The 50 Best TV Shows to Binge-Watch

Though, historically, baseball has always been cited as America's favorite pastime, it's hard not to argue that since the arrival of entertainment streaming networks like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, binge-watching has pretty much usurped that title. But with so much content and so little time, it can be easy to find yourself spending half of your evening just figuring out what you want to watch in the first place. So we're here to help.

Whether your tastes lean toward fun-but-frightening sci-fi anthologies or laugh-out-loud absurd comedies, here are the 50 TV shows we're binge-watching right now—all of which run for more than a single season (sorry, Firefly and Freaks and Geeks)—so that you've got more to watch, and all of them just a click away.

1. ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1955-1962)

Where to watch it: Hulu

With his tack-sharp introductions and tightly-plotted morality plays, Alfred Hitchcock—already renowned for his feature film work—became the prototype for Rod Serling with the 1955 debut of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Each episode of the anthology focuses on a different criminal scheme and its inevitable unraveling, from a woman’s novel disposal of a murder weapon (“Lamb to Slaughter”) to the plight of a man being robbed after he’s paralyzed in a car accident (“Breakdown”). If the stark black and white cinematography looks familiar, you have a good eye: Hitchcock used most of the TV show’s crew to film 1960’s Psycho. —Jake Rossen

2. THE AMERICANS (2013- )

Where to watch it: Amazon

To their neighbors in a sleepy D.C. suburb, travel agents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings seem about as boring as you can get. But to anyone who gets in their way (including FBI agents), these undercover Russian spies are quick, efficient, and deadly. If you like intrigue, action, steamy sex scenes, '80s nostalgia, and honest, thought-provoking depictions of marriage, you’re going to love The Americans. —Kate Horowitz

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

 

3. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (2003-)

Where to watch it: Hulu, Netflix

This smart, snarky series follows the riches-to-rags story of the Bluths, a dysfunctional Orange County family that loses their real estate fortune after the SEC begins investigating the family business for fraud. After the family patriarch, George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), goes to prison, his son Michael (Jason Bateman) is left to grudgingly hold the family together. Arrested Development’s intricately crafted plotlines, recurring gags, and relentlessly clever wordplay earned the adoration of a cult following, but didn’t drive ratings high enough to keep Fox from cancelling the show after its third season. After fans lobbied hard to revive the series, Netflix released a disappointing fourth season in 2013 that failed to live up to the original run’s magic. (A fifth season is currently in the works.) —Nicolas Rivero

4. BETTER CALL SAUL (2015-)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Before he was Saul Goodman, lawyer to Albuquerque’s favorite chemistry teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White on Breaking Bad (more on that below), Bob Odenkirk was Jimmy McGill, the ne'er-do-well brother to one of the city’s most well respected attorneys whose mental issues (or electricity allergy, if you prefer) leave the brothers frequently at odds. Though, deep down, Jimmy clearly cares about people—well, some people—he cares about winning more, and proving to his brother that he's matured since his day of running scams back in their hometown of Cicero, Illinois, where he was known as "Slippin' Jimmy." Fans who lamented the end of Breaking Bad have gotten a stellar prequel with Better Call Saul—one that manages to enrich the backstory of Breaking Bad yet stand alone as its own stellar series. —Jennifer M. Wood

5. BLACK MIRROR (2011-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

OK, full disclaimer: Do not attempt to binge-watch Black Mirror all in a day. With just 13 episodes spread out across three seasons (plus a Christmas episode), you could physically do it—but mentally, you need more breathing room. Though the anthology series has been compared to The Twilight Zone due to its twisty, technology-themed tales, at its heart, Black Mirror is a reflection of society. “The technology is never the culprit in our stories,” creator Charlie Brooker told Vogue. “The technology is just allowing people to do terrible things to themselves or others.” It only takes watching the first episode to understand what Brooker is talking about. —Stacy Conradt

6. BOB’S BURGERS (2011-)

Where to watch it: Amazon

In this animated series, Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and his family run a struggling burger joint in a seaside town where one of their only regular customers is the mortician next door. The three mischievous but well-meaning Belcher children get up to plenty of hijinks as the family tries to scrape out a living selling Bob’s innovative burgers—which have now been released as a real-life cookbook. Its musical interludes—enough to put together into a 112-song album—fart jokes, and regular burger-themed puns put a hilarious spin on what is, underneath it all, a sweet show about a deeply loving family. It’s the kind of show that’s jam-packed with enough jokes to make it worth watching again and again. —Shaunacy Ferro

7. BREAKING BAD (2008-2013)

Where to watch it: Netflix

If you haven’t seen what is probably the most critically-acclaimed show that has ever aired on television, now is as good a time as any to start watching. Breaking Bad follows Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a down-on-his-luck high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Desperate to provide for his family before his death, White teams up with a former student and small-time drug dealer (Aaron Paul) to cook and sell crystal meth. As Walter finds his footing in New Mexico’s criminal underworld, he discovers that both his ambitions and his ego extend far beyond his medical bills and his children’s college funds. Breaking Bad brims with dark secrets, surprising humor, and a pulsing humanity that renders this gritty drama all too believable. —NR

8. BROADCHURCH (2013-2017)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Though it was a bona fide television phenomenon when it premiered in its native England in 2013, it took a while for American audiences to catch on to Broadchurch—and it’s a good thing they finally did. Like a less strange version of Twin Peaks, the series follows two newly partnered detectives (David Tennant and Olivia Colman) tasked with solving the murder of a 12-year-old boy in a tiny seaside town where everyone knows each other, and everyone is a suspect. In addition to being a phenomenal crime procedural that keeps you guessing until the very end, Broadchurch is not afraid to take its viewers into the darkest corners of the human psyche, yet still maintains a message that tells us we have the power to bounce back from even the worst tragedies. —JMW

