It can be hard making small-talk with your loved ones over the holidays – which is exactly why television was invented. Sam Brooks shares the best shows to binge on Lightbox over the silly season, no matter your demographic.
For the child (outside you): Paw Patrol. Your child has probably seen all of it already, and you’ve memorised all the dialogue, but hell, it’s Christmas. Sometimes you just need the easy option.
For the child (inside you): Adventure Time, genuinely one of the best, most beautiful and forward-thinking kid’s shows ever written, and one that will bring you the most joy around this season and remind you that love, goodness and purity is not just real, but attainable.
For mum (zero wines): Doc Martin, who is scientifically proven to be considered a Good Dude and a Wholesome Man by pretty much every mum to have ever lived. Check back later this week for Alex Casey’s incredibly scientific piece on why exactly mums and parents in general love Doc Martin the man and Doc Martin the show.
For mum (three wines): Outlander. She’s probably already watching it, but in case you want to bond with your mum over sex scenes, Scottish violence and the physics-bending reality of time travel, Outlander.
For mum (five wines): Look, she’s still going to be watching Outlander and by this point she won’t care whether you’re around for it or not. Beware getting between her and the tortured love story that is Claire and Jamie.
For dad (masc): NCIS, which is pretty much Dad: The Show.
For dad (less masc): Suits, which is pretty much What Dad Wishes He Could Be: The Show.
For the patriotic Kiwi: Get it to Te Papa, which champions artefacts of our recent history and also ‘hapless’ journalist Hayden Donnell in his quest to get them into our national museum.
For the angry teen (masc): Future Man. This fun show with Josh Hutcherson as a world-class-ish gamer who finds himself in the company of characters from his favourite game when he finally beats it. It’s funny, and it’s total teen boy wish fulfillment that quietly also critiques that wish in the first place.
For the angry teen (homosexual male): Feud. He’s probably already seen this retelling of the What Happened to Baby Jane drama, and will roll his eyes because he’d rather watch the real Bette Davis, mom, god, you don’t know anything. But like any good homosexual in training, he probably won’t turn down a chance to watch Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange go head to head in an actressing cage match. Again.
If that fails, just let him watch Teen Wolf and don’t ask any questions.
For the angry teen (homosexual female): The L Word. If nothing else, there’s six seasons of it so you won’t see her until 2019.
For the angry teen (femme): Veronica Mars, the sleuthing show from the mid-00s starring Kristen Bell as a badass private investigator. If nothing else, Veronica Mars is an aspirational figure for the angry teen – she’s smart, she has a moral compass, and she doesn’t take shit from anybody.
For the cousin who is always hungover on Christmas Day and still in his boxers cooking bacon for guests as they arrive: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’ll be like seeing his reflection in a scuzzy, cloudy mirror.
For the cousin’s partner who seems way too good for your cousin: You’re The Worst. Sometimes you need to see a toxic, but fun, relationship for yourself to understand the relationship you’re in. Also, it’s good!
For the cousin who has a new phone every time you see him: Breaking Bad, for both tips and a cautionary tale.
For the cousin who won’t shut up about how the stage version of Chicago is the best version: Rise, because they’ve already seen every episode of Glee a million times and really need to branch out.
For the cousin you’re sure nobody told about Christmas lunch but is there anyway: The Handmaid’s Tale. They’ll be hooked and gripping their armchair before everybody’s having seconds.
For the aunty who always seems to have a lot of money from unidentified sources: The Good Wife. Give her some tips for when that inevitable tax fraud suit comes.
For the uncle who brought his new girlfriend to the family Christmas: Seinfeld. It’s the only show he’s probably seen since the 90s, and he thinks there hasn’t been anything funny since.
For the grandparents (gentle): Downton Abbey. Come on. Some of these selections aren’t rocket science, people.
For the grandparents (metal-ish): Prime Suspect. It is a scientific fact that grandparents love Helen Mirren. Whether she’s playing the Queen, a Calendar Girl™, or Detective Jane Tennison, she’s a hit. Prime Suspect gives you seven seasons of Mirren, and a rotating cast of the most regular pasty faces on British television.
For the grandparents (metal af): Vikings or The Real Vikings. You’d be surprised how much blood, gore and sex your grandparents want to see. Maybe it reminds them of their youth! Who can say! But I can guarantee they find it soothing, to a pretty concerning degree.
For the passive-aggressive grandmother who constantly alludes to the fact that she’s going to die soon: Parks and Recreation, because I can’t imagine a show better suited to making someone less passive-aggressive or a show I’d rather go gently into the summer night watching.
For me, if I happen to be at your holiday event and you want to sit me down in front of a screen: Days of Our Lives. Just settle me down in front of the television and let me sit there quietly, enveloped in the decade-long drama of rich people, their families, their evil twins and their murders. Check on me to see if I’m still breathing every few days, but otherwise, I’m set.
For anybody and everybody, honestly: Modern Family. It’s the show that anybody can sit down and have a couple of laughs with. At the end of the day, that’s what the holidays are about – sitting in the same direction and laughing into the void.
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