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The 100 Best TV Shows Of All Time

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Before Game Of Thrones came along to conquer the market on the politics, battles, boobs and bloodshed, Rome was delivering a story that chronicled both street-level folk and the highborn in the waning days of the Roman Empire. Kevin McKidd's Lucius Vorenus was the ostensible star here, but Ray Stevenson frequently walked away with scenes as the funnier Titus Pullo. And let's not forget the sheer audacity of James Purefoy's Mark Anthony. How many TV series can claim John Milius among its creators? Just this one. We checked.

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Empire's Editor-In-Chief Terri White might insist on calling this one "Fire Escape" on the Pilot TV podcast, but that doesn't diminish its power. A defiantly different series from the likes of Star Trek and other sci-fi shows, Farscape borrows a little from all of them and then goes its own way. The series' central idea strands human astronaut John Crichton in a distant part of the universe, where he links up with an intriguing group of aliens and is hunted by a merciless military race. Jim Henson's Muppet team bring several of its creatures to life, and it channels humour and weirdness to create something memorable. A frustrating cliffhanger cancellation was mitigated by TV movies, and there is constant talk of a new version.

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Big Little Lies was always going to be something of an event, with a cast boasting Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz and Laura Dern. Its first season proved to be a great, twisty murder mystery based on Liane Moriarty's book, relocating the action from Australia to California's insular community of Monterey. The opening episode sets up that community tensions are leading to the murder of a mystery victim – but the brilliantly soapy drama between its leading women is so involving that its easy to forget mid-season that violence is on the horizon. The show proved so successful that a second season came about with added Meryl Streep. Now that is a power move.

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Before he became Doctor Who's latest showrunner, Chris Chibnall gave us this emotional crime series stacked with top-tier performances. David Tennant's reclusive Alec Hardy and Olivia Colman's no-bullshit Ellie Miller are the Dorset detectives tasked, in the first series, with finding the murderer of local boy Danny Latimer – and Jodie Whittaker and Andrew Buchan put in heart-wrenching turns as the kid's grieving parents. If Series Two misses the mark in morphing into an occasionally unconvincing courtroom drama, Broadchurch's third and final run gets things back on track with a sensitively-handled rape case. Its mysteries are smart and pacy – but it's the brilliant bickering between Hardy and Miller that make the show so entertaining.

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A high concept police series that never let its idea overwhelm its characterisation, Mars sends a '00s policeman, John Simm's DCI Sam Tyler, back in time to the 1970s – an era better known for rough justice than the touchy-feely community policing he's used to. Philip Glenister chews the scenery as Gene Hunt, a man who would have fit right in on The Professionals or The Sweeney. The clash of modern vs. classic remained a compelling tension through its run, while viewers were kept guessing as Sam tried to figure out exactly why he'd ended up thrown out of time.

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When Norwich city council announced that they were to pedestrianise their city centre, thousands took to Twitter to express mock displeasure, protesting in unison that "traders need access to Dixons", to the bafflement of councillors. That's the power of I'm Alan Partridge, which in two series became part of the cultural lexicon, providing an endless well of absurd quotes to repeat in any given scenario. 'Partridge-esque' is now a clearly-defined adjective. Petty, bitter, entirely lacking in self-awareness, the ultimate little Englander, Steve Coogan's Partridge is one of the most exceptional and keenly-observed comedy characters ever conceived; this sitcom remains his greatest manifestation. It's a TV show which has been described as, and I quote, "lovely stuff". Not my words – the word of Shakin' Stevens.

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High concept sci-fi got a human face in Scott Bakula's Dr. Sam Beckett, who theorised that one could time travel within their own lifetime. But his experiment doesn't quite go as planned, as forces beyond his control "leap" him into the bodies of people through the past, where Sam ends up helping them solve dilemmas. Beckett is a hero you root for, helped no end by Bakula's charismatic, chameleonic performance, while Dean Stockwell livened episodes up as cocky, sleazy pal (and hologram) Al. Quantum Leap might be prime late '80s, early '90s entertainment, but it had more relatable soul than its contemporaries. And let's not forget that tear-jerking final scene.

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The title refers to the Øresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark, with the show focusing on a détente between the two police forces. Like The Killing, its success came from the characters as much as the crime plots – front and centre are the leather-trewed, autistic-spectrum Swedish detective Saga Norén and her alternately amused and anguished Danish counterpart Martin Rohde: both outstanding performances from, respectively, Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia. The latter's absence was keenly felt in the later series.

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Ostensibly following a friendship group of (mostly) mature students in a community college, Community's premise is a blank canvas that allows its host of disparate characters – from Donald Glover's ebullient Troy, to Chevy Chase's grouchy Piers, and Joel McHale's smarmy Jeff – to be pitched into genre-literate flights of fancy. Classic installments of Dan Harmon's pre-Rick And Morty sitcom involve college-wide paintball matches breaking out with lashings of John Woo slow-mo, a social media app creating a dystopian stratified society among the students, and a dinnertime dice-roll sparking six alternate timelines – all indicative of the show's dizzying invention and obsession over pop culture. With a host of generally likeable characters sometimes doing dislikeable things, Community is a strange brew – and it suffered when Harmon was fired before Season 4, henceforth referred to as the 'gas leak year' when he returned for Seasons 5 and 6. Fans, meanwhile, are still waiting on that movie.

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Forty-five episodes of bite-sized genius showcases the Pythons at their riffiest, daftest, most out-there best. A bold blueprint for British sketch comedies for years to come, its deliberately outsized Britishness is embroidered by Terry Gilliam's surrealist animations – a little like Dali once did for Luis Buñuel, only with more giant feet and mutant chickens. The gang take turns to poke fun at the nations' bureaucrats, toffs, gameshow hosts and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (among others), and its upside worldview reaches its logical conclusion when the village idiot turns out to be the smartest character in the show.

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Robert and Michelle King's legal drama follows Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), who put her flourishing legal career on hold to support her husband's (Chris Noth) political ambitions, as she returns to the fray after a devastating cheating scandal. She soon works her way up the ranks at a prestigious firm, all the while dealing with her own life and choices. The series get its title from Margulies' character, but the highlights are often found elsewhere, like Christine Baranski's spiky senior partner Diane Lockhart, the idiosyncratic characters who populate the Chicago legal world, and a commitment to thoughtfully tackling topical issues. The spirit of the show (with the added ability for its characters to swear) lives on in spin-off The Good Fight.

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2000-2007, 2016
The sublime pleasure of Gilmore Girls lies in its witty, fast-paced dialogue and the heart-warming (occasionally fractious) mother-daughter relationship between Lorelei (Lauren Graham) and Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel). The cozy town of Stars Hollow is the setting for a show which delights in oddball characters and light dramatic tension, as Rory grows up and Lorelei starts to think about settling down. Its stacked cast includes a pre-fame Melissa McCarthy, Kelly Bishop as Lorelei's imposing mother Emily, and a small but memorable role for Sean 'performance capture and on-set creator of Rocket Racoon' Gunn. The show's return in a set of seasonal Netflix instalments couldn't quite capture the same magic – but it was a high bar to cross.

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People use the word 'gritty' in relation to film and TV drama all the time, but as a TV cop drama, Homicide: Life On The Street was the real deal. An avowed attempt by creator David Simon to get into the business of day-to-day procedural police work, as opposed to the glossier cop-show version audiences were used to, it ran for seven seasons in the 1990s, and remains incredibly influential. Testament to its quality is the ridiculous guest cast it attracted: Vincent D'Onofrio, Robin Williams, Paul Giamatti, Jake Gyllenhaal and J.K. Simmons were among those who temporarily joined the outstanding regulars.

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CREDIT: Netflix

Since supplanted by Narcos: Mexico, Netflix's historical crime drama focuses on the exploits of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, as well as the other drug kingpins who plagued the country through the years. Narcos has a lot to recommend it – not least, it's able to show more sides of Escobar's story than most of the movies that have been made about him, as well as the stories of the agents looking to take him down. Wagner Moura brings layers to Escobar, while Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook make for an effective tag team on the lawful side of history. The story is gripping, and while it naturally has to invent some events, it feels largely authentic.

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Most famous for pushing the boundaries of what was allowed on American network TV, NYPD Blue is better remembered for the characters it created rather than the controversies. Creators Stephen Bochco and David Milch brought indelible people to the screen, as Dennis Franz' complicated, cranky Andy Sipowicz grumbled his way through day-to-day detective police work. David Caruso pulled the ripcord and left after Season One (he would regret it), but the show went from strength to strength, Franz finding his most solid partnership with Jimmy Smits' Detective Bobby Simone. Many police series of the modern era owe thanks to the Blue team, and it's still missed.

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Leaving aside for a moment that devastatingly divisive (read: disappointing) ending, How I Met Your Mother updated the classic hang-out sitcom for a new generation. Amidst flashbacks, narrative trickery, unreliable narrators and quick cut-away jokes, HIMYM (pronounced him-yim) weaved the story of how Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) met the woman he'd marry. Along the way, he spends his time going down romantic cul-de-sacs, while best friends Lily (Alyson Hannigan, in her best role since Buffy) and Marshall (Jason Segel) marry, pick-up artist Barney (Neil Patrick Harris, enjoying a career renaissance) plots, and on-again-off-again tough nut Canadian Robin (Cobie Smulders) looks for her own path.The journey was great. The destination… Look, we're still leaving it aside.

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Created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur, who honed their craft on shows such as The Office and Parks And Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine continues those series' mix of friendly, warm comedy delivered by talented ensembles. Set in the titular New York police department precinct, it ostensibly follows goofy but dedication detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), but has long since expanded out to properly explore his colleagues – including a scene-stealing Terry Crews as Terry Jeffords, and Andre Braugher who generates some of the biggest laughs trading on his Homicide: Life On The Street past as the gruff Captain Holt. Able to straddle silly gags and deeper treatments of certain issues (such as racial profiling), Nine-Nine has flourished through the years. It's also grown into something utterly satisfying (title of your sex tape).

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Raylan Givens is a relatively minor character in the works of Elmore Leonard, appearing in short story Fire In The Hole. But in the hands of Speed's Graham Yost, Justified became one of the better adaptations of the crime writer's twisty, talky style. With Timothy Olyphant as the epitome of laconic justice, it's the story of an old-school, gun-slinging Deputy U.S. Marshal whose uncompromising methods see him reassigned from Miami to his home of Harlan County, Kentucky, where he's forced to cross paths with his career criminal father (Raymond Barry), his old mining buddy Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), and countless other colourful criminal types. Goggins in particular is a standout, while Margo Martindale makes for a memorable antagonist in Season Two.

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Firing right out of the gates on all cylinders, the first season of The Good Place declared it as one of the smartest, most unpredictable comedies of recent years – even before its forking incredible twist came into play. Sitcom god Michael Schur's afterlife comedy focuses on Kristen Bell's Eleanor Shellstrop as she finds herself sent to the titular Good Place after her untimely death – except, it's all a mix-up and she's an imposter who lived a largely selfish life, forced to be on her best behaviour in order not to get caught. Like all of Schur's comedies it's bolstered by a loveable ensemble – special shout-outs to Ted Danson and D'Arcy Carden as neighbourhood architect Michael and not-a-girl Janet, respectively – but it's more plot-driven (and philosophy-heavy) than most sitcoms, with regular twist endings and a sprawling Lost-esque mythology. Watch it, benches!

UK:Stream on Netflix

US:Stream on Hulu

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Political satire used to be a mere wry quip here, a raised eyebrow there (the iconic Yes Minister aside). Then The Thick Of It stormed in and told everybody, "Fuckity bye." With Peter Capaldi's fire-breathing fixer Malcolm Tucker at its centre, Armando Iannucci's foul-mouthed comedy remains one of the sharpest, fastest-witted comedies ever, skewering Britain's political class via a tornado of creative cursing. Bizarrely, and to the general bemusement of its creators and fans, life has unwisely decided to imitate art – Michael Gove announced plans to have children design apps mere days after the "Silicon Playgrounds" episode, while George Osborne's 2012 budget was widely described as an "omnishambles".

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1988-1999, 2009-present
The UK has often tackled sci-fi on the small screen, but the sci-fi comedy is a much rarer beast. Red Dwarf at its prime was one of our greatest examples: the budget may not have been intergalactic, but the characters pinged off each other and the vast majority of the jokes landed. Dave Lister (Craig Charles) is the last man left alive on the eponymous mining vessel, with just an uptight hologram (Chris Barrie's Rimmer, an all-time great comedy loser snob), an evolved cat-man (Danny John-Jules' ebullient, vain Cat), a nervy android (Robert Lewellyn's Kryten) and the ship's less-than able computer Holly (Norman Lovett) for company. The show expanded beyond its initial concept and enjoys a revival run on Dave, but those first three seasons remain the glory days.

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Thanks to the passage of time and two cack-handed movie spin-offs, Sex And The City has come to be seen by many as a silly show about shoes and cocktails. But beneath the layers of Prada hid a series that was smartly written and incredibly brave, even if it did totter across the screen on a pair of immaculately fitted Jimmy Choos. It's easy to forget now how groundbreaking the adventures of four sexually liberated (okay, three, plus Charlotte) Manhattan thirtysomethings were not just for women on TV, but for the treatment of sex on the box. The entire vibrator industry owes Carrie and Co an enormous debt.

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CREDIT: Channel 4

The comedy of cringe was rarely more keenly detailed than in this series, which inflated awkwardness to new heights. Created by Andrew O'Connor, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, Peep Show has the novel concept of being entirely shot from the point of view of lead idiots Mark (David Mitchell) and Jez (Robert Webb). Their lives, lusts and absolute howlers of social mistakes are all documented: Mark's the uptight bumbler who thinks he's holding on to moral views, whereas Jez can rarely seem to let go of his youthful days despite the fact he's only around 10% cooler than his roommate. The writing stays incredibly strong across all nine series, bolstered by great supporting work from Olivia Colman, Patterson Joseph, Matt King and more.

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1993-1996, 2006
In Edward 'Fitz' Fitzgerald, Robbie Coltrane concocted one of television's most memorable antiheroes. The gambling, chain-smoking, heavy-drinking, overweight psychologist may have incorporated almost every vice known to man, but viewers delighted in the ease with which he mercilessly beat lesser men to an intellectual pulp. Jimmy McGovern's tautly-written drama was never concerned with the whodunit aspect (the perpetrator was generally revealed in the first scenes) but rather built up to the moment Fitz got the suspect in an interview room. Assaulting them with cutting insight and outright provocation, the portly profiler bent them to his will and put the squeeze on until they finally cracked. One of the finest dramas Britain has produced.

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CREDIT: Showtime

Forget that terrible final season and the whole lumberjack thing – for the majority of its run, Dexter was one of the sharpest shows on TV. Michael C. Hall brings a cool detachment and smirking pitch-black humour in the title role as the blood spatter analyst who harbours a burning desire to kill – a murderous impulse that he channels into bumping off the bad guys the police are unable to touch. At its best, the show bubbles with will-they-won't-they-catch-him tension as Dexter's own colleagues pore over his crime scenes – and its fourth season, with John Lithgow's terrifying 'Trinity Killer' is perhaps its peak.

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CREDIT: Netflix

An animated comedy satirising Hollywood with a Will Arnett-voiced washed-up horse actor as its protagonist sounds like it should be a light, silly laugh-fest – which makes BoJack Horseman's deep vein of sadness all the more surprising. BoJack himself is a has-been, entirely aware of his ever-diminishing status and the ego-driven, alcohol-fuelled self-destructive choices he makes. Given a nurturing platform on Netflix, the show has cultivated an audience who has embraced its bruised heart – which isn't to say it's not funny too. Stacked with animal puns to balance out the darkness, it's a singularly unique brew sure to go down as a definitive animated series for its complexity of emotion.

UK & US:Stream on Netflix

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CREDIT: SyFy/Amazon

Hundreds of years in the future, humans have colonized the solar system. The U.N. controls Earth. Mars is an independent military power. The planets rely on the resources of the Asteroid Belt, where air and water are more precious than gold. For decades, tensions have been rising between these three places. Earth, Mars and the Belt are now on the brink of war. And all it will take is a single spark... Adapting the work of novelist James SA Corey (actually Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), The Expanse has become one of the best science fiction shows on TV. Blending smart, humanistic science fiction with relatable human characters (and, as the series has expanded, a growing alien presence), it's grown a considerable following, which surely will have helped it find a new show at Amazon after being cancelled by the US SyFy network. Sometimes, good things do happen to good shows.

