What do a pair of aspiring fashion designers, a late-night showrunner, a choreographer, a bevy of chefs, and a thousand-year-old alien have in common? Each is the brilliant, innovative lead character of a binge-worthy television series. Whether they’re artists in the traditional sense or simply bold, forward-thinkers, these six main characters will inspire you to create, problem solve, and tackle your creative endeavors in a whole new way. Clear your weekend and get your streaming service passwords ready ASAP.
The Doctor, Doctor Who
“Is he magic?” my mother asked during her first viewing of Doctor Who. “He’s not,” I replied, “He can just…do things that people can’t.” The Doctor doesn’t have any powers, although he’s helped along by a special screwdriver (no, really). Instead, he problem solves. He thinks on his feet. He gets ordinary people to help him by making them feel special, and he understands the power of words to motivate, persuade, and — sap alert — heal. Bonus: monsters, space, and time travel. What more could you want?
Watch it if…you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. Chances are you’ll get sucked in (even if sci-fi and fantasy aren’t really your thing), and there are fifty years’ worth of episodes to catch up on.
Available via: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime
Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
It takes a brilliant writer to write a live, weekly comedy series, but it takes a legitimate genius to manage the personalities, egos, and eccentricities performers bring to a series like that. Liz Lemon’s professional life is a balancing act, and watching her on the high wire (with the baggage of her bonkers personal life in each hand) is a lesson in how to be a smart, funny human (not just woman) who is respected for her creativity. Bonus: the show is properly hilarious.
Watch it if…you’ve known all along that the idea that women aren’t funny was totally bogus.
Available via: Netflix
Michelle Simms, Bunheads
This (tragically) short-lived ABC Family series follows Michelle Simms, an aging, aspiring dancer stranded in a small town after the sudden death of her fiance. She takes a job teaching dance at a studio owned by her would-be mother-in-law, a job that both helps restore her passion for dance and elevates her skills to new heights as she’s inspired by the teens she teaches. While her talent is evident in her ability to dance and choreograph in any style, her creativity shines brightest as she disproves the “those who can’t, teach” theory.
Watch it if…you’re a musical theater lover or want to become one. Michelle is played by Sutton Foster, one of Broadway’s legitimate triple threats.
Available via: Amazon (for purchase only)
Ben and Cam, How to Make it in America
While many critics dismissed How to Make it in America as a lower stakes version of Entourage, this show is its own animal: a grittier look at what it takes to get a toehold in New York City’s fashion industry. While Ben and Cam are very different from each other, they both know enough to know that their talent isn’t enough — it’s hustle that will take them the extra mile, whether they (and their friends) are trying to sell denim, sweatshirts, or even marijuana. True creatives know how to bounce back; so do Ben and Cam.
Watch it if…you’re nostalgic over New York City, your own youth, or a combination of both. Bonus: Kid Cudi’s a recurring cast member.
Available via: HBO Go
The Chefs of The Mind of a Chef
If you’re passionate about cooking, but bored with the monotony of reality TV competition shows and overly chipper Food Network hosts, give this documentary series a try. Narrated by Anthony Bourdain, the series joins celebrity chef travels the globe to some of the world’s most celebrated restaurants, profiling the chefs that have elevated their kitchens to greatness. From David Chang (pictured) to April Bloomfield to Rene Redzepi, each chef is a culinary genius in his or her own right, and you’ll be inspired by both their culinary creativity and their ability to think outside every box imaginable. Bonus: along the way, you’ll glean insights on the psychology of cooking and eating.
Watch it if…you have snacks and a passport on hand. Each 23-minute episode will make you hungry
Available via: Netflix, Amazon Prime