When I was at university I found having a show to come home to was vital. It helped me relax, re-gain my energy after my long commute, keep me awake so I could study afterwards and establish a routine that was often comforting when faced with never-ending deadlines and stress. So if you want to have a TV show waiting to console you after a stressful day at university, I have some recommendations.
I found the best shows for post-university therapy were those that were high energy, so I didn’t fall asleep and miss studying later. Generally upbeat shows worked better, as they helped to lift my spirits and banish stress and worry. I’ve found shows with lots of episodes are best so I wouldn’t run out too fast or have to keep finding new shows while also trying to study. I also found that monster of the week episodes, those whose core conflict is solved by the end of the episode, tended to work better as I would stop watching after one or two. Shows that are more story-arc based with an ongoing story over multiple episodes would often make it all too tempting to keep watching and not get any work done.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions;
Air Date: 2006 – 2014
Country of Origin: US
Genre: Comedy, Procedural
Premise: Psych’s basic premise is that a highly perceptive and gifted, though immature, man pretends to be psychic in order to work solving crimes as a consultant for the police. While this could have been a forgettable and run of the mill procedural, Psych manages to turn this premise in to non-stop tremendous fun. With lots of comedy, tremendous pop-culture references and a fantastic cast, with some fun guest stars, you’ll never get bored of this show. The cases are very entertaining, but aren’t so much the focus of the show. The focus is more on the characters, humour, and developing romance. There are so many pop culture references that at least a few episodes will likely touch upon or be an homage to something you love.
Why it works for this category: If you need something light-hearted and uplifting after a stressful day you won’t find many shows more fun than this. It’s hard not to get caught up in the silly adventures of Shawn and Gus and feel your spirits lifted by their enthusiasm. Each episode, apart from the odd two-parter, tells its own story, so it’s perfect for taking a break without feeling like you’re being torn away from a story early. The show rarely delves into darker territories so if you want something light to look forward to after a stressful day then this should help. Shawn is a very confident character who is very resistant to stress, which may help take your mind off your own university worries. This is a perfect show to unwind and re-energize with.
Note: It’s worth noting that the first episode is over an hour long, if time is an issue.
Related shows: Monk (made by the same network, similar tone, lighthearted procedural)
The Mentalist (identical premise, though the tone is very different)
iZombie (protagonist solves crimes while keeping their true methods secret, similar lighthearted comedic tone)
Air Date: 2008 – 2012
Country of Origin: US
Genre: Comedy, Action, Drama
Premise: Leverage centres on a group of con artists and criminals teaming up in order to help those wronged by powerful figures get back what they are owed. This is a very light-hearted case of the week show, which shines because of the wonderful cast and the clever writing.
Why it works for this category: Each episode is fast paced and follows a familiar formula, while keeping the theme and details of each episode fresh, making it a perfect watch for when you’re tired, stressed or fed up. The characters in this show are a lot of fun, with the various comebacks and inside jokes being a real highlight. The cases are all over the top and highly entertaining. While the characters’ plans are often elaborate the audience isn’t expected to be able to follow each element to enjoy the episode, and often will be kept in the dark. This means the show will still be enjoyable if you’re tired or don’t want to concentrate on complicated details. If it’s light-hearted, uplifting and easy to watch that you’re after then this show is a great pick. Seeing corrupt powerful figures taken down in amusing, original and entertaining ways is sure to help cheer you up if you are stressed or tired.
Related shows: Breakout Kings (team of criminals catching criminals)
White Collar (criminal helping to catch criminals)
Person of Interest (team dedicated to helping those the law won’t)
Air Date: 2013 – Present
Country of Origin: US
Premise: This sitcom takes place in a police precinct in Brooklyn and stars Andy Samberg, with a fantastic supporting cast. The characters are all loveable and funny in their own right, with no weak links in the cast. The over the top nature of the show is part of its appeal, with plenty of silly situations and over the top characters in each episode.
Why it works for this category: If you have less time to watch something when you’re relaxing or would prefer to fit in multiple episodes before going back to studying, then this show could be a perfect fit. While the episodes add depth to its characters, they never get dark in tone and the group dynamic is relentlessly positive. This makes it a great show to relax with, and it always helps to cheer me up when I feel stressed. The show is also easy enough to follow when you are tired without losing any of the fun. If you like upbeat, slightly silly comedies with a varied and very talented cast then I would recommend this show to relax with. This show will be particularly helpful if you need cheering up after work as it is one of the more optimistic and light sitcoms around at the moment.
