6 Harmlessly Brainless Netflix Instant Shows To Stream While You're Multi-Tasking
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6 Harmlessly Brainless Netflix Instant Shows To Stream While You're Multi-Tasking

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | May 3, 2013 | Comments ()

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There are thousands of hours of television available on Netflix Instant Watch that you should watch. And there at least a few hundred hours I would recommend you watch before the following six. (“Parenthood” “Being Human” (UK) “Friday Night Lights” “Alias” “Raising Hope” “Luther” “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” “Damages” “Lost” “Top Of The Lake” “Twin Peaks” “Coupling” (UK) “Terriers” “Breaking Bad” “The League” “The West Wing” “Louie” just to name several.) But sometimes you don’t want to sit down and really watch something. Sometimes you have other things to do. I dunno, maybe you’ve got spreadsheet data to enter or household chores to knock out. And sometimes, my friend, you just want something on in the background. Something fluffy and harmlessly brainless. A show where it won’t matter if you go into the other room for 5 minutes or 10 because you won’t miss a damn thing. Yeah, sure, you can put on old episodes of “Frasier” or “Friends” instead, but why not try out some new faces instead?

“Hart Of Dixie”: I know, I know. I too thought this was some idiotic teen soap travesty. And, for the most part it, is. Listen if I tried to map out all the interlocking love triangles I’m pretty sure I would have something resembling a tesseract. What does the show have in its favor besides Rachel Bilson’s beguiling gams? Well I’ll tell you, the setting for the show is so “Gilmore Girls,” I could die. So if you’re nostalgic for a town populated with quirky individuals and near-weekly festivals, parades and talent shows then this here is your kind of fluff. Plus, folks, JASON STREET CAN WALK.

“Greek”: Completely enjoyable bit of collegiate fun. Though Scott Michael Foster’s Cappie is the ostensible star, I’ve got a soft spot for Clark Duke aka one of the only bright spots on “The Office” this year.
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“The Vampire Diaries”: My best friend and I call this show “The Vampire Dummies.” It’s really supremely stupid. It’s also highly addictive and packed to the brim with scenery chewing pretty boys. What’s not to love?
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“Psych”: I’m sorry, say what you will, this show is just ridiculously fun. What “Community” did sophisticatedly and successfully for two and half seasons, “Psych” has been doing rather clumsily and endearingly for eight. But it’s a good way to keep track of which of your favorite actors from the 80s are still alive. (They’ve all shown up…all of them.) And, I mean, Dule Hill’s face. Come on.

“Nikita”: Our very own Seth Freilich calls this the perfect gym show. So watch it while you’re busting *ss on the elliptical.
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“Burn Notice”: I’d really only recommend the first few seasons of this enjoyably dumb and explosive USA show. And that’s mostly because I prefer to think of it as “The Increasingly Poor Shirt Decisions Of Bruce Campbell.”

“Xena: Warrior Princess”: And speaking of Bruce, I’d be remiss if I left off this gem from my childhood. Perfect for people with a passing, fleeting, barely-there knowledge of Greek history and an enduring fondness for lesbians and ululations.

Added bonus recommendation…

“Scandal”: Scandal isn’t brainless. In fact the twists and turns of the political intrigues are sometimes hard to follow, so I suggest you sit up and pay attention. But I just wanted to say, in regards to last night’s episode, GOOD GOD DAMN. You can stream Season 1 on Netflix, and I heartily suggest you do.

You say you’ve got better things to do than stream brainless TV shows? Cool, go read a book and get off my lawn.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Thursday Saint-Giles

    Um, Psych, Xena, and Nikita deserve better than this list. I mean, I like Raising Hope, but I'd say it's way more brainless/fun diversion than any of those three. Other than that, while I enjoy Greek and Scandal, I'd agree they're background noise.

  • marc

    pawn stars should own this thread.....its one of the best "in the background" shows ever

  • HipsterReplacement

    Lost Girl. So bad, yet so much fun. And so discreetly Canadian.

