Need a show to kill some time or help you procrastinate tonight from that thing you really, really want to put off? You could do worse than wasting your night away with these 37 shows, but I don’t promise you won’t get pulled in. With Breaking Bad and Parks and Recreation on this list, I could never keep that promise.
1. 30 Rock
Tina Fey’s screwball comedy had two great seasons and five uneven ones, but even when the show gets rough, you always have classics like “Anna Howard Shaw Day” to get you through and a lead character who stands as one of TV’s all-time-great heroines.
2. Ally McBeal
This show invented hate watching before Lena Dunham was even a thing, a show that’s alternatively awful and strangely compelling, a first-world-problems train wreck you can’t stop watching.
3. American Horror Story
Ryan Murphy’s finest hour is one of the greatest camp creations in the history of television, a series that routinely finds room for men in rubber suits, albino kidnappers and Anne Frank. What’s not to love about this show?
Archer might be the darkest comedy ever made, so dense with jokes, throwaway lines and references that like other shows I’m about to mention, you have to watch it more than once to get everything. Along with It’s Always Sunny, Sons of Anarchy, The Bridge and Justified, it proves FX might be the best channel on TV right now.
5. Arrested Development
The newest season disappointed so only because everything before it was so good, a show that even in a relatively weak third season could give us a joke as painfully hilarious as the Charlize-Theron-in-Monster callback. TV comedy doesn’t get better than this.
6. Better Off Ted
For Arrested Development fans, this lightning-swift corporate satire is one of TV’s most underrated comedy pleasures — with two seasons of Portia de Rossi absolutely killing it as Darth Vader in a dress.
7. Black Books
This dry British import is a deliciously sarcastic look at life behind the counter of a book shop, kind of like Notting Hill if Julia Roberts didn’t come and ruin everything.
8. Bob’s Burgers
Despite being the best animated show on TV, Bob’s Burgers never seems to get the attention it deserves for how weird and absolutely wonderful it is. Your fans love you, Tina Belcher, even if America doesn’t yet.
9. Breaking Bad
I don’t care that it’s over. You know you should watch this show. I’ve repeatedly told you that you should watch this show, one of the best in the history of TV. JUST FUCKING DO IT ALREADY.
10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Still Joss Whedon’s finest work, Buffy gave him the chance to atone for the sins of the film, giving us a high school satire that just became more layered, complicated and compelling as the series progressed.
11. Children’s Hospital
This cult favorite is a surreal satire of medical dramas with a killer cast including Ken Marino, Megan Mullally, Malin Akerman, Lake Bell, Rob Corddry and Henry Winkler and produced by Wet Hot American Summer and The State’s David Wain. If that’s not enough to get you to watch it, you’re on your own.
Before Scandal or Revenge, there was Damages, a twisty corporate thriller as operatically campy as it is addictive, featuring Glenn Close as a high-powered lawyer who makes high bitchery into an art form.
13. Dark Shadows
This iconic cult classic succeeds because of its juicy soapishness and low-budget Ed Wood trappings, with a set that always looked like it was on the verge of collapsing and some of the most wonderfully bad child acting ever.
14. Dawson’s Creek
Kevin Williamson’s over-articulate 90s WB phenomenon is every bit as oddly involving as it was fifteen years ago, the parts of your childhood its fun to return to every now and then, just like going home.
15. Doctor Who
The long-running BBC series is one of the more improbable successes in TV history, a ferociously entertaining space-time jumping soap that keeps coming back, just like its titular Doctor.
16. Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23
Nahnatchka Khan’s show was so much better than its awful name, an opposites-attract comedy with a killer lead in Krysten Ritter, a dizzyingly smart comedienne who might be the funniest actress on television. It’s a damn shame this show didn’t survive, but it was just too good to last.
Keri Russell’s iconic coming-out party only gets better with age, a precociously and surprisingly poetic show about the struggle to find yourself in college and the stupid decisions that might get you there.
Also check out: J.J. Abrams’ later cult hits Lost and Alias
18. Friday Night Lights
One of the best dramas in history, Friday Night Lights was just about as heart-wrenching as TV gets, leading up to a finale that’s devastating in a way that few shows are. Get ready to lose your mind with emotions every fucking week.