9. CATASTROPHE (2015-)

Where to watch it: Amazon

It’s the classic story: American boy meets Irish girl while traveling for business, boy and girl have a fling, boy gets girl pregnant, boy and girl decide to have the baby. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, who write and star in the Amazon original, have an acerbic (usually foul-mouthed—this show isn’t for the kids!) sense of humor that will leave you in stitches, and rewinding to catch the joke you missed while you were laughing. With only 18 episodes to date, it’s the perfect length to devour over a lazy weekend. —Abbey Stone

10. CHEWING GUM (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

The most embarrassing day of your life has nothing on a normal day for Tracey Gordon. The first episode of this laugh-until-you-feel-sick series opens with its adorable and painfully inept 24-year-old protagonist trying desperately to lose her virginity, and it just gets more awkward from there. Michaela Coel created and stars in the BAFTA-winning show, which makes ample use of her astonishingly expressive face and talent for physical comedy. —KH

11. DEADWOOD (2004-2006)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Like many of the prestige dramas that HBO aired in the wake of The Sopranos's success, David Milch's Deadwood managed to attract a small but rabid fan base that has only grown with time, as new generations get the chance to discover the series via streaming networks like Amazon. Set in the late 1800s, not long after Custer's Last Stand, the show mixes fact with fiction as characters like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Wyatt Earp make their way in and out of Deadwood, South Dakota. Its main characters, Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), Sol Star (John Hawkes), and Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) are also real people. And while it includes all of the fun tropes we've come to expect of a great western—including gunfights, gold rushes, and fun-filled brothels—the series, which ran for just three seasons, is really about the evolution of civilization and how we build communities out of chaos. And with a lot of f-bombs dropped (mostly from McShane). —JMW

12. DOCTOR WHO (1963-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, BritBox

Originally making its debut in 1963, Doctor Who is the kind of sci-fi juggernaut that can seem a bit daunting to non-hardcore fans of the genre. While the earlier incarnation (which you can watch on BritBox) has a definite sense of humor, the reimagined version of the series—which made its triumphant return in 2005—offers loads of kitschy fun. The series follows a time-traveling alien who travels through space and time to help save the world with the help of his trusty (and ever-changing) companion. Though the reboot kicked off with Christopher Eccleston playing the Ninth Doctor, part of the fun is that regeneration is canon—so while The Doctor is technically always the same character, he can regenerate into a new face and body every time an actor leaves the show. (David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi followed). With 26 seasons and more than 900 episodes (or 10 seasons and 275 episodes if you stick with the reboot), there’s a lot to get through—but the kitschy nature of it all keeps it light and fun. Plus, with former Broadchurch star Jodie Whittaker making her debut as the first female Doctor in the series’s history later this year, now is the perfect time to invest in the otherworldly series where anything’s possible. —JMW

13. DOWNTON ABBEY (2010-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

In the picturesque English village of Downton, the Earl (Hugh Bonneville) and Countess (Elizbaeth McGovern) of Grantham have got a problem: They’ve just received word that the Earl’s nephew and heir (and the kinda sorta fiancé of his eldest daughter, Mary) has died aboard the Titanic. Unfortunately for Mary (Michelle Dockery), there’s no such thing as a female heiress in 1912 England. So in addition to getting her married off to some well-to-do gentleman who will keep her social status intact, they need to track down the stranger who will end up inheriting their beloved estate and the bulk of their fortune. Enter Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a middle-class lawyer from Manchester, England, and his meddling mother Isobel (Penelope Wilton), who must find a way to adapt to the Crawleys’ way of life, and who the family must learn to accept. Though the series straddles the line between historical drama and nighttime soap opera, even when it’s at its soapiest, the show’s impeccable attention to detail—thanks in large part to historical adviser Alastair Bruce—and its Upstairs, Downstairs-like balance between the dramas that face a 19th-century aristocrat and the troubles of the trusty servants downstairs keep it rather addicting, even when the plotlines seem to be stretching it a bit. —JMW

14. EASTBOUND & DOWN (2009-2013)

Where to watch it: Amazon

First things first: Eastbound & Down is not for the easily offended. If you’re familiar with Danny McBride’s body of work, you’ll understand why. (Even the clip above could be considered NSFW.) From 2006’s no-budget indie The Foot Fist Way to his current HBO series Vice Principals, McBride is at his best when he’s acting like a raging a-hole—and he does that to an astonishing degree as Kenny Powers, an obnoxious former pro baseball player whose well-documented rise and fall in professional sports has left him with no choice but to move in with his brother and become a P.E. teacher. Created by McBride, Jody Hill, and Ben Best (the trio also responsible for The Foot Fist Way), the series tracks Powers’s epic highs and painful lows—almost all of which he brings upon himself—and isn't afraid to say, do, or show the things that no other series would dare. —JMW

15. THE FALL (2013-)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

Though it steered a bit off course in its second and third seasons, The Fall is one of those crime dramas that is compelling enough on the “crime” level that it’s easy to overlook some of its flaws (like the fact that the police seem pretty inept a lot of the time). Before he was getting nasty in 50 Shades of Grey and its sequel, Jamie Dornan played a masochist of a different kind in The Fall as Paul Spector, a family man and bereavement counselor who just so happens to have a penchant for stalking and murdering women. Part of what makes the show so watchable is that we know his deep, dark secrets from the very beginning—there’s no whodunit guessing game. Instead, you’re waiting for the police force, which has enlisted the help of badass detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), to catch up. —JMW

Eamonn M. McCormack / Getty Images

 

16. FARGO (2014-)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Making the jump from movie to television screen has rarely turned out to be a great idea (see the small-screen versions of: Ferris Bueller, Serpico, Uncle Buck, and Casablanca). But Fargo is an absolute exception to this rule. Brilliantly crafted, the show is technically designed as an anthology series (though there are connections between each of its three—and hopefully counting—seasons). Even better: It doesn’t try to retell the Coen brothers’ 1996 film, but it does pay tribute to their work—not just with its title or setting, but with its unique tone, quirky characters, and perfectly honed black comedy. Plus, serious Coen fans will recognize all sorts of Easter eggs that relate not just to the Oscar-winning big screen version of Fargo, but several other movies in their filmography—like the inclusion of Billy Bob Thornton in season one (who starred in The Man Who Wasn’t There), who plays a sociopath not unlike No Country for Old Men's Anton Chigurh, whose evil seems to know no bounds. —JMW

