Cliffhangerless TV shows
October 8, 2013 10:35 AM   Subscribe

I enjoy watching TV before bed. I especially enjoy watching TV Netflix style preferring to watch a show from beginning to end one or two episodes a night. It can help me relax and make me ready to fall asleep. It can also wire me and keep me up all night. I've figured out that it's the shows with cliff hangers that wire me. Can you recommend TV shows that typically end with the story wrapped up nice and neatly at the end of most episodes. I have access to Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Dish Network. More details below:

Breaking Bad and Walking Dead are good examples of shows that kept me awake or caused me to binge watch when I should be attempting to fall asleep. I slept very well after the last episode of Breaking Bad. The story was over and there was no anticipation of what happens next. I just finished the first season of Orange is the New Black. I found it just as entertaining as BrBa and Walking Dead but did not have the urge to play the next episode as soon as the last one was finished.

Shows that kept me up
Walking Dead
Son's of Anarchy
House of Cards
True Blood

Shows that helped me relax and unwind
That 70's Show
Myth Busters
West Wing
Burn Notice
posted by jmsta to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (58 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The various Star Trek series are pretty good at wrapping everything up at the end of each episode with only a few exceptions.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:38 AM on October 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

I have no idea if it's available digitally, but the British show Kingdom starred Stephen Fry as a genial country lawyer. Insofar as there were cliffhangers, it wasn't really anything intense. I'd describe the show as like wearing a comfy pair of socks.
posted by X-Himy at 10:41 AM on October 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Earlier seasons of Parks & Recreation - the later seasons would probably still work, as they don't tend to end on cliffhangers, but they do feature more overarching plots that have more "will they or won't they" moments. Since you featured West Wing (which has a similar overarching-plots-that-aren't-cliffhangers structure) on the "relax" list, I'd say the entire series would probably fit in your relaxing category.
posted by augustimagination at 10:42 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

The various British mysteries almost always wrap things up within one episode- particularly the Agatha Christie ones (Poirot, Marple) but also Foyle's War.

I was also going to suggest Kingdom, so I'll second that.
posted by ambrosia at 10:42 AM on October 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

King of the Hill. That's my answer to everything at the moment.
Also How It's Made.
posted by pipeski at 10:43 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Better Off Ted.
Call the Midwife - I think there were few cliffhangers
posted by tilde at 10:44 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also Nova, and many of the shorter episodes of Frontline (on Amazon Instant, or if you have a Roku are also on the free PBS channel). Manor House was just added to Amazon instant and is AWESOME and I think totally fits your criteria too.
posted by augustimagination at 10:45 AM on October 8, 2013

That 70's Show
Myth Busters

FWIW, my wife binge watched both of these shows at one time or another and her show of choice for unwinding is Midsomer Murders, available on Netflix. Lots of episodes, quaint, slightly goofy but macabre crimes, everything always wrapped up with a smile.
posted by selfnoise at 10:47 AM on October 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Psych and Monk--the old school murder-of-the-week detective shows.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:49 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pysch or The Newsroom!
posted by zw98105 at 10:49 AM on October 8, 2013

In the Mythbusters vein, maybe Top Gear or River Monsters?
posted by epersonae at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2013

It's not TV exactly but I love Ken Burns's documentaries (like "The Dust Bowl" or "Prohibition") and find them very soothing to watch before bed and/or fall asleep to--most of the information is coming through narration so you can even close your eyes and still enjoy it.
posted by lovableiago at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

The original Law and Order was famous for doing this, which is part of what made it so succesful in syndication.

Other procedurals that take the same model like Numbers should also work.
posted by Jahaza at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

Castle is pretty much procedural.
posted by holgate at 10:53 AM on October 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm with you, pipeski, King of the Hill is where it's at. Unfortunately, it's no longer available on any of the streaming services and I am suffering for it.

