‘Irresistibly funny’: the 20 best shows to binge right now

To help our readers through the latest lockdowns, we recommend the chillest, easiest and most laugh-out-loud series that we couldn’t stop watching

What’s your favourite TV binge? Join us in the comments

Friday Night Lights

Mood: hopeful, heartfelt, Texas forever

Streaming on: Binge

It is shocking and frankly appalling to me that none of our writers have asked to write a Stream Team column about Friday Night Lights yet. The show – ostensibly about Texas high school football, but extremely about everything else – ran for five seasons from 2006, launching the celebrated careers of Connie Britton’s hair and my crush on Coach Taylor. Like all the best teen dramas it has storylines for the adults too; shipping Mr and Mrs Coach got me and my partner through many stressful times. I have the opening theme playing in another tab right now and :’). Full hearts, clear eyes, skip season two. – SH

For more: Why Friday Night Lights is one of the best US shows of recent years

Rosehaven

Mood: relaxed, unhurried, just vibin’

Streaming on: Prime Video (seasons 1-3), Google Play & Apple TV (season 4)

It sounds like a cliché, but returning to Rosehaven really does feel like catching up with an old friend. Playing bestie real estate agents living and working in an idyllic Tasmanian town, with fresh country air that seems to waft out of the screen, Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor (also the writers and co-creators) have developed two very likeable central characters who come across as genuine extensions of their own personalities. The stakes are low, with a sense of gentle whimsy underscoring episodes involving various minor situations. And we wouldn’t have it any other way: it’s perfectly undemanding entertainment. – LB

For more: All hail the return of Rosehaven: a soothing balm for anxious times

Russian Doll

Mood: playful, spirited, plucky

Streaming on: Netflix

Many films and shows riff on the Groundhog Day-esque time loop premise – but only one comes armed with the irresistibly sassy charm of Natasha Lyonne.

Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll.
We’ve all been there. Photograph: AP

She plays Nadia, a misanthropic 36-year-old who keeps dying, only to wake up time and time again in a bathroom during her birthday party. Did a cocaine-laced joint make her go crazy, or are the gods trying to tell her something? Just when you think you’ve got this very fun and surprisingly humane comedy-drama pegged, it scoots off in another direction; just try to second guess it. – LB

For more: Russian Doll review – layer upon layer of dead-good TV comedy

The Mummy (film series)

Mood: ready for action… and cheese

Streaming on: Stan

Yes, it’s not a show – but there are so many reasons to love this adventurous romp through ancient Egypt vis-à-vis 1920s Egyptomania and a recently awoken curse. There’s the cracking dialogue; the rising tension between Brendan Fraser’s rakish American daredevil and Rachel Weisz’s intrepid but naive librarian (with the added dimension of her foolish but charming little brother, John Hannah); the baddies getting their comeuppance. It’s the best rewatch you’ll have all lockdown. Oh, you’ve never seen it? Spend your weekend bingeing all three films in the series (we can’t promise the last one is as good as the first). – SC

Read more: The Mummy: Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz’s adventurous romp catches lightning in an urn

I’m Alan Partridge

Mood: silly, brash, ridiculous

Streaming on: ABC iview

Steve Coogan’s performance as an inept and narcissistic radio DJ is pure comedy gold. Following this smug blunderbuss lurch from one ill-advised situation to the next is the quintessential train crash viewing experience: can’t watch, can’t look away. Dumped by his wife and dropped from the BBC, Partridge now does the graveyard shift for a small local radio station. Any attempt to describe his escapades (from faux pas to practical jokes to weird tirades) inevitably fails to do the show justice; so much comes from the delivery. – LB

Read more: I’m Alan Partridge: what the critics thought in 2002

Insecure

Mood: Bloop! Blip! Blap!

Streaming on: Binge

Yvonne Orji and Issa Rae in Insecure.
Yvonne Orji and Issa Rae in Insecure. Photograph: HBO

In lockdown I’ve craved shows about friends to fill the friend-shaped holes – and none is more real about friendship than this bright, complex and very funny love letter to LA. Creator Issa Rae – “the patron saint of black millennial creatives” – plays Issa: an amateur rapper sighing through her job at a problematic non-profit. Her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji) is a corporate attorney who seems to have it all together in all the ways Issa doesn’t – but as the series goes on, the power between them shifts and pulls and pushes in cringeing-ly relatable ways. The fifth and final season just finished shooting, so perfect timing to start watching now. – SH

For more: How Insecure made TV gold with ‘a show about regular black people being basic’

The Bold Type

Mood: shiny bubblegum fun

Streaming on: Stan

OK, Insecure is obviously and objectively the better, smarter show about female friendship, but I can’t publish this list without the Bold Type. Jane (Katie Stevens), Kat (Aisha Dee) and Sutton (Meghann Fahy) live for their jobs at a completely unlikely women’s magazine in this glossy, a-bit-terrible but undeniably moreish series. Yes there are eyerolls aplenty (and some ill-judged plotlines), but it also stepped into surprisingly difficult territory – about race, women’s health and the assumption that we all want babies. The friendship is the show’s endless joy – and as the actors moved in together to shoot the final season, it’s been a treat to follow IRL too. – SH

