TV can be very comforting to come home to after a day of work, particularly if you work in a stressful field or one you are not passionate about. When you come home tired, stressed or fed up it can be nice to treat yourself to great fiction to keep your thoughts positive or re-charge your energy. The shows that I have found useful for relaxing after work have tended to differ slightly from those that are useful for relaxing after university. While after university it can be best to watch something that won’t tempt you to keep watching after a couple of episodes, after work I have tended to gravitate towards shows I can marathon, since I have no work or studying to do when I get home. This means that shows with ongoing story arcs are more suited for this than after university. If you have a job that requires you to prepare outside of work then the suggestions for after university might suit you better.
Shows that allow you to escape into their story and encourage marathon viewing are great for getting your mind off of any negativity associated with your work. Alternatively if you do enjoy your job then these types of shows can also work as a treat for having put in good work for the day. I have found shows that allow me some escapism or are light-hearted are the best for relaxing after work. Sometimes worrying about the fate of a character in a fictional struggle helps to displace and bring a resolution to the feelings of worry I have for myself. With all of that in mind here are some suggestions;
Air Date: 2008 – 2013
Country of Origin: US
Genre: Science Fiction
Premise: Fringe centres on a team who are part of a fictional Fringe Division of the FBI. The team investigates odd sci-fi events and use a mixture of fringe science and FBI techniques to try to discover the truth. This show has an interesting and flawed team of characters and features fascinating, thrilling and at times scary sci-fi cases for them to investigate. The show begins as a case of the week science fiction procedural, but progresses into a more story arc based series.
Why it works for this category: Even in its case of the week early form it is extremely addictive and easy to marathon. Finding out the truth behind the mysterious events is always engaging, with lots of fun twists as the team investigates. There are many action packed episodes with thrilling scenes of the team trying to save civilians from insane events. All of this makes Fringe science fiction escapism at its best. This is a good show to sit down and get lost in, as the mysteries and action let you forget about work and concentrate on something more fun. The series has darker elements running through it, and so is sad at times, but the pace is rarely slow so it remains a good show to watch if you are exhausted and want to relax.
Note: The show can occasionally be scary, but has more in common with the type of horror you would see in The X -Files, rather than American Horror Story or Supernatural. The portrayal of Walter’s condition can be upsetting and his character does have fairly dark plotlines at times.
Related shows: The X -Files (team investigates strange science fiction occurrences)
The Lost Room (similar fast pace, odd science fiction events, investigation plotline)
Charlie Jade (investigation of science fiction elements, similar world building)
Air Date: 2006 – 2013
Country of Origin: US
Genre: Horror, Drama
Premise: Based off a series of novels, Dexter follows a blood spatter analyst as he tries to keep his secret life as a serial killer away from the suspicion of the police department he works for. Each season follows Dexter attempting to satiate his need to kill by following his father’s moral code of only taking out those who deserve to die. He does all of this while investigating murders, the perpetrators of which will often become his targets, and trying to remain unsuspected by both his colleagues and especially his sister, who happens to be a tenacious and moral detective.
Why it works for this category: If you want to use a show to work through stress by seeing it lived through on TV, to completely escape your stress by worrying about fictional characters instead, or simply to get caught up in an exciting show to reward yourself for hard work, then Dexter may well be a perfect fit. There aren’t many shows I would class in the same league as early seasons of Dexter when it comes to being on the edge of your seat, focused completely on the fictional world and desperately needing to see the next episode. If you need to take your mind off work, or want something you can look forward to marathoning when you get home then this show could be the perfect fit. If you feel sick of your colleagues Dexter’s inner monologue about his colleagues may well be extra fun for you, though of course his behaviour or actions can’t be recommended.
Note: There is some gore, a lot of blood, and many images of murder, bodies and the disposal of bodies. However, if you have enjoyed The Walking Dead, Hannibal, or even CSI then you are unlikely to find it too excessive.
