Shows you shouldn’t binge watch

Not every show should be consumed in huge eyeball-straining chunks.

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The rise of on-demand streaming services (and even, arguably, the rise of DVD box sets before it) have made binge watching an entire season of a show in a single weekend a very easy thing to do.

Spending the entire weekend on the sofa with a bowl of chips by your side isn't going to be the most healthy pursuit for a start. Studies suggest that you're at significantly increased risk of pulmonary embolism if you watch a lot of TV in one hit.

Watching too much TV over longer periods may also rot your brain.

But let's be realistic here. Those TV shows aren’t going to watch themselves, are they?

Streaming services particularly encourage this kind of behaviour by releasing programs as a complete series, whether it’s all of a US 20- to 22-episode season or an original show that typically runs 6–12 episodes. It’s all there for you to gorge on, so dive in!

Except... maybe not.

While some shows are ideal binge fodder, there is always the risk of having a hot show spoiled by some inconsiderate jerk and ex-friend who can’t help blabbing about a vital plot twist. However, there are plenty of shows that actively benefit from being watched in smaller batches.

For the purpose of argument, we’re defining a binge as burning your way through a full season in just a day or so. Cliffhangers often make it compelling to watch just the next episode and that’s OK by us. We’re also leaving the tricky issue of binge watching shows you’ve already seen aside. In those cases, many of us have a show on in the background while we multi-screen or perform other tasks, because it’s familiar material. We’re talking here about watching a show for the first time in a super-concentrated way.

Here are some shows you should not binge on and why:

The Mandalorian

1. The Mandalorian


  • Year: 2019
  • Cast: Pedro Pascal, Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, Omid Abtahi

A welcome addition to the Star Wars universe, The Mandalorian is an expertly crafted show about a bounty hunter and his exploits beyond the reaches of the New Republic. Action-packed and visually stunning, it has all the ingredients of a crowdpleaser. Which is particularly why we’re recommending you pace yourself with this one. A few days between episodes will only make you appreciate it more.

Disney+ seems to be backing this philosophy, as the platform released episodes for the first season on a weekly basis. Even if you’re late to the party and need to catch up, watching The Mandalorian one episode at a time instead of multiple per day will prove more gratifying in the long run.

You’ll be better able to digest and come up with theories about what happens next. With shows like this, that’s half the fun anyway.

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The Witcher

2. The Witcher


  • Year: 2019
  • Cast: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Anya Chalotra, Mimi Ndiweni

Netflix is directly responsible for making binge watching our go-to way to consume media. But as far as The Witcher is concerned, we advise you take it slowly.

The fantasy series has such a rich world and an intricate plot that watching more than a couple of episodes at a time will only make the events blur together. Consequently, it will be more difficult to figure out what is going on and appreciate the complicated timeline.

The Witcher had a lot to live up to given the huge popularity of the franchise. Thankfully, it managed to meet expectations, delivering compelling characters, mesmerising fight scenes and a convoluted, yet intriguing story. Don’t spoil your fun by watching all episodes in one go.

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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

3. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel


  • Year: 2017
  • Cast: Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Michael Zegen, Marin Hinkle, Tony Shalhoub

At first sight, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel seems like the ideal show to binge. It’s funny and colourful. It has a tremendous cast. The costumes and sets are glorious.

Yet, you might miss some stuff if you don’t take regular breaks to replenish your energy levels. The show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, is notorious for her rapid-fire dialogue brimming with nuance and jokes. As you get tired or lose focus, you won’t be able to truly enjoy it.

It’s best to pace yourself with this one and take in all the details that make The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel such a beloved hit.

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    3 seasons

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Game of Thrones

4. Game of Thrones


  • Year: 2011
  • Cast: Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Lena Headey

Game Of Thrones is a great example of a show that’s worth taking a single episode at a time. Yes, it’s complex. If you leave it too long between episodes you run the risk of forgetting the names of that guy with the beard versus that other guy with the beard or that lady with the white hair or the one with no clothes on.

Equally, it’s a show that builds to some very definite climaxes. Binge watching Game of Thrones means that you lose a lot of the dramatic shock value of the SPOILER REDACTED not to mention the bit when CHARACTER from LOCALE goes and VERBS that OTHER CHARACTER right in the BODY PART.

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I, Claudius

5. I, Claudius


  • Year: 1976
  • Cast: Derek Jacobi, Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed, George Baker, Margaret Tyzack

Long before George R.R. Martin created Westeros, the BBC showed how truly vicious political dynasties operate, by way of its adaptation of Robert Graves’s epic novels.

I, Claudius features pretty much every classical British actor you could name, including names such as John Hurt, Patrick Stewart and BRIAN BLESSED. It’s a classic that truly stands the test of time. It is slow and intricate in its detail and each of its episodes will leave you reeling. Binge watching is not advised to make the most of I, Claudius. Also, don’t eat the figs.

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Arrowverse

6. Arrowverse shows (Arrow, Flash, DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Batwoman)


DC has had trouble getting a cinema universe up and running, but in the TV world it has had no such issues, with the Stephen Amell-led Arrow begetting The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and Batwoman so far.

