TV Recommendations for the Easily Distracted
November 14, 2018 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Looking for TV show recommendations that are either really engaging right off the bat or really short (think either mini-serial or only has 1-2 seasons released to date). Something I can binge watch. I like drama, period drama, true-crime series, thrillers, Nordic noir, and also comedy and comedy-drama. But I do not have the time or inclination or attention span to watch something that requires a lot of time or attention investment, so nothing where I have to catch up on more than 3 seasons (i.e. Orange is the New Black, Wentworth) or that requires a lot of time to build up the story arc or jokes (i.e. Arrested Development). So really, I'm looking for something I can binge watch in a weekend, like a mini-series or a one to two season drama.

Things I like in my TV shows:
- Mystery and intrigue - intrigue can be political
- Some bleakness, maybe some murder
- Female protagonists, bonus if they're intrepid detectives (a la The Fall, The Killing, Collateral)
- Stories that are, at their heart, about family
- Available on Netflix or Prime Video, so I can watch with subtitles

Multiple season shows I have seen and liked and finished because I found them really engaging right off the bat:
- Game of Thrones
- Narcos
- The Wire
- Breaking Bad
- Better Call Saul
- House of Cards
- The Killing
- The Fall
- Master of None
- This Is Us
- Catastrophe
- Love

Mini-series type things I have seen and enjoyed:
- The Keepers
- Seven Seconds
- Collateral
- Wild Wild Country
- Black Mirror
- American Vandal
- The Letdown

1-2 season shows I've liked:
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
- Mindhunter

Shows I've started but found too long or not engaging enough to finish:
- Gilmore Girls
- Arrested Development
- Mad Men
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
posted by spicytunaroll to Media & Arts (54 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Upstart Crow - you gotta watch it!

Season 2 is especially good. Short eps and seasons, political and hilarious.
posted by Youremyworld at 9:50 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

How about “Bored to Death”? Fun cast, comedy w some intrigue as it features a writer-turned-PI. It was an HBO show and might be on Amazon.
posted by mefireader at 10:06 PM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Two I've enjoyed binging: Please Like Me; and Lovesick.
posted by yesbut at 10:07 PM on November 14, 2018

Evil Genius on Netflix should fill this gap. It's a miniseries about a bank robbery in Pennsylvania. The twist is that the person who robbed the bank has a bomb strapped to him, but he didn't put it there... or did he? Like any miniseries, this got a little long in the end, but there were enough twists and turns to keep me tuning in.

TV shows: I just jumped into Nurse Jackie. It's got a lot of seasons, and I'm only on the 2nd season, but each show is just 25 minutes, and it's been engaging since the first minute. Dramatic and comedic. (No idea how the rest of the series goes, but if I get bored with it, then so be it.)

Another more unknown show is The End of the F***ing World, also on Netflix. It's one season, 8 episodes. It's interesting and sorta reminds me of Love, which you liked. It kept me intrigued.
posted by hydra77 at 10:22 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

You might like the British mini series An Honorable Woman from 4-5 years ago. 8 episodes, family story, political intrigue, stars Maggie Gyllenhall. (Content warning for some sexual violence.)
posted by vunder at 10:44 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Check out Maniac on Netflix.
posted by rhizome at 10:46 PM on November 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

Call My Agent - a French show with two seasons of six episodes each. It's light-hearted very well-produced drama centered around an agency (for actors). Not mystery but it does have a great female character, plus it's French if you like that sort of thing.
posted by Idle Curiosity at 10:51 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Might be over-recommended everywhere at this point, but Haunting of Hill House? It's essentially a family drama mixed with horror elements and the whole thing gets wrapped up in 10 episodes.
posted by mcfighty at 10:57 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Killing Eve is a quick binge and The Good Place has short episodes.
posted by fullerine at 11:02 PM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I found The Good Place very binge-able. I couldn't stop watching it, basically. The first two seasons are on Netflix and you could easily binge it over a weekend. The episodes are really short. It's easy to follow, with a great diverse cast and clever writing. And it's oddly feel good without being in any way syrupy.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:15 PM on November 14, 2018 [16 favorites]

We have very similar taste. I highly recommend The Night Manager.
posted by invisible ink at 11:30 PM on November 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

Babylon Berlin. Political intrigue in the decadent and unsettled period between the two world wars. Two seasons of 8 episodes. Subtitled but totally worth it. Wikipedia .
posted by Homer42 at 12:25 AM on November 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Bodyguard, a six-episode political thriller from the BBC. It's on Netflix in some regions, I'm not sure about Canada.