17. GAME OF THRONES (2011-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

Based on the fantasy book series by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones is a brilliantly realized power struggle that pits various factions against each other for the fate of the land of Westeros. Multiple plot threads are woven together to form a tapestry of violence, deception, and infighting, with a colorful army of characters that will either delight or disgust you (or maybe a bit of both). The cast is highlighted by breakout performances by Peter Dinklage, Maisie Williams, Kit Harington, and Lena Headey; though be cautious when getting attached to any of the show’s characters—showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have no problem killing off even the most beloved characters. Even if you’re not a fan of high fantasy, the familial struggles and blockbuster action should be more than enough to keep you hooked. —JS

18. GILMORE GIRLS (2000-2007; 2016)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

Enter the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut and follow Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) as they drink coffee, talk fast, and tackle the challenges of life. Gilmore Girls explores themes of friendship, romance, generational problems, and class issues in fast-paced episodes packed with fantastic dialogue. The show has many distinctive characters that will have you coming back and singing the theme song along with each episode. Once you’re all caught up, don’t forget to check out the Netflix revival series, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life! Renee Borcas

19. HANNIBAL (2013-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Prior to taking on a TV adaptation of American Gods, auteur showrunner Bryan Fuller took on Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal, which aired on NBC from 2013 to 2015. The series extrapolated storylines from author Thomas Harris’s novels Red Dragon and Hannibal, and presented the infamous cannibal psychiatrist before he’d been unmasked as a psychotic serial killer. Hugh Dancy stars as unstable FBI profiler Will Graham, who is able to reconstruct serial killers’ methods in his mind and understand their motivations and behaviors to capture them. As each case takes its mental toll, his boss, Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne), insists that he see psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Lecter manipulates both Graham and the FBI as he continues to kill—and serve up killer human-based meals to unsuspecting dinner guests.

Fuller’s fantastical fingerprint is all over the florid murder scenes, which are as beautifully staged as they are gruesome. (You will frequently ask yourself how this show ever aired on network TV.) Hannibal’s cooking scenes, scored with classical music, are lush, and filmed like the most gorgeously wrong cooking show of all time. Your mouth might water—but you will definitely cringe when Hannibal’s guests take a bite.

At a criminally-short three seasons, Hannibal is easy to devour; the last episode of season three was filmed before the show was cancelled, and its post-credit cliffhanger will leave you hungry for more. (And if Fuller has anything to do with it, a fourth season that delves into Silence of the Lambs territory will be dished up soon.) —Erin McCarthy

20. HOUSE OF CARDS (2013-)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

In a way, House of Cards is really the show that kickstarted the whole binge-watch trend in a serious way. As one of the first series to debut on a streaming network (in this case, Netflix), it almost begged to be consumed in one sitting—and not just because all 13 episodes in its first season dropped at one time, but because it was impossible not to be seduced by Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a South Carolina Congressman and Democratic House Majority Whip who vows revenge when newly elected POTUS Garrett Walker (Michael Gill) reneges on his promise to appoint Frank as Secretary of State. The more havoc Underwood wreaks, the more powerful he grows—aided by his equally cunning wife Claire (Robin Wright). Though the series has stumbled a bit in its more recent seasons (season five arrived on Netflix earlier this year), it’s still fascinating to watch the political machinations and wonder just how on-the-nose they are regarding real life in the nation’s capital. —JMW

21. IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA (2005-)

Where to watch it: Amazon

FX’s longest-running (12 seasons and counting) series is also television’s most tasteless, with plots that sound cobbled together from the depths of internet sub-forums. The Gang (a.k.a. the going-nowhere owners of a seedy Philly bar) finds a dumpster baby and decides to profit by casting him in commercials; the Gang uses CSI-level techniques to find out who pooped in one of their beds. Almost every episode could be titled “The Gang Learns Absolutely Nothing.” So why watch? Because greed and incompetence—and Danny DeVito—have made the show a cult classic. —JR

22. JANE THE VIRGIN (2014-)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

Jane the Virgin follows Jane Villanueva (played by Golden Globe-winner Gina Rodriguez) as she navigates the aftermath of her accidental artificial insemination. The show is a little more grounded than the Venezuelan telenovela it’s based on, but with family drama, a steamy love triangle, and a face-changing crime lord (and that’s just in the first season), it packs plenty of action into each episode. —Michele Debczak

23. JUSTIFIED (2010-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

On its surface, Justified looks and feels like your standard cop procedural: Displaced lawman Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) returns to his Kentucky hometown to face old demons and an oppressive supervisor. (Yes, he’s even asked to turn in his badge.) But it sure doesn’t talk like one. Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, Justified has an ear for dialogue that approaches music, with Givens trading verbal jabs as easily as he exchanges bullets. While Olyphant has the laconic-hero approach down, it’s Walton Goggins as onetime friend-turned-foe Boyd Crowder who, as The New York Times observed, “makes a habit of being the best thing about television shows he’s in.” —JR

24. THE LAST KINGDOM (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

Based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories series of historical fiction novels, The Last Kingdom follows the life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), a Saxon who was kidnapped by Danes as a child and grows up in the middle of two warring worlds upon his return home. The fictionalized tale of Uhtred is set against the backdrop of the rise of Alfred the Great (David Dawson), the real-world King of Wessex in the 9th century who fought off Viking invaders, promoted literacy and education, and helped build toward a unified England. Amidst all the history lessons, the series features a twisting plot, complex characters, and plenty of sword-and-shield warfare. Originally airing on BBC, The Last Kingdom is a Netflix exclusive in America. —Jason Serafino

