Brace yourself: Many of your favorite shows will be airing reruns over Thanksgiving weekend, so once the Macy's Day Parade and National Dog Show are over and you're tired of watching football, we suggest you help yourself to another piece of pumpkin pie and kick back with some top-notch TV that you can access online.
If you subscribe to Netflix streaming, you'll have a plethora of quality shows at your disposal; we've combed through the Watch Instantly offerings to recommend a few of our favorites. For those of you who don't have Netflix accounts, we've tossed in a couple of free-streaming options, too—as long as you're in the U.S., you should be able to partake. (Sorry, international readers!) So here we go, our top choices for shows that should satiate your TV cravings long after you go back for seconds on that Thanksgiving meal. Oh, and if you're looking for a reprieve from those "special" family members you just can't avoid, check out our recommended "relative pairings." You might not be able to get away from Crazy Aunt Caroline physically, but at least she'll be silenced for a while.
| Netflix | Crackle |
Between 1995 and 1999, the American public was blessed with this brilliant NBC sitcom, which takes place at an AM news station in New York City. Likely a precursor to shows like The Office, Party Down, and even Arrested Development, NewsRadio's zany workplace antics and all-star ensemble cast (including the late great Phil Hartman) make the business of satire look as smart as it is absurd.
Recommended relative pairing: Your sister's college roommate who swears she's "over" The Daily Show.
A romantic gal named Felicity decides to pass on her acceptance to Stanford to attend the "University of New York," where she can chase her high school crush. What could go wrong? This WB classic was a mega-hit for the college-bound demo, but its PG-13, Sex and the City-meets-coming-of-age vibe holds up long after your college days have passed.
Recommended relative pairing: Your young-at-heart mother, who once lived vicariously through your college stories but needs a new outlet.
This show is a veritable who's who of every single comedian who ever lived. Well, almost... but it does feature appearances from a baby Sarah Silverman, Roseanne, Janeane Garofalo, Jeffrey Tambor, Rip Torn, Jon Stewart, and plenty more. Think Curb Your Enthusiasm meets Late Show with David Letterman. This show did meta before meta was cool.
Recommended relative pairing: Your sauce-hitting uncle who corners people with his inappropriate knock-knock jokes.
Before the U.S. version of The Office ever aired, back when the word "mockumentary" was known only by Christopher Guest enthusiasts, there was Reno 911. A caricature of Cops set in desolate Reno, Nevada, the series follows a cast of inept, short-shorts-wearing officers who serve as proof that sometimes crime does pay.
Recommended relative pairing: Your single-again older brother who needs a dumb laugh.
Netflix | Crackle |
Modern Family's Ed O'Neill plays Al Bundy, a blue collar shoe salesman who's been stuck in a rut since the end of his high school football glory days. Middle-class, white-bred America has definitely seen darker days, but you'd hardly know from this '90s comedy. Oh, and don't miss Up All Night's Christina Applegate as Al's sexually-charged ditz of a daughter, Kelly.
Recommended relative pairing: Your sister's new fiancé who's still talking about the game-winning touchdown he made at State... eight years ago.
Netflix | Hulu |
Now in its sixth season, this detective procedural follows a "psychic" Santa Barbara-based police consultant named Shawn (James Roday) and his partner, Gus (Dulé Hill), as they solve crimes and crack jokes. If you haven't yet caught the bug, now's the time: The first five seasons are on Netflix.
Recommended relative pairing: Your slightly geeky brother who likes to think he's not that geeky.
If you've somehow never heard of The Wonder Years, then I'm assigning this one as holiday TV homework. The series follows Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) as he attempts to navigate through adolescence in the late '60s/early '70s. It's riveting, it's genuine, and it's got a killer soundtrack.
Recommended relative pairing: Your stern, no-nonsense father.
It's time to jump on this train if you haven't already. Netflix now has Seasons 1 through 3, which will put you that much closer to not having to leave the room when your friends start talking about Walt's latest snafu. Break out the beakers, it's time to take science to the streets!
Recommended relative pairing: Your uncle who works for the DEA.
As one of FX's early breakout series, this criminal drama about a tight-knit motorcycle club on the outside of the law is kind of like a macho soap opera. Season 4 ends on December 6, but with the first three seasons on Netflix, you can be nearly caught up in no time.
Recommended relative pairing: Your aunt who recently started dating a hardcore biker enthusiast.
Netflix | The CW | Hulu |
The CW has finally opened its doors to Netflix, which is now home to Seasons 1 and 2 of this vampy teen drama. Plus: CWtv.com and Hulu consistently stream the five most recent episodes, so most of Season 3 is at your bloody disposal, too. Plus plus: You can work your way through our TVD photo-recap treasury as you go.
Recommended relative pairing: Your melodramatic cousin who's been acting suspicious ever since she started hanging out with the goth crowd at school.
This three-part French miniseries made waves at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. It's based on the life of Carlos the Jackal, a terrorist who was once one of the world's most wanted international fugitives. It's a great way to kill five-and-a-half hours, and you'll walk away feeling more worldly than you ever have while sitting through your uncle's Euro-trip slideshows.