There is a lot of tension in the show, particularly in relation to Dexter trying to evade getting caught, so if seeing tense scenes make you feel more anxious or if that is not a tone you enjoy then this show likely won’t be for you. However, while the show is very tense, it is never full on horror.
While I think the early seasons of Dexter are some of the best television I’ve watched, it can’t be denied that the show peaks at season 4. I still enjoyed season 5 and 6, and would still recommend watching those, but I would not blame anyone for stopping after season 6.
Related shows: Hannibal (serial killer character, cat and mouse game with police)
Mr Robot (anti-social lead character, inner monologue, criminal activity linked to moral cause)
Prison Break (very tense episodes, cat and mouse game with authorities)
Person of Interest
Air Date: 2011 – 2016
Country of Origin: US
Genre: Action, Drama, Procedural, Science Fiction
Premise: Person of Interest is a show I started watching back when it first aired simply because I missed Lost, and Michael Emerson was in it. Plus with Jonathan Nolan involved I figured it could be a fun procedural. What I never would have expected is that it would grow to be one of my favourite science fiction shows of all time, or just how sci-fi it would become. The show begins with a presumed dead ex-CIA agent being recruited by a mysterious rich software genius to stop violent crimes before they happen. What the show turns into is a tightly paced thriller exploring the nature of artificial intelligence, morality, and humanity. While the first season’s case of the week procedural is fun and action packed, the show becomes something really special once it moves beyond that.
Why it works for this category: If you want to be sucked into a plot that’ll keep you gripped and stop you from thinking about work, then Person of Interest is a fantastic choice. The first season will let you get to know the characters and set up the world, then you will be flung into an unexpectedly grounded and engaging battle for humanity. The ongoing arcs will keep you desperate to find out how the team is going to survive, which makes the show fun to marathon. The moral questions and the mysteries the show poses should keep you thinking long after you finish watching an episode. This show is particularly suited to taking your mind off of work by getting lost in the action, mysteries and moral dilemmas. If nothing else then there are far worse ways to unwind after work than watching some badass men and women take down the bad guys with as much style and thrills as they do in Person of Interest.
Note: The plot can occasionally be dense so if you are particularly tired then a more lightweight show might be more suited.
Related shows: Mr Robot (computer hacking features prominently, conspiracies, powerful networks behind events)
Fringe (team dedicated to helping humanity in secret)
Rubicon (conspiracy, secret networks behind events)
Air Date: 2006 – 2015
Country of Origin: US
Premise: On the surface Community is about a group of community college students who end up in a Spanish study group together. However, it is impressively much more than that. If you are a fan of pop culture references, particularly geeky ones, then there is no better sitcom at it than Community. Whether it is witty references within episodes, or episodes themed around cult films, common fictional tropes or whole genres, Community is a master at it.
Why it works for this category: Sometimes dramas aren’t the best fit for after work watching, particularly on especially stressful days. If you need a proper pick me up then Community’s positivity and warm message of friendship is sure to help. The episodes are easy to watch one after the other, with most being excellent with a lot of re-watch value. The themed episodes are a particular highlight, which I have re-watched often when I’ve been stressed and they always help me feel better. Themed episodes include a My Dinner With Andre episode, several episodes featuring a paintball competition each in a different genre, a zombie Halloween episode, a sci-fi space adventure, an episode taking the form of an 8-bit video game, a gangster film episode, an episode exploring the trope of clip episodes, and many more. Even if you don’t get every reference there is a great joy to such well-done writing. When you do get the reference it feels special, like an inside joke the show had just for you, and when you don’t then it gives you something to discover, which may lead you to something new you may love. I have a lot of respect for Community, not just as a well written sitcom, but as a show unafraid to make niche references, and in doing so create original, fresh comedy. On top of that, the show has some wonderfully loveable characters that will feel like old friends by the time you’re finished. All of this makes Community a perfect pick to cheer you up or de-stress you after work.
