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20 Shows Like Virgin River To Binge While You Wait For Next Season

Netflix's steamy drama "Virgin River" has been a hit for the streaming service since its premiere in 2019. The story of big city nurse Mel (Alexandra Breckinridge), who moves to the titular northern California town to start her life over, had audiences swooning over the lush scenery (Vancouver subbing in for Humboldt County) as much as the chemistry between Mel and Jack (Martin Henderson), the local bar owner she can't keep away from. Based on the series of novels by Robyn Carr, the show combines quirky small town humor and medical drama, balancing heavy topics like postpartum depression and PTSD with soapy twists, turns, and cliffhangers. This is comfort TV at its best.

Netflix renewed the series for at least two more seasons in September 2021, ensuring that this "River" will continue to run. But if those episodes can't come fast enough, here are a dozen other shows that will give you similar feels.  


Both "Virgin River" and the 2021 Netflix series "Maid" start with a young woman trying to make a fresh start after a formative trauma. But where "Virgin River" settles its protagonist into a cozy mountain town, "Maid" thrusts its lead character into the social and bureaucratic nightmare that is living in poverty in America.

Based on Stephanie Land's memoir of the same name, "Maid" stars Margaret Qualley ("Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood") as Alex Russell, a young mother fleeing an abusive relationship with little more than the clothes on her and her daughter's backs. She takes a job with a cleaning service, working in a wealthy Seattle home while contending with the father of her toddler, her own dysfunctional parents (Billy Burke and Andie McDowell, Qualley's real-life mother), and the endless hoops people have to jump through in order to receive subsidized housing and other government benefits. Creator Molly Smith Metzler tempers the grueling day-to-day realities of the working poor with lively performances from her cast, particularly Qualley, McDowell, and Anika Noni Rose as Alex's well-off employer.

Anne with an E

Netflix's 2017 update of the classic Lucy Maud Montgomery book "Anne of Green Gables" is a Canadian production headed up by former "Breaking Bad" writer Moira Walley-Beckett. The bones of the story will still be recognizable to anyone who grew up loving Montgomery's original books or the 1992 adaptation starring Megan Follows: Orphaned Anne (Amybeth McNulty) is sent to live on Prince Edward Island with stern Mrs. Cuthbert (Geraldine James) and her more gentle brother Matthew (R.H. Thomson). At first Anne seems like a poor fit with the Cuthberts — they had originally requested a boy from the orphanage — but she soon wins them over with her unbeatable optimism, intelligence, and flair for the dramatic.

Walley-Beckett's take on the material is decidedly darker than the 1992 miniseries, both in content and in color palette, but fans of the original (or their parents) need not worry; this is not another dark and sexy 2010s remake of a children's story. The more mature tone works to make Anne's inner light shine that much brighter.

Call the Midwife

Based on Jennifer Worth's trilogy of memoirs, the 2012 BBC series "Call the Midwife" takes a warm yet critical look at the work of British midwives during the post-WWII baby boom. Young midwife Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) takes a new job in London's impoverished East End neighborhood in 1957, but rather than a small private hospital as she was expecting, the position is located in an Anglican convent, run by the intimidating Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter). As the '50s become the '60s, Jenny and her fellow midwives face a changing world and a changing medical profession while keeping their faith in humanity. Screen legend Vanessa Redgrave narrates each episode as an older Jenny, looking back on her life.

The show is at once terribly romantic about the past while also clear-eyed about all the ways in which those times were brutal toward women, particularly young mothers. Raine left the show after Season 3 to pursue a film career, but the series has carried on without her (though Redgrave's narration remains), tackling issues of domestic violence, LGBTQ rights, sexual assault, and abortion. Season 11, set in the mid-1960s, premiered in January 2022.

Gilmore Girls

Across the country from Virgin River, California is Stars Hollow, Connecticut, an equally idyllic little hamlet full of endearingly quirky locals, smart, attractive women looking for a second chance, and gruff yet sensitive men looking to be that second chance. It is the setting, of course, of the hit WB dramedy "Gilmore Girls," which aired from 2000 to 2007. 154 episodes might seem a lot to binge, but when everyone speaks as quickly as they do in Stars Hollow, the hours will fly by.

Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (later of "Bunheads" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"), "Gilmore Girls" focuses on the titular mother-daughter duo, played by Lauren Graham (as young single mom Lorelai) and Alexis Bledel (as precocious teen daughter Rory). Lorelai runs the cozy inn in town and Rory attends the tony prep school nearby. There are a host of supporting characters and love interests, but the meat of the series is the rapport between the two women, closer to best friends than parent and child, expressed through reference-heavy dialogue delivered at screwball comedy speed. After seven years on the WB (later rebranded the CW), "Gilmore Girls" returned to the airwaves via the Netflix sequel series "A Year in the Life."

Once Upon a Time

The quiet, small town of a city girl's dreams is given a fairy tale twist on ABC's long-running fantasy series "Once Upon a Time." Big city bail bondswoman Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) comes to Storybrooke, Maine, a little town with a big secret: Its citizens are all cursed exiles from an alternate dimension where fairy tales are real, and Emma is in fact the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas). The curse is all the doing of Snow White's wicked stepmother (Lana Parilla), now the town mayor, with dark magic courtesy of treacherous pawnbroker Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle), AKA Rumpelstiltskin, AKA the crocodile who ate Captain Hook's (Colin O'Donoghue) hand.

That may sound like a lot, but it barely covers the very first episode. "Once Upon a Time" delights in throwing as many plots and complications at the viewer as possible, drawing characters from across fairy tales, Greek mythology, and Victorian literature. In later seasons, the Disney-produced show would pull more explicitly from its parent company's vault, incorporating the worlds of "Aladdin," "Mulan," and "Frozen" into its universe. After running for six seasons, the show had a soft-reboot Season 7 before concluding in 2018.


Time travel has rarely been as soapy and sexy as it is on "Outlander," the 2014 Starz network hit based on Diana Gabaldon's beloved series of novels. World War II British Army nurse Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is on honeymoon in the Scottish highlands with her kind, somewhat bland husband Jack (Tobias Menzies). After witnessing a mysterious pagan ceremony one night, Claire finds herself transported back to the 18th century and caught in a war between the British crown and Scottish rebels. Surprises abound for Claire, as her medical skills and knowledge mark her as a spy, a witch, or both. She falls into a passionate affair with handsome highlander Jaime Fraser (Sam Heughan), faces off against her husband's sadistic ancestor (Menzies again), and discovers that she may not be the only time traveler in town.

Created by "Battlestar Galactica" maestro Ronald D. Moore, the show drew immediate attention due to its gorgeous locations and unapologetic eroticism, with an intentional focus on female desire. Later seasons take Claire to the future, the past, and back again, and from Britain to America at the dawn of the Revolutionary War. Following nearly two years since the end of Season 5, Season 6 is scheduled to premiere on Starz in March 2022.


Before there was "This is Us," there was "Parenthood." Based on the 1989 Ron Howard film of the same name, this 2010 NBC drama helped make family weepies into appointment television again. Creator Jason Katims ("Friday Night Lights," another heartfelt film adaptation for NBC) spun five seasons out of the lives and loves of the Braverman family: Siblings Adam, Sarah, Crosby, and Julia; their parents, Zeek and Camille; and their spouses, exes, and children. Peter Krause from "Six Feet Under" and Maura Tierney from "ER" were cast as eldest Bravermans Adam and Sarah, but Tierney had to withdraw from the show due to a breast cancer diagnosis. Erstwhile Gilmore Girl Lauren Graham stepped into the role, alongside Dax Shepard and Erika Christensen as Crosby and Julia.

Though the show could swing for the emotional fences when it wanted to, as with Adam's wife Kristina's (Monica Potter) cancer diagnosis late in the run, it was at its best in small, down-to-earth moments. Few of us could relate to the Braverman's well-off Northern California lifestyle, but embarrassing your nephew to the sounds of Run-DMC is universal.