No Tomorrow ran one season. It has some longer arcs and some shorter. I thought it was delightful.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 12:28 AM on November 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Try Ozark on Netflix. Pretty cool
posted by burb122 at 1:05 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Detectorists, in the comedy category. Also, bear in mind most British shows have shorter seasons - often 6 episodes - which might help. Detectorists is 3 seasons of 6 half hour eps and a Christmas special, very easily watchable (not highly dramatic, but funny, and lovely).
posted by penguin pie at 1:15 AM on November 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries! Takes place in 1920s Melbourne. Protagonist is stylish and saucy and I love everything she wears.

The other week, I binged Pushing Daisies, both seasons on AMZN Prime, and it’s still delightful. Murder mysteries. Lots of horrifying circumstances all dressed up in comedy and candy colors. Bonus arc about family, love, loyalty, and hidden truths. Occasional musical numbers.
posted by mochapickle at 1:56 AM on November 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

Seconding Upstart Crow, The Good Place and Babylon Berlin.


The Americans (about KGB-Agents working undercover as your typical American family, set in the 80ies, which should really check all your boxes: political intrigue, some bleakness - you bet!, female protagonist - Kerri Russel is magnificent in this, short story arcs - there are missions of the week - story at the heart about family, absolutely, if you ask me, I found the domestic drama aspect often more thrilling than all the spying and murdering, and it's responsible for some of the most tense, most emotionally affecting scenes).

Harlots (competing brothel owners battle for market share in 18th century England; intrigue of the turf war, bleak - well, it's not glossing over the harsh realities of the business, so that comes with the territory, but it's also not all unrelenting misery - female protagonists, absolutely, pretty much all of the main characters are women, short story arcs - British show, so it's only two short seasons so far , and so story arcs tend to get resolved pretty quickly, story at the heart about family, again, absolutely - mother/daughter issues drive some of the main conflicts).
posted by sohalt at 1:57 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Bodyguard! BBC miniseries. (I found it very gripping, although er... problematic in places.)
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:06 AM on November 15, 2018

I think that you are a perfect audience for Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.
posted by Mizu at 3:14 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

GRACE AND FRANKIE on Netflix!!!!!!!
Golden Girls is also fab. (Hulu)
Call the Midwife (On Netflix and PBS streaming)
Broadchurch (Netflix)
Fallet (Netflix) Partially subtitled anyway since it's only half English.
Happy Valley (Netflix)
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix)
GLOW (Netflix)
Top of the Lake (Hulu)
Trial and Error (Hulu though season 2 only. I think season 1 you can purchase or probably find though another app)

Murdoch Mysteries!! It's available on Acorn TV streaming - and for purchase other places.
+1 for Miss Fishers and Detectorists. Truly you would probably find Acorn TV worthwhile (like $6/month or something?) Quite a few murder/mystery shows and British TV usually means shorter seasons and good to binge. Looks like they have captions AFAIK.

Watching TV is kinda like.. my full time job. I also enjoy Midsomer Murders (Netflix and Acorn), Great British Baking Show, Riverdale (Netflix and CW app), all of Stargate (Hulu), and probably a billion others I can't remember. My DMs are always open.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:21 AM on November 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sisters on Netflix
posted by mosessis at 3:46 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I feel confident in predicting you will love Happy Valley.

Two other comedies that I think you might like:

Fleabag (created by the amazing Phoebe Waller-Bridge)
Can't Cope, Won't Cope (the misadventures of two young Dubliners)

Another that I am less certain of, but it's worth a shot:

Crazyhead (another female duo from the British Isles, but this pair fight demons)
posted by Rock Steady at 4:16 AM on November 15, 2018

In the mystery vain, seconding Broadchurch.

Shetland is another option (first three seasons are on Amazon Prime for free and I think also Netflix; 4th needs a subscription to BritBox).

