Distract me from my dripping sweat.
September 27, 2017 8:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for video series to watch for times that I'm at the gym (elliptical or rower). Something bright, mostly episodic, and will not make me feel uncomfortable if someone else sees what I'm watching. Absolutely no laugh tracks. Something I haven't seen already.

Winter is coming, which means poorly shoveled sidewalks and unmaintained trail networks will move this runner to be indoors about 50% of the time. I've found that if I have nothing, or just music/podcasts I get bored out of my mind on a treadmill/elliptical/rower. However simple video is great for my mind. Reading is definitely out. I'd prefer tv series over movies because of the extended time getting to know the characters. I don't need constant fight scenes to push my pace, but something paced like Orange is the New Black would be a non-starter.

I'd like something with at least 30 episodes, so no one-season series to fall in love with and gnash teeth and their canceled status. Something filmed within the last 20 years is probably better than newer. No laugh tracks, they're just making up for bad timing. I usually do ~60 minutes at the gym; I'm OK with episodes not meshing perfectly to time boundaries.

By bright, I mean very few dark (mostly coloured black) scenes. Even with my tablet at 90% brightness with gym lights trying to chase away all shadows, cinematic dark scenes are essentially a black screen during a radio drama.

My episodic request is that as a part of the exercising, from time to time I'll be more inward focused and I'll stop following the show and don't want to consider rewindingr. Assume that I won't pay attention to 25% of what I've seen, this shouldn't interfere with the series. At the same point, nothing too simple (kids shows) nor sappy.

By not embarrassing, I mean something that won't offend someone else. Sex/seduction scenes, even the fit network standards would make me feel like a creep at the gym. Fan service definitely need not apply. Anything where one would need my headphones / or to have watched the show to not be offensive also counts, but I can't immediately think of an example what I mean by that. I haven't watched much Rick and Morty, but I get the feeling it would fall into this category?

Examples of what I've used/tried and my thoughts:

iZombie, was pretty perfect for what I was looking for, but I've run through this series three times already (well, the most recent season only got one play).

Better off Ted. Bright, episodic pretty great. The only downside is it might have been a bit too funny - nothing that interfered with my ability to keep moving, but had some people giving me side eye for my frequent audible laughter.

Dark Matter - Generally too dark, and this pretty much hits against my boundaries of plot vs episodicness. I definitely liked the small bits of action/fighting.

Currently watching Terminator, the Sarah Connor chronicles - again, lots of dark scenes (but better than Dark Matter), and would be bordering on not being episodic enough if this was my first watching. Had a few scenes with Cameron or with Jesse and Derek that left me fast forwarding. Three more episodes and I'm out.

Things I'm not considering and why:

Archer (bright and episodic, but fails on embarrassment/offensiveness)
Once Upon a Time (generally bright and colourful and I think I only saw the first season, but the family thing got a bit too played up instead of just the mix of modern and flashbacks of the fairy tales).
Arrested Development - Seen too many times.
The Office - Seen too many times.
Doctor Who - Seen too many times.
Farscape - Seen too many times.
Mr Robot - I only saw the first season (not on an elliptical), but this seemed way to plot heavy for what I'm looking for.
Modern Family - Have this for one of the kids, but it's only "meh" or "OK" - I don't find it engaging despite it hitting a lot of other points.
Malcolm in the Middle - I liked this when I saw it as it aired, but I think the general family-based sitcoms aren't going to be engaging while working out.
My Name is Earl - bright and episodic, but too many scenes at Chubbys, etc even if it is usually bikini rather than simulated nudity.
Black Books - laugh track, and it seems really old.
Simpsons - too much exposure/history to be engaging.

Things that mostly fit, but that I've seen once and don't anticipate much re-watch value:
Bojack Horseman
Kimmy Schmidt
Last Week Tonight

Things I'm considering using next, in order of preference, but that I've already seen and I'm asking because I'd prefer something I haven't seen.

Bob's Burgers
Scrubs (I don't immediately recall just how many fast-forwarding scenes there'll be)
Parks and Rec
The 100 (plot-heavy, but I've seen each season only once)
Invader Zim (also it's a bit old)

Looking at my list, that seems to take care of most bright things I've seen with lots of episodes which aren't too plot-heavy.

I'm not tied to any particular source for streaming/dvd's/etc, so free free to recommend anything that fits the bill.
posted by nobeagle to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (36 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
King of the Hill would fit. 13 seasons, something over 250 episodes. I'm watching the whole lot for something like the 5th time now, and I still think it's one of the best shows ever made.
posted by pipeski at 8:39 AM on September 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Two series each of which I think meets all but one of your criteria, but would otherwise be ideal fits:

Pushing Daisies (only 22 episodes)
Dinosaurs (over 20 years old)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:43 AM on September 27, 2017

Have you seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I've watched it 3 times already and am considering a re-watch for my next treadmill show. The first season is a bit cheesy but if you stick around until season 2 you won't look back.
posted by something something at 8:44 AM on September 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

How I Met Your Mother?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2017

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend might work, lots of episodes and bright. There are some sexy scenes here and there, though.

