Background shows that are in the back of our brains

Need recommendations for background shows? We've got you covered

multiple writers
19th July 2020
Do you ever want some noise in the background, or to be able to watch a show without having to fully focus on every episode? Here are our writers' recommendations of the best 'background' TV shows that deserve at least some attention.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Credit: IMDb

If the endless quantity of memes produced from this show isn't a good enough reason for you to at least be intrigued by the show, then nothing I can say will ever get you to watch it. Its vast quantity and memes and quotability are pretty much unmatched, and it is genuinely an excellent show. It's only just started to go slightly downhill after 14 seasons, which is genuinely impressive because even the episodes that aren't as good are still great.

Clocking in at 154 episodes (and counting) which are 20/25 minutes each, it's brilliant

If you aren't aware of the premise of It's Always Sunny, it follows a group of friends who own an Irish bar in Philadelphia and shows us the antics of these terrible, terrible people. It is comedy gold. Clocking in at 154 episodes (and counting) which are about 20/25 minutes each, it's a brilliant background noise show. There are some overarching plots, but most episodes contain their own story, making it great for rewatches too. Everyone I have ever known who has watched this show has fallen in love with it, and it's one I always put on in the background myself when I want something enjoyable that isn't too long or requires much focus.

Sophie Hicks


Although I’ve watched many series over the years, Friends is my go-to when I just want something easy to watch and that I don’t need to think too deeply about. Considering I’ve been watching this series pretty much since birth, I can quote Friends without even thinking about it, knowing exactly what the gang are going to say before they even say it. Unless you've been living under a rock, I don't think I need to explain the premise of Friends. At the very least you'll know it's about the antics of a group of 20-somethings living in New York, frequenting their local coffee house Central Perk.

I'll pick a random episode from one of its ten seasons and I know it'll be a good one

Credit: IMDb

Whether I’m getting ready for a night out, procrastinating from uni work or just don’t know what else to put on, I’ll pick a random episode from one of its ten seasons and I know it’ll be a good one. This is usually because Friends was so iconic and popular during its run (and still is), you’re guaranteed to see a famous face amongst the regular cast, with the show playing host to many guest stars in flamboyant, memorable roles.

I know a lot of viewers now believe Friends hasn’t aged well, with the series being met with much criticism in recent times for its lack of diversity, Friends is a show I know best because I grew up with it. It will always be one of my favourites and if I need cheering up and a good laugh or just a casual watch, Friends has always been there for me (bad pun intended).

Kate Dunkerton

If you are like me and have watched Friends more times than you can count, plus you bought the box set (even though it’s on Netflix!), then you’ll understand why Friends is a great “background show”. It’s a ten season hit that has been seen so many times you can even quote a classic Chandler line or mimick Ross and Rachel.

Knowing what happens in each season and it’s storylines it the reason it is my go-to show when needing something to fill the silence while I’m doing something else.

Amy Harris

The Simpsons

Before I get into why The Simpsons is a great background show I should probably address the elephant in the room. Yes, the quality of the show has dropped faster than someone on the Soho stairs. And yes, like that one racist grandparent, it has been on for too long and refuses to die. But that doesn’t take away from how great those earlier seasons were.

Credit: IMDb

The Simpsons is one of those shows you could put on while you crank out an essay and still follow along and enjoy it. The humour is simple and guaranteed to get a few chuckles out of you. Sure, a large part of that humour is visual and you might miss a few jokes but with the aspect ratio of Disney Plus you are already missing out even if you are watching with undivided attention.

Super simple story lines that you don't have to focus on to enjoy

The storylines are also incredibly easy to follow so don’t worry about getting lost while looking for that one pesky citation. But even if you do lose the plot (something people say to me a lot) it isn’t the end of the world as most of the time you don’t actually need the story to enjoy it.

Also, chances are if you watch it you'll discover an accurate prediction for the future.

George Bell

The Simpsons has been on British TV for as long as I can remember and was always on in the background at my grandparent’s house. The Simpsons has 31 seasons and even though you probably haven’t seen all the episodes it’s a great show to just put on and listen to while you are doing something else – like cooking or tidying your room. No episodes are tied together and can easily stand on their own, so even if you miss something it doesn’t affect the next episode.

Amy Harris


The greatest series to pop on in the background is Miranda. The sitcom, written by and starring comedian Miranda Hart, holds a special place in my heart. With its slapstick comedy and lovable characters, it makes for brilliant comfort watching.

Credit: IMDb

When it first aired in 2009 Miranda became a cult favourite, spawning two subsequent series and endless ‘Such Fun!’ merchandise. The storyline follows the antics of Miranda (Hart) and her friend Stevie (Sarah Hadland) as they open a joke shop, much to the dismay of Miranda’s amazingly interfering mother, Penny (Patricia Hodge). Throw in boarding school chum Tilly (Sally Phillips), who has her own ‘tremendulant’ language, and ‘dreamy chef’ Gary (Tom Ellis) and you have a clear recipe for some Miranda mayhem! Or, ‘Mirayhem’, if you will.

Miranda reminds viewers that, although life rarely turns out the way you expect, there is joy to be found in the journey

Miranda is the perfect background mood-booster. It steers away from complicated plot twists, preferring unfiltered depictions of friendship, love, and life. Miranda reminds viewers that, although life rarely turns out the way you expect, there is joy to be found in the journey. Oh, and plenty of dancing, singing, and galloping too! With all episodes currently available on iPlayer, there is no better time to lose yourself in the ‘marvilismous’ world of Miranda.

Sally Grey

Brooklyn 99

Credit: IMDb

I’ve just started watching Brooklyn 99 on Netflix again while I write my Master’s dissertation, as it is a great show for when you need something on in the background. Thanks to the episodes being 20+ minutes they are easily digestible and light-hearted – making it an undemanding watch that you can dip in and out of whenever it suits you.

Amy Harris

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