First season has two episodes (one mystery arc); second season is six (three arcs); third and fourth are both six (one arc each).
posted by damayanti at 4:50 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

British crime drama does intrepid female detectives so much better than the US.

I just today finished the seventh season of Prime Suspect. Most seasons are a single storyline each over two 90-minute episodes; Season 4 is three independent 90-minute stories.

Seconding Happy Valley and Top Of The Lake.

Vera is tremendous as well. Do not miss.

Moving away from intrepid female detectives: Rake is excellent and I now have to thank you for prompting me to discover that Season 5, which I haven't yet seen, is now available.

And if for some inexplicable reason you have yet to encounter Fawlty Towers or Ripping Yarns, you definitely want to.
posted by flabdablet at 5:06 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Search Party!!!!
posted by saladin at 5:13 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Club de Cuervos, it's like Game of Thrones but with a family-run soccer team.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:34 AM on November 15, 2018

I absolutely loved the BBC series Jekyll which ran for one season (6 episodes). It's no longer on Netflix but as of now it's on Youtube. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like subtitles are available on the upload I linked but I still highly recommend it.
posted by cali59 at 5:48 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nth-ing Miss Fisher.

I'd also recommend Sneaky Pete, on Amazon.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:02 AM on November 15, 2018

The handmaid's tale would fit your bill!
Elizabeth Moss is amazing in it. Obviously it's very dark, so if if that's alright I would highly recommend it. 2 seasons and the second is as good as the first despite deviating from the book.
posted by DTMFA at 6:06 AM on November 15, 2018

I've been watching Patriot on Amazon Prime and it is amazing. I'm only a few shows in but it has most of what you're looking for (political intrigue, family, some bleakness, a female police investigator (not a main character, but an important one) , some murder. It is also very funny and a bit... off. Off in a good way. It's my new favorite show.

It may be a bit hard to follow because it jumps around in time a bit. They're pretty good at explaining what's going on though. There are only two seasons so far so you can binge it easily.

I was hooked ten minutes into the first episode.
posted by bondcliff at 6:46 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Shetland. Mystery, suspense, and Oh, the scenery! On Netflix.
Currently enjoying Elementary on Prime. Not as good as Sherlock, but not bad , as it's episodic.
Scott and Bailey, excellent police series, not hugely violent. Also Vexed is a lot of fun.
If you haven't seen River, you really must.
Churchill's Secret Agents is pretty brilliant.
posted by Enid Lareg at 6:48 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence is a miniseries of three hour-long episodes on Prime. Checks all your boxes except no woman detective. I liked it!
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:21 AM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Better Things is a sometimes funny, often bleak, mostly realistic show about a woman who's a working actor with three daughters and a very odd mother. All the important characters are female, episodes are only 30 min, and there are (so far) only two seasons. Hulu has it, Amazon might.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:29 AM on November 15, 2018

A Young Doctor's Notebook is bleak, funny, bizarre, and very short. Also has Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm.
posted by cmoj at 7:34 AM on November 15, 2018

You, Me & the Apocalypse
posted by soelo at 7:38 AM on November 15, 2018

You. Link is to a semi-takedown that is not entirely accurate; they had not seen all the episodes.
posted by BibiRose at 7:55 AM on November 15, 2018

60 Days In, on Hulu. It's a docuseries where people go to jail for 60 days, undercover, and it's AMAZING
posted by masquesoporfavor at 8:40 AM on November 15, 2018

Bodyguard -- 6 episodes, British politics/intrigue/terrorism (Netflix)
Big Little Lies -- 7 episode miniseries, murder and mystery; follows four women and the events leading up to a crime (HBO Now)
Homecoming--10 half-hour episodes, Julia Roberts as a willing or unwilling participant in a veteran's facility (Amazon, imminently binge-able)
Killing Eve--8 episodes, Sandra Oh as an intelligence agent drawn into a cat-and-mouse with a female assassin (BBC America)
posted by stellaluna at 8:51 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Alias Grace on Netflix ticks all your boxes and I binged it in a weekend. Loved it.

Jane the Virgin has pretty much everything you want, especially in terms of centering women and families (with a side of murder), except it's four seasons. Most breakneck plot pace on television aside from Scandal, though. (And arguably the Good Place but it's hard to compare that show to anything else).
posted by lampoil at 10:08 AM on November 15, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks MeFi; I think you grasped exactly what I like, and I've gotten a lot of good recommendations!