I'd also second augustimagination's recommendation of Parks & Recreation. It's great. Enjoyable, silly and a real treat to watch.
posted by BrianJ at 10:53 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Frasier is great for bedtime wind-down and there were a million seasons to watch.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:53 AM on October 8, 2013

Off the top of my head, the following procedurals match what you're looking for. There's maybe one or two two-part episodes (not counting season premiers/finales) per season and outside of that it's raw formula. However, they sometimes have season-long meta-plots, but unlike, say Fringe, it's straight-up B plot made for somewhat of a sense of continuity more than anything else. I've highlighted the ones I can personally recommend.

Law and Order
Law and Order: Criminal Intent
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
CSI: Miami
The Glades
White Collar
posted by griphus at 10:56 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I watch Law & Order before bed for exactly this reason: each episode is the self-contained story of a single case, so there's no chance that I'll be left wondering how it ends. And the old episodes, before all the episodes were "ripped from the headlines," are really well-done. Most law/crime shows are like this, so any police procedural might satisfy.

Also, the History Channel and PBS do some really good half hour or hour-long dramatic nonfiction shows where each episode is about a discrete event in history.

Finally, most traditional sitcoms will fit the bill. If you like the show, you might want to watch more, but you won't feel compelled to watch more because you want to know how the story ends. I'm pretty sure this is most of the audience for Nick at Night.
posted by decathecting at 10:57 AM on October 8, 2013

I find that Ken Burns documentaries are like ether, and typically lack cliffhangers. ("Ooh, I really want to see how Prohibition is going to turn out!")

The Civil War, Prohibition, and Baseball are all on Netflix streaming. Empire of the Air (about radio) is either on Netflix or Amazon Prime, I'm not sure. There are probably other ones available too, those are just the ones I've made it through personally.

It takes a while to work through an episode when you have to restart each night from about 10 minutes after where you started the previous night...
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:58 AM on October 8, 2013

Columbo is on Netflix.
posted by fozzie_bear at 10:58 AM on October 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

Dragnet '67 is my televised glass of warm milk.
posted by mykescipark at 11:02 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Law And Order, Dragnet, Emergency or Adam 12 are my favorite.

We also like "World's Dumbest" on Tru TV (don't know if that's a Netflix thing, we just DVR it).
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:04 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I once observed that my mom's favorite show (Murder, she Wrote) and my dad's favorite show (Walker, Texas Ranger) were both the sort that wrapped up nicely at the end, with the hero succeeding and the bad guys going to jail.

They each refused to watch the other's show, saying it was "silly". To me, they were practically the exact same show. Crime committed, heroes brought on to investigate, roundhouse kicks/clever deduction, heroes solve mystery, criminals brought to justice, ride into sunset/freeze frame laugh.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:11 AM on October 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

The Rockford Files, Danger Man, Hill Street Blues. (In other words, TV before they invented the cliff hangers)
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:18 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites] was on TNT and i watched some seasons on Netflix streaming.
posted by psususe at 11:21 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Definitely the various Law & Orders are pretty well packaged into individual episodes, although I'm not sure I'd want to watch some of them before bed. Psych would definitely be good, because it's very funny and light-hearted, almost a parody of a cop show. Monk probably as well although I personally never liked it.
posted by radioamy at 11:23 AM on October 8, 2013

Come to think of it, Quantum Leap is very episodic too.
posted by radioamy at 11:24 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aw MAN pipeski, this is the first I've realized that King of the Hill is no longer on Netflix. That was the show that made me subscribe in the first place. Looks like Monk is no longer there either, although the full show is still on Hulu Plus.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:26 AM on October 8, 2013

All Creatures Great and Small.

There are occasional sad episodes, but most of them end on a happy note.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:37 AM on October 8, 2013

In Plain Sight
The Good Wife

(those all have cliff hangers here and there, usually season ending, but otherwise tend to wrap up weekly)
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:50 AM on October 8, 2013

The older Bryan Fuller shows - Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies. Both excellent.

