Very Important Shows for Binging

Bingeing? Binging? Binjjjjjing? Nothing looks right.

But that’s not important. What’s important is that I asked you guys what shows you liked to sink into and you delivered. So much so that I couldn’t even fit the list in an email. So it’s getting its own page and I’ll link to it instead. Ah, technology 🙂

So: what follows is a highly unscientific list of tv shows, grouped by my cursory (and honestly, probably incorrect, but I’m sorry guys, I’m two drinks in as I write this, and I’m too lazy to go back to my emails and see what you said about these shows) understanding of what each is about. May you discover new shows below and lose hours and hours of your days to watching them, shirking all adult responsibilities. Click on the pink links for more info about each show.

Happy Bingjegjegjegjeing!


Some Shows I Think Might Be (or know are) British

Murdoch Mysteries: This one was recommended to me the most by y’all. As far as I understand, it’s Canadian, vaguely old-time-y, and drattedly hard to stream for free if you live in the USA. But probably worth tracking down if you like Midsomer Murders, the TV show that started this whole discussion.

Inspector Morse: British detective series that seems to be pretty beloved. I’ve caught a couple episodes on PBS at my parents’ house. They fell asleep in front of the TV. I watched, completely hooked. Worth tracking down.

Endeavor: It’s Inspector Morse, but in the 60s. Has a cute, young semi-ginger-ish lead. Mysteries, but with that vintage midcentury vibe.

Inspector Lewis: I think this is also part of the Morse family of shows? Unless I’m completely mistaken. Maybe that was Inspector Lynley. Anyway, y’all recommended this highly, so onto the list it goes!

Death In Paradise: So many of you recommended this that I started watching it on Netflix almost immediately. I don’t find it as engaging as Midsomer Murders, but it’s light, fun, and shot in a beautiful location. It’s also really nice to see* a show with people of color making up more than half the cast of characters! Bonus points for a CGI lizard.

Prime Suspect: Does this have something to do with Helen Mirren? Drunk Spencer thinks it does. I’m pretty sure it’s British, and the title suggests it’s detective-focused. Sober Spencer would do well to actually check this out.

Sherlock: Come for the Benedict Cumberbatch, stay for the questionably written female characters and classic Steven Moffat headscratchers. He seems way more into dazzling you with plot than engaging you with the characters, but this show has launched a thousand Johnlock ships, so… worth checking out if you haven’t seen it yet, just to see if it’s your cup of tea.


Broadchurch: Listen, Olivia Colman and David Tennant are both amazing and deserve all the awards for this show. If season 2 turned you off, I promise, sticking around through season 3 is worth it. It’s just so, so good. Beautifully shot. Well written. Amazingly acted. But for the love of god, please stay away from the American remake. It’s so bleh compared to the original.

Foyle’s War: Murder mysteries set on the British homefront during WWII. I love this show, it’s such a pleasure to disappear into, and if you don’t fall in love with Sam (Honeysuckle Weeks) while watching this, I don’t know what to say to you. She’s delightful and so is this show.

Shetland: I literally have no idea what this show is about, but it sounds like it might be set on the Shetland Islands? Sounds good to me! Here’s hoping it’s full of windswept vistas, dour-faced people making ominous pronouncements, and sheep. Lots and lots of sheep.

Hinterland: I also have no idea what this is about, but let’s assume it’s like Shetland, only… hinter-y-er?

Penny Dreadful: I fell in love with Eva Green when I watched Casino Royale, and I’ve never been the same since. I always meant to watch Penny Dreadful and I really need to actually do it. It seems gothic, noir-y, and I think it’s got a grown up Josh Hartnett in it? I gotta see this.

The Alienist: From what I’ve gleaned from a few random trailers, this show is set in maybe the same time period as Penny Dreadful, but it’s about… Psychiatrists? Magicians? Am I getting this confused with some movie from like, 4 years ago? Probably. Anyway, y’all recommended this, so onto the list it goes.

Peaky Blinders: No idea what this show is about, but my friend Carol used to watch it, I know, and I think it’s got that guy from the first Christian Bale Batman movie in it? The one with the cheekbones? Cillian something? Ciaran? Hmm, or am I getting him confused with Ciaran Hinds, the older guy from Game of Thrones and stuff? Anyway. I guess some people like this show!

