19 Actually Great TV Shows You Should Watch Already
You really need to watch these shows already
There aren't enough hours in the day to watch all of the great shows on TV, but that doesn't stop all of your friends, family and the legion of TV critics from repeatedly haranguing you to watch those shows that are too good to miss. While The Sopranos was a seriously hyped show, that's not what we're talking about, as this trend began with the drug-crime drama The Wire, which has still not been seen widely enough for our tastes.
And since this modern golden age of TV has not stopped, we're getting new great picks each month. So, here are the TV shows you need to watch already so you can stop feeling guilty and start joining the conversation. Oh, and for the shows that are active and currently underloved, watch out, it could get canceled before you know it, as just happened with the Marvel series The Gifted.
Legion might be the only good superhero TV series (sorry, The Umbrella Academy). One of the most surreal shows to ever grace FX, Legion chronicles the quest of David Haller (Dan Stevens) to save the world from — and I don't say this lightly — a terrifying villain. Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation fame delivers such a charged, unraveled performance as the caustic Lenny Busker that the show is worth watching just for her. But there are other charms as well. Legion grapples with complex questions of mental health, belonging and morality, even though you'll rarely fully understand what's going on. If you want to be utterly confused and love every minute of it, binge this show. — Monica Chin
Credit: Michelle Faye/FX
In only its second season, the BBC (and AMC in the U.S.) series Killing Eve is sparking the kind of chatter that snowballs into serious hype. But once you hit Play and see the brilliantly intense spy-versus-spy interplay between MI5's Eve Polastri and the baddest hit woman on the planet, Villanelle, you'll wonder why it took you so long to start. Played by Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, these two are similar souls, both pretty bad at respecting authority and too good at their jobs to not impress others. Beautifully shot, with a well-crafted story, Killing Eve's not even that long, with each season consisting of eight 1-hour-long episodes. BBC has renewed the series for a third season. — Henry T. Casey
Neon Genesis Evangelion
On the surface, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a 26-episode anime about teenagers in mechs futilely fighting to stave off an otherworldly threat. We have enough of those already, but what makes Hideaki Anno's 1995 masterpiece unique is the way it brutally subverts the genre's conventions. The protagonists in Evangelion are not supersoldiers; they're ordinary kids, thrust into a cosmically horrific cataclysm of which they have no understanding or control. The physical battle — beautifully and grotesquely animated though it is — also serves as a metaphor for their personal turmoil and isolation, a torrent of emotion that intensifies to deafening proportions in the feature-length finale, The End of Evangelion. If you're tired of cookie-cutter action anime or if you failed to relate to the medium in the past, Evangelion is well worth a watch; there's absolutely nothing like it. And you'll be able to watch it all on Netflix starting June 21. — Adam Ismail
Credit: Adult Swim
Friday Night Lights
Clear eyes, full hearts. … While this show is nominally about high school football in a small Texas town, it touches on so much more, such as the give and take between Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife, Tami (Connie Britton), and the sacrifices each must make. Other up-and-coming actors (at the time) on the show include Jesse Plemons, Taylor Kitsch and Michael B. Jordan. — Michael Prospero
Credit: Bill Records/NBC
Thank you, Amazon, for saving the best sci-fi show on TV. When Syfy canceled the critically acclaimed series after three seasons, fans flooded social media begging for a savior. Jeff Bezos answered their pleas, personally announcing that Amazon would bring back the space-faring sci-fi for a fourth season. The Expanse takes place primarily in outer space, where feuding between Earth, Mars and the Belt (an asteroid belt exploited by humans for resources) has threatened humanity. The show revolves around four crewmembers of the Rocinante who discover an alien substance that could destabilize the universe. Our loveable protagonists — a "Belter," two "Earthers" and a Martian — form an inseparable team committed to protecting humans from an infectious, mysterious life-form (called the protomolecule) while navigating a hostile political climate. If you're itching for a gripping sci-fi show to fill the void left by Battlestar Galactica and Firefly, then join the crew of The Expanse. — Phil Tracy
