12 Perfect Shows You Can Put On In The Background While You’re Working

12 Perfect Shows You Can Put On In The Background While You’re Working
Working from home? Need to turn off your brain at the end of a difficult day? Turn on these twelve sensationally soothing shows, now streaming.

Some of these shows are streaming on more than one service, sometimes with limited episodes available, depending on the date.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Where to stream it: Paramount+

Number of seasons: 7

What has remained as one of the most well-regarded entries in the Star Trek canon, The Next Generation, first premiering in 1987, didn't start out with high hopes. Patrick Stewart famously said he never unpacked his suitcase during the filming of the first season. Critics and fans love to point out that the show catches its stride when Commander Riker “grew the beard” in season 2. Season 1 is dated but not terrible, but once you catch the wave, the show is full of countless episodes with thoughtful social subtext and fun sci-fi.

While there's certainly action, the show is paced at a speed that it's still possible to answer emails or do other mundane work tasks.

One thing to look out for: I had watched the series as a kid, but rewatching it as an adult, Picard really stands out as a role model for leadership. He is patient and measured, seeks the input of those he oversees, but is decisive and respected – and he maturely admits when he was wrong. I've taken more than a few notes on management from Jean-luc.

Mad Men

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime

Number of seasons: 7

This is probably only a good recommendation if you've seen the series before, but Mad Men has proven to be an easy show to rewatch while I work thanks mostly to its slow pacing and being almost exclusively dialog. It only requires the occasional glance to stay connected to what's happening.

Much like Fight Club before it and Joker after, some folks seemed to completely mistake the message and point of the story of Don Draper. The character, and the show broadly, is an indictment of previous norms regarding gender, work-life, living indulgently, fidelity, being a detached, uninvolved parent, and aggressiveness pretending to be masculinity. Having won 16 Primetime Emmys, the true arc of the show is watching which characters realize that – and how quickly.

One thing to look out for: The series takes place over 10 years, beginning in March 1960 and ending in October 1970 – the menswear and interior design change slowly but dramatically over that decade.


Where to stream it: Netflix

Number of seasons: 15

On the other end of the spectrum from TNG and Mad Men, Supernatural is full of monster-of-the-week action and limited, quippy dialog within simple storylines. With 15 seasons comprising 320 episodes, even if you put your head down and worked 8 hours per day with the show on in the background, it would take you 40 days to finish.

The adventures of brothers Sam and Dean Winchester involve hunting demons, werewolves, wendigos, wraiths – and the discovery of even greater entities. This isn't the golden age of television, but it is a guilty pleasure. Once you get into the characters, some reappearing seasons later, it makes for a low-attention-needing show that helps pass the time with ease. You could skip ahead 3 episodes and probably not miss anything consequential.

One thing to look out for: If your personal style leans on the rugged, casual, and straightforward, Sam and Dean's looks, while not much to look at on a TV show, easily transition into real-life style thanks to the frequent wearing of field jackets, solid flannel shirts, medium wash blue jeans, and brown leather boots.


Where to stream it: HBOMax

Number of seasons: 3

The worst thing about this show is how the story has been stamped with the Batman universe. Revolving around Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred Pennyworth in 1960s alt-universe London, the fun, action-filled stories with interesting characters and stellar mod style inspiration have little to actually do with Batman, other than some characters sharing names from the universe. I actually think the show would be much more popular had it just been about an alt-universe 1960s gun-for-hire (which it is) and not distributed as a dark knight tie-in.

One thing to look out for: While Mad Men offers a deep dive into 1960s American style, Pennyworth has a distinctly English aesthetic, excellently making use of harrington jackets, chelsea boots and more. Take note of the things you like and incorporate them into your wardrobe.

Parks and Recreation

Where to stream it: Peacock, Fubo

Number of seasons: 7

Though it has not (yet!) gained the sensational second life that The Office did once it landed on Netflix, Parks and Recreation is an excellent go-to streaming option for any mood. Boasting a wildly talented and hilarious ensemble cast plus a massive Simpsons-like roster of specifically crazy townsfolk, Parks and Rec blends the workplace comedy mockumentary DNA of The Office with a relentless positivity and endless belief in the power of community which is absent from many of even the best comedies. 

And while it is occasionally serial with regards to certain plotlines like “Leslie Knope’s campaign for city council” and the characters’ various romantic relationships, it also thrives as the sort of episodic show which doesn’t demand an ongoing knowledge of storylines in order to be fully appreciated.

One thing to look out for: We’re all now very accustomed to seeing Chris Pratt as the hunky leading man action star but his first few years as Andy on Parks & Rec are a delightful throwback, featuring him at his most goofy, pudgy, and lovable.

Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting

Where to stream it: Hulu

Number of seasons: 6

Featuring an authentically lovely and gifted artist whose voice and energy can help you relax and/or focus in a way usually achievable only through transcendental meditation, The Joy of Painting is the mesmerizing feel-good television series of all of our dreams. Replete with beautiful and effective techniques to help anyone realize their painterly ambitions, Bob Ross’ teaching series stands the test of time because it’s pure, soothing, and accessible to everyone.

One thing to look out for: Bob’s occasional interludes showcasing the friendly wildlife he has encountered and helped rehabilitate. It has nothing to do with art but watching a kind, soft-spoken man bond with a rescued baby deer for a minute (for example) is about as pacifying as television can get.