UK & US:Stream on Amazon Prime Video

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"Sometimes you want to go," runs the iconic theme tune, "where everybody knows your name." And given the ratings of this massive smash success, one of the most famous Stateside sitcoms of all time, it seems that near-everybody did know the characters who frequented Cheers' Boston bar. You'll absolutely know the names of its cast members too – the show making household names of Ted Danson, Kirstie Alley, Kelsey Grammer, John Ratzenberger, Woody Harrelson, Rhea Perlman, Shelley Long and George Wendt. Don't let the largely one-room setting fool you – Cheers is a masterpiece of construction, with finely-tooled gags , well-sketched characters, and familiar rhythms delivered with clear panache. There's a reason it ran for more than 10 years and spawned the just-as-successful Frasier.

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As Buffy left its high school setting behind, David Boreanaz's Angel span off in a more mature direction too – the soul-burdened vampire heading off to the demon-ridden streets of L.A. to seek some kind of redemption. Initially exploring a noir vibe before moving into more colourful and lively storytelling, Angel is a show that constantly shifts identity – even its ensemble cast varies from season to season. In its strongest run, Season 3 (arguably superior to Buffy's concurrent Season 6), it got the formula just right – a bold and dramatic story arc, the perfect combination of side-characters, and a wrenching climax. Oh, and Season 5 has James Marsden's Spike and an episode where Angel is turned into a puppet. Just don't mention how badly it handled Charisma Carpenter's exit.

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It has nothing to do with the John Hughes movie, but JJ Abrams' Lost follow-up could be retitled Weird Science: the series. Fringe features some of the prolific writer/producer's hallmarks – posing all kinds of scientific mysteries ahoy, and setting a cast of unusual characters to investigate them. Co-created by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, Fringe sees Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), his estranged dad Walter Bishop (John Noble), and FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) work together to figure out strange happenings and odd tech. A wider parallel universe story creeps in early on, which sometimes clashes with the case-of-the-week format, but it works thanks to the fine work of the leads.

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CREDIT: Comedy Central

Though its creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone keep saying they're about ready to wrap it up so they can focus on other things, South Park survives – and thrives. What started as a goofy, weird, rude animation about four friends – Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny – living in a small Colorado town has long since evolved into a platform for talking about current events in a knowing, clever, funny fashion, firing jabs at all sides and never pulling its punches. With its on-the-fly, written-the-week-of-release style, South Park aims for big targets and still manages to generate controversy and chatter.

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Drawing on experiences from his real-life doctor friend, Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence's sitcom is a funny, frantic look at medical training that doesn't skimp on the tougher moments of dealing with patients, illness and death. The show is anchored by Zach Braff's John 'JD' Dorian, given to flights of fantasy all while he and his fellow fledgling medics – Donald Faison's Chris Turk and Sarah Chalke's nervy, talented Elliot Reed – brave the pressure of their chosen profession and the wrath of perennially grumpy mentor Dr. Cox. Through its several years on the air, Scrubs mixed the madcap with solid character work, and a cast of funny supporting characters helped flesh out its world.

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What would you do if you had just graduated from medical school, only to learn to your surprise/horror that the terms of your scholarship contract mean you're required to set up your practice in a remote, quirky Alaskan town? That's the situation faced by Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow), who despite his early protestations, finds that he enjoys life in Cicely more than he's willing to admit. There's a real charm to Northern Exposure, helped by some carefully calibrated performances that anchor its oddball characters, and the writing is full of unusual poetry.

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Combining the talents of Terence Winter, who spent part of his career working on The Sopranos, and slightly-well-known filmmaker Martin Scorsese (who launched the show by directing the pilot and acting as an executive producer going forward), Boardwalk Empire ranks highly in the HBO-crime-series stakes. Spinning the clock back to the Prohibition era, the series explores the tough politics and criminal activity of 1920s Atlantic City. The nominal focus is Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (Steve Buscemi), who makes deals with gangsters even as the Federal government starts to close in. It's full of the usual HBO staples – blood, boobs and bad language – but all used judiciously.

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Part of the genius of Curb Your Enthusiasm is that it's impossible to tell where the real Larry David ends and the fictional David begins. After all, this is a man who used to go out on stage for stand-up shows, peer at the audience and then walk off if he didn't like the look of them. Every episode draws him into ass-puckeringly awkward scrapes with waiters, doctors, salesmen and other celebrities, from Ben Stiller to Martin Scorsese. The combination of David's lack of social skills with the right-on political correctness of LA's denizens makes for edgy, hilarious viewing.

UK:Stream on Sky
US:Stream on HBO

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CREDIT: Adult Swim

Within just three short seasons, Rick & Morty has become an instant internet favourite – a wildly surreal, sometimes deeply inappropriate animated comedy that takes science-fiction cliches and follows them to their largely horrifying conclusions. Its titular duo consists of a gruff-voiced alcoholic grandad and his overly sweet and naive grandson, playing out a twisted version of Back To The Future's Marty McFly-Doc relationship, as they embark on 'adventures' riffing on Mad Max, infinite alternate universes, The Purge – and, in one particularly famous episode, sentient pickles. Dark, weird, unique, and sometimes emotionally perceptive – don't let its more annoying fans put you off.

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CREDIT: Channel 4

The story of three priests stuck on the world's least-appealing parish (Craggy Island, off the coast of Ireland) doesn't sound like it would be the most compelling source of comedy. And yet Father Ted really, really works. Dermot Morgan's Father Ted Crilly, punished for stealing (the money was "resting" in his account, honest), lives with supreme idiot Dougal (Ardal O'Hanlon) and drunken nuisance Jack Hackett (Frank Kelly), each episode cooking up some new madness for the trio to become embroiled in – with highlights including Ted leading a pack of terrified priests through a lingerie section as if they're in a war film, and a recreation of Speed on a milk float.

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CREDIT: Netflix

David Fincher has brought compelling serial killer stories to life on the big screen, so it makes sense that he'd be involved with this series, which frames real-life cases and the FBI's slowly-gestating understanding of psychology in dark tones and moody lighting. Yet creator Joe Penhall's show doesn't fall victim to the usual tropes of seeing the killers hunt and slaughter their victims – the crime scene photos/recreations are largely in the background as Mindhunter focuses on FBI agents Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Tench (Holt McCallany), along with psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) talking to convicted killers in order to understand, track and catch current offenders. It has a lot on its mind, but it's never, ever boring.

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Margaret Atwood's chilling vision of a less-than-united States ruled by a cruel, regressive theocracy becomes more and more prophetic as time marches on. And though The Handmaid's Tale sometimes suffers from being unremittingly bleak, some light and hope has started to show through the cracks. Even with the gloomy, dystopian outlook, there is plenty to recommend it: Elisabeth Moss' award-winning performance as June/Offred for one. Sparking real-life protest gear and any number of think-pieces, Tale's big ideas are standing the test of time – and the show marks a stellar example of how to take a novel's key concept and run with it, the series weaving its own world from the threads established by the original writer.

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CREDIT: Channel 4/Netflix

There's a reason why "it's all a bit Black Mirror" has become a widely-used reference point in recent years – Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones' dark sci-fi anthology series taps into very human fears about our relationship with technology and the spiralling paths humanity could be heading down. A series of standalone episodes often set in worryingly plausible possible futures, the storytelling largely leans towards the bleak, shot through with Brooker's sardonic sense of humour. From its Channel 4 days to its current home on Netflix, the series has consistently drawn big name talent – from Daniel Kaluuya and Jon Hamm, to Bryce Dallas Howard, Anthony Mackie and Andrew Scott – a testament to the filmic quality and cultural cache the series has attracted.

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HBO doesn't exactly 'do' police procedurals – but the closest it's come is this anthology crime series, spinning murky tales from the dark heart of America with all-star casts. Each season has had a different flavour, but elements recur: world-weary cops, unsolved cases, multiple timelines unspooling different eras of the case. The first season, with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson tracking down the 'Yellow King', is widely regarded as its best – an important milestone in 'Golden Age TV' for attracting such star names, and a key text in the McConaissance. There's less love for the Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch-starring Season 2, but the show got back on track with 2019's Season 3, boasting an incredible turn from Mahershala Ali.

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Launched to low ratings and audience confusion, Hill Street Blues seemed destined for a short life. But it endured, and rightly became known as one of the most audacious series on TV, effectively re-inventing the cop drama. It eschewed much of the hard-nosed cop cliches (but used them well when embracing them) and presented a serialised mixture of drama and comedy, featuring a diverse cast of three-dimensional characters at a run-down police precinct. It scored 98 – count 'em – Emmy nominations across its run, and won eight in the first season alone, while also becoming a template for the sort of ambitious TV drama that was to follow.

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Such is the impact of Rod Serling's series, which gathered some of the best speculative writers and stories of the time, that it keeps coming back in different forms, and its impact is felt through popular culture to this day. Aiming to explore universal concepts while creeping us out or making us think (or both), Zone merged big ideas with popular ideals and proved that smart storytelling could work on television. Once seen, rarely forgotten; especially with that unnerving theme and Serling's iconic introductions. The most recent iteration is overseen by Get Out's Jordan Peele.

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The joy of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's original series is its total lack of joy: in 14 episodes, it deftly depicts the wretched reality of dreary office life – one of muted greys, PowerPoint training sessions, and an all-pervading hopelessness, led by a deluded boss who thinks he's everyone's mate ("basically just a chilled-out entertainer"). Sometimes, there's nothing like a bit of old-fashioned British pessimism, but that isn't the whole story, either – with real emotion in the highs and lows of the relationship between Tim (Martin Freeman, in an early star-making role) and Dawn (Lucy Davis), and plenty of fun with the rest of the weirdos who populate the Wernham Hogg office.

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For people more used to seeing Hugh Laurie as the bumbling Bertie Wooster or swapping witty quips with Stephen Fry, House was something of a culture shock. Yet Laurie was the perfect person to bring the grumpy genius doctor to life. Diagnosing the cases that appear to confound others, he's a difficult character in the Sherlock mould, battling his own demons even as he fights the worst, most confusing medical issues in his patients. Keeping to his personal credo that "everybody lies", he drives his staff to the heights professionally even as he castigates them personally. Bringing a little extra spice to the medical procedural genre, House established a solid spin on a well-used template.

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America might have brought us shows such as NYPD Blue and The Wire, but Britain remains the world's top exporter of police series. And Line Of Duty is just the latest example, the acronym-stuffed look at the efforts of a team of corruption-battling cops and the moles they just can't seem to squash. Jed Mercurio (who also whipped up Bodyguard) has Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar as the driven central trio of officers who must navigate twisty cases as they root-out wrongdoers from within and without. It'll keep you guessing as to who's really manipulating events behind the scenes, while the dialogue crackles in extended interrogation sequences, and the show looks as good as anything from across the pond.

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Confusing? Absolutely, but in the best way. With its ultra-non-linear storytelling from the perspective of it unreliable androids, Westworld is ambitious, baffling, and totally thrilling. Expanding on the robo-theme-park-gone-wrong premise of Michael Crichton's 1973 film, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy's series deals in weighty themes like the existence of consciousness, the experience of time, and the morality of predestination – with all the astonishing production values and incredible performances (Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright in particular) you expect from HBO. It's not quite the new Game Of Thrones, but when its storytelling coalesces and its twists are unveiled, it's hard not to be swept along by its smarts.

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1991-1992, 1993-1996, 2003-2006
For all of her award-winning film work and long history of theatre experience, it is for Jane Tennison that many know and cherish Helen Mirren. Created by Lynda La Plante, the story of a no-nonsense detective chief inspector battling her way through a male-dominated police force turned the usual law enforcement clichés on their head. Mirren is always watchable as Tennison, deeply ambitious and fiercely able, who nevertheless has to justify herself at every turn. Later series saw her promoted, even as the challenges continued, but the series remained as great as ever. Unafraid to probe into dark places, Prime Suspect has such a standing impact that it has generated both a prequel and a short-lived attempt to remake it for the States.

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Long before Orange Is The New Black blended humour and pain behind bars, Oz took a much darker look at prison life, set in the Oswald State Correctional Facility. Bleak but brilliant, it gathers a group of characters from different walks of life and then subjects them to terrifying traumas on a weekly basis. If anyone you know shudders when they see the perfectly charming (and not at all psychopathic) J.K. Simmons in other roles, Oz is to blame. It comes highly recommended, but a word of advice if you go bingeing: have something lighthearted and fun to watch in between seasons. Trust us.

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A prime example of not judging ideas before you see them realised, alarm bells rang when it was announced that someone was going to make a TV series based on the Coen brothers' crime classic. But showrunner Noah Hawley was incredibly smart, using the movie's faux true crime trappings and small-town setting while weaving his own story into them. Throw in an anthology format that changes the game every season, and a cast that's already boasted the likes of Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst, Billy Bob Thornton, Bob Odenkirk, Jesse Plemons, Ewan McGregor (as twins, no less), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Fargo's small-screen incarnation absolutely stands on its own.

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The later Christmas specials may have tested our good will, but for most of its run, Only Fools And Horses was a sitcom that earned its status as a perennial national treasure. Del Boy and Rodney Trotter's doomed attempts to become millionaires kept the nation smiling for over 20 years and, thanks to constant repeats, they still manage to raise a giggle today. No matter how many times you watch the best bits (the chandelier scene, the yuppie bar fall, the Batman & Robin run), they never fail to raise a laugh.

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CREDIT: Channel 4

Taking in comic book shops, rave culture, and video games, Edgar Wright, Jessica Hynes and Simon Pegg channelled their own pop-cultural obsessions and witty observations to spin gold out of a classic sitcom set-up. Kicking the careers of the three creators (and co-star Nick Frost) into high gear, Spaced is uproarious but also heartfelt, never forgetting to make the characters into people you care about while riffing on different genres. And the fact that only 14 episodes exist adds to the reason we all like it so much – it never overstayed its welcome. Without Spaced, there is no Cornetto Trilogy, so how's that for a slice of fried gold?

UK:Stream on All 4
US:Stream on Hulu

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CREDIT: Fox/Netflix

Now, the story of a groundbreaking sitcom that very nearly died a quiet, ignominious death at the hands of an indifferent network, before it was saved by an internet streaming site. When it first arrived in 2003, Arrested Development was so fiendishly clever, so densely plotted, so shrewdly ironic, that Fox barely knew what to do with it. Despite Fox's best efforts to bury the show in strange timeslots, the Bluth family earned a feverishly loyal cult audience, one that eventually conferred upon it a Netflix rebirth. The brain-melting ambition of Season 4 may have been a noble failure for some, and Season 5 didn't necessarily correct that, but its initial run remains one of the most innovative comedies ever produced.

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Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose. As memorable mantras for a TV show go, this is up there. Peter Berg's knowing adaptation of the H. G. Bissinger book and the 2004 movie he drew from it, broadened the scope of the world and wrangled memorable characters that live and breathe. Its young players are realistically flawed, and the team doesn't always win – which just makes it that much more watchable. Plus, in coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and wife Tami (Connie Britton), we got one of the best married couples on TV, human people dealing with their lives but always leading with love. And most importantly, especially for those of us in the UK, you don't need to worship at the church of the gridiron to appreciate it.

UK:Buy to stream on Amazon
US:Stream on Hulu

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The perfect show for binge-watching before the concept existed. In its earliest days, this spin-off to Star Trek: The Next Generation felt like the storytelling was going to be by-the-numbers Trek, only on a space station. Flash-forward a couple of seasons, and this is the show that broke the Star Trek mould, filled with flesh-and-blood human beings (even if they were aliens), character arcs that frequently stretched over the course of seasons, groundbreaking storytelling and complex characters. Some complained early on that this station-bound show didn't go anywhere – but really, this was the Trek that truly went where none had gone before.

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The Cold War feels that much chillier in this inventive series, which follows the lives of two Russian sleeper agents who are very much awake in 1980s Washington. Complicated, passionate and thrown together by Mother Russia, Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) are fascinating creations: driven by patriotism but torn by the pull of their adopted home and the American family they raised as a cover. They're conflicted killers, murdering people when the mission demands it – and the show doesn't shy away from the darker sides of their nature, finding inventive ways to dispatch innocent and not-so-innocent victims. Elsewhere, the show provides some top-drawer needle drops and provides great roles for the likes of Margo Martindale and Frank Langella. Sometimes vicious, often touching, always excellent.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge scored a pack of Emmys for her second run of Fleabag episodes, and rightly so. Having turned an insightful, frank and frequently filthy one-woman show into a TV series that allowed her to explore the emotional waters to a much greater degree. Writing and starring, Waller-Bridge brought to life a young woman trying to reconcile her worldview and actions with the impact it has on those around her. The show will make you giggle, but Waller-Bridge doesn't shy away from going dark when need be. Stellar turns from Olivia Colman and Sian Clifford have anchored the show through both seasons, while Andrew Scott was a highlight of the second, playing the character that will forever be known by fans as Hot Priest.

