The Best TV Shows We Ever Binge-Watched

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Binge-watching has so quickly become a fact of life that it’s hard to believe Netflix’s streaming video service is still less than five years old. And according to its creator, Vince Gilligan, no TV show has benefited from the rise of marathon viewing more than Breaking Bad. Gilligan went so far as to tell Wired that “it’s very possible we wouldn’t have made it to 62 episodes without this creation of these technologies and this cultural creation of binge-watching.” But Breaking Bad is hardly the only series that merits mainlining. In the interest of keeping you occupied during the networks’ long summer programming hiatus, Flavorwire staffers recommend the best TV shows we ever binge-watched.

Lost

I started watching Lost the day after the series finale. I managed to avoid six years of spoilers and clues and anything about the show, really, because I thought everyone was absolutely insane for watching it in the first place. Then I watched the whole thing in two months, proving I am just as crazy as everyone else. And yeah, Jack and Kate are the worst. — Tyler Coates

True Blood

The second I found myself with a password to an HBO Go account, I promptly spent ten days tearing through the entirety of True Blood (at that point, four seasons’ worth of material). Unlike most dramas, TB is perfect binge-watching material: it’s so plot-based and cliffhanger-saturated that it’s easy to race through three or four episodes in a sitting, and there’s no worry of losing out on the more deliberate pacing and episodic structure of shows like The Sopranos or Mad Men. And unlike other shows I’ve binge-watched, I found that I preferred marathoning to weekly one-hour installments once Season 5 came on the air. Once you’ve gotten used to hours on end of supernatural eye candy and cartoonishly campy special effects, it’s hard to make do with just fifty minutes at a time. — Alison Herman

Scandal

It was the best of the times — actually no, it was finals week, the worst of times. When I found myself unable to recall what “dialectical materialism” was, or what Kant really meant by “Categorical Imperative,” I headed to Hulu Plus and decided to give this show Scandal a try, to give myself a break from the tedious work. And what happened, exactly? Well, between the illicit Oval Office sex, the murder, and Miss Pope’s fiery monologues, let’s just say I went through all seven episodes of the first season in one night, and followed that up with another ten from the second in the next three days. About those grades… — Marcus Hunter

Skins

I have a soft spot for teen drama, and with the exception of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which I’d argue transcends the genre entirely), the British series Skins is the best teen drama of all time. More importantly, because its writing staff includes many real-life high schoolers, it is arguably also the most teenage teen drama of all time. There’s drugs, sex, mischief, death, nights that end sometime around seven in the morning, and a soundtrack that’s so spot-on it’s almost unnerving. But the best part of Skins is that each episode distills that atmosphere of adolescence into a potent hour of TV, hooking viewers on its distinctive juxtaposition of romanticism and debauchery. I watched the first four seasons in a matter of weeks, before catching up and savoring each new installment of the final two series. — Judy Berman

Bored to Death

I took a lot of trips to the city near the end of my college career in Massachusetts, and I can easily say it was because of Bored to Death. I started watching Jonathan Ames’ comedy noir a couple of months before its cancellation and was spellbound by its smart writing, flawless cast, and bizarre procedurals. I’m not saying I live here because of Bored to Death, but its dreamy depiction of life as a writer in New York was at least enough to make me consider a move. Ames’ fantastical alternate universe is both a passionate look into creative struggle and the most persuasive love letter to the city that I’ve seen on television. — Sarah Fonder

Mad Men

This prize goes straight to Mad Men, which I am binge-watching as we speak (literally — if I could get away with watching it in the office during lunch, that’s exactly what I’d be doing.) It’s one of those shows that people recommended to me for years, but for whatever reason, I never got around to watching. Anyway, I’m making up for lost time — I’ve just finished Season 2, and can’t wait to catch up to everyone else so I can stop avoiding the casual spoilers people keep dropping about the seasons to come. — Tom Hawking

Mob Wives

I have binge-watched quite a few shows in my time and I will say that tucking in with Mob Wives: Season 1 was maybe the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m not big on reality TV but there was something so fascinating about these women. They were explosive, for sure, but they were also witty and warm and truly likeable, even if a bit insane. Also, as a NYC native, it was nice to hear a throwback New Yawk accent. They’re getting harder and harder to come by. — Lillian Ruiz

The Wire

With the possible exception of The Sopranos, my greatest binge-watching experience was also my first. Whereas other shows gave you heroes to root for, a show this subtle drew you in instead with a byzantine web of stringed stories and subplots with no hope of resolving itself. Four hours’ worth, in one sitting, were viewed the night before I ran a marathon when was supposed to be getting sleep. I’ve never been sufficiently at peace relaxed to watch the final episode, so don’t spoil it for me. — Reid Singer

Breaking Bad

As you may have heard, I recently binge-watched Season 4 of Arrested Development! But frankly, the best marathon television experiences I’ve ever had were with Breaking Bad, a show whose first four seasons I watched in binge sessions. The first two were done back to back as a catch-up measure (I came to the party late), but I found that the gulping-down system, along with the beauty of Blu-ray rather than broadcast viewing (to showcase the series’ stunning cinematography at its sharpest) was the best possible way to watch it. I managed to maintain this method for Seasons 3 and 4, tuning out spoilers and waiting for Blu-ray before consuming the new seasons, and while it certainly paid off, by the time this season arrived, I could no longer maintain my patience. Part one of Season 5 was watched a week at a time, like a real TV viewer, and I’d imagine I’ll be doing the same for part two. Still, that nursing-home explosion packs an extra wallop when it comes at the end of two straight days with Walt, Jesse, and Gus. — Jason Bailey