Summer used to be a total bummer for us TV fans. As the last of our favorite shows wrote “S.W.A.K.” in our yearbooks on their way out of town for the summer, one question haunted our dreams on those hot June nights: “What am I supposed to watch now?”

That is, until Netflix Instant was born. For just $8 a month, you now have more hours of quality television living inside your computer (or fancy TV) than you could ever hope to watch. Netflix is not paying me to say this. They don’t HAVE to, because it’s a no-brainer. And if you watch enough streaming television this summer, you can be a no-brainer, too. No need to go outside at all this summer. What are you, a settler from olden days?

There’s so much to choose from on Netflix Instant that you may not know where to begin. That’s what this handy Netflix Instant Summer Guide is for. Just pick your mood and dive head first into the stream.

I’ve got my Netflix Instant open, and I’m feeling…

Damages.jpgDramatic: Damages
I watched the first two seasons of this riveting FX law/crime on Netflix Instant in a week, and it was all I could think and talk about. I even made up nicknames for all the characters. Damages is addictive, dark and brilliant, and Glenn Close is magnificently terrifying. For best results, watch late at night with a glass of scotch.

The 4th of July is coming up, and I feel patriotic: Special agent Jack Bauer waits for no man in his quest to protect our freedoms, but seasons one through eight of 24 are waiting for you.

More blood-pumping ideas: Dexter Seasons 1-4, Luther Season 1, Sons of Anarchy Seasons 1-2, Spartacus Season 1

Hilarious: Party Down

In case all of your friends hate fun (or love fun and hate you), allow me to blow the lid off this otherwise poorly kept secret: Party Down was the best. It had all the best people on it (Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino, and so forth for almost forever) playing Hollywood cater waiters, and each episode was set at a party that goes hilariously awry. It was smart, quirky and strangely heartwarming. Starz canceled it too soon, and we have not forgiven them. So now you know. Watch it, then watch it again.
More bro-ness, please: You don’t have to like sports to love The League. Season one is available for free, which is a steal seeing as the episode “Mr. McGibblets” is priceless.

More animated, please: Please don’t tell me you’ve gone this long without watching Archer.

More LOL-able ideas: The IT Crowd Seasons 1-4, Reno 911! Seasons 1-6, Parks and Recreation Seasons 1-2 (skip Season 1!), 30 Rock Seasons 1-4

Catherine_Tate.jpgSketchy: The Catherine Tate Show
If she’s really going to be the new Office boss, you’ll want to see if this British comedienne has got the comedy chops to keep up in Scranton (she does). Seasons one through three of the Dr. Who star’s award-winning BBC sketch comedy series features all sorts of Tate’s craziest characters. Get on the Tate train before everyone else in America finally acknowledges her comic brilliance.

Yes! But with men: You’ll never feel more sophisticated than after an A Bit of Fry and Laurie binge, and That Mitchell and Webb Look is a lot like that (by “that,” I mean hilarious) but newer.

More sketchy ideas: The Kids in the Hall Seasons 1-5, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Important Things with Demetri Martin Seasons 1-2, Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time Season 1

Depressed: Hoarders
No, really? Please feel better! Maybe looking into the lives of these people with debilitating psychological issues and piles of garbage inside their houses will make you cherish what’s going right in your life. Or maybe watching them find mummified cats in the garage will make you even sadder. Who could say!

More documentary series that will make your life seem OK by comparison: Intervention Seasons 1-8, Obsessed Seasons 1-2

battlestar-galactica_l.jpgPatient: Battlestar Galactica
Some great shows only reveal their full rewards to you when you commit to seeing them all the way through. Now’s your chance to watch the sci-fi show that reminded non-nerds everywhere that sci-fi isn’t just for nerds, and that it’s a truly spectacular sci-fi show that can comb the depths of the universe for exciting alien-fighting action and still carve out engaging characters and make a profound statement about the human experience. Battlestar Galactica can and does.

