TV & Movies

15 Mindless Shows to Watch If You Miss ‘Bridgerton’ and ‘Emily in Paris’ This Week

written by MICHELLE LEMA

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One of the greatest comforts is finding a lighthearted show that provides an escape from the real world for a little while. I love a show that I can throw on to let my mind rest, while still being entertained and invested in the characters. If it’s mindless for my busy day-to-day brain, yet vital for my heart, it’s my kind of show. Usually around this time of year, we get new seasons of either Emily in Paris or Bridgerton, both shows that light up my heart. In fact, the past two seasons of Emily in Paris premiered during the last week of December, and the very first time we got to see Bridgerton was on December 20, 2020, to the delight of Bridgerverse fans everywhere. However, this winter season we aren’t getting a new season of either show yet, leaving a heart-shaped void in our holiday festivities.

If you’re wondering what could possibly live up to those shows, fear not. There are so many others out there that will put your mind at ease while you cuddle up in your comfiest clothes, sip that egg nog or holiday beverage of choice, and relax before yet another year takes over. Here are some of the best:

1. Hart of Dixie

This is one of my favorite shows to rewatch when I need to reset. It stars Rachel Bilson as Dr. Zoe Hart, a New York City doctor who inherits a family practice in a small Alabama town. Zoe gets to the town and has trouble fitting in with her city ways, but begins to learn about herself and her past. The characters that Zoe encounters give the show some solid Gilmore Girls vibes: from Mayor Levon Hayes, to Zoe’s nemesis Lemon Breeland, to her love triangle with town-lawyer George and her neighbor Wade. Charmingly, the show always has an important event or occasion that requires everyone in town to show up and help out. It’s funny and it’s sometimes cheesy, but it’s always uplifting.
Stream on Amazon Prime

2. How I Met Your Father

This show is a new spin-off of How I Met Your Mother, which ran for nine seasons. How I Met Your Father takes the same premise and focuses on Sophie, played by Hilary Duff in the present and Kim Cattrall in the future. Much like the original, future Sophie tells her kid how she met his father by recounting how she and her friend group navigated their single lives in New York City. The friends are always getting into wild shenanigans, and the episodes are super short, so it’s the perfect light watch to ring in the New Year. You don’t have to know How I Met Your Mother to jump into this series, but a longer marathon including both shows would also be fun, due to several throwbacks to the original.
Stream on Hulu

3. The Buccaneers

This show is brand new and is quickly becoming one of my favorites in the period romance genre—or any genre for that matter. It follows the story of a fun and fierce group of American friends who travel to London in the 1870s. Their free-spirited American ways clash with the more reserved British aristocracy as they attend parties and meet various love interests, friends, and foes. It’s got Pride and Prejudice meets Bridgerton vibes, and will absolutely sweep you away. Although it’s a period piece, there are themes that will feel genuinely relevant to love and friendship as we know it today. The first season ended with a dramatic cliffhanger, and there are sure to be more seasons to come as the show was recently renewed for Season 2.
Stream on AppleTV+

4. Four Weddings and a Funeral

There was a movie by this same name starring Hugh Grant back in the early 90s, but this limited series is a modern take. I absolutely loved it, which is no surprise since Mindy Kaling was involved in its creation and I’m a big Mindy fan. The show is set in London, with some seriously swoon-worthy moments that give off Bridget Jones vibes. It follows the story of Maya, who travels to London for her best friend’s wedding and reconnects with old friends. Nathalie Emmanuel plays Maya—for all you Game of Thrones fans out there, she played Missandei in that show. The story is over too quickly as it’s only one season, but it feels like an extended movie.
Stream on Hulu

5. Younger

Need even more Hilary Duff content after watching How I Met Your Father? Younger is yet another show that Hilary stars in. The story revolves around Hilary’s character, Kelsey, and Sutton Foster’s character, Liza. Liza is a 40-year-old who pretends to be a 26-year-old in order to land a dream job at the publishing house Kelsey works at. Much of the story revolves around Kelsey and Liza working toward their career goals and navigating dating. Life gets more and more complicated for Liza as challenges in work and love threaten to reveal her secret. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and there are seven seasons to binge.
Stream on Hulu

6. The Bold Type

Similar to Younger, The Bold Type is a workplace-centered show set in the office of a magazine for women, where three friends work their way up in various departments. The story follows their lives, their love interests, and their career choices. Similar to Sex in the City, there’s an ensemble feel and the friendship of the three main characters is at its core. With a solid mix of comedy and drama, the show has plenty of moments that will leave you rushing to the next episode. Above all, there’s something comforting about watching a show about a group of friends supporting each other, no matter what happens.
Stream on Hulu

