When the Virgin River withdrawals become all too real, tune in to these similar-genre shows for drama, romance, and lots of sniffles.
Virgin River: It’s peak comfort viewing that enchants with breathtaking vista shots, small-town drama, and the coziest of plaid ensembles. Based on the 24-novel series from author Robyn Carr, the addictive soapy series explores love in all its nuanced forms while also giving viewers an eyeful of the most scenic mountain town—you know, the kind that makes you want to quit your day job, head for the hills, and live out a thousand lumberjack fantasies.
In Season 1, we meet Mel Monroe, a nurse practitioner, midwife, and certified city girl leaving Los Angeles for a job in Virgin River. There, she bristles with the resident doctor and eventually falls in love with the rugged owner of a riverside bar—cue the shockers, reveals, and cliffhangers. As for the latest installment, Season 5, the word is those 12 episodes will hit Netflix this July. To hold you over ’til then, snuggle up with this list of drama-filled shows like Virgin River. And pro tip: Pop open a nice California red before hitting play.
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Love in a foreign land: It’s a worthy construction that’s served the small screen well. You have Emily, whose cup runneth over in Paris, city girl Mel meeting Jack in a town that may as well be another planet, and, here, Amy Wheeler (played by Zoë Saldaña), an artist from Texas whose chance encounter with a Sicilian chef leads to a whirlwind romance that takes a bittersweet turn. Based on Tembi Locke’s gut-wrenching memoir, From Scratch is a limited series, so savor it like a plate of warm pasta alla norma.
Tiny Beautiful Things
If you watch Virgin River for a good cry, might we introduce you to another emotionally heightened drama that tugs at the tear ducts? Hulu’s Tiny Beautiful Things is adapted from the 2012 book by Cheryl Strayed. And it translates the novel’s series of advice columns over eight episodes while also offering an origin story for protagonist Clare Pierce, a writer whose own life is hanging on by tattered threads. Best part? Clare is played by a beautifully messy Kathryn Hahn.
No money, no home, and nowhere to go. Such is the situation for Alex Russell at the beginning of Netflix’s Maid. Like so many women who have “been through it,” Alex is a single mom who flees an abusive relationship and makes ends meet any way she can. The narrative is based on the best-selling memoir by Stephanie Land, which crystallizes insight into overcoming generational trauma, emotional abuse, and homelessness. It’s raw, even hopeless at times, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Soul mates come in many forms. Including best friends whose bond has endured time, distance, and life’s curveballs. Meet Kate (Sarah Chalke), a mom married to a war journalist, and Tully (Katherine Heigl), a TV anchor with big dreams; the duo is at the center of Netflix’s comfy sweater of a series, Firefly Lane, which is adapted from Kristin Hannah’s best-selling 2008 novel. Tracking the pair from their teens to the workplace, this show like Virgin River offers two seasons that will both heal you and completely wreck you.
Back in 2019, Billy Baldwin starred in a familial drama that went underseen and underappreciated. An emotional seesaw that rivals the heartbreaking arcs featured in Virgin River, this Canadian import also explores the ripple effects of grief. After the death of his wife, Baldwin’s John West, a search and rescue commander, moves with his three kids to Turtle Island Bay (yes, it’s just as charming as it sounds), where he struggles with teen rebellion, dysfunction, and more hardships of a single parent.
No one really wants to be spoon-fed life’s lessons when they queue up their choice of indulgent streaming content. That is, unless they’re being served by the tight-knit group of women in this romantic drama. Set in South Carolina, Maddie, Dana Sue, and Helen have been best friends since high school, seeing each through the roller coaster that is life in an easily binge-able series: think kids, careers, romance, and divorce. A glossy, soapy Southern watch, this show like Virgin River goes best with plenty of Kleenex.
This Is Us
Similar to Virgin River, This Is Us is an ensemble drama with a dedicated fan base that comes at the world with nothing but love. The perfect balance of beautiful and bittersweet moments, Dan Fogelman’s six-season series revolves around the Pearsons, a family unique in their composition but solid in their foundation. And like any worthy binge fest, This Is Us shocks with the occasional reveal and cliffhanger, but at its core, it’s an easy watch with a universal message: Family is everything.
Selma director Ava DuVernay teamed with industry vet Oprah Winfrey for a sprawling drama that weaves real-life turmoil into its scripted narratives. About three siblings who reunite in Louisiana to take over their family’s sugarcane farm, Queen Sugar tackles urgent issues like mass incarceration and police brutality. But it also gives viewers escapism through romantic encounters and visually stunning cinematography that will make you want to move to the bayou, like, yesterday.
Jane the Virgin
For five seasons, Gina Rodriguez made us laugh, cry, and swoon. So much so that we envy the virgin viewers watching for the first time. The gist: A devout Catholic whose chastity belt is welted shut ends up pregnant. How she finds herself with child is part of what makes this satirical telenovela so brilliant. It’s also what will attract Virgin River fans. Beyond titles, the two share a soapy nature, confounding fans with paternity puzzles, convenient memory loss, and the highly regarded twin plot twist.
Before Yellowstone lassoed a cult-like following, there was another multigenerational saga roping in viewers and building a fandom. Heartland, a Canadian gem spanning 16 seasons and still going strong, transports audiences to a horse farm at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Its story belongs to Amy Fleming, a young horse whisperer who juggles love and loss, and with wholesome fare akin to Virgin River, it satisfies cravings for both top-notch family dramas and beautifully shot Westerns.
Hart of DixieThe CW
Rachel Bilson stars in this fish-out-of-water drama that veers into the melodramatic at times, but, hey, isn’t that why you’re here in the first place? Bilson plays Dr. Zoe Hart, a New Yorker who heads to Alabama for a job as a general practitioner. When there, she meets and falls in love with a local—sound familiar yet? Just wait—and spends her day job quibbling with a rival doctor played by none other than Tim Matheson, who stars in Virgin River as the bristly Doc Mullens.
The 2000s were a wealth of great TV—the decade’s hall of fame is just brimming with hallmark teen and family dramas (see: Dawson’s Creek, Veronica Mars, Friday Night Lights). But because of the premise of this roundup, we’re recommending a trip down memory lane with Everwood. A now-iconic series about a Manhattan brain surgeon (Treat Williams) who moves his two kids to higher altitudes in Colorado, Everwood relishes the same heartwarming tone of a certain favorite starting-over drama.
Call the Midwife
Based on Jennifer Worth’s memoirs, Call the Midwife is a British procedural unique in its execution, chronicling the lives of a group of midwives, nurses, and nuns in East London from two points in time: the 1950s and the 1960s. Still in production, the hit series touches a raw nerve with relevant and more-than-timely plotlines, including abortion, disease, and even female circumcision, but handles such sensitive life-and-death issues with a nuanced touch.
No matter how many times you’ve preached the gospel of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s coming-of-age series, checking in with the cast of characters down in Stars Hollow never gets old. Over seven years—and 154 episodes—single mom Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and her teen daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel), navigate the ups and downs of love, college, and social status, quipping at a breakneck pace and inspiring legions of fans along the way.