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One of British TV's greatest ever sitcoms, the central question of Fawlty Towers – why the world's least hospitable man would go into hospitality in the first place – remains tantalisingly unanswered across 12 kipper-serving, Siberian hamster-hunting, German-baiting episodes. A straight zero on TripAdvisor, the very layout of Fawlty Towers itself offers comedy gold as Basil (John Cleese), his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales), waitress Polly (Connie Booth) and poor, benighted Manuel (Andrew Sachs) manoeuvre themselves (and the odd corpse) around its dowdy interior without ruining anyone's stay. Basil, needless to say, fails. Often and hilariously.

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CREDIT: Netflix

The nostalgia dial is squarely set on the 1980s in the Duffer Brothers' hit Netflix show. Stranger Things channels the era perfectly, mixing up a horror and sci-fi blend that hits you right in the Spielberg and Stephen King sweet-spot, depicting a seemingly quiet Indiana town that suddenly becomes a hotbed of terror as scientific tinkering unleashes an otherworldly dimension lurking beneath the surface (or sharing a parallel space). The show boasts a revolving door of period-appropriate faces (Winona Ryder! Matthew Modine! Sean Astin! Cary Elwes!) and a top turn from David Harbour, but its the D&D-playing kids who really make the show – from Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown, to Joe Keery. An incredibly bingeable homage.

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American attempts to translate British sitcoms rarely work all that well – for every Sanford And Son (which transported Steptoe And Son across the pond) there are the best-forgotten Transatlantic takes on Spaced, Coupling and The IT Crowd. Here, though, Greg Daniels overcame an initial stumble to make something compelling in its own way. Steve Carell's star-making turn as Michael Scott is just the tip of the casting iceberg, though it's noticeable that the show was never quite the same after he left for big screen pastures. The seemingly mundane lives of a group of corporate drones at a paper company make for entirely watchable, laugh-out-loud TV, and rather than just create a carbon copy of the British series, this Office fully embraced its American setting, using the different mores of US offices to power its comedy and characters, and offering a slightly sweeter outlook than the UK version. Excruciating embarrassment never felt so good.

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Bryan Fuller is acknowledged as the Quirk King of TV, and while many of his shows have burned brightly but briefly, his style was perfectly suited to the world of Hannibal Lecter. Mads Mikkelsen played a slinky, stylish version of the eponymous serial killer with no time for the rude and selfish, and Hugh Dancy brought haunted passion to Will Graham, in a show that played out over three seasons before the plug was pulled. Fuller and his co-creators at least got to indulge in beautiful, traumatic crime scene creations, superb gourmet cannibalism and a hero who was more complicated than most, all served up in the most baroque fashion. We'd have liked more, of course, but we're grateful for what we got.

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge has long since proved she's more than just the writer and star of Fleabag. Killing Eve cemented that idea, as she adapted Luke Jennings' Codename Villanelle novels into this funny, dark story of a low-ranked MI5 analyst (Sandra Oh's titular Eve) who becomes more than a little obsessed with a psychopathic assassin (Jodie Comer's Villanelle). And then Villanelle becomes just as obsessed with Eve, bringing a whole new angle to the cat-and-mouse spy game. Fiona Shaw steals scenes, and the rest of the cast make it work. Spy series are ten-a-penny, but they've rarely been better – or funnier, or more unexpected – than this.

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After the twin successes of Buffy and Angel, Joss Whedon headed to space for this wonderful and deeply-missed mix of Western tropes, Chinese swearing, big damn heroes, and a future dystopia. Set in a time when mankind has explored a new frontier as Earth's resources ran out, Firefly follows a group of rebels and mercenaries who work under the radar of an all-encompassing government formed after a brutal civil war. Whedon recruited an ensemble cast that gelled perfectly, led by Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk and Summer Glau. They banter, they struggle, they fend off the space-maddened Reavers, and they make us care along the way. The ratings may have been low, but the show will not be forgotten.


Stream on Amazon
Buy now on Amazon


Stream on Hulu

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For a show about such utterly reprehensible people, Always Sunny has connected with a huge fan base. Following in the tradition of shows such as Seinfeld, the dodgy dealings of Charlie (Charlie Day), Mac (Rob McElhenney) Dee (Kaitlin Olsen), Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Frank (Danny DeVito, who joined in the second season after US network FX demanded a name to boost the show's ratings) make for excellent comedy value. They may not (usually) be people we can root for, but it's fun to see them scheme, squabble and, more often than not, fail in their attempts to break out of their regular lives. Musicals, mayhem and no little misbehavior have become a winning combo.

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From tiny acorns, a gigantic franchise was born – and you don't spin all those movies, follow-up series and reboots out of nothing. But for all its limited budget, 'Shacting', and occasionally silly aliens, the Trek universe would be nothing without the parent show. Gene Roddenberry and his team cannily brought together big ideas and intergalactic vistas, then injected a healthy, adventurous spirit into the proceedings. It's pulpy, it's fascinating, and it's at least partly responsible for the mobile phone you're probably reading this on.

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Kurt Sutter, a veteran of The Shield, brought a similar attention to detail and gritty plotting to this story of a motorcycle gang that cruise the small Californian town of Charming. The Shakespearean tale of a son (Charlie Hunnam's Jax Teller) dealing with the legacy of his dead father, conflicting with his surrogate father-figure (Ron Perlman's Clay Morrow), and facing the moral struggles of outlaw life, Sons Of Anarchy sees crime, ambition and violence all bleeding together. Under Sutter's guidance, the show steered through leadership challenges, rival gang attacks and trouble from corrupt (and crusading) cops, telling a compelling, often brutal tale that pulls no punches. Jax's story may have felt like the foot came off the throttle slightly as the show neared its end, but it kept up the pace and has since spawned a spin-off show in Mayans MC.

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Frasier mastered the tricky combination of mostly using smarts (and the odd pratfall) to get its laughs. Cleverly transposing Kelsey Grammer's beloved Cheers stalwart to his hometown of Seattle and shifting the broader format of the original show to suit the unique quirks of its new characters, the most successful spin-off of all time is wordy and wise and not averse to indulging in the odd moment of high farce. Like the quality comedy theatre it aspired to emulate, Frasier's appeal continues to endure.

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With dark, surreal comedy and stark, blunt truths about life and death, it's little wonder that Six Feet Under flowed from the same pen that gave us the equally incredible American Beauty. Alan Ball's HBO series about a dysfunctional Pasadena family that runs an independent funeral home is a wonderful meditation on family, love and grief. Headed up by Peter Krause as prodigal elder son Nate Fisher and featuring Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose and Rachel Griffiths, the cast, like every facet of this compelling production, oozes class, gifted with sharp writing and a finale that offers one of the most emotional wrap-ups in telly history.

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This series, based on Robert Altman's 1970 film, managed to last over three times as long as the Korean War it used as its backdrop. MASH was a searing exploration of how the doctors and nurses of the 4077th (a mobile army surgical hospital, hence the title) used humour to get through the atrocities they were faced with on a daily basis. A sterling cast headed by Alan Alda kept the show riveting (and hilarious) throughout its 11-year run, while its commentary on war continued to the very end, when, in the final episode, the unit's news reporter discusses the growing conflict in Vietnam.

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It ran until there wasn't a single member of the original cast left (at least, until the spectacular reunion finale) but ER amazingly showed little sign of decline throughout its 15-year run. Based on a film script by Michael Crichton, the series evolved into a weekly slice of emergency medicine at Chicago's county hospital, one that was separated from inferior imitators by smart scripts, great characters and a willingness to shock – from Dr. Greene's bathroom attack, to Lucy and Carter facing a schizophrenic knife-wielder. The list of cameos, both in front and behind the camera, is as long as your arm, boasting such names as Quentin Tarantino, Kirsten Dunst and Ewan McGregor.

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For a show that began expensive and extravagant, and only survived less-than-thrilling ratings when its creators (including Ben Elton and Richard Curtis) agreed to turn it into a lower budget studio-bound sitcom, Blackadder quickly entered the national consciousness for its well-constructed gags and some consummate acting from the likes of Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Hugh Laurie, Tim McInnerny and a revolving-door troupe of guests. For all its formulaic nature, the show was consistently sharp and funny – and even, with its fourth series, Blackadder Goes Forth, showed off a beating heart, full of surprising compassion.

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When the very first episode off a show sees the lead character shoot a fellow cop in the face to cover up his own corruption, you know you're not watching a run-of-the-mill police procedural. A brutal look at life behind the badge, Shawn Ryan's down-and-dirty drama basks in its protagonist's cavalier approach to right and wrong, and a reliance on street justice over the letter of the law. It's to Michael Chiklis' eternal credit that, despite acts of murder, torture, theft, drug distribution and other transgressions too numerous to list, Detective Vic Mackey remains a sympathetic and highly charismatic character – you just wouldn't want to get on his bad side.

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There have been zombies before – lord knows, there have been zombies – but The Walking Dead gave the post-apocalyptic concept time to carry on, and on, and on, exploring the ramifications of a total societal breakdown. Set in an increasingly savage, undead-plagued world, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his not-particularly-merry band of survivors find themselves grappling not only with the flesh-eaters – sorry, 'walkers' – but also the living. It's as much a show about survivalism and ethics as it is about gore and cool make-up – and it's done with characters we truly care about. While the series' astonishing viewing figures have dropped in recent seasons, it's still offering shocks and major reinventions for loyal viewers, expanding the story in the wake of Lincoln leaving to watch how humanity tries to rebuild the civilization that was lost. Critics can fire all the slings and arrows they like at the show, but there's a reason it became a monster hit that was more about humans than monsters.

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There's a reason Breaking Bad is renowned as one of the all-time greats, so for Vince Gilligan and his fellow writers to attempt a spin-off – a prequel, no less, with all of its own challenges and comparisons – took some bravery. Thankfully, they picked the perfect character to follow in Bob Odenkirk's Slippin' Jimmy McGill, AKA the man who will be Saul. Odenkirk, who had largely popped up as comic relief on the main show, here gets to demonstrate real depth and feeling as a con man sliding to a whole new level, dragging down friends and family as he goes. It's a tribute to all involved that it works so well, with fellow cast members Rhea Seehorn (as Kim, who loves Jimmy despite his obvious faults and is a better lawyer than he could ever hope to be) and Michael McKean (as Chuck, his troubled, cunning brother) bringing real soul to the show.

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Tina Fey's NBC-set showcase of sharp-writing, pitch-perfect performances, and slogan-bearing trucker hats remains one of the best sitcoms to hit the airwaves, Fey given free reign to indulge in all the craziness she and her team could conjure up. Jane Krakowski cranks it up as fame-obsessed Jenna, going toe-to-toe with Tracy Morgan's madcap manchild actor Tracy Jordan, while Jack McBrayer steals scenes as wacky NBC Page Kenneth. But it's Jack Donaghy who rules the show – the NBC head honcho is the role Alec Baldwin was born to play. Fey herself is the frazzled heart of the series as comedy writer Liz Lemon, trying to keep the madness from spiralling out of control on her SNL-alike sketch show TGS. And there's a lot of madness.

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Like Dracula (which, fittingly, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss moved on to), Sherlock Holmes is one of those evergreen characters that is endlessly reinvented, either with a period-appropriate take or adapted for the present day of whoever tackles him. The creative duo plumped for the latter, bringing the great grouse detective bang up to date with texting, sexual innuendo, bromance and gusto. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have long since entered the canon of great Sherlocks and Watsons, and their every move is charted by a massive, enthusiastic fan base. A BBC classic, Moffat and Gatiss' take on the great detective is both witty and wonderful.

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The story of one of the worst real-life disasters in history might not sound like the most entertaining miniseries, but Craig Mazin and his team delivered something emotionally affecting that packs a real punch. Unafraid to show the true impact of the reactor's meltdown, Chernobyl explores the tragedy's effect on the people in the area, those called in to help and the political squabbling over who's to blame and how to deal with the fallout (literally, in this case). A fine cast boasting the talents of Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Emily Watson, Jessie Buckley, Adam Nagatis and Sam Troughton give what could have been a dry history lesson a very human set of faces, and the miniseries was justly rewarded at the Emmys for its trouble.

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First conceived as a spin-off of the US Office, Parks & Rec initially struggled to shuffle out from the shadow of its bigger brother. But while the first season wobbled, the second soared and sustained that quality all the way to its emotional finale. Retaining The Office's 'workplace mockumentary' format, it ribbed the pernickety pedantry of small-town politics from the perspective of always-optimistic bureaucrat Leslie Knope, played with sheer brilliance by Amy Poehler. As with The Office, its ensemble is faultless – most notable being grumpy libertarian Nick Offerman's alpha male Ron Swanson (choice quote: "I need five courses for dinner, and each of them will be steak").

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At its best, there was nothing like 24 – insane levels of adrenaline, finely calibrated political intrigue and twists that hit you in the face like a two-fisted punch from Tony Almeida. In its day 24 was as cinematic as TV got, with no expense spared to depict Jack Bauer's intense battles against cunning terrorists and the odd occasional rogue President. Even when 24 was rubbish – and sadly the final Live Another Day miniseries wasn't great – it was still loveable. Despite being the worst plot device in history, it's hard not to have a soft spot for the cougar that menaced Kim Bauer back in Season 2.

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It began as a summer replacement series, but Seinfeld – based on the comedy of, and starring – Jerry Seinfeld, was given the one thing that few shows get these days: time for an audience to find it. Patience on the network's part paid off as Seinfeld, the show about nothing, became an unprecedented juggernaut. The audience fell in love with its four self-centred pals whose self-involvement draws them together, turning Jerry, Elaine (Julia-Louis Dreyfus), George (Jason Alexander) and Kramer (Michael Richards) into household names. Not to mention uch supporting characters as Newman, Puddy, Babu Bhatt, George's parents, Frank and Estelle; Uncle Leo and, of course, the Soup Nazi. As a reflection of society, the image is not a pretty one, but it is a classic.

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1993-2002 / 2016-2018
In its '90s heyday, Chris Carter's series was the perfect stew of conspiracy theories, romantic drama, monster-of-the-week shocker, and just the right leavening of humour when called for. Unsolved mysteries never go out of fashion, and The X-Files was ready to explore them all. Stand-alone monsters mingled with large mythology arcs, and the emotional stakes raised as the dangers deepened and we met more of the people in Mulder and Scully's lives. Even as spooky, rain-soaked forests gave way to a brighter palette after the series moved to LA, the stories stayed strong. At the core of it all, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson deserve a place in the pantheon of TV partnerships – proven by the fact that the show suffered when Duchovny stepped away. Still, when The X-Files worked, it really worked.

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With dialogue as sharp as the razor blades sewn into the crime family's flatcaps, it's perhaps not all that surprising that Steven Knight's drama has gone from strength to strength. With Cillian Murphy's Thomas Shelby as its anchor, Peaky Blinders has explored the struggles, triumphs and terror of the Shelby family as they cut a swathe through Birmingham and beyond in the early part of the 20th century. Peaky has prospered and evolved through the years, attracting ever bigger names (Tom Hardy, Adrien Brody) but never sacrificing the narrative on the altar of star wattage. Sticking close to history to power its storylines, Blinders continues to be one of the best sagas on TV.

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When Tom Hanks develops a TV miniseries and has Steven Spielberg as one of his key collaborators, you know you're in for a treat. So it was with Band Of Brothers, which Hanks and Erik Jendresen drew from Stephen E. Ambrose non-fiction tome. The fictionalised account of "Easy" Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division's training and dangerous missions in World War II provide the backdrop for affecting drama and nail-biting action. Saving Private Ryan was the template, but Brothers allowed Hanks and the rest to dig even deeper into the soldiers' lives and the risky situations they entered. At the time, it was the most expensive miniseries put on screen, but every penny is up there.