25. THE LEAGUE (2009-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

The League is not the kind of show where you’re really rooting for the characters to succeed. This gang of NFL uber-fans who put together a hyper-competitive fantasy football league is full of characters who are deeply offensive, completely incorrigible, and a delight to watch. The fast-paced, crass show was created by husband-and-wife team Jeff and Jackie Schaffer, who modeled the semi-improvised series after Jeff's own obsession with fantasy sports. (They run their own league with the cast, giving the show an extra boost of realism.) Even if you couldn't care less about football, you’ll love watching a group of sharp-tongued friends completely debase themselves in service of winning a trophy that’s worthless to everyone but them. —SF

26. THE KNICK (2014-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Renaissance man filmmaker Steven Soderbergh directed and shot this two-season Cinemax series, which is not for the faint of heart. The drama is set in a New York City hospital in the early 20th century, and features gory and historically accurate surgical techniques. Clive Owen toplines the cast as John Thackery, the talented but damaged chief surgeon of the eponymous Knickerbocker Hospital who is hiding a serious addiction to cocaine; André Holland plays Algernon C. Edwards, the brilliant Europe-educated African-American surgeon who joins the Knick as assistant chief of surgery, to objections from other surgeons on staff; and Eve Hewson (daughter of U2's Bono) is Lucy Elkins, a young nurse at the Knick caught between her religious morals and her torrid affair with Thackery.

From Thackery’s inventive surgical techniques and one doctor’s wife going insane, to an illegal abortion business and the hospital manager’s shady dealings with contractors and mobsters, there’s plenty of life-or-death drama both inside the hospital and outside of it—and there are so many historical Easter eggs (keep an eye out for Typhoid Mary!) that history buffs will find themselves as addicted to the 20-episode show as Thackery is to his drug of choice. —EM

27. LUTHER (2010-)

Where to watch it: Amazon

For just about as long as there have been cop shows there have been conflicted cops starring at the center of them, and this gritty British crime series is no different. What makes it stand out is Idris Elba as DCI John Luther, a detective who regularly finds himself on the wrong side of London's most unhinged criminals. But Luther will stop at nothing to make sure he gets the bad guy—even if he has to bend the law, or befriend a sociopathic genius (Ruth Wilson) who murdered her parents, to do it. Even the most deranged criminal is no match for Elba's hulking intensity. With just 15 episodes over the course of four seasons, you've got plenty of time to catch up on Luther before Elba returns for a fifth season. —JMW

28. MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES (2012-)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) is Melbourne’s finest detective … even if she’s not actually employed by the police. Set in 1920s Australia, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a lighthearted detective show that follows the amateur investigator’s capers as she solves some of the city’s toughest crimes. The self-assured, thoroughly modern Fisher ruffles the feathers of the old-fashioned detectives on the police force, but she can’t stop herself from following the clues, and more often than not, they lead her straight to the bad guy while the real police struggle to catch up. The show has a little jazz, a little romance, and plenty of shootouts. Oh, and a lot of great flapper fashion. —SF

29. THE OFFICE (2001-2003)

Where to watch it: Amazon

With all due respect to Greg Daniels's American version of The Office (which is also available on Netflix and worth your time), when it comes to the fine art of awkward comedy, there's no more talented a practitioner than Ricky Gervais. Whereas Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott is a sort of sweet social misfit who just wants to be liked, Wernham Hogg's David Brent is more of a self-centered jerk who regularly tries, and desperately fails, to command respect from those around him. And when things don't go Brent's way, he unleashes the childish beast inside—and those are the series's finest moments. His attempt to out-dance his immediate superior, who has everything David wants, is the kind of thing you'll want to rewind and re-watch. Especially to witness that Martin Freeman has a perfect facial response to every situation. —JMW

30. ORPHAN BLACK (2013-2017)

Where to watch it: Amazon

You want great sci-fi? We’ll give you great sci-fi. The Canadian breakout hit Orphan Black raised the bar for storytelling, cultural commentary, hair and makeup design, and unparalleled acting. Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany’s star-making turn as dozens of unique, complex, lovable (okay, mostly lovable) characters—all clones—is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. —KH

ROBYN BECK / Getty Images

ROBYN BECK / Getty Images

 

31. PARKS AND RECREATION (2009-2015)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

Parks and Recreation proved that the bureaucracy of small-town government is a goldmine for comedy. Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope, the optimistic deputy director of Pawnee, Indiana’s parks and recreation department. She’s joined by established names like Rob Lowe as well as burgeoning stars like Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, and Aubrey Plaza. Even when the gang is losing political battles, or planning a memorial service for a tiny horse (RIP Lil' Sebastian), the show remains a feel-good sitcom at heart. —MD

32. PARTY DOWN (2009-2010)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Before Glee and Parks and Recreation made them famous, Jane Lynch and Adam Scott ate lots of canapés together while starring in Party Down. The short-lived TV series—which ran from 2009 to 2010 on Starz—follows a group of struggling actors (and one screenwriter) as they moonlight as caterers to pay the bills. Along the way, they encounter colorful party guests, experience awkward hookups, and struggle to hold onto their dreams. —Kirstin Fawcett

33. PEAKY BLINDERS (2013-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

This BBC series, created by Steven Knight, is essentially the British Godfather, and was inspired by the real-life gang that operated in Birmingham, England, during the 19th and 20th centuries. (They reportedly got their name from the razor blades they sewed into the brims of their caps.)

Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby, the sprawling gang’s reluctant but fiery leader, who must take over the family business out of a sense of criminal duty. Scored with a modern soundtrack (it’s the best use of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” ever) and shot with a classically staged intensity, Peaky Blinders gets its binge-ability from constantly confronting the viewer with how people doing such wrong could seem so right. The series also guest stars actor Tom Hardy as marble-mouthed Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons, the ruthless leader of a rival gang, which is among the more intense roles of the infamously intense actor’s repertoire.

