Whether you want to admit to the countless hours that you spend drooling in front of a screen every day or not, there’s no denying that binge watching television has become our collective obsession. While shutting yourself in your house and watching 14 hour marathon stretches of television was at one time behaviour that would land you in a mental hospital, it’s now something to brag about. Tell your friends that you polished off two whole seasons of Breaking Bad in one sitting and you’d be commended.
But the truth of the matter is that some TV wasn’t meant to be binge watched. We’re not talking about bad TV here. We’re talking good quality shows that for one reason or another just should not, under any circumstances, be consumed in large doses. Five out of five doctors recommend that binging can be dangerous for your physical health and mental well-being if you’re not careful which show you hit “Next Episode” on.
But we’re here to help you navigate the tricky world of TV binge watching and give you a handy guide to the 15 Great TV Shows That You Should Never Binge Watch.
15 Curb Your Enthusiasm
There’s no need to make an argument about Curb Your Enthusiasm being the funniest television show of the past decade; it’s just fact. And considering that every episode is so laugh out loud funny and there’s so much of Curb to watch, you’d be forgiven for thinking that watching it all at once is a good idea. After all, what’s wrong with some levity in life? As it turns out, a lot is wrong with levity if it comes with Larry David. Because that levity is going to turn into a serious bout of social anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, and an inexplicable sinking feeling if you watch anything more than one episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm every few days.
There’s just something about Larry David’s world of social assassination that makes life uncomfortable when binged. More than any show on this list, Curb makes you shout at the television in disbelief any time the main character – or those around him – does anything. And that much shouting in a short period of time is simply unhealthy; just ask Susie Green. Not to mention Larry David’s unique ability to infuriate and aggravate; while still kind of being correct. Too much Curb makes you think the world is out to get you, but it also makes you think that you should confront the world in that Larry David way. But – trust us here – that only leads to heartbreak, name-calling, pig-parking, chatting and cutting, and the occasional swan killing. It’s all bad news, and if you want to live a healthy life you’ll only go near Curb Your Enthusiasm for a short period of time when at peak mental clarity.
When Seinfeld first started, Curb Your Enthusiasm was barely a gleam in the eye of co-creator Larry David, but he still helped to concoct a show so funny that watching it in heavy doses could prove to be fatal. Aside from the fact that Seinfeld now really shows its age (entire episodes revolved around swapping out tapes from answering machines and other social constructs that we’ve since given up), the show is very famously about nothing, and watching nothing for hours on end is trying to say the least.
While obviously everyone who hasn’t seen Seinfeld needs to watch every second of it, doing so too quickly would cause you to wonder what exactly is so funny about Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine in the first place. When binging Seinfeld¸ the series feels at a loss for jokes; but that’s only because the subtlety of just about everything from characters expressions to mindless words only work when you’re not forcing yourself to sit through something just to find the funny. When you enjoy Seinfeld as the weekly series it was meant to be, you can appreciate the absurdity and genius of the show much more than you would if you crammed it all into your eyes at once and reviewed the show as one whole “yada yada yada.”
Common side-effects of too much House include, well, ironically the side-effects of every bad illness presented on the show. Binge watching Hugh Laurie as the world’s most brilliant and ornery diagnostician can lead you to thinking that you have everything from Sickle Cell Leukemia to Munchausen’s to Guillain-Barre; but never Lupus. Although it’s tempting to binge one episode after another to find out what’s wrong with every patient, by the end of a House marathon you’ll find yourself overly concerned with that weird itch you’ve been having and you’ll spiral into a pit of Web-MD and more House. You’ll also never want to go to the hospital for fear of enduring a lumbar puncture or needle in the eye, two tests that House seems to order regardless of the problem.
