The best binge-worthy shows, featuring: 'Schitt's Creek,' 'Insecure,' 'Malcolm in the Middle,' 'Looking,' and 'High Maintenance.'

The Most Binge-Worthy TV Shows You Can Stream

As should be obvious by our recent coverage, we at The Mary Sue support the writers’ strike and hope that the writers get everything they want and then some. With industry execs putting so much emphasis on quantity over quality these days, this moment of action and repose is sorely needed.

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Yet it also creates an opportunity for us to sit back and enjoy the stacked backlog of shows available on streaming services. You may be upset that you won’t have new seasons or episodes of your favorites, but I guarantee you, there is so much out there worthy of your attention—content which proves that putting time and care into a project will make it so much better!

These are the TV series I deem most worthy of a good binge, based on how much they stand out compared to all the other shows out there. If you enjoy any of them, or want to add your own suggestions, make sure to head to the comments!

High Maintenance

I wrote a longer piece about all the reasons why I love High Maintenance, but really, it feels like such a massive hug of a show. Though the premise might sound a little zany—a weed dealer cycles through NYC, giving us an examination of his clients’ lives—it’s one of the most accepting, soulful shows out there.

Ben Sinclair gives a phenomenal performance as The Guy, one of my most favorite TV characters ever. He’s just such a kind, wise character, and even when the going gets really, truly weird, he never outright judges anyone for their scruples. –Madeline Carpou

Where to watch: Max

Schitt’s Creek

I’m currently on my yearly rewatch of Schitt’s Creek and it’s going just as pleasantly as the first time. Unlike a lot of sitcoms, this show consistently delivers a great deal of personality, wit, and believable character development. You never really get bored watching Schitt’s Creek—everything flows seamlessly.

The Rose family—Moira (Catherine O’Hara), her husband Johnny (Eugene Levy), and their adult children David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy)—is delightfully ridiculous, and even at their most absurd, you can’t help but love and root for them. Seeing them come to love the town they’ve been forced to move to, and leave their own positive impact on it, is really special. –MC

Where to watch: Netflix

Insecure

I still can’t believe Insecure is over, I would have happily taken more seasons! Alas, creator and star Issa Rae is onto bigger things (like playing President Barbie in Barbie), and we’ll support her all the way, of course. Doesn’t mean I won’t still yearn for more of this show in the meantime.

Insecure follows the lives of Issa and her friend Molly as they enter their 30s in Los Angeles. It’s a beautiful reflection of many things: being authentically oneself, especially as Black women; LA as a city, chaotic and nasty as it can be; how “becoming who you’re meant to be” is seldom a straightforward process, let alone an easy one; and how important our friendships are in the middle of it all. –MC

Where to watch: Max

Malcolm in the Middle

I still maintain that this is the best American sitcom ever made, and if you want to fight me over this, I’ll square up happily. I’ll meet you in the pit for Malcolm in the Middle. This show really is that good.

It’s funny, it’s earnest, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet it also doesn’t throw its heart away for the sake of cheap laughs and gags. It was also pretty progressive for its time; like any show from the 2000s, I’m sure there was probably an off-color joke here or there, but I really can’t remember anything egregious about it for the life of me. It was just good comedy. –MC

Where to watch: Hulu

Mozart in the Jungle

The tagline of this show is “Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music.” What more could you want?

Starring Lola Kirke and Gael Garcia Bernal, Mozart in the Jungle gives a fascinating look into the world of symphony orchestras. It’s based on the book of the same name, which was in turn based on author Blair Tindall’s experiences. It’s full of passion, a very visceral love of music, and characters you grow to adore profusely. Plus, it’s just cool to watch the orchestra in action, especially in the block party episode! –MC

Where to watch: Prime Video

The Bear

I was kind of upset to hear that The Bear had been renewed, honestly! And that’s only because its first season was SO GOOD that I wanted to preserve its perfection in time. Alas, we’re getting even more of a good thing. What woe, what a shame, etc.