Schitt's Creek

At this point, the beloved, Emmy-sweeping Canadian sitcom "Schitt's Creek" has grown far beyond its bad joke of a title, but there was a time when that wasn't the case. The show's first season is hilarious, as one would expect of a show where Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara play out of touch rich people brought down to Earth, but it's a coarser, less affectionate show than what it would become.

In the end, "Schitt's Creek" turns out to be a love story — several, in fact. It's the story of spoiled rich kid David Rose (creator/star Dan Levy) finding love with townie Patrick (Noah Reid), but it's also the story of David's socialite sister Alexis (Annie Murphy) falling in love with the best version of herself. It's the story of their parents Johnny and Moira (Levy and O'Hara), still enamored after decades together. And it's the story of the entire Rose family falling for this deceptively idyllic, progressive little town in the middle of nowhere. 

Perhaps it was always meant to be that, or perhaps creator-star Dan Levy realized that a subtle course correction was needed after Season 1. At the end of that season, all the Roses wanted was to get out of Schitt's Creek as soon as possible; by the end of the series, leaving would be the hardest thing for any of them to do.


The first season of Netflix's "Bridgerton" became an unexpected phenomenon when it premiered in December 2020. It turns out that a sexy spin through alternate-history Regency England was just what everyone was waiting for while stuck at home during quarantine. 

Phoebe Dynevor stars as Daphne, eldest daughter of the wealthy Bridgerton family and star debutante of the season, whose protective father and headstrong ways have left her without a suitable suitor. Enter Simon, Duke of Hastings (breakout star Rege-Jean Page) a notorious cad who refuses to marry. The two strike up a deal to pretend to be madly in love with each other in order to stoke jealousy in her potential suitor, while also giving him a break from so many heartbroken young ladies (and their mothers).

All the while, London high society is dying to know the identity of the mysterious Lady Whistledown (voiced in narration by Julie Andrews), who is publishing everyone's secrets in a scandal sheet like an 18th century Gossip Girl. Season 2 of "Bridgerton" is on the way in 2022, which is the perfect excuse to binge the 16-episode first season today.

Dead to Me

If Netflix's "Dead to Me" had stuck with its original premise — an unexpected friendship between two widows (Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini) navigating grief — that would have made for a fine show. But series creator Liz Feldman had far more up her sleeve, and by the end of the first episode the show revealed itself to be an addictive murder mystery, with secrets, lies, betrayals, and James Marsden playing identical twins.

Each episode ends on a cliffhanger designed to keep you hitting "Yes" when Netflix asks if you are still watching. But the real appeal of the series is the opposites-attract chemistry of Applegate and Cardellini, doing some of the best work of their careers as two women with nothing in common but their shared grief, supporting one another in some of the most well-dressed homes in southern California. After Season 2 premiered in 2020, Feldman and Netflix announced that Season 3, expected to drop in 2022, would be the series' last.

Emily in Paris

As light and pretty as a souffle, the 2020 Netflix series "Emily in Paris" stars Lily Collins as the eponymous American, who takes a job with a French marketing firm (despite speaking no French) and is thrust into the sexy, high-stakes world of haute couture. Developed by "Sex and the City" creator Darren Star, it has earned its reputation as a very silly, very watchable show. Entertainment Weekly called Season 1 "a five-hour brain vacation," while IndieWire described it as the equivalent of scrolling through Instagram. 

The show earned controversy in 2021, when the Los Angeles Times reported that before "Emily in Paris" received Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress and Best Television Series (Musical or Comedy), its parent company Paramount Network flew 30 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to Paris for a two-night stay at the luxurious Peninsula Hotel. Would the show have been nominated without treating the nominating body to a Parisian vacation? Stream Season 1 today and decide for yourself.

Firefly Lane

Based on Kristin Hannah's novel of the same name, Netflix's 2021 series "Firefly Lane" follows two lifelong friends from the early 1970s up through the 2000s. Television veterans Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke play Tully and Kate, who grew up together on the titular street, bonding over a shared passion for journalism. But while Tully chased career success and is a popular but lonely TV host in the show's contemporary scenes, Kate chose to marry and raise a family. Now, looking down the barrel of middle age as a fresh divorcee, Kate must rediscover what makes her happy.

