10 Netflix series to save you from boredom while you’re stuck at home
Wherever you are right now, it's possible or even likely you've been advised to stay at home. It's the right thing to do for the safety of vulnerable people around the world, but that doesn't mean it's not incredibly boring – and if you have access to the internet, catching up on the many TV shows you've missed over the years is certainly one productive way to use up the time.
You can check out our best Netflix shows and best Netflix UK shows lists for hard recommendations on the greatest shows the service has to offer – but in this list, we've tried to include a mix of shows that you can have on in the background while you do other stuff at home, as well as a few more intense shows that'll offer some real escapism if you give them your full attention.
A parody of true crime shows like Making a Murderer, American Vandal is a long-canceled treat from Netflix, but both seasons are completely self-contained mysteries. In the first season, a student is expelled from high school after penises are spray-painted on the cars of every single teacher. A group of amateur filmmakers, also students at the same school, work to prove his innocence.
In the second season, the ambition of the show increases, and the same young filmmakers from season one try to solve the case of who caused a 'brownout' at another high school: that is, the mass drugging of everyone in the school so everyone emptied their bowels at the same time. It sounds ridiculous, but it's not played for laughs, and the mystery behind what happened has a very satisfying resolution.
Even if there'll never be a third season, this is secretly the best show about teenagers of the modern age.
All seven seasons of Mad Men are on both Netflix US and UK, and it's well worth a rewatch. Weirdly, its 60s world of miserable-but-successful people working in the ads business is oddly comforting, probably because the show looks so nice, and the characters are so vividly drawn.
The first four seasons represent Mad Men at its peak, and the set design and expensive licensed music really brings the period to life. It's considered a modern classic for a reason.
The Good Place
You've probably heard about The Good Place already. The show has finished its four-season NBC run, and three of those are on Netflix US, while all four are on Netflix UK (in the US, the last few episodes of season four can be watched on Hulu). The premise is simple: Eleanor Shellstrop is sent to The Good Place (heaven, as it were), but knows she's an asshole who doesn't belong there. So what happens next?
The show peaks in its first season when it comes to storytelling and cliffhangers, but the scriptwriting is so strong that subsequent seasons never stop being funny, even when the story threatens to run out of steam.
Better Call Saul
Better Call Saul is a prequel series to Breaking Bad, used to tell another character story of another hard-working man who turns to a life of crime.
But where Breaking Bad gradually became bogged down in the wider crime story it tried to tell, Better Call Saul retains its focus on the slow-but-sure change of one man and the forces that push him to where he goes, and is arguably more engaging as a result. It doesn't hurt that Bob Odenkirk, who plays Jimmy McGill (or, without wanting to give too much away, the titular Saul) is probably one of the best actors working right now.
The first four seasons are on Netflix US, while Netflix UK has every season of the show, with new episodes of season 5 releasing weekly.
Would you like to watch groups of people make some really ambitious cakes for a few hours, with the goal of winning $10,000? Sugar Rush is easy viewing on Netflix. Judges Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo give their verdict on each creation, and the cakes here get incredibly ambitious. Put it on in the background, if you like, and pay attention when it looks like a cake is about to fall over. Netflix has two breezy seasons to watch, hosted by handsome internet boy Hunter March.
The Toys That Made Us
How about some factual content that doesn't challenge your brain whatsoever? The Toys That Made Us is an insightful but mostly easy-to-watch docu-series about the big toy sensations of yesteryear. The first series tells the story of Star Wars, where the merchandising rights have a genuinely fascinating history, and the latest third season finally gets around to the Ninja Turtles craze.
John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch
This offbeat comedy special riffs on kids' shows of the '80s and '90s, with comedian John Mulaney hosting among a bunch of show kids (some of which are very likeable). It's got some hit-and-miss jokes in there, but it's well worth sticking with for the late appearance of Jake Gyllenhaal as a character called 'The Music Man'. This is ideal background fodder if you're working from home.
When is it not time to accidentally watch 10 episodes of The Office? No doubt you've seen it before, but this is your last year to enjoy the cheerier NBC version of the British original before NBC streaming service Peacock gets the rights. After a rough first season, the show is fantastic until around its eighth season, when it starts falling into the trap of more hackneyed sitcoms. That's still well over 100 great episodes, though.
UK readers: you'll need to get Amazon Prime Video for this one, unfortunately, but that's just the tip of the iceberg for the great old sitcoms you'll find on there. Community and Parks and Rec are also available to stream.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Welcome to the bottom of the list, where we've snuck in a couple of darker entries for a bit of contrast! Make sure you're in the right mood for these.
Never watched anime, or not watched much anime in your time? You've probably still heard of this show. Like Cowboy Bebop, it's got enough broader recognition that it's probably been mentioned in something you've read over the years. Fundamentally, it's a show about teenagers driving big robots, but it morphs into something stranger and more horrifying over the course of its run, underlined by smatterings of religious imagery.
We don't recommend watching too many episodes at once, though: this show is heavy going, especially towards its finale. Both the series and concluding movie End of Evangelion are on Netflix. Check out our list of the best anime you can stream, which features this show.
Is it a little on the nose, to watch a dark dystopian sci-fi anthology show while things are as they are? Maybe. You might want to skip the episode Fifteen Million Merits for that reason. But sometimes watching fiction you identify with can be a form of relief, too.
Black Mirror graduates from a mostly British-focused set of technology-gone-wrong stories in its first two seasons to being a more international show in its Netflix years. Our favorite episodes? The Entire History of You, Shut Up and Dance, White Christmas, USS Callister and San Junipero.
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