What’s that other show everyone tells me to watch, but I’ve never taken the time? If you’re talking about Arrested Development, you better not be, because there’s no excuse that you haven’t seen every single episode at least eight times over. It’s a longshot, but maybe you mean Trailer Park Boys, which is a Canadian mockumentary series about a couple of petty criminals that only gets funnier the longer you know them over the course of its seven seasons.

No, the show I’m thinking of was on for a billion seasons. Well good, because now you have the time to see it through. So have fun watching The X-Files Seasons 1-9, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Seasons 1-7 or a seemingly infinite amount of Dr. Who. Good thing Netflix doesn’t charge by the hour. 

More quality-AND-quantity ideas: Larry Sanders Show Seasons 1-6, Weeds Seasons 1-6, South Park Seasons 1-14, Scrubs Seasons 1-9

1186734.jpgMysterious: Veronica Mars
Veronica Mars is the cool girl we all wished we could be in high school, and Veronica Mars is the whip-smart, suspenseful, funny series that other shows still wish they could be. Season one kicks off with a murder mystery that will instantly rope you in, but it’s the warmth and humor of the characters, led by a brilliant Kristen Bell, and the intelligent storytelling that will turn your curiosity into love. You’ll blow through all three seasons before you know it.

– I like the quirky sound of that, but could go for even weirder: Twin Peaks is one of the best shows of all time, from one of the best film makers of all time, David Lynch. Never seen it? Never even heard of it? Easily fixed in a matter of days, so no one needs to know.

Can you put it in England and make it fancier? Is the new “Masterpiece Mystery” Sherlock miniseries fancy enough for you?

Can you put it on an island and make it dumber? Harper’s Island is like watching a beach-read mystery novel unfold before your eyes.

More murderous ideas: Pushing Daisies Seasons 1-2, Dead Like Me Seasons 1-2, Murder, She Wrote (All 100 12 seasons)

_1290548196241.jpgGirly: Drop Dead Diva
She used to be hot, but then she died and now she’s not! Instead, she’s a smart, capable and (tragically) plus-sized lawyer, back from the dead to kick some ass in court. And learn about herself. It’s just as silly and fun as it sounds. And Margaret Cho is there.

– More ugly duckling, less back-from-the-dead: Ugly Betty is ugly, but she works for a fashion magazine. What could be crazier?

– I just saw “Bridesmaids” and want more of THAT: If by “that” you mean real women who swear, drink, wear sneakers and embarrass themselves in front of men, then the UK series Pulling will please you.

– More ideas for the ladiez: Ally McBeal
Seasons 1-5, My So-Called Life, Toddlers and Tiaras, Laguna Beach

cheers.jpgNostalgic: Cheers
Netflix Instant is a veritable treasure trove of classic sitcoms, and Cheers is the king of the mountain. Maybe you’re so old that you forgot how great Cheers is. Maybe you were too young to appreciate it the first time around. Either way, there are eleven seasons of gold waiting for you.
– More classic long-running sitcom ideas: The Cosby Show Seasons 1-8, Roseanne Seasons 1-9, Wings Seasons 1-8

Beavis_and_Butt-head-400x300.gifChildish: Beavis and Butt-head
Way back in the 1990s, parents (your parents?) thought it was a sign of the cultural apocalypse. Little did they know we’d look back from the age of reality TV at the raunchy, subversive humor of Beavis and Butt-head and deem it both classic and pioneering. MTV is bringing it back, but nothing can beat the original.
– I was more of a Nickelodeon kid than an MTV kid, personally:
Then you should be delighted to know that Ren & Stimpy Seasons 1-3, Rocko’s Modern Life 1-4 and Hey Arnold Seasons 1-5 are all available and have aged surprisingly well.

Have fun, fellow homebodies.

Do have the perfect summer Netflix tip? Share it in the comments!

(Images: Starz, FX, MTV, Lifetime, CW, Syfy, BBC, NBC)

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.