Now that you have some time off for the holidays, you might be looking for something to do. Sure, you could spend some time with your family, but honestly, how long can you do that before you’re trying to escape to watch something on your phone or tablet?
If you want a sense of accomplishment from your couch-potatoing, here are five TV series you can watch in their entirety between breakfast and bedtime.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014)
Length: 13 episodes (44 minutes each)
Availability: Netflix (streaming and disc), Amazon video, Google Play, YouTube, Sony Entertainment Network
Astrophysics rock star Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts this update of Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking 1980 series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Using impressive special effects, animation and plain English, A Spacetime Odyssey makes the history of science and the wonders of the universe fun, accessible and understandable.
Over the 10-ish hours you’ll be binging on Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, prepare to learn, think and feel very, very small. Because one of the first things this National Geographic Channel show will teach you is that if the lifespan of the universe were compressed into a single year, the entirety of human history would only occupy the last 14 seconds. But don’t worry — Neil deGrasse Tyson will help you work through that.
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Spaced (1999 – 2001)
Length: 14 episodes (25 minutes each)
Availability: Netflix (disc), Hulu Plus
Director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and actors/co-writers Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes bring you this pop culture-saturated comedy series about two losers who pretend to be a couple to land an apartment.
That becomes kind of incidental, however, because the real fun of the show is watching how a bunch of people who have been watching Star Wars and Stanley Kubrick movies their entire lives process the world and events around them. Spaced becomes a big game of “spot the reference,” which would probably be annoying if the characters weren’t all so funny and relatable.
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The IT Crowd (2006 – 2013)
Runtime: 25 episodes (25 minutes each)
Availability: Netflix (streaming and disc), Hulu, iTunes, Vudu
Don’t let those start and end dates trip you up — only 25 episodes of The IT Crowd exist because television works differently in Britain than it does in the U.S.
This hilarious comedy series from creator Graham Linehan (Father Ted, Black Books) details the adventures of two IT nerds and their clueless supervisor who work in the dingy basement of a massive corporate office. Imagine a version of The Big Bang Theory that respects both its characters and its audience, and you’re not far off.
The best part: You don’t even have to pay for it. You can watch the entire show on Hulu for free. Like, right now.
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Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974 – 1975)
Runtime: 20 episodes (50 minutes each)
Availability: Netflix (streaming and disc), Amazon video, iTunes, YouTube
You’re in for a pretty long day if you devote it all to watching the show that inspired other “monster of the week” series like The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it’s worth it.
Darren McGavin (best known as the dad from A Christmas Story) stars as Carl Kolchak, a Chicago reporter with an uncanny ability to cross paths with werewolves, vampires, lizard men and the headless ghosts of vengeful bikers.
Of course, nobody believes him ever, but that doesn’t mean Kolchak doesn’t gather his weapons and go murder whatever’s bothering everyone. Kolchak: The Night Stalker is a little campy and has no shortage of cheesy, mid-’70s makeup effects, but McGavin makes it work with his earnestness and ability to sell any ridiculous line the writers throw at him.
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Better Off Ted (2009 – 2010)
Runtime: 26 episodes (25 minutes each)
Availability: Netflix (streaming and disc), Amazon video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Sony Entertainment Network
This sitcom takes place at Veridian Dynamics, a corporation so soulless that it takes no issue with freezing its own employees in the name of science. It tells the story of Ted Crisp, the company’s head of research and development, who is trying to get ahead at work while reconciling himself with the fact that his employer is basically the TV equivalent of the Portal video-game series’ cartoonishly evil Aperture Science.
Better Off Ted boasts a good balance of silliness, light romance and a “precocious child” character who somehow manages not to be horrible and annoying. The show is well worth your time, even though the name makes me cringe every time I read or speak it.