Note: Comedy is always an acquired taste so a few episodes are best to tell if this show will be for you.
Related shows: Happy Endings (lighthearted sitcom)
The Thin Blue Line (sitcom set in police department)
Community (lighthearted sitcom)
Air Date: 2012 – Present
Country of Origin: US
Premise: Elementary takes classic character Sherlock Holmes and places him in modern-day New York, solving crimes with a female Watson. The show separates itself from other Sherlock Holmes adaptations by focusing less on elaborate mysteries and more on the characters and their depths and development.
Why it works for this category: Procedural’s can be great for after a stressful day as they give you a familiar formula and tend to return to a peaceful status quo by the end of the episode. Elementary is a good pick amongst these for relaxing as the cases don’t require you to follow complicated clues, or expect you to work out the puzzle before Sherlock or Joan. Sherlock in Elementary is very likeable, with his flaws understandable and fully realised, making it easier to both understand and root for him. Watson is wonderful in this show, particularly the more the show involves her in the mysteries and we see her own way of thinking through puzzles. These interesting characters will keep you distracted from your own worries with their engaging drama and the developing friendship. The support the two leads lend each other is comforting to watch, and the developing friendship is sweet and touching to return to each episode. If you would like to be distracted from thoughts of university with the interesting development of flawed characters and cases that don’t require you to be fully awake, then this show could be for you.
Note: If you are craving mystery or want to be surprised by a whodunnit then this show will not be for you.
Related shows: Sherlock (modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes)
Monk (Holmes-like lead character solving complicated crimes)
House (Holmes-like lead character solving complicated medical mysteries)
Catfish: The TV Show
Air Date: 2012 – Present
Country of Origin: US
Genre: Reality TV
Premise: Coming off of the documentary Catfish, Catfish: The TV Show aims to tell stories of being lied to online. While the documentary focused on Nev’s personal experience of talking to someone online who may not be who they said they were, the TV show sees Nev and filmmaker Max help those who contact them figure out if they are talking to the person they think they are. Each episode focusses on one story as they try to figure out the truth behind the online persona, often resulting in drama, fights, heartbreak or, occasionally, touching scenes of reconciliation, forgiveness and even romance.
Why it works for this category: This show is an easy watch, and being reality TV there is no ongoing story to feel you are missing out on if you stop after an episode or two. Nev and Max have a lot of charisma and are a lot of fun to watch together so it’s hard not to relax when you are along for the ride with them. The mystery of what is going on is engaging but never as complex as it would be in fiction, so the show is a good one for if you’re very tired.
Note: While the show can at times be sad or have a lot of drama I think it is unlikely to cause more stress, particularly as Max and Nev tend to have a good handle on the situation and work to calm everyone and bring things to a cathartic resolution.
Related shows: MTV’s Suspect (made by the same people, also featuring Nev, similar set up)
Eye Candy (deals with online dating and its dangers)
First Dates (non-fiction, deals with dating and romance)
Air Date: 2003 – 2015
Network: Channel Four
Country of Origin: UK
Premise: This UK sitcom uses POV style to follow two hapless flatmates, with us both seeing things from their perspective and overhearing their inner thoughts. Starring double act Mitchell and Webb this show is one of my favourite sitcoms of all time.
Why it works for this category: This is a more grounded, and cynical, sitcom than Brooklyn Nine-Nine. However, the oddly loveable pair’s endless failures should make you feel better about your own life and worries, while giving you a good laugh. The episodes are around 30 minutes each and there are plenty to last you through a semester. The characters are selfish, awkward, petty, and not always particularly clever. It is hilarious to hear their brutally honest inner thoughts and watch them attempt to get what they want out of life, often in the most ill-advised ways. Throughout the show they continually get themselves in to the most awkward situations, providing a lot of entertainment. This should provide good distraction from your stresses. While the characters face a lot of stress themselves, particularly Mark, this is often work related, making the show a better fit for watching to relax after university, rather than after work. If it is a laugh you need after a long day then there aren’t many shows I would recommend higher than Peep Show.
Note: If second-hand embarrassment is something you don’t like in comedy, parts of this show might be difficult for you.
Related shows: That Mitchell and Webb Look (stars the same comedians, similar humour)
The Smoking Room (also stars Robert Webb, similar cynical characters trapped in bleak situations, similar humour)
Him and Her (sitcom also centres on a pair sharing a flat, similarly cynical)