Binge Watching for the Soul: Shows to Marathon for Self-Care

updated May 3, 2019
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Self-care means something different to everyone, but one thing most of us can relate to is the idea of coming home from a long day and turning on the TV. We watch shows that make us laugh, shows that make us cry, shows that scare us, shows that fire us up so much we can’t fall asleep, and shows that say all the things we’re too afraid to say ourselves. Sometimes, falling down a television show rabbit hole is more than just the best way to relax—it helps remind us how human we are, even when we’re at peak stress.

When a show is thoughtfully written, it’s easy to see yourself in its characters; you get to watch life play out in scenarios that feel almost too real to be scripted—and eerily similar to your own experiences, at times. You can turn on your TV to any channel and watch something old or something new, but the shows that you can relate to—the shows that make you laugh until it hurts or feel things you didn’t know you could feel in one 30-minute episode—those are the shows that are there for you when you need them. They’re the shows you always look forward to watching while you curl up on the couch in your favorite pajamas, no matter how many times you’ve watched them before.

You probably already have a rotation of series that you love to marathon when you’ve got nothing else to do, but there’s always room for more, and these shows are worth adding to your queue.

Dawson’s Creek

Genre: Drama

What it’s great for: Feeling every emotion under the sun

Why you should watch: Dawson’s Creek may seem like just another ’90s teen TV show, but this iconic teen drama actually holds up incredibly well to this day. If you haven’t watched it since it aired nearly two decades ago, it’s worth a rewatch, and if you haven’t seen it at all, you need to get on that ASAP. Bonus points if you know none of the spoilers—I didn’t know anything about it before I finally watched it this year aside from the theme song (you know the one), and it was an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, you’ll yell at your TV (mostly at Dawson) and you’ll feel like a totally new person by the series finale. Be prepared to feel a lot of things about all the characters, but especially when it comes to Pacey, Jen, and Evelyn (AKA Grams).

Where you can watch it: Hulu

(Image credit: Eddy Chen/The CW)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Genre: Musical Comedy

What it’s great for: Singing (and laughing) along and feeling like you have your life together more than you originally thought

Why you should watch: Need a highly relatable reminder that things aren’t as bad as they seem? Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the show for you. The show follows Rebecca, a woman who will do just about anything to get back with her first love, Josh. The plot may sound problematic to someone who’s never seen the show, but just a few minutes of watching will show you that it’s actually quite progressive and charming. Plus, it’s a musical, so you get to sing along. And if you think musicals aren’t for you, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend might just be funny enough to change your mind. The songs are hilarious and take on issues both big and small, from the personal to the political.

Where you can watch it: Hulu

(Image credit: The CW)

Jane the Virgin

Genre: Romantic Comedy/Drama/Telenovela

What it’s great for: Forgetting about everything else

Why you should watch: Jane the Virgin is an American telenovela, but it’s also a parody of telenovelas. The show is sincere and still skillfully laughs at itself often with the help of a hilarious narrator who seems just as surprised by and invested in the show as its viewers. Gina Rodriguez stars as Jane Villanueva, a smart, sensitive and endearing young latina woman—who also happens to be waiting until marriage to have sex—who gets accidentally artificially inseminated at what is supposed to be a routine doctor visit. And that’s just the first major plot twist of many that will keep you hooked for hours on end.

Jane the Virgin is many things: It’s an ode to family, a refreshingly honest look at new motherhood, a unique take on love triangles, and even a murder mystery/crime drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat—all peppered with some much-needed humor. There’s so much going on in Jane’s world, you’ll forget about everything that’s going on in yours.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

(Image credit: ABC)


Genre: Sitcom

What it’s great for: When you need a serious belly laugh about society’s issues

Why you should watch: If you haven’t heard of this show already, you’re seriously missing out. Black-ish follows a black family trying to find and maintain their identity in a wealthy, white neighborhood. It’s one of the funniest comedies on television today and stars a stellar cast of actors playing complex characters, but on top of that, it also makes it a point to bring up relevant cultural and societal issues. All of that is a lot more than you can say for most sitcoms. Plus, it gets real about relationships and parenting—most sitcoms gloss over the serious stuff, but parents Bow and Dre act, argue and support each other like a real couple, and they interact with their kids on a level that feels more genuine than most of the families on TV today. What’s better than a show that’s relatable, proves why representation matters and makes you laugh until you cry?

Where you can watch it: Hulu

(Image credit: Deedle-Dee Productions/3 Arts Entertainment/Universal Media Studios)

Parks and Recreation

Genre: Comedy

What it’s great for: Reminding yourself you can do anything

Why you should watch: You’ve probably already watched Parks and Recreation—in fact, if you’re like me, you’ve probably watched it more times than you can keep track of, and that’s what makes it so great. It’s the show you already know and love, the show that that never fails to make you laugh, the show you can pick up at any time and get lost in. At the center of the Park’s and Recreation universe is Leslie Knope, the feminist politician with a disposition even sunnier than her hair that we love to laugh with. Leslie is contagiously positive, and always building up the people around her—watching can only build you up, too. And if you haven’t watched yet, prepare to fall in love (and laugh until it hurts.)

Where you can watch it: Netflix

(Image credit: Disney Channel/Bob D’Amico)

Girl Meets World

Genre: Sitcom

What it’s great for: Finding hope when you need it most

Why you should watch: Okay, hear me out on this one—Girl Meets World (sequel to another ’90s favorite, Boy Meets World) may be a coming of age show about young teens that airs on the Disney Channel, but whether you watch it with kids or alone, it’s a show that adults can enjoy for a few reasons.

First, if you loved Boy Meets World back in the day, you get treated to flashbacks and cameos from many of the same characters you already know and love. Second, it speaks to your inner adolescent—it has an uncanny ability to take you back to all the feelings you felt in middle school in high school, but in the best way. And third (and most important) it’s full of the kind of hope that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The show’s focus on friendship and family is somehow both cloyingly sweet and painfully accurate. Don’t be surprised if you catch yourself crying happy tears on more than one occasion.

Where you can watch it: Netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

Master of None

Genre: Comedy

What it’s great for: When you need something you can relate to and reflect on

Why you should watch: Master of None premiered on Netflix last November and immediately became everyone’s favorite show to talk about. The show was created by and stars Aziz Ansari (also from Parks and Recreation) so it’s no surprise that it’s hilarious, but it’s also full of thought-provoking social commentary, especially when it comes to dating and how we relate to our parents. It’s also unafraid to take on race and cultural issues that other shows tend to ignore.

If you’re a fan of Ansari’s stand-up comedy, you’ll probably recognize some of the things he brings up in the show, like the problem everyone seems to have with texting nowadays. And one of the best things about Master of None is that, while it’s shot from Ansari’s character Dev’s perspective, it also takes the time to include the perspectives of other characters, so there’s a lot just as much to think about as there is to laugh at.

Where you can watch it: Netflix