Heroes was one season of close-to-perfect television followed by seemingly endless seasons of increasing awfulness, but luckily you can just watch the first season and pretend it ended there. Save yourself.
20. House of Cards
The David Fincher-produced American remake is well worth your time, but why watch a derivative version of one of the best mini-series ever made if you can just savor the original?
21. The League
FX’s sleeper charmer benefits from a cast with effortless chemistry (that just gets better each season) and a premise any football lover can appreciate, a show about the insanity of fandom and the relationships it forms.
22. Long Island Medium
A guilty pleasure if there ever were one, Long Island Medium is one of TLC’s best shows simply because it’s not just TV designed to make you feel superior to someone. You end up genuinely caring about this batty lady and her weird family, even if you desperately want her to get a makeover.
TV’s best comedy is so stunning simply because so much of it isn’t that funny, a genre-buster that also functions as a Scorsese-esque look at the surreal life in New York city, like Taxi Driver for stand-up comedy scene.
24. New Girl
New Girl started off rocky but got a lot better the more it shifted away from Zooey Deschanel, slowly building into the best ensemble comedy on TV. It’s actively depressing to think that Nick Greenfield wasn’t been nominated for an Emmy this year, but rest assured fellow Schmidt fans: next time.
25. The Office
Whether it’s Ricky Gervais’ acidic British original or the American version, you can’t go wrong with this show, a program so stupendously great that it seems to translate to every country. Work sucks everywhere.
26. Orange is the New Black
OITNB surpasses Jenji Kohan’s Weeds in every possible way, an ensemble prison-comedy drama that just gets better as it goes along, a show that’s impossible not to binge watch your way through.
Jason Katims’ FNL follow-up is every bit as dramatically accomplished as its predecessor, a soulful and heartfelt look at the struggles of keeping a family together even when it feels like everything is always coming apart.
28. Parks and Recreation
Greg Daniels’ Parks and Recreation as an absolute gem of an ensemble comedy, a satirical mockumentary that believes in the power of government and the human spirit. If you let it, Parks just might restore your faith in people — or just make you want to travel the world with Tynnifer.
Portlandia is just about as genial and loving as satire gets, an observant comedy that’s like a big hug to the people of Portland. For my money, the Aimee Mann episode will forever be the finest thing they’ve ever done.
The show had some second season troubles, but Revenge’s first season is everything you could want in a nighttime soap: trashy fun as entertaining as it is well-crafted, proof that you don’t have to remove your brain to have a little fun. Also, Victoria Grayson is everything.
Revenge’s spiritual companion is TV’s newest sensation for one big reason: Kerry Washington. The Emmys owe her one for her role as her performance as Olivia Pope in a show that goes big every single week and consistently knocks it out of the park.
The American remake was a bust, but that’s because the British original stands well enough on its own, a show so committedly scandalous that it makes Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl look like Blossom.
33. The Tick
Long before Agents of SHIELD or the forthcoming Batman spin-off, The Tick proved you could do comic books on TV right, except that no one watched it. Now that it’s on Netflix, you can correct that mistake.
34. Twin Peaks
The show notoriously jumped the shark after Laura Palmer’s killer was revealed, but until that point, it’s easy to see why this show was such a phenomenon, a rapturous noir mystery it’s hard to stop thinking about. It’s every bit as good as David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. and Blue Velvet, but has the added benefit of backwards-talking Little People.
35. The Vicar of Dibley
Dawn French’s beloved British classic is the heir to Fawlty Towers’ comedy throne, a bawdy comedy that should delight everyone who loved French’s comedy partner, Jennifer Saunders, on Ab Fab. This Vicar isn’t as gay, but she’s every bit as jolly.
36. The West Wing
This and Sports Night prove that the 90s was the decade of Sorkin on television, a writer-creator able to be sharp, witty and hard-hitting without sacrificing his optimism about the political system. It’s liberal idealism, but with writing this good, it’s hard not to buy into the fantasy.
37. The X-Files
The X-Files is one of the more unlikely successes in the history of American television, a supernatural police procedural that introduced genre before audiences craved it. When Sleepy Hollow and The Walking Dead look at their big ratings, they have Cris Carter to thank.