This past summer, I did a Powerpoint presentation at my ex-boyfriend’s comedy show about our breakup. I didn’t want to write about it here because I’m now embarrassed by it. But then I realized that I have no other firm explanation as to why I should be consulted as an authority on what content to consume after experiencing a major heartbreak.
So here’s my best stab at it: You should trust me to tell you which TV shows to watch after going through a breakup because, for the life of me, I cannot remember what I watched after my near-two-year relationship fell apart. I don’t even know if I did much watching or processing at all; I think I just dove head-first into cataloguing every feeling and figuring out how to frame them for an audience’s consumption.
Reader, I wouldn’t recommend it.
I guess what I’m saying is that you should consider me a cautionary tale and heed my warnings. Perhaps a much healthier way to deal with your breakup — than, say, documenting the entire thing and turning it into a joke, therefore obscuring all real feelings so they hit you like a truck in therapy two months later — is to watch a TV show that meets your specific heartbreak needs. So I’ve decided on eight different breakup circles of hell and prescribed eight different TV shows to get you through them, because nine was too many. Anyway. It gets better. Just binge through it. Here goes.
Friday Night Lights, for the Standard breakup
I started watching Friday Night Lights in 2014 after a bad breakup with a guy who, looking back, mostly hated me as a person. We had no business being together, but he was tall and I was aggressively emotionally available to anyone who was tall. I was also 23 years old. Friday Night Lights ruled as a balm for that run-of-the-mill heartbreak because, as it is a teen drama, it’s filled with dozens of heartbreaks per episode: breakups, divorces, cheating scandals, and, of course, football and bodily harm. Connie Britton’s hair is excellent. Kyle Chandler is a hot dad with heart. Taylor Kitsch is a hot football-playing bad boy and Jesse Plemons really comes into his own. Here, there’s a lot to watch with which to distract yourself, but it’s not empty. Clear eyes. Broken heart. Full queue. Can’t lose. Etc.
Planet Earth, for the “World-shattering, So Bad That You Hate People Now” breakup
Getting stoned and watching Planet Earth is nearly a collegiate American pastime. But getting stoned and watching Planet Earth as a means to distract yourself from the chaos human beings create when they choose to merge their lives in the name of love only to ultimately hurt one another as they rip free of the toxic bonds they’ve created while they blindly forge through their relatively meaningless existences on this overwhelmingly large planet? Now that’s what I call a universal human experience! Folks! Am I right?
Please Like Me, for the “Knocked-on-Your-Ass, Time to Start Fresh” breakup
Please Like Me is an incredible show. It’s wry and funny and, sorry, millennial and very real. Creator, star, and writer Josh Thomas plays the lead, a guy named Josh who goes through a tough breakup with his girlfriend only to realize that he’s gay. And pretty aimless. And … very confused and un-soothed about what to do next. Josh is one of the most relatable protagonists — if not the most — for millennials, in my humble opinion, because he’s truly, earnestly fumbling through every step of his life as he desperately tries to make it seem as if he’s got at least one or two things figured out. His parents are trying, but they also wreak havoc on his psyche. It’s dark in a way that makes its lightness hit harder, which is just me trying to explain the goodness of anything branded as “real.” Finally, it’s Australian, which is always fun to listen to for those of us who are not also Australian.
Noah’s Arc, for the “Everything Was a Little Messy” breakup
You’re gonna have to shell out to buy Noah’s Arc on Prime Video because of the crime against humanity that is Noah’s Arc not streaming on Hulu or Netflix or Amazon or wherever the fuck. Noah’s Arc is a paradise of potential. It’s a cult-fave show that’s essentially a black, gay Sex and the City, focused on four men living in early 2000s West Hollywood — but that description doesn’t really do it justice. The show is drama-filled and corny-joke-packed, just like SATC, but its heart beats with the love shared between messy friends in a way that transcends the SATC framework. And these four are so, so wonderfully messy. Messier than Carrie could ever “couldn’t help but wonder” to be. Maybe it’s just a fun show — period! — and I’m sitting here romanticizing it in order to shoe-horn it into this list because I really want more people to watch Noah’s Arc. Oh well! Joy is important. Moving on.
You, for the Yikes, I’ve Been Nice Guy’ed breakup
You is a show in which Penn Badgley plays a psycho, Joe, who operates as a Very Nice Guy and manipulates a beautiful blonde writer-who-doesn’t-really-write, Beck, into a long-term relationship with him. It’s a psychosexual thriller with campy dialogue Ryan Murphy wishes he wrote. Shay Mitchell plays Peach Salinger (yes, that Salinger, LOL) and delivers bonkers ass lines that will have you thinking “Wow, did someone write this down? Is this real?” And thank God, they did. And it is. We must watch You to remember that nice guys who love books are sometimes psycho, even when they are hot.
Fleabag, for the “Deeper Shit Was Going On” breakup
Fleabag is maybe my favorite show of all time. As someone who is often called “too depressing,” it is very much my shit. If you’ve been dealing with some demons common to the human experience — heartbreak, loss, grief, staring into the void and laughing as you sob, wondering if it’s all meaningless and if you are, in fact, a fraud who’s undeserving of experiencing anything but fleeting feelings and crushing emptiness — well then, friend, I have a show for you!
Fleabag is pretty universally known as a critical darling, so much so that singing its praises feels pointless, but here goes: Phoebe Waller Bridge is a genius, the nameless protagonist of Fleabag often turns to camera and plainly states darkly comical shit that will make you feel Seen, and the show’s characters and its soundtrack (written by Isobel Waller-Bridge, Phoebe’s sister!) are both delightfully frantic in their expressions of feelings. I sound stupid. It’s great. Just trust me.
Eighty-Sixed, for the Hypersocial Young Person’s breakup
Eighty-Sixed is a web series — sorry, not truly a show — written by Elisa Kalani and Cazzie David, who are my friends (sorry again) but I saw it before we were friends and therefore I feel comfortably un-hacky enough to say that I love it, especially if you’re young and craving attention post-breakup. It’s a show about young 20-something Remi (played by David) and her quest to get herself over a breakup in the classic, most self-defeating way: by winning. Remi is refreshing, lacking any discernible chill. It’s quick watch, but it’s jam-packed with the foibles of an Instagram-obsessed generation: everyone clamoring to be perceived as happy and hot and not-too-online while acknowledging that we all know we’re participating in one massive brain-breaking lie. I highly recommend you view the third episode, Tight Vagina Melissa, for a good dose of “it could be worse.” Begging to be fingered in the name of moving on? Could. Be. Worse.
Vanderpump Rules, for the “Just Fucking Distract Me With a Shiny Hell” breakup
If the rest of my recommendations were a bit much, please look no further than Vanderpump Rules. On the surface, it’s a reality show about hot 20-something, Hollywood hopeful waiters in Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Lisa Vanderpump’s West Hollywood restaurant, SUR Restaurant, which stands for Sexy Unique Restaurant, which means the establishment’s name is actually Sexy Unique Restaurant Restaurant. But just below the surface lies the best writing on television, a fresh hell of hot bodies writhing in an evil psychosexual competition for the success that lies in Hollywood’s low middle tier of “being a working actor or model.” It’s incredible. Take my word for it, I beg you. It will make you forget anything you want to forget. Start with season two, episode 13, then work backward and then work forward. Or don’t. Stay bitter forever. Hate me, even. Whatever works, man.