Television is in something of a golden age right now. Even though the influx of reality shows tends to dominate, television has never been treated with as much creativity and care as they are right now. After The Soprano’s premiered in the late 90’s, people started to see the potential of what a television show could become, constantly evolving and improving. Right now there is a plethora of great shows to watch, but here is a list of the shows you should check out first.
All of the following shows are still running, most of them already have a few seasons under the belt. The list is in alphabetical order. I have also included 5 other shows that are a bit more niche.
3 Seasons, 36 Episodes.
4th Season Premiere – TBA
Starting the list off we have Boardwalk Empire. The show stars Steve Buscemi as politician and alcohol bootlegger, Nucky Thompson. Set during prohibition, Boardwalk has some of the highest production values on television right now. Atlantic City is brought to life in the show and is as much a character as it is a setting. When it comes to story, few shows can pull off the same focused chaos of Boardwalk. With fully fleshed out characters and plot lines. Something is always happening in Boardwalk Empire, so pay attention. It’s only major downfall is it’s habit of using several episodes in a row as build up. The climax is always satisfying but sometime story lines could be tightened up. The show hit its stride during season three and left me craving the next season. Since it is between seasons, now is a great time to start this brilliant show.
5 Seasons, 54 Episodes
5th Season Part 2 Premiere: Summer 2013
If there was a number 1 show for you to go out and watch as soon as possible, Breaking Bad is it. By now if you watch TV at all you probably already know about this goliath of a show. Pretty much everyone loves it, and that’s putting it lightly. The story follows Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a chemistry teacher turned meth manufacturer after being diagnosed with lung cancer. I remember hearing this premise accompanied by a poster of Cranston, holding a gun in some underwear in the middle of a desert. This show could have easily been a train-wreck of epic proportions, but instead turned into a phenomenon. Popping up on pretty much every top television list you will read. It is going into its last 8 episodes sometime later this year. I urge every single reader to seek out this show. It is a must watch!
7 Seasons, 84 Episodes
8th Season Premiere: June 30th, 2013
One of the longer series on the list, Dexter boasts 7 seasons. The story of Dexter Morgan (Michael C Hall), a blood splatter analyst for the Miami police with an interesting hobby. He murders serial killers. Dexter has always been up and down in quality so I will quickly break down how I feel about the seasons.
Seasons 1 and 2 are pretty much the best ones. The main reason being is they feel fresh. Each season tends to follow a similar path so it gets a little old during a few seasons. The first two feel fresh because they are probably the place people are going to start watching. I HIGHLY recommend starting at season 1 for every show on this list, unless I specify otherwise.
Season 3 gets a bit boring, even for a show with such an interesting premise and central character. I think after the velocity of the first two seasons, three was a bit a breather for the show.
Season 4 improved vastly upon three, giving us probably the best of all of Dexter’s nemesis’. Also this seasons finale was a total shocker and set the stage for the next couple of seasons.
Seasons 5 starts out strong then bleeds into season 6 which I feel is the worst season by far. Season six started off strong but got so predictable and ridiculous that I was laughing more than I was being shocked. This was the low point in the series, but it’s one saving grace is the final five minutes of the season finale. Similar to season 4 it set the stage for the entire next season.
Season 7 comes back strong and gives us some fresh story lines and some good twists. The dynamic between two of the main characters changes drastically in this season which makes it feel closer to the first two seasons.
Season 8 is possibly going to be the last season of Dexter, and truth be told, I hope it is. Too often shows go on well past there stories should have. Dexter was pushing it’s luck with season 6 and with season 7 being as good as it was, I really hope they decide to end it with season 8 on a high note. Otherwise season 8 could end up being another boring filler season.
