Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

9 Shows That Are Better When You Binge Them

From Lost to Pretty Little Liars

Kaitlin Thomas

In the age of Netflix and Hulu, there are numerous shows created and produced with binge-watching in mind. But there are a number of shows produced prior to the rise of streaming that originally aired week to week, and are also better when binged.

Sometimes it's because the binge-watching format helps viewers keep track of a particular show's complex storylines. Sometimes bingeing merely helps to alleviate or even eliminate flaws that are more evident when a show is watched in a more traditional, weekly format. And sometimes shows are just too addicting to wait for the next episode, meaning being able to watch several episodes in a row is the greatest gift imaginable.

So if you're looking for something to watch this weekend, or if you're curious about how some of your favorite shows translate to this model, here are nine shows -- some old, some current -- that are better when binged.

1. Lost


Josh Holloway, Evangeline Lilly and Jorge Garcia, Lost

Mario Perez, ABC / Getty Images

Both a commercial and critical success during its run on ABC, Lost clearly worked well on a week-to-week basis. However, the series actually works better as a binge because it's easier to keep track of the show's many complex timelines. As the cast expands and the series moves between its many flashbacks and flashforwards, it can be easy to lose sight of the present day storylines and the crisscrossing arcs. While the mysteries presented within aren't any clearer when you binge the series, the stories themselves are cleaner when episodes are viewed back to back to (we have to go) back.

Where to Watch: Netflix

2. Pretty Little Liars

Troian Bellisario and Ian Harding, Pretty Little Liars​

Troian Bellisario and Ian Harding, Pretty Little Liars

Eric McCandless, Freeform

Freeform's long-running mystery series about several attractive young women trapped in a small town full of hoodie-wearing murderers has stumbled as it has aged, but the once addicting drama still works as a binge. The show's pacing problems -- made worse by the long stretches in between seasons -- are alleviated when episodes are viewed in quick succession. The added bonus is that the show's many zigs and zags over the course of seven seasons are also more visible when they "happened" last week, rather than five years ago.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Damon Lindelof promises The Leftovers will be "immensely satisfying"

3. The Leftovers

Carrie Coon, Justin Theroux; The Leftovers

Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux, The Leftovers

Van Redin

The first season of Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta's existential drama, based on Perrotta's book of the same name, depicts the aftermath of a mysterious event in which 2 percent of the world's population disappears. It was, as you can imagine, difficult to watch. The most vocal complaint viewers had was that the series was too grim, that the never-ending grief and suffering of its characters made the series a chore to watch week after week. But the issues attached to that first season are largely alleviated when episodes are viewed in immediate succession. The weight of the story no longer overwhelms viewers, because it's not drawn out over several weeks. And although the sorrow displayed never goes away, the show's second and third seasons are a little lighter without the Guilty Remnant's presence. Plus, they're just so magnificent, it's impossible to wait to watch the next episode.

Where to Watch: HBO Go

4. 12 Monkeys


Amanda Schull and Aaron Stanford, 12 Monkeys

Ben Mark Holzberg/Syfy

Syfy's 12 Monkeys, a loose adaptation of the 1995 film of the same name, might actually be more confusing than Lost. While the beloved ABC series' mysteries contributed to make its own time-traveling quite complicated, 12 Monkeys is simply much harder to follow on a regular basis -- and it has a much smaller cast. The series succeeds when binge-watched, though, because it's easier to keep track of the time-jumping narrative as Cole (Aaron Stanford) travels between his present and Cassie's (Amanda Schull) present (Cole's past), as he attempts to stop a virus from wiping out all of humanity.

Where to Watch: Hulu

Syfy weaponizes the binge with its 12 Monkeys event

5. Battlestar Galactica


Jamie Bamber and Katee Sackhoff, Battlestar Galactica

NBC / Getty Images

We've all seen the infamous Portlandia sketch about binge-watching Ron Moore and David Eick's reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, and it's totally accurate. The sci-fi drama, about the survivors of a nuclear attack orchestrated by the man-created Cylons, is an addicting story about the fight for survival as told through multiple lenses, including science, belief, and politics. The deeper mysteries of what it means to be human are engrossing and sometimes emotionally taxing, but they always leave viewers on the edges of their seats so that by the time the credits roll, they have no option but to press play on the next episode to find out what happens next. Trust us: waiting a week between new episodes as they originally aired from 2004 to 2009 was basically network-sanctioned torture.

Where to Watch: Hulu

6. The Originals

Joseph Morgan, The Originals​

Joseph Morgan, The Originals

Annette Brown, Annette Brown/The CW

Contrary to popular belief, the best reason to binge watch The CW's The Originals is not to get a mega-sized dose of Klaus (Joseph Morgan) all at once; the early seasons of The Vampire Diaries spin-off actually feature a lot of body-jumping from the magic-inclined Mikaelson family. This makes it nearly impossible to keep track of who is inhabiting which body at an given time, and if you're anything like us -- meaning people who don't want to have to use flowcharts to keep track of who someone is -- binge-watching makes the supernatural series manageable. It also helps keep track of how the mystifying use of magic works on the show, especially when the same spell is used over multiple episodes.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Hannibal Season 4 may be back on the table

7. Hannibal

Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal

Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal

Brooke Palmer/NBC

Bryan Fuller's Hannibal is great television no matter how it's viewed, but it's all about being in the right headspace as you watch. While some softer viewers may appreciate having a break from the macabre, it's actually better to binge multiple episodes at once so that you're fully immersed in the intoxicating environment of the push and pull between Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). By going all in on the psychological thriller at once, viewers are treated to a one-of-a-kind experience that is a little unsettling -- but incredibly rewarding.

Where to Watch: Amazon

8. Game of Thrones

Isaac Hempstead Wright, Game of Thrones

Isaac Hempstead Wright, Game of Thrones


This one seems pretty self-explanatory. Game of Thrones has approximately 30,000 different characters spread across its far-reaching world, and viewers are expected to remember every single one of them because they'll eventually, probably have an important role to play in the expansive narrative of the HBO drama. Because of the size of the show's cast, characters regularly disappear -- sometimes for seasons at a time -- and when they return, they may look nothing like they did when they last appeared (and sometimes are played by different actors). It's much easier to identify characters, their allegiances and agendas when episodes are watched one right after the other.

Where to Watch: HBO Go

ABC's fall TV lineup: Everything you need to know

9. How to Get Away With Murder

Alfred Enoch, How to Get Away with Murder

Alfred Enoch, How to Get Away with Murder


How to Get Away With Murder's season-long storytelling structure lends itself to binge-watching more easily than normal week-to-week viewing on ABC. With a new murder being committed every season (or so), flashbacks popping in and out, and various clues about various crimes being dropped left and right, it's difficult to keep track of the show's twists and turns. Details easily become fuzzy and you're likely to forget if Frank (Charlie Weber) has an alibi or if he's just gone crazy; but watching an entire season in one sitting makes sure every piece of evidence is fresh in your mind. You probably still won't be able to guess who killed whom, but that's half the fun of the show anyway.

Where to Watch: Netflix

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)