For more: The Bold Type: candy-coloured take on millennial women shines with hope and comfort

Call My Agent

Mood: sharp, meta, French

Streaming on: Netflix

The more you know about French cinema, the more you will enjoy the layers and layers of in-jokes in this crackling smart and very addictive comedy. Set at a fictional Parisian talent agency full of schemers and dreamers, Call My Agent has so much to commend it: fabulous acting, masterful plotting, and some of the most interesting characters on TV today – and that’s even before you get to the superstar cameos. Five stars. – SC

Streaming on: Netflix

Read more: Call My Agent! – a laugh-out-loud tour through top-notch French cinema

1Arrested Development Season 5
David Cross as Tobias Fünke in Arrested Development. Photograph: Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Arrested Development

Mood: upbeat, zesty, quoteable

Streaming on: Netflix

The old “show don’t tell” dictum is comprehensively and hilariously broken by Ron Howard’s loquacious narrator in this cult comedy about a family of rich nitwits desperately trying to cling onto their lifestyles despite numerous financial, personal and ethical issues.

The Bluths are brought to life by an irresistibly funny cast – including Jessica Walter as the martini-swilling matriarch, Will Arnett as a hack magician and Jason Bateman as the son “who had no choice but to keep them all together”. Best to stick to the first three seasons; Netflix’s reboot went famously downhill. – LB

For more: Your next box set: Arrested Development

Schitt’s Creek

Mood: Moira Rose, always

Streaming on: Netflix

Speaking of a family of rich nitwits desperately trying to cling onto their lifestyles: Succession Schitt’s Creek. Eugene and Dan Levy’s nine-time Emmy-winning sleeper hit follows the insanely rich and dramatically horrible Rose family after they lose everything – except a poorly-named small town in the middle of nowhere that one of them bought as a prank. This endlessly quotable, memeable series is deeply hilarious and increasingly heartfelt – and it got many of your favourite Guardian writers through the darker moments of the pandemic. I’m jealous of anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. – SH

For more: Terrible name, terrific sitcom: how Schitt’s Creek became a surprise hit

Frontline

Mood: cynical, satirical

Streaming on: Netflix

Look, I can’t promise you’ll come away from rewatching this 1990s Working Dog satire feeling happy, exactly, but if your frustration with TV news and current affairs has reached boiling point during the pandemic, you will leave feeling absolutely vindicated. While aspects of this behind-the-scenes look at a fictional current affairs show have inevitably dated, it always aimed its searing criticisms squarely at the hypocrisy of the media and it was screamingly funny while doing so, broaching ground more recently traversed by shows like Get Krack!n’. – SC

Read more: Frontline: satirical skewering of TV current affairs programs is still uncomfortably relevant

BoJack Horseman

Mood: depth smothered in comedy

Streaming on: Netflix

Bojack Horseman
‘The best animated show so far this century’: BoJack Horseman. Photograph: Netflix

The best animated show so far this century features Will Arnett as the voice of an alcoholic talking horse, who used to be the star of a 90s sitcom and is now trying to get his life back together. But as his awful mother tells him: “You’re BoJack Horseman – there’s no cure for that.” That piercing line is indicative of how this brilliantly conceived show rips into its protagonist, who is vain and self-destructive – but you root for him anyway. The kooky world created by Raphael Bob-Waksberg satirises the entertainment industry and crafts an unexpectedly sophisticated portrait of mental illness. – LB

Read more: How BoJack Horseman became a surprise, heartbreaking hit

Parks and Recreation

Mood: undemanding entertainment

Streaming on: Prime Video, Binge

At first it felt like a knockoff of the Office, told in the same mockumentary format, with Amy Poehler shoehorned into the David Brent or Michael Scott-esque role as the nincompoop manager. It didn’t take long, however, for a pitch-perfect Poehler and a fabulous writers room to give Parks and Rec its own distinctive charm. The jokes flow thick and fast, many involving bureaucracy, making the show a slight form of political satire – but it can also be disarmingly sweet. Light, moreish, thoroughly bingeable. – LB

Read more: How we made Parks and Recreation, by Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman and Mike Schur

The Secret Life of Us

Mood: nostalgic, Melbourne, inner-monologue

Streaming on: Binge

Netflix recently uploaded a bunch of classic Australian shows including Puberty Blues, Round the Twist and this, my personal fave. About a group of 20-somethings in gritty, grungy Melbourne, the show debuted in 2001 and set my aspirational path to early adulthood: live in a sharehouse with rooftop parties; do laps with my best friend Claudia Karvan; fall in love with bad men disguised as mopey creatives. It’s like Reality Bites meets Melrose Place but with better plotlines and more believable characters – and the music (hell yeah Motor Ace!) and fashion (hell yeah butterfly clips) will time travel you back to the front of the Big Day Out mosh pit. – SH

