tis the season

Now’s the Time to Start Watching a Really Long TV Show

Photo: Vivian Zink/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

What is to be done about winter gloom? You could get one of those SAD lamps. You could start a new exercise routine. You could learn a new skill. All these things are “good for you” and will help keep your mind alert even when it’s pitch black at 5 p.m. If that’s what you want to do, congrats on being perfect. For those of us who have little interest in bettering ourselves and just want to make it to spring in one piece, I have a suggestion: Start a really long TV show.

For the past few years, I have spent each winter becoming obsessed with a long-running TV show. It started in 2020, when I needed a project to distract myself from the loneliness of spending a pre-vaccine holiday season mostly alone. I tried to get into knitting. I was briefly enamored with making little beaded necklaces. And then, I decided to hit play on the pilot of Grey’s Anatomy.

Those horned-up doctors were my best friends for the next few months. I would finish my work for the day, begrudgingly take my mental-health walk, and return home to watch Grey’s Anatomy for about four hours straight. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this behavior to someone who is not experiencing the combination of a global pandemic and weather that precludes them from hanging out in a park. That being said, mainlining the successes and failures of the fresh-faced doctors at Seattle Grace Hospital provided something similar to a hobby and kept my brain active enough to get to spring intact.

I made it through almost seven seasons of Grey’s that winter. In case you’re curious, I tapped out at the musical episode — the sun had begun to shine again, and watching Ellen Pompeo sing “How to Save a Life” while performing surgery was where I had to draw the line. This does bring me to two crucial aspects of a show you choose for your Winter Project Show (WPS). It should have a lot of episodes, and it should not be so good that you feel the need to finish it.

You should not, for example, pick Mad Men as your WPS. That’s a show that asks too much of your mushy brain. You do not need to contemplate the cyclical trauma of the parent-child relationship whilst being plunged into darkness in the midafternoon. You also shouldn’t plunge into the Bravo-verse, as every Housewives franchise is unending and your WPS should provide you with the hard out of a series finale. Instead, you should pick something from Shonda Rhimes’s big three. There’s Grey’s, of course, but having also done January binges of How to Get Away With Murder and Scandal, I can wholeheartedly recommend those as well.

What is great about the Shondaland shows is that the longer they go on, the more wild they get — meaning that when you are in that period of winter where you fear the sun might never return, your WPS is reaching peak insanity and you have no choice but to continue on. If you time a Scandal watch just right, you’ll be at your lowest when Olivia Pope kills someone with a chair.

If Shonda isn’t your jam, I have some more recommendations. They are all network TV shows, because for this to work, you need 45-minute episodes, and you need somewhere around 100 of them.

Gossip Girl and The O.C. are great if you want to regress back to your teenage years (perfect for a visit to your parents’ house). Vampire Diaries is for those who like to look at hot people but really don’t care about whether or not a show “makes sense.” House is for people who want a doctor show but think Grey’s Anatomy has too much sex and not enough medical mystery. Law & Order: SVU has approximately 10,000 episodes, but it got really bad in 2020, and it’s copaganda. Only pull the trigger on that one if you are in an extremely dark place.

Winter can be really hard on the ol’ brain. As we move into a new year, do not let the pressure of “New Year, new you” worm its way into you. You do not need to become a wholly optimized person by the time January ends. Sometimes you just need to keep your head down until the sun comes back. If that’s the case, start watching a long-ass TV show. It’s the lazy person’s way of creating a routine, but it’s a routine nonetheless. If you want to go nuts, maybe take up another hobby at the same time. You could crochet while you watch. I’ve heard that goes great with four episodes of Suits.

Now’s the Time to Start Watching a Really Long TV Show