For real, though: all that hype you heard about The Bear was entirely justified, even if this is a hard one to binge purely because it can be anxiety-inducing. Jeremy Allen White leads the cast as Carmy, a chef who returns home to Chicago to work at his family’s sandwich joint while coping with a horrible loss. The tension is almost constant, with the few moments of repose only serving to heighten one’s appreciation for the high-quality writing and characterization present throughout the entire show. If you haven’t watched The Bear, now is absolutely the time to finally try it. –MC

Where to watch: FX, Hulu

Looking

Of all the shows on this list, Looking is the only one that flew by without me even realizing, and I mean that as a compliment. This is such a viscerally human show that it tugs my heart just to think about it. Just like with Insecure, I would have happily watched many more seasons of this show. But I was pleased with the way it ended, so I suppose it’s better off contained as its own little thing.

Looking follows the lives of three gay men in San Francisco—played by Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez, and Murray Bartlett—and their friendships with one another, their complicated love lives, and their hopes for the future. I’m probably biased because I still hold a torch for SF. But I’ll always encourage anyone and everyone to watch this show. –MC

Where to watch: Max

Merlin

Okay, this might be an awkward one on this list, but honestly? Merlin is underrated as hell and I’m surprised it doesn’t have a bigger fanbase and more longevity. It’s a fantasy show that doesn’t rely on gross, reductive tropes, yet while the series is “family-friendly,” it’s neither patronizing nor childish.

Sure, the dialogue isn’t on the same level as Game of Thrones, but you know what? This is a cool fantasy show that doesn’t rely on rampant, unnecessary violence against women to forward the plot. More to the point, it’s a joyous, fun, whimsical show that makes me feel happy when I watch it. Merlin gang rise up, 2k23. –MC

Where to watch: Prime Video

Fleabag

This is another show that truly deserves all the hype it’s gotten and continues to get. Fleabag really is that good. It’s so good that I’m afraid to rewatch it—because I know it’ll just get me all emotional again.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge truly is that bitch. She understands how important it is to examine female friendships as well as female solitude. She understands the intricacies of familial pain and the consequences of living with yourself after all’s been said and done. And, arguably most importantly, she knows how to be wickedly funny throughout it all. –MC

Where to watch: Prime Video

Freaks and Geeks

I’ve rewatched this show (well, binged, rather) at least 10 times in my life, and it never gets old. It’s just timeless. There’s something incredibly special about Freaks and Geeks that’s allowed it to remain so perfectly contained and lovable even after so much time has passed. Created by Paul Feig, the series follows the outcast freaks (Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini, Busy Philipps, Jason Segel) and geeks (John Francis Daley, Martin Starr, Samm Levine) at a high school in 1980.

Yes, it’s a shame we never got more than one season of it. But that one season will change your life, I truly believe that. –MC

Where to watch: Prime Video, Hulu

Abbott Elementary

Just when it seemed like the network sitcom was a dying breed, ABC’s Abbott Elementary came along to revitalize it. What started out as a mid-season debut (a slot in which many shows are sent to die, essentially) turned into a bona fide hit thanks to its stellar writing and cast consisting of Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams, Janelle James, Lisa Ann Walter, Chris Perfetti, and Sheryl Lee Ralph (with William Stanford Davis later joining the regular cast).

The show is set in a Philadelphia public school and what the school lacks in funding, it makes up for in heart from its staff who are always pushing for more funding and resources to give their students as many opportunities as kids at more privileged institutions. Brunson is not only the star of the series, but its creator and one of its writers, and she was inspired to create the show from her experiences having a mother who taught kindergarten. –Julia Delbel

Where to watch: Hulu

Bob’s Burgers

Adult animation gets a bit of a bad rap for being overly “edgy” and sometimes even offensive. Bob’s Burgers is the antithesis to all of the mean-spirited adult cartoons out there, focusing on a family of five running the titular small business in a coastal town. While there’s plenty of conflict between the family members—parents Bob and Linda and kids Tina, Gene, and Louise—they are usually at least trying to work together to help each other solve problems, whether it be with the business, their social lives, or personal goals and struggles.