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Following one of the most famous science fiction series in TV history is, to put it mildly, no easy task. Yet despite some early stumbles (pilot Encounter At Farpoint is all exposition and less-than-subtle moral lessons, while the first two seasons see clunkers outweighing memorable episodes), The Next Generation grew into itself – fittingly, just as the crew's uniforms began to look comfortable. Big new enemies emerged, the cast found its rhythm, and Patrick Stewart in particular shone as Jean-Luc Picard, a fantastic captain who carved his own niche and avoided being a Kirk clone. The Trek universe grew bigger and richer with TNG, paving the way for further spin-offs that would only deepen an already rich mythology.

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As one of the key players (and co-creator) of Lost, whatever Damon Lindelof did next was going to be closely watched. His adaptation of Tom Perrotta's novel – co-written with him – for HBO takes place three years after two percent of the global population vanished for reasons that remain unexplained. The world is still trying to cope with the scale of the tragedy and the emotional ramifications, with cults springing up and madness slowly descending. Performances from Justin Theroux and particularly Carrie Coon are our guides through this changed, traumatised landscape – but in Lindelof and Perrotta's hands, it isn't a total misery fest, the story shot through with black humour.

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2004-2006, 2019
The rootinest, tootinest, sweariest show that ever dared raise its head on television? That'll be Deadwood. Set in the lawless Dakota Territory town when the disenfranchised of the world descended on the Black Hills to find their fortune, David Milch's masterpiece presents its frontier townspeople as disparate souls with morals muddier than the main thoroughfare. Happily throwing traditional notions of good and evil out the saloon window, the show constantly shifted audience loyalties, presenting a world where every act, noble or not, has repercussions. And in Ian McShane's foul-mouthed barman, Al Swearengen, we got one of television's most complex and interesting characters.

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As Hollywood continues to indulge in self-consumption through a never-ending supply of reimaginings and reboots, Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica demonstrates what happens when it's done right. Created in the shadow of 9/11, this updated take on the 1978-79 series (great concept, poor follow-through) brought relevancy, riveting character arcs and a newfound grit to television science fiction as what's left of humanity fights for survival against the cybernetic Cylons as they seek the supposed lost colony, Earth.

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For the unconverted, Matthew Weiner's show is just a lot of people in suits aggressively smoking at each other. But for fans of the multi-Emmy and Golden Globe-winning AMC drama, there's magic in even the slower moments as Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his advertising kin negotiate first the perils and pitfalls of Madison Avenue, then a fast-changing America, often while sloshed on whisky. A show of great moments (the lawnmower, the death of Lane, Betty's shotgun, the LSD), it made an early bid for greatness and maintained it across seven seasons. There aren't many shows you can say that about.

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CREDIT: ABC/Showtime

Who killed Laura Palmer? That was the question on everyone's lips during 1990 as David Lynch's bizarre small town mystery unfolded on our screens. A demon called Bob, a little man who talked backward, and minor pie fetish were just some of the features on display here. But despite a healthy dose of surrealism everything fell into place – until the network encouraged them to wrap up the Palmer mystery in the first half of Season 2, and it was forced to pose new questions like, 'Who is Windom Earle and what in God's name is going on?' If it started to fizzle from there, the original run still went out on a killer finale. Then, 25 years later, as promised it happened again. A revival series, directed entirely by Lynch, brought back plenty of the original cast for an even darker, even more elliptically weird trip into the uncanny – proving Twin Peaks is still as confounding as it ever was.

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Any show that runs for 30-plus seasons is bound to come in for some stick about not living up to former glory. But be honest: what could compete with The Simpsons at its height (around Seasons 4-8, according to most people, though there's still gold to be found after that point)? Still, the continuing misadventures of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and the multitudes surrounding them still find plenty of scope for laughs, commentary and pop culture nonsense. It's already in the telly hall of fame, and continues to bring out great episodes at a higher ratio than some of its long-running brethren (looking at you, Family Guy).

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1963-1989 / 2005-present
Sydney Newman, Verity Lambert and the others who brought the world's most famous time-traveller into existence knew what they were doing when they turned the need to replace the lead into one of the canniest ways to reboot and refresh the show. And so Doctor Who has kept going – albeit with a 16-year blip – for more than 50 years. Evolving from the days of cardboard sets and plastic monsters (which, let's be honest, were a big part of the show's charm) to the much more polished, but still incredibly fun version of today, generations have grown up watching the series, delighting at the idiosyncratic main character and running scared from the various creatures the Doctor outwits. It's a series that prioritises brains over brawn, shoots you off to the far corners of the universe, and is still not finished reinventing itself. What's not to love?

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Few TV shows gripped viewers' imaginations quite like this hybrid of Swiss Family Robinson and Twin Peaks. A byzantine central mystery intertwined with character-centric subplots (expertly embellished through the use of flashbacks, flashforwards and eventually flash sideways) kept audiences captivated and spread the focus across the entire ensemble cast. But aside from the host of colourful characters – from earnest Jack to cocky Sawyer, cunning Juliet to bug-eyed Ben – it was the ever-deepening mysteries that kept us coming back: what did the numbers mean? What was the black smoke? Who were The Others? And just what the heck were the "rules" anyway?

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Imagine, for a moment, a world where the only version of Buffy was the movie. Terrifying, isn't it? Fortunately, Joss Whedon reclaimed his knowing, meta stab at horror movies with the TV incarnation, casting Sarah Michelle Gellar as the cheerleader-turned-chosen-one supernatural slayer and launching a thousand memorable lines of dialogue. Buffy excelled because it ran real-world struggles through the medium of fantasy and horror, giving us great villains, romantic entanglements that felt painfully honest, and a Scooby gang we'd all hang out with. Plus: monsters.

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CREDIT: Netflix

Commissioned by Netflix from talented indie filmmakers Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij in an attempt to prove streaming services could branch out in unexpected directions, this complex, twisty tale of parallel dimensions, kidnapped test subjects and a calculating Jason Isaacs burned brightly, acquiring a devoted following along the way – a fan base that was devastated to learn of its untimely cancellation with a giant cliffhanger left unresolved. Not all shows deserve to be brought back to life, but The OA certainly does – with Marling anchoring the series as the haunted, powerful Prairie, it melded the weird with the wonderful and it would have been fascinating to see where it was going to go. Hey, Netflix, how about you #savetheOA?

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For a long time a walk-on part in The West Wing was the pinnacle to which all jobbing TV actors aspired. Smart and funny, Aaron Sorkin's political drama showcased the writer's gift for rapid-fire dialogue and layered, politically resonant storylines, proving that television could be funny and insightful all at the same time. The series took a temporary downturn after Sorkin's departure at the end of Season 4, but rallied soon after with a number of surprising changes to both character roles and format. It all came to a natural close at the end of President Bartlet's second term in office, but The West Wing remained one of the most intelligent shows on television throughout its run and a comforting image of what a more benevolent White House could look like. In good news for UK viewers, the entire run is now available on All4 – see the link below. Finding yourself obsessed with the show? Don't tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing, read our James Dyer's Definitive History Of The West Wing.

UK:Stream on All4
US:Stream on Netflix

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How is it that a certain digital TV channel can show this quintessential '90s sitcom on a virtual loop and it doesn't get old? Or that Netflix can have a juggernaut hit with it, decades after its original airing? It's because Friends, at its best, is as perfect a sitcom as you will find. In its earliest days, the adventures of six beautiful New York-dwelling pals who apparently earned money by drinking coffee featured writing much sharper than the cuddly exterior suggested. Even when the quality dipped a little mid-run, the ensemble remained perfectly matched and the best comedy collective on TV.

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David Simon famously once said that he intended The Wire as "lean-in" television, a show that you couldn't watch while folding clothes or dusting the mantlepiece. His Baltimore-set series demanded your attention, its slow-burn storytelling never less than totally compelling. Simon crafted a series that skips the usual procedural tropes, looking instead at the linked worlds of cops and criminals in a way that highlights the humanity clouded by labels. High stakes, big emotions and even a scene conducted almost entirely with the use of the F-word are all part of the reasons why this show became one of the greatest. Later seasons expanded the focus to other areas – politics, the school system, and newspapers, to name a few – but the laser accuracy remained the same. The ensemble cast (the likes of Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan among them) never put a foot wrong. If you've somehow never got round to watching it, lean in – you won't regret it.

UK:Stream on Sky


101 Best Written TV Series


Created by David Chase

A mobster in therapy, having problems with his mother," was how The Sopranos initially sparked, according to creator David Chase, though he was thinking about the premise for a feature film.


Created by Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld

At the end of Seinfeld's run, Jerry Seinfeld commented that one of the more underrated aspects of his show was the number of its locations and sets, creating a sense of indoor-outdoor movement unusual for a multi-camera sitcom.


Season One writers: Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Robert Presnell, Jr., Rod Serling

No show in the history of television has lingered in the imagination quite like Rod Serling's anthology series, which could function both as a science fiction chiller and an issues-driven examination of human behavior and moral complexities, with climactic twists.


Developed for Television by Norman Lear, Based on Till Death Do Us Part, Created by Johnny Speight

Asked how he'd been able to be so controversial on All in the Family, creator Norman Lear said to the WGAW website in 2009: "I don't really know how to explain it. It took me three years to get All in the Family on the air. Let me put it that way."


Developed for Television by Larry Gelbart

M*A*S*H remains the only long-running series, comedy or drama, set around a war zone.


Created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns

The MTM brand, under Moore and then-husband Grant Tinker, was responsible for an iconic run of comedies (and dramas) in the 1970s, beginning with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, an updating of the workplace sitcom set at a Minneapolis TV station where Mary Richards (Moore) was a news writer and producer.


Created by Matthew Weiner

Matt Weiner wrote the Mad Men pilot nearly a decade before it found a home as the first scripted drama at AMC, where the series debuted in the summer of 2007 and quickly took hold of the imagination with its evocation of Madison Avenue and the country as the turbulent 1960s dawn.


Created by Glen Charles & Les Charles and James Burrows

The qualities that made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a seminal sitcom in the 1970s gave Cheers the same importance to the '80s.


Created by David Simon

No series, arguably, is more responsible for the novelistic ambitions possible for television writers now.


Created by Aaron Sorkin

"The people who get angry at us on one Wednesday night will be standing up and cheering the next Wednesday night," Aaron Sorkin wrote in Written By before The West Wing premiered.


Created by Matt Groening, Developed by James L. Brooks and Matt Groening and Sam Simon

The Simpsons is as ineffable as American humor gets. Among the show's landmarks (hitting 100 episodes, then 200, then 500) was the inclusion of Homer's exclamation, "Doh!" in the Oxford English Dictionary ("used to comment on a foolish or stupid action, especially one's own").


"Pilot," Written by Jess Oppenheimer & Madelyn Pugh & Bob Carroll, Jr.

Though the show won an Emmy as Best Comedy, the writers were never so honored (in fairness, the Emmy for sitcom writing didn't exist until 1955).


Created by Vince Gilligan

Creator Vince Gilligan said he was joking with Tom Schnauz that the two former X-Files writers might have to rent an RV and cook crystal meth if their stalled Hollywood careers didn't turn around.


Created by Carl Reiner

Carl Reiner has said he based his first sitcom on his experiences as a writer on Your Show of Shows, working for temperamental star Sid Caesar while also trying to be a husband and father.


Created by Michael Kozoll and Steven Bochco

Low rated in its infancy, Hill Street Blues broke as many TV storytelling rules as its ultimate success helped establish for cop shows.


Created by Mitchell Hurwitz

Mitchell Hurwitz offered a glimpse into his take on the family sitcom when he spoke of his own parents' refusal to "quietly disappear into their middle age."


Created by Madeleine Smithberg, Lizz Winstead; Head Writer: Chris Kreski; Writers: Jim Earl, Daniel J. Goor, Charles Grandy, J.R. Havlan, Tom Johnson, Kent Jones, Paul Mercurio, Guy Nicolucci, Steve Rosenfield, Jon Stewart

It began as The Daily Show (hosted by Craig Kilborn) in 1996, became The Daily Show (hosted by Jon Stewart) in 1999, and is now just as often referred to as Jon Stewart as its official title, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.


Created by Alan Ball

Alan Ball pushed dramatic television into uncharted territory with his series about the Fishers and their Los Angeles funeral home.


Created by James L. Brooks and Stan Daniels and David Davis and Ed. Weinberger

Post-Mary Tyler Moore Show, James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, Ed. Weinberger and David Davis left MTM, formed their own company, and sold Taxi to Paramount (according to, Brooks and Davis bought back the option to a New York magazine article about night-shift cab drivers from MTM's Grant Tinker).


Created by Garry Shandling & Dennis Klein

Having lampooned himself and sitcoms generally on the meta It's Garry Shandling's Show, Shandling this time trained his comedic radar onto the fear and self-loathing backstage at a late-night talk show.

2130 ROCK

Created by Tina Fey

Tina Fey's canny take-off on her former life as head writer on Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock was initially viewed as "too inside" for a mass audience, a behind-the-scenes look at a sketch show, with Fey playing showrunner Liz Lemon and Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan, the hard-to-control comedy star brought in to juice ratings.


Developed by Television by Peter Berg, Inspired by the Book by H.G. Bissinger

Peter Berg wrote and directed the pilot of a show that was the second adaptation of H.G. Bissinger's non-fiction narrative about the impact of high school football on the hearts, minds, and lives in small-town Dillon, Texas.


Created by David Angell & Peter Casey & David Lee, Based on the character "Frasier Crane" created by Glen Charles & Les Charles

The Grub Street Productions team of Casey-Angell-Lee furthered the work they'd done on Cheers by moving psychologist Frasier Crane from Boston to Seattle and giving him a radio call-in show.


Created by Marta Kauffman & David Crane

Co-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane met in the theater program at Brandeis; by the time they created Friends, they had added a third partner, Kevin Bright, with whom they'd worked on the pilot of the HBO series Dream On.


Season One writers: Anne Beatts, Chevy Chase, Al Franken, Lorne Michaels, Marilyn Suzanne Miller, Paul Mooney, Garrett Morris, Michael O'Donoghue, Herb Sargent, Tom Schiller, Rosie Shuster, Alan Zweibel

In his 2009 memoir, writer-performer Tom Davis conjures the small gang of writers standing outside Lorne Michaels' office at the inception of SNL in July of 1975.


Created by Chris Carter

Fox's signature drama for most of the '90s, The X-Files, created by Chris Carter, was one of primetime television's all-time great hit science-fiction series, although to call it sci-fi is requires qualifying that it delved into the paranormal and the conspiratorial.


Created by Jeffrey Lieber and J.J. Abrams & Damon Lindelof

A pastiche of genres sci-fi, James Bond movies, action, adventure, and thriller co-mingled to intoxicating effect on Lost.


Created Michael Crichton

The show that launched George Clooney's career had a 20-year gestation period between the time Michael Crichton first wrote the pilot in 1974 and John Wells guided it to the top of the ratings in the mid-1990s.


Created by Ed Weinberger & Michael Leeson and William Cosby, Jr., Ed. D.

Bill Cosby's return to network television caused a new vogue for sitcoms based closely on the act of a stand-up comedian, a trend that dominated primetime into the ensuing decades.


Created by Larry David

Having co-created Jerry Seinfeld's roman a clef of a sitcom, Larry David has turned himself inside out on Curb.


Season One writers: Herbert Finn, Marvin Marx, A.J. Russell, Leonard Stern, Walter Stone, Sydney Zelinka*

The standard by which all working-class sitcoms are still measured had a fitful beginning. Harry Crane and Joe Bigelow are credited with creating Ralph Kramden, a Brooklyn bus driver, as a sketch character for Jackie Gleason in 1951, when Gleason was hosting the Dumont network's Calvalcade of Stars variety show (two other writers on that show, Coleman Jacoby and Artie Rosen, brought in Art Carney for a different sketch).


Created by David Milch

After a dozen years as the bard of NYPD Blue, David Milch's first created series was a strange, brilliant, and rococo Western set in a Gold Rush town in the Dakota territories, circa the late 1800s.


Created by Gene Roddenberry

As creator Gene Roddenberry wrote to science fiction author Isaac Asmiov two months after the first Star Trek series premiered in 1966: "Star Trek almost did not get on the air because it refused to do a juvenile science fiction, because it refused to put a Lassie' aboard the space ship, and because it insisted on hiring Dick Matheson, Harlan Ellison, A.E. Van Vogt, Phil Farmer, and so on."


Created by Steven Levitan & Christopher Lloyd

The sweet spot on Modern Family, done as a mock documentary, is in exposing the growing pains for a culture confronting the fluid meaning of the mainstream family unit.


"Pilot," Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch

"When Blue Velvet Meets Hill Street Blues," read the New York Times headline in 1990, describing Twin Peaks.


