With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it’s time to turn our attention to the true meaning of the day: TV marathons. Perhaps you are cocooning yourself away from society for a brief respite, or perhaps you are in charge of entertaining a gaggle of toddlers. For those instances, and several instances in between, we’re here to help. This post doesn’t contain any spoilers, so fear not, those of you who, for a variety of wacky reasons, “save up” TV to watch over holidays.
If you need a reminder that all families are weird: I mean, just look around and be honest with yourself, but also Transparent. The ten-episode Amazon show, about a family whose patriarch comes out as transgender, is so intimate, you’ll feel like you’re right there in the thick of it with all the characters. Gorgeous, moving, but better to watch with people who can be quiet during communal viewing opportunities. If you want something with more episodes and less intense poignancy, Gilmore Girls (Netflix) is one of the great treasures of our time. GG works for a younger audience, too.
If you need to sneak away and catch your breath: This is a moment that calls for a web series, because you can squeeze in a full episode before anyone will notice you’re gone. High Maintenance, about a weed delivery guy, can be consumed in smaller chunks but is just as engrossing as any longer-format series.
If you need something to entertain a bunch of people in a low-impact way: Reality contest shows are your friend here. Even the best ones tend to be pretty repetitive, so if someone ducks out to stir the potatoes or check on a football score or take the dog out, they’re not going to miss too much. Plus, every season of these shows has some kind of villain around which everyone can anti-rally.
Syfy’s special-effects-makeup series Face Off (seasons available on iTunes, Amazon, and some on-demand options) is by far the most earnest, with contestants frequently saying that they did make wonderful friends while on the show; plus, it’s still under-the-radar enough that most people haven’t seen it. (Nothing is more boring than rewatching Top Chef.) If you’ve been away from Project Runway for a while, that show is still pretty watchable (iTunes, Hulu, Amazon). If you want more obscure, Nail’d It, a competitive nail-art show (Hulu), will fill that quotient, but the elaborateness of some of the acrylic sculpting gets a little gross and might not go well with food. Cutthroat Kitchen (iTunes, some on-demand) is totally episodic, with each installment bringing in three new chefs for bizarre torture rituals. Warning: It’s as repetitive as an episode of Dora the Explorer, so let whoever’s in charge of fast-forwarding wield that power mercilessly. Ink Master and Best Ink (iTunes, Amazon) provide tremendous bad-tattoo schadenfreude, and if you feel bad straying too far from football-ish fare, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team (iTunes, Amazon) is the way to go.
If you are in charge of entertaining young children but you don’t know what the kids watch these days: This is for the little-littles, but the contemporary version of The Electric Company (Amazon, iTunes) is shockingly tolerable. It’s less grating than most nursery-school fare (get thee behind me, Thomas), and some of the songs are actually pretty cute.
If you’ve been out of the loop for like, a year, and now is your chance to catch up: Gorge yourself on True Detective (HBO Go, Google Play) and Orange Is the New Black (Netflix). Welcome to 2014! You got here just in time.