Television for binge watchers short on time
June 30, 2015 8:36 PM   Subscribe

My fiancé and I like to watch television together, but our schedules are unusually busy this summer, so our usual 45 minutes shows aren't cutting it. Any recommendations for excellent 21-30 minute programs?

We are mostly looking for well written shows to watch on Netflix (or, slightly less preferably, Amazon Prime or other internet sources). One big problem right now is that we often have 20-30 minutes free, but not 40-60, so we'd really like half hour show we can watch whenever we have time. I like shows that are life-affirming or at least not depressing. He likes realism unless it gets really goofy, so straight-up sit-coms are generally out. Occasional cliffhangers OK, but not preferred. We have liked:
West Wing
Mad Men
Parks and Rec
Freaks and Geeks
IT Crowd

We have tried but one or both of us couldn't get into:
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Better Off Ted

(I've already seen all of Wonderfalls, Black Books, Pushing Daisies, Peep Show, and Community)
posted by alligatorpear to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
By putting the IT Crowd on you list, I get the feeling you can cope with a tech-based premise, so look up Silicon Valley (which has been discussed on FanFare if you care to get the collective MeFi opinion about it).
posted by sardonyx at 8:41 PM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Bob's Burgers.
posted by fings at 8:43 PM on June 30, 2015 [8 favorites]

Derek (Netflix) - definitely life-affirming
Catastrophe (Amazon)
posted by bizzyb at 8:48 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

United States of Tara (netflix)? Might not always pass your depressing filter.

Nurse Jackie is a great 20-30 min show, but apparently not available on netflix or amazon prime.
posted by tan_coul at 8:58 PM on June 30, 2015

ZOMG Catastrophe on Amazon Prime. 25 minutes per episode x 6 episodes. (Though they're making a second series.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:04 PM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Adventure Time episodes are about 12 minutes each. We watch 2 or 3 in a sitting.
posted by matildaben at 9:12 PM on June 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Cougar Town - though it probably doesn't pass the ' not goofy' requirement.

Ooh, an oldy but a goody - Press Gang
posted by kitten magic at 9:13 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Adventure Time.
posted by anthropomorphic at 9:21 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Adventure Time is so amazing.

30 Rock?
posted by rhizome at 9:23 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Brooklyn 99?
posted by geek anachronism at 9:26 PM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon Instant Video.
posted by Joleta at 9:26 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Actually, I don't know what's on Netflix in the US, sorry!
posted by geek anachronism at 9:28 PM on June 30, 2015

Nthing Brooklyn 99 and Adventure Time.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:29 PM on June 30, 2015

30 Rock!
posted by marguerite at 10:00 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Scrubs. Arrested Development. The UK Office.
posted by Clustercuss at 10:01 PM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Enlightened (On Amazon Prime)
posted by wsquared at 10:11 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by janey47 at 10:16 PM on June 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Grace & Frankie
posted by kapers at 10:38 PM on June 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

Suits. (It's available on AU Netflix so I'm going to assume it's available on US Netflix?)
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 10:46 PM on June 30, 2015

snap, crackle and pop: "Suits. (It's available on AU Netflix so I'm going to assume it's available on US Netflix?)"

Ok reading comprehension fail; Suits eps are 40 minutes. My bad. (But it's still awesome for binge watching.)
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 10:46 PM on June 30, 2015

'Inside No. 9' is sublime.
posted by beijingbrown at 11:06 PM on June 30, 2015

It's hard to find anything under 30 minutes that isn't a sitcom, so...

(keep in mind some of these might not be available)

Four from Comedy Central, so they should be online in the US. At least, you should be able to see some clips to see if they're worth exploring.
Key and Peele re-starts next week and Broad City has two excellent seasons and both should need no introduction. Another Period is a new show (think a reality/celebrity show in pre-WWI New England) that is lining up to be pretty good, although completely bonkers. Kroll Show ended early this year - It's also a spoof of reality shows of various kinds. Can be quite acidic on the kind of characters it is spoofing.

Girls.You now, it's Girls. YMMV, fucking millennials, Lena Dunham, etc. Also on YMMV grounds, Always Sunny in Philadelphia (horrible people running a bar, hijinks ensue) and The League (horrible people trash talk their way into a fantasy football league. light on football).

Eastbound and Down. An out of luck baseball pro (out of shape! mullet! delusions of grandeur! beer, coke and hookers!) returns home and tries to get his life back on track. Or doesn't. At times it gets a bit into sad-sack comedy, but it's Fucking Kenny Powers. The only sad-sack he'll have for long is if he doesn't [gross sexual reference].

Venture Bros. Animated show spoofing old shows like Johnny Quest about a former child adventurer star and his two kids. A lot (and I mean A LOT) of pop culture references. I mean...