The show follows the lead of "This is Us," employing a flashback structure with young actors playing Tully and Kate as teenagers, while Heigl and Chalke play the characters from their mid-20s to their mid-40s (often in ridiculous period costumes and wigs). While the plots of the ten-episode first season sometimes strain credulity, the best and most believable aspect of the series is the eternal friendship of Kate and Tully. Heigl and Chalke give the characters depth and warmth that the scripts often lack.

Ginny and Georgia

Many viewers' first exposure to the 2021 Netflix series "Ginny and Georgia" was the viral "Oppression Olympics" scene, or perhaps the kerfuffle caused by a not-particularly-clever Taylor Swift joke. Or perhaps they heard that the show was a "Gilmore Girls" clone about a precocious mother-daughter duo living and loving in an idyllic New England town.

These aren't rumors; everything in the preceding paragraph is an element of the show, even if the viral bits don't tell the whole story. While the premise shares some similarities to "Gilmore Girls" in the uncomfortably close relationship between 30-year-old Georgia (Brianne Howey) and her 15-year-old daughter Ginny (Antonia Gentry), the show is much more clear-eyed about just how uncomfortable that relationship really is. The "Oppression Olympics" scene is embarrassing out of context, but speaks to the show's willingness to address, however awkwardly, Ginny's biracial identity and her struggles in this very white town. As for the T-Swift joke, well, that is pretty played out.

Grey's Anatomy

This ABC monolith, on the air since 2005, with nearly 400 episodes, might be a little tough to binge. Here's the amazing part: there's still more to come.

The first series created by "Bridgerton" producer and Queen of Television Shonda Rhimes, "Grey's Anatomy" started as little more than a primetime soap about young, sexy doctors at the fictional Seattle Grace hospital. Ellen Pompeo plays lead character Meredith Grey, the daughter of a famous surgeon struggling to prove herself among fellow interns Christina (Sandra Oh) and Izzy (Katherine Heigl), while pursuing a relationship with Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), AKA "McDreamy."

But after nearly two decades on the air, the show has become its own galaxy, subject to all the forces of life itself: Aging and death, growth and stasis. Cast members and characters have come and gone as quickly as in real life, with Meredith and Pompeo on hand to witness it all. And if the show's plot twists and bomb threats and trips to the afterlife seem wildly outlandish, are they any more bananas than a global pandemic keeping people in their homes, binge-watching TV, for the last two years?

Hart of Dixie

Almost a decade before "Virgin River," there was "Hart of Dixie." The 2011 WB series starred Rachel Bilson ("The O.C.") as Zoe Hart, an acerbic New York doctor who inherits a general practice in small-town Alabama from the father she never knew. Before long, she is running afoul of the quirky yet suspicious locals and coming between local lawyer George (Scott Porter) and his fiancee, while also falling for hunky neighbor Wade (Wilson Bethel) after a lot of waffling back and forth.

Executive produced by Bilson's "O.C." boss Josh Schwartz, the series' use of its Southern setting wasn't always the most sensitive, often indulging in cliches, if not stereotypes, of the region. But the show's appeal was in its warmth and familiarity, its bright and funny lead actress, its mixing of small town quaintness and medical show gravitas, and its casting of Tim Matheson as a country doctor. Perhaps the "Virgin River" team was taking notes.


The longest-running drama in Canadian television history, the CBC modern-day Western "Heartland" aired its first season in 2007 and wrapped up its 15th at the end of 2021. Based on the YA novel series by Lauren Brooke, the show tells the story of Alberta teen Amy Fleming (Amber Marshall) and her big-city older sister Lou (Michelle Morgan), who take on operations of their family's horse ranch Heartland after the death of their mother. The ranch specializes in healing abused animals using natural horsemanship (popularly known as "horse whispering"); just as the horses in their care must learn to heal and trust again, so must Amy and her family.

