As more and more of the country is being told to stay at home to fight back against the spread of COVID-19, people are — now more than ever — bored as all hell. The house has been organized and cleaned; you finally got to that leaky faucet that only sends out cold water and; your kids have worn out all their cuteness, and now you’ll support legislation to pay teachers $500,000 a year. Now it’s just about waiting out the storm in the comfort of your own home, and you’ll need not hours, not days, but weeks of content to make this all go by as quickly and entertainingly as possible. For that, we’re here to help.
There is no shortage of great television out there for you to binge the day away, and all at the click of the button. That’s why we here at JoBlo are presenting you with our list of the Top 30 Completed Shows that you can watch right now. These shows have come, gone (mostly), and are available (at the time of this writing) across the variety of the streaming services available. We’ve got dramas, comedies, sci-fi shows, and the occasional anthology. Sadly, for the sake of giving you shows that you can watch right now, that meant nixing from key classics that are not currently available to stream with a subscription anywhere. That means no FRIENDS on the list (wait for HBO Max in May), nor the epic saga of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (which can be streamed, but only if you pay episode to episode).
Across these 30 shows, ranging over several decades, we guarantee there’s something for everyone, no matter what you like to watch and how long you want to watch it. There’s stuff in here you may have seen through 10 times and are ready for another go, or some you’ve been meaning to get to for years but haven’t had the time. Now with nothing but time, you can finally get to that show that one co-worker has been bugging you about. Thanks, Karen, but we will take it from here.
*all current streaming options are based on U.S. distribution.
Hitting NBC within a year of THE OFFICE, 30 ROCK marked another benchmark in the network’s domination of TV comedy in the mid-2000s. Created by and starring Tina Fey – and backed by an impressive ensemble cast of Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer and more – the series remains one of the go-to examples of prime entertainment industry satire. It might not have the consistent character development that makes THE OFFICE a bit more three-dimensional, but the series has pound-for-pound more gut-busting laughs than any series on this list – and it’s all thanks to the full embrace of the colorful characters and absurd humor. The genius of 30 ROCK is how insightfully it explored the behind-the-scenes nature of the entertainment business while never wasting a second to be hilariously strange. It’s one of a kind experience, and when we need laughs and something to make the days go by more than ever, there are few better ways to go. Another guarantee? By the end, you’ll be asking yourself who the best side character in TV history is, and why is it Chris Parnell‘s Dr. Leo Spaceman?
30 ROCK is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu.
The FX spy-thriller-drama THE AMERICANS has it all: fist-fights, oral sex, Keri Russell kicking doors and guys heads through walls, complicated character dynamics, the disposal of bodies, car sex — the last two set to Phil Collins‘ “In the Air Tonight.” Did I mention that’s all in the first episode? Simply put, THE AMERICANS won its place as one of the most acclaimed shows of the last decade by starting off at a full sprint and never letting up for a second. Set in the 80s, during the Regan-era of the Cold War, the show centers Elizabeth and Phillip (Russell and Matthew Rhys), Russian spies living in America, their differing perspective on our country and their duty making for gripping drama when the violence isn’t cranked up. Think the kinds of taut, well-crafted spy thrillers you enjoy watching on the big screen and stretching it into a brilliant TV series that isn’t afraid to push the envelope. A series that just got better and better as it went, I dare you to try watching that first episode and not remaining glued to your couch for the next six seasons.
THE AMERICANS is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
This series isn’t “completed” like the rest of the shows on here, but its “TWILIGHT ZONE with an R-rated kick” style makes every new episode its own beast. Several seasons and only a few episodes apiece, each new outing plays like a short film, often focusing on some sort of vision of the future/alternate present and mankind’s relationship with technology, and usually where things are going horribly wrong with it. Flying under the radar for the first season or two on this side of the pond as it aired in the U.K.’s Channel 4, Netflix bought the rights and commissioned more seasons, which is where the series took off and became a smash hit. The anthology approach means there’s an incredible amount of variety for viewers, whether it be something completely f**ked like “Shut Up and Dance,” profoundly emotional with “San Junipero,” or a condemnation of toxic fandom with “U.S.S. Callister.” Created by and almost entirely written by Charlie Booker, BLACK MIRROR is the gift that always manages to shock and entertain, tackling major issues and themes that paint an insightful, and potentially horrifying vision of life on Earth. You can jump right into any season and find an episode to blow you away (except maybe season five), but surely after just one taste, you’ll be working your way through each season, perhaps regretting the day you decided to buy a smartphone or start a social media account.