Bob’s Burgers manages to be funny without being “in your face” like many of its sister shows in the adult animation sphere. Its laid=back vibes give it a quiet charm, and it’s particularly refreshing to see the three kids—who are all preteens—get to be unapologetically weird without facing judgment from their parents (one of them is even a big fanfic writer, though she is more apt to call it “friend fiction” and write about people she knows in real life). All of this makes it easy to turn on a season of Bob’s Burgers and not realize where it went several hours later. –JD

Where to watch: Hulu

Daria

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show as simultaneously dated and evergreen as Daria. This animated show, centering on the titular teenage misfit as she navigates high school along with her artistic best friend, Jane, ran from 1997-2002 and you can tell based on the outfits, technology, and music. However, if you look past the aesthetics, the show’s stories are still massively relevant today, with topics including censorship, morality, and various forms of societal hypocrisy.

Believe it or not, this is actually a spinoff of Beavis and Butt-Head, with the main character originally appearing on that show, but Daria couldn’t be more different from that series—or anything on MTV before or since, for that matter. It explores issues teenagers of all generations face using smart humor and without sugar-coating them, and the show is a fun watch despite a more serious episode here and there. –JD

Where to watch: Paramount+, Prime Video

Only Murders in the Building

With so many traditional TV channels, streaming services, and other entertainment platforms at our fingertips in the modern age, it’s not as common for programming to successfully court a multi-generational audience unless it’s sports or certain reality competition shows. Enter Only Murders in the Building, a murder mystery comedy series starring Steve Martin (who also co-created the show), Martin Short, and Selena Gomez.

It’s a show about people from multiple generations in a situation other than a traditional family unit; they are instead brought together by their mutual love of true crime podcasts and end up working together to solve actual murders happening around them. And it’s worked; people from various age brackets are dedicated viewers of Only Murders in the Building, not just because of the cool premise and compelling core cast, but because of the many other celebrities that are known to pop up for recurring and guest spots, like Nathan Lane, Meryl Streep, Jane Lynch, and Paul Rudd. –JD

Where to watch: Hulu

Survivor

While there were a couple of notable reality TV shows that came before it, Survivor is the one most often credited with kicking off the rapid rise of the genre. A group of strangers of various ages, backgrounds, and lifestyles are dropped in the middle of a tropical location and forced to work together and form a society, then turn on each other and vote each other off in order to get to the end of the game, where eliminated players will determine the “sole survivor.” It was a huge phenomenon when it premiered all the way back in the summer of 2000, and though its ratings numbers aren’t as high nowadays, the legacy of Survivor continues with new seasons on CBS, spinoffs in other countries, and countless other shows inspired by the concept.

Survivor has changed a lot over the course of its lifetime, and fans love to debate the ever-evolving styles of gameplay, production twists, and merits of the show’s various “eras.” While you might not love every single one of these variations of the game, you’re bound to find at least some you enjoy; the earlier seasons tend to focus more on the adventure and literal survival aspects of the game as well as the culture of each season’s location (the show used to shoot in various locations before settling in its current location, the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji, in the mid-2010s). Those seasons also include some social elements that definitely didn’t age well from a modern lens, while more complex elements and twists are added to the game as the show goes on. The later seasons are more about the strategy and gameplay itself, with players understanding the concept of “it’s a game” and being less hostile towards each other, at least on the whole.

Where to watch: Paramount+ (other streaming services have a few seasons, but this is the only one that has all of them)

(featured image: CBC / HBO / 20th Century Television)


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Author
Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).
Author
Julia Delbel
Julia Delbel (she/her) is a contributing writer at The Mary Sue and has been doing freelance entertainment coverage for five years. She loves diving into film, television, and theater, especially Marvel, DC Disney, and animated content, particularly taking a hard look at their character development, storyline weaving, and place in the pop culture pantheon.