Recommended relative pairing: Your college kid brother who was just evicted from Occupy Wall Street.
This period drama takes place around the time of World War I (in the pilot, the characters react to news of the sinking Titanic, two years before the war began) and essentially conveys what it was like to be filthy rich before and during the world's first major collapse into large-scale warfare. It was awarded the Guinness Book of World Records prize for "most critically acclaimed television show" in 2011, so you KNOW it's good.
Recommended relative pairing: Your wife's grandmother, who always sips her tea with her pinky up.
This British miniseries follows an obsessed Jane Austen fan who mysteriously swaps places with one of Austen's fictional characters, Elizabeth Bennet (an American remake is in development). Anyone who's seen A&E;'s epic Pride and Prejudice miniseries starring Colin Firth will laugh out loud, because Lost in Austen is practically a scene-by-scene parody.
Recommended relative pairing: Your crazy aunt who swears Colin Firth communicates with her directly through the TV whenever she's drunk and home alone.
Yes, there was a British version long before William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum signed on to portray members of the uber-dysfunctional Gallagher clan. If you're curious about the series that inspired the American adaptation, look no further.
Recommended relative pairing: Your kid cousin, the kleptomaniac.
Netflix | Hulu |
No, not the failed MTV version, the good version—the award-winning British version that tactfully scrutinizes the taboos of teenage life, from sex and drugs to broken families and body image issues. It gets bonus points for having a great soundtrack, too.
Recommended relative pairing: Your pushy aunt who keeps rattling on about what it was like to be young.
Netflix | Hulu |
No, not the kind you order at the gastropub. These "sliders" are an offbeat gang of scientists who've discovered a way to travel—or slide—between parallel and alternate universes but can't quite figure out how to get back home. Imagine what life would be like if America had lost the Revolutionary War—there's an episode about that. Imagine what life would be like if technology had been banned after Hiroshima—there's an episode about that, too. If you're looking to jump-start your imagination and with a little Jerry O'Connell love on the side, this is your show.
Recommended relative pairing: Your grandpa, the history-buff; Jeffy O'Connell fans.
Netflix | Hulu|
If you've never heard of this cult classic, it's probably because you've never crossed paths with a Firefly fan. Joss Whedon's 2002 space western is as cool as it sounds... because it's a space western, duh. Highly underrated at the time, it only lasted a single season, but it's a single season that lives on, thanks to the internet. You can find every episode on Netflix or Hulu Plus, but for those without subscription services, Hulu's basic service offers five free episodes at a time, and they stream on a rotating basis.
Recommended relative pairing: Your neo-anarchist cousin who always wears a vest and suspenders and ties a bandana around his neck.
Technically we could have included this in the "British" section, but its sci-fi elements trump its accents. This is a show about a group of juvenile delinquents who get caught in an electrical storm while doing community service and wind up with special powers. Trust us, it's great.
Recommended relative pairing: Your shifty older cousin who swears he once got hit by lightening (he didn't).
This real-life look at real-life street gangs paints a jarring picture of the culture and politics behind the most notorious, feared gangs in America, proving gang culture threatens more than just our country's sense of style.
Recommended relative pairing: Your little cousin who's always pretending to be a thug.
Science is a ton of fun when there's nothing else on TV! Seriously, though, this documentary miniseries explores Stephen Hawking's complex theories on time, the universe, and aliens by accompanying them with CGI imagery and a symphonic soundtrack. If you're looking to learn something this weekend, this is your show.
Recommended relative pairing: Your precocious kid brother who refuses to watch anything on TV because he thinks it will rot his brain.
Discovery | Netflix |
Prepare for the upcoming HBO drama Luck with this documentary reality series. If you don't think horse jockeys can be defined as "athletes," you might reconsider after watching; the series chronicles a group of jockeys as they ride in the famous 30-day Oak Tree Meet at Santa Anita Park.
Recommended relative pairing: Your grandma. She sure loves the track.
MTV | Netflix |
We know this show is ridiculous. It's one of the most heinous shows on TV, featuring young girls who are now making a profit off of having babies while still babies themselves. But as far as trashy television is concerned, it's pretty easy to get sucked in. Seasons 1 and 2 are on Netflix, but all three seasons are available to stream at MTV.com.
Recommended relative pairing: The kid sister you're trying to scare straight.
BONUS: Life In A Day| Netflix | YouTube | National Geographic |
It's technically not a TV show, I know, but if you're looking for something longer-form, I cannot recommend this film enough. On July 24, 2010, people from all over the world filmed what a day in their shoes looked like and submitted it to National Geographic and Scott Free, Ridley Scott's production company. Thousands of hours of video were cut down into one 90-minute piece that plays like a narrative. It's a truly inspiring view of the people who inhabit our planet.
Recommended relative pairing: Everyone. Just make everyone in your family watch this. They'll walk away thanking you.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
What will you be watching over the break?