There’s no doubt that the tastes of Americans are changing when it comes to how they consume media. The concept of weekly appointment viewing is quickly disappearing. While some major shows like Game of Thrones managed to get people to block out to time to watch, people typically want to watch on-demand these days. Services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Crunchyroll, AppleTV, Youtube, DC Universe, and the million others out there have made it clear that people want to watch what they want, when they want. It’s not just new content however. People are also going back and binge-watching some classics. With that in mind, here’s seven shows you should go back and binge again.
Married…. With Children (1987)
By far the oldest entry on the list, Married… With Children remains a classic to this day. Full disclosure, this show came out two years before I was born, so I certainly wasn’t watching it as it came out. I was in my mid teens when I discovered the show, and quickly became hooked on it. While some of the jokes haven’t aged well, the general concept and delivery of the show remains hysterical in 2020.
The show is a deconstruction of family sitcoms of the era. It features Al Bundy (Ed O’Neill), a miserable shoe salesman and family man. He’s joined by his lazy and awful wife Peggy (Katey Sagal), his lewd and promiscuous daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) and smart, but perverted son Bud (David Faustino). Al’s most prominent claim to fame was a successful high school football career, and most of his life now is predicated on get rich quick schemes that are usually foiled by Peg or his own idiocy. It’s a tired trope in 2020, but this show was one of the originators of it and probably the finest example of it to this day. To me, it played like a live-action version of The Simpsons. You can check it out over on Hulu.
I know a lot of people are going to be upset that I didn’t choose to use Cheers on here instead. But here’s the thing, I think that the 1993 spin-off ‘Frasier’ is simply a better show to watch today. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes Frasier so easy to watch even now in 2020. I think it’s the fact that it takes itself just seriously enough, while also being willing to show how ridiculous the characters are.
Frasier features the titular Doctor Frasier Crane, fresh off a move to Seattle from the role he played in Boston on Cheers. He’s a radio psychologist, frequently having to offer advice and counseling along with his producer Roz (Peri Gilpin), to some of Seattle’s most insane. Truly, the show wonders just who would want to call in to a radio show with their problems? He lives with his father (John Mahoney) and his in home assistant Daphne (Jane Leeves.) He is also frequently visited by his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce). It’s no secret to say that some of the best interactions on the show are between Frasier and Niles. Always funny, usually clever, and never above a joke at its own expense, you can catch Frasier over on Hulu.
I started watching Daria again a few weeks ago when I was craving some nostalgia. I was surprised when I started watching at how relevant and funny the show remains today. Originally appearing as a minor character on Beavis and Butthead, Daria got her own spin-off series in 1997. The character of Daria Morgendorffer was created by Mike Judge, although he released the rights to the character for the spin-off. He was busy working on King of the Hill and didn’t participate in the production of Daria, which instead was helmed by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn.
The series focuses on the titular Daria as she navigates high school life in Lawndale. She’s joined by aspiring artist Jane Lane as they point out the many follies of suburban life, often at the expense of her sister Quinn, parents Jake and Helen, or the many students of Lawndale High. Like Scrubs, this show benefits from a terrific supporting cast of characters. Mr. DeMartino, who I’m convinced was the inspiration for Crocker on Fairly Oddparents, immediately springs to mind. If you need some misanthropic dry humor in your life, give Daria a watch over on Hulu.
That 70’s Show (1998)
As someone who grew up in the 90’s, I don’t have a ton of context for what the 70’s were actually like. I’m sure the show took its fair share of liberties. That said, I’ve always appreciated the time and effort put into the set design and wardrobe on That 70’s Show. Going back and watching through the show again, one thought kept ringing in my mind: This show is still really funny.