I actually have seen and enjoyed Evil Genius (great for filling that gap!), The Night Manager (SO good), and Shetland (my God, the scenery).

Now I wish I had posted this ask a year ago, instead of having wasted so much time scrolling through Netflix Canada's limited selection!

What finally prompted this question now was I am currently almost 37 weeks pregnant, and was told at the childbirth class to bring entertainment to the hospital once in labour, haha.

I don't think I realized British TV shows are shorter, that more of them feature intrepid female detectives, or that the shows I've liked in the past have been British - I just never really connected those dots. I also hadn't heard of many of the shows you guys mentioned! Part of the problem is I think Netflix Canada and the limited selection, as I said. We also don't have as many amenities in Canada when it comes to TV- like Hulu! First time I'm hearing of Acorn TV as well.
posted by spicytunaroll at 10:50 AM on November 15, 2018

Fargo would be perfect if it were included with Prime Video, but it is available for sale (at least in the US). 10 episodes per season, each season is its own story (although the seasons are related in non-critical ways), female detectives as the lead in two out of three.
Agree with sohalt that The Americans should be high on your list based on the full series you listed, although it does require a certain amount of focus to get the most out of it.
posted by five toed sloth at 11:10 AM on November 15, 2018

Chewing Gum! I can’t believe no one has suggested it yet. It’s a UK comedy and it’s hilarious
posted by O9scar at 11:19 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Miss Fisher series is wonderful, sassy and witty, as mentioned, but it also tackles some sober topics. There's 2-1/2 seasons on TV, and a movie is currently being filmed. There's also a TV series in the works featuring Miss Fisher's niece and set in the 1960s; no idea whether it'll be any good but it's the same team producing it.
posted by MovableBookLady at 12:04 PM on November 15, 2018

Seconding Broadchurch, Fleabag, and Happy Valley. Oddly all British, but excellent and concise.
posted by BDoyon at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2018

Terriers was only a single 13-episode season. They knew they were going to be canceled so they did manage to wrap up some major arcs. Not female protagonists, but given the shows you mention liking I think you might appreciate it.
posted by expialidocious at 12:43 PM on November 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don’t know if it’s still on Netflix but this series ticks most of your boxes.
posted by bendy at 1:28 PM on November 15, 2018

Life on Mars - a present day police officer from the Greater Manchester Police who wakes up in 1973 after being involved in a road accident.

There's a US (and Spanish) version, too. I enjoyed both the UK and US versions.

Are you familiar with the Canadian series Letterkenny?

Another Brit series that I enjoyed was Hit & Miss with Chloe Sevigny as a transwoman contract killer.
posted by porpoise at 2:11 PM on November 15, 2018

I recently started watching La Casa de los Flores based on this review on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and am enjoying it so far.
posted by Lexica at 3:19 PM on November 15, 2018

My most beloved TV show during pregnancy was The Wire, followed by Mad Men. I highly recommend Castle Rock, which we just binged over last weekend and which only has one season to date.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 3:56 PM on November 15, 2018

posted by fuse theorem at 5:49 PM on November 15, 2018

Fargo is available on Canadian Netflix! Just finished it, and highly recommend.
posted by kate4914 at 4:37 PM on November 18, 2018

The Good Place. Philosophy jokes. Florida jokes. All you can eat shrimp as a recurring plot point in hell. And my ADHD brain can easily make it through an episode without blinking.
posted by talldean at 9:52 PM on November 18, 2018

Dropping by to say (a) You may like Line of Duty, which is fascinating, bleak and intense. There are three seasons, all under 8 episodes I think, telling intertwining stories about a unit that investigates police corruption. The acting is amazing, with a different guest lead each time, starting with Lennie James, then Keeley Hawes, then Thandie Newton.

+1 "Scott and Bailey". It is really great, particularly in the early seasons, with three amazing women characters who are complicated and funny and messy.
posted by finisterre at 12:58 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Orphan Black (Amazon Prime) was amazing!
It has 5 seasons, but meets your female protagonist and family criteria.
I was hooked in the first episode.
posted by natasha_k at 3:04 AM on November 22, 2018

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