I'm loving The Good Place, which hits everything except your 30 episode minimum.
posted by LKWorking at 8:49 AM on September 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I do this with The West Wing. It's basically a radio drama as it is (very rarely do you need to actually watch it to understand what's happening) and if you've already seen it once, you don't need to pay attention 100% of the time. Whether or not it's exciting enough for a workout is up to you.
posted by coppermoss at 8:51 AM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was going to say Scrubs is perfect for this. There are a couple scenes of one of the actresses in a bra but most of it is in the hospital. You can miss large swaths and still know where you are. The show is funny but I don't think you'll be getting off your pace with it.

You'd think they were kids shows with the casts, but we really liked "Fresh off the Boat" and "Black-ish."

If you don't mind watching food while you work out, I love "The Great British Bake Off" for working out. There are good points to pay attention and good points to zone out. It's very bright in mood and lighting. There are lots of seasons.

"Steven Universe" season 1 (maybe 2?) would be good (some of the later seasons might be too engaging for exercising).

Pushing Daisies is only 21 episodes total, but it is SO SO worth it and would again cover all your bases (except the series length one).

How do you feel about watching physical activities while you work out? "American Ninja Warrior" is just engaging enough for me. The background stories get a little old, I admit.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 8:53 AM on September 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I run on a treadmill and love to watch episodes of Great British Baking Show. Bright, plenty of episodes to stream, doesn't matter if your attention wanders.
posted by little mouth at 8:53 AM on September 27, 2017

30 Rock?
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:53 AM on September 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Golden Girls?
posted by Hanuman1960 at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2017

If you like cooking shows at all, I recommend the YouTube series How to Cake It and Man About Cake. Bright, fairly fast-paced, and funny, and they each have a solid back catalog of episodes. If this will just make you want to binge eat cake immediately after your workout then disregard.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel show The Legend of Korra might fit the bill. Episodic enough that undivided attention isn't required, but plot and character-driven enough to keep the ball rolling, and it's a fairly brightly colored show. Technically, they are kids shows, but like...in the sense that the Harry Potter books are technically children's literature. There's not really an age limit for enjoying the heck out of them.

Veronica Mars might be a good one to try as well if you liked iZombie. There is the occasional beach and/or make out scene, but I think it's mostly fully clothed, brightly colored SoCal noir.
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm not much on rewatching shows but my two mainstays for rewatches are Stargate SG: 1 and Leverage.

Mostly well lit, episodic, not too much sexy times, good guys usually win in the end.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:04 AM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

This format (90m episodes) may not satisfy you (or might keep you coming back!), but Midsomer Murders is well lit, safe enough to watch with your grandma, pretty safe to zone out and come back and still be mostly caught up, and (like Law and Order and X-Files, two other possible contenders) you get to play the game of spotting every single baby British actor working their first credited job in the late 90s/early 00s.

Netflix has every series right now, sometimes the early series go exclusive for a while somewhere else and come back. There's no real need to watch the series or even the episodes in each series in order - there's a vague throughline across episodes about the police guy's family (this character is replaced several times over the 18 series so you're never terribly attached) but it is insignificant except, due to television formats, you do start to wonder why the hell these guys' families stumble on so many murders.

The earliest series are non-HD non-letterbox but there's still lots of British countryside and quaint villages, and later series are pretty gorgeous. I watch it on one of my monitors while I'm doing data entry or software babysitting in another monitor, and rarely get too lost but also don't find it too repetitive.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:05 AM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I was working out regularly at the gym, it coincided with Law and Order re-runs, which were basically perfect for this.
posted by dismas at 9:07 AM on September 27, 2017

Brooklyn Nine Nine is fun and doesn't have a laugh track.
posted by Mouse Army at 9:09 AM on September 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Have you seen Sports Night? As a non sports person, it took me several years after it had gone off the air to watch it, but as it turns out, it's great; very engaging and character centered.
posted by spindrifter at 9:12 AM on September 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Scratch my X-Files rec. It's so dark it's almost unwatchable on a projector or underpowered monitor. I keep forgetting that and trying to watch them while I'm working.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:14 AM on September 27, 2017

Replying to continue with feedback;

Pushing Daisies; yes! We never saw the second season after hearing it got canceled, but I've wanted to; I'll allow the lack of episodes; at least they're 40 minutes instead of 20.

American Nija warrior; sounds worth a shot, thanks! I'll also be looking at Fresh off the Boat and Black-ish, Midsomer Murders, and Leverage.

Avatar / Korra , might be worth considering ; hopefully it's not got a lot of filler like Voltron / Dragonball Z / Naruto, etc where a 5 minute episode is stretched to 20 minutes?

Buffy, too many dark night scenes. West Wing; I wanted to avoid night/dark scenes because I wasn't looking for a radio drama :) My 25% missing isn't just where I'm looking away, but that I'm turned inward, so also not really processing audio. When I'm not inward, I specifically want some engagement/distraction with the video, a bunch of talking heads with little action won't do that for me. Similarly my wife and I used to use Law and Order's to fall asleep to :) .