Maron. A sitcom about an angry guy, his podcast and his cats. First season ok, second a bit worse, third looking good. You might see some comparisons to Louie but no, not really. Those are very lazy people talking - could have well compared Seinfeld, AV Club's favourite Mulaney or any other sitcom with a stand-up comics name on it.

Happy Endings. Quirky buddy sitcom. Despite the terrible premise (bride leaves groom at the altar, they continue to be friends) it evolved into really something else, thanks to some really clever, rapid firing writing and amaaaaaaahzing cast chemistry.

Undeclared. More or less a sequel to Freaks and Geeks, about freshmen on college. Not as good, but since you mentioned F&G...
posted by lmfsilva at 11:39 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

The original Twilight Zone series had episodes of about 24 minutes long. It also saves you the time of seeing its plots re-hashed in numerous later and lengthier shows.
posted by rongorongo at 12:51 AM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I suggest "Veep", which I'm surprised not have seen here already, and the British "Green Wing", which is more akin to a sketch-show with character-development and a story. After you fell in love with Tamsin Greig you can add "Episodes" to the mix. (note: I have no clue about Netflix)
posted by KMB at 2:29 AM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

High Maintenance fits all of your bills. A series of encounters between a pot dealer ('the guy') and his, well, high maintenance New York clients. Sometimes funny, sometimes weird, sometimes touching, seriously brilliant.

Broad City may be too goofy for your tastes, but it remains my favourite thing on television so I'll throw that out there.

Silicon Valley got really, really good in its second season.

I have a real soft spot for gross-out dude comedy The League. It is definitely a gross-out comedy, but also gleefully, compulsively watchable. I treasure anything that puts Jason Mantzoukas on my screen.

Not sure what your streaming options are, but hopefully you can track down some of those!
posted by nerdfish at 3:12 AM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sitcom, but I can't help but recommend it since you have West Wing on your list: Veep.
posted by Elsie at 5:14 AM on July 1, 2015

The BBC had a thing a while back of filming costume dramas to fit into half hour slots - Bleak House and Little Dorrit. Both highly recommended.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 5:22 AM on July 1, 2015

The original UK version of The Thick of It?
posted by tavegyl at 5:50 AM on July 1, 2015

I just discovered that Amazon prime has the 1st season of "Veep." Amazon also has "Transparent," which may or may not be up your alley. Also seconding "Broad City," "Brooklyn 99." FX has Billy Crystal and Josh Gadd in "Comedians," which I'm finding very entertaining. I'm also enjoying the newer stuff on HBO: "Silicon Valley," "Ballers," "The Brink" (last 2 are only up to 2 episodes each).
posted by Gilbert at 6:57 AM on July 1, 2015

Try Bojack Horseman? its.... really good. Its a play in three acts, with the first four episodes mostly worldbuilding and kinda silly humour, the next four are really good, and the last four are just stunning TV.

And season two is soon!
posted by Jacen at 7:22 AM on July 1, 2015

Seconding Grace and Frankie. It's some of the best TV I've seen in a long time (maybe ever?) and I was particularly struck by the pacing. Veep is also great for this.
posted by rossination at 7:33 AM on July 1, 2015

Frasier is on Netflix and, I've discovered, actually really good.
posted by meese at 8:06 AM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

Sports Night, a really delightful Aaron Spelling series that was cancelled way too soon. Available at least on Apple TV.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:27 AM on July 1, 2015

Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel, The Legend of Korra!

Anime episodes also tend to be around 20 minutes long, with many series lasting about 13 episodes. And there is anime about everything, depending on the subject you're looking for.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:26 AM on July 1, 2015

If you're a Seinfeld fan, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is interesting, short and funny. The Michael Richards and Jim Carrey episodes are especially good.

If you liked The IT Crowd, you should try Father Ted, by the same creator. It's on Hulu Plus, you can buy on iTunes or rent on DVD.
posted by cnc at 11:40 AM on July 1, 2015

In Treatment might be worth a look. Short episodes, very engrossing and real. It's very serious, but I didn't find it depressing. It's on Amazon Prime.
posted by Corvid at 1:50 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'll enthusiastically 2nd In Treatment. The episodes are half an hour or slightly less since they ran 4-5 episodes a week during the show's original run. It's engrossing without being too depressing or hard to keep up with. Great characters. Even though it's not really that similar, I think if you enjoyed Mad Men and The West Wing you would enjoy In Treatment. (I didn't like the 3rd season quite as much, but the first and second seasons were very good.)

You might also enjoy Scrubs and Arrested Development. These are both available on Netflix.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:08 PM on July 1, 2015

Thank you all for your excellent suggestions! I forgot to list several that we each watched separately and love (sports night, arrested development), but you hit the nail on the head with those. You guys also managed to remind of shows I'd heard of and wanted to check out but forgotten (e.g., Green Wing) and intrigue me ones I'd never really considered before (e.g., Bobs Burgers, Press gang, Adventure Time) We look forward to checking them out!
posted by alligatorpear at 2:51 PM on July 6, 2015

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