  • AudioSuede

    My wife and I want to get two dogs and name them after Dule Hill characters, because Gus and Charlie are perfect dog names.

    I was going to say I wanted to get two black labs and name them after Dule Hill characters, but I thought the better of it.

  • Jim Slemaker

    PSYCHE: Nailed it!

  • Rebecca Hachmyer

    Psych is an even better laundry-folding background show if every time Gus says "Shawn"... you drink.

  • poopnado

    Bob's Burgers!

  • Joe Grunenwald

    Isn't this 7 shows? Also, that header image of Lucy Lawless is lovely.

  • babykangarootribbiani

    i watched greek from the time it aired to the time it went off, but because this was when i was in high school, i thought it was a great show. and when i rewatched it recently now that i am in college, it struck me how much i;d hate the characters in life because of vapid and shallow they can be and how selfish both the cartwright kids are and how they all (the girls anyway) think they;re above having jobs. while i think it does a better job of making people in the greek system to be people as opposed to crazed elitist harpies (the delta gamma letter not withstanding) i realized greek was a show better enjoyed before i actually went through college. that said, it is perfect multitasking fluff. we could all do with a cappie-cino now and then.

  • mb

    I continue to be amazed by how Lucy Lawless looked SO OLD when I was a kid and looks SO YOUNG now that I'm old. That battle-hardened makeup job did her zero favors.

  • Some people just age very weirdly too. Just look at Stockard Channing. She looked SO OLD in Grease and when she was in her youth but has aged so well. I remember seeing her on The West Wing and being shocked by how young and pretty she looked.

    But I couldn't believe how great LL's breasts/body looked in Spartacus! I'm really glad she's having a career resurgence and I hope she gets her own show again.

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    Oh no you didn't just diss Vampire Diaries! Ok ok, fine I know it's extremely silly, but at least it's self-aware, unlike the rest of CW.

  • googergieger

    Xena but not Hercules?

  • Sarita

    Nikita is one of the best action series, and definitely the best one that is currently on air. I highly recommend catching up with it on Netflix and then watch the current season. It's interesting how much the characters have evolved since season 1.

    Other suggestions:
    1. Supernatural - It is scary, it's funny, it has 2 sexy male leads, and it is highly entertaining.

    Not at all brainless (you'll want to pay attention to these):
    1. Battlestar Galactica remake - best scifi show ever, IMO
    2. Lost

  • Orleanas

    I can't bring myself to watch this version of Nikita after growing up on the kick-ass Peeta Wilson version. This actress seems too waif-like, and thus unbelievable, in the role for me to even bother to try watching her.

  • Guest


  • e jerry powell

    Last night freaking wrung me out with the Scandal.

    Except for one thing.

    A black woman taking a shower. Getting her hair wet. WITH A MAN.

    That's how you know it's true love, people. No way a black woman is sitting through getting her hair re-pressed for just any guy. Maybe Fitz will sit and watch her do it herself and think twice about putting her in the shower without a shower cap again.

  • True. Shit, it takes me a whole day to press my hair and I only do it twice a year - there better be a damn good reason to deliberately f**k it up.

    OK, now is it just me, or is Prez Fitz an entitled creep? He's clearly exhibiting narcissistic stalker behavior, and I don't understand why Olivia keeps falling for it.

  • e jerry powell

    I'd say that maybe she has a Wet & Wavy in, but it didn't look like it in the shower.

  • e jerry powell

    A tiny bit.

    We don't know how Olivia is broken yet, but she is.

  • She reminds me of me, except instead of going for married powerful men, I go for passionate romances with interesting single men who are emotionally stunted, and then I break up with them for it. And my dad is a prick. Yeah, she has daddy issues. We're broken!


  • e jerry powell

    Still, we don't know for sure how broken. We do have a pretty clear picture of how he's broken; we've met his father, we know how he ended up married to Mellie. We have no idea at all how Olivia ended up where she was before she met Fitz. It is likely to be daddy issues, but what isn't?