Each season is just six episodes—easy enough to devour over a weekend. You can catch up before season four, which will feature Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, airs. —EM

34. PENNY DREADFUL (2014-2016)

Where to watch it: Where to Watch it: Netflix, Amazon

In a way, it's kind of hard to pinpoint exactly where Penny Dreadful went wrong. Perhaps if it had aired on HBO as opposed to Showtime, we'd be deep into season four already. But seemingly just as quickly as it appeared, this beautifully shot series created by John Logan (the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall, and Alien: Covenant) ended after 27 episodes, with viewers only realizing that we'd officially come to the end when the words "The End" actually appeared on the screen. Like a highbrow monster movie mashup, the series takes several familiar characters from literature—including Victor Frankenstein and his Monster, Van Helsing, Renfield, Count Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll—and throws them all together in Victorian England. Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, and Josh Hartnett lead a formidable cast of characters telling dark stories that will have you wishing the series had not yet concluded. —JMW

35. PUSHING DAISIES (2007-2009)

Where to watch it: Amazon, CW Seed

In the words of Stefon, Pushing Daisies has it all: a cruise ship murder, agoraphobic aunts, a piemaker who can reanimate the dead, and Swoozie Kurtz. This brightly colored "forensic fairytale" stars Lee Pace as the proprietor of The Pie Hole pastry shop, but piemaking is just one of his talents. He can also revive the dead with a single touch. Unfortunately, a second touch kills them again. His gift proves especially problematic when he revives his childhood sweetheart after she’s mysteriously murdered. Sadly, Pushing Daisies kicked the bucket too soon: It was canceled after just 22 fantastical episodes. Reboot whisperings have been swirling for years, but until someone reanimates this corpse, you can binge the original episodes on CW Seed. —SC

36. SCHITT’S CREEK (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

If you’ve enjoyed Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy in any of their past film roles as oddball parents, you won’t be let down by the Canadian television series Schitt’s Creek. In it, the two return to familiar cringe-comedy material—this time as rich narcissists clumsily trying to adjust to their new, unglamorous lives in the small, rural town of Schitt’s Creek after losing all of their money. They’re joined by their two lovably vain children, David—who is played by Levy’s real-life son, Dan—and Alexis (Annie Murphy), who provide an additional layer of chaos to the series as they attempt to maintain normal twenty-something social lives. At just 22 minutes an episode, it’s more than possible to accidentally finish off a season (or two) in one sitting. —Colin Gorenstein

 

Mike Windle / Getty Images

 

37. SHERLOCK (2010-)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

In 2012, Sherlock Holmes (the character) became a Guinness World Record holder when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed detective nabbed the title for "the most portrayed literary human character in film & TV," with a total (at the time) of 254 onscreen depictions. But you don't have to have seen every single one of them to know that Benedict Cumberbatch, as the consulting detective, and Martin Freeman as his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson have brought a totally new spin to Doyle's works with Sherlock. Set in modern-day London, the series imagines a world in which Holmes would have the benefit of Google and social media to help him in his investigations, with Watson regularly blogging about their strangest cases (which turns Sherlock into a kind of social media star). Though it may sound like a breeze to get through just 15 episodes, most of them run about 90 minutes apiece—the length of a kids' movie—so it can be a longer investment. But approaching each episode like a standalone film allows the show to experiment a bit, even creating one episode which sends Holmes and Watson back to the era for which they were created. —JMW

38. THE SHIELD (2002-2008)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Television has traditionally been more hospitable to antiheroes than feature films have been, but none have been quite as arresting as Vic Mackey, the “different kind of cop” who murders, plunders, and lies his way through the politics of Los Angeles law enforcement. Michael Chiklis won an Emmy for his portrayal of Mackey, and it’s easy to see why: As Mackey’s lies and deceptions continue to pile up, the actor does a fantastic job of keeping him (almost) sympathetic. It’s not that Mackey wants to blur the line between good and bad—he wants to erase it altogether. —JR

39. SILICON VALLEY (2014-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

Mike Judge’s obsessively detailed satirization of life in the tech industry follows Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) as he attempts to build a startup around a revolutionary algorithm he created in his spare time. Pied Piper’s rag-tag team of coding misfits have the technical skills to change the world, if only they could stop getting in each other’s (and their own) way. The series shows comedians like Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, T.J. Miller, and Zach Woods at their best, trading quick barbs and dealing with the outsized egos of Bay Area billionaires who do things like hire a “blood boy” to supply them with regular transfusions of youthful blood. (Like most of the show’s most ridiculous plot lines, that was inspired by a real Silicon Valley startup.) —SF

40. SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

As the title implies, death is everywhere in Six Feet Under. Alan Ball's critically-acclaimed HBO series begins with the death of Fisher family patriarch Nathaniel (Richard Jenkins), who runs the Fisher & Sons funeral home (out of the family's California home) with youngest son David (Michael C. Hall, in his first television role), who is struggling with his sexual identity. When Nathaniel passes the family business on to David and his older brother Nate (Peter Krause), it forces Nate to move back to California and get to know his family again—including mother Ruth (Frances Conroy) and teenaged sister Claire (Lauren Ambrose). Though it's a show about death—each episode kicks off with a death sequence, some of which can be truly bizarre and even disturbing—it's really about family and making every moment of the life we do have. Which isn't to say that it's not utterly heartbreaking at times. Though you'll want to keep watching, it's best to limit the number of episodes you watch in any given day, lest you spend your non-watching hours questioning the meaning of life. —JMW

41. THE SOPRANOS (1999-2007)

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime, HBO Go

The Sopranos was never going to be shackled to the clichés of a mob series. The show is just as comfortable with shootouts and whackings as it is with the dissection of Tony Soprano’s (James Gandolfini) psyche on a therapist’s couch. And when his day as a mobster ends, he has a strained marriage to Carmella (the brilliant Edie Falco) and two hormonal teenagers at home to contend with. The characters are relatable, the plots are always engrossing, and there are plenty of quotable moments that will keep you binging through the show’s six-season run. —JS