Game of Thrones
2 Seasons, 20 Episodes
3rd Season Premieres: March 31st, 2013
Who doesn’t sometimes wish they were an epic warrior on some ancient battlefield wielding a sword or an axe? Maybe it is just me… anyways for all you fantasy nuts out there, look no further than Game of Thrones. With a recent venture into fantasy realms in shows like Once Upon A Time, HBO offers viewers a mature alternative. Game of Thrones is based on A Song of Ice and Fire book series. It would be a nightmare for me to try and explain the story and characters. Instead, I will tell you that this is a fantasy for the mature audience. Magic is minimal, characters are incredibly fleshed out, and the battles are bloody as they come. The show finished it’s second season last year and it’s third will be starting up fairly soon. Each season has only 10 episodes so it is one of the easiest shows on this list to catch up on. If you want some more fantasy in your programming, this is it.
2 Seasons, 24 Episodes
3rd Season Premiere: September 29th, 2013
One of the most recent shows on the list is Homeland. Homeland would actually probably come in last on this list, but that is by no means an insult. Really Homeland suffers from a lack of experience. The first season has one of the most interesting set ups in recent memory. I had my share of problems with it, particularly the romance between the two main characters. This show is for anyone looking for something a bit more accessible. The plot follows Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes), a CIA officer who specializes in finding terrorists. When Sergeant Nicholas Brody is rescued after 8 years of imprisonment by al-Qaeda. Carrie begins to suspect he has been turned into a terrorist. The show offers a great deal of twist and is very well written. My hope is that with it’s third season coming up that it finds it stride.
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
8 Seasons, 94 Episodes
9th Season Premiere: TBA Fall 2013
Up until now I have only really had drama’s on the list. If you have a soft spot for comedy then the next three are for you.
First up we have the hysterical, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. The comedy series follows the shenanigans of the owners of Paddy’s Irish Pub. Starring a group of very talented young writers and comedians, Sunny is probably the most influential comedy series in the last ten years. The show has been on for a whopping 8 years now, and it’s latest season was actually one of the best yet. What makes Sunny so special though, is the constant banter between main characters. The main characters are the biggest ass holes you could ever meet, but unlike other shows that get annoying, there is a certain sense of heart within each character. If there is a single comedy you should start watching, look no further.
4 Seasons, 45 Episodes
5th Season Premiere: TBA 2013
FX is awesome. Not only do they have great drama series, but they are dominating the adult humor series category right now. While shows like Louie and Sunny tend to get the most attention, their is a hidden gem known as The League. Even though it follows the exploits of a fantasy football league, The League requires no football knowledge to enjoy. It may borrow somewhat from other shows, but similar to It’s Always Sunny, this show is entirely about the characters interaction. Each season follows one season of fantasy football, beginning with a draft and ending in the the championships. Each episode has its individual plot points, but it is truly the characters that drive the show. This is one series that absolutely needs to be watched from season one, episode one. Unlike the other comedies on this list, The League uses a lot of references to past episodes. I would also warn that this show gets pretty risky sometimes. Where a lot of people think Sunny pushes boundaries, I really think it is The League that FX likes to test the limits with. The show will be going into it’s fifth season this year so keep a look out for it.
3 Seasons, 39 Episodes
4th Season Premiere: Spring 2014
Originality is tough to come by these days. Not just in terms of television but with any type of art form. A show like Louie really only comes along once every decade or so. While it may borrow somewhat from earlier sitcoms, Louie is a show all it’s own. Pretty much everything is done by the immensely talented Louis CK. Primarily a comedian, Louis’s television show is a semi-autobiographical/sketch comedy series unlike any other. If I were to compare it with any other show I would say it is similar to Seinfeld. It also contains a certain insight into everyday life that almost no other show on television can capture. Louie definitely isn’t for everyone, but I encourage everyone to at least watch the first couple of episodes. It ended it’s 3rd season back in september with a fourth season due in 2014.
