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Beyond Netflix: How to Find Good TV Shows

A man sitting on a couch holding a bowl of popcorn next to a woman holding a remote control.

Even with so much great TV out there, it can still be surprisingly hard to find a show you want to watch. Here’s how to reliably find something you’ll love.

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz writes about how, as the number of options increases, it becomes harder for people to choose from them. Back when TVs had three channels, you knew exactly what you were watching every night. Now, when you can choose from thousands of shows to watch any time you like, it’s much more difficult and can lead to paralysis by analysis.

The only way to beat the problem is to acknowledge that it exists. Next time you’re stuck looking for something to watch, follow these handy tips.

Figure Out What You Like

The best way to find something new to watch is to decide exactly what it is you like about your favorite shows and go from there. This might be something you haven’t put a lot of thought into before. Here are a few things you can consider:

  • Which genres do you enjoy the most? Comedy? Drama? A mix?
  • Do you prefer self-contained episodes or storylines that progress?
  • What season length do you prefer? Are 22 episodes the perfect amount, or do you get bored?
  • Do you prefer episodes that are 20 or 40 minutes, a full hour, or more?
  • Do you prefer TV shows with movie-esque production values or barebones network productions?
  • Do you like shows with a lot of characters or just one or two leads?
  • Do you enjoy complex plots, serious drama, reality shows, or something in the middle?

Look for shows that are similar to those you already love—that will be the best guide to finding new content to enjoy.

Follow Your Favorite Creators and Actors

The Wikipedia page for actor Aziz Ansari.

One of the easiest ways to find new shows is to follow what your favorite creators and actors are working on now.

For example, if you really loved Parks and Recreation, there’s a good chance you’ll like Brooklyn Nine-Nine or The Good Place because Michael Schur is the co-creator (or creator) of all of those. You might also like Master of None, which stars and was created by Aziz Ansari.

The simplest way to find out what your favorite creators and actors are up to is to dive down the Wikipedia rabbit hole. Check out the page for the show, and then follow the links to read about all the people involved. See if they’re doing anything that might interest you. You can do the same thing on IMDB.

Check Out Best of Lists and Critics

The "Top Rated TV Shows" on IMDB.

Speaking of IMDB, it’s a great place to find new shows. Its “Best of” lists for different genres are a sure place to find some inspiration.

You can also check out critics’ “Best of” lists. Most pop culture sites also regularly publish lists of their favorite genre TV shows. If there’s a critic whose opinions you tend to agree with, check out his or her recommendations.

Ask a Friend

If you know someone who has similar taste in TV shows (or who just knows your tastes well), ask him for recommendations.

You might have friends or family members who keep up with all the latest prestige shows. Ask them from time to time what they’re watching and what they think of it.

Ask the Internet

The internet is a handy place to get recommendations, although how useful you’ll find them will vary.

Websites like TasteDive and Cable TV give recommendations based on shows you already like. They’re algorithmic, so they’re similar to Netflix’s suggestion engine. It’s worth a shot if you’re in a show hole.

If you want more personalized recommendations, check out the Subreddit r/ifyoulikeblank. Here you can post a little bit about the kind of shows you like, and friendly Redditors will suggest other things you might enjoy.

Try Something Random

Sometimes, the best way to find something new is to go completely outside the box. It’s easy to convince yourself you only like certain kinds of shows.

If you’re really stuck for something to watch, why not try something you’ve never considered before? If you like short comedies, try a drama. If you only watch prestige shows, give a documentary or reality show a shot.

Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like the New York Times and on a variety of other websites, including Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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