42. STRANGERS WITH CANDY (1999-2000)

Where to watch it: Amazon

In high school, Jerri Blank was the kid your parents warned you about. The self-described “boozer, user, and a loser” dropped out of school, worked as a prostitute, and ultimately ended up behind bars. Now, at the ripe and reformed age of 46, Jerri is back at Flatpoint High School and ready to earn her degree—and learn a few life lessons along the way. Written as a spoof of after school specials of the 1970s and 1980s, Strangers With Candy reminds us that fashion trends come and go, but the humiliations of adolescence remain eternal. —KF

43. SUPERNATURAL (2005-)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

Soon to be entering its 13th season, Supernatural is the longest running fantasy series on American television. This show follows the adventures of brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively) as they travel around the country hunting demons, ghosts, and monsters, all while listening to an epic soundtrack of classic rock hits. The series may have its origins in the horror genre, but its numerous laughable and heartfelt moments are what have truly enabled Supernatural to stand the test of time. —RB

44. 12 MONKEYS (2015-)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Though it shares a name and some basic plot points with filmmaker Terry Gilliam’s 1995 movie (which was itself based on the French short film La Jetée), Syfy’s 12 Monkeys, co-created by Travis Fickett and Terry Matalas, is its own beast by the second episode. Post-apocalyptic scavenger James Cole (Aaron Stanford) is sent back in time—“splintering,” in the show’s terminology—by mad scientist Dr. Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa) to find Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), the one person the future freedom fighters hope can help them stop a plague that will wipe out most of humanity. They enlist the help of Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), the maybe-crazy daughter of Leland Goines, the CEO of a biomedical engineering company. He's in league with a mysterious organization, known as the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and its mysterious leader, The Pallid Man (Tom Noonan), who want to bring the world to an end.

Depending on the episode, the characters find themselves anywhere from post-apocalyptic 2043 to 1800s London or 1980s New York City to the trenches of World War I. As the characters splinter through time to unravel the mysteries of the Army of the 12 Monkeys and stop its prophet, The Witness, things get complicated—and more compelling. With each time period recreated with incredible attention to detail and each episode shot like a mini-movie, it’s hard to stop watching 12 Monkeys once you’ve started. Regular viewers had to wait between multi-episode and season-ending cliffhangers (and there are a lot of them), but lucky binge-watchers won’t have to. You can catch up before the show’s fourth and final season airs next year. —EM

 

Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

 

45. THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-1964)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

A must for fans of "the odd, the bizarre, the unexpected" (as Serling once described his show to TV Guide), The Twilight Zone made an indelible mark on pop culture by showing Americans that sci-fi could be smart. Yes, there are robots, aliens, UFOs, and time travel, but those are often just props in larger stories about human nature and Cold War-era social anxieties. Almost every sci-fi/fantasy show on TV today owes something to the show, which is a reason to watch in and of itself—as is Serling's mastery of the twist ending. While you're savoring the well-crafted plotlines and brilliantly macabre touches, keep an eye out for early appearances from famous names like Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, William Shatner, and George Takei. —Bess Lovejoy

46. TWIN PEAKS (1990-1991; 2017)

Where to watch it: Netflix

“Diane, I’m watching a dramatic series on television called Twin Peaks. It premiered in 1990 and centers around an FBI agent’s attempt to solve the murder of Laura Palmer, the homecoming queen of a small Pacific Northwest logging town. It seems like every character is filled with secrets—her boyfriend Bobby Briggs, her best friend Donna Hayward, her rival Audrey Horne, and especially her father Leland. The further I get into the show, Diane, the murkier it gets. I’ll give this series two seasons at most, but I have a feeling they’ll be the strangest, most inventive 30 episodes that ever aired on broadcast TV.” —Kat Long

47. VEEP (2012-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

Unlike The West Wing’s high-stakes drama (see below), Veep puts a comedic spin on the White House that is no less effective. The show focuses on Vice President Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who has taken home her fair share of awards for the role), and a supporting cast that includes hapless colleagues and political enemies. Veep pokes, prods, and skewers the bubble of Washington, D.C., while at the same time diving into the complexities of the political arena. It’s a refreshing take on a political series—one that knows it’s dealing with heavy subjects without taking itself too seriously. —JS

48. THE WEST WING (1999-2006)

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon

Aaron Sorkin’s benchmark political drama was prestige TV before we even started using the term. The West Wing focuses on the presidential administration of the fictional Democrat Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen. With its signature lightning-quick dialogue and eye for authenticity, the series is as close as most of us are ever going to get to seeing how the White House operates during both moments of mundanity and complete chaos. This is required viewing for any political junkie that missed this show’s initial run. —JS

49. THE WIRE (2002-2008)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

“Have you ever watched The Wire?” is one of those questions you’ve likely been asked far too often by classmates, coworkers, and family members, but don’t take that annoyance out on the show. The truth is, The Wire is one of the most acclaimed series of the 2000s for a reason. The show focuses on different aspects of the city of Baltimore, including the criminal elements, the police, the politicians, and the media. A complex plot brings these facets of life together and shows how each one impacts the other. It’s an examination of our relationship with subjects like class, race, and capitalism, punctuated by a superb cast including Dominic West, Idris Elba, Sonja Sohn, and plenty more. —JS

50. THE X-FILES (1993-2002; 2016-)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Deep in the bowels of FBI headquarters, Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) try to solve cases that the bureau doesn’t really want publicized. In their investigations of extra-terrestrial abductions, UFOs, government cover-ups, and randomly occurring monsters, Mulder, the Kool-Aid drinker, and Scully, the weary skeptic, develop a dramatic chemistry that propelled the series through nine seasons from 1993 to 2002 (plus a reboot last year that will get another season). Blast through its 208 episodes in one sitting and you’ll believe in aliens, too. —KL

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Nintendo

- Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $199 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

10 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Professional Songwriters

A songwriter in her natural habitat.
A songwriter in her natural habitat.
Soundtrap, Unsplash

Behind every club banger and power ballad is an eclectic team of individuals, each with their own role in its creation and promotion. Needless to say, it couldn’t happen without the songwriters. These gifted musicians don’t just pen the lyrics that fuel all your car concerts and karaoke nights—they also manage egos, help artists articulate their innermost feelings, and juggle their own side gigs. So what does a songwriting career actually look like? Mental Floss chatted with three experienced songwriters about everything from how they make money to how they make hits.