Ripper Street: Is it about doctors? Police? Serial killers? I have no idea, but my title-dar tells me it’s probably about one of those, at least. And also it sounds old-timey. My favorite. Let’s watch.

Vera: Nope. I got nothing. My brain is insisting that this must have Imelda Staunton in it, because she was in Vera Drake like a billion years ago, bravely championing reproductive rights but… my brain also probably knows that it’s wrong. Is it safe to assume there’s a woman in this show, at least? Who knows!

The Father Brown Mysteries: Listen, my good friend Meg loves G.K. Chesterton and he’s the guy who wrote the books that I’m pretty sure this series is based on. Meg has impeccable taste in media, ergo… this must be good? On the other hand, Meg once wanted to cover our house in black and white-striped, Beetlejuice wallpaper and drape everything in linen–like a 1980s coke den crossed with Miss Havisham. Make your own minds up about this show, is what I’m saying.

The Vicar of Dibley: I saw some episodes of this show on PBS at my friend Mike’s house back in the day. I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember Mike yelling at me to stop leaving half-used tissues lying around his living room. That was the year I gave him a decoupaged wastebasket for his birthday, if I remember correctly. I think I also remember being charmed by this show, and that the titular vicar is a woman? So yeah… recommended, but don’t forget that it’s rude to leave snot-filled paper products littered around someone’s house.

Touch of Frost: Not a clue what this is about. Sounds… chilly? Is it about someone whose last name is Frost and they… touch you? Consensually, of course. Who knows. But you rec’d it, so here it is.

‘Allo ‘Allo: I’ve got nothing when it comes to the content of this show, but I like to imagine the main character is Dick Van Dyke’s terribly-accented Bert from the Julie Andrews Mary Poppins, telling jokes about a man with a wooden leg named Smith. I’m probably wrong. Should I actually watch this show and discover just how wrong I am? Maybe!

Open All Hours: Listen, I’ve worked REALLY HARD to restrain myself from making a whole bunch of That’s What He Said jokes in response to this title, but it’s left me with no energy to actually write what I think it might really be about. I’m sorry but that’s just the way it is.

Porridge: Is it about porridge? What about gruel? What about cream or wheat, or oatmeal, or that cyst I saw Dr. Lee pop on Dr. Pimple Popper last week? All I’m saying is that the title of this show leaves some questions to be asked, and they’re probably best answered by watching it, but maybe it’s more fun to make assumptions about it instead?

Dad’s Army: What daddies give their sons.**

New Tricks: I’m gonna guess this is about some old retired police detective who gets pulled back on the job for “one last case” and strikes sparks with his hotshot young sergeant who’s always on his phone, texting and tweeting and not getting off his damn lawn, and the sergeant is like, “omg, sir, it’s called instagram not instagraham and yes it appears the deceased did post clues about her murderer on social media,” and then the detective rolls his eyes and sighs a long-suffering sigh about kids these days, but in the end, the detective is the one who cracks the case with some good old fashioned elbow grease, gumshoeing, and I don’t know, something that people did before the internet–maybe he finds the number for a travel agent in a phone book and it turns out she hid a vital clue in a Blockbuster video rental case? Anyway, then the DCI and the sergeant fall in love and get two French bulldogs together and start an instagram account for said dogs, yes? Yes, okay, good, I’m glad we’re in agreement.

All Creatures Great and Small: This is a book, right? Like, it was a book first, and then it became a TV show? I’m pretty sure I remember my dad giving my sister this book to read when I was a kid, but I’m also pretty sure I remember my mom telling me that aliens left me on the doorstep and asked my parents to take care of me when I was a kid, so my memories are perhaps slightly to be taken with a grain of salt. Anyway, I think it’s about a gentle country doctor or vet who does gentle country doctor or vet things somewhere in the British Isles. But again–grain of salt.