  • L.O.V.E.

    6 Harmlessly Brainless Netflix Instant Shows To Stream With The Sound Off While You Motivate Yourself To Do 5 More Minutes On The Stairmaster.


  • Maguita NYC

    You Peepaw need only this to motivate you on the stairmaster.

  • L.O.V.E.

    That motivates me to become a French billionaire and fashion maven.

  • Maguita NYC

    The powerful motivation big boobs elicit in men never ceases to amaze me.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Oh, they don't have to be big.

  • e jerry powell

    Or you could just marry one...

  • e jerry powell


  • Vampire Diaries is insufferable but, other than that, pretty decent list. I watched Greek on a whim and really enjoyed it. My go to background shows are usually comedies. I love waking up and having a laugh while I'm getting ready for my day or just when I'm lounging around the house. I'll usually put on Scrubs, American Dad, Futurama, Arrested Development and I know that I'll have a good time.

  • DataAngel

    Law & Order -- only give it attention when you get a great Lennie Briscoe zinger.

    Murder She Wrote -- this is my current multitasking show. It's so harmless and quaint. And Bill Maher shows up a few times with a FANTASTIC mullet. I'm totally going through them like candy.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Definitely L&O, but never Criminal Intent or SVU. Bleah. Love those TBS morning marathons while I clean.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    My multitasking shows are Leverage and Castle, because I used to watch them. Now I only watch them when I've got stuff to do, because I know the gist of what's going on and the relationships, hear occasional banter, look up for some action, and can mostly tune it out.

    Psych is good, though I like to pay attention to that one. Burn Notice I'll get to one of these days....

    I miss the all-day ANTM marathons (early seasons ONLY, say, 1-5)

  • e jerry powell

    I'm scared. I don't even need the marathons, because I can remember EVERY SINGLE EPISODE through Whitney Thompson's win.

  • Oh man...I can't count the times I've spent all day watching ANTM or True Life marathons.

  • The Vampire Diaries is worth it for the astounding number of parties/fairs/carnivals/etc. that one town has, and the amazing outfits (never worn more than once) that are on display at the fetes. Also, you can take your pick of characters you'd like to slap, but none are so irritating as to merit a throat punch.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I also like the way the entire town very pointedly ignores the rampant underage drinking. I mean, okay, a lot of WB/now-CW teen soaps get away with an insane degree of substance abuse among its underage chracters, but Vampire Diaries frequently has 16 and 17 year-olds just openly drinking wine at parties and other events hosted by municipal government. The Sheriff is there fucking half the time. It's like every human adult on this show is part honey badger given how little they care.

    On the bright side, the teens on the show are increasingly non-human, so at least they don't need to worry about (alcohol) addiction or liver cirrhosis later in life. They are at increased risk for homicidal lunacy, however, which I think is probably a net negative.

  • PerpetualIntern

    I disagree. Bonnie deserves a throat punch.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Such a throat punch. I mean, I can accept that VD needs a witch, and even a witch of a certain pigmentation, but damn it, guys, here's what you do--

    1. Kill off Bonnie.
    2. Walk over to the Cult set.
    3. Tell Alaric he's coming back as a zombie.
    4. Hire Jessica Lucas to become the new brown practitioner of arcane arts.

  • JoannaRobinson

    Well now I refuse to settle for anything less than ZombieAlaric.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I have been very supportive of ZombieAlaric for awhile now. I haven't decided how reliant he should be on the consumption of the brainzzz, though.

    And on a completely different note, why does this show seem to hate Candice Accola all of a sudden? It's like she exists solely to get her neck snapped, when once upon a time she was badass.

  • michaelceratops

    The Vampire Diaries is worth it for Ian Somerhalder being hysterical and rolling his eyes at everyone else. Whenever he calls Elena "our girlfriend" I squeal with delight.

