11 Shows Ranked by the Exact Amount of Angst You Need

If you’re anything like me, at some point you’ve probably chosen to watch a new show because it was wholesome and upbeat, enough to change your relieve your stress in the moment (like Brooklyn Nine-Nine). And if you live for fictional drama (also like me), you’ve probably chosen to watch a new show because you knew it would be intense enough to distract you when you needed it (like Game of Thrones). No matter what you’re looking for this summer, I’ve put together a list of shows for when you need a break.


High Angst

Shows high in angst tend to explore darker parts of the psyche as well as flaws in institutions and society. These are shows that make it hard to wait for the next episode because you become invested in the characters’ well-being. Each is great in different ways, but you’d need to know what you’re getting into before committing.


1. The Handmaid’s Tale — Hulu

Watch with caution. As a work of science fiction, Handmaid’s Tale takes the threads of misogyny and violence against women in the US and weaves together a possible future that can have uncomfortable parallels to current events. This show is the angstiest on the list because the conflict does not ever wholly resolve, it only evolves. Still, for the gripping story and cinematography, it’s worth test-watching the first episode.


2. The End of the F***ing World — Netflix (UK: Channel 4)

The series, only a little longer than a movie, won’t go exactly in the ways you expect it to. This show has a particular brand of coming-of-age angst: dark overall and tinged with black comedy to break the tension.


3. BoJack Horseman — Netflix

Have you had an existential crisis? The show’s main character Bojack has had dozens. Don’t let the animation style or animal characters fool you—beneath the puns and bright colors, BoJack Horseman can be too real sometimes. The character development is among the most realistic I’ve seen in a TV show because the changes aren’t linear or always positive.


Just The Right Amount of Angst

There’s a sweet spot of angst that balances lovable characters with situations that require tough decisions, secret keeping, and character growth. They’re the shows that when you rewatch old episodes, you marvel at how far characters have come.


4. Outlander — Starz

Adapted from a book series, this show is best for fans of romance and historical fiction. Peril follows characters at every turn, but unlike Game of Thrones, you can count on the main characters to live despite the odds. And, if you’re getting stressed about a cliffhanger, you can look ahead to see what happened next in the books.


5. SKAM Austin (and beyond) — Facebook Watch

Teen shows can easily veer toward the melodramatic. However, SKAM (the original Norwegian show) has set a new standard for the genre for its realism. SKAM Austin (which takes place in Austin, Texas) is directed by Julie Andem, the same woman who directed the original SKAM, so it has a very similar vibe.


6. Jane the Virgin — The CW

Jane the Virgin, now in its final season, is light-hearted, funny, and romantic while also constantly putting its characters in difficult situations. If you side too much with a particular ship and don’t binge this show, you’ll be left hanging constantly. Don’t be dissuaded from watching because of the unusual title!


Low Angst

Sometimes, you may not have the energy to deal with a show with a lot of drama and strife. Shows I consider to have low angst include sitcoms, as well as shows with a specific style that becomes familiar, possibly using magic realism. They can also be reality shows that don’t pit contestants against one another or exploit participants.


7. She’s Gotta Have It — Netflix

Genuine, funny, and choc full of self-exploration, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It is a modern take of his original film the same name. The perspective of the show’s lead character, Nola Darling (a pansexual, polyamorous Black woman), is highly needed. Although the film deals with serious topics, the care with which it addresses the topics makes it less heavy.


8. Flight of the Conchords — HBO

Although I first watched the show as a kid, Flight of the Conchords has a new relevance to navigating life as an adult. In its awkward, musical, humorous glory, this show about two New Zealand musicians has a unique charm.


9. The Good Place — NBC

It’s deeper than you think. Stick with it and prepare for the unexpected. The Good Place deals with many of the same questions as BoJack: what does it mean to be a good person? The main characters will grow on you and although the stakes can be raised, the plot moves too quickly to be stressed about drama in the show.


10. Queer Eye — Netflix

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about Queer Eye, a reboot of the 2003 Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I tend to stay away from reality TV, but this show won me over with its leading personalities, the Fab Five. If you’ve been putting it off but need a pick-me-up, I highly recommend diving in.


11. The Great British Baking Show — Netflix (UK: Channel 4)

Unlike other competition shows, The Great British Baking Show is not about tearing others down, it’s about good baking, being optimistic in stressful situations, and occasionally forgetting to turn on the oven. Odds are, you’ll fall for a few contestants and maybe cry at the season finale.


If you’re looking for more recommendations, check out this list of shows that don’t require a huge time commitment and this list of shows for every genre. Take care of yourself when deciding what media to consume, and be in tune with what you need most while juggling life and school.


If you would like to write for Her Campus Mount Holyoke, or if you have any questions or comments for us, please email [email protected].