BLACK MIRROR is currently streaming on Netflix.
When you learn about a show centered on gangsters during Prohibition, with names like Martin Scorsese and Steve Buscemi are involved, you watch that show. HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE — created by Terence Winter (WOLF OF WALL STREET scribe), Scorsese as EP and Buscemi in a commanding leading role as Nucky Thompson — lived up to all that hype with a crime drama that was as fascinating in its play with history as it was unrelentingly brutal. Buscemi, who may not be the first person you think to play a corrupt politician who ends up being the big man on campus, got a leading role to sink his teeth into and show off so much more of his range. And what a supporting cast: Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Shannon, Jack Huston, Shea Whigham, Michael Stuhlbarg, Charlie Cox, etc. The quality of the storytelling can ebb and flow at times across the series, but thanks to all the talent on display, and the lavish period setting that’s more than capable of transporting you to this world of seedy folks and decadence, there’s always something to love on screen. So, yeah, if for some reason you needed more than one reason to check out a period crime drama on HBO produced by Martin Scorsese, you’ve got a few more now.
BOARDWALK EMPIRE is currently streaming on HBO Now/Go and Amazon Prime.
There may be a lot of people who, like myself, were turned off of watching the Netflix animated series BOJACK HORSEMAN after the so-so first season. While it did have some growing pains to get over, the series that, at first glance, looks like something on Adult Swim you shouldn’t fall asleep to with it on in the background unless you want some weird dreams quickly became one of the most complex, rewarding shows on TV. Set in a world where regular humans live alongside anthropomorphic animals — setting on fading TV star BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) — the series used its delightfully strange premise to explore fame, addiction, depression, social disconnection and so much more beyond what other mainstream animation dares to tackle. On top of all that, it’s just hysterical, with a top-notch voice cast including Arnett, Alison Brie, Amy Sedaris, Aaron Paul, Paul F. Tompkins and more. The series ended with the second half of its sixth season earlier this year, so now is the perfect time to snuggle on in and introduce (or reintroduce) yourself with a show that, yes, definitely gets better as it goes.
BOJACK HORSEMAN is currently streaming on Netflix.
While most of the shows on this list have become — or deserve to become — binging staples, there aren’t many that owe almost all their popularity entirely to binging. The first three seasons of the AMC series were well-reviewed and had a growing viewership, but it wasn’t until those seasons hit Netflix that the series become a pop-culture sensation — with ratings soaring going into the fourth season. The show became a must-see not just because of the cultural conversation, but because the story of Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) descent from struggling family man to full-blown meth kingpin is nothing short of perfect. Centering on Walt, his family, a small number of law enforcement and some rotating criminals, this air-tight, masterfully told story filmed like it belonged on the big screen has no trouble absorbing viewers in the life of its initially morally ambiguous, then eventually completely criminal, lead character. A masterclass in virtually every department — especially in the work from stars Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks — the series remains as bingeable now as it was during its initial run, and even with a movie (EL CAMINO) capping things off even more last year, you have no reason not to finally start it if you haven’t already.
BREAKING BAD is currently streaming on Netflix.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
With a dash of THE X-FILES, a sprinkling of John Hughes-level teen insight, and fleshed out with Joss Whedon‘s brand of, well, Whedon-ness, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER possess a brand of entertainment value you’re not going to get from the other entries on this list — or even from anything not. Just a girl who wants a normal high school experience but can’t escape her duties as a Slayer, — especially what with Sunnydale High resting atop a portal to worlds filled with all manner of demons and freaky business — this serialized series is filled with plenty of relatable high school/early adulthood dynamics and supernatural thrills, building its own special brand of mythology. But aside from being a fun, scary show, it can even be placed alongside THE SOPRANOS for ushering in a new age of television, one where audiences could passionately commit to the story arc of a central character (and the key supporting players) happily follow their story to Hell and back.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is currently streaming on Hulu.