What would happen if 2% of the world's population suddenly disappeared? That's the premise of The Leftovers, arguably the most underappreciated TV show of the past decade. Unlike its contemporary counterparts, this masterpiece avoids devolving into senseless brutality. Instead, it takes a nuanced approach, investigating the sociopolitical turmoil that would result from a supernatural phenomenon. But the critically acclaimed show shouldn't be categorized as sci-fi, either, as it only borrows elements of the genre as a platform to construct a tale of humanity, friendship, belief and loss. Yes, The Leftovers is dark and often difficult to watch, but the moments of gut-busting, deadpan comedy sprinkled throughout give your emotions a break until the next grim scene. You can't talk about The Leftovers without giving props to the cast, anchored by Justin Theroux and Amy Brenneman, who give career-defining performances. Combine their work with beautiful scenery, nail-biting tension and mind-bending plotlines, and it's no wonder that some critics consider The Leftovers the best TV show of all time. — Phil Tracy
Don't let the language barrier turn you away; the mind-bending German sci-fi show Dark is must-watch TV. Now the most watched foreign-language series on Netflix, Dark is a psychological thriller that's often compared to Stranger Things. Time travel plays a major role in the plot, which centers on the mysterious disappearances and supernatural events that seem to occur at regular intervals across several decades. The mystery-box thriller jumps between 2019 and 1986, which adds a compelling dynamic to the characters and allows for some amazing '80s nostalgia. Filled with twists and turns, Dark is the type of show you want to dissect with friends between episodes, debating the consequence of every new thread. If you're into the neo-noir genre or want to be challenged, then binge-watch Dark and patiently wait for its confirmed second season. — Phil Tracy
Credit: Stefan Erhard/Netflix
South Park (the later seasons)
Most of the people I know who used to love South Park no longer watch it. I think that's a shame. There's no denying that Comedy Central's crude epic has changed in the past 20 years, but in my opinion, its new maturity and shrewd cynicism have only made it funnier. Season 22 lampoons just about every icon of 2018, from Donald Trump and gun laws to e-scooters and Red Dead Redemption 2, with both the rambunctious charm of the previous seasons and a new, earnest political vigor.
Randy Marsh explodes into the leading role we've always wanted him to play (Trey Parker remarked in 2016 that Randy's parts are now "what's funny to us"), oft-forgotten Kenny finally gets chances to shine, and Stan's and Kyle's befuddlement at the insanity around them mirrors the state of the average citizen of 2019 with disquieting accuracy. Every episode will hit close to home, every episode will make you angry, and every episode will make you laugh. Give the new seasons a chance; they're funny in a new, but very familiar way. — Monica Chin
Credit: Comedy Central
Rebecca Bunch is an unsatisfied New York lawyer who moves to California to pursue a new career, and secretly also her ex-boyfriend Josh Chan. But you'll learn all that from just the theme song. Rachel Bloom, who plays the title role, made her name on the internet posting comedy songs, and she brings that talent to the recently ended four-season show, with each episode featuring a couple of amusing song-and-dance numbers.
While it may start off similar to any other rom-com, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has characters that develop into lovable and complicated people. And the show is unafraid to tackle issues like mental health, sexuality and addiction, as well as many kinds of relationships with family, friends and romantic partners. The music is wonderfully catchy, too, giving you anthems for everyday situations you never knew needed them and delighting musical theater fans to no end. With a self-aware sense of humor and a penchant for turning cliches inside out, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has many components that will feel refreshing to even the experienced sitcom viewer. — Richard Priday
Credit: Eddy Chen/The CW
A comedy series rescued from cancellation on British TV by Netflix, Lovesick is the story of Dylan. A kindhearted but aimless young man, he is spurred into action when he is diagnosed with chlamydia and is forced by his doctor (and common decency) to track down his previous girlfriends and flings to inform them of the bad news. The story's then told, woman by woman, in a mosaic of flashbacks, which gives the show an unusual sense of mystery.
