I’ve been sick recently. It’s nothing too serious, but enough to have laid me up for a couple of days and left me unable to work or do anything other than stare blankly at the screen, needing engaging, yet undemanding entertainment — comfort food, in other words. Luckily, that’s pretty much what Netflix exists to provide. With selections dating back to the mid-20th century, there’s all manner of televisual nostalgia to revisit in a fevered state. Here are ten of the best shows that will make even the most troublesome of infections seem like a minor distraction.
STAR TREK (1966)
Really, any of the Star Treks are great to return to at any point, but there’s something about the colorful mix of melodrama and comedy from the original series that makes it ideal for watching when you’re feeling under the weather. It’s difficult to feel too bad about your failing body when you can watch Leonard Nimoy be remote-controlled after someone has stolen Spock’s brain, after all.
FREAKS AND GEEKS (1999)
History has cast this short-lived comedy firmly in the “underrated classic that birthed the careers of so many future stars” camp, with Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel all making appearances, and Judd Apatow and Bridesmaids’ Paul Feig behind the scenes. But what that (entirely appropriate) legacy-aware take doesn’t really get over is how funny the show is, and how easy it is to fall under its spell. The closest you’ll get to chicken soup through Netflix.
THE WEST WING (1999)
What better way to spend a fever-ridden afternoon than in the presence of smart people trying to make the world a better place while delivering unrealistically verbose oratory? The West Wing is a show that has proven to work best as a binge watch, and taking advantage of that when sick is especially easy: just choose any season written by Aaron Sorkin, start anywhere and relax as the whole thing washes over you.
Of course, maybe you want something more exciting than politics when you’re not feeling your best. In that case, revisiting the series that made J.J. Abrams’ career is a good idea, with the eye candy of Jennifer Garner’s increasingly-ridiculous disguises and enjoyable fight sequences offering enough distraction from over-arching plots that only become more convoluted and arcane as the series goes on. Stick with the early years and everything will work out.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (2003) Admittedly, Arrested Development might require too much attention to fully enjoy when you’re not feeling that great, but even only half-paying attention will allow you to enjoy the sight of David Cross painted blue like the world’s most terrifying smurf, Will Arnett’s most appalling magic tricks, Michael Cera somehow looking even younger than you remembered, and Portia de Rossi. But then, you don’t have to be sick to enjoy the sight of Portia de Rossi — that’s more a “You just have to have eyes” kind of thing.
30 ROCK (2006) Sure, Tina Fey’s self-aware sitcom might not be for everyone, but if your attention span has been affected by health issues outside your control, its absurdly-high rate of laughs-per-minute mean that you’re still guaranteed one of the more enjoyable viewing experiences around no matter how much you don’t catch. If nothing else, Alec Baldwin’s obvious pleasure and slow delivery of all of his Jack Donaughy lines will seem much more natural.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (2006) and BREAKING BAD (2008)
Two very different shows, showing two very different takes on the American Dream and what it takes to be a good family man. Both, however, are amazingly addictive (No pun intended, I promise, when it comes to Breaking Bad) and primed for sickbed binge watching. That both leading men also at least start as high school employees does allow for the option of flipping between episodes of each series and pretending that they’re part of the same fictional universe, just to imagine what Coach Taylor would’ve made of Walter White. Just think of how great his self-righteous speech telling White to clean up his act would have been.
PARKS & RECREATION (2009)
Even when it was brand new, Parks & Rec felt like comfort watching, with characters who cared for each other and humor that was never too pointed or too mean — which really makes it an ideal choice to return to when you’re not feeling too great. You may not have someone like Leslie Knope to make you ideal care packages while you’re laid up, but this is the next best thing.
COMEDY BANG! BANG! (2012)
And then there’s this — a show that might make you feel like you’re even worse off than you really are, thanks to some purposefully surreal comedy and a healthily disrespectful attitude towards conventions like continuity, common sense and coherence. Yes, you might wonder if you’ve actually strayed into a state where you’re hallucinating things like Paul F. Tompkins’ Cake Boss or Nick Kroll’s El Chupacabra, but you’ll also be laughing so hard you might not care. Now remember to drink liquids and get some sleep, okay?