The Ultimate Binge Guide: 296 Must-See Shows that Changed the Way We Watch TV

Discover the best shows ever made – and witness the evolution of TV (seriously, we're going big) – in our new book.

by | November 29, 2021 | Comments

Ultimate Binge Guide

(Photo by Running Press / Rotten Tomatoes)


So… much… damn… TV. Where… do… I… even… start? Ugh, fine… I guess I’ll just re-watch The Office again.

World, we hear you.

Call it the Golden Age of Television, the era of Peak TV, or any other grandiose-sounding thing, it is a moment of intense delight for the TV fan – all those awesome shows – but also, frequently, intense struggle. Because, well: all those awesome shows!

We’re here to help. For more than two decades now, our trusty Tomatometer and Audience Scores have been there for you when choosing what to watch at the movies and at home; now, we’re continuing that mission with a brand-new book that will help you move through our saturated TV and streaming world like a Fresh-focused ninja. (And it will look very pretty on your coffee table, too.)

The Ultimate Binge Guide is just that: a bingeable bucket list of the shows you need to see before you die. They’re the best shows; the most influential shows; the funniest and scariest and most tear-jerkiest shows; the game-changers and classics; and the shows that broke molds and pushed the form forward.

They’re the shows you need to watch – period.

The guide is broken down into 10 sections that speak to the genres of the series featured as well as their place in TV history. Each recommendation comes with a sharp and insightful write-up from a member of the Rotten Tomatoes editorial team and other great writers that explains why it’s a must-see; a select few get the deep-dive treatment. (Want to know, in delightful detail, how The Boys is revolutionizing superhero TV? We got you.)

Our chapters include:

  • Classics That Made the Molds (And Those That Broke Them):​ The Jeffersons, All in the Family, Sanford and Son, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Get Smart, Cheers, Golden Girls, Happy Days…
  • Tony, Walt, Don, and the Antiheroes We Loved and Hated​:  Oz, Mad Men, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Americans, Peaky Blinders, Ozark, The Shield, Boardwalk Empire, How To Get Away With Murder…
  • Game-Changing Sitcoms and the Kings and Queens of Cringe:  Insecure, Community, 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Fleabag, Black-ish, Party Down, Veep, Catastrophe, Fresh Off the Boat, Tim and Eric, Schitt’s Creek, Better Things, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Pen15, Freaks and Geeks, Broad City, Black Lady Sketch Show…
  • Grown-Up Genre:  Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, The Expanse, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Star Trek, Watchmen, The Witcher, Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, Westworld, Doctor Who…
  • Mysteries and Mindf–ks:  Twin Peaks, Lost, Sense8, Mr. Robot, Broadchurch, The Leftovers, Fargo, Top of the Lake, Killing Eve, Wilfred, True Detective, Hannibal, Mindhunter…
  • Reality TV and Docuseries That Captured the Zeitgeist: The Last Dance, Making A Murderer, Planet Earth, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Wild Wild Country, Queer Eye, The Jinx, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown…
  • And many, many, more…

As well as guiding you through our era of Way Too Much Choice with expert recommendations, The Ultimate Binge Guide also offers a fascinating look at how TV has evolved, with sections of the book digging into the impact of major industry changes (the rise of HBO and Netflix, for example); introducing you to the super producers shaping the biggest hits of today, from Greg Berlanti to Shonda Rhimes; and exploring the rise of the “binge” and what it’s doing to our brains.

The Ultimate Binge Guide is available as a hardcover or ebook. Order your copy now.

Rotten Tomatoes: The Ultimate Binge Guide

(Photo by Running Press / Rotten Tomatoes)

Check out some pages from inside the book.

The guide is broken up into 10 chapters that speak to genres and the evolution of TV storytelling, such as our chapter focusing on the rise of antiheroes.

Anti Heros - Binge Guide

(Photo by Running Press / Rotten Tomatoes)

Throughout, you’ll find “Binge Battles” in which we finally settle the hottest TV debates and competitions, like which really is the best Office series: The US or the UK version?

The Office

(Photo by Running Press / Rotten Tomatoes)

For a selection of influential shows and hidden gems deserving of the spotlight, we’ve written insightful deep dives on why they’re must-sees and how they’ve pushed TV forward.

The Boys - Ultimate Binge Guide

(Photo by Running Press / Rotten Tomatoes)

Insecure - Ultimate Binge Guide

(Photo by Running Press / Rotten Tomatoes)

Between chapters, we feature illustrations and punchy breakdowns that trace the evolution of television – both in terms of technology and storytelling – and spotlight some of the most innovative creators in the game.

Comic Strip - Ultimate Binge Guide

(Photo by Running Press / Rotten Tomatoes)

Sometimes, a picture helps you move through the streaming landscape more than a thousand words would. In some sections, you’ll find infographics to navigate subgenres (teen dramas!) as well as TV universes like Star Trek and The Arrowverse.

Back to School - Ultimate Binge Guide

(Photo by Running Press / Rotten Tomatoes)


Rotten Tomatoes team:

Jacqueline Coley (Deep Dives: InsecureThe Boondocks); Debbie Day (Deep Dives: JustifiedThe Expanse); Ryan Fujitani (Deep Dive: Planet Earth); Courtney Kawata (Design and Illustration for interstitials: Choosing the Right Arrowverse Show For YouStar Trek Starter KitMini Milestones); Joel Meares (Deep Dives: The Golden Girls, The Good Wife/The Good FightThe AmericansBuffy the Vampire Slayer); Eileen Rivera (Want More K-Drama?), Yerania Sanchez (Design and Illustration for interstitials: Bingeing Before the BingeBack to SchoolFrom Playing Cards to Hashtags); Alex Vo (Deep Dives: Police Squad!It’s Always Sunny In PhiladelphiaBatman: The Animated Series)

Additional contributors:

Erik Amaya (Choosing the Right Arrowverse Show For You, Star Trek Starter Kit); Tre’vell Anderson (Deep Dive: Pose); Jean Bentley (Five Ways HBO Changed TV ForeverKnow Your Very Special EpisodesFive Ways Netflix Changed TV ForeverKnow Your TV Superproducers); Manuel Betancourt (Mini Milestones, From Playing Cards to Hashtags, Deep Dives: The BoysThe Leftovers); Robert Daniels (Deep Dive: The Watchmen); Whitney Friedlander; Benjamin Lindsay (The Law & Order Case Files, Deep Dives: The ReturnedDark); Tim Lowery (Deep Dive: Mindhunter); Kimberly Potts (Those Were the Days: The Groundbreaking 1970s Comedy of Norman LearBack to School, Deep Dive: Ramy); Yasmin Tayag (The Science of Binge Watching)

The Ultimate Binge Guide is available as a hardcover or ebook. Order your copy now.

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