Created by David Milch & Steven Bochco

Steven Bochco made more creative elbow room on network television with YPD Blue, which debuted amid "viewer discretion" hype before settling into what it was one of the last important primetime cop series.


Season One: Written by Bill Angelos, Stan Burns, Don Hinkley, Buz Kohan, Mike Marmer, Gail Parent, Kenny Solms, Saul Turtletaub; Writing Supervised by Arnie Rosen

The kind of beloved series that television executives abandoned long ago comedy-variety, with an infectiously multi-talented comedian as host, aided by a small band of merry pranksters, Burnett's show was part of the era that also included Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, The Flip Wilson Show, and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.


Developed by Ronald D. Moore, Based on the Series Battlestar Galactica, Created by Glen A. Larson

Having written for the series Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager, Ronald Moore arrived at his remake of Battlestar Galactica determined to bring the "space opera" genre out of its fusty cartoon past.


Created by Darren Star, Based on the Book by Candace Bushnell

Is the show over? Because the movies aren't. Creator Darren Star based his series on Candace Bushnell's book, adapted itself from her columns in the New York Observer.


Created by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, Based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Medieval (or thereabouts) fantasy is not a TV genre with a particularly exalted tradition, which is why Game of Thrones, in its lavish production values and depth of mythology, feels so unprecedented in television.


Created by David Davis and Lorenzo Music

Talking about the success of The Bob Newhart Show on the podcast "Bullseye" recently, Newhart told a story about Jack Benny.


Season One: Written by Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, Max Liebman*

If you journeyed from Vaudeville to Saturday Night Live, you'd want to stop awhile at Your Show of Shows.


Created by Julian Fellowes*

Series creator Julian Fellowes' lavish period piece is also a pace-driven soap opera, set on a spectacular estate out in the English countryside of Yorkshire, home of the aristocratic Crawleys and their staff.


Created by Marshall Herskovitz & Edward Zwick

Since this sensitive ensemble drama burst onto the scene at the end of the "greed is good" 80s, many have tried and just as many have failed to replicate a show about well, ennui-riddled, upwardly mobile strivers, encountering speed bumps or ruptures in their relationship lives.


Created by Dick Wolf

The son of an advertising executive, Dick Wolf went into the ad business himself before moving into film and television.


Created by Paul Attanasio, Based on the Book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon

Homicide was based on the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, written by David Simon from his time as a crime reporter at The Baltimore Sun.


Created by Joshua Brand & John Falsey, Developed by Mark Tinker/John Masius

Like other important shows from the 1980s MTM stable, St. Elsewhere, which twice won Emmys for its writing, featured a writing staff whose future series appear elsewhere on this list.


Developed by Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, Based on the Original Israeli Series Prisoners of War by Gideon Raff

Homeland is a more humanist and psychologically disturbing version of 24, a show on which co-creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa were writers.


Created by Joss Whedon

Part of the fun, and influence, of Buffy was in the way it mixed and matched genres while maintaining the integrity of its comedy and its heart.


Season One writers: Mike Brumm, Stephen Colbert, Rich Dahm, Eric Drysdale, Peter Gwinn, Jay Katsir, Laura Krafft, Allison Silverman

"Anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you." That was Stephen Colbert's mantra when The Colbert Report debuted, and he has hardly wavered.


Created by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant*

Early in the 2000s, the buzz began moving west across the Atlantic: There was this quirky and very funny faux-documentary comedy series out of England called The Office.


Created by Robert King & Michelle King

Leading roles for women on TV don't grow on trees, much less leading roles as layered as Alicia Florrick, played by Juliana Margulies.


Created by Joshua Brand & John Falsey

The series' classic fish-out-of-water premise involved Joel Fleischman, a New Yorker fresh out of Columbia Medical School who is sent to run a clinic in frigid, off-the-grid Cicely, Alaska.


Created by Neal Marlens & Carol Black

Created by Neal Marlens and Carol Black, this sweet, intelligent confection of a half-hour comedy functioned as a looking glass into a late '60s suburban childhood.

55L.A. LAW

Created by Steven Bochco & Terry Louise Fisher

Over its eight seasons, L.A. Law racked up 15 Emmys in various categories (including two as outstanding drama).


Created by Joan Ganz Cooney

Simply put, the show's continual inventiveness and impact as an educational tool forged via the runaway popularity of the Muppets changed the landscape of children's television.


Created by Richard Levinson & William Link

As a writing team, Richard Levinson and William Link were an anomaly, given that they started writing together in junior high.


Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth*

In a TV interview, John Cleese called Fawlty Towers "just little 30-minute farces that start very, very low-key and finish up absolutely frantic."


Created by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell

As smooth as Columbo was rumpled, private eye Jim Rockford, an ex-con, lived and worked out of a trailer at the beach in Santa Monica. To a certain extent the character was the creation, as Columbo was, of the personality of its star, James Garner.


Created by Glenn Gordon Caron

Nominally a comedic detective series, the show's originality came from the electrifying chemistry between stars Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd, whose verbal jousting earned the duo, and the series, comparisons to Howard Hawkes comedies like His Girl Friday, or William Powell and Myrna Loy of The Thin Man series.


Created by Paul Feig

The title itself was an ironic statement about the pejoratives that get attached to those kids who don't quite buy into the aspirational idea of fitting in.


Written by William Blinn, M. Charles Cohen, Ernest Kinoy, James Lee; Based on the Book by Alex Haley

Roots, from executive producer David L. Wolper, and produced by Stan Margulies, was more than a miniseries it was a spectacular and unprecedented example of television's power as a storytelling medium, one that could simultaneously direct the national conversation and prod its conscience.


Created by Matt Stone & Trey Parker*

From "The Spirit of Christmas," an animated holiday card made for Fox executive Brian Graden that got passed around Hollywood like comedy samizdat, to The Book of Mormon, their current Broadway smash musical, no comedy writers have been on quite on such a run of wrongness as Trey Parker and Matt Stone.


Created by Philip Rosenthal

There was always something deceptively simple on display, in both its straightforward concept and skillful execution.


Season One writers: Edna Anhalt, Edmund Beloin, Harold Jack Bloom, Marc Brandel, George Bruce, James P. Cavanagh, Whitfiled Cook, Helen Doss, Scott Fitzgerald, Devery Freeman, Frank Gilroy, Helen Howe, Speed Lamkin, Ernest Lehman, Herbert Little, Jr., Don Mankiewicz, Elick Moll, Paul Monash, Dean Reisner, Norman Retchin, Selma Robinson, William Sackheim, Rod Serling, Leonard Spigelgass, Leslie Stevens, Brandon Thomas, David Victor, Charles M. Warren, Hagar Wilde, Cornell Woolrich

"One cannot imagine the joy one had as a professional viewer of this windblown medicine show called television to be able to deal every week for four years with the depth, the quality and sometimes the disaster that was the weekly Playhouse."


Developed for Television by James Manos, Jr., Based on the Novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

The movement toward dark characters on TV had grown dark enough to make possible a series, albeit on pay cable, about a Machiavellian serial killer whose targets are other serial killers.


Created by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant, Developed by Greg Daniels, Based on the BBC Series The Office

Adapting the British comedy by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Greg Daniels gathered around him writer-performers B.J. Novak, Mindy Kaling, and Paul Lieberstein.


Created by Winnie Holzman

"I cannot bring myself to eat a well-balanced meal in front of my mother. It just means too much to her," the searching teenager Angela, played by Claire Danes, says in voice-over in the pilot of My So-Called Life, which lasted 19 episodes before being cancelled by ABC.


Created by Susan Harris

The sitcom that stormed the gates of prevailing wisdom about TV and the over-50 set.


Episode 1, "The New Housekeeper," Written by Jack Elinson and Charles Stewart

Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle upon the death of Andy Griffith, David Wiegand pointed out that Sheriff Andy and the good folks of Mayberry, N.C., found wide appeal in primetime in an era when "the sexual revolution, the divisiveness of the Vietnam War and the general rejection of traditional values' by younger Americans had an impact on TV.

7124 - TIE

Created by Joel Surnow & Robert Cochran

Heading into its debut, the challenges facing this intriguing new thriller were narrative ones namely, the ability to attract, and hold, a large audience through a story that unfolded by the hour, in weekly installments.


Created by Shawn Ryan

You could argue that no series in the history of television left a greater imprint on its network than The Shield, which enabled FX to branch out into grittier, R-rated dramatic fare while also keeping its dignity intact.


Created by Matt Williams, Based on a Character Created by Roseanne Barr

In 1985, on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, America met a comedian named Roseanne Barr. Three years later she had a hit sitcom that furthered her inimitable persona as the housewife sardonically self-identifying as a "domestic goddess."


Created by Diane English

Series creator Diane English left after four popular and award-winning seasons to create new shows, just as Murphy Brown's decision to become a single mother was blasted as morally irresponsible by then-Vice President Dan Quayle.


Created by David Shore

Creator David Shore's series came along a decade after ER and gave the medical drama a jolt, basing a show on a physician who didn't have a God complex so much as a complex that was vociferously godless.


Written by Robert Graves and Jack Pulman*

'Twas the year of the miniseries: In January of 1977 Roots premiered on ABC; in March the network's scandalous hit Rich Man, Poor Man concluded, and in November, public television's Masterpiece Theater waded into the muck – albeit the rarefied muck – by airing the 13-hour I, Claudius from the BBC.


Created by Danny Arnold & Theodore J. Flicker

The air of world-weary sadness that hung over the denizens of the 12th Precinct made Barney Miller feel different from other sitcoms, quieter in personality and more offbeat cops in action via inaction, dragging themselves around the squad room like drones in an office otherwise made colorful by the perps coming in off the street.


Episode 1, "The Fight of the Felix," Written by Peggy Elliott & Ed Scharlach

Neil Simon's hit Broadway play was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Walter Matthau and Art Carney.


Created by Gene Roddenberry

For his follow-up to a sci-fi series phenomenon roughly the size of the cosmos, Gene Roddenberry wanted to demonstrate, as he put it in a 1991 Los Angeles Times Magazine article, "that TV need not be violent to be exciting."


Season One writers: Gwen Bagni, Samuel Blas, Robert Blees, Ray Bradbury, Richard Carr, James Cavanagh, Eustace Cockrell, Francis Cockrell, Marian Cockrell, John Collier, Robert C. Dennis, Mel Dinelli, Stanley Ellin, Fred Freiberger, Irwin Gielgud, Gina Kaus, Terence Maples, Richard Pedicini, Louis Pollock, Joseph Ruscoll, A.J. Russell, Stirling Silliphant, Andrew Solt, Harold Swanton, Victor Wolfson, Cornell Woolrich

Some of Hitchcock's most memorable films came out while he was hosting his anthology TV series, including Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho; Rear Window had come out the previous year.


Created by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins*

Long before the sotto voce buzz and chatter at Edwardian era Downton Abbey, there was 165 Eaton Place, London, and the Bellamy family.


Conceived and Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Terry Jones, Michael Palin*

Greatest comedy in the history of television? You wouldn't get an argument in some quarters.


"Pilot," Written by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry

Not having seen Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or Woody Allen in What's Up, Tiger Lily, for that matter I didn't read Get Smart as a take-off on Cold War-esque, mutually assured destruction; I'm just now realizing the CONTROL vs. KAOS dichotomy.


Created by Reginald Rose

Reginald Rose won two Emmys for his writing on The Defenders, which continued in the vein of the work for which he was most known for writing, Twelve Angry Men.


Episode 1, "Matt Gets It," Written by Charles Marquis Warren & John Meston

Already a hit on radio starring William Conrad as Marshall Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke, starring James Arness, became the most popular Western in TV history and one of the longest running shows ever.


Developed by Television by Graham Yost, Based on the Short Story "Fire in the Hole" by Elmore Leonard

Graham Yost, after working on two major miniseries for HBO, Band of Brothers and The Pacific, segued into something entirely different in Justified.


Created by Nat Hiken

In a New York Times article in 1996, when the movie version of Sgt. Bilko was to be released, David Everitt, author of the book King of the Half Hour: Nat Hiken and the Golden Age of TV Comedy, paid homage to one of early TV's great overlooked comedy writer figures, dating back to Fred Allen on radio.


Written by Erik Bork, E. Max Frye, Tom Hanks, Erik Jendresen, Bruce C. McKenna, John Orloff, Graham Yost; Based on the Book by Stephan E. Ambrose

The television miniseries had traditionally gone to war, but Band of Brothers did so with a budget that reportedly stretched to $120 million.


Season One: Written by Chris Beard, Phil Hahn, John Hanrahan, Coslough Johnson, Paul Keyes, Marc London, Allan Manings, David Panich, Hugh Wedlock, Digby Wolfe

Unlike other landmark comedy variety series, most notably Saturday Night Live, It's impossible to talk about Laugh-In without viewing it through the lens of its times, the late 1960s and early '70s.


Premiere Episode: Written by George Markstein and David Tomblin*

A strange, psychedelic amalgam of Cold War spy fiction, sci-fi and Kafka-esque anti-authoritarianism, The Prisoner starred Patrick McGoohan as Number Six.


Season One: Written by Jack Burns, Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, Marc London

Behind Jim Henson's genius and generosity of spirit were writers who shared his vision for puppetry that could tickle kids while delighting adults.


Episode 1, "Fashion," Written by Jennifer Saunders, Based on an original idea by Jennifer Saunders & Dawn French*

Jennifer Saunders was already known in the U.K. as part of the comedy double act French and Saunders when she created "Ab Fab," which featured the besotted exploits of middle-aged gal pals Edina (Saunders) and Patsy, played by Joanna Lumley.


Created by Terence Winter, Based on the Book Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson

As a writer on The Sopranos, Terence Winter's name is on some of the show's most iconic episodes, including "Pine Barrens," and "Long Term Parking," in which a mobster's fianc was taken out.


Created by David Kohan & Max Mutchnick

The season prior to Will & Grace's debut had seen TV history, when Ellen Degeneres' sitcom alter ego came out as a lesbian in a two-part episode of ABC's Ellen.


Created by Gary David Goldberg

In 1986, The Washington Post reported that at a White House ceremony honoring 141 high school students selected as presidential scholars for achievement in academics, the arts and leadership, President Reagan called Family Ties his favorite TV show, pointing to how "the wider culture is once again beginning to respect, even to celebrate, family life."


Teleplay by Bill Wittliff, Based on the Novel Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

"It was so big, and at that moment, Westerns were dead," Bill Wittliff, who adapted Larry McMurtry's novel into the acclaimed miniseries, told the San Antonio Express-News in 2007.


Created by Susan Harris

What more could you want from a primetime satire of daytime soaps? The comedy, centered around the extended family circus of the wealthy Tates and the middle-class Campbells, hit all the soapy plot points and then some extramarital affairs, major crimes, spells of amnesia, a guy abducted by aliens and cloned, another guy who talks only through his puppet, transvestitism, incest, asexuality, homosexuality, a demon spawn, and the butler who had to put up with all the shenanigans.


Episode 1, "Where the Action Is," Written by Harry Kronman

The series finale set a ratings record with a 72 percent share, and went down as history-making for the way it gave audiences a climax to all the tension it had built up over four seasons.


Season One: Writing Supervised by Merrill Markoe, Writers: Andy Breckman, Tom Gammill, David Letterman, Richard Morris, Gerard Mulligan, Max Pross, Karl Tiedemann, Steve Winer

The sort of irony that David Letterman popularized on his show involved, for starters, calling attention to the fact that he was doing a talk show.


Season One: Written and Directed by Louis C.K.

The show, about a bemused comedian and divorced father of two girls, has the feel of honest autobiography.


Created by Tom Fontana

Before The Sopranos, or The Wire, there was Oz, the first dramatic series produced by HBO (HBO had produced comedies, including The Larry Sanders Show, but not a drama).

*Non-WGA determined credit

  1. Korean torture methods ancient
  2. Brass bathroom faucets
  3. Coca cola fridge wrap
  4. Wall shelf black
  5. Mid length bob haircuts

The 50 Best TV Shows on Netflix Right Now

New shows come to the streaming giant all the time — too many to ever watch them all. We’re here to help.

Sign up for our Watching newsletter to get recommendations on the best films and TV shows to stream and watch, delivered to your inbox.

Netflix adds original programming at such a steady clip that it can be hard to keep up with which of its dramas, comedies and reality shows are must-sees. And that’s not including all the TV series Netflix picks up from broadcast and cable networks. Below is our regularly updated guide to the 50 best shows on Netflix in the United States. Each recommendation comes with a secondary pick, too, for 100 suggestions in all. (Note: Netflix sometimes removes titles without notice.)

