At some point last spring, The Wife and I were looking for something to watch, and while scrolling through our options on Netflix, New Girl caught our eye. It was like running into an old friend in the grocery store and both of us couldn’t help but smile at the sight of those lovable L.A. loft-dwellers.
We had already watched the show from beginning to end, but after being reunited with our old friend, we realized how much we’d missed it. Aside from occasionally catching an episode while browsing aimlessly through the channels, New Girl had been largely absent from our lives aside from GIFs of Nick Miller, a character responsible for a treasure trove of reactions for every possible situation.
Given the state of the world, revisiting a fun, easy-to-watch comedy made almost too much sense and it turned out to be the perfect remedy. We made our way through all seven seasons at a fairly brisk pace, and for the most part, it held up. Yes, some episodes didn’t hit the same way a second time around, but all things considered, it was a pretty good time.
It was a bit of a commitment, as New Girl was a network show that churned out 146 episodes over the course of its run. This meant many of them (especially from early on) were a distant memory and there were some that had been erased from my brain entirely; for example, I had totally forgotten Olivia Munn had a brief run at one point, and as someone who considers themselves an avid Munnologist, I felt incredibly ashamed.
Considering the ample amount of time I’ve had on my hands, New Girl isn’t the only show I’ve recently rewatched, and after revisiting some other programs that have aired over the past decade or so, I figured I’d share what I’ve learned with anyone else thinking about revisiting some of the most notable programs to come out over that span of time.
What Are The Most Rewatchable Television Shows?
I’d like to tell you that I came up with some super complicated algorithm to figure out which shows are the most objectively rewatchable, but that would be a lie. If you want that, I’m sure The Ringer has you covered. Instead, I developed a highly scientific scale to determine how well they hold up:
- Level 5: Super, Super Rewatchable
- Level 4: Very Rewatchable
- Level 3: Moderately Engaging
- Level 2: Hit Or Miss
Level 1: Wasting Everyone’s Time
Let’s do this.
Rewatchability Level: 4
See? I told you there’s a Nick Miller GIF for every situation.
The characters on New Girl are likable and the actors who portray them have great chemistry. The also show does a good job mixing up their various interactions to prevent things from getting too stale.
If you haven’t guessed by now, Nick Miller is easily the M.V.P. of New Girl, and there are more than a few episodes he’s able to save just by being in them. However, you also have a reason to care about all five main characters, and while each of them grows and matures in their own way over the seasons, the show’s overall dynamic is never really disrupted. It did get a little close to running off of the rails toward the end, but it never derailed entirely, which is impressive when you consider it lasted as long as it did.
Rewatchability Level: 4
I don’t want to get into a discussion concerning what’s the best show to come out of the past ten years, but it seems like the general consensus is that Breaking Bad has earned that title. With that said, I do want to discuss how rewatchable it really is.
Breaking Bad has definitely stood the test of time, and giving it another look really helps you appreciate the tightness of the storytelling and just how expertly the entire world and story was constructed. There’s something special about diving back into the pilot knowing how things are going to unfold and being able to spot certain clues and subtle touches you missed along the way (which is the case for most of these).
However, Breaking Bad falls just short of the top rating here, as part of what made it so damn good was the element of surprise that’s gone once you wrap everything up for the first time. You’re just not going to feel how you originally did when, say, Hank finally gets wise to Walt or when Walt subsequently watches Hank get murdered. The entertainment value will still be there, but some of those emotional tugs won’t be and that’s a shame.
It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s part of what keeps the show from attaining a coveted 5.
Rewatchability Level: 3
There was a unique density to Mad Men, a show that had layers and even more layers under those layers, which made it a little difficult to digest upon your first watch. Diving back into Mad Men is like reading a good book for the second time; it’s more about the journey as opposed to the destination.
Like Breaking Bad, there’s no doubt Mad Men holds up. The same cannot be said for Roger Sterling appearing in blackface, but hey, nothing’s perfect (in fairness, it makes sense in the context and serves as a commentary concerning attitudes during the time period where the show’s events unfold, but I digress).
However, Mad Men was a bit of a slog at times when it originally aired, and that doesn’t magically change when you give it another shot. There were not just episodes but chunks of entire seasons that dragged a bit too much in the same way The Sopranos did when it went all-in on Tony’s dream sequences (and don’t even get me started on Vito’s New Hampshire excursion).
Mad Men was a monster when it wanted to be, but unfortunately, it lacked the consistency needed to get it to a higher level of rewatchability. It does have some great suits, though.
Rewatchability Level: 4
The Office is basically synonymous with “rewatchability” at this point, and when you consider the monster numbers it put up on Netflix, it should come as no surprise that NBC decided to bet the house on it in the hopes people will flock to Peacock. Hell, I remembered devouring it when TBS ran a chunk of episodes every Tuesday before it took streaming by storm, and there are some I’ve seen more times than I can count that I still haven’t gotten tired of.
As a result, you might be wondering why it ended up with a 4 instead of a 5. The answer? Because you can’t ignore the Post-Michael Scott Era no matter how much you wish you could forget it. There are five episodes at most that were filmed after Steve Carrell left the show that are worth watching, and the finale is the only one I’d actually go out of my way to revisit.
If you want to get a 5, you need to be rewatchable from start to finish, and if The Office had ended after the seventh season, that would be the case. Unfortunately, it didn’t, so it’s not.
