Whenever the topic of maternity leave came up inevitably–at least amongst my friends–there would be some mention of it being a great time to catch up on all the television I hadn’t been able to watch because of, well, life. And in my mind, and my Hulu/Netflix/Roku cues, I had an extensive collection of series I intended to watch.
However, when I actually found myself on leave with babe in lap and remote in hand, my hazy, sleep-deprived mind found it very difficult to actually pick what I wanted to watch. I had a few false starts with shows that my previously bright mind and inquisitive nature would have found terribly satiating but my newly exhausted and easily distracted self found too complex or lengthy.
I eventually found my way–with the gentle guidance of a few pop culture-savvy non-exhausted friends–to a satisfying assortment of short-form entertainment. So, in hopes of making it easier for some other weary mama looking to snuggle in for some quality viewing, I’ve assembled a few recommendations and grouped them according to craving.
Chocolate: Comforting, familiar and easy to take in.
Felicity: Yes, it is dated. No, it was not groundbreaking television. But when you need something that is familiar and also capable of transporting you back to your younger self, Felicity is just the ticket. I remember watching it in my living room in Minneapolis as a high school sophomore and getting totally swept up in the romance of moving to New York for college, love, drama and all the other interesting scenarios Felicity served up in its four season run. And, for those of you who didn’t stick around for the whole thing the first time–I dropped off after year three–I strongly recommend revisiting Felicity because “interesting scenarios” is pretty much the best way to describe JJ Abraham’s trajectory for that last season without giving it away.
Spicy Thai: Interesting, moderately complex and addictive.
Top of the Lake: We had a few rainy days when we were stuck inside while on vacation, and decided to start this series one morning. Next thing I knew, I looked up the day was gone. I’ll be honest, Top Of The Lake does move a bit slow at times, but I found those lags helpful for figuring out exactly what was going on. The acting is superb, the story–written by Jane Campion–very well woven, and the landscape it all plays out against is stunning. You’ll want to watch the seven episodes as quickly as your little one will allow.
Shortbread: British, tasty and vastly underrated.
Derek: This show is one of the best I’ve seen in the last few years. It is Ricky Gervais at his very best. Sometimes his humor can make me uncomfortable–I love the original Office, but it did make me squirm–but this show is a total departure from his normal approach. Derek plays a nursing home attendant who shares his unique and honest perspective of the little community he works amongst. The story is told with candor, humor and a tenderness that is almost totally absent from most television today.
Raspberries: Nourishing, unique and you always wish there were more.
Sports Night: This is one of those shows that once you watch it and find others who have also seen it, you’ll fall into immediate conversation–and probably friendship–because to know Sports Night is to love each and every episode and character. This was Aaron Sorkin’s first television show, and it has all the trademarks of his work; smart characters, quick and endearing dialogue, and really great story arcs. It’s also where you’ll find a bunch of really fabulous actors popping up. It only lasted for two seasons, and I consider it a total bummer that we didn’t get to travel further with our friends at the Continental Sports Channel.
Pop Rocks: Childish, fun and necessary
Adventure Time: This is not the children’s programming of your youth. In fact, I’m not entirely sure this is something I’ll be showing my kid for a few more years. But it makes for some perfect maternity leave watching. The episodes are only 11 minutes long and have absolutely no basis in anything that resembles reality, so your spaced out mind can go on cruise control and you can enjoy this little gem of a show in short, easy to digest, bites. You’ll be following Jake, the dog, and Finn, the human, on all their weird and obtuse adventures, and at times you won’t know whether your mind is playing tricks on you or the show’s writers have simply gone insane. But that’s ok, just go with it.