New Girl

Where to stream it: Netflix

Number of seasons: 7

If you never got into the sitcom screensaver that was Friends (for whatever reason), allow me to recommend New Girl. This relentlessly funny, quirky, and affectionate always-enjoyable portrait of a modern twentysomething social circle (most of whom are roommates) doesn’t shy away from sentimentality but its antics regularly go down so easy, it’s the perfect light and breezy modern sitcom to throw on in the background, whatever you’re doing. Even my dog loves the theme song! And Jake Johnson’s portrayal of Nick Miller remains iconic, almost a decade after his first appearance.

One thing to look out for: The evolution of Winston Bishop as one of the most distinct and fun sitcom characters of the last 20 years.

The Great British Baking Show

Where to stream it: Netflix, Roku

Number of seasons: 13

Known in the United Kingdom as the The Great British Bake-Off, this cooking show is not only the antithesis of all the competition shows which have given American reality television a bad name (no judgment if they’re your thing) but it’s just a reliably sweet, informative, compelling, and entertaining portrait of real people tackling something we all can understand and regularly crave: baked goods. One of the best parts about it is its heart and humor — the hosts and judges can regularly make you laugh with comments that are both kind and critical but never cruel.

One thing to look out for: Paul Hollywood’s handshake, the ultimate seal of approval. Watch a few episodes and you’ll understand.


Where to stream it: Hulu, Peacock, Paramount+, Paramount+ Amazon Channel, Paramount+ Roku Premium Channel

Number of seasons: 11

Even disregarding the fact that it won more Emmys than any television show in history (until Game of Thrones broke the record in 2016), Frasier is probably the best sitcom ever made, if you’re interested in plots which revolve around simple, comical misunderstandings and the warm embrace of standard (yet eminently smart) setup + punchline jokes. The show’s stories and character dynamics will be familiar to anyone who’s enjoyed modern television but they are executed so exceptionally well over and over and over throughout all 11 seasons, you never grow tired of them. Meaning this show is absolutely perfect as the comfort food for your brain, at any time.

One thing to look out for: just about every person to call into Frasier’s talk show is played by a celebrity you’d recognize but they’re never identified until the end credits of each season’s finale. Try to figure out who is who and then stick around to see if you’re right! (Or I guess you can just Google it but where’s the fun in that?)

Bob’s Burgers

Where to stream it: Hulu, DirectTV, Fubo, FXNow, Adult Swim, TBS, Fox

Number of seasons: 13

Maybe it’s just me but getting to watch a hysterically funny family all of whom genuinely like and care for each other is the most comforting thing in the world. Translation: Bob’s Burgers is one of my favorite things and I can’t recommend it enough. 

It’s clever, compassionate, colorful, and features some of the best and most natural ensemble voice acting ever. Bonus: by utilizing The Simpsons’ strategy of never allowing the children/parents to age, the show thankfully gets to repeatedly showcase the most hilarious years of the wonderfully entertaining Belcher children, each season. 

One thing to look out for: Just about every episode features at least one incredibly fun original song, which usually connects to the episode’s plot. And unlike the gimmicky single-use songs you usually find in sitcoms, many entries from the Bob’s Burgers soundtrack will get stuck in your head for days afterwards.

Our Planet

Where to stream it: Netflix

Number of seasons: 1

Well-produced nature documentaries may be the most effective antidote for stressful days, weeks, or months. And no series has exemplified these strengths like Our Planet. Even if the episodes weren’t full of fascinating information (and they are), the combination of gorgeous high-definition video of the world’s most beautiful wildlife, gentle music, and David Attenborough narration is a universal tonic that will help anyone get through anything. 

One thing to look out for: Reflecting the very climate change-aware age in which they were created, each episode of Our Planet ends with a segment highlighting how humans can (and already have, in some cases) reverse course to protect the environment which we have previously endangered. So it’s a little sobering but also provides some much-needed reality-based optimism!

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Where to stream it: Discovery+ Amazon Channel, Discovery Plus, HBO Max, Sling TV

Number of seasons: 12

In the same way that Bob Ross represented a conduit to the wide world of art and creativity for kids and adults everywhere, the late, great Anthony Bourdain introduced millions of people (myself included) to dozens of new types of foods and cultures, all over the world. And Parts Unknown, though not his first show, helped set Bourdain apart as a host who never let his impressive culinary expertise get in the way of an open mind and endless curiosity, when it comes to uncovering little-known destinations, diverse cultures, and interesting people on almost every continent. Plus, if Bourdain’s narration doesn’t help you calm down (while also teaching you a thing or two), I don’t know what will. 

One thing to look out for: The fact that you will be very hungry, thirsty, and desperate to travel after every episode. 

Do you have a favorite chill show to keep you company while working? Keep the list going in the comments!

Looking for more streaming recs? Check these out:

Andrew Snavely

Andrew founded Primer in 2008 and brings 15+ years of men's style expertise. Known for his practical, relatable approach to style and self-development, he has been a recognized speaker at conferences and has styled work for top brands. Off-duty, he loves photography & editing, and enjoys road trips with his dog, Leela. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, educated in DC, and living in LA for nearly 20 years, Andrew's diverse experiences shape the relatable and real-world advice that has helped millions through Primer. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.