Each title presents a quite lengthy series, which could tempt you to binge, but the issue is that after a certain point they start intertwining stories, especially in order to take advantage of key US ratings periods.

Start binging with The Flash and you’ll spoil early seasons of Arrow, but keep watching Arrow and you’ll hit episodes that presume you’ve already watched Legends of Tomorrow and so on. Batwoman is a little more removed from continuity being the newest series, but it’s fast catching up.

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    9 seasons 10 seasons8 seasons

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Watch The Flash

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    1 seasons6 seasons

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    8 seasons7 seasons

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Watch DC's Legends of Tomorrow

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    6 seasons6 seasons1 seasons

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    6 seasons6 seasons6 seasons

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Watch Supergirl

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    6 seasons6 seasons1 seasons

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    6 seasons6 seasons6 seasons

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Watch Batwoman

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Black Mirror

7. Black Mirror


  • Year: 2011
  • Cast: Daniel Lapaine, Hannah John-Kamen, Michaela Coel

If you haven't already caught up on Charlie Brooker’s excellent and extremely dark Black Mirror, then you’ve been seriously missing out.

But this is another prime candidate for the slow and steady approach, simply because the themes that Brooker examines are twisted in ways that make you stop and think, and sometimes want to hide underneath your sofa until your brain stops trembling.

Overdose on Black Mirror and what’s left in your head could be dark and twisted indeed.

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Firefly

8. Firefly


  • Year: 2002
  • Cast: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin

Joss Whedon’s cult classic sci-fi show only made it to 14 episodes, which might suggest it’s ideal binge fodder. I’d argue that this is precisely why you shouldn’t binge on the adventures of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his erratic crew.

Firefly was taken from us way too quickly and gorging on the show means that it’s over all too rapidly. Take your time, savour and try not to cry when you realise that there aren’t any more episodes once you’ve watched Serenity, the movie adaptation.

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Sherlock

9. Sherlock


  • Year: 2010
  • Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman

Mmm, Benedict Cumberbatch.

It’s OK, I get it. He’s extremely watchable for a segment of his audience and there are aren't a huge number of episodes available across every season of the show.

A doddle to binge watch, right? Well, again there’s the issue of the impact of individual storylines and mysteries, but that’s also exacerbated by a hotly debated drop in quality in later seasons.

Again, I’m trying to stay spoiler-free, but pretty much everyone agrees that the earlier episodes are best. Rush through those and you won’t appreciate them for what they are.

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Reality TV

10. Any long-running reality TV series


Are you a glutton for Kitchen Nightmares or addicted to Pawn Stars? Perhaps your heart races for The Amazing Race, you’ve survived every season of Survivor or you’re concerned about Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Whatever your reality TV poison, while services such as hayu and Foxtel make it easy to lay out a smorgasbord of reality TV fare, gorging on it is an ideal way to burn out on the concept. Most of these programs are (ahem) "assisted" in their narratives to maintain viewer interest. The more you watch of them in a block, the more transparent that becomes. TV is escapism and there’s really only so much "reality" you can take.

The streaming rights for reality TV shows vary, but if reality TV generally is your favourite type of TV to watch, hayu streams nothing but reality TV shows.

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Bonus mentions

The Office

11. The Office (UK)


  • Year: 2001
  • Cast: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook

David Brent is an exceptional comic character and it’s a credit of both the writing and acting of Ricky Gervais that this is so. It’s just that the character and indeed the setting of the original The Office are deliberately, comically painful to watch.

That’s precisely the point, but comedies that are rich in awkward situations don’t make for ideal binge viewing.

Overdose on The Office, especially if you work in one, and you’ll start to wonder why you bother turning up on Mondays.

Then you’ll decide you don’t like Mondays: the Boomtown Rats had a song about what happens next.

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No Activity

12. No Activity


  • Year: 2015
  • Cast: Patrick Brammall, Darren Gilshenan, Daniel Wyllie

No Activity might just be the finest program on Stan, thanks to its mix of sharp and very distinctly Aussie humour set against the non-adventures (sort of) of a particularly inept police force.

No Activity is crude, awkward and funny as hell. It's most definitely not suitable for everyone.

It’s also worth taking in small, measured doses simply to keep it funny. No Activity stays funny throughout its two series so far, but watching it all in one hit will seriously dampen its impact.

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The Simpsons

13. The Simpsons


  • Year: 1989
  • Cast: Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Harry Shearer, Julie Kavner

This one boils down to simple mathematics.

At current count there have been more than 600 broadcast episodes of Springfield’s favourite yellow family. At roughly 22 minutes per episode, binge watching all of them would take you days to watch, with no breaks at all for those other inconvenient things like sleeping or voiding your bladder.

Even if you allowed small toilet and nap breaks, you’re looking at the meaty side of two weeks of continuous Simpsons. That would leave you less healthy than Homer and also in a serious rage with his continuing stupidity.

We all remember how well that worked out for Frank Grimes, right?

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    30 seasons

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    16 seasons21 seasons1 seasons

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