I'll second Castle and add Bones to the list. Firefly, too.
posted by bibliogrrl at 11:51 AM on October 8, 2013

"New Girl", "How I Met Your Mother", "Scrubs", "The League" (ones season is very much a continued story line, but not cliffhangery), "Archer", "Freaks and Geeks", "Keeping Up Appearances".
posted by skynxnex at 11:55 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll third Foyle's War. The episodes are very long and they are entertaining but I have no problem turning them off midway and coming back to them later on.
posted by Cuke at 12:01 PM on October 8, 2013

Veronica Mars (season 1 and 2) have one season long drama that unfolds very slowly, and an individual case each episode. It's great, and the seasons are actually quite long (like 22 episodes) and I used it to fall asleep at nights until I finished it.
posted by likeatoaster at 12:02 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


While it does have a continuous plot that runs through out, most episodes are self contained without cliffhangers.
posted by tnecniv at 12:07 PM on October 8, 2013

Cheers is on Netflix, which could keep you busy for a while.
posted by mikepop at 12:10 PM on October 8, 2013

I do this with The Office.
posted by anotheraccount at 12:19 PM on October 8, 2013

FWIW, I got too wrapped in Veronica Mars, and my lack of willpower would keep me up towards the ends of seasons.

I LOVE watching How It's Made for transitioning to sleepytimes. The narrator's voice is perfect, and each episode is definitely self-contained.
posted by emkelley at 12:23 PM on October 8, 2013

Nth-ing Foyle's War, Star Trek, Firefly, Call the Midwife.

I like travel shows for this (and, now that I wrote this list, the BBC).

Stephen Fry in America
Whichever of the Michael Palin travelogues are currently on Netflix (they vary every few months but there's always one or two)
Inspector Lynley Mysteries
Dr. Who

Not currently on Netflix but have been in the past, in the same vein:
In Search of Shakespeare (on Netflix about half the time I seek it out)
No Reservations
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:28 PM on October 8, 2013

If you like silly and slightly surreal (and grown men in dog suits), I'd recommend Wilfred, which has 2 short seasons on Netflix.
posted by jozxyqk at 12:33 PM on October 8, 2013

Response by poster: Great suggestions thanks everyone!
posted by jmsta at 1:03 PM on October 8, 2013

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The Simpsons
South Park

posted by mkultra at 1:05 PM on October 8, 2013

As Time Goes By is the most wonderful and restful tv show ever made. Judi Dench comedic awesomeness. The joy of ordinary life.
posted by monopas at 1:05 PM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I find Midsomer Murders to be the best show for sleepytime.
posted by RedEmma at 1:19 PM on October 8, 2013

nthing Foyle's War - most episodes are reaaaally interesting but very slow paced, and I can't remember any two-parters. My wife and I watched it Netflix instant.
posted by exhilaration at 1:25 PM on October 8, 2013

If it doesn't have to be fictional storytelling-type stuff, Netflix has a bunch of nature programs that make for enjoyable pre-bedtime watching. If you just do a search for "Nature" you'll come up with a bunch of them. They have some Nova episodes too.
posted by wondermouse at 1:49 PM on October 8, 2013

Try Doc Martin. Available on Netflix, about an English country doctor who is quirky and misanthropic. All sorts of interesting characters and medical conditions.
posted by bluejayway at 1:57 PM on October 8, 2013

Seconding Doc Martin.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:01 PM on October 8, 2013

Barney Miller
posted by luckynerd at 2:27 PM on October 8, 2013

Mission: Impossible
The A-Team
posted by ckape at 3:13 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

My last search on Netflix for a new series led me, quite by accident, to a SyFy series called Eureka. (I usually look for British series, but I've seen most of them, now.) It was light-hearted, fairly intelligent and very enjoyable. There are five years' worth, and the ending tied it all up really well.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:29 PM on October 8, 2013

If you liked West Wing, watch Sports Night, which was Sorkin's previous show. Despite the name, no knowledge of sports is required. It's all about the personalities who work on the show-within-a-show (which you almost never see on the show) and the fact that it's set at a sports show is somewhat incidental. (The Newsroom is essentially what you get when you throw Sports Night and West Wing in a blender.)