For more: From BMX Bandits to The Secret Life of Us: 11 Australian classics new to Netflix

Betty

Mood: chilled out

Streaming on: Binge

Crystal Moselle’s breezy and low-key teen dramedy evokes a great sense of place (New York City) from an interesting perspective (young female skateboarders) with a thoroughly agreeable tone (light, loose, freewheeling). The girls – including Kirt (Nina Moran), Indigo (Ajani Russell), Janay (Dede Lovelace) and Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) – skate, hangout, chew the fat and find themselves involved in small dramas with low stakes. The achievements of this very pleasant show, made with a relaxed documentary-esque vibe, are largely tonal: it puts you in a nice place. – LB

Read more: Betty review – here’s to the skating sisterhood

Betty
Betty, about a group of young female skateboarders, is a low-key teen dramedy with a doco-esque vibe. Photograph: Photographer: Alison Cohen Rosa/Alison Cohen Rosa

Detectorists

Mood: fragile, low-stakes

Streaming on: Britbox (all three seasons) and Netflix (two seasons)

Looking for something gentle, low-stakes, funny and heartwarming? This charming comedy drama follows the fortunes of two friends, Lance and Andy, and their fellow members of a metal detecting club in a small village in rural Essex. Is there a Saxon hoard buried on the local farm? Will Lance’s ex-wife give up on the pizza shop manager and come back to him? Will their rival detectorists take over the friends’ long-held turf? Did I mention the stakes were low? Written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (that’s Gareth from the UK Office), this Bafta-winning series is a true delight. – SC

Read more: Detectorists: a sitcom about amateur archaeologists that’s a bonafide heartwarming joy

Rick and Morty

Current mood: zany, adventurous, existential

Streaming on: Netflix

Attempts to articulate the excellence of Rick and Morty inevitably involve variations of the following line: “Great show, pity about the fanbase.” The unfortunate reputation of Rick and Morty enthusiasts overshadow the achievements of a terrifically spirited and squirrely series, very smart and very cheeky, full of jokes riffing on the infinite possibilities of an incomprehensibly large universe. Told in the spirit of a turbocharged, berserko Douglas Adams, the series shows no signs of slowing down as it astral projects through its fifth season, whooshing the titular characters through multiple galaxies, dimensions and states of mind. – LB

Read more: Twisted grandpas and toxic fans: how Rick and Morty became TV’s most unlikely hit

Catastrophe

Mood: banter and misanthropy

Streaming on: Stan

Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney in Catastrophe
‘Their chemistry is next level’: Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney in Catastrophe. Photograph: Mark Johnson/Channel 4

If you needed another reason to fall in love with Rob Delaney – hero of Weird Twitter; haver of vasectomy; demystifier of earth-shattering grief – it’s Catastrophe: four seasons of perfect television he co-created and co-starred with Sharon Horgan. They play Rob and Sharon, versions of themselves, who end up with a pregnancy after a one-night stand and try to make it work. Their chemistry and dry banter is next level, undercutting almost every tense moment that a lesser show would use as a cliffhanger. As Meg Watson writes, it’s “a good reminder of what you’re capable of if you’re lucky enough to be locked in with a person you love.” – SH

For more: Catastrophe: a show proving comfort can be found in watching people fall apart together

Review with Myles Barlow

Mood: shady, irreverent, naughty

Streaming on: Google Play, Apple TV

What if a critic reviewed not films, TV, paintings or books but everything? That’s the premise of Phil Lloyd’s highly original Australian mockumentary series, starring himself as the titular reviewer who critiques real-life experiences such as murder (half a star), divorce (one star), shoplifting (three stars) and destitution (four stars). This preposterous premise is played with a straight face and a dark and mordant sense of humour. Look out for a cameo from David Stratton in the fourth episode of the first season. – LB

Derry Girls

Mood: ready for a belly laugh, missing high school besties

Streaming on: Netflix

Erin, Orla, Clare and Michelle are just four ordinary girls trying to juggle the various indignities of teenage life: embarrassing parents, repressive Catholic school, sexuality – and the violent sectarian conflict in their Northern Irish town. There’s no show on television that manages to fuse serious politics with such excruciatingly funny characters and storylines. These girls will stay with you long after you’ve barrelled your way through the two series of the show so far. – SC

For more: Derry Girls: criminally underrated Irish sitcom fuses hilarity with political heft

Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson) and Orla McCool (Louisa Clare Harland) in Derry Girls.
Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson) and Orla McCool (Louisa Clare Harland) in Derry Girls. Photograph: Peter Marley/CHANNEL 4

• What’s your favourite TV binge? Join us in the comments

This article was corrected on 13 July 2021. The Detectorists is streaming in Australia on Britbox, not iView

Contributors

Steph Harmon, Stephanie Convery and Luke Buckmaster

The GuardianTramp

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