how to netflix and choose

How to Netflix and Choose

Life is too short to watch TV you don’t want to, so here’s how you can ‘Netflix and choose’ with someone else so you’re both watching something you enjoy.

What are you doing later? Watching TV? Yeah me too probably. #Pandemic #NothingBetterToDo.

If you’re in the fortunate position of having your own device / TV you can just scurry away and watch something by yourself. Watching something with someone else can seem like a drag when there’s so much choice. It can feel like we shouldn’t have to compromise on our own freedoms. Whilst it can be great to do that, we might also be missing out.

Why watch something with someone else? 

If you do it right, watching something with someone else can be really great. It makes funny films funnier, scary films more scary, dramatic films more dramatic, and romantic stories more romantic (yuck). They laugh, you laugh; you yelp, they yelp. When it’s too tense, you can all hide behinds cushions. If it gets too mushy you can all go awwwwwww.

Sounds great right? You might not be watching exactly what you would watch by yourself, but you get more out of it. The reason that you don’t do this all the time is probably because you aren’t doing the right thing about freedoms, choices, and agreement – consent. 

All too often when we try to watch something with someone else it’s a lose lose. One of you might make someone else watch what they want to watch, and then get disappointed when you don’t like it as much as they do. Or you both don’t want to risk saying what you want, and then you just scroll through endlessly getting bored and frustrated (and just watching another episode of Friends). 

So this article is to help you Netflix and choose and help you have a nice time with your squeeze, or your friends, or your family. Obviously you can do this in the same room and also online, if you have it. And also obviously you can do this with any kind of TV streaming service. It’s just Netflix and chill is a phrase and I want people to search for Neflix and choose instead.

Aim for a win win

Something which makes watching TV with someone harder when you are not aiming to watch something that you both want. Just like you shouldn’t be heavily persuading someone to have the kind of sex you might want to have, you shouldn’t do this with anything else either. So aim for a win win. Where you are both reasonably enthusiastic about what it is that you are going to watch. Plot this on a scale of -10 ———- 0 ———- 10+ 

This shouldn’t be a fight, there’s enough choice nowadays that you should be able to find something that you both want to watch. If you find yourself getting into a fight, or using your power to make sure that you watching something you want you’re not doing it right. Also remember that there is always a power dynamic going on. So pay attention to that, especially if you have more power. 

Read about power in relationships

If someone has come over to yours to watch TV, you have more power. This doesn’t meant that you don’t get to watch what you want, but it does mean that you have to take the lead on making these conversations go as well as you can and give the other person permission to change their mind and opt out doing things.

What you want to watch

A lot of the time it’s a good idea to check in with how you’re feeling before you start to watch something. The difference between enjoying something and not enjoying something is often dependent on what mood we’re in and how that changes when we do it. So having a pause and considering what kind of day you have, how your body is feeling, and what thoughts you’re having will help you with your choice. 

  1. What mood are you in at the moment?

2. What kind of mood do you want to be in? 

  • Silly
  • Serious
  • Relaxing
  • Comforting
  • Thought provoking
  • Excited

Notice if you, or the other person, is reticent to say what it is that you want to watch. Can you be honest? How much practice do you usually get at asking for what you want, or in having your needs met? If you haven’t had much practice at this it’s important to just have a gentle word with yourself. Asking for what you would like is really useful, and if you are doing this with someone who can help you with that, then this is great. Just be patient with yourself, and them, take a breath, and just blurt out what you might like. The more you do it the easier it gets.

Read: How to ask

3. Do you want to watch something you’ve….

  • Seen before 
  • Something new

Use the categories on the streaming service to help you narrow it down. 

4. Which subjects interest you?

  • Drama
  • Thriller
  • Comedy
  • Scary
  • Real life story
  • Romantic story

Are you prepared to get sucked into a long TV series that you get addicted to, or are you prepared to watch something for an

5. Do you want to watch

  • One off TV show
  • TV series
  • Film
  • Series of films (eg Fast and Furious or Star Wars)

What you really can’t watch

Rather than thinking about what you definitely want to watch you could start thinking about what you really can’t watch. So if you have a phobia or something triggering for you to watch you could (and should) start with that. If you know that your co-watcher has trigger or a phobia then it’s on you to make sure that you bring this up. Usually shows have some information about this kind of thing in the description or at the beginning of the show. You could also search for the film at the BBFC website, who have ‘ratings info’ of the kinds of content that might be tricky for you to watch. Remember the age ratings too. 

Read: how to meet your needs

6. Phobias / Triggers

  • Red (things that would be a trigger for you or something you have a phobia about)
  • Amber (things that are tricky for you to watch but you’d be okay)
  • Green (things you would be totally fine to watch)

Perhaps there are some actors or directors you will refuse to watch: either because they are just rubbish, or they have wronged you in the past, or they have been called out for their shitty behaviour. 

7. Actors / Directors you hate

[make your lists here]

How you want to watch it

Just as with anything you choose to do with someone, you need to be open to changing your decision, or changing how you do something. Facts change and so can our minds. This means that as well as choosing what you want to watch you should also pay attention to how you want to watch it. Maybe Zoolander turns out to not be as hilarious as your girlfriend promised it would be, or perhaps Game of Thrones turned out to absolutely suck. 

One way of checking in with each other is to use this kind of scale. You’ll have good information about how much you are enjoying it and how far you have both shifted along the scale. 

8. How keen you are based on a scale

-10 ———- 0 ———- 10+

9. How do you want to watch it?

  • Just on in the background while you do something else
  • Watch it but chat to each other
  • We mostly watch it but it’s okay to check phones
  • We watch it seriously
  • Hate watch it and laugh at it

10. How do you check in with each other about whether you still want to watch it

  • Putting in pauses 
  • Waiting for the end of the episode
  • Checking each time pause to go to the loo

When was the last time you tried to work out what you were going to watch on TV? What made it harder, what made it easier? 


Then after you’ve watched it you can just check in with each other about what it was like. What you liked, what you didn’t. How it was good but too long. The annoying character that was there for no reason. What was the point of the white walker symbols etc etc.

The more you can normalise these conversations the more you are bringing choice and freedom into your relationships. This is just better for your relationships too, as well as giving you some nice shared experiences in this pretty rubbish time.


There’s more about this kind of things in my book. It’s available for pre-order now (and it would really help us promote it if you pre-order it).

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I’ve been a sex and relationships educator since 1999 (with a background in youth and community work). In that time I’ve taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. I’ve worked with many charities, local governments, schools and youth organisations facilitating training and workshops. My two books, Enjoy Sex (How, When, and If You Want To) and Can We Talk About Consent? are widely available around the world. I’ve been on the telly and the radio and have written articles for newspapers and magazines. I’m also a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Read more about me and BISH here. Find out about my other work here Justin Hancock

If you’re over 18 and would like an advanced version of BISH check out my podcast Culture Sex Relationships. Also I’ve written a sex advice book for adults with Meg-John Barker called A Practical Guide to Sex available wherever you get books. We also did some zines to help you to figure out what you want from sex and relationships. They are at our website.

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