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Let’s face it, at the end of a long day at work sometimes all we want to do is relax on the couch and watch TV. When you have a packed to-do list, you may feel guilty allowing yourself the lazy pleasure, but depending on what you watch, you don’t have to.

I’m a huge fan of fun ways to learn and have found five TV shows that are as valuable for your mind as they are as sources of entertainment. Not only are these TV shows a great way to pass the time, they also make great conversation starters. Watch even a single episode and you’ll learn dozens of fun facts and insights into subjects you may have never explored.

#1 Inside Man

This documentary-style show from Morgan Spurlock, the man who brought you Supersize Me, takes you inside worlds that fuel controversial issues such as guns, migrant farm workers and education. Spurlock does an amazing job at exposing you to people and facts that prompt you to question your assumptions about people involved in stigmatized industries and makes you realize that behind every heated news topic are people whose lives have been shaped by circumstances you’ve likely never considered.

#2 Cooked

This four episode mini-series by Michael Pollan is brilliant–and it will make you hungry. In the series, he reviews the four basic elements and how they are essential for cooking: Air, Water, Earth and Fire. Can you guess which one was my favorite? I loved FIRE.

#3 The New Yorker Presents

The New Yorker has a magical way with words, but now they are tackling images with gusto and beauty! This 23 episode show from Amazon is amazing. Filled with vignettes, mini-stories and documentary moments, it is as surprising as it is beautiful. In each thirty minute episode, you get a range of light-hearted commentary that brings happiness to your day to deep, research-filled insights that broaden your perspective on global issues. By the end of each episode, you’ll have learned a range of fascinating facts that make for great conversation topics.

#4 Brain Games

This Emmy-nominated series by National Geographic will make you question your basic assumptions about your perceptions and how your brain works. In each episode, host Jason Silva leads a series of experiments that reveal the unusual science behind everyday tasks like memory, feelings, our actions and more.

#5 Crowd Control with Dan Pink

Dan Pink is a brilliant bestselling author and human behavior expert who decided to bring his humor and intelligence to the screen. In each episode, Pink goes into normal public situations like walking along busy sidewalks and going through baggage claim and shows how subtle changes in people’s behavior can change the actions of everyone in the area. If you love human behavior, you will love this National Geographic Show.


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