12 Best Background TV Shows to Stream on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and More

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  • Background TV shows are perfect for watching when you can’t devote your full attention to a series.
  • These simple, casual programs can be enjoyed while you’re busy with other tasks around the house.
  • Some of our favorite series to stream as background TV include shows like “Wife Swap” and “The Office.”

Though we love watching prestige dramas that challenge our minds with complex plots, sometimes we all just want to flip on the TV and enjoy some passive entertainment. This is where “Background TV” comes in.

The term gives a name to the kinds of shows we put on for nothing more than background noise and casual enjoyment. They’re the type of shows that are perfect to fill the silence while you work from home, and are ideal when you want something to half-heartedly pay attention to while you cook, clean, or scroll through your phone.

Stylist describes background TV as “easily digestible,” while The New Yorker says these kinds of shows typically don’t require a deep next-day analysis of everything you’ve just watched. Instead, these are simple, often comforting programs that can be watched without worrying about missing key details here and there.

Background TV can mean different things to different people; for some, reality TV or true-crime documentaries are ideal. Episodic shows with light plotlines might qualify as background TV to others — “Seinfeld” is a great example of this, because it’s famously “a show about nothing.” Shows you’ve already seen many times can also qualify, since you’re already familiar with the plot.

In an era filled with tons of new series popping up every week and never enough time to watch them all, background shows are becoming increasingly popular and they offer the perfect break from prestige TV. It doesn’t matter if a line of dialogue gets drowned out by a vacuum or you miss a scene while you’re busy checking TikTok, because these are the kinds of shows that don’t command your full attention.

If you’re searching for some streaming recommendations that are perfect for background TV, look no further. We asked our colleagues on the Insider Reviews team to recommend some of their favorite shows to put on when they just want some casual ambient entertainment.

From ‘Real Housewives’ to ‘The Office,’ these are our 12 favorite background shows:

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