I love TV —but which TV show I love really depends on the mood and moment. That’s why I put together a guide for The Wall Street Journal, mapping out how you can choose the right show for any given circumstance. This chart helps you choose the best shows right now, whether it’s a new program or one you can track down via Netflix or your favorite video service.
This chart maps all the shows that are (or have been) in my rotation, either as solo viewing, or as something I watch with my husband or kids. Below you can find explanations of each of my viewing categories; capsule reviews for new additions are here, and capsule summaries for returning favorites are here.
About my viewing categories
Dedicated viewing Some shows are so good that they actually get my full attention. These are the best of the best: TV I watch the way I’d watch a movie.
Multitasking TV I often use TV as background noise or motivation to do boring tasks I’d otherwise avoid (as I explained a few years ago in this Harvard Business Review story.) My multitasking category includes all the shows I watch with my husband or teenager, while doing stuff like invoicing, inbox cleanup, tax preparation, etc.
Craft & Gym TV There are plenty of shows I enjoy too much to waste as background noise, but not so much they warrant my full attention. These are the shows I end up watching solo while working out or knitting. The main difference between this category and my multitasking category is that these are the shows nobody else in the family likes to watch.
Family viewing When I started building this list, our kids were 9 and 12; now they’re 12 and 15, respectively. Some of the shows in our family viewing list are shows we all watch together; others are shows we watch only with our older kid, because our youngest has a low tolerance for violence or creepiness. Before watching any of the shows on my list with your own kids, I recommend looking them up on Common Sense Media to see whether they look appropriate for your own kid’s sensitivities; a useful approach is to pick a couple of shows your kid enjoys, but which are at the outer edge of what you (or they) feel comfortable with in terms of violence, sex or scariness. Use those shows to figure out the Common Sense age rating that corresponds to your kid’s viewing age: I myself top out at a Common Sense 15 (shows that are rated 16+ for violence/disturbing content are too scary for me, though I’m fine with shows rated 16+ for maturity/sex), while my 12-year-old is more like a Common Sense 9 or 10.
Need help choosing a show?
- Click here to read capsule summaries of the newest shows on the list.
- Click here to read capsule summaries of my longstanding favorites.