Low-commitment TV shows that won’t wreck your GPA

Devan Coggan, Copy Chief

Life as a full-time college student and a TV junkie can be rough. Between schoolwork and any current TV commitments, adding a new show to the mix seems impossible.

If you’re a typical overachieving Northwestern student, you most likely don’t have the time to devote yourself to a new series. If you want to keep your GPA, you probably shouldn’t start “Breaking Bad,” which just wrapped up five horrifying but addictive seasons, or “Doctor Who,” which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Instead, consider one of these low-maintenance alternatives. Some are miniseries with only a few episodes total, but others can be watched out of order (and you won’t get lost if you miss an episode) — perfect for a new TV commitment that won’t wreck your grades.

(But, if you still haven’t seen “Breaking Bad,” you probably should get on that.)


The brainchild of comedians Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, this sketch-comedy satire parodies Portland, Ore., residents obsessed with all things artisanal, ethical or pickled. With a rotating cast of bizarre characters, continuity between episodes is limited, so you can skip between episodes to your heart’s content.

Three seasons are available for instant streaming on Netflix, and a fourth season will premiere on IFC in early 2014.


No list of shows tragically canceled after only one season would be complete without Joss Whedon’s beloved “Firefly.” Set 500 years in the future, this cult classic combines the best of sci-fi drama with spaghetti Western elements like train robberies and outlaws.

One season is available for instant streaming on Netflix and Hulu Plus.


With well-written serial killers and chilling psychopaths, it baffles me as to why this psychological crime drama hasn’t gained more popularity. With some of the best acting on television, it’s no surprise that Idris Elba won a Golden Globe in 2012 for his portrayal of the titular character, and this show brings some seriously bloody drama in only a handful of episodes.

Two seasons are available for instant streaming on Netflix and Hulu Plus, and a third season aired this September on BBC America.


With only six episodes, each chapter of this modern-day Sherlock Holmes adaptation brings enough drama and wit to feel like a movie. It’s hard not to fall in love with Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Sherlock as a smooth-talking sociopath, and I, for one, am counting down the days until season three airs.

Two seasons are available for instant streaming on Netflix and Hulu Plus, and a third season will air in 2014.


Even if you aren’t eager to relive your high school years, Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s comedy-drama captures teenage uncertainty in such a poignant way, it’s no wonder “Freaks and Geeks” has become a cult classic. Plus, you get to see future movie stars like Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jason Segel at their most awkward and adorable stages.

One season is available for instant streaming on Netflix.


After “30 Rock” and “The Office” both ended this year, “Parks and Recreation” is the best NBC comedy left standing, and Amy Poehler’s look into the small government world of Pawnee, Ind., keeps getting better. The story is charming, and if you have the time, watch it from the beginning. But the comedy is strong enough that you can watch and enjoy any episode without full knowledge of the show’s history.

Five seasons are available for instant streaming on Netflix, and the sixth season airs Thursdays on NBC.

Twitter: @DevanCoggan
Email: [email protected]