First there was House of Cards on Netflix. Then came a landslide of other new, original shows and movies across a growing number of streaming video services. From Succession to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or The Mandalorian to Ted Lasso, each service is cultivating a compelling slate of original programming. Seriously, there are so many binge-worthy shows that it’s impossible to keep up with them all. It’s not just the sheer number, either—it’s the fact that they’re spread out across a half-dozen services that makes it difficult to remember what to watch next.
Fear not! There are some tricks to staying on top of a growing, spread-out video queue. The answer is also not to just “push through” and spend more time watching TV (unless, of course, you want to).
Keep a Separate 'To-Watch' List
Step one is keeping a watch list exclusively for the TV shows and movies you want to see. Keep track of titles of interest. Having a universal list of shows across different services you subscribe to provides a bird’s-eye view. It helps avoid needing to dip into your individual queues for each of those apps glaring at you from your TV set, and it also helps you avoid the dreaded “What should we watch next?” after-work conundrum.
Use the to-do app already established in your routine, if you have one. Use a pen and paper if that makes the most sense. The key here is to keep track of new shows as you become aware of them and then cross them off when you’re done.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a to-do list already. If not, try a dedicated media-tracking app. I’ve tried Hobi, Watchworthy, Soon, Trakt, Sofa, Moviebuddy, and a handful of others. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, depending on your needs. I personally like Hobi the best because it allows tracking on a per-episode basis and helps with discovery of new shows.
Hobi features an active watchlist for shows I’m currently watching. It tells me how many days until the next episode is released. It also knows which shows have ended and which ones are just in between seasons, and will alert me when it has new information. I also really appreciate its Discover tab. Here, it surfaces trending shows, new shows returning each week, and new shows for the current month.
Hobi, like all these apps, has a media database it pulls from. It will know about the majority of current and former shows, whether it’s a broadcast show on the CW, one on Showtime, or something on a streaming-only service. It won’t, however, filter shows based on the services you subscribe to, as Watchworthy will.
The app has a statistics area too. While it may cause a bit of shock to see the amount of shows being watched, it’s neat to see the charts and information.
Prioritize Your Shows Based on Availability
Each month a dozen or more publications put out a list of shows coming to the most popular streaming services. Usually these also include a list of content that is leaving the streaming service each month as well. That’s one way to find out. Services like HBO Max also have a section for titles that are leaving soon. Once you have a list of shows you want to watch, prioritize those based on availability.
Netflix’s or HBO’s original shows will almost certainly be perpetually available as long as you subscribe to those services. But not all shows will be everywhere forever. The Office was a staple of Netflix for years, until NBC paid for the rights to bring it to its new streaming service, Peacock. If there’s a show or movie that’s leaving a service soon, move it up and watch that sooner.
You can always subscribe to another service and follow a show, but if it's available now, watch it now. This goes hand in hand with rotating services (which is addressed below) to save money and clear queues faster.
Give Up on the Bad Shows
Here’s a way to really break the logjam of shows you’re trying to get through: Stop watching the bad ones.
There are some shows, like Schitt’s Creek, that people advise might take a few episodes to get into before it blossoms. This is not what I’m talking about. Give a show a shot, especially if it comes recommended from a friend. But after a season, or if you’re confident after a few episodes, stop watching and move on to the next show.
If you stop watching a show, don’t remove it from your list. Start by moving it down. Maybe it makes sense to come back to it later. Or maybe it’s worth watching once you’re caught up on other newer, more discussion-worthy shows. For me, Chernobyl was one of these. It doesn’t have many episodes, but I stopped watching after the first one. I thought it was good and will come back to it, but it was just too heavy at the time. It’s still on my list for the future.
Some people are completists and need to finish what they start. If that’s you, fight the urge and move on to the next show. It doesn’t have to be goodbye, just see you later.
Batch Shows by Streaming Service
Here’s a little secret: You don’t need to subscribe to all the streaming services at once. It’s tempting to have access to Hulu, HBO Max, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime TV, Apple TV+, Peacock, and maybe Qui… But, if money is tight, rotate the services you pay for each month. This rotation trick can also help with the overwhelming feeling—knowing too many shows you want to watch are available at any moment.
Sticking to one service and going through shows on it may help clear out your queue faster. Once you’re finished, cancel that service and move on to the next one, and maybe score a free month’s trial while you’re at it. Wait for a few shows or movies to pop up on it before re-subscribing.
For me, Hulu and Sling TV are the ones I stop and start a few times each year. Some of these services even allow you to pause your subscription, instead of canceling altogether.
Some services employ a weekly show drop to keep customers paying week after week. HBO has been dropping Lovecraft County on Sundays, for example. Waiting to subscribe to HBO Max until all of the episodes are available will let you get through the whole season much quicker than hanging on for multiple months. The consideration here is whether you have friends you discuss each new episode with regularly. Or if you have the wherewithal to avoid spoilers across the internet.
Apple TV+ is a good example of a fresh new service that might not be worth paying for each month, yet. From zero to winning an Emmy, Apple TV+ is gaining steam, but it has taken 12 months. If you were to subscribe now, $4.99 for a single month gets you access to Ted Lasso, Tehran, For All Mankind, Mythic Quest, The Morning Show, and Tom Hanks’ movie Greyhound. If you watch quickly you can cancel until the second seasons are ready.
In the end, keep watching shows you enjoy, stop watching ones you don’t, and keep a list to make sure you don’t miss ones among the ever-growing options.