We also have lists of the best movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, along with the best TV and movies on Hulu and Disney+.


‘Midnight Mass’ (2021)

The prolific writer-director Mike Flanagan specializes in thoughtful horror stories, heavily influenced by Stephen King. This eerie and eccentric mini-series is his most ambitious project yet, using the familiar form of a supernatural thriller as a way to examine life in a tiny, run-down island fishing village. Zach Gilford plays an ex-convict who returns home, still wracked with guilt over his crime, at the same time that a charming priest (Hamish Linklater) arrives at the local church, full of hope and promises. Soon, a series of strange events upends the islanders’ lives, forcing them to face the literal and figurative monsters in their midst. (Flanagan has several movies and TV series available on Netflix; start with his 10-part adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House.”)

Watch it on Netflix

‘Sex Education’ (2019-present)

Some of Netflix’s best original series are about teens but not really for them … or at least not for them to watch with their parents. In the funny, raunchy British dramedy “Sex Education,” Asa Butterfield and Emma Mackey play unpopular kids who have valuable insights into their classmates’ sexual hangups, which they dispense to their peers in paid therapy sessions. Through the first three seasons, these unlikely advisers see their lives become more complicated as they go from being outsiders to insiders. Our critic described the show as “timely but not hamfistedly topical” and “feminist, with a refreshing lack of angst about its subject.” (For another sharp show about foul-mouthed teens, watch “Derry Girls,” a sitcom about life in Northern Ireland in the early 1990s.)

Watch it on Netflix

‘Dear White People’ (2017-21)

This lacerating social satire loosely adapts the 2014 film by Justin Simien about a group of African-American students managing micro-aggressions and intra-racial infighting at a mostly white Ivy League university. The show addresses modern collegiate controversies using character-driven, episodic storytelling and a sharp sense of humor; over the course of its run it becomes more daring, culminating in a final season that employs flash-forwards and musical interludes. Our critic wrote that “Dear White People” “keeps the movie’s essence but recognizes that TV is not just the movies with smaller screens and longer run times.” (For another look at contemporary Black culture, watch Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It.”)

Watch it on Netflix

‘Never Have I Ever’ (2020-present)

For “Never Have I Ever,” the creator of “The Mindy Project,” Mindy Kaling, draws on her own teenage experiences as a first-generation Indian American who very much wanted to be part of the popular crowd. This clever and heartfelt sitcom is partly a soapy high school romance and partly a portrait of a well-meaning kid who keeps messing up her social life; and it should still be relatable to anyone who remembers the family pressures, personal traumas and unrealistic expectations that keep some youngsters from ever feeling “cool.” Our critic said this show “moves like a teen comedy and has a sort of ‘Mean Girls’ gloss on high school in terms of its anthropology of teendom and its school aesthetic.” (For another wonderful coming-of-age dramedy, try the latest TV adaptation of “The Baby-Sitters Club” novels, a show the characters on “Never Have I Ever” would love.)

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‘The Chair’ (2021-)

In this pointed dramedy about the politics of modern academia, Sandra Oh plays Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim, a professor in the English department of a prestigious university where she has just become the first woman to serve as the chair. An excellent cast — including Jay Duplass, Holland Taylor and Bob Balaban — play the colleagues who make Dr. Kim’s job more difficult. She tries to balance her faculty’s petty complaints and eccentricities with her shrinking budgets, the evolving needs of her students and her own complicated personal life. In an article about the show for The Times, Nicole Sperling called it “a sharp and often hilarious satire of contemporary academia disguised as a rom-com.” (For another dramedy about aging professionals questioning their relevance, watch “The Kominsky Method.”)

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‘Hit & Run’ (2021-present)

Set in Tel Aviv and New York City, the international mystery-thriller “Hit & Run” was cocreated by Lior Raz, who also plays the hero, Segev, a semiretired special forces agent who calls on his old contacts when his wife dies in a suspicious accident. Sanaa Lathan plays Segev’s ex-girlfriend Naomi, an American journalist who helps him track down the leads to what could be a far-reaching conspiracy. The chase involves several tense and exciting action sequences. Our critic said it “has the same frenzied urgency of other exciting Israeli shows.” (The creative team behind “Hit & Run” is responsible for the hit Israeli action series “Fauda,” which is also on Netflix.)

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‘Shtisel’ (2013-present)

After a long layoff, this quietly compelling Israeli series recently returned for a third season, picking up the story of one Haredi Jewish family in Jerusalem a few years after the events of Season 2. Collectively, the entire run of “Shtisel” to date removes some of the mystery of an ultra-Orthodox Haredi community by following one traditionalist rabbi and his grown children as they cope with everyday relationship and career struggles. In a Times article about the show’s popularity, Joseph Berger wrote, “The tension between the Jewish laws that guide their daily lives and the yearnings and whims of the characters make for emotionally powerful television.” (For a different take on faith try “Unorthodox,” an adaptation of a memoir about a woman escaping her strict religious upbringing.)

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‘Friday Night Lights’ (2006-11)

H.G. Bissinger’s book “Friday Night Lights” is partly about Texas high school football and partly about Texas itself: the culture, the racial and economic disparities and the hopes and heartbreaks of the younger generation. The sensitively rendered and emotionally powerful TV adaptation uses the daily ups and downs of a hard-working and conscientious coach (played by Kyle Chandler) to frame the struggles of his players and their families. The naturalistic performances, the beautifully lit locations and the intensely dramatic stories combine for a unique and unforgettable portrait of early 21st century America. Our critic called it “not just television great, but great in the way of a poem or painting.” (For a different take on high school football, watch the Los Angeles-set drama “All American.”)

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‘30 Rock’ (2006-13)

After Tina Fey’s stint as a “Saturday Night Live” head writer, she created and starred in this Emmy-winning sitcom, set behind the scenes of an “S.N.L.”-like sketch comedy show. “30 Rock” has Fey playing a frazzled writer-producer managing two eccentric, egotistic stars (played by Tracy Morgan and Jane Krakowski), along with a network boss who is more into profits than art (Alec Baldwin). Fast-paced and madcap, “30 Rock” lovingly savages the modern media business; but it is also, in its own weird way, a sentimental show about co-workers who take care of one another. Writing about the series as a whole, our critic called it “a witty sendup of network television that cut uncannily close to the bone.” (Fey also cocreated the Netflix sitcom “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” which has a similarly loopy sensibility.)

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‘Masters of the Universe: Revelation’ (2021-)

The proudly geeky writer and director Kevin Smith is the primary creative force behind this revamp of the 1980s “He-Man” toy line and TV cartoon. Aimed at grown-up fans of the original series — but accessible to almost anyone who enjoys sword-and-sorcery stories and animated adventures — “Masters of the Universe: Revelation” continues some of the story lines from the original show, set in a world where warriors and mystics protect the Castle Grayskull from Skeletor’s forces of evil. Though still kid-friendly (so long as those kids are old enough to handle scary-looking monsters and violence), this new version of “Masters of the Universe” has a more mature plot, including surprise twists and even death. (Also highly recommended for youngsters who like animation and fantasy: “She-Ra and the Princess of Power,” from the same mythological universe.)

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‘I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson’ (2019-present)

The former “Saturday Night Live” and “Detroiters” writer and performer Tim Robinson created (with Zach Kanin) this fast-paced and funny sketch series, which is steeped in the comedy of obnoxiousness. Nearly every segment is about how people react when someone in their immediate vicinity behaves rudely or strangely. The show is both a sharp depiction of how social mores sometimes fail us and — through two seasons now — a reliable generator of viral memes. Our critic wrote that Robinson “channels a recognizable brand of Midwestern ticked-off-ness: a freak-out that bursts through his mild exterior like a volcano erupting out of a lake of mayonnaise.” (For more one-of-a-kind sketch comedy, watch “Chappelle’s Show.”)

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‘Sophie: A Murder in West Cork’ (2021)

This three-part true crime docu-series is like a real-life version of one of those moody European detective shows, from the murder’s picturesque, remote location to the eclectic assortment of suspects with shaky alibis. The story begins in 1996, when the French TV producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found dead outside her vacation home in Ireland, in a community where crime of any kind is rare. “A Murder in West Cork” covers an investigation that has continued to captivate Ireland and France for over two decades as the public keeps learning surprising details about the victim’s life and about the people who crossed her path before her death. (If you prefer a more high-energy fictional murder mystery, stream the popular Mexican thriller “Who Killed Sara?”)

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‘The Mole’ (2001-08)

Before Anderson Cooper became a CNN reporter and anchor, he hosted this unusually sophisticated reality competition show, in which competitors work alone and in groups on various physical challenges, puzzles and stunts, while trying to figure out which member of their team is secretly trying to sabotage them. Based on a Belgian series, the American version of “The Mole” aired two seasons with Cooper as a charming game-master, before returning with a different host in a less-compelling celebrity edition. Netflix has those terrific first two seasons — the ones that fans of this genre still adore. (For another reality competition filled with sly betrayals, try the international sensation “The Circle.”)

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‘Feel Good’ (2020-21)

The comedian Mae Martin cocreated and stars in this emotionally charged romantic dramedy about a stand-up comic named Mae whose already chaotic life gets even crazier when she falls hard for a sweet, grounded gal named George (Charlotte Ritchie). The relationship goes through multiple ups and downs — some of them related to Mae’s being a recovering addict, some related to George’s having never dated a woman before — but the couple’s passion for each other carries them through. In a Times article about the show, Maya Salam wrote: “Against all odds, it’s funny, immensely warm and downright charming. And a love story.” (For another fresh, honest look at modern love, try “Master of None.”)

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‘Dirty John’ (2018-present)

Based on a popular true-crime podcast, this anthology series tells ripped-from-the-tabloids stories about women who have had their lives ruined by shady men. The strong first season (which left our critic cold) has Connie Britton as a crafty entrepreneur who falls under the spell of a con artist (Eric Bana). In the admittedly stronger second season, Amanda Peet gives a phenomenal performance as Betty Broderick, who was convicted of murdering her ambitious ex-husband (Christian Slater) after he dumped her for a younger woman. The show’s creator, Alexandra Cunningham, keeps these stories entertainingly pulpy but also focuses on the ways gender and social status can skew the power balance in a relationship. (For another provocative, illuminating true crime anthology series, watch “American Crime Story.”)

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‘Lupin’ (2021-present)

In the early 20th century, Maurice Leblanc wrote dozens of stories about the mysterious gentleman thief Arsène Lupin. In the French adventure series “Lupin,” Omar Sy plays Assane Diop, the son of a Senegalese immigrant and a fervent fan of Leblanc’s books. The twisty and action-packed plot jumps between the past and the present, teasing out the reasons the crafty Assane is so determined to use his heist-planning mastery to wreck the reputation of a powerful family. The Times called this show “fleet-footed” and “deliberately old-fashioned,” adding that, “For fans of the original stories, Easter eggs abound.” (For another fun and popular French series, watch the showbiz dramedy “Call My Agent!.”)

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‘Sweet Tooth’ (2021-present)

It’s rare to find a post-apocalyptic saga as heartwarming as “Sweet Tooth,” the writer-director Jim Mickle’s adaptation of the comic book series by Jeff Lemire. Christian Convery plays Gus, a human-animal hybrid who looks like a cross between a deer and a little boy. Alongside a burly guardian (Nonso Anozie) who is holding onto painful secrets, Gus sets off on a mission to find more of his kind, across a near-future America transformed by a pandemic and a wave of mutations. Our critic wrote, “The show can be brutally dark, and its plague stories are sometimes uncomfortably resonant right now, but it’s also, well, hugely endearing.” (For another imaginative fantasy series, try “The Witcher.”)

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‘High on the Hog’ (2021)

Based on a book by the culinary historian Jessica B. Harris, this docu-series connects African recipes to American recipes, by way of the experiences of slaves and their descendants. Hosted by Stephen Satterfield, “High on the Hog” is both a vibrant travelogue and a valuable education, going in-depth into the reasons ingredients like rice, ham, okra and yams have become staples. In an essay for the Times, the James Beard award-winning food writer Osayi Endolyn called the series “an incredible reframing of history that reintroduces the United States to viewers through the lens of Black people’s food — which is to say, American food.” (For another globe-hopping culinary docu-series, watch “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” hosted by Samin Nosrat.)

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‘Happy Endings’ (2011-13)

Although it ran for only three seasons — a total of 57 episodes — the sitcom “Happy Endings” is still often mentioned whenever TV buffs talk about shows canceled too soon. Why do people love it so much? Give some credit to a charming core cast (Eliza Coupe, Adam Pally, Elisha Cuthbert, Damon Wayans Jr., Casey Wilson and Zachary Knighton), playing young adults who struggle with maintaining mature relationships and meaningful careers. Credit also the riotously funny scripts. Our critic wrote, “The writers layer jokes on jokes on jokes, many of which coil in on themselves to hit three or four consecutive punch lines, pop culture references, or clever bits of wordplay.” (For more of the “Happy Endings” hangout spirit, try the equally delightful “New Girl.”)

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‘Russian Doll’ (2019-present)

The most obvious point of comparison for this oddball science-fiction dramedy is the movie “Groundhog Day,” given that “Russian Doll” is also about a character who keeps reliving the same 24 hours, over and over. Here, the trapped person is a sad-sack software engineer named Nadia (played by Natasha Lyonne, who also created the show with Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler). On the night of her 36th birthday, Nadia keeps dying and rebooting — like a video game character — and has to figure out what she needs to change about her life to survive. Our critic wrote, “This is a show with a big heart, but a nicotine-stained heart that’s been dropped in the gutter and kicked around a few times.” (For another series about alternate realities, watch the anthology “Black Mirror.”)

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‘Life in Color’ (2021)

The veteran naturalist and TV host David Attenborough has realized one of his career-long ambitions with the new three-part series “Life in Color,” which relies on special cameras to help depict the world the way animals see it. Shot in exotic locations across the planet, the series emphasizes how color affects a wide variety of creatures as they hunt, eat and mate. Our critic hailed the show’s “dazzling images, here made even more arresting because of the series’s focus on varicolored plumage and skin.” (For a more cautionary take on the natural world, watch Attenborough’s docu-series “Our Planet,” which emphasizes the effects of human progress and climate change on the animal kingdom.)

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‘Selena: The Series’ (2020-21)

This lively musical biography covers the short life of the Tejano singing sensation Selena Quintanilla, following her rise from low-paying gigs to multiplatinum album sales. What sets this two-part, 18-episode mini-series apart from so many other celebrity origin stories — and from the beloved 1997 big-screen biopic “Selena” — is that each episode focuses quite a bit on Selena’s family, which provided her first backing band and remained an enduring motivational force. Ricardo Chavira gives a fine performance as the driven patriarch Abraham Quintanilla, whose obsession with finding just the right formula to make his daughter famous generates a lot of the plot in this fascinatingly detailed backstage drama. (For a fun series about a fictional band of young rockers, watch the supernatural comedy “Julie and the Phantoms.”)

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‘The Game’ (2006-15)

One of the longest-running sitcoms with a predominately Black cast, “The Game” ran for nine years, offering an alternately funny and soapy look at the private lives of professional football players and their wives. Netflix has the show’s first three seasons, which are largely concerned with three women: Melanie (Tia Mowry-Hardrict), a med student whose boyfriend is new to the league; Kelly (Brittany Daniel), the socialite wife of a respected veteran player; and Tasha (Wendy Raquel Robinson), the meddling mother of a star quarterback. The series deals with these ladies’ doubts and fears as they watch their men risk their health for million-dollar paydays. The Times called it, “More real than reality TV.” (“The Game” is a spinoff of the sitcom “Girlfriends,” which is also available on Netflix.)

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‘Kim’s Convenience’ (2016-21)

The writer-producers Ins Choi and Kevin White based this low-key Canadian sitcom on Choi’s play of the same name, about a Korean immigrant couple named the Kims (played by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon), who run a convenience store and meddle in the lives of their two independent-minded adult children (Andrea Bang and Simu Liu). During its five-season run — recently completed — “Kim’s Convenience” told stories set in a modern, multicultural Toronto, concerned with family traditions and generational divides. Its short, sweet episodes are as funny as they are relatable. Our critic said, “If you miss when ‘Modern Family’ was good, try this.” (For another genteel, heartwarming Canadian comedy, watch the Emmy-winning “Schitt’s Creek.”)