Like "Grey's Anatomy," binge-watching the entire series can be daunting, but there is a poignancy to it, particularly in watching Amy grow from an unsure teen to a self-possessed woman to a mother of her own. The wide open Albertan plains, meanwhile, will make any urbanite want to make like Lou and leave the city to jump on a horse.


The lives of the young, beautiful, and snowy are exposed in 2021 German Netflix import "Kitz." Working-class Munich teen Lisi (Sofie Eifertinger) gets a job serving at a party thrown by socialite and would-be influencer Vanessa (Valerie Huber). When Lisi rescues Vanessa from a masked assailant breaking into her bedroom, Vanessa thanks Lisi by inviting her to the party as a guest and welcoming her into Vanessa's ultra-rich, decadent social scene. But it was all a fake-out; the masked man and Lisi's rescue were planned in advance, as part of Lisi's revenge scheme against Vanessa, whom she blames for her brother's death one year earlier.

"Kitz" gets its kicks from that sort of twisty-plotting and knotty motivations, the more incredulous the better. Eifertinger grounds the proceedings in recognizable emotions and gives the intentionally shallow world of a wealthy German ski resort some depth. The other young actors do their best in more underwritten parts, and seem mostly on hand to be impossibly attractive and glamorous.

Last Tango in Halifax

From its cheeky title forward, the BBC One series "Last Tango in Halifax" takes an unusual look at love and lust in a small town — specifically, love and lust for lovers of a certain age. Anne Reid and stage legend Derek Jacobi play Celia and Alan, teenage sweethearts who lost touch after Celia's family moved away. Now, more than 50 years later, the two reconnect on Facebook and find that their love is just as strong as it was in the 1950s.

Playwright Sarah Wainwright based the series on her own mother's second marriage. As much as the series delights in Alan and Celia's second chance at love, it doesn't ignore the struggles of the adult children (and grandchildren) from their first marriages. Sarah Lancashire shines in particular as Celia's daughter Caroline, who begins the series approaching middle age, yet has still not come out to her mother. After four seasons and 24 episodes (including a two-part Christmas special), "Last Tango" aired its series finale in October 2020; all episodes are available on Netflix.

Sweet Magnolias

Maddie (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) is reeling from her recent divorce. Dana Sue (Brooke Elliott) is a perfectionist chef working through the trust issues her ex-husband left behind. Helen (Heather Hedley) is a career woman wondering if the time to have children has passed her by. These three friends, known collectively as "Sweet Magnolias," live in the idyllic fictional hamlet of Serenity, South Carolina, caring for one another with warmth, humor, and margaritas on the couch.

Based on Sherryl Woods' novel series, this 2020 Netflix series is dedicated to its small, human-sized stakes. Maddie, Dana Sue, and Helen work to open a spa, but there are no dark alley deals, or even serious setbacks. Until a climactic car accident in the season finale, there are none of the life-or-death situations that spice up even a low-key show like "Virgin River." Instead, the appeal comes from the camaraderie of the three leads, the warmth of their friendship emanating from the television. If a show can be comfort food, "Sweet Magnolias" might be the comfort food-iest.

This is Us

NBC's "This Is Us" might just be the most guaranteed tear-jerker of the past decade. A critical and commercial hit upon its premiere in 2016, the show follows the Pearson triplets — Kate (Chrissy Metz), Kevin (Justin Hartley) and adopted Randall (Sterling K. Brown) — as they navigate their own lives and the legacy left behind by their parents. Flashbacks to when the "big three" were growing up showcase their parents Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), while occasional flash-forwards show their grown children dealing with issues of their own.

Series creator Dan Fogelman made a point of having a group of diverse artists behind the scenes, which was especially important in crafting the characters of Kate and Randall. Kate's struggles with being overweight were inspired by Fogelman's sister; for Randall, the writing staff consulted with experts in transracial adoption, proving the old writing adage that the more specific a detail, the more universal it becomes.

The sixth and final season of "This Is Us" premiered in early January 2022, making this (or anytime) a perfect time to binge the entire series. Just keep an eye on that crock pot.