1. It’s common for songwriters to have their own music careers.

From Carole King to Pharrell Williams, the music industry has long teemed with talented artists who’ve written songs for other acts—so it’s not exactly surprising that so many songwriters are nurturing what they call their own “artist projects.” In fact, all three songwriters interviewed for this article have released new music in the last few months. Daniel Capellaro released the EP Nightside [A] in November under the moniker “Dvniel”; Skyler Stonestreet’s first single as “The Sunshine State” dropped in late October; and Trent Park has been unveiling a steady stream of singles and corresponding music videos since June.

Though it seems like it could be difficult to constantly fork over songs that they might want to release themselves, the collaborative nature of the business prevents this from being a major issue. Often, the songwriter is working off ideas and emotions specific to the artist they’re writing for, so the song truly feels like it belongs to that artist. Other times, the song gets tweaked by so many writers and producers that it’s no longer the original songwriter’s personal opus. “When a song comes out, sometimes I’m like, ‘Ah that was good, but I would’ve done it a totally different way,” Park says. “But that means it wouldn’t be the song that it is.”

2. Songwriters sometimes have to fake it ’til they make it.

In a business built on relationships, it’s pivotal for up-and-coming songwriters to always be on the lookout for new connections. Sometimes, this means acting first and thinking later. During Capellaro’s early days in Los Angeles, his demo CD was his de facto business card. About a month after giving one to an executive from Universal Music Group, he got a call from the company asking when he was playing next. Having no dates lined up, he picked one at random: March 16. “So I hang up and I'm like, ‘OK, I’ve just committed to playing a show. I've got no venue. I've got no band. I have to get all this put together in the next 30 days,” Capellaro remembers.

He found a former bass player from the band Lifehouse on Craigslist, and the two set about securing the rest of the band. For the venue, Capellaro chose a well-known rehearsal space called SIR (Studio Instrument Rentals), only to find out that the Universal exec slated to see the show “[had] never signed a single act at SIR—she hates that place.” It was too late to switch venues, so Capellaro reassured his Universal contact over the phone that “she won’t recognize it” and immediately transported everything in his recently furnished living room to the stage to give it a whole new look. “I had a couch, a rug, tea candles,” he says. “I wanted it to feel like MTV Unplugged.” The hard-to-please executive was duly impressed. “She’s like ‘You sound great. How long have you guys been playing together?’ and I’m like, ‘Ah, you know, for a while.’ I didn’t want to tell her ‘Four days.’”

When asked what surprised him most about the industry, Park answered without hesitation: “That nobody knows what they’re doing.” He, too, confessed to occasional fibbery. “There are some times when I reach out to an artist and I say, ‘I love your stuff. I have a song for you,'” he says. “I’m completely lying. I just want to work with that person, and once they reach out I end up formulating songs in the vein of their stuff.”

3. Songwriters don’t just write for career music artists.

Songwriters like Capellaro and Stonestreet, who are signed to music publishing companies, mainly do work on songs for fellow artists. Park, on the other hand, is an independent songwriter—so his clients sometimes come from other industries altogether. “Right now I'm writing for a couple lawyers that are just doing it as a passion, but they pay me really well,” he says. “I’m there for everyone. Honestly, it’s way better money.” Park also spent a few weeks writing songs for the wife of a billionaire app developer. Not only did she pay him triple his per-song rate and triple his per-diem rate, she also insisted on posting him up in a luxury hotel and giving him an additional $500 each day for food and other expenses. “That was a really cool [scenario],” Park says, “I’m hoping for more of those.”

4. There are countless ways to create a song—and countless people involved.

Songwriting isn’t exactly a linear process. “You can start from any place,” Capellaro says. “You can start with someone toe-tapping, or have a piano pulled up and just start playing a C chord over and over again.” Often, the record label has already started for you—they’ll send an instrumental track to multiple songwriters, who each adds their own lyrics and melody. Then, the label simply chooses their favorite.

Other songs originate in songwriting camps. Basically, a record label will gather various songwriters in a house, split them into small groups, and “see if magic happens,” Stonestreet says. During a camp meant to generate hits for Dua Lipa a few years ago, it did: Stonestreet and several other writers penned her 2018 single “IDGAF.”

But even after a track has lyrics and a melody, there’s always a chance it’ll undergo another round of edits. Maybe a label liked a certain producer’s work on another song, so they ask them to tweak this one; or they bring in a new writer to fine-tune a few words or add a post-chorus. Big artists also sometimes have personal collaborators that they want credited on the song, whether or not they actually helped create it. “That’s why when you look at a Katy Perry song, you’re like ‘How did 14 people write this one song that has the most juvenile lyrics I’ve ever heard in my life?’ They didn’t—it’s all politics,” Capellaro says.

5. Songwriters don’t make much from music streaming services like Spotify.

Music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are notorious for pocketing most of the earnings from artists’ work. Spotify, for example, pays the rights holder as little as $0.006 for each stream—and that paltry sum must then be split among all the people involved in making the song. Songwriters, producers, musicians, managers, label executives, and any number of other people could each be entitled to a certain percentage of the profits. “I have over a million streams on one catalog, and that translated to $785,” Capellaro says. “If I sold a million copies, I would’ve had a house up in [Beverly Hills].” Not only are the rates low, but artists also have to somehow make their songs stand out from the tens of thousands of other new songs released each week, which Capellaro admits is “virtually impossible.”