I don't have a problem with food, but I have never had any interest in baking/food shows.

In retrospect, other things I've seen that mostly fit the bill 30 Rock, Community, Freaks and Geeks and Veronica Mars (which I remember with lots of night/dark scenes), BSG, Continuum (loved the ending), Defiance, Earthworm Jim (old), Freakazoid (old), Heroes, Killjoys, Misfits (some uncomfortable scenes), and Superstore (low num of episodes).

Keep up the recs thanks!
posted by nobeagle at 9:18 AM on September 27, 2017

posted by lovableiago at 9:22 AM on September 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Detectorists maybe? (This is basically my "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" recommendation because I fucking love this show.) No night scenes, mostly shot in flipping gorgeous English countryside on beautiful sunny summer days. Funny but now GUFFAW funny. No laugh track. Might be a little too placid for you, though.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:33 AM on September 27, 2017

Shooter -- I picked it up during a long flight layover and, um, never looked back.
posted by acm at 9:35 AM on September 27, 2017

Burn Notice. Ugly Betty. White Collar. Leverage.
posted by xyzzy at 10:03 AM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

You and I have some significant TV interest overlap and one show that I watch, although it doesn't line up with my interests at all, is Canadian family/horse farm light drama Heartland. Normally, I would not have any interest in a show like this but it's a great fit for when I need low attention watching of a nice TV show about nice people trying to do nice things for nice horses.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:16 AM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Curb Your Enthusiasm -- not any more offensive than Veep.
Grace and Frankie (some vibrators but otherwise very tame)
New Girl? Might be too sexy, but maybe give it a try.
posted by imalaowai at 10:29 AM on September 27, 2017

You might like Angie Tribeca which is sort of a lulzy cop show (think Airplane! or Police Squad but for modern day cops) with a lot of good visual humor but it's also easy to dip in and out of. I use my iPad on the treadmill/bike and I also liked some of your picks (community, Parks and Rec) How do you feel about something a little more hate watchy like House of Cards?

Other options: seconding Brooklyn 99, maybe Trailer Park Boys (many episodes, drugs stuff but very little sex stuff), cozy UK stuff like Doc Martin (or UK Office?) or As Time Goes By, Mindy Project and my perrenial suggestion (but only 20 Episodes) Party Down.
posted by jessamyn at 10:30 AM on September 27, 2017

Leverage is fun, bright scenes, not too demanding
Parks and Rec could be good too.
Brooklyn99 is similarly goofy--comedy show about cops, but it's more about their relationships with each other than crimes. Not violent, no laugh track, bright.
Madame Secretary might work for you too. If you miss some stuff, it won't matter.
posted by purple_bird at 10:44 AM on September 27, 2017

Gilmore Girls! Lots of seasons, quick-paced dialogue, and bright enough to work on my broken-screen'ed laptop. And no awkward sex scenes. Brooklyn 99 is good as well, but I feel like it rewards more attention that I generally want to give a show (I miss jokes, etc.).
posted by quadrilaterals at 10:45 AM on September 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Seconding Avatar: The Last Airbender, and just to assuage your concerns about filler, it's not like Naruto/DBZ in pacing at all--the plot moves along consistently, with each episode having a meaningful purpose. No "power level charging up for five episodes"-type stuff. It's really a spectacular show that everyone should watch, with gorgeous, bright animation, charming characters and surprisingly good writing. The only way it may not fit your bill exactly that it's probably at least 50% plot-driven, especially toward the end.
posted by Pfardentrott at 11:06 AM on September 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Adventure Time?

Technically a kid's show, but very enjoyable for adults.
posted by Julnyes at 11:07 AM on September 27, 2017

I am exactly like you. I thought The 100 and iZombie were perfect for my winter treadmill runs so I checked out some other CW shows like Riverdale (only one season on Netflix so you may want to wait on that) and Reign (though not as perfect).

Lost was great to re-watch at the gym. Dr. Who and West Wing occasionally get play if I'm in those moods. I'm currently watching Primeval on Amazon Prime and it's kind of ridiculous but I haven't stopped. It's mindless with just enough action. I don't LOVE it but it gets me through long indoor workouts.
posted by adorap0621 at 11:38 AM on September 27, 2017

Yeah, seconding Psych, Burn Notice, White Collar - bright and episodic with a bit of an arc is USA's wheelhouse.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:33 PM on September 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Jane the Virgin is my favorite workout show and I believe it meets all of your criteria. Though it did make me laugh out loud several times resulting in treadmill side-eye.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 2:48 PM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dead Like Me has only 29 episodes, but I think you'll like it if you like Pushing Daisies.
posted by exceptinsects at 4:03 PM on September 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Burn Notice is great until it's not. If you reach a point and you're like 'this used to be good, but now maybe not, i wonder if it gets better?' you're probably at the point to stop.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:38 AM on September 28, 2017

Yeah, seconding Psych, Burn Notice, White Collar - bright and episodic with a bit of an arc is USA's wheelhouse.

Another one from USA in the same vein, and meeting your criteria, is Monk.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:08 AM on September 28, 2017

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