You hear about important people and events you have yet to encounter, but as you watch, you piece together a timeline of how the four leads — Dylan, Evie, Luke and Angus — evolve from meeting at college to the present day. The premise does sound somewhat disgusting, but the show isn't so much about STIs. It's more about how coming to terms with past failures and embarrassments can help you discover how to improve your life in the present. — Richard Priday
Credit: Neil Davidson/Netflix
On the surface, Babylon 5 looks like the Pepsi to the Coke of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Each show is set aboard a space station that houses diverse, bickering alien races. Each is about a military man who, somewhat against his will, becomes a prophesied religious figure to another culture. Each is about a galactic war, which requires building an unprecedented alliance to fight an ancient foe. And, perhaps most importantly, each took long-form, seasonal storytelling very seriously years before cheap home-video collections, on-demand programming or online streaming were feasible.
And yet, Babylon 5 is tighter and more focused than Deep Space Nine, with fewer dropped story arcs, a better-developed central cast and a story that very clearly knows where it's going, right from the very first episode. If you like sci-fi adventures that combine pulpy action with high-concept themes, Babylon 5 is about as good as it gets. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Everett Collection
Star Trek: The Original Series
Everyone kind of knows the original Star Trek, in which Dr. McCoy exclaims, "Damn it, Jim!"; Mr. Spock raises his eyebrow; and Capt. Kirk emphasizes — every — word. But there's a real and excellent show behind the caricatures. While Star Trek is very much a pop culture fixture, there's a good reason it became one. Sit down to watch Star Trek from start to finish, and you'll see dozens of thought-provoking stories about war, love, religion, technology, tolerance, bigotry and what it means to be human.
Star Trek was also a remarkably forward-thinking show, and not only because it inspired real-world tech like cellphones and videoconferencing. Star Trek also pioneered a continuity-driven setting, in which side characters and story arcs persist from season to season and a whole shared universe exists independently of the central cast. (Almost the whole cast changed between the pilot and the premiere episode, but the pilot was still "canon.") The show has a different vibe than most modern TV, but it's still worth a watch. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty
Dead Like Me
You could put any of Bryan Fuller's shows in this spot, but Wonderfalls was too short, whereas I think a lot of people have already seen Pushing Daisies and Hannibal. Dead Like Me tells the very odd story of George Lass, a disaffected young woman whose humdrum life comes to an abrupt end when a flaming toilet seat from space hits her in the head. She returns as a grim reaper, who helps ease the recently deceased into the afterlife.
There's only one problem: She sucks at her job, and her fellow reapers are generally just as clueless and self-absorbed as she is. Dead Like Me is worth watching on its own merits, because it tells a surprisingly complete (and darkly funny) story about life and death, family and friendship, and love and loss. But it's also a great introduction to Fuller's idiosyncratic approach to world building, as well as one of his only projects with a definite ending. — Marshall Honorof
Better Call Saul
I've heard from so many friends who loved Breaking Bad that they've "got to watch Better Call Saul at some point," and it's frustrating. I want to shout from the rooftops that Better Call Saul is not only one of the best shows on TV right now, but it's also it's flat-out better than Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul is a prequel/sequel to Breaking Bad that puts shyster lawyer Saul Goodman in the starring role. The show tells his origin story, as he starts out as a small-time con man named Jimmy McGill and works his way up the legal ladder.
What's brilliant about the show is that McGill isn't just a criminal out to make a quick buck; he has a good heart, which is constantly at war with his desire to one-up his critical, more-successful brother, Chuck. If you loved Breaking Bad's meticulous storytelling and psychedelic visuals, Better Call Saul is more of a good thing, but with a much more interesting main character. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC
Top Boy is a raw and gritty British crime drama set in the Summerhouse estate of Hackney, East London. It revolves around Ra'Nell, a teenager coping with his hospitalized mother's mental health. He unintentionally gets recruited into a gang run by 20-something-year-old drug dealers Dushane and Sully. Their worlds overlap even as Ra'Nell tries to be righteous and steer clear of criminal life while Dushane vows to become the Top Boy and control the streets.