The real heart of our "don’t binge House" argument is that House is actually one of the best procedurals to ever grace our TV screens, and to binge it is to ruin it for yourself. Watching more than one or two episodes at once points out the flaws in the series’ formula, as you know that by commercial break two the patient has to relapse into some sort of life-threatening bleed or seizure. By the third commercial break House’s team thinks they have a cure, but it just may kill the patient. And by then it doesn’t matter what the patient has, because binging House has caused you to think you’re a doctor, yell at the screen that it’s retroviral hyperplasia by proxy – which is definitely not a real thing – and consider going to medical school and getting a cool cane.
When Lost started back in 2006 there really was no elegant solution for online streaming. So, when people watched the series about a group of plane crash survivors realizing that the island they found themselves on was a little more than mysterious, they usually watched it one week at a time on ABC. With its cliffhangers before the commercial breaks and mind-bending twists after each episode, Lost was a show to obsess over and discuss fervently each week; then repeat.
Still, viewers who didn’t jump on the Lost train – er, plane – right from season one were still able to find ways to get past seasons and consume them all at once in one mindless glaze of crazy genre television. What was once unique and exciting with Lost’s plotting was now frantic and dangerous. Lost was the ultimate show of “I just need to watch one more episode before bed!” And before you realized, it was six in the morning and you’d been watching Jack and Kate swoon over each other for 14 hours straight.
To make matters worse, when you get somewhere around Season 2 – when the show lost all ideas of what it was trying to be – binging Lost just makes you think that the mysteries are only getting deeper and thus you have to keep watching. By the end of the show’s six season run, no mysteries are answered, unlimited questions are raised, and you’ve somehow ended up ruining a relationship or two by sitting in front of your television non-stop for two weeks.
11 Criminal Minds
To the uninitiated, Criminal Minds may seem like just another crime fighting procedural, but to those in the know it’s actually a nightmare factory where dark things lurk around every corner. And while we all need a little darkness in our lives to brighten up everything else in comparison, to actively binge Criminal Minds is just such a bad idea on so many levels that we have to advise against it.
A high enough dose of Criminal Minds is possible because once you get into it, it seems in theory like the right show to binge watch. Episodes vary enough to keep your interest; once one ends you just want to see how the next begins; and from there you’re forced to stay and watch the Behavioral Analysis Unit catch the bad-guys and before you know if you’re in a cycle. The worst part is Criminal Minds' seedy underbelly, which is to say that nearly everyone who appears on the show that isn’t a main character is just a horrible serial criminal. Watching hours on end of this is going to lead to a fear of all sorts of things, as well as an unhealthy psychological anger that will keep you on edge throughout your days. So yeah, maybe if you don’t want to end up becoming the unsub that the BAU tracks every week you better back off the Criminal Minds binge before it’s too late.
Community started out as a normal single-camera comedy about the group of misfits at a community college, but quickly found its voice as the weirdest and most absurd show on television at the time. Midway through its first season Community became geek-heaven and turned nearly every episode into an homage, a fan-approved in-joke fest, or just about the most original 22 minutes of television of the year. Dan Harmon and his team of writers constructed something so lovable and niche that it’s a miracle it lasted as long as it did, especially considering that it’s television that just shouldn’t be binged that came around in the era of binging television.
The great seasons of Community and the series' best episodes have some sort of inexplicable magic to them, and to enjoy and savor one of them is a treat that everyone should experience. Take, for example, Remedial Chaos Theory, an episode that only lasts 22 minutes and yet feels like one of the best two hour films made in our lifetime. To follow that up with whatever came next would diminish the magic of the episode, and to binge watch Community would be to water-down some episodes of greatness with a whole lot of other episodes of mediocrity. When it comes to Community, you should enjoy responsibly.
9 Mad Men
Pacing was key to Mad Men’s greatness, and to ruin that pacing by blazing through one episode just to try to get to the next and then the one after that is to insult Matthew Weiner and the achievement that is one of TV’s best characters – Don Draper. Slow almost to a fault, Mad Men had the ability to show us nothing and still get us excited for the next episode. But there really were no cliffhangers here and therefore no reason to binge, so to force more melancholy advertising hijinks on yourself just seems unnecessary more than anything.