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‘Sky Rojo’ (2021-)

Created by Álex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato (“Money Heist”), this rocket-paced Spanish action-adventure series follows three prostitutes who get in desperate trouble and flee their brothel, with the creeps who run the business in hot pursuit. Verónica Sánchez, Lali Espósito and Yany Prado play the women, whose difficult pasts and deep secrets are revealed during their tense and violent journey through the underworld. In an interview with the creators, Elisabeth Vincentelli wrote, “The show is a sensory overload that sometimes feels as if Quentin Tarantino were directing a long-form video for Versace.” (For another stylish show about dangerous women, watch “Teenage Bounty Hunters.”)

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‘Murder Among the Mormons’ (2021)

This fascinating three-part docu-series starts as a tale of murder, covering a series of Salt Lake City bombings that shook up the Mormon community there back in 1985. The co-directors Jared Hess and Tyler Measom quickly shift the focus to the accused bomber, Mark Hofmann, a mercurial local businessman who had an unusual moneymaking scheme, serving as a broker for rare documents related to the church’s early history. What emerges is a fascinating story about the foundations of religious faith, examining the lengths to which some leaders will go to avoid a potentially devastating scandal. (For another absorbing true-crime documentary set in and around a strict religious community, stream “The Keepers.”)

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‘Nadiya Bakes’ (2021-present)

The talented and personable home baker Nadiya Hussain won the sixth season of the internationally popular cooking competition “The Great British Baking Show” in 2015, then capitalized on her newfound fame by writing books and becoming a TV host. Her latest series, “Nadiya Bakes,” takes her back to her “Baking Show” roots as she makes traditional cakes, tarts and biscuits, dressed up with colorful fruits and bold flavors. The show is both beautiful to look at and filled with Husain’s warm and exuberant personality. Our critic said that it’s “so sunny and cheery it might be the cure for seasonal, and perhaps even clinical, depression.” (Also stream “The Great British Baking Show,” where infectiously likable contestants are the norm.)

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‘Babylon Berlin’ (2017-)

In this flashy German crime drama, Volker Bruch plays Inspector Gereon Rath, a cop who gets transferred to Berlin at the end of the 1920s, right when the city is at its most decadent and untamed. Ostensibly a police procedural — one of the creators and occasional directors is the skilled genre stylist Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) — “Babylon Berlin” is also a study of the social and political conditions in Europe between the world wars, when libertinism and reactionary conservatism set the stage for the troubles to come. Our critic said the show “cruises along like a particularly eventful amusement park ride — Weimar Fever Dream — that practically negates the concept of suspension of disbelief.” (For another exciting and socially relevant political drama, watch the Danish series “Borgen.”)

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‘Last Chance U’ (2016-present)

This moving and tense docu-series features faltering college football hopefuls, now attending smaller universities in hopes of bouncing back from the academic, discipline and injury problems that have derailed their dreams. There’s also a spinoff, “Last Chance U: Basketball,” which applies the same premise to a different sport. Each iteration of the show balances stories about the players with a look at their tutors and coaches, detailing how they all adjust their hopes, their expectations and their definitions of “success.” Our critic wrote, “Alongside the show’s ability to engender simmering loathing for broken systems is its love for its subjects.” (For another engaging series about athletes, try “The Last Dance,” a documentary about the Michael Jordan Era of the Chicago Bulls.)

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‘Orange Is the New Black’ (2013-19)

Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir about serving time in a minimum security women’s prison, “Orange Is the New Black” is a remarkable showcase for its eclectic cast, depicting a wide spectrum of social classes and sexual orientations. The series was created by Jenji Kohan, who, as our critic wrote, “plays with our expectations by taking milieus usually associated with violence and heavy drama — drug dealing, prison life — and making them the subjects of lightly satirical dramedy.” (For another lively dramedy about feisty women, watch “GLOW,” about the 1980s rise of pro wrestling.)

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‘The Chase’ (2013-15)

Multiple versions of this quiz show have been popular both in Britain (where the original series has aired for over a decade) and the United States (where ABC’s current version features the former “Jeopardy!” champions Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer). Netflix carries two seasons of the now-defunct first American version of “The Chase,” hosted by Brooke Burns. Here, the supersmart Mark Labbett, nicknamed “The Beast,” is the designated “chaser,” tasked to outguess the contestants in order to keep them from winning big money. With its challenging questions and its intense cat-and-mouse format, “The Chase” has long been one of the best modern game shows. (For another challenging trivia game, turn to “Jeopardy!,” available on Netflix in episode “collections” that rotate regularly.)

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‘City of Ghosts’ (2021-present)

Most TV series aimed at young children tend to be repetitive and remedial, designed to teach a few simple lessons while keeping the little ones engaged. But there’s much more going on in “City of Ghosts,” a show that offers a relaxed and informative tour through the history and culture of Los Angeles. Created by Elizabeth Ito (a veteran of TV animation who previously worked on “Phineas and Ferb” and “Adventure Time”), “City of Ghosts” is about a team of elementary school-aged paranormal investigators who interview friendly ghosts and the people they haunt. The visually striking blend of photographs and drawings — coupled with the use of real, off-the-cuff audio interviews — gives this delightful cartoon the feel of a documentary. (For another educational kids’ show filled with creativity and heart, stream “Carmen Sandiego.”)

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‘Bridgerton’ (2020-present)

The accomplished TV producer Shonda Rhimes and her longtime “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” writer Chris Van Dusen bring their formidable facility for melodramatic storytelling to this soapy historical romance — the television equivalent of a page-turner. Based on Julia Quinn’s series of Jane Austen-inspired novels, the show is set in Regency Era London and is concerned with various high-stakes lovers’ games among the aristocracy. With its multiracial cast and its steamy bedroom scenes, “Bridgerton” satisfies as both a provocative social commentary and a sensationalistic potboiler. Our critic called it “a reliable story in fancy modern packaging.” (For another addicting take on British high society, watch “The Crown.”)

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‘The Good Place’ (2016-20)

It’s difficult to describe this fantastical metaphysical sitcom without spoiling its surprises. It’s ostensibly about a selfish young woman named Eleanor (Kristen Bell), who with a handful of other iffy humans lands in a cockeyed version of the afterlife, managed by the cheerful kook Michael (Ted Danson) and his humanoid supercomputer, Janet (D’Arcy Carden). But with his philosophical digressions and fantastical comic inventions, the creator, Michael Schur, keeps viewers guessing all the way to the clever and emotional series finale. And even without the crazy plot twists, the show provides food for thought. Our critic wrote, “Mr. Schur seems to have found a deeper idea behind the show’s premise: Is acting good the same as being good?” (The offbeat mystery series “Evil” offers another unique and clever take on how to be virtuous in a morally murky modern world.)

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‘Jane the Virgin’ (2014-19)

This spoof of the Latin American soap operas known as telenovelas also wholeheartedly embraces their schtick. “Jane the Virgin” starts as the story of an aspiring writer who is accidentally impregnated through an artificial insemination mix-up. The show then gets wilder, with at least one crazy plot twist per episode — all described with breathless excitement by an omnipresent, self-aware narrator. Our critic called it “delicious and dizzyingly arch.” It’s also emotionally affecting, featuring a nuanced portrait of three generations of Venezuelan-American women in Miami. (For another wild mix of heart-tugging melodrama and wacky comedy, try the musical series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”)

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‘Pretend It’s a City’ (2020)

What if two lively and opinionated New Yorkers — the venerable filmmaker Martin Scorsese and the irascible humorist Fran Lebowitz — spent a few hours gabbing away about the highs and lows of urban life? In the seven episodes of “Pretend It’s a City,” Scorsese goads his old friend into sharing her anecdotes and complaints while he laughs along infectiously. Scorsese — who directed the series as well — also frames Lebowitz’s stories against lovely shots of New York City, turning even her gripes into paeans. The Times called this show “a tantalizing snapshot of New York in full bloom, along with Lebowitz’s lively and unapologetic commentary on what it means to live there.” (For another funny and insightful series featuring celebrity pals chatting, watch Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”)

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‘Song Exploder’ (2020-present)

Like the podcast of the same name, the documentary series “Song Exploder” has musicians describing in detail what went into the recording of some of their best-known work. Each half-hour installment relies mainly on interviews with the writers and performers — including R.E.M., Alicia Keys, Dua Lipa and Nine Inch Nails — who listen to isolated tracks from their mixes with the host, Hrishikesh Hirway, and then get into the nuts and bolts of the creative process. The Times recommended the podcast to anyone “in the mood to get granular about the craft of songwriting.” This TV adaptation lives up to its source. (The decades-spanning “Break It All: The History of Rock in Latin America” is another excellent, in-depth musical docu-series.)

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‘Ozark’ (2017-present)

In this darkly comic Emmy-winning crime drama, Jason Bateman plays a shady money-manager who moves his family to a Missouri resort community, where they all adjust to a new culture while still dealing with their patriarch’s criminal associations. Bateman is also a producer and a director on the series and has been canny enough to give his co-stars room to shine. Julia Garner is especially strong as a damaged young femme fatale, while Laura Linney gives one of the best performances of her career as a wife making impossible choices to keep her loved ones safe. Our critic said, “The show isn’t a tragedy — most of the time, it’s a satirical (though quite violent) culture-clash caper with pretensions.” (For a lighter take on small-town melodrama, watch “Virgin River.”)

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‘Big Mouth’ (2017-present)

Netflix has become a haven for adult-oriented animated series, written and voiced by comedians who know that sometimes raunchy jokes are even funnier when delivered by cartoons. Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jenny Slate and Jessi Klein are among the comics involved in “Big Mouth,” which follows a group of junior high schoolers who are tormented day and night by the monsters who embody their uncontrollable adolescent impulses. Our critic calls it “more sweet and insightful than its hormone-drenched premise might lead you to believe.” Now four seasons into its run, the show remains as refreshingly honest as it is hilarious. (Also funny and frank: the comedian Bill Burr’s animated “F Is for Family.”)

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‘Outlander’ (2014-present)

“Game of Thrones” gets more attention, but “Outlander” has been just as successful at adapting a sprawling book series — and at mixing political intrigue with high fantasy. (Netflix carries Season 1-3; all five seasons to date are on Starz.) Based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels about a time traveling 20th century English doctor (Caitriona Balfe) and her romance with an 18th century Scottish rebel (Sam Heughan), the show offers big battles, wilderness adventure and frank sexuality. It has a rare historical scope as well, covering the changing times in Europe and the Americas across centuries. Our critic wrote that it should appeal to viewers who “have a weakness for muskets, accents and the occasional roll in the heather.” (The German science-fiction series “Dark” features a similar mix of earnest drama and time-travel.)

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‘The Queen’s Gambit’ (2020)

Based on a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis — an eclectic writer best-known for “The Hustler” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth” — the seven-part mini-series “The Queen’s Gambit” is about a chess prodigy who struggles with addiction and self-doubt while rising through the international ranks in the 1960s. Anya Taylor-Joy plays the young master, who has a tough childhood she finds hard to shake, even as she’s clobbering her competition. The creators, including Scott Frank, bring just enough ornate visual style to frame Taylor-Joy’s outstanding performance as a woman who gets lost whenever she looks beyond an 8x8 grid. Our critic wrote, “Frank wraps it all up in a package that’s smart, smooth and snappy throughout, like finely tailored goods.” (For more of Frank’s work, watch his western mini-series “Godless.”)

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‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ (1969-74)

The British sketch comedy troupe Monty Python combined the cheekiness of old English music hall comics with the surrealism and self-awareness of the psychedelic era. Their series, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” ran for four seasons from 1969-74 and was syndicated around the world, popularizing an absurdist approach to humor — and to life — that has inspired countless sketch comedians. Although the original show is 50 years old now, it “hasn’t aged a bit.” (The “Mr. Show” creators, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, were clearly inspired by Monty Python, as evidenced by their Netflix series “w/Bob & David.”)

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‘When They See Us’ (2019)

As a producer and director, Ava DuVernay has tackled the Civil Rights Movement, in her Oscar-nominated film “Selma,” and racial bias in the American criminal justice system, in her Emmy-winning documentary “13TH.” In her four-part mini-series “When They See Us,” she dramatizes the story of the Central Park Five, who were convicted of raping and almost killing a jogger in New York City in 1989, then exonerated in 2002. Salamishah Tillet wrote that the Five “emerge as the heroes of their own story — and if we pay heed to the series’s urgent message about criminal justice reform, ours too.” (For another politically pointed true-crime drama stream “Unbelievable,” which examines gender bias in policing)

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‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ (1993-99)

Of all the older “Star Trek” series, “Deep Space Nine” today feels the most ahead of its time. Set near a wormhole connecting distant quadrants of the galaxy, the show deals frankly with the tricky politics of a remote outpost where different species warily interact. It’s a complex kind of space western: like “Gunsmoke” with phasers. And while mostly episodic, “Deep Space” does feature longer story arcs and subplots, more akin to 21st century television. Our critic called the whole “Star Trek” franchise “part of our national mythology, a continuing megastory whose characters come to represent our abstract ideals.” (Some of the concepts and characters on “Deep Space Nine” were introduced on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which is also on Netflix.)

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‘Pose’ (2018-present)

Set amid the New York City “drag ball” scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s, the exuberant drama “Pose” is groundbreaking for the way it employs a large cast of transgender women playing transgender women. The series deals with serious issues — including the devastation of AIDS and the way the city’s economic boom of the ’80s bypassed the marginalized — but it is surprisingly optimistic, emphasizing the community fostered by these underground fashion and dance competitions (hosted by the acid-tongued Pray Tell, played by Billy Porter). Our critic wrote that “Pose” “stands, bold and plumed, and demands attention.” (Netflix’s visionary science-fiction series “Sense8“ also features transgender actors in transgender roles.)

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‘Gentefied’ (2020-present)

Set in the rapidly gentrifying Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights, this lively dramedy follows the dreams and disagreements of three very different cousins, all of whom have their own ideas about how to keep their grandfather’s taco restaurant afloat. Savvy and often funny, “Gentefied” offers a snapshot of a Mexican American culture in transition, in which deeply rooted traditions are threatened by economic and social change. Our critic wrote: “The show’s likability carries it through its rougher patches. This series puts a lot on its plate, and somehow, it all comes together.” (For another addicting show about Angelenos’ aspirations, watch the teen melodrama “On My Block.”)

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‘Better Call Saul’ (2015-present)

The “Breaking Bad” prequel series, “Better Call Saul,” covers the early days of the can-do lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) as he evolves into the ethically challenged criminal attorney “Saul Goodman.” Throughout the show, Jimmy crosses paths with another “Breaking Bad” regular, the ex-cop Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), during Mike’s first forays into the Albuquerque drug-trafficking business. In this frequently surprising and incredibly entertaining crime saga, these two very different men discover the rewards and the perils of skirting the law. Our critic wrote, “Cutting against the desperation and violence that frame it, ‘Saul,’ in its dark, straight-faced way, is one of the funniest dramas on television.” (Also a must-see? “Breaking Bad,” of course.)

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‘Stranger Things’ (2016-present)

The first season of the retro science-fiction series “Stranger Things” arrived with little hype and quickly became a word-of-mouth sensation: Viewers were enchanted by its pastiche of John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and John Hughes — all scored to ’80s pop. This story of geeky Indiana teenagers fighting off an invasion of extra-dimensional creatures from “the Upside-Down” has the look and feel of a big summer blockbuster from 30 years ago — “a tasty trip back to that decade and the art of eeriness,” our critic noted, but “without excess.” (If you prefer ’90s teen nostalgia, try “Everything Sucks.”)

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‘BoJack Horseman’ (2014-20)

It’s hard to explain “BoJack Horseman” to the uninitiated. It’s a showbiz satire about a self-absorbed former TV star trying to mount a comeback. It’s an existential melodrama about the fear of fading relevancy. Oh, and it’s a cartoon in which that former star is an alcoholic horse. Our critic wrote, “The absurdist comedy and hallucinatory visuals match the series’s take on Hollywood as a reality-distortion field. But the series never takes an attitude of easy superiority to its showbiz characters.” (One of the “BoJack” production designers, the cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt, also created the wonderful Netflix animated series “Tuca & Bertie.”)

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‘Halt and Catch Fire’ (2014-17)

This thoughtful drama depicts the early years of the digital age, starting in the mid-80s, when personal computers and the internet became an integral part of our everyday lives. “Halt and Catch Fire” empathizes more than glamorizes, following the punishing step-by-step of four visionary engineers and programmers — sometimes partners, sometimes rivals — as they try (and often fail) to get their projects funded and shipped: “Failure,” our critic wrote, “from this show’s perspective, is not the end; it’s how people level up.” (For a different take on techies, stream the British sitcom “The IT Crowd.”)

