Everybody agrees: we live in the golden age of TV series. TV shows have become more elaborate, more sophisticated in terms of both screenwriting and character development, and more lush with regard to money invested in set and costume design. (In contrast, some of the most ambitious movies out there have started to feel a lot like episodes in a TV series – remember when Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice cut the action to bring us trailers of the upcoming DC movies?) And we loyal and lucky TV viewers have shown our appreciation by binge watching our favorite shows! But which of them top the list of the most binged and binge-worthy TV series?
1. Game of Thrones
That is an easy and obvious one. Game of Thrones is probably the series that marks the dawn of the Golden Age of TV – and the one that has really started it all. It has evolved into a cultural phenomenon, inspiring endless merchandise and spending unprecedented resources on making sure that the on-screen adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s saga did justice to the source material: each episode cost $10 million on average and the last six episodes of the 8th and final season according to vanityfair.com are rumored to cost $15 million each.
Although viewers do not usually binge-watch the first time around, as episodes are released every week and fans cannot wait to watch the next, it is well worth a binge viewing shortly before the final season comes out, just so you can revisit all those seemingly trivial interactions or quotes from 6 years earlier that will be revealed to play a major foreshadowing role in season 8. After all, the 16.5 million people who watched last season’s finale on HBO are probably onto something.
2. The Walking Dead
Another series that needs no introduction is the immensely popular horror series The Walking Dead. Netflix included it last year in its list of most binged series, along with Breaking Bad and American Horror Story. Conducting research on over 100 titles streamed in more than 190 countries during an 8-month period, Netflix concluded that shows in the thriller, horror, or sci-fi categories were most likely to be binged for more than two hours on a daily basis; it also identified that Netflix users finish a season per week on average.
The Walking Dead was also among the most downloaded titles on Amazon Prime as users download series to watch while traveling, especially on air flights. It seems that The Walking Dead really found its way around tapping into the popularity of zombie themes in popular culture – we also saw a remake of the classic film Dawn of the Dead in 2004, which probably picked up after the success of 28 Days Later in 2002 (which featured a more sophisticated take of the theme). But zombie influence is not reserved for the screen: Michael Jackson’s iconic hit album Thriller was heavily infused with zombie references, while they are the centerpiece of many games such as the Resident Evil game series and even online casino games like Lost Vegas, set in Las Vegas after a zombie apocalypse.
3. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
Netflix does like to research how viewers respond to series: it has discovered that 8.4 million subscribers will binge-watch an entire series within 24 hours of it becoming available online – and most of them live in Canada. It also came up with a list of the top-20 most binged TV series in the US last month and found out that almost 75% of the shows featured on the list have a running time of approximately 30 minutes per episode.
The show that tops the list, is actually one of the exceptions. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is the most binged series and the shortest episode was roughly an hour and a half long – granted there were only 4 episodes of the show. But, also, it was one of the most anticipated series ever, reviving the incredibly popular comedy-drama about a single mom and her teenage daughter who are also best friends, which ran from 2000 to 2007 on the WB.
4. Grace and Frankie
One of Netflix’s original comedies, Grace and Frankie has it all: it is hilarious, moving and sensitive, all wrapped up in a marvelous cast that features acting legends Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as the title lead characters. The show features the unlikely friendship that is forged between beauty products businesswoman Grace and unconventional art teacher Frankie after they have to deal with the fact that their husbands of 40 years come out as gay and leave them to get married.
Revolving around themes like aging, love, friendship, homosexuality, adoption, addiction and much more, this series does so in an incredibly delicate and subtle way, which might explain why it features 12th on Netflix’s list of most binged shows in the US.
5. The Handmaid’s Tale
While Hulu, in line with other streaming services, does not release exact viewership numbers, the fact that The Handmaid’s Tale was picked up for a second season just a week after it launched, is probably sign enough that viewers love the series. In fact, Hulu has said that the show’s debut was the most watched premiere on its service among all shows, both original and acquired.
An adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s beloved novel, this dystopic series is set in New England, which has become a totalitarian Christian theocratic state after a US Civil War has wrecked the country. An immediate favorite of Hulu viewers, it features Elizabeth Moss as its lead, along with Joseph Fiennes and Alexis Bledel on the cast.
There are countless more amazing TV shows out there – although these ones are probably the most binged currently on the radar for this season. We are still waiting for those GoT spinoffs to sweep us off our feet, and it is rumored that we will soon see a TV adaptation of the Lord of the Rings franchise, so there is definitely more to watch out for!