Want Something to Binge Watch Without Going Brain Dead? Try These 5 Shows!

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Looking for a television show to get addicted to this summer? Check out our list of the 5 best TV shows for brainy binge watching. Because who says you can't watch TV and learn at the same time?

Sometimes, all you want to do is camp out on your couch for 8 hours straight and binge watch a TV show. But you don't have to rot your brain in the process. Here are our suggestions for five enlightening - dare we say educational - TV shows that you can binge watch guilt-free.

Westworld

HBO's Westworld, based on a 1973 film of the same name, is about a Wild West-themed amusement park that is filled with robots. (Yes, it's set in the future.) Westworld is even more expensive than your typical theme park, and its rich guests go there to live out all of their creepiest fantasies without fear of repercussions. Even though Westworld is only on its second season, people are already obsessed with it. In particular, critics (including Rotten Tomatoes, TV Guide, and the San Francisco Chronicle) continually refer to it as 'intelligent' because of its storytelling and exploration of such themes as memory, free will, the essence of humanity, and the future of artificial intelligence. The Boston Globe called Westworld both 'addicting' and 'thought-provoking,' which means it's the perfect candidate for engaged binge-watching.

An old photograph of a cowboy on a horse in the Wild West

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale, produced by and available on Hulu, is based on the famed 1985 Margaret Atwood novel of the same name. It is set in a dystopian future society called Gilead where women have lost all of their rights and humanity's future is at stake due to the inability of most to reproduce. Those few women who remain fertile are assigned to work as 'handmaidens,' a soft name for child-bearing sexual servants. While the TV show's source material was written in the 1980s, it is widely considered that the popularity of the series today is due in part to its relevance to the current political climate. And it is certainly not brain dead binge-watching: the fact that Margaret Atwood's book is often assigned as required reading in schools goes to show that the series has plenty of symbols, characters, and challenging themes to consider. If you're watching as a woman (or a person who cares about women), you will probably find yourself too scared to watch it passively.

Black Mirror

Just like The Handmaid's Tale, Netflix's Black Mirror can be a bit scary to watch - to put it lightly. This anthology series is tied together thematically by its consideration of the (mostly negative) repercussions of technology's growing central role in people's lives. Most episodes are set in some unspecified future and feature some unspecified technology and the way in which it inevitably challenges characters' humanity and often ruins characters' lives. It is not light viewing. The 'black mirror' in the series' title refers to the screens of today's ubiquitous devices, but the title does double duty in also referring to the fact that Black Mirror reflects very current and relevant anxieties, fears, and doubts stirred up by a world that has already transformed to revolve around technology. Whatever your stance on our culture's obsession with tech, Black Mirror is sure to make you think.

Close-up of a man using a smart phone

The Crown

The Crown, another Netflix show, is a biographical retelling of the life of Queen Elizabeth II (that's the current reigning queen). The series is widely praised for its historical account of Queen Elizabeth II's life, making it an entertaining (and bingeable) way to learn about real English history. Don't be mistaken - The Crown's historical subject matter does not in any way make the series stuffy or dry. In fact, it is filled with as much drama as can be expected from any beloved Netflix show, made all the more enthralling due to its authenticity. The Crown is engaging on the personal, political, and historical levels, combining compelling drama and thoughtful historicity.

Queen Elizabeth II in a yellow suit

Mindhunter

Rounding out our list of five is yet another Netflix original, Mindhunter. Mindhunter is based on the true crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit. The series recounts the story of the FBI agents and psychologist who originated the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI. It's set in 1977, a time when (unimaginably), the term 'serial killer' was yet to be coined. This goes to show how new the field in question was. The series follows the characters' interviews with imprisoned serial killers, the purpose of which is to gain insight into the killers' psychology and apply it to the solving of ongoing cases. This is a great binge-watching option for anybody interested in psychology, particularly abnormal psychology, or history.

The FBI building in Washington DC

Did watching these shows spark an unquenchable interest in history, psychology, or technology? Use Study.com to learn more about these subjects (and more).

By Daisy Rogozinsky
June 2018
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