6. Songwriters often juggle other jobs.

Since songwriters can’t rely on streaming dividends for income—and salaried music publishing positions don’t always come easy—they often make ends meet with a variety of side gigs. Park realized early in his career that while songwriters were mainly earning money from royalties, producers were often paid an hourly rate or up-front lump sum. “So I learned how to produce,” he says. Then, he purchased a mic and other equipment so he could record vocals at home—like hooks for people’s rap or EDM songs. “Basically, I’m an a la carte thing,” he explained. Park eventually branched out into music video production, and he’s now directed videos for chart-topping artists like G-Eazy and Ty Dolla $ign. He also served as a music technical consultant for 2020’s The High Note, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Dakota Johnson; in that position, he made sure the dialogue, instruments, and other music-related details matched real life.

Even when a songwriter appears to be working a job entirely unrelated to the music industry, there could be a shrewd reason for doing so. Capellaro spent more than a decade running a restaurant called Amici in Brentwood, California. “I knew I wanted to be there because that’s where the celebrities live,” he explains. Sure enough, he connected with people like J.J. Abrams, Laura Dern, and Bonnie Hunt, who was hosting her NBC talk show at the time. One evening while refilling Hunt’s water glass, Capellaro posed a question: “Hey Bonnie, what would it take to be on your show?” She asked if he had a CD on hand, which he did, and booked him as a musical guest within weeks. The day after the taping, Hunt dined at Amici again and lauded Capellaro for his performance. “I’m like, ‘This is so surreal. I was just on your show yesterday, and now I’m bringing you sea bass.” A producer who caught the performance later reached out to Capellaro and ended up inviting him to his studio for songwriting sessions—which yielded hits for Chris Brown and Boyz II Men.

It was also at Amici that Capellaro developed a friendship with Marc Caruso, a music engineer who happened to be the founder of a music publishing company called Angry Mob Music Group. About five years ago, Caruso, knowing Capellaro was itching to give up his restaurant job and focus on music full-time, offered him a music publishing deal; Capellaro’s been there ever since.

7. Songwriters have to form close bonds with artists in a few hours or less.

Because the goal is to create a song that feels personal to the artist, songwriters usually prefer to work directly with them whenever possible. And getting the artist to give them some seed of inspiration means forging a deep friendship with them within minutes of entering the studio.

“There’s so much trust that needs to happen in the room. You’re telling potentially intimate details about yourself that would be uncomfortable sharing [with a stranger]. So much of it is trying to create a safe place for the artist and a safe place for the writers, all the while dealing with egos the size of tall buildings,” Capellaro says. “It’s almost like a therapy session: What’s your mood today? What happened over the weekend? What’re you pissed off about? What’re you inspired by at this very moment? Because it can change at 5 p.m. today, and maybe that inspires the song.”

Stonestreet expressed a similar sentiment. “I honestly love when the artist is involved. You won’t know anything specific unless you’re sitting there having a conversation—it can be emotional. You form a relationship, and you trust each other to handle the information.”

8. Songwriters have to say “no” without actually saying “no.”

Songwriters have to find creative ways of steering a song in the right direction without flatly rejecting an artist’s not-so-great suggestion. Stonestreet might toss out a compliment and lean on the lackluster reaction of the room as evidence that they haven’t yet struck gold. Something to the effect of: “‘That’s cool, and I like it, but maybe it’s not jumping out, and it’s not making everyone jump around the room and [giving everyone] that feeling of ‘This is so exciting.’”

“I always say, ‘Let’s try it,’” Park says. “‘I don’t necessarily hear what you’re talking about, but let’s try it.’” Sometimes, hearing their idea come to life is enough to make the artist realize it isn’t a great fit. Park also occasionally asks the artist’s manager, significant other, or another trusted party to weigh in, hoping they’ll side with him. “But I am always honest. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think the idea works. If you like it, 100-percent do it. It’s not my vibe, but it’s your song.'”

And since the artist does have final say, the writers also need to know when to cut their losses. If the artist is hell-bent on certain subpar lyrics? “You’re going to go with whatever they’re going to like,” Capellaro says.

9. Songs sometimes get lost in the abyss.

Earlier this year, Stonestreet wrote Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber’s duet “Stuck with U,” which got released mere weeks later. “I just heard the demo of it last week, and it’s coming out Friday. I don’t understand what’s going on,” she thought at the time. “That was a freak thing. Usually you do have to wait a minute.” A minute could be a year—or never. “So many people have to say yes to the song for it to come out … All the label’s people, the artist’s team, your team.” Even after getting all those green lights, a single could still test poorly among advance radio reviewers and end up stalling indefinitely.

Sometimes, a record label neglects to send the finished product back to the songwriter. “I think some songs can go into a complete abyss where they just sit on a hard drive for years and years,” Stonestreet says.

10. Songwriters have mixed feelings about making music via Zoom.

Since songwriting often involves multiple people spending long hours in a small studio, the coronavirus pandemic threatened to upend the whole system. So songwriters went virtual. Some, like Park and Stonestreet, already had recording equipment at home; Capellaro, meanwhile, quickly invested in a mic, a monitor, cables, and all the other requisite gadgets. To shift the workflow online, they’ve had to more clearly define each person’s task for each song.

“I’m a vocalist, so I’m going to record vocals in my house, and I will send the stems to producer X, Y, or Z, have them tune them for me [and] put them into the rest of the track," Capellaro says. “I can have another guy master it, [and] we can always hop on a FaceTime or Zoom call to get it written and recorded.” This streamlined process has actually helped with productivity. “I have been writing more music since March than I was previously,” Capellaro says.

Making music via video chat tends to work better with fewer people, so Stonestreet has enjoyed the opportunity for more one-on-one sessions. When there are several people on the call, they cut down on confusion over who’s speaking (and singing) by thoroughly explaining each suggestion. “You really talk things through, which has been really nice,” she says. That said, the camaraderie born in the studio is hard to recreate on a computer screen, and songwriters are eager to experience that again. “I love Zoom, but I also really miss people in the room with me,” Stonestreet says.