5 Seasons, 65 Episodes
6th Season Premieres: April 7th, 2013
Being a writer, I have a certain draw to Mad Men because it is almost entirely dialogue driven. There are no explosions, no bloody murders, no graphic sex scenes. To me some of the best shows are the ones that evolve, become something more than what they set out to do. This is definitely the case for Mad Men. The show has evolved and changed quite a bit. Going from very clean cut to looser. Weather this was to reflect the changing time period, I don’t know, but it is excellent. The story follows Don Draper, who works as the creative director at an Advertising Agency in 1960’s New York. The show, similar to Boardwalk Empire, has an incredible eye for detail. With the recent slew of period pieces, some good some bad, it may be tough to find the one that is right for you. If you like smart, challenging shows that don’t rely on cliché’s, Mad Men should be right up your alley.
The Walking Dead
3 Seasons, 28 Episodes
3rd Season Part 2 Premiere: February 10th, 2013
Rounding out the main list is the most up and down show currently on television. I shall explain. When The Walking Dead first premiered I was really into this show. I watched the first season in one sitting and was ready to continue the awesome show. Then season 2 came and things began to slow down. For a few episodes they almost stop. The second seasoned ended decently enough, but left many viewers weary about the third season. The third season is halfway through, and it is far and away the best season to date. With the second half of the third season about to start, now is a perfect time to check out the first few seasons and catch yourself up. Be warned, this show can get pretty graphic with it’s violence and is not for the squeamish. With zombies being in just about every form of media nowadays, it is a godsend to see a show handle the subject matter so well, even if it has occasional hiccups.
As per usual, I cannot contain my list to a mere ten choices. Choice is the spice of life, and I embrace that. Therefore, I have included five extra shows. These five shows are a bit more niche genres, so these shows tend to appeal to a more specific audience. As always, everyone is encouraged to at least check out everything.
4 Seasons, 39 Episodes
4th Season Finale: April 11th, 2013
There is no genre as hit or miss as the adult animation genre. Long being dominated by the likes of South Park and Family Guy, Archer offers a much more mature alternative. Following the title character Archer, who is pretty much a goofy 007, the show is comic genius. If you are tired of all the same random animated comedy, then Archer offers a fresh take.
The Colbert Report and The Daily Show
Neither Show really has seasons because they run new episodes constantly.
I only lump these two together because I would probably end up saying similar things about them individually. The shows have both been on for ages. If you don’t know who Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are by now then you probably don’t watch much TV. These two guys are media guru’s in every sense. There combination of comedy and news is one that is both informative and entertaining. For people that like to catch up on the news, and can’t stand the often dull news shows on other channels. Switch to comedy central, it may seem strange at first but you will not be disappointed.
6 Seasons, 136 Episodes
The 6th Season is still airing episodes.
History Channel is known for History, and Pawn Stars has it in droves. The show has been on for quite a while, I believe six seasons. Some of these seasons have over 50 episodes, so there is plenty to watch here. The great thing about Pawn Stars, is that you can just turn it on and watch. No pre notions are required. It is a reality show about the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas. The family run business started out as a basic pawn shop, but is now known for getting things that normal pawn shops just don’t get. Cannons, cars, guns, lost art, lost documents and countless other crazy shit. Obviously some people will find this show incredibly boring, but if you enjoy learning random facts about random stuff, you can’t find a more entertaining source.
3 Seasons, 31 Episodes
4th Season Premiere: TBA 2013
Ahh…Treme. There is no other show on television this underrated. While many critics have fallen in love with the rag tag group of New Orleans musicians, few viewers have tuned in. Treme really isn’t for everyone, so I understand why not many people watch it, but god damn, it is a shame. The story takes place after Hurricane Katrina and follows the lives affected in New Orleans, attempting to rebuild. It’s third season ended last year, and sadly the series will be coming to an end in a shortened 4th season. It is great that HBO kept Treme around as long as they have. If you haven’t seen this, which is likely, then seek it.
I hope everyone finds at least 1 new show they like!
As always comments and what not should be left below.
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