Five of the Best Shows to Watch When You’re Home Sick

Brought to you by (a writer on) Dayquil

If there’s one thing synonymous with being home in bed, it’s the array of sub par daytime programming at your disposal. I write this currently on Day 2 of a wretched cold/fever/body meltdown, and it took all of five minutes yesterday for me to realize that the casually ill of the world are no longer relegated to Judge Judy.

The paradigm of what we can watch at any moment has rapidly evolved from the 1990’s, when a day away from class meant being at the mercy of Nickelodeon. With the advent of TiVo, Bittorrent, and the iTunes library, any show one could possibly hanker to watch is merely a click away.

However, not every show is appropriate for the congested viewer. You need something that can withstand frequent nose blows, bathroom breaks, inadvertent naps and a wavering attention span. With these limitations in mind, I present five television shows perfect to see you through a sick day.

5. Any version of Law & Order


We all need a little Ice-T on a sick day


We start with a bit of a gimme, given that some form of Law & Order has been a benchmark of basic cable since the beginning of time. Still, the crime procedural has been a staple of sick-at-home viewing for a reason. The plots are cookie-cutter, the high stakes make for compelling viewing, and it’s the kind of show that lends itself to marathon sessions. Without meaning to sound insensitive, there is also a certain pleasure derived from watching horrible crimes committed and thinking, well, at least I don’t feel that bad.


4. Top Chef

In the newest episode, they had to cook food in a moving ski gondola. A freaking gondola!


The worst part about Top Chef is salivating over all the amazing food the contestants whip up. The best part of Top Chef when sick? You can’t taste, and thus don’t care. I personally think Top Chef is the best reality show on television, both because the competitors have an actual talent and produce a quality product, and because it appeals to both genders equally. If reality television is your preferred sick day viewing product, kick things up a notch and let Padma and Tom nitpick their way through a season’s worth of delicacies. [Not recommended for those with a stomach virus]


3. The Twilight Zone


A typically weird and awesome shot from The Twilight Zone


You’re already feeling somewhat otherworldly, so why not give in and send your brain on a true crash course to confusion? The Twilight Zone is great because each episode is separate, they give you that Nick-at-Nite nostalgia for watching something old but they don’t suck. At all. Quite the opposite, many of these episodes are legitimately creepy. So if you’re sitting in a dark room feeling like an alien already, go all the way and get your Rod Sterling on.


2. Planet Earth/Life/Blue Planet






Endless hours of this









When in doubt, go with the nature documentary. While there used to be something in the vein of these shows on basic cable, the stakes set by these three series have been raised considerably. Watching crazy slo-mo shots of tigers fighting or frogs leaping insane distances requires no thinking beyond your eyeballs and a sense of medicated wonderment. Each of the three shows listed above have enough episodes to fill a day and then some. For the truly bored, play Nature Series Bingo, and see how many times you can spot a 5 x 5 listing of creatures.


1. The Simpsons

Television’s royal family


You know the characters, you know the world. You’ll never turn on an episode and exclaim, “dammit, I haven’t seen the one before this.” The Simpsons works as the ideal sick day show because each episode is self-contained, funny and familiar. The plot arcs are predictable, so if you miss four minutes here and there, you’re sure to be able to pick the story right back up. More importantly is the humor. I can’t in good conscious call The Simpsons the funniest show on TV at the moment, but there are a wave of great shows currently vying for that title that can come off as a touch ‘cerebral’ for the casual, feverish viewer.  That’s the best part of Homer and his crew: the jokes aren’t (all) dumb, but you’ll get them without overextending the thinking muscle you’re trying to rest.

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  1. I’d like to add the Taboo show on National Geographic Channel. Also, shows from Investigation Discovery such as Behind Mansion Walls, Deadly Women, Who The (Bleep) Did I Marry?, etc.

  2. Totally with you on the Simpson’s. But I only watch the golden era (seasons 3-10) on dvd. Nothing makes me feel better than watching that show. Well that and Aladdin. What can I say, when I’m sick I want some good old fashioned cartoons.

  3. If you’re going to recommend a show that died in the 90’s (I refuse to call anything beyond that ‘The Simpsons’ since it has degraded so far) why not make it Seinfeld? I think that would be a much better choice at number one.

  4. I Work Nights and the best thing is L&O and CSI, shows you can watch without having to follow a plot and can leave the episode for 10mins and then sitt down and watch like you never left.

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