We live in a golden age of TV. This thought is not original to me—I think I first read it in one of those Slate- or Atlantic-type thinkpieces—but I’m putting it here anyway, in case it’s one that hasn’t occurred to you yet.
Let’s start with the greatest shows of all time:
The Office (US)
The only show I can watch more than three times.
(I like the UK version too, just not quite as much. Jim > Tim.)
Despite the many moments where nothing much happens, this show is somehow still just so good.
Arrested Development (seasons 1–3)
I tried this show once and didn’t like the first episode. Then I went back to it a few years later and laughed until I cried.
Summer Heights High
How is this show not more popular? Chris Lilley is a comedic genius.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (seasons 4–13)
Can you tell I like shows about horrible people?
For some reason I don’t like seasons 1–3 that much (but I haven’t run out of later episodes to watch yet, so maybe I’ll get into them later). It annoys me when characters repeat the same lines back to each other, and I find there’s a lot of that in the early seasons.
I’m talking about when one character says “I’m late for the party,” and the other one says “What do you mean you’re late for the party?!” instead of just saying “Well you’d best get a move on, then,” or something someone would actually say instead of parroting all your lines back at you.
(I started noticing this after I took a creative writing class and found myself doing it; I’d be so impressed with myself after coming up with the original line that I’d want to have another character repeat it to make sure the audience got the point. Terrible.)
Nathan for You
Every time I’ve met someone and found out they liked this show, we’ve ended up getting along really well. That doesn’t happen with the other shows on this list, whose devotees exhibit much greater variation in coolness.
There was a whole season of this show—I can’t remember which one, unfortunately, but it was somewhere between 12 and 16—that was damn well near perfect. Even a bad episode is still pretty good, though.
Every nature show narrated by David Attenborough in the past 20 years
Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Frozen Planet, Our Planet, The Hunt, Life, Africa… I love them all.
Does anyone else share my opinion that the original Blue Planet is better than Blue Planet II?
Shows that are less good, but still enjoyable
(in no particular order)
I relate a little too much to Tina. Season 1 is the best.
Community (seasons 1–4)
My mind was blown by this show when I first watched it in high school, but upon re-watching it wasn’t quite as good. (Still love the paintball fight and pillow fort episodes, though.) Favorite character: Abed.
Parks and Recreation (seasons 2–5)
Another show I loved as a teenager but came to realize isn’t quite as good as the masterpieces above.
Favorite character: Ron.
A major flaw with this show: how everyone is so mean to Jerry.
If you’re watching for the first time, skip season 1; the characters are completely different (and much better) from season 2 on.
The leads on this show, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, are so smart and talented!
I still enjoy the music of Defiance of Anthropomorphic Sea Mammals.
This show is also created by and starring Ricky Gervais… It’s nothing like The Office, but if you liked that, you’ll probably like this.
Queen of the South
This is a guilty pleasure, although episodes 1–3 were actually pretty good. I love the Teresa-James-Güero storyline, but detest everything involving Camila and her daughter.
Best episodes: USS Callister, The National Anthem, Hang the DJ, Fifteen Million Merits, Be Right Back.
The worst episode I’ve seen thus far is Metalhead, which is bad enough to make you want to give up on the whole series.
Shows that are supposedly good, but which I quickly gave up on
I watched seasons 1–2 for the costumes. Every character on this show is annoying.
I couldn’t understand what the dudes were saying for the whole first 10 minutes. Maybe I’ll try again with subtitles on.
Game of Thrones
Gave up after season 3.
It’s good and all, I just didn’t enjoy it enough to dedicate hundreds of hours of my life to watching it. I can’t even tell which character is which half the time, let alone bring myself to care about their political maneuverings.
Shows I’ve heard are good but have not yet tried
- The Sopranos
- Rick & Morty
- Mr. Robot
Shows I’ve watched occasionally, but not enough to really get into
- Party Down
- South Park
- I would watch every episode if it weren’t for the voices. I just can’t listen to them for long without feeling like my ears hurt.
- Favorite character: Cartman.
- Silicon Valley
- Curb Your Enthusiasm
- Freaks and Geeks
- Not a show I would normally watch, but I had fun watching it with other people, it’s cute, and I’m flattered by the fact that I bear (bore, now that I’m getting older) a passing resemblance to Lindsay.
- The Mindy Project
- Gilmore Girls
- Rory (season 2 and beyond) and her mom (the whole time) are awful, self-absorbed people, but I still find myself charmed by their small-town life.
- Favorite character: Kirk.
- 30 Rock