The comings and goings of Sterling-Cooper and whatever else it was called in other seasons are endlessly fascinating, but not in the same way that a guilty pleasure binge watching show like Prison Break would be. Perhaps there’s something about quality that makes binging it seem like a crime, but with Mad Men there’s a joy in taking a step back from the 60s every once in a while and then coming back to it. Watch an episode here, and episode there, even two episodes in one sitting if you’re up for it, but only someone as self-destructive, self-loathing, and irresponsible as Don Draper would binge watch Mad Men.
8 The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead may be television’s biggest hit series, but that doesn’t change the fact that nothing really happens, when it comes down to it. Sure, a band of rotating survivors walks (and sometimes drives) from here to there, fighting zombies and eventually moving on, but where’s the goal in that? When you binge watch The Walking Dead you discover that in six seasons everything has remained largely the same, which makes consuming large doses of it all at once an endless chore that accomplishes nothing.
That’s not to take away from the fact that tens of millions of people watch and love The Walking Dead, every week. In fact, that's the key - The Walking Dead is a weekly show. When watched from week to week a new zombie fight and some intense stares by Rick are cool and entertaining and worthy of being fit into a busy Sunday night TV line-up. It’s just tough to justify binge watching a series that has approximately thirty minutes of quasi-meaningful stares and silence, followed by a few minutes of zombie gore and CGI blood. After enough of that you’ll feel like a zombie, and from there it’s a steady decline.
Sure, Entourage is the butt of every joke about bros, douchebags, and straight white males, but to deny the series a place on the list of great HBO comedies would be a severe oversight. You can think that the characters at the core of Entourage are horrible garbage people all you want, but after a little binge watching you’ll be wishing you had their life. And that’s not a good thing.
Washing away that feeling of being poor at the end of Entourage binging is a tough job, and perhaps only manageable when taken one episode at a time. Any more than that and you’re at serious risk of thinking your life is trash compared to these trashy people that live in mansions and go to fancy restaurants every second. Add to that the repetition of failure and success in Hollywood – generally throughout the course of an episode – and Entourage becomes the show that is not only douchey, but especially douchey when taking any dose other than one at a time.
6 Happy Endings
Happy Endings didn’t end very happy. After three spectacular seasons it was cancelled by ABC and all our hopes and dreams were forever shattered. The good news is that it's 2016 and you can find the show if you look for it, and from there it’s an instant love affair with Penny and the gang from Chicago. Just be careful not to overload on Happy Endings, not because it’s too much of a good thing, but because the show’s influence on its fans is strong, and a few episodes in you’re bound to start talking like the characters, living like the characters, and wearing as many deep V’s as Dave – which is something you would realize is a serious problem if you watched the show.
The characters of Happy Endings aren’t exactly well adjusted, but their hyper-kinetic brand of living is one that’s sure to ruin your personal life the more you associate with people who have never seen Happy Endings. Binging it may seem like as good an idea as The Year of Penny, but like that year it will end in disappointment as you get to the final episode and realize that your soul mates are gone and no one in this cold bleak world understands you like Max.
5 Freaks and Geeks
One of the most singular shows in a generation, Freaks and Geeks is so perfect that it almost doesn’t seem to belong on such an imperfect format as television. Maybe that’s why it only lasted 18 episodes. Therein lies the problem, binge watching Freaks and Geeks is essentially snuffing out beauty by virtue of watching it. Because once you binge it it’s over, and there’s simply not enough of this perfect, sweet, funny, dramatic, delightful, incredible show to get you through tough times if you watch it all in one sitting.
