The time between Christmas and New Year's is, for countless homes across the country, a time for family bonding, eating leftovers… and vegging out in front of the TV. With these cherished traditions in mind, we’ve asked some of our contributors to confess what they’re binge-watching over the break—and what you might want to tune into, too!
I am currently in hyper-binge mode, catching up on Downton Abbey's last season in time for the season five premiere January 4 on PBS. I am not kidding when I say the heart-wrenching (and, I felt, viewer-slapping) season three finale turned me off so much that I couldn't bring myself to watch the subsequent season for a long time. I hadn't felt so betrayed by something in years, which is saying something considering I'm a Cleveland Cavaliers fan. But, alas, my overall loyalty to the show prevails (not unlike my loyalty to LeBron James upon his recent return to my favorite basketball team), and I am deeply entrenched in Downton drama once more. The upstairs/downstairs contrast, the evolving social status of women, and the character development that often leaves you munching on it for days in pseudo-self-reflection, reminding you what flaws to avoid and what virtuous character developments you might want to imitate. There are only a few days left to catch up, but I'm back. And this time I won't leave. Just please, Julian Fellows, don’t emotionally abuse me like that again.
I'm binge-watching Project Runway and Project Runway All Stars this holiday vacay. It might be a little odd that I enjoy watching the designers push through their obvious mental exhaustion as the pressure to win mounts, all from the cozy security of my sofa. But being a fly on the wall in a room full of over-the-top creative types is just too good to resist. Bonus: Most of the designers actively sell their work in online boutiques, so I can peruse their shops from my smartphone while watching each glorious meltdown and spectacular Michael Kors critique.
During my school break, I'm tuning in to two shows in particular with my whole family—my parents and younger siblings are all hooked. The first is a show called Leverage, about a team of criminals who help people, with the tagline "Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys." You have Nate, the insurance man who lost everything when his company let his son die; Sophie, the European grifter who has a flirtatious past with Nate; Elliot, the “hitter” and Southern boy whose time in the military left him without family and a healthy dislike of guns; Hardison, the hacker who was given a moral conscience by his foster mom; and Parker, the thief who is "20 pounds of crazy in a five-pound bag." People who have no other options—not enough money to sue, no recourse against unjust legalism—find their help in the Leverage team. It has something for everyone: comedy, pyrotechnics, crime, grit, and romance. And it leaves you with a flicker of hope for humanity. There can be honor even among thieves, after all.
The second show on our binge list follows the story of a Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire a year after the mysterious death of his wife. As Walt investigates crimes using common sense instead of CSI, what happened to his wife slowly becomes apparent. This series recalls the wild west while showcasing modern-day issues facing Native American peoples. Those who enjoy dry humor, intense dramas, and beautiful scenery will definitely enjoy it. Longmire’s first two seasons are on Netflix, and the third is presumed to be soon since Netflix recently acquired the rights to the show and plans to release a fourth season in the summer of 2015.
My mom and I have been glued to Gilmore Girls. Its witty, fast-paced dialogue full of cultural references entertains, and each episode ends with a cliffhanger that leaves me reaching for the remote to click "continue." Even though the show may not reflect the complexities of single-mom living, the relatable characters, small-town aura, and New England charm make it light, breezy, and perfect for binge-watching before New Year’s.
I am desperate to catch up on the most recent season of NBC's Parenthood and can’t wait to stream the show online with my husband this week. I love Parenthood because it depicts the kind of family I only dreamed about having as a child (and still dream about as an adult): big, intact, imperfect yet functional. Last season, I was so upset by Joel and Julia's separation, and I have been dying to see how, or if, they work it out. I have to admit, I have read a few spoiler articles and watched a couple YouTube clips from this season, and I was moved to tears by one from a recent episode involving Joel and Julia. So I'm hopeful the season will end with their family reunited!
One of my favorite ways to unwind during the holidays is to curl up on the sofa and watch the Food Network. It is, as they say, “mindless” TV that I can't watch during the work week—plus perfect for the time of year when I make resolutions like "I won't eat fried eggs for dinner every night. Instead maybe I'll meticulously roast things and flavor them with herbs I grew on my windowsill." Of all the Food Network's shows, Barefoot Contessa is my favorite. There are no obnoxious gimmicks or reality TV elements to the show, and everything, from the filming to the dishes and table settings, is simple yet elegant. Most of all, Ina Garten's calm demeanor never fails to lull me into truly believing I'll one day be the type of person who keeps vanilla beans on hand at all times for that last-minute dinner party.
I know I'm late to the game, but I recently discovered House on Netflix and I'm hopelessly addicted. Dr. House is an anti-hero—his morals are despicable—and the message of the show often is far from virtuous or heart-warming, so it's not the most predictable holiday fare. But it’s saved by the fact that it's also deeply thought-provoking. The characters grapple with medical decisions that cut to the core of our priorities, of how we choose to live and die and suffer. And it will definitely keep you entertained if dark humor is your thing. Just be sure you're not prone to hypochondria—because now every time I sneeze I'm convinced I have African Sleeping Sickness.
The Office is my go-to for any TV binge sesh. Considered a classic by most dry-humored Americans, this series is perfect for hilarious vegetating on a restful day. I love to curl up on the couch and indulge in episodes consisting of bizarre scenarios, inappropriate wisdom from boss Michael Scott, and melt-your-heart moments from the ongoing saga between Jim and Pam.
After getting completely addicted to the
podcast, several people recommended that I watch
HBO's critically acclaimed crime drama from the 2000s. Similar to
Serial, The Wire
is set in Baltimore and explores different elements of the city as well as the lives of both the law enforcement and the criminals. I love a good character-driven drama, and
has that in spades, along with enough politics and seedy-underbelly to keep you hitting "next episode" for hours on end.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the newest addition to the list of unapologetic marathons I partake in during my holiday downtime. The show is a combination of all my favorite things: New York footage, police detective work, comical actions scenes, and, above all else, Andy Samberg. As the show progresses, I find more reasons to re-watch episodes and attempt to memorize the witty remarks exchanged between characters, even if only as a means of entertaining myself.
THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Of course I could never forget to binge on the annual New Year’s marathon of The Twilight Zone. This series never fails to present itself as a harrowing opportunity to get in touch with my spooky side. Whether I’m looking for a psychological thrill or a sci-fi stimulation, I find the The Twilight Zone to be difficult if not impossible to walk away from once I’ve begun.