  • Lauren_Lauren

    Yes. Somerhalder and his smirking campy ways are DELICIOUS.

  • PerpetualIntern

    "Is that where you were all morning? Out buying bossypants?"
    My favorite Damon quote ever.

  • Maguita NYC

    Urgh. Smolderholder. I believe he's a graduate of the John-Black School of Cheese. Still don't see what everyone else is splooshing about.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Is that ROMAN BRADY 2.0?

  • Maguita NYC

    I believe I am now fully caught up on the goings-on in Salem.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Bo and Hope 4 EVA!

  • Maguita NYC

    NOW I'm all caught up!

  • Maguita NYC

    I have not watched that show in decades. Wasn't Roman Brady chubbier, shorter, and married to that Mary Hart doppelganger?

  • Three_nineteen

    Actually, now Roman Brady is played by the guy who used to play Chris Kossichek in the 80s.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I was just about to say that! Wasn't he a Salem Strangler suspect?

  • Three_nineteen

    I started watching right at the tail end of that story. I remember Chris running Shenaningan's, the really stupid "nightclub" in Salem. Wasn't it Chris's brother or something?

    Holy crap!! I just looked it up, and the Salem Strangler was indeed Chris's brother. Look who played him:


  • e jerry powell

    I believe that some media outlet or other deemed the whole Roman Brady fiasco the Biggest Soap Opera Blunder in history. The long-time actor wanted out, so they "wrote him out" and brought in Hogestyn as Roman with loads of plastic surgery. Then the actor wanted back in, so they had to punt. Then he wanted back out, so they had to do yet another recast. Then they had to start bringing actors back as different characters and using reconstructed footage to explain the backstories.

    Can you say "screwed the pooch?"

  • llp

    There have been several Roman Bradys, of varying sizes. And yes. Now I can't unsee that Marlena is clearly Mary Hart. Not that I ever watch that garbage.

  • e jerry powell

    Well, yes and no...

  • Allijo

    It's "C'mon son."

  • lowercase_ryan

    When you're a spy, sometimes you need to blend in. A vacuum and the USA Network are all you need to look the part of Joe Six Pack. Which can buy you precious seconds when you need them most.

  • PerpetualIntern

    Love love this. I'm always looking for shows to have on in the background while I'm knitting. I've done this with Vampire Diaries, Hart of Dixie, and Psych already. Glad to have more to look into.

  • psykins

    THANK YOU! I've been starting and stopping shows on Netflix all week cause I just can't get into them without *actually* watching...

    Right now I'm watching The Guild, which is both funny and silly enough that I don't have to concentrate too much

  • Bodhi

    I love Hart of Dixie. Its ridiculous, but so damn cute

  • FireLizardQueen

    Thank you! I needed a new brainless show.

    I already tore through Greek & The Vampire Diaries and highly recommend both. Greek is surprisingly adorable and nicely diverse too, I liked how they handled stuff. I also think Bones and Once Upon a Time fall into this category. Just entertaining enough to not make me think too hard.

  • koko temur

    And now i remembered how great terriers was, and sad all over again.

  • Charmed.

  • Maguita NYC

    The Vampire Diaries is fun to watch because the story lines are fast paced and not so soapish in their development. And at times, they surprise you and dare to take the characters whereas other shows would never.

    For example, ****SPOILER ALERT*** The damsel in distress (story heroine) actually dies and turns into a full-blown vampire. However, I can do without the bad actress witch.

    Also, Klaus.

  • Adrienne Marie

    I see your Klaus and raise you Elijah.

  • Maguita NYC

    Love Elijah! But while Elijah is the kind of man you'd want to sit down with and listen to him talk all night, Klaus is the kind of man you'd rather he rages silently with his eyes, and put those munchable lips to good use...

    And voilĂ . I just turned into a raging misandrist.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Agreed, Bonnie's the worst. Her lopsided underbite is distracting too.