The series originally ran from 2011-2013 on British TV's Channel 4 and drew comparisons to HBO's cult classic The Wire. In 2017, Aubrey "Drake" Graham's interest in Top Boy led to its revival on Netflix, which is now streaming the show's first two seasons. The narrative of this Netflix original series continues this fall with Drake onboard as executive producer. It stars Malcolm Kamulete as Ra'Nell, Ashley Walters as Dushane and Kane "Kano" Robinson as Sully.
Top Boy has all the makings of an addictive crime drama, including power struggles, plot twists, cliffhangers and a dose of humor. If you like The Wire or Power, Top Boy is worth a watch. — Hilda Scott
Credit: Channel 4
The Wire debuted nearly 17 years ago, and it's been highly recommended viewing at every party and family gathering since then. Yet, it's still hard to coax in first-time viewers. So, what can I say about The Wire that you haven't already heard? How about this: Everyone says The Wire is about a network of Baltimore drug dealers and the cops surveilling them from afar. But it's actually about any hard neighborhood in any U.S. city. In its second season, The Wire zooms out to include the blue-collar dockworkers who help bring drugs into Baltimore.
Another season expands to include the negligent Baltimore police chief and distant city politicians, and another shows how the failing school system all but hand-delivers Baltimore's children into lives of crime. The more the show zooms out, the more characters you meet and the more you're left with a portrait of a broken place. And not only can you see the beauty in its fractured pieces, but also, you now know how it was broken to begin with. — Kenneth Butler
Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO
Josh Futterman's day job is working as a janitor at a research laboratory, but at night, he's a hero named Future Man … in Biotic Wars, the world's hardest video game. When Futterman becomes the only player in history to beat the last level, he takes a personal moment — ahem, a very private, personal moment — to imagine making out with the game's hot lead character, a warrior named Tiger. And in the midst of this post-game fappening, a real-life version of Tiger, along with her fellow soldier Wolf, time travels from the year 2162 directly into Josh's room. They've come to ask Future Man to help save the world, but Futterman's hands are busy and his pants are down around his ankles. Sound gross but funny? It is. Sound like The Terminator? It is! It's also the first of many great jokes in this series that takes sci-fi tropes from '80s movies and video games, then blends them into something as twisted and funny as Rick and Morty at its cleverest. — Kenneth Butler
Credit: Erin Simkin/Hulu
You've never seen cops as life-trodden and beat-about as those on HBO's True Detective. It's three seasons of small-town crime, each with different detectives working in different places and hunting different murderers. The word "hunt" fits the bill, as all three storylines open with a case that our detectives spend years solving, sometimes decades. Season 1 stars executive producers Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in a 30-year chase that gets as dark and as wide as the Louisiana sky on a midnight drive. In Season 3, it's Mahershala Ali as Detective Wayne Hays, leading an investigation that spans three eras of his life. It's a macabre but also incredibly touching binge (and the performance is sure to win Ali an Emmy). The second season is … well, don't watch Season 2. Not every season of a great TV show is great TV. — Kenneth Butler
Credit: Jim Bridges/HBO
Santa Clarita Diet
From iZombie to the Walking Dead, it seems like half of current TV shows have zombies, but you've never seen an undead individual like Sheila Hammond, Drew Barrymore's character in the Santa Clarita Diet. After ordering the clam special for dinner, Hammond develops a taste for human flesh, a requirement her husband, Joel (Timothy Olyphant), helps her fulfill. The two realtors; their daughter, Abby (Liv Hewson); and neighbor Eric (Skyler Gisondo) are constantly on the lookout for fresh meat while trying to sell houses, navigate high school and avoid suspicion from their police-officer neighbors. The show's juxtaposition of suburban family life with flesh eating and gore makes for hilarious television. — Avram Piltch
Credit: Saeed Adyani/Netflix