Some of the best shows on Neon will take between a day and weeks to get through. Here’s a guide to the classics you’ve been holding off on, how long they take to watch, and why you should watch them.
It’s a scientific fact that there’s too much TV and nobody has enough time. There’s no getting around that. I’ve assembled a guide of the best shows you can binge on Neon – which has now merged with Lightbox – and how long it’ll take to binge all of ‘em.
Pull up a seat, it’s time to gorge.
The quick sell: Being a mother will make you laugh, cry, and at some stage, maybe help with the creation of a great TV show.
But what is it? Better Things is, well, one of the better things you can watch right now. Creator/star Pamela Adlon has mastered the half-hour comedy-drama form, and manages to satire the life of being a working actress in Hollywood while delivering an ode to the travails of motherhood.
How long will it take? A quick, brisk, clean 10 hours.
Game of Thrones
The quick sell: The most extra family drama you’ll ever watch.
But what is it? If you need me to tell you this, congratulations! You are the only person alive who has escaped the discourse around this show. Relish your individualism, and then dive deep into that show, blind as the day you were born.
How long will it take? A cool 70 hours. And don’t believe the rumours: There’s way less sex in this show than you think there is. If you want sex in your television for some reason, check out Outlander.
The quick sell: Time travelling feminist romance with more knocking boots than an RM Williams outlet sale.
But what is it? Claire Beauchamp nee Randall nee [spoilers] time travels back from the 1950s to the 17th century, invents penicillin, feminism and ends up falling in love with the dreamiest Scottish guy in any time period, Jamie Fraser. But I’ll level with you, reader: it’s just the horniest show on television.
How long will it take? 64 hours. I’ve done this myself and can promise it is a wild trip through the stones.
Big Little Lies
The quick sell: White ladies and Zoe Kravitz engage in lies that are indeed somehow both little and very, very big.
But what is it? One of the biggest prestige dramas of the past two years, with a starry cast to match. Just look at these names, with six Oscars between ‘em: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Zoe Kravitz, and Shailene Woodley. Secrets, betrayal, and violence threaten to break apart the privileged community of Monterey.
How long will it take? 14 hours of moody wine-swilling await you with this one.
The quick sell: What if the richest people in the world were also the pettiest people in the world?
But what is it? A loose parody/satire of the media monopolising Murdoch family, Succession revolves around the Roy family, who run a global media and entertainment company, Waystar Royco, and the fallout due to the failing health and conniving of the patriarch, Logan Roy. It’s both a bleak comedy and a hilarious drama, with the most banging theme song on television right now.
How long will it take? 20 hours of wondering whether being rich is worth all the drama/comedy (scene depending).
The quick sell: Red Dead Redemption: The Show, and then [spoilers, y’all].
But what is it? For the first season, it’s a tale of a futuristic park populated by incredibly lifelike androids who let people act out whatever (Wild West) fantasy they have. Then it goes down tunnels fantastical, wild, and brain-busting, with some of the best performances on television courtesy of Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood.
How long will it take? 28 hours to watch, one billion hours to rummage through all the neat easter eggs.
The Handmaid’s Tale
The quick sell: What if 2020 was a bit more dystopian and a lot more red?
But what is it? An adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale turned kind-of-sort-of-sequel, as the show’s later seasons carry on where the award-winning (and terrifyingly prescient) 1985 novel left off. It’s an incredibly powerful, well-acted drama, with a career-peak performance from Elisabeth Moss.
How long will it take? 34 hours. Strap in, they’ll be intense.
The quick sell? Too Many Feelings, Not Enough Sense Island.
But what is it? The reality show that captured the eyeballs of a world: Hot British singles cavort around on an island, and get messy with each other.
How long will it take? 35 hours, and that’s just one season!
The quick sell: Meth is a hell of a drug, and cancer is a hell of a sickness.
But what is it? Arguably the most acclaimed drama of the 21st century, Breaking Bad follows chemistry teacher Walter White, who finds out that he has incurable cancer and so decides to go into dealing meth to make enough money to support his family. Things do not go well.
How long will it take? 62 hours, but trust me, you’ll need a break or two.
Better Call Saul
The quick sell: Loved Breaking Bad, but really wanted more of Bob Odenkirk as a non-stop sleazeball?
But what is it? The prequel to the beloved chronicles of Mr White and his meth empire, Better Call Saul follows the development of Chicago con-man Jimmy McGill into cartel defense lawyer Saul Goodman. It fleshes out the rich world of Breaking Bad, but is a little bit quirkier and lighter, even while dealing with the gross, hairy, underbelly of the crime world.
How long will it take? 49 hours for the current five seasons, which will have you all prepped and ready for the sixth and final season dropping next year (pandemic pending).
The quick sell: Men who stare at boats.
But what is it? Some shows are cleverly titled, relying on a metaphor or a play on words to communicate their subject matter and tone. Then there’s Vikings. It’s about Vikings. That’s all you need to know.
How long will it take? 79 hours, which is about how long it takes to circumnavigate [insert Viking landmark here].
The quick sell: The best argument for therapy and against organised crime.
But what is it? Arguably the harbinger of the Golden Age of TV, The Sopranos, a Shakespearean tale of a mob boss and his family, still holds up as one of the most visceral and compelling dramas ever made. If there’s a trope that you kind of loathe about dark, prestige dramas now, chances are it was done by The Sopranos first, and much better.
How long will it take? 86 hours, which is just long enough to learn and then unlearn a bad Italian-American accent that your friends will hate.
The quick sell: The best thing to come out of West Auckland since the Aquatic Centre, as far as I’m concerned.
But what is it? Chances are if you’re a New Zealand resident on the internet in 2020, you’ll be familiar with this one. But in case you’re not, then it’s a generation-defining show lead by Robyn Malcolm as Cheryl West, the matriarch of a crime family who has to pull their lives together after one of their number goes to prison. Crime hijinks ensue, for a full six seasons.
How long will it take? 99 hours lying in the gutter black.
The Office (U.S)
The quick sell: What if your nightmare watercooler conversation was nine seasons long and actually funny?
But what is it? Depending on your viewpoint, it is either the peak of 00s comedy or a pale imitation of the UK original. This debate will outlive the universe.
How long will it take? 99 hours and 30 minutes, which is just about how long it feels to make small talk while you wait for coffee to boil.
The quick sell: What if US politics was a little bit less outrageous and a little bit more believable.
But what is it? Real talk: All the enthusiasm and drool that people lathered onto House of Cards would have been better spent on Scandal, a smarter, more political show that was a lot more fun, and actually said something about society. There’s a bunch of great, hammy actors throughout the entire show, but it’s held up by a towering, complex performance by Kerry Washington, in the role of a lifetime as Olivia Pope.
How long will it take? 124 hours, at least 100 of which are spent with Olivia Pope drinking red wine on white furniture, the highest stake activity on this binge guide.
The quick sell: If something can go wrong in a hospital, it will go wrong.
But what is it? One of the longest-running, most successful medical dramas of all time. Statistically speaking, you probably watched one of the earlier seasons, in the heyday of Katherine Heigl and Sandra Oh, but it’s still worth tuning in to see Meredith Grey (yes, the title is a play on her name) deal with the disasters that plague Seattle Grace Hospital on a daily basis.
How long will it take? 363 hours, which is wild because I’m sure that the show has at least 500 hours of doctor drama to delightfully wade through.