The weeks after bringing a baby home from the hospital are often a best of times, worst of times scenario. You had a baby! You love her. She sleeps all the time … until she doesn’t. (Please, please, how can I get her to go back to sleep?) If you gave birth to the baby, a lot of your body hurts quite a bit and you’d rather not move too much. If you didn’t give birth, you need to log solo hours with the baby so your partner can sleep a little. And hanging out with a newborn is a weird mixture of terrifying and very, very boring.
In other words, it’s a great time to watch TV. But what should you watch?
The right kind of post-baby TV is whatever works best for you, but you’ll want to think about a few things first. Shows with a strong formula can be nice: If not a lot else in your life feels constant, the rhythm of Elementary is a warm, unwavering embrace. Something with a strong, forward-moving plot can be an excellent distraction in tougher hours, too. But it’s not a great moment to dive into experimental weirdness, anything that’ll make your mind feel foggier than it already is, or shows with too many subtitles. (When you look away for a few moments to check anxiously if the baby is still breathing, you’ll soon realize you’ve missed an entire KGB plot in The Americans.) Also, more than one new parent has discovered a sudden distaste for violence, especially if it involves kids in peril. If this is not you, please continue to enjoy watching Fargo, but if you think this might be an issue, you should probably avoid Handmaid’s Tale for a few months.
With these guidelines in mind, here are eight TV shows to stream if you’re a new parent. I hope one of them will be a balm to you at 3 a.m.
If you’re looking for procedural rhythms: Leverage
Rather than your usual detective stuff, Leverage has a kind of Robin Hood premise, if Robin Hood were a team of weirdos who defend the little guy using heist shenanigans and MacGyver-esque improvisation. Timothy Hutton is good as the team lead, and Leverage is especially great for some warm, bubbly team dynamics. It’s the sort of show you’ll watch, think, “Huh, that was nice!” and then happily gulp ten more episodes before you realize what happened. Plus, there’s five whole seasons to watch. Available to stream on Hulu.
If you want British escapist comforts: Grand Designs
If you’re the sort of person who wants to watch Great British Bake-Off in times of instability and low sleep, you already know this about yourself. But if you’ve run out of GBBO, please proceed immediately to Grand Designs, a British reality show about restoring and renovating homes. There are more than a dozen seasons — although only two are currently on Netflix — and host Kevin McCloud is waiting to envelop you in his warm world of good sense, gentle concern, and practical construction-site outerwear. Available to stream on Netflix.
If you prefer messy reality shows: Below Deck
For those with a taste for Bravo-style reality series, allow me to point you toward the growing Below Deck franchise. Somehow I’d missed this whole universe until recently, but Below Deck has an excellent reality-show premise: The main players are the staff of a luxury private cruise ship. They squabble among themselves and party hard on off nights, and they also play host to various high-roller clients on the boat. It’s the kind of show where a whole episode can turn on the drama of a guest who hates onions and a chef who insists on cooking with onions anyhow. Sometimes you just want a show full of glorious, hideous, mind-melting trivialities. Available to stream on Bravo.com and rent on Amazon.
If you really miss The Good Wife: The Good Fight
I have good news and bad news: The good news is that the Good Wife spinoff series, The Good Fight, is often great. Even in the moments when it’s not firing on all cylinders, it’s somewhere in the range of “this is definitely interesting” to “this is scratching my The Good Wife itch.” Here’s the bad news: You’ll have to sign up for CBS All Access to get it. But! There’s a free-trial period! And hey, you’re at home with a baby. You can absolutely knock out ten episodes of The Good Fight in a week. Available to stream on CBS All Access.
If you want to avoid serious violence, but you like zombies: iZombie
This one will fill your need for procedurals, for goofiness, and the occasional bit of zombie darkness. Yes, iZombie definitely has gross-out moments, but it’s hyperstylized and feels very different than the bleak grittiness of The Walking Dead. This show is more noir comic book than it is zombie horror, and it’ll hit especially well for anyone who liked Veronica Mars — the two series share a creator, many of the same names, and much of the same DNA. Available to stream on Netflix.
If you love Parks and Rec and The Office: The Good Place
Please, go watch The Good Place. Plus, if you catch up in time to watch season two — which premieres on September 28 — you’ll feel like you’re actually in sync with the rest of the world. The Good Place is so deliciously funny and surprising that you won’t even care when you’re awake at 3 a.m., because you’ll be able to watch more of it. Available to stream on Netflix.
If you want a show that reflects your life: Jane the Virgin and Playing House
There are notoriously few TV series that get new parenthood right, but you have more options than you may think. Jane the Virgin is precisely the sort of show that might hit the spot right now: It’s got great romance, smart and fast humor, and the new parenthood material in its second season is some of TV’s best. If you’ve already seen Jane the Virgin, or if you’re just looking for a half-hour show, check out Playing House instead. The appeal of this USA comedy by Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair lies in its vibe: Imagine if Leslie Knope moved in to help Ann Perkins raise her baby, or if Rory and Lorelai Gilmore stayed quippy but got much sillier and happier. Now imagine if Keegan Michael-Key and Zach Woods were there too. There’s even a whole episode that’s basically an excuse for friendship and Kenny Loggins puns! You can watch Playing House on USA’s website, but if you don’t have cable, this is the rare series where I’m going to suggest just buying the show through your preferred digital outlet. You will not regret it.
Jane the Virgin is available to stream on Netflix. Playing House is available to stream on usanetwork.com.