TV-watching has had some pretty bad press in the past, from the scorn at mindless couch potatoes like Homer Simpson to fears that it is corrupting the delicate minds of our youth. Recently, however, as TV has shown signs of becoming an art form on par with and or even surpassing more traditional media like film, theatre and literature, society is beginning to get wise to the ways in which watching TV isn’t quite a brainless pursuit.



While it is entirely possible to use TV as just a way to kill time, like any other art form, it is also capable of teaching you something important. In fact, the episodic nature of most TV shows means it can often afford to go into far more detail than a stand-alone film or play, thus teaching you not only more general philosophical lessons about friendship or compassion but also about practical topics like business and politics.

To prove our point, here’s a list of the best TV shows to do just that.

House, M.D. (2004-2012), Fox

While no work of fiction could ever be a sufficient substitute for actual medical advice, if you’re looking for medical trivia or to learn more about the oddities of the human body, this long-running medical drama is your best bet. It’s unlikely to demonstrate any skills that might be practical in everyday life but if you want to learn more about all the bizarre ways the human body can go awry, House cannot be beaten. The titular House, played by Hugh Laurie, leads a team of diagnosticians who each episode attempt to unravel the mystery of a new patient’s unexplained illness. Watch all eight seasons and you’ll know about pretty much every unusual disease under the sun.

Billions (2016-present), Showtime

While not quite as popular as law or crime procedurals like Law & Order: SVU or hit show Better Call Saul, the finance world now seems to be having its moment in the spotlight, and for good reason. These days it’s as important as it is difficult to ensure you have a good understanding of investments and the business world, especially for those who are interested in starting out in the world of trading. While there are many resources to learn about complicated financial concepts like spread betting offers online, these ideas might be easier to process if they come in the form of entertainment. US drama Billions is an excellent series to do just that, following the clash between a federal prosecutor of financial crimes and a top hedge fund manager and painting a remarkable portrait of the usually opaque world of top finance.

Survivor (1997 - today), Multiple networks

Yet another source of fascinating information that you will hopefully never need (but that is comforting to have anyway): Survivor is a reality TV game show that places a group of strangers in an isolated location and forces them to fend for themselves in the hopes of winning a cash prize. Other than being an entertaining source of drama, watching the Survivor contestants battle the elements and try to ration their meagre supplies is an excellent way of learning more about what to do if you’re ever stranded in the wilderness. The most important tip? Always boil your water.

American Beauty Star (2017 - today), Lifetime

By far the most recent show on this list, American Beauty Star first aired in September of this year and is an invaluable resource if you want to learn more about how professional hair and make-up artists create stunning and memorable looks. In the familiar format of other popular shows like Project Runway, 12 contestants compete for the coveted beauty spot on a Teen Vogue editorial shoot. While you might not be able to quite copy the looks created, it could be a great source of inspiration in elevating your own hair and make-up routine.

The Sopranos (1999 - 2007), HBO

You might think there’s nothing you’d want to learn from mobster boss Tony Soprano, the protagonist of the famous TV crime drama that follows his attempts to balance his family and business lives. However, according to Deborah Himsel, author of “Leadership Sopranos Style: How to Become a More Effective Boss”, he is the perfect example of an effective and empathetic boss. So, if you’re looking for tips on management strategy, get your pen and paper ready and head straight to the sofa. 

Tagged in