Nthing Parks and Rec, with the caveat that the first season was not very good. Fortunately, it's also only six episodes long. Persevere!

If you like Burn Notice you'll probably like Psych and White Collar which have been mentioned above. I can't figure out why there was never a big Crossover Event mega-episode for the three, although Psych is pretty different in tone. Other shows that are Psych-like: Person of Interest (rogue CIA agent taking on odd jobs) and Leverage (the whole caper thing).

Also Nthing Stargate. There's 10 seasons of SG1, 5 seasons of Atlantis and 2 seasons of Universe so you've got years of unwinding right there.

Can't believe no one has recommended Arrested Development!
posted by rednikki at 3:38 PM on October 8, 2013

I can't believe that no one's mentioned Elementary! I can't stand procedurals, generally speaking, but Elementary is totally my happy place. There are a couple of two-part episodes, but they're relatively rare, and the season-long arc (at least of S1) isn't dramatic so much as about people's interpersonal relationships. (Note: not romances.)

I'm also currently involved in a Golden Girls rewatch. There's the odd sad episode (watch out for 6x12!) but it's all sort of very gentle and calming.

Also, Bob's Burgers? Funny and charming, but not too intense, and no cliffhangers at all. I can't quite say why I like it so much, but man, I really, really like that show.
posted by MeghanC at 4:36 PM on October 8, 2013

I love doing what you describe -- watching an episode or two of a show every night before bed until I finish the show. For me, I watched Sex & The City and The Office. I liked them because they are comedies and they are light, but they have dramatic elements and long story arcs that continue from episode to episode and last the entire season. It's not like Saved By The Bell where one episode a new kid joins the school and he's back to not existing by the next episode. The Office stops getting funny completely after season 6, but I think season 2 and 3 are very much worth watching. Sex & The City later seasons are funnier than the earlier ones, but it something you can look forward to as you watch. I also enjoy Parks & Recreation for its story arcs, and similar to The Office, the first season has a different feel than later seasons. The best P&R season is season 4 because of the particularly strong story arc.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:03 PM on October 8, 2013

The Good Wife isn't quite a procedural - each episode has a self-contained 'story' in terms of the case they're dealing with that week, but there's also the longer arcs involving Alicia's relationship with her husband, her relationship with her co-workers, what her kids are up to, and whatever the hell Kalinda's backstory is going to be (that's what's keeping me watching at the moment - I'm on S1). Have you seen The Mentalist? Similar to that in that respect (except the arc in that show centres around a bigger murder case).

I found Sportsnight quite soothing, because the episodes are structured around the fictional show and have the same 'formula' in each episode.

Nthing The Golden Girls as well. That and King of the Hill got me through a few months in a crappy houseshare.
posted by mippy at 10:16 AM on October 9, 2013

Oh, something else I just thought of; not sure if it's still on Netflix Instant, but we burned through the whole series a year or two ago: Hawaii Five-O (the old one!).
posted by epersonae at 4:33 PM on October 9, 2013

Scrubs! Last I knew there were 8, maybe even 9 seasons on Netflix. If you're into Animal Planet type shows give Dog Town a try--sometimes a little sad but always a happy ending. Bob's Burgers is a lot of fun if you use Hulu. I just started watching Dr. Who, and it feels very episodic so far.
posted by possumbrie at 4:40 PM on October 12, 2013

Lots of good show suggestions here but I just wanted to offer a tip. I used to watch "24" right before bed, and it's the ULTIMATE cliffhanger show.

Since I wasn't watching it as broadcast, I came up with a solution: I'd watch until the end-of-episode cliffhanger, then start the next episode and watch the 10 mins before the first commercial break. That would resolve the cliffhanger and land in a slow part of the show. Then I'd come back the next day and watch 0:10 of that episode to 0:10 of the next, and so on.
posted by mmoncur at 5:58 PM on October 13, 2013

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