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The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch

By Collider StaffUpdated


Clear your schedules -- here are the best shows to binge, and where to find them.

The way we consume our media has seen a fundamental paradigm shift over the last decade. It happened in incremental steps -- TiVo, VOD, the rise of streaming networks; those advances and many more are all pivotal steps in restructuring the way we approach serialized storytelling formats. At the same time came the rise of smartphone and tablet culture, and the opportunity that comes when most people have a screen in front of their faces for the majority of their waking hours. Naturally, soon after came the rise of binge-watching.

This isn't to suggest, of course, that people haven't been bingeing television for decades. As long as there have been nerds and a means of recording, people have been mass consuming their favorite TV shows, whether on DVD or self-recorded VHS. But more recently, binge-watching has become not only something people do, but a driving factor that shapes the way some entertainment is formed on a core level. Netflix, in particular, is known for crafting their series in a way that compels viewers to digest the whole narrative in one or two sittings and, as a result, often blurs the lines between film and television story formats.

But whether you've been binge-watching your whole life or recently slid into the habit, there are some shows that are just perfect to mainline as quickly as possible. If you're on the hunt for a new show to dive into, the Collider staff has put together handy list of our favorite shows to binge-watch below.

RELATED: The 85 Best TV Shows on Netflix Right Now

The Boys

Streaming on: Amazon

The Amazon superhero series The Boys is really the perfect combination of a “prestige”-type program with the engine of a well-oiled serialized network drama. Based on the comics of the same name, the show takes place in a world in which superheroes not only exist, but they’re celebrities. As it turns out, however, most of those superheroes are drunk with power, committing atrocities all the time with zero consequences. Enter The Boys: a ragtag group of regular ol’ humans with their own personal grudges against the superhero team known as The Seven. The show is extremely violent, darkly funny, and definitely not for kids – but it’s also more thoughtful than you’d expect as it tackles themes like capitalism, fame, and even sexual misconduct. And while it goes to some very dark places, above all The Boys is just tremendously fun. – Adam Chitwood



I guarantee you’ve never seen a show quite like Hannibal, and if you’re into artfully told serial killer stories with strong sexual tension, you’re gonna love it. Based on the Thomas Harris novel of the same name, the show began as a Hannibal Lecter series of sorts—Mads Mikkelsen plays forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter who is called upon by gifted criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and the Behavioral Sciences Unit of the FBI to help track down a serial killer. Will and Hannibal develop a wildly inappropriate, deeply bonded relationship, which only further complicates matters when Will begins to suspect that Hannibal might have a role to play in these murders. And for Harris fans, the show covers various beloved storylines from his Lecter books (like Red Dragon). One part crime procedural mystery, one part twist-filled psychological thriller romance, and one part full-on horror story, Hannibal is a wholly unique series that gets weirder and weirder as it goes on, but keeps you enraptured the entire time. You’ll soon start to wonder how in the world a show this graphic, this poetic, and this strange aired on NBC for three seasons. - Adam Chitwood

The Witcher

Streaming on:Netflix

The Witcher is an absolute blast and a half. The fantasy series is indeed very fantasy—it’s more Lord of the Rings than Game of Thrones—but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously and whole-heartedly embraces all aspects of fantasy storytelling and gaming, including fun side-quests, POV battles, and even a bard who follows Henry Cavill’s titular human/creature hybrid around singing songs about his glories. The show’s first season follows three stories destined to converge: Cavill’s Witcher is a muscle-for-hire monster hunter who begins to question why so many princesses have been turning into creatures; Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) is a powerful sorceress in training who struggles to keep her emotions in check; and princess Ciri (Freya Allan) is on the run after the sacking of her city, but harbors secrets of her own. Steeped in lore and world-building but always engaging, The Witcher is a perfect kind of binge-viewing show. – Adam Chitwood

Schitt's Creek

Streaming on:Netflix

Imagine a less cynical Arrested Development crossed with an inverted Beverly Hillbillies, and you’re close to Schitt’s Creek—one of the most joyful shows on all of television. The Canadian sitcom tells the story of a wealthy family who loses everything when they’re defrauded by their business manager. The only thing they do own is a tiny, backwoods town the patriarch (Eugene Levy) bought for his son (Daniel Levy) as a joke gift back in 1991, and they’re then forced to move there and live out of a motel. They slowly begin to accept their new lives and even love their new town, despite their many, many quirks. The comedy is delightful, anchored by a phenomenal performance from Catherine O’Hara as the family matriarch, a former soap actress in denial about her social status. It’s also a delightfully forward-thinking series, as the son’s pansexuality is met not with scorn or judgment, but with a full loving embrace. Hilarious, witty, and oh-so-sweet, Schitt’s Creek is the perfect show for when you need a pick-me-up. – Adam Chitwood

Game of Thrones

Streaming on:HBO Max

You know a show is going to be a good binge watch when you're tearing your hair out waiting for new episodes week to week, and new seasons year to year. Building on the structure of shock drama and high fantasy in George R. R. Martin's best-selling book series, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss' adaptation Game of Thrones translates all the political machinations, royal intrigue, and apocalyptic fantasy underpinnings into TV gold. Backed by a game-changing budget from HBO, Game of Thrones might be the most spectacular sight to ever hit the airwave and that luxurious attention crafts a completely immersive world where anything can happen, anyone may perish, and each new twisted cliffhanger and moment of violent punctuation leaves you clamoring to see what's next. -- Haleigh Foutch

Parks and Recreation

Streaming on: Peacock

Parks and Recreation is a great show to binge-watch because the series evolved so heavily throughout its run. Showrunner Mike Schur was never content to just stick to the status quo, and this love letter to public service revels in shaking up its characters and their circumstances in compelling and engaging ways. Moreover, the tremendous arc of Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation Department deputy director to potentially President of the United States is executed perfectly. Aside from the rocky first season, there’s really not a false note to be found in this show, and its compassion for its characters and ever-changing circumstances makes it a great binge-watch at any time. – Adam Chitwood

Veronica Mars

Streaming on: Hulu

Veronica Mars shouldn’t be as good as it is. There are so many ways a teen-centric private eye show can go wrong, and yet creator/showrunner Rob Thomas always keeps his series firmly planted in reality, grounded by a star-making performance from Kristen Bell. The titular high schooler never feels like a conduit for a middle-aged adult’s zingers, and that’s a testament both to Thomas’ writing and Bell’s maturity as a performer. On top of that, the mysteries are genuinely compelling, the teen drama alluring, and the ensemble is (mostly) filled out with charismatic actors who soak up the screen. Think The O.C. meets True Detective and you’ve got Veronica Mars. – Adam Chitwood

True Detective (Season 1)

Streaming on: HBO Max

Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Fukunaga’s engrossing anthology is a rabbit hole of a mystery that had viewers spending an exceptional amount of time trying to guess who the (potentially mythical) killer was. But the visually sumptuous exploration of this Louisiana-Set crime story is really about the two troubled men investigating it over time, played by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. As True Detective’s story weaves through the horrors committed by The Yellow King, it also zeroes in on the complicated relationship between its two detective leads, which ultimately pulls it together after a wholly southern gothic crescendo. It’s an experience that is both engrossing and hypnotic, and it set a standard that its own Season 2 (with a new cast, directors, and setting) could not come close to matching. — Allison Keene

Stranger Things

Streaming on:Netflix

Here’s where the lines start to blur between TV and film. A show like House of Cards is clearly built and presented like a traditional TV series, just one meant to be binge-watched. But the smash-hit Stranger Things is much more filmic in nature, not just in its reduced number of episodes, but the structure of each. They play like parts of a whole instead of standalone episodes, and bingeing Stranger Things is more akin to reading a great novel in one day than watching a bunch of TV at once. Indeed each season of the show is seen by its creators, brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, as more of a film than a TV series, which makes it possibly the most satisfying binge-watch on this list. Even if the final episode leaves the door open for more questions, each of the first two seasons have a clear beginning and end. – Adam Chitwood

Breaking Bad

Streaming on: Netflix

Binge-watching Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould's definitive Golden Age series Breaking Badcan feel like an emotional marathon, but the payoff is well worth the tumult of the journey. A masterpiece of long-format storytelling, Breaking Bad is a series that veers left every time you think you have a read on it and is never afraid to swing for the fences with despicable human behavior and the far-reaching fallout from wicked deeds. As Walter White, the high school chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin, Bryan Cranston is a revelation and he's supported at every turn by an ensemble of prodigiously talented peers. Breaking Bad is a perfectly crafted show, each season feeling like both a tightly-contained unit of storytelling and a part of a bigger whole. It will keep your nerves on end and put a pit in your stomach for a breathless rollercoaster of character drama through crime and punishment. -- Haleigh Foutch

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Streaming on:Hulu

Joss Whedon reinvented the rules of genre television with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the timeless teenage drama that chronicled coming of age through the conquest of literal monsters, big and, on at least one occasion, very very small. Twenty years later, Buffy is still an absolute delight to watch, charting the long-haul coming of age of a group of beloved characters from the angst of high school to the disappointments of early adulthood. At the same time, it's a thrilling monster series, delivering one hellish creature after the next with fantastic practical effects and pure passion for genre storytelling. Buffy is my OG binge, long before the term became a thing. I think I used to call it "marathoning Buffy," watching the seasons back to back on my well-worn DVDs. Even so, it never grows old. -- Haleigh Foutch

Twin Peaks

Streaming on: Hulu and Netflix

While there’s certainly never been a better time to mainline David Lynch’s landmark network series (as well as its jaw-dropping revival run), you certainly don’t need much more of a reason to watch than for the series’ unique combo of semi-traditional and propulsive genre pleasure and pure Lynch-brand surrealism. Led by Kyle Maclachlan at his charmer height and nestled in a magical realist dreamscape somewhere in the foggy pacific northwest, Twin Peaks is likely the most accessible of Lynch’s oeuvre, but it’s also possibly his most personal. Emotionally affecting and deceptively deep beneath the glittering madness, if Twin Peaks isn’t quite Lynch at his best, it’s certainly at his most iconic. -- Aubrey Page

The Haunting of Hill House

Streaming on:Netflix

Hush and Gerald's Game filmmaker Mike Flanagan delivers his most ambitious Netflix project yet (and that's really saying something when you're talking about someone who successfully adapted Gerald's Game) with The Haunting of Hill House. Inspired by Shirley Jackson's seminal ghost story, the series carries over almost none of Jackson's narrative (though occasionally too much of her prose), and focuses instead on the haunted lives of the withering Crain family. Bouncing back and forth between the summer the Crain's spent in the titular haunted mansion and the years of grief and family trauma they endured in the aftermath. Flanagan has proven in previous works that he's got a knack for upsetting visuals and well-composed scares, but his great success in The Haunting of Hill House is the way he ties the scares into a rich, intertwining tale of family tinged with tragedy. Led by a spectacular ensemble, the series veers between emotional revelation and moments of horror that give you full-body chills. It's the most moving and honest portrayal of mortality and grief this side of Six Feet Under, but it'll give you a whole lot more nightmares. — Haleigh Foutch


Streaming on:Hulu

It’s rare that a TV show runs for seven seasons (and counting) and remains fresh, but Archer is consistently hilarious, stylish, and surprising. Binge-watching the FX series is ideal as creator Adam Reed is incredibly fond of frequent callback jokes or running gags. Watching H. Jon Benjamin’s highly skilled and incredibly incompetent spy bumble his way through various missions is a delight each and every time. The show also has a penchant for reinventing itself a season at a time, focusing on one long story arc for the duration of an entire season, which also makes binge-watching this animated series an out and out pleasure. Seriously, Archer is basically one giant joy-manufacturing machine. – Adam Chitwood


Streaming on:HBO Max

God knows, the tantalizing mysteries of Westworldwere delicious when doled out at a weekly pace and it was a delight to have enough time between each chapter to work out the pieces of the puzzle Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy lovingly crafted. That said, the series also rewards tearing through the episodes, especially as a rewatch that allows you to see the full scope of the twisting, time-bending narrative. Set in an Old West theme park where robots are at human disposal for whatever dark urges they may possess, Westworld is a pitch-perfect hybrid of pulpy fantasy and cerebral sci-fi, packing in HBO's signature sex and death spectacle alongside a heavy dose of complex brain-twisters, and whether you're watching it week to week or all in one go, both vantage points offer new facets to appreciate. -- Haleigh Foutch

Streaming on:Hulu and Netflix

Sure, we got our six seasons, but we're still waiting on that movie. In the meantime, aCommunity binge watch is always a delight. Dan Harmon's irreverent comedy series had its ups and downs over the seasons, but it was always one of the sharpest and most unusual comedies on television, and it never shied from skewering the conventions of the half-hour comedy structure or completely shattering the mold altogether. Ostensibly about a study group at a consummately unimpressive community college, Community waltzes through genres with complete chameleon freedom, but never loses sight over the long term arcs. Ultimately, binge-watching Community kind of feels like hanging out with a group of your weirdest friends, and what's not great about that? -- Haleigh Foutch

Castle Rock

Streaming on: Hulu

Castle Rock pays homage to the master of horror, Stephen King, by telling stories within his created world, populated by his famous sometimes infamous characters, locations, and supernatural forces. This is not a simple wink-and-nudge kind of homage but rather an original tale that feels like it came from the pages of a King story itself. Longtime fans of King’s work will find themselves pulling double duty by trying to keep track of all the story and character references while also keeping up with the fantastic mystery at the core of Castle Rock. More casual fans might just discover that they really like all the little nods and references, ultimately deciding they’d like to dig into King’s collected works a bit more. That’s a win-win. Showrunners Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason sure know how to craft a King-ly story, and J.J. Abrams is no slouch when it comes to unpacking the mystery box.

Like many of King’s tales, Castle Rock has a dark mystery, and a darker evil, at the center of a small town. The main crux of the mystery story in this first season centers on the disappearance of young Henry Deaver back in 1991, and the current appearance of Skarsgard’s The Kid in 2018. It’s that simple. But like any King story, the real meaning is found not just in the mystery but in how the people involved in it react to events, how they treat each other, and ultimately how they’re judged for their actions. Castle Rock is a can’t-miss series for Stephen King fans and a must-watch horror show for fans of dark, thrilling, character-focused mysteries. — Dave Trumbore


Streaming on:Netflix

Before binge-watching was a thing, there was Weeds, Showtime’s half-hour dark comedy about a suburban single mother who turns to dealing and selling weed as a source of income. Mary-Louise Parker is endlessly watchable in the lead role, and it’s no surprise that creator/showrunner Jenji Kohan would go on to create another highly binge-able show in Orange Is the New Black. Weeds was unique for a half-hour series, regularly taking ambitious leaps in story and focusing as much on shocking plot twists as it did on characters. Some say it never should have left the suburban location, but there’s still quality to be found in the later seasons of the series when the Botwin family took their empire on the road. – Adam Chitwood

Broadchurch (Season 1)

Streaming on:Netflix

A young boy in a quiet English coastal town goes missing, and then is found dead on the beach. From there, the villagers of Broadchurch see all of their worlds turned upside down by the investigation into the killer, who belonged to this tight-knit community. Broadchurch’s success, at least in its first season, is in the way its crime story comes second to the character drama it dives into, thanks to an exceptional cast. From the two sparring detectives (played by David Tennant and Olivia Colman) to the grieving mother (Jodie Whittaker) trying to pull her family back from the brink, the series’ picturesque setting is juxtaposed sharply with the darkness within it, leading to a shocking and brutal conclusion (that should have ideally ended the series). — Allison Keene

Rick and Morty

Streaming on:Hulu and HBO Max

There are pros and cons to bingeing Rick and Morty. On the pro side, it's a sometimes painfully hilarious series that delivers a crazy amount of laughs per episode along with surprisingly robust character arcs. On the con side, you may break your brain. Rick and Morty is hard sci-fi with sharp edges, and the bingeing pace can make it hard to keep up with one mind-bending concept after the next. The thing is, you won't be able to help yourself. While it's fun to sit with an episode for a while to break down the layers and implications of everything that buzzes by on-screen in each tight half-hour episode, the series is so propulsive, engaging, and utterly twisted, you just can't ignore the compulsion to hit play on the next bit of insanity. -- Haleigh Foutch


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