Maigret: Part of my brain says this is about a French detective, like Poirot except with fewer mustaches? But another part of my brain is like no dummy, it’s about the guy who painted that painting of the dude in the bowler hat with the apple. Only I think that part of my brain is mistaken and that’s a different French guy, ANYWAY, this is a show you recommended so now it’s on the list.

Doc Martin: British House, I think someone described this to me? I’ve seen a few episodes and found it off-putting BUT that could be because it’s no more off-putting than HouseHouse just wraps the protagonist’s a–holery in the beautiful visage of Hugh Laurie, and I’m just the shallow cad who can’t see beyond people’s exteriors. Man, speaking of Hugh Laurie, have you guys ever seen his Jeeves & Wooster stuff with Stephen Fry? De-lightful.

The Dr. Blake Mysteries: I’m guessing this is another British show about… a doctor? What if it’s about a PhD doctor though, and she’s a sexy international assassin who travels time and is hell-bent on destroying us all? If it’s about that, I’ll definitely watch.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: I’m the philistine who’s been told to read Susanna Clarke’s book ten million times and just hasn’t done it. It might be something about the footnotes. Put me off with Infinite Jest, too. Anyway, it’s definitely my loss, because this show is so good and I’m sure that’s 99% due to the quality of the source material and only 1% due to how smokingly hot Childermass is in this particular adaptation.

The Windsors: I think this is parody? After that, I’m coming up empty. But I like the royal family as much as the next American, aka probably more than the average Brit, tbh. Why are we so obsessed with them? No idea, but we are, and corgis are seriously cute. The end.

Jonathan Creek: I like to think that this is a weird knock-off of Dawson’s Creek that Ion television made, never expecting it to go anywhere and when it accidentally did well they were like, oh crap, uhhh I guess we have to write a TV show now? Extra points if it includes Hailey Duff and Jaleel White. But also I think this show might be British. Or not. Who can say?

Age Gap Love: Apparently this is reality TV and is mostly what it sounds like, but it’s British? IDK, could be a hoot. Could be unexpectedly heart-filling and soul-reaching. Who knows! Calling anyone who likes a May/December romance, this could be for you.

The Inbetweeners: My brain insists I’ve heard of this show before but it won’t tell me anything else it thinks it knows about this show. So: the Inbetweeners: a show I might have heard of before!

Escape to the Continent: Is this show like House Hunters International, but maybe with less filler and recap? I hope so. God, I love House Hunters International. Give Voiceover Lady an Emmy already.

Now for some shows I know are American that you guys recommended:

Aaron Sorkin Shows: West Wing and Newsroom. Listen, I love the West Wing, because I was in high school when it started airing and I didn’t have a lot of critical faculties developed yet and goddammit, Allison Janney is a goddess. Also I still have a crush on Charlie Young and Dulé Hill was the best part of Psych. And who doesn’t love a good walk and talk? I’ve never seen Newsroom because I heard Sorkin’s Sorkininess is even more pronounced there–trouble with female characters, a tendency towards speechifying, and a self-satisfied tone that sometimes rubs me the wrong way. Then again, I also love Sports Night (thanks, Brenna!), so I’m not exactly anti-Sorkin. Point is, watch at your own risk and if a character is ever annoying you, just mentally replace their face with Josh Charles’s face and you should be okay.

American Horror Story: Oh, Ryan Murphy. You confuse me. Glee was such a mess. American Crime Story’s two seasons have been so great. I’ve yet to dip a toe in your horror waters, but I have to admit to being trepidatious. That said, I like witchy stuff and you apparently cast Angela Bassett, Sarah Paulson, and Kathy Bates in the Coven season, so… I might actually give this a try.

American Police Procedurals: Law and Order is good, SVU is better, Criminal Intent is meh (though Kathryn Erbe is great). The CSIs… exist. Criminal Minds gave us Emily Prentiss, and Morgan/Reid ships. The Chicago serieseseses are apparently good, but I haven’t gotten around to them yet. Point is, if you want American police, fire, or medical procedurals, you’ve got some decent options! Oh–Blue Bloods is a thing, too. Is Tom Selleck in that? I can only assume his mustache is the star of the show.

Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and some other Marvel shows on Netflix: Jessica Jones is depressing as hell, but it’s really, really good. Luke Cage is also quality. Uhhh I think my sister likes Daredevil? I tried to care about the Iron Fist. I really did. I liked whatshisface when he was gay and cute in Game of Thrones. I watched the Defenders. Anyway, these shows are on Netflix, they range from not terrible to great, and Mike Colter is hot.

The Exorcist: I was skeptical about this show at first. I lived in DC and I’ve run up and down the exorcist steps (be careful in the winter! they get icy!) and I’ve seen the movie and just couldn’t imagine this show being all that interesting. I WAS WRONG. It’s so good, the two main priests are obviously in love, and the acting and direction is just great. Lots of characters of color and actually not as gory as you’d expect. Good times.

Some shows on the CW: Not gonna lie–my roots with the CW run deep. I watched A LOT of the WB and UPN growing up, and when the CW rose from their ashes, I didn’t stop watching. Even once I became “an adult” who watched Mad Men and had “good taste.” So when you guys recommended The 100 (post-apocalyptic sexy teen drama) and The Originals (vampire sexy not-teen-but-it-still-feels-like it drama), I was right there with you, adding The Vampire Diaries (more vampires, plus an ex-Degrassi star!), Jane the Virgin (Gina Rodriguez, and it’s just flat out great), and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Hi-Freaking-Larious and the best depiction of mental illness I’ve ever seen on TV) to the list. I was gonna say some other stuff about these shows but apparently I said it all already in my parenthesiseses, so, yeah. The CW has some good shows, people!


Holy cow. That’s the end of the list. We made it to the end of the list!

Are you still reading? Why are you still reading? Don’t you have better things to do with your time? This took me like two hours to write and another to edit and there are still typos. Go live your life! Say hi to your family. Go outdoors. Breathe some air.

Then come back here and watch tv with me.



*I kid you not, when I first wrote this sentence, I wrote “sea a show.” Too many cocktails, y’all.

**This is a stupid joke for Ruthie Luhnow and Kay Simone and I’m glad it will now live on the internet forever.


  1. Julia Ann Roark

    For your American readers (me), “Murdoch Mysteries” is called “Artful Detective”, and is shown on Ovation TV channel!!! It’s a wonderful and fun series… It is set in Toronto just before the turn of the 20th century and continuing into the early 1900’s. The cast is fabulous and the writing is superb.

  2. Adriana Guzman

    Spenser you’re a riot! You made my day! I am a fan of police procedurals and a big fan of all the Law & Order shows. I think Dick Wolf is a genius!

    1. spencerspearsauthor

      Honestly, there’s nothing better than turning on the TV, accidentally stumbling onto a Law & Order marathon, and then realizing that you’re still watching 9 hours later and haven’t gone to the bathroom once 😀

  3. Kirsty McKenzie

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your list. You are to funny with some of your descriptions. I love two cocktails in describing. Thank you for the list some I know others sounds intriguing, if they available to the aussie tv pay thingy’s then I am on them.

  4. Jill

    As a proud Australian. I have to correct you by letting you know that Dr Blake is an Aussie show set in the fifties. Dr Blake is a coroner and also GP Doctor. GP stands for general practice … don’t know what you call that in the US.
    A British show that is really excellent is Call The Midwife …again set post war in the fifties in the East End of London. Can’t get through an episode of this show without a good cry ?

  5. Terri Beth

    “Is it about someone whose last name is Frost and they… touch you? Consensually, of course.” ?? You crack me up. Also, YES TO JEEVES AND WOOSTER. Also and yes, Inspector Lewis *is* part of the Morse family. I adore it and have never seen Morse. Lewis and Hathaway make me so happy! Plus smoking hot medical examiner. Do you like anime? Watch Yuri on Ice! ?

  6. hello dearest brother, I may also be slightly tipsy at this moment

    Yes, “All Creatures Great and Small” was a book first. It’s about a country vet doing country vet things in… I want to say 1930s to 1950s England? It has sequels, I think WWII happens at some point in the background. (And yes, Dad lent me a copy. I am moderately sure we also collectively watched an episode or two at some point, because PBS.)

Comments are closed.