16 TV Shows to Binge-Watch This Holiday Break, Ranked

Caroline Olney | Dec 23, 2016 TV
16 TV Shows to Binge-Watch This Holiday Break, Ranked
Image: Petr Malyshev/Shutterstock

woman watching TV
Petr Malyshev/Shutterstock

Despite the typical holiday madness, for a sacred few weeks at the end of December, most of us have this thing they call "spare time." It's a strange concept, we know, but we're firm believers in capitalizing on it when we've got it. Usually, that means parking ourselves in front of the TV for a while and finally watching that show everyone's been talking about all year.

Unfortunately, this year, there are a lot of them. That means you have work to do -- here are 16 shows that you'll need to binge-watch this holiday break so you can be in the loop next year. 

We know it's work, but try to enjoy yourselves, yeah? Spare time only comes around once in a while.

  • 16. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

    Greg Gayne/The CW

    If you don't like musicals, you probably won't like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, because quite often, the characters break into song. However, if you are anyone else, you are missing out. In certain circles, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was a favorite for its insanely smart wit and diverse cast and, yes, musical numbers. If the circles you're in aren't talking about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend yet, you have a job to do.

    Crazy Ex-Girlfriend only has two seasons, so this is a quick one.

    Where to watch: Season one is on Netflix, and most of season two is available on The CW.

  • 15. Jane the Virgin

    Tyler Golden/The CW

    There are truly, truly not enough nice things to say about Jane the Virgin. It's set up like a telenovela, which means there's no shortage of drama or cliffhangers. There's also no shortage of political lessons or wonderful family moments or cute babies or cute love interests. Jane is currently in its third season, so you have a little catching up to do -- but we promise it'll be fun.

    Where to watch: Seasons one and two are on Netflix, and the most recent season is on The CW.

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  • 14. The Great British Bake Off


    Oh God, we love this show. The Great British Bake Off was caught up in the news this year because of drama with network changes and some of the hosts and judges leaving, but that doesn't affect all the wonderful past seasons you need to catch up on ASAP. If you're looking for kind and gentle chaos and a little family-friendly drama about biscuits, GBB is the show for you.

    Where to watch: Between PBS, Netflix, and YouTube, all of the existing six seasons are available online. You don't even have to watch them in order.

  • 13. House of Cards


    House of Cards released its (dramatic, shocking, jaw-dropping, etc.) fourth season early this year -- and, for a while, it was all anyone could talk about. It was renewed for its fifth season almost immediately after season four came out, which means we'll repeat this whole process again in 2017. If you want to know what's up, you're going to have to catch up with Frank Underwood and the gang while you have the chance.

    Where to watch: Netflix, baby.

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  • 12. Atlanta


    In a turn of events we saw coming from a million miles away, Atlanta stole our hearts and minds this year. There's an entire episode with black Justin Bieber, for God's sake. Can you blame us? 

    Donald Glover's creation is as emotionally complex as it is visually complex, and the story it tells is absolutely essential to hear. Atlanta aired its first season this year, so there are only 10 30-minute episodes to catch up on. We really, really recommend you do it.

    Where to watch: FX.

  • 11. Gilmore Girls


    In case you missed it, Gilmore Girls came back this year. Much to its credit, there was probably more talk about this show than any other on TV this year. But now it's basically over (talks for reboot reboots notwithstanding), so it doesn't rank higher on our list because there's nothing to prep for going forward. Still, you should definitely watch all seven seasons and this year's miniseries, but don't rush through it. 

    Where to watch: Netflix has all the original seasons, plus the miniseries.

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  • 10. Transparent


    You could say it's kind of a miracle Transparent made it to its third season this year -- a web comedy about a family led by a transitioning trans woman is not exactly something critics or awards shows would traditionally jump on. So the fact that Transparent has not only survived as long as it has, but has thrived (nearly unanimous positive critic reviews and a slew of Emmys and Golden Globes prove that) is a sign of changing times (thank goodness!) -- and a sign you should really be watching Transparent. It really is worth every single accolade it's received.

    Where to watch: Amazon Prime

  • 9. The Good Place


    If you were a fan of The Office or Parks and Recreation, Michael Schur's latest creation, The Good Place, is a must-see. Even if you didn't like those shows, The Good Place is a must-see. It has an interesting and charming story line, fantastic writing, and really wonderful performances from both old (hi, Ted Danson and Kristen Bell) and new (we see you, Jameela Jamil and William Jackson Harper) stars.

