13 TV Shows That Are Perfect Background Noise While Working From Home

These unobtrusive shows will fill the silence but keep you productive.

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Let me guess: You're at home right now. Other than essential workers, we all are — or should be! And if you are lucky enough to still be working while you're at home, there's a chance you're looking for something to break up the monotony of your day. (Unless you have young kids. If you have young kids, our thoughts are with you at this time.) If you normally work in an office, there are friends to chat with, meetings to attend, annoying coworkers to talk to you even when you clearly have your headphones on. At home, you don't have any of that, but you do have access to TV shows that are great for background noise.

Sometimes, you just need to work against something. You need to feel like there's more going on besides the computer screen in front of you, but you can't be productive when you have the news on constantly. So we've picked out 13 shows that are easy to work to. Some of them will be a good fit because of their familiarity. Some of them are soothing. Some of them will inspire you to Google "cookies vs. biscuits"—that's a built-in little break for your working mind right there. From reality shows to sitcoms to dramedies, here are the background noise TV shows that will make your day go by faster. And for more engaging recommendations, check out The 17 Best Stand-Up Comedy Specials on Netflix.

1
black-ish

Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross in black-ish
Disney–ABC Domestic Television

black-ish is a sitcom, which means episodes are only about 22 minutes long and that they all have a similar structure—perfect for popping in now and then while you work. On this series, you can expect an upper middle class black family headed by Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson dealing with issues in their daily life, all through a comedic lens, of course. And if you get hooked on the black-ish universe, you can try the spinoffs grown-ish (about their oldest daughter's college experience) and mixed-ish (a prequel about Ross's character growing up in the '80s).

Stream on Hulu, ABC, or YouTube TV

2
Chopped

Two chef contestants compete in an episode of Chopped
Food Network

The long-running Food Network series Chopped involves four chefs competing to see who can make the best dishes using a basket of mismatched ingredients. The majority of each episode is just the chefs cooking and talking about what they're making. It won't take much focus away from your other tasks to be repulsed by someone putting cake icing into a salad dressing. For more show recommendations, check out 9 TV Shows We're Watching While in Quarantine.

Stream on Hulu, SlingTV, FuboTV, YouTube TV, or Philo

3
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

James Avery and Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Warner Bros. Television

Will Smith stars as a teen who moves from Philadelphia to live with his wealthy family in Los Angeles. You can expect Will arguing with his uncle Phil (James Avery), as well as antics from his rich kid cousins Ashley (Tatyana Ali), Hilary (Karyn Parsons), and Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), plus plenty of '90s nostalgia and some pretty famous guest stars.

Rent/buy on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, or YouTube

4
Fixer Upper

Joanna and Chip Gaines in Fixer Upper
HGTV

The reality series Fixer Upper is about home renovation and each episode follows the same pattern: Couple Chip and Joanna Gaines show a family different homes on the market, the family chooses one and sees the plans for renovation, and the updated house is revealed at the end. It's easy to just let it play and then check in at key points. Plus, Joanna loves a calm, neutral color palette in her interior design, making the show relaxing too.

Stream on Hulu, SlingTV, FuboTV, YouTube TV, or Philo

5
Friends

Matt LeBlanc, Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, and David Schwimmer in Friends
Warner Bros. Television

Anyone who has seen a lot of Friends reruns already knows that it's peak watching-but-not-watching TV. It's familiar and soothing hanging out with this group of friends in New York City (Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, and David Schwimmer) as they cope with issues they run into in their dating lives, at their jobs, and in their relationships with each other. Most of the action takes place in their apartments or at their favorite coffee shop, so there's really not too much to keep up with here.

Stream on FuboTV. Rent/buy on YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, or Amazon Prime

6
Gilmore Girls

Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel in Gilmore Girls
Warner Bros. Television

Gilmore Girls centers on a mother, Lorelai (Lauren Graham), and her daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel), living in a small town in Connecticut and dealing with family, school, and dating drama. Especially if you've watched the series before, Gilmore Girls makes for gentle, if extremely verbal background noise, but it's also not hard to jump in as a new viewer. Just let the one-liners wash over you. And to for more shows where location is really important, check out The Most Famous TV Show That Took Place in Your State.

Stream on Netflix or Philo. 

7
Grace and Frankie

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in Grace and Frankie
Netflix

The premise of Grace and Frankie is that two women, Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin), bond after their husbands, Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston), leave them for each other. The series shows the hijinks they get into as newly single women and explores their relationships with their kids. It's a funny, comforting show with some hilarious performances. For more shows that will make you laugh, check out 17 Underappreciated TV Comedies That Are Available to Stream Right Now.

Stream on Netflix

8
The Great British Baking Show

Mel Giedroyc, Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry and Nadiya Hussain in Great British Baking Show
BBC Studios

Another one of the great background noise TV shows, this one is known as The Great British Bake Off in the UK. Wherever you're watching and whatever it's called, the competition show has amateur bakers from all walks of life facing off as they create increasingly difficult cookies, pastries, breads, and more. But, rather than being snarky and ultra-competitive, all the contestants are super nice to each other. It's an extremely calming show, and it also follows a formula: in every hours, there are three bakes, three judgments, and one person sent home. So if you can't give it your full attention, it's okay.

Stream on Netflix

9
House Hunters and House Hunters International

A House Hunters couple looking at their renovation plans
HGTV

HGTV is a great resource for background noise TV shows. See: House Hunters, which packs about 10 minutes worth of actual content into every 22-minute episode. A person, couple, or family looking for a new home tours three options and then chooses one. That's it. That's the show. And you don't have to worry about missing anything because footage you watched only moments ago is summarized over and over again. It's addicting.

Stream on Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV, FuboTV, or Philo

10
The Office

Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski in The Office
NBCUniversal Television Distribution

The Office fans are known for re-watching the workplace comedy over and over again on streaming. And if you fit into that category, it's great for background noise simply because you already know what happens. But even newbies will find the beloved series starring Steve Carell as the bumbling boss of a paper company staffed by plenty more colorful characters easy to follow—and totally hilarious.

Stream on Netflix or FuboTV

11
Planet Earth

Mountain still from Planet Earth
BBC

This iconic nature series is as gorgeous as it is basic. Are stories told through dramatic narration? Sure. Are the intricacies of our planet's ecosystems explained in detail? Yes. Is the footage beautiful? Absolutely. But, still, the main appeal of Planet Earth is all the time you'll spend with cute, gross, and terrifyingly powerful animals.

Rent/Buy on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, or YouTube

12
Project Runway

Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum, and the designers in an episode of Project Runway
Buena Vista Television/Disney–ABC Domestic Television

Project Runway is a series in which fashion designers compete against each other, designing a new outfit during each episode based on a particular challenge. At the end, the final few contestants go head-to-head in a full fashion show that decides the winner. To watch this show while working, listen out for what the design challenge is, tune out for the middle portion of the episode, then pay attention again for the runway show and designer elimination.

Stream on Hulu, YouTube TV, Sling TV, or FuboTV

13
Sex and the City

Cynthia Nixon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and Kim Cattrall in Sex and the City
Warner Bros./HBO Enterprises

Sex and the City episodes are short, and they all revolve around writer Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) exploring something new about dating or friendships for her newspaper column and hanging out with her similarly single friends Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon). The only element of this groundbreaking show that might distract you from your work is when you realize how many times you've heard the catchy theme song play in a day.

Stream on HBO Now, Hulu, YouTube TV, or Amazon Prime

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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