Parks and Recreation
Rewatchability Level: 4
Parks and Recreation is an interesting show, as the first season is largely considered its worst, meaning some people will never rewatch it because they can’t even make it through the first order of episodes. It was obviously trying to replicate the success of The Office by following a similar formula, but it didn’t really come into its own until realizing setting itself apart from its predecessor was the key to success.
Once Parks and Rec managed to get its act together, it struck gold. Creator Michael Schur staunchly believes comedy can be funny without being cruel, and it’s hard to find a better example than this. Sure, Jerry might not agree, but it’s easily one of the most wholesome shows of the new millennium and featured one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory.
That regrettable first season is the primary reason Parks and Rec gets a 4, but you also can’t overlook some of its weaker episodes—especially in the later seasons. In a lot of cases, you’d be better off just watching a supercut of Ron Swanson’s best moments on YouTube as opposed to committing an entire one (which, in general, is just an objectively great way to spend your time).
The Good Place
Rewatchability Level: 3
This is our last Michael Schur show. I promise.
As I said, Schur used Parks and Recreation to show people comedies didn’t need to be full of merciless assholes to be funny. He stepped his game up with The Good Place, where he attempted to make high-arching philosophical concepts amusing and accessible while also proving you can make a mystery box-style serialization in a sitcom setting (and it’s safe to say he nailed it).
The Good Place made you think, made you laugh, made you contemplate the meaning of life and the difference between being a good person and being a bad one, and made you realize (or remember) just how great Ted Danson is all at once.
However, it could also be a lot to handle. I respect the many philosophical and ethical elements The Good Place incorporated, but they also made it a little too heavy at times. Sometimes, you just want to laugh as opposed to thinking about whether you’d kill one person to save five while laughing.
Game of Thrones
Rewatchability Level: 2
Hi, my name is Ryan and I get angry thinking about the last season of Game of Thrones at least once a week. I want to get over it. I really do. But I can’t, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to any time soon.
The end of Game of Thrones isn’t one of those “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed” situations; I’m still mad and disappointed with how everything ultimately played out. If I ever ran into David Benioff or D.B. Weiss, I think I would just shake my head in disgust and try to squeeze out a fart I could waft in their general direction.
For a while there, Game of Thrones was on a roll. It had so much going for it and almost all of it ended up being squandered. Really, Tyrion? Bran has the best story? Really???
Again, there’s always an applicable Nick Miller GIF.
I’m not here to wax poetic about the dismal returns of what was once considered to be one of the most impressive shows of this century. I could, but this entry would end up being three times as long as this article. In the end, Game of Thrones finds itself at Level 2 because despite a handful of incredibly rewatchable episodes—the Battle of Blackwater, the Red Wedding, the attack on Hardhomme—they don’t make up for the shit sandwich we were served in the end.
Rewatchability Level: 3
I debated whether or not I should even include this, because I feel like there’s a good chance most people reading this haven’t seen The Americans for the first time. Much like I’ll never get over the ending of Game of Thrones or the Red Sox trading Mookie Betts, I’ll always be salty about this show not getting the respect (nor the number of viewers) it deserves.
If you were one of the blessed souls who did watch The Americans, you should know that it’s a solid 3 when it comes to a rewatch. Like Mad Men, it spent some time meandering in the fog and spinning its wheels, and while it probably comes closer to being a 4 than AMC’s period piece, it just doesn’t have what it needs to get there.
The Americans also finds itself dealing with the same problem Breaking Bad encountered, as not knowing what was going to happen was what made it so intriguing in the first place. The mystery of the ultimate fate of Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings was the primary draw, and the show did a fantastic job making the audience increasingly uncomfortable by teasing a number of possible outcomes.
However, once you know what that outcome was, it loses some of its luster.
Rewatchability Level: 5
The moment we’ve all been waiting for has arrived! We’ve got a Level 5 and we’ve all got Veep to thank!
Veep is a comedic wrecking ball; a devastating tornado of political satire that never let up and never took an episode off. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it ended up adding even more talent to somehow make it more formidable and enjoyable, and while it ended perfectly after a great seven seasons, having to say goodbye was incredibly bittersweet.
With that said, I’d much rather see a show ride into the sunset when it still has command of its fastball as opposed to losing its velocity and transforming into a shell of its former self (I’m looking at you, The Office).
My god! Nick Miller does it again!
Part of what makes Veep so rewatchable is that everything happens so damn fast. Jokes on that show came with a speed and frequency that made it easy to miss a lot of them. There was also the amazing and subtle interplay between characters; the looks they’d give to each other or reactions they had when someone said or did something. Much like Arrested Development or 30 Rock, the joke-per-minute ratio was off the charts, but I’d argue Veep did it better than any other.
When you revisit Veep, you almost feel like you’re watching it for the first time again thanks to all of the things you discover while rediscovering it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, which is why I gave it the gift of the highest honor a show can receive.
That’s about all I’ve g—wait, what’s that? A lightning round?!?!?
Goddammit, Nick Miller. You really are the man.
Friday Night Lights: Level 4
Maybe just skip some parts of season two.
Community: Level 3
Community isn’t for everyone, and your time could be put to better use even if it was for you.
Boardwalk Empire: Level 3
So much potential that sadly never panned out.
Fleabag: Level 5
Short, sweet, and simply fantastic.
Justified: Level 3
Even if you’re not a Timothy Olyphant Superfan like myself, you’ll still have a pretty good time.
Schitt’s Creek: Level 5
It just gets better the longer it goes (that’s what she said).
Alright, that’s definitely all I’ve got.