  • Maguita NYC

    Urgh. She makes Katie Homes look Oscar caliber.

  • IngridToday

    Klaus started out fun, but, he quickly became a whiny ass who yelled at people to do things, threatened some bodily harmed, whined some more. ugh. Him and his sister are the worse.

  • Maguita NYC

    I liked him best when he was quietly threatening. And you are quite right, his incessant barking in New Orleans made me think less of the character.

  • PerpetualIntern

    Klaus Klaus Klaus. Yum yum yum.

  • Yossarian

    I love this list.

    My personal favorite show to stream while I multi-task is Top Gear, because there is no narrative to follow at all and I don't really know or care much about cars, but it's still fun to watch, and you can perk up and pay attention when they are doing something reckless or absurd.

    And maybe Sons of Anarchy. That was my gym show for a while.

  • I know nothing about and am not interested in cars but the bf got me really interested in Top Gear. I just love the banter between the guys and all the adventures they go on. Love the special episodes where they go to some crazy country and have an unusual vehicle to drive. My fav was when they drove motorcycles across Vietnam and when Hammond got totally attached to Oliver. US version is shit tho.

  • 724wd

    *UK only

  • clancys_daddy


  • Elfrieda

    Xena:Warrior Princess brainless? And HARMLESS?

    FUCK YOU, PAJIBA. You are dead to me. DEAD.

  • You know how in the early '80's He-Man was a big hit with little boys and Mattel said 'That's great, but we're still leaving little girl money on the table' and so they came up with She-Ra? Hercules and Xena are the same thing done with the same motive for an older demographic.

  • e jerry powell

    And unintentionally picked up a lot of gay money too, because the gay menz wantz the Sorbo, and they likez the Xena for the fun drag. Plus the lesbianz kept on shipping Xena and Gabrielle.

  • There were plenty of straight men who wanted to see Xena and Gabrielle get it on. Or Xena and Callisto. Or so I'm told anyways, I wouldn't know anything about that myself. Yeah, that's the ticket...

  • e jerry powell

    Such is the nature of straight men.

  • We're also the reason Megan Fox (among others) still has a career. I'm not sure that is really a plus for anyone but us and her though.

  • e jerry powell

    I would have to say no. Call me back when she's joined the Actor's Studio -- if they'll have her.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Baby, don't go home angry, baby.

  • toblerone

    7. Better off Ted.

  • toblerone

    Also Spartacus (totally brainless) and Raising Hope (another show I'll do anything to get people to watch)!

  • toblerone

    Also Numb3rs.

    Mostly for Navi Rawat, Diane Farr, and Aya Sumika (and all the other familiar faces who randomly show up for an episode or two).

    And who doesn't love Math and Crime Procedurals? Thank god Ridley and Tony Scott had the sense to put the two together.

  • e jerry powell

    There's more than one?

  • toblerone

    Not anymore no...

  • Sarita

    It's not on Netflix, though, it it? I second Maguita's comment, though.

  • toblerone

    Sorry your right, Starz pulled all their content because their deal with Netflix ended in Mid 2012.

    But there's always Projectfree.tv

  • Guest


  • Bert_McGurt

    I was about to chime in that no show makes me want to go work out as furiously as Spartacus does.

  • Maguita NYC

    OMG Spartacus!!! The blood. The gore. The nudity. The male frontal nudity (it needs to be stated separately). The so-bad-it's-so-good Shakespearean tragedy. The hot men. The hotter men. The frontal male nudity. The fighting. The more fighting. The frontal...


  • Bea Pants

    I miss Andy Whitfield. :(

  • Ditto on all that wonderfulness. Spartacus needs an award for the sheer amount of sexy times it has inspired by couples watching it.

  • Maguita NYC

    Very much agree! Most effective non-porn soft-porn ever.

  • toblerone

    Yup... Which might not make it the best choice for "brainless multi-tasking".

  • Maguita NYC

    Isn't sex?

  • toblerone

    Masturbation is more so.

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