have just found your new obsession. Easy, light viewing filled to the brim with baking-related puns, The Great British Bake Off definitely inspires major warm fuzzy feelings. I am telling you now that if you begin to watch this program, you will become heavily invested in the contestants.
You will cheer for them when their showstopper bread has been baked to perfection and has a fantastic crumb structure, as well as when they triumph in the tricky technical bakes. You will also feel for them when their pastries have a soggy bottom, or their cakes fall onto the floor. There are four full series (with the fifth currently airing in the U.K.); go now and devour them!
7) Doctor Who (1963-1989: Twenty-Six Series, 2005-Present: Eight Series)
And finally, Doctor Who. If you haven’t watched Doctor Who by now, know that it isn’t too late to start! With an extremely general premise, Doctor Who centres on the adventures of a time-traveling alien as he traverses space and time in his TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space). For those of you who have never seen the program, it isn’t really possible to describe this show in such a small paragraph, but the reason it has inspired such a following over its fifty year run is that is consistently enjoyable television in every way possible.
I can only encourage anyone unfamiliar with the show to give it a try (and with a new actor taking on the role of the Doctor, there isn’t a better time), or to urge those who have previously cast it aside to give it another try, because you will not be disappointed. And with seven series of the modern incarnation alone with the eighth underway, it is definitely good procrastination material!
Have fun unwinding or just plain distracting yourself as you binge watch one (or many) of the shows in this list or get out the box sets of your own personal favourites, and remember: a good television show marathon is improved infinitely by comfort food and good company!