Freaks and Geeks is the kind of show that will make you nostalgic and foggy-eyed if you’re not careful. It’ll get your hopes up just to bring them back down, and it will make you realize that there will never be another show like Freaks and Geeks anytime soon. Even at this time of Peak TV Freaks and Geeks remains a diamond in the rough, and binging it is a sinful act that will only cause you to hate yourself and repent until you rewatch.
As a classic sitcom (and one of the first dramedies ever on television), M*A*S*H was conceived when weekly television was already the world’s most novel concept. Written and produced with the weekly viewer in mind, there was absolutely no conception of home media – let alone binge watching – when M*A*S*H aired. So to watch M*A*S*H now in large quantities not only perverts’ the show’s original intention, but it also makes the series feel a whole lot different.
Originally one of the most successful war-based series on television, M*A*S*H pushed envelopes and challenged audiences in new and exciting ways. The show still holds up, but as a comedy repetition and lack of production money is bound to be clear when you watch multiple episodes at once, and as a drama things tend to get awfully bleak. Depressing series finale aside, as a whole M*A*S*H is one of the most consistent series to ever air on television, and that consistency can lead to boredom when binged in today’s world of a constantly shifting and evolving series.
3 BoJack Horseman
Yes, the cartoon comedy about the man who is a horse is actually TV’s bleakest and most realistic drama, and as a result BoJack Horseman is something that needs to be handled with care. Even Netflix’s own analytics agree that most viewers prefer to enjoy this series in small doses, and maybe that’s just because too much BoJack is too depressing to deal with. Sure, there’s nothing better than a self-loathing horse that sabotages all the relationships he’s ever been involved in, but that same horse has a unique ability to get under your skin and make you feel like crap if you’re not careful.
Just like The Simpsons or Bob’s Burgers – two animated comedies that you can binge for days on end – BoJack is laugh out loud funny and packed with clever sight gags, but that doesn’t translate to something that you should pour into your eye holes in one sitting. To be honest, too much of BoJack Horseman may just make you go insane, because as depression mixes with absurdity you may just start crying while you quote nonsense lines about colanders and J.D. Salinger’s game show.
Louie should not be considered a comedy, despite how funny it can be at times. And that’s because most of the time Louie is simply surreal and dramatic and dark and political and entirely at the whim of Louis CK. Which, fine, we all understand that and we accept that anything can happen in the world of Louie. But when all this randomness adds up in a binge-watching session, the most likely outcome is confusion, a little bit of anger, and some depression thrown in for good measure.
One episode of Louie a week is an experience, and by the time it’s over you’re glad that it’s going to be another week until you see a new episode; despite how great it may have been. But when you find yourself binging Louie you get to this weird point of self-harm where you just want to keep watching to see how strange it can get. One episode bleeds into the next and before you know it – just like a train wreck – you can’t look away. Soon enough you’re lying in a pile of your own filth and talking the way Louis CK does with the thing and it’s all stuff like that and he’s just doing it. You know? Just like that.
1 It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
A few episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in a row and you’re having a great night. You’re laughing with the gang, you’re making fun of the insanity of Frank, Mac, Charlie, a bird, and Dennis, and all is right with the world. But more than a few episodes of Sunny later and the schemes take on a darker tone, the character’s quirks start imprinting on you, bird law starts making sense, and soon enough you’re one of the gang, saying “AYOOO!” anytime you walk through a door.
These are the serious effects of binging Always Sunny. While the show is undoubtedly one of the top comedies of all time in terms of laughs and characters, it should also be considered one of the most dangerous shows to binge watch. Just like getting too much sun can cause a Vitamin D toxicity and increase your risk of skin cancer, too much Sunny can cause manic episodes where you start to see the world as Charlie. From there it’s a slippery slope to filling in your dating profile with magnets as a hobby and little green ghouls as a like. You’ll then eat too much cheese before a date and end up alone for life, with only the gang to keep you company.
So, you know, positives and negatives.
Which of these shows have you made the mistake of binge watching? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments and let’s all start a support group for Curb-Bingers-Anonymous!