So, you’re going through a break-up. You feel like James Franco with(out) his severed arm in 27 Hours and your eyelids look like a bee colony is living beneath them. It’s bleak. But TV is here to help – and we’ve got the ideal shows for the different stages until finally, you feel as good as Franco before the arm thing.
The “How On Earth Did This Happen, Did I Do Something Evil In A Past Life?” stage
This is the bit where you’re more shocked than you’ve been about any TV finale twist. Your seemingly stable, full-of-potential, “yay” relationship has exploded into flecks of sawdust which are now stuck to the bottom of a sewer. Everything you thought you believed has turned out to be lies, lies, lies. IS Michael Jackson really dead? Did Beyonce really bear her own child? Has there ever been a man on the moon? Are you living in virtual reality where The Sims are real and you’re actually The Sims?
Yeah, you really can’t handle any more uncertainty. So stick to the shows you’ve already watched a trillion times – not too dark, not too challenging, not too real – or shows that are full of kind, interesting people who have fun in a wholesome way.
Friends: If you don’t like Friends then you have no heart so it can’t be broken. For the rest of you, this show is akin to climbing into a furry slipper while Barack Obama reads you a bedtime story over a gentle humming from Michael Bublé. But don’t watch the Ross and Rachel break-up scene, obviously.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: An impossibly positive girl was locked in a dungeon and has now emerged to embrace the weird old world with her fabulous musically gifted room-mate Titus Andromedon. The title says it all. If this won’t make you feel warm and fuzzy and silly, nothing will. And even if you’re in too much of a state to actually take in any of the dialogue, it looks pretty and colourful too. And hey, watching it through tear-stained eyeballs will probably give it an extra dreamy hue. Netflix
And then literally anything you love that is full of wisdom: It could be anything from Only Fools and Horses (nostalgia) to The OC (rich teens being angsty will make you feel experienced and wise), from Ab Fab (at least you’re not a self-destructive drug abuser!) to Gilmore Girls (small-town, comforting feeling with wise women).
The “Leann Rimes How Do I Live Without You” stage
Reality has set in. What you need, as well as your daily episodes of Friends, are TV shows about people having a worse time than you, where they’re so busy trying to stay alive that they don’t have time for small-fry stuff like love.
House: It’ll make you think of the disgusting, horrific, freak diseases you’re lucky not to have. “My heart’s broken but at least I don’t have the bubonic plague which is resulting in my body turning green and my eyes rotating in their sockets while my liver disintegrates!” Netflix
The Disappearance: If anything will make you momentarily forget your own plight, it’s parents with a missing daughter.The French BBC4 thriller focuses on a teenager who disappears, leaving her family’s lives to unravel. YEP, unravel EVEN more than yours! Murder? Abduction? Grief! Happy Days! Also try BBC3’s Thirteen (girl in a cellar for her whole childhood, life a total nightmare!). BBC iPlayer
Line of Duty: Thinking about your shattered heart? Yeah, try being a cop embroiled in mind-bogglingly complex cases where you may or may not be corrupt, nobody is sure, even you’re not sure anymore. These policemen risk death every day while you’re in your PJs with barely enough impetus to make a cup of tea. Those folks are TOUGH. Netflix
The “Oh, This Glass of Water Reminds Me Of Them Because They Also Drank Water” phase
This might be the worst bit of all. When you’re thinking “oh my god this show is set in a house- they lived in a house!” or “omg this character has hair, they had hair!” So for the “everything reminds me of them” stage you need shows which won’t remind you of them because they were too dumb/ boring/ selfish/ weird/ scared of commitment to want to see them.
You need docs that will make you think, expand your horizons, make you feel there are more important things to think about. Obviously you’re still sad, but with your superior intelligence and superior wit and superior haircut and superior friends, you’ll be fine.
Project Nim: This doc is so fascinating and unsettling that you’ll think of nothing else for hours afterwards. A family in the 1970s brought a chimp up as their own child and dressed it in dungarees and taught it sign language? WOAH. It brings up fundamental questions about science, animal rights and human beings which will push your break-up right to the back of your brain. If chimps do the trick, try Unlocking The Cage (iPlayer) about a lawyer who fought to get chimps human rights.
Louis Theroux’s LA Stories: Unless your ex-partner was a meth addict or had a dangerous dog that they trained to attack on command, then these docs will not remind you of your ex. And if anyone can show you how much there is beyond your own small world, it’s Louis. His gentle humanity with all sorts of unusual people you probably haven’t dated, makes your soul go all warm and happy. You may actually start to wish you were dating Louis – but maybe that’s just me. Netflix
And then you need lots of life-affirming documentaries which will make you realise that you have better things to do in the world than plotting how to publicly humiliate your ex: David Attenborough’s Human Planet (amazing animals!), My Beautiful Broken Brain (a wondrous documentary about brain recovery) and Wonders of the Universe (you’re so insignificant, look how big those planets are!). Netflix