As we’ve all realized, after our productive intentions fall flat on their face, there’s nothing like binge watching a season of an enthralling TV show to make an afternoon go by in the blink of an eye—and that goes double for afternoons spent on airplanes.
Let’s be honest, we all love travel but hate the actual “getting there” part. So we’ve put together a list of the perfect shows to distract you on your next flight, whether it’s a long-haul halfway around the world or a quick hop to the Caribbean. Mindless, leave-it-on-in-the-background entertainment need not apply—these are shows made to draw you in. [N.B. Because in-flight Wi-Fi isn’t standard (yet—get on it, airlines), we haven’t included any shows that need to be streamed, like Netflix or web series. These are all shows you can download to your device and watch in flight mode.]
Who’s it for? Mystery fans, sci-fi fans, fans of killer acting and amazing effects—because Orphan Black, for all that it draws you in from the first scene, is truly notable for the fact that star Tatiana Maslany plays, at last count, nine characters, many of whom often appear in scenes together. Saying too much more would spoil the twists and turns that will do the job of drawing you in and keeping you stuck, but trust us when we say that it’ll do the job.
How long is it? So far, there are two 10-episode seasons, so you can count on this one to get you through almost any non-stop flight on earth.
Who’s it for? Benedict Cumberbatch fans, first and foremost. But if you love mysteries and gorgeously-shot British television (and you should), Sherlock will be right up your alley. These clever updates will keep you guessing if you’re not familiar with Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories, and keep you looking for all the little nods to the source material if you are.
How long is it? As any Sherlock fan will tell you, the great tragedy is that there are only nine episodes so far. That said, each episode is nearly 90 minutes, giving you a respectable 13 1/2 hours of distraction. Flying from New York, that’ll last you to most of Europe and back.
Who’s it for? If you like your comedy tongue-in-cheek and your references very meta, you’re probably already watching Community, the little comedy that could (sort of). If not, are you in for a ride. With fast-paced dialogue and action, and genre-tribute episodes that have to be seen to be believed (you’ll never look at paintball the same way again), this is a ride that will keep you laughing until you’re lying out on the beach – if you can even put it down then.
How long is it? While it hasn’t quite hit fans’ stated goal of “six seasons and a movie,” its 97 episodes will last you a while. At standard sitcom length, that’s a bit more than 33 hours (though some would suggest you skip the short and subpar season four, bringing it down to more like 28 hours).
Who’s it for? Wait, you seriously don’t know about Downton Abbey, possibly the biggest British import since The Beatles? OK, we need a minute to process this information, but if you have any affection in your heart for any of Jane Austen’s novels, or the television and film adaptations, you’re probably the kind of person who will like Downton.
How long is it? Counting all of the Christmas specials (a charming British tradition U.S. shows should adopt immediately), there are 42 hour-long episodes (43 after Christmas of this year!). So yeah, it’ll last you a while. And if you do somehow run out of episodes, you can always watch Pride and Prejudice on your iPad again—we know it’s there, and Colin Firth’s lake scene will never not be wonderful.
How to Get Away With Murder
Who’s it for? People who want to know what their coworkers are talking about on Friday mornings. Flights are the perfect time to catch up on those shows you’ve been meaning to watch, especially before you’re too far behind, and HTGAWM fits the bill. Plus, watching Viola Davis is always a bit like seeing an acting master class.
How long is it? Not very, yet. It’s only at nine episodes so far, so the winter hiatus is a great opportunity to watch them all, especially if you’re stuck at the folks’ with nothing to do. And if you’re desperate for more, you can move onto Scandal and more of Shonda Rhimes’ wonderfulness.
Who’s it for? Anyone wondering what all the hype is about, fantasy fans, people who are good at blocking their screen from neighbors, because everything you’ve heard about the nudity on this one is true. Still, if you’re not sitting near any children (or, like, nuns), it’ll make the time fly faster than its dragons.
How long is it? About 40 hours, so if you’re going to be on a plane for your entire work week, you’re all set.
Who’s it for? Did you miss this cultural phenomenon/important step in the McConnaissance (that’s the McConaughey Renaissance, for those not in the know)? That’s OK, now’s your chance to catch up and join in the debate over whether Matthew McConaughey is a weirdly good actor or just weird. The addictive quality of the show will help.
How long is it? With eight one-hour episodes, this one will last you to the Caribbean and back, but you might be tempted to stay in your room and finish them all before hitting the pool.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Who’s it for? Joss Whedon (The Avengers) fans, people who wish True Blood had a little more high school drama, people who really miss the 1990s. Give it a couple of episodes; we’re confident you’ll fall for its (admittedly weird) charm.
How long is it? 144 episodes (and that’s before we get into the spin-off series). Even the longest of airport layovers is no match for Buffy.
Who’s it for? People looking for a higher class of police procedural show. People who just love good television. People who want to watch what is possibly the best show ever made. A warning – you will probably have to pay a bit more attention than you would to some of the other shows on this list.
How long is it? Fans would say not long enough. But with 60 episodes, it’ll get you where you need to go, and you might even want to re-watch it on the way back.
As far as what not to watch? Anything involving planes (in the sky or on the ground) should be ruled out—even if it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, there are people around you who might be bothered. Same goes for shows with a lot of violence, or anything controversial. And of course, any movie or show known for its amazing special effects is going to suffer by being played on a small screen 30,000 feet above the earth.
What’s your favorite show to binge-watch in flight, or your best tip to help the time go by?