    Where to watch: Hulu.

  • 8. This Is Us


    This Is Us has been an essential Backstreet Boys album since 2009, but as of 2016, it also became essential TV. It feels like everyone was talking about This Is Us this year (the show, not the album), and with good reason -- no writing on TV is better at tugging on heartstrings (yanking is actually probably a better word), and while the emotional manipulation is obvious, it's also somewhat cathartic. In a way. At any rate, there are only 11 episodes of the show so far, so it's an easy one to digest at once.

    Where to watch: Grab the whole thing on Hulu while it's still up.

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  • 7. Insecure


    2016 was the year that the world met Issa Rae via her truly lovely HBO show, Insecure. Well, kind of. To be fair, Issa went into this venture with an already enormous following because of her hit YouTube series, Awkward Black Girl, but she got the rest of the world's attention with Insecure (which is partially based on AWB), and we're so glad she did.

    The eight episodes are as honest and insightful as they are hilarious and, yes, awkward, and it's already picked up some award show nods, as well as a second season. Watch it.

    Where to watch: HBO Go.

  • 6. Black Mirror


    Anthology shows can be hard to keep up with, but each episode of Black Mirror is so interesting and engaging, it takes zero effort to stay on top of the new story lines and characters. The show presents a world dominated by technology, and it's an interesting exploration of where we, as a society, might end up if we're not careful with our smartphone obsession. It's dark but really good concept-wise, and eeeeveryone was talking about it. Like, everyone. Almost to a fault.

    Where to watch: Netflix.

  • 5. Master of None


    From his stand-up to his book to his performances on some of our fave TV shows ('sup, Parks and Recreation), everything Aziz Ansari creates is gold. Master of None feels like a culmination of all that in the best possible way -- it's smart and funny and speaks to us on a really personal level, and we thoroughly enjoyed every episode.

    Technically speaking, the first and only season of Master of None was released in the end of 2015. But everyone spent 2016 talking about how ready they were for season two, and those episodes are due to be released spring of 2017, so it still feels relevant. It'll always feel relevant -- it's just that kind of show. 

    Where to watch: Netflix.

  • 4. The Crown


    Queen Elizabeth II has had a truly unique and fascinating life, and The Crown is not the first show/movie/book to explore it. But many will say it's the best. It's already been slated for a full six seasons, so Netflix is taking its time with this one -- QEII's story is told slowly and delicately via a really excellent performance from Claire Foy. All that adds up to an engaging show that's easy to obsess over -- just ask all the people who binged this one the weekend it came out.

    Where to watch: It's a Netflix original, so look for it there.

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  • 3. Orange Is the New Black


    Every season of Orange Is the New Black makes a splash when it's released, and season four was no exception. Season five won't be, either. And you're really, really gonna want to know what happens -- whether or not the season four ending has been spoiled for you yet, because holy cow. Litchfield Penitentiary will never be the same, and you won't, either. Season five is due out in June 2017, and it's rumored to be the last for OITNB, so catch up while you can.

    Where to watch: Netflix.

  • 2. Westworld


    Everyone -- everyone -- was talking about Westworld this fall. It broke viewership records for HBO and attracted award show nods like the giant magnetic force it is, and the nearly unanimous positive reviews should probably be a sign to you that it's time you jump on watching this if you haven't already. A lot is packed into the 10 episodes, but it goes by quickly. They say the characters who visit Westworld in the show learn a lot about themselves, and we say the same goes for viewers who tuck into the Westworld universe at home -- you'll be faced with a lot of what would I have done? questions, and that, of course, is half the fun.

    Where to watch: HBO Go.

  • 1. Stranger Things


    Did you see this coming? We bet you saw this coming. You probably watched Stranger Things when it was released this summer, but if you didn't, you really gotta now. It was easily the most obsessed-over show of the year, and with good reason -- it's really good TV.

    Partial credit for the high score goes to the mystery factor, but what really sold the show for us is the undeniable bond between not only the kids of the ST world, but the actors who played them. The cast is part of the reason Stranger Things has become such a phenomenon on and off TV screens -- we have a genuine love for those kids, so we (and the rest of the world) want to see their goofy antics on Instagram in addition to their stellar performances on screen.

    Anyway, the point is that if you missed Stranger Things, you didn't just miss a great TV show -- you missed the cultural phenomenon, and you owe it to yourself to catch up. 

    Where to watch: All eight episodes are on Netflix.

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