7. The Gilded Age

The Gilded Age comes from the creator of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes. It takes place in New York City in the late 1800s and dives into many of the same themes that Downton did, highlighting the lives of the elite and the working class. It’s a true ensemble cast and while one of the main storylines is about the battle between old money versus new money, it also tackles current events and societal progress. The most recent season was stronger than the first, and I already can’t wait for the next one. It’s the perfect show to escape to when you’ve finished a Downton Abbey marathon.
Stream on Max

8. Gossip Girl

Whether you watch the original Gossip Girl or the new version, there’s nothing like sitting in your sweatpants while streaming a show that features people in luxurious outfits attending lavish parties. The original Gossip Girl was a cultural phenomenon that kept everyone guessing, not only at who Gossip Girl was, but also at how all the various alliances and conflicts between the main characters would shake out. There’s always drama going on, and some spectacular event for the main characters to attend, at which the drama will likely explode. It’s got modern soap opera vibes, which I mean in the best way, and a ton of episodes to lose yourself in for a long time.
Stream on Max

9. Virgin River

This is a show that surprised me, and every time I think I’m not going to watch the next season, I can’t help but jump back in. Virgin River is a charming (not real) town in Northern California, where everyone knows each other and secrets aren’t kept hidden for long. The story follows Mel, a nurse who is escaping her life in Los Angeles to work at the Virgin River town clinic, led by Dr. Vernon Mullins. The doctor is played by Tim Matheson, who’s also a very similar grumpy-with-a-heart-of-gold doctor in Hart of Dixie. While the show tackles some pretty serious topics and rarely a moment goes by when the characters aren’t in danger, it maintains a lighthearted feel as the spirit of the town shines through.
Stream on Netflix

10. Downton Abbey

There will never be anything quite like the phenomenon that was Downton Abbey. It’s one of those shows that came around at just the right time, setting off a need for more shows like it. The story follows the lives of the Crawley family and the people who work for them in the early 1900s. There’s romance, mystery, lavish costumes and parties, drama, and shocking twists and turns. The show is period drama escapism at its finest and even if you’ve already seen it, it’s one of those shows that never gets old. Treat your mind to a break and throw on episode one—then see if you can keep from watching the entire first season in one marathon.
Stream on Netflix

11. The Vampire Diaries

I will admit that The Vampire Diaries will probably end up on most of my watchlists, no matter the subject. I stand by its inclusion on this list because it is impossible not to fully zone out into the world of Mystic Falls. The show follows the vampire brothers Stefan and Damon, as they return to the town they grew up in and discover a teen named Elena who looks exactly like someone they knew in the past. Elena’s best friend Bonnie is a powerful witch newly discovering her powers. Between magic and vampires, the drama and love triangle opportunities are endless. A lot happens in every season, but there’s no reason to overanalyze it. Just go along for the ride, and your mind will thank you for it.
Stream on Max

12. New Girl

This show is a delightful and funny comedy following a group of friends and roommates as they live their lives, just trying their best. It stars Zooey Deschanel as Jess, who moves in with three single men after a breakup. The cast is one of my favorites of all time and each character is so specific that you will find yourself laughing when, say, Schmidt does something that was so Schmidt. Every episode has an activity or goal that ends up not going at all the way they planned, and lessons are learned. While there are many throughlines in the story, it’s also the kind of show where you can randomly pick up any episode and enjoy it.
Stream on Hulu

13. What We Do in the Shadows

This comedy is so wild and weird, but it’s one of those shows where you just have to lean into the chaos and let go of any semblance of reality or common sense. Your mind will surely not be able to think about anything else as you watch the absurd events unfold. The show follows four vampires who have lived on Staten Island for over a century and one of their human “familiars” named Guillermo. They deal with the Vampiric Council, other vampires challenging them, and their own boredom. There are a ton of talented comedians in this show and lots of very fun cameos that will surprise and delight you.
Stream on Amazon Prime

14. Schitt’s Creek

I would venture to say that the feelings I get when I watch Ted Lasso are similar to the feelings I get when watching Schitt’s Creek. It’s really hard not to fall in love with the Rose family and get lost in their often misguided, but always hilarious, struggle. Once very wealthy, after losing their money to fraud, Johnny, Moira, David, and Alexis Rose are forced to move to the one asset they have left: the town of Schitt’s Creek. Much like any show that takes place in a small town, the supporting characters are the ultimate foil to the newcomers. As the Rose family adjusts to their new life, you’ll find the show is so funny, heartwarming, and impossible to stop watching.
Stream on Amazon Prime

15. The Golden Girls

This show is the definition of a classic. Now that The Golden Bachelor found a place in our hearts this year, mostly due to the incredible women featured on the show, it might be time to sit back and watch the original golden ladies show us how it’s done. Way ahead of its time, the story follows four single women who live together in Miami in their “golden years.” They date, they socialize, they fight amongst each other, and they prove that being golden is something we should all strive to be, not fear. You can watch endless episodes to soothe your mind, and don’t even need to watch them in order.
Stream on Hulu