Note: There is a slight dip in quality after the creator, Dan Harmon, was fired from the show, but I still found the show to be great fun and enjoyed his return to the show for the next season.
Related shows: Spaced (geeky references, sitcom around a group of unlikely friends)
Other Space (geeky sci-fi sitcom, diverse cast, group of unlikely friends)
Better Off Ted (geeky humour and characters, very light-hearted, similar tone)
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Air Date: 2013 – Present
Country of Origin: US
Genre: Science Fiction, Superhero, Action
Premise: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. follows the titular agents who investigate and contain threats, superhero or alien, in the world that we see in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Coulson, who played a part in the films up until The Avengers, leads the central team in the TV series. The show deals with things both new and those recognisable from the comics, while incorporating major events from the movies. The link to the movies is for the most part minor though, as the show stands on its own and has its own conflicts to deal with.
Why it works for this category: I find the superhero genre to be one of the best when it comes to escaping from real life stresses and just letting myself be sucked into some fun action and fantastical situations. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has given me this experience in spades. While it may have started slow, stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with incredibly entertaining action sequences, loveable badass characters, interesting villains and some very fun superpowers. I look forward to this show every week when it’s on and it never fails to cheer me up when I’m stressed. There are plenty of mysteries and cliff-hangers to keep you engaged and let you think about things other than work. However, the best thing about this show is just how unabashedly fun it is, making it brilliant for cheering yourself up. The characters are very loveable and will grow to be comfortingly familiar. This could be a perfect show to get lost in if you like superheroes, action, sci-fi gadgets, light-hearted spy stories, badass female characters, or all of the above.
Note: The first half of season one drags a little, which is understandable in retrospect, because of what they were building to but unable to reveal until after Captain America: The Winter Soldier had been released in cinemas. So I would encourage viewers to give the show the benefit of the doubt and enjoy getting to know the characters in the knowledge that once you get to the episodes released after Captain America: The Winter Soldier the show becomes significantly better. Additionally, if you are a big fan of the superhero genre purely for the powers then you may be initially disappointed as this is a smaller part of early seasons. However, if you stick with it the powers become a big feature later on.
Related shows: Marvel’s Agent Carter (same world, similar fun and fast paced feel, team saving humanity in secret)
Torchwood (team investigating alien and fantastical threats, team saving humanity in secret)
Heroes (ordinary people having to cope with gaining superpowers)
Jane the Virgin
Air Date: 2014 – Present
Network: The CW
Country of Origin: US
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy
Premise: Jane the Virgin has a premise that sounds utterly ridiculous but the show manages to make it work, mainly through its combination of comedy and telenovela tropes. Jane, convinced by her grandmother that virginity makes a woman pure, is waiting until marriage to have sex with her fiancé. A medical mistake tarnishes her plans when she is accidentally artificially inseminated while at the doctors. Jane must then deal with her newfound status as a pregnant virgin.
Why it works for this category: Jane the Virgin makes for great entertainment and is about as light-hearted as it comes. Playing with the common elements of telenovelas Jane the Virgin is filled with exaggerated and convoluted family drama, crimes and romance. The show creates great fun from these elements, both in acknowledging how ridiculous they are with use of an often sarcastic narrator, and in embracing them for all the insane levels of fun they bring. The show is addictive and easy to marathon with dramatic twists at every turn and a lot of well-done humour. The cast is very likeable, and it is easy to get whisked up in the melodrama and forget about your real life worries. The light-hearted nature of the show makes it ideal to relax to, as while there is drama in the show it is exaggerated enough to be far from dark. This is a good show to cheer yourself up with, and you’ll find yourself distracted from your own worries while you wish for the best for Jane.
Related shows: Pushing Daisies (romance plot, narrator used for comic effect, similar light-hearted and fun tone)
You’re Beautiful (over-the top romance plot used for comedy, love triangle)
Arrested Development (narrator used for comic effect, exaggerated events and characters)