Your job is a lot. Your family is a lot. Having a social life is a lot. Tracking your spending is a lot. Keeping your apartment clean is a lot. Managing an existential crisis is a lot. In fact, I can't think of anything in life that's a little.
I know they say the human brain is the "most complex structure in the universe," but even the most complex structure in the universe needs a break. The wise will interpret that as sitting in a zen garden focusing on your breathing while letting go of worldly thoughts. I interpret it as sprawling on my bed with one of each Popeyes sides and three packets of ranch as I try to find something on Netflix that will allow me to ignore the thoughts that have been bouncing around my head all day.
For those who relate to the latter, I've compiled a list of mindless media available on Netflix to help you turn your brain all the way off before your food gets cold. Enjoy.
Both Bob Ross Shows
Watching Bob Ross is like watching ASMR but with way less judgement from your friends. For the unfamiliar, Ross is a Simple Man and painter who hosted a show on PBS called The Joy of Painting in which he taught viewers how to paint. From 1983 to 1994, the show was the most wholesome thing on TV. Since then, nothing has come close. Today, it's hard to imagine that a production this positive and encouraging ever came out of our cruel world—but thank Goddess it did, as it remains the best distraction the universe has to offer.
Ross will consume your undivided attention as you attempt to understand how the hell he turns a bunch of blobs into the most picturesque landscape you've ever seen with two perfect smudges. Call it skill, call it magic, call it exactly what you need to to rid your mind of all worldly woes. Lucky for us, Netflix has not one but TWO Bob Ross specials: Bob Ross: Beauty Is Everywhere and Chill with Bob Ross. Happy tuning out.
The thing about Terrace House—a Japanese reality show that follows six strangers living together—is that everyone who watches it becomes addicted and nobody really knows why. More or less, nothing happens. The drama that has come to define American reality TV is nowhere to be found in this series, and perhaps that's what makes it so captivating. All six houseguests are extremely respectful and shockingly earnest. They go to work, make dinner, and occasionally go on a run or take a dip in the pool. There are love triangles, but they're oddly not shady or scandalous. The rare Terrace House hook-up takes place behind closed doors after numerous episodes of formal dates and open conversation about feelings and intentions. American reality TV could never.
Much of the show's pull is that it feels like a continuous build up that is never quite satisfied, and that's what keeps us checked into the mundane drama of these six characters and checked out of our own. We'll take it.
Gilmore Girls feels like home—not because it's relatable, but because it's undeniably comforting despite being un-relatable. Watching the show is like receiving a hug, but instead of wrapping you up in its arms, it flashes small town, upper-middle-class-white-people problems at you... but in a good way? Think charming diners and borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor, not Trump bumper stickers and microaggressions.
The show follows single mother Lorelai and her daughter Rory as they face grave conflicts like figuring out which Ivy League Rory will attend or if she'll let the cute boy who likes her get in the way of her extracurriculars. The two also fight a lot because Rory, who is extremely type A, gets frustrated with having a super chill mom. Sigh, life is hard inside Stars Hollow. Nevertheless, it's a great distraction for those of us who have problems with a bit more at stake.
The Great British Baking Show
When my coworkers learned I was doing this round-up, they were adamant that The Great British Baking Show be included. Now, I must confess, I've never actually seen the show, so I deferred to the them for help here. I wasn't ready for their impassioned responses to my simple question: what makes The Great British Baking Show so great?
"Basically, British reality TV is the polar opposite of American reality TV, where contestants would sell each other out," our culture editor Sara tells me. "[The Great British Baking Show] features talking head interviews in pastoral landscapes or ones featuring waterfalls, and they'll say things like 'that wasn't my best' earnestly instead of 'I know her shit was worse than mine'."
I learned that the best review you can get on the show is "that's a little bit of nice," and that the worst thing you can do is make a pastry with a "soggy bottom." The grandmotherly judge's name is literally MARY BERRY, which pretty much had me sold. But when Broadly's senior editor Callie shared the above clip—which made me tear up in less than 57 seconds—I couldn't fathom that I'd gone this long depriving myself such a treasure of a show. Don't make my mistake.
The Good Place
The Good Place is really fucking weird and that's precisely what makes it the perfect watch for when you don't want to think about what's going on outside of your TV screen. You can follow it closely without getting bored or let it play as you mindlessly scroll through Instagram without getting lost.
The show takes place in an alternate universe called The Good Place where main character Eleanor (Kristen Bell) has found herself after dying. She soon realizes there was some sort of mix-up as The Good Place is meant for people who are, you guessed it, good people during their time on earth. She, on the other hand, was kind of a conniving, selfish prick. If you want to turn off your brain, but have also been feeling like a shitty person lately, you may enjoy watching this and comparing yourself to Eleanor who is most likely a much shittier person than you.
Netflix's Queer Eye has the ability to both restore your faith in humanity and make you a better person. Yes, a show can do all that. However, before I get into it, I must give a disclaimer with this inclusion: skip episode one if you really want to turn your brain off. That episode will use up all of your emotional capacity, meaning you will cry—and that is a lot of brainwork. Also, some episodes (namely three and five) engage with religious and political themes that some may find upsetting and non-conducive to winding down. The show is otherwise so perfectly formulaic and relaxing that it makes having to navigate these potential emotional land minds absolutely worth it.
From there, it's all how to avoid sulfate shampoos and gourmet hotdog making, and that, my friend, makes for opportune braindead TV. Who knows, you may even subconsciously pick up some tips that make you extremely sexy.
Hosted by Momofuku restaurant founder David Chang, Ugly Delicious focuses on one popular type of food per episode and then takes viewers across the world to see how it's interpreted in different countries. It's pretty much as sweet and low-key as it sounds, though you may find yourself drooling and in need of a homemade barbacoa taco immediately. The show may seem familiar to its predecessors Parts Unknown and Bizarre Foods hosted by Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern respectively, but Ugly Delicious is a bit more history-focused and a bit less sensational, allowing for opportune chill viewing.
Grace and Frankie
Grace and Frankie may follow the lives of two women in their 70s, but it's the least wholesome show on this list. After their husbands leave the two women for each other, Grace and Frankie decide to launch a sex toy company geared towards older women. Amidst their new entrepreneurial attempts, the two also experience having new lovers for the first time in decades. We don't often see TV that focuses on the romantic relationships, let alone sex lives, of older women, so Grace and Frankie is a refreshing change in comparison to the average sitcom.
If you're looking for a lively, hilarious show from a new perspective to play while you turn down, look no further.