The show focuses on main character Eric Foreman (Topher Grace) and his group of friends. They include Hyde (Danny Masterson), Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), Donna (Laura Prepon), Jackie (Mila Kunis), and Fez (Wilmer Valderrama). Looking back on it today, the show had an incredibly strong main cast. Supporting roles of Debra Jo Rupp as Kitty and Kurtwood Smith as Red only made the show better. The show is very much a flavor the week series, but does have overarching plots with Hyde dealing with his parents, Jackie and Kelso’s relationship, and of course Eric and Donna. You can check it out over on Netflix, but you’re permitted to go ahead and skip the last season.
When constructing this list we knew we needed something representing the Science Fiction shows of the world. A lot of people’s first reactions went to Firefly, which we love but it’s also an easy go to. It also, sadly, only has the one season. The better choice complete with four seasons and two movies is Farscape. Created by Rockne S. O’Bannon, and produced by the Jim Henson company, Farscape escapes the single biggest downfall of sci-fi movies: the special effects. Special effects do not allow movies to age well. Even the original Avenger’s, which was a technological marvel at the time has some scenes that are hard to watch. Because all the aliens and the majority of the special effects in Farscape were done by the Jim Henson company, it’s all practical effects where applicable.
Farscape also has such a diverse cast of characters which it uses effortlessly to break classic sci-fi and fantasy tropes. The cast was also headlined by long-time nerd culture stars like Ben Browder and Claudia Black. Plus, Farscape has the best and most tragic love story of all time, period. Many sci-fi shows have played with the idea of clones or fake versions of the characters and it always comes down to figuring out or deciding who the ‘fake’ is. To see Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black) struggle with how to love John Crichton (Ben Browder) when there are two of them and neither is ‘fake’ is heart breaking. Unlike most sci-fi or fantasy shows of it’s kind, Farscape got a proper ending and if you’re planning on binge watching something you don’t want your epic marathon to end on cliffhanger or unresolved plot lines.
Scrubs certainly has some out of date references. The scene where Carla and Elliot fantasize over Rudy Giuliani comes to mind. That said, Scrubs is still a damn funny show today. For those who missed it the first time around, it takes place primarily at Sacred Heart Hospital. The primary characters include new residents J.D. (Zach Braff) and Elliot (Sarah Chalke) as well as surgical resident Turk (Donald Faison). Upon starting at Sacred Heart, they meet long time nurse Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes) and attending physician Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley). It also features one of the best bromances on TV.
The show is primarily carried through the main characters, but some of the supporting cast are absolutely stellar. Neil Flynn’s Janitor, and yes, that’s the only name we ever get for him, springs to mind. Ted Buckland, played by Samuel Lloyd IV, is also an incredible addition to the cast as is Ken Jenkin’s Dr. Kelso. Even today, Scrubs is funny, wholesome, and surprisingly deep when it needs to be. You can find it on Hulu, but don’t watch the last season. You’ve been warned.
Shifting away from comedies, we have 2004’s House. Where as Scrubs played up the humor of working in a hospital, House plays up the drama. Far from a show like Grey’s Anatomy or General Hospital, soap operas the main character would be a big fan of, House tries to take a more realistic approach to medicine, even while being completely unrealistic. House features Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House, the brilliant but miserable head of Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital’s diagnostic medicine department.
House has a limp that resulted from a blood clot in his leg and has lead to a pain killer addiction. The result is him being a particularly miserable person to be around, much to the chagrin of his best friend Dr. James Wilson, an oncologist at the same hospital. Astute viewers will quickly notice the parallels between Holmes/Watson and House/Wilson. The show leans heavily into the Sherlock Holmes vibe, and that is definitely to its credit. I could write another four paragraphs on the supporting cast. In the interest of time, I’ll highlight Omar Epps’ Dr. Foreman, Jesse Spencer’s Dr. Chase, and Olivia Wilde’s Thirteen. Lisa Edelstein is also great in her role as Dr. Cuddy until her departure after the 7th season. You can check out House over on Amazon Prime Video or NBC.
So there you have seven shows that are definitely worth going back and binge watching again. Did I miss any? Did one of your all time favorites make the list? Are you going to go check any of them out?