If there are any lists on the internet about the best shows that ended way too soon, DEADWOOD is likely near the top of the list. Running for a criminally short three seasons, David Milch‘s gritty drama set in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota during the 1870s is required viewing for anyone who’s a fan of great Westerns or great TV in general. Led by some career-defining work from Ian McShane as Al Swearengen and Timothy Olyphant‘s Seth Bullock, these two characters form the backbone of the series as two men on opposite sides of the law, but who form an unlikely, complicated bond so as to do what’s right for their small, budding town. The exploration of their relationship as a means of illustrating the rise of the American frontier in all its blood, greed, moral ambiguity and more blood is the material of television gold, and that’s exactly what viewers got for, again, only three damn seasons. But don’t worry, fans got to finish the journey with the DEADWOOD movie less than a year ago, and with the book closed, now is the perfect time to hop on the bandwagon.
DEADWOOD is currently streaming on HBO Now/Go and Amazon Prime.
Refinement. Elegance. Gowns. Chandeliers. Scandal — oh, the scandal! DOWNTON ABBEY took all of that and more and turned it into high, incredibly addicting, art. Centering on the Crawley family, who live in their sprawling Yorkshire estate, the series takes place over the course of over a decade, starting in 1912, as the members of the British aristocratic family and their many servants experience the effects of key historical moments in English (and world) history, brewing up their own brand of scandal and romance in the process. A juicy soap in its own right, the series has become well-known, and even iconic, for its lavish period style and incredible costume design, as well as the massive cast of some of the U.K.’s great talents — such as Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and the legend Maggie Smith. Great writing, acting, production design, and taut drama makes binge-watching so effortless, and it’s the kind of show where you could jump in saying, “Nah, I don’t think this will be for me,” but in no time will be falling in love with the elegant cattiness of the Dowager Countess of Grantham.
DOWNTON ABBEY is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Like BLACK MIRROR, the series based on the classic Coen Brother’s movie, FARGO, is not exactly finished in the way these other shows are, with a fourth season on the way for this year. However, as an anthology series, each season is contained within itself and stand as their own unique creature. You can watch any one of the currently three available seasons with no need to watch the other two. However, you should definitely watch all three, because each offers its own compelling, darkly humorous crime tale filled with rich characters and terrific casts to flesh them out. Across all three you have award-worthy work from the likes of Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ewan McGregor, and while it surely seemed a risky idea at the start — what with the original movie being what it is — the series has been able to carve out a legacy all its own, and it stands as perhaps the best anthology series on the market, and one more than worthy of your binging time.
FARGO is currently streaming on Hulu
Two seasons – two seasons totaling no more than a few hours is all Phoebe Waller-Bridge needed to cement her and her series in the hearts and minds of viewers. FLEABAG centers on an unnamed woman (Waller-Bridge) with incredible self-destructive tendencies, and we follow her as she hilariously, poignantly fails at navigating love, work, family, self-acceptance and virtually everything else. A masterclass of writing, acting, editing and the “breaking the fourth wall” technique, the first season will be over before you want it to be, and the second and final season is even better – in part thanks to the introduction of Andrew Scott’s “The Priest”, or as the internet was quick to dub, “Hot Priest.” Not the lengthiest series to pass the time now, but there’s so much brilliance packed into two short seasons that, by the end, it feels like you’ve gone on a complete odyssey.
FLEABAG is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Game of Thrones
A cinematic-scale epic brought to life on the small screen, GAME OF THRONES became a cultural phenomenon in a manner normally reserved for massive blockbuster franchises. While the final season may have left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, we shouldn’t forget that across the previous seven seasons GOT offered nothing short of fantastic drama against the backdrop of dragons, ice zombies, vicious kills and many, many naked people. But for all the drama, fire and blood, the ultimate selling point, and indeed what makes it such unmissable, easily bingeable television is the masterclass of performances on display from the amazing ensemble cast. Even when there’s no sword fights or sex in some sort of velvet-covered room the show remains constantly absorbing thanks to the work of Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Aidan Gillen, Maisie Williams, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington and all the other players major and supporting, working with some juicy dialogue across it all. But, really, there are so many reasons why GAME OF THRONES, while not perfect by the end, is TV drama like no other, and the kind where clicking on season one, episode one will see your week whisked away like the clothes from any lead character’s back.
GAME OF THRONES is currently streaming on HBO Now/Go.
Key & Peele
Before Keegan-Michael Key was breaking into the movie business with roles in outings like DON’T THINK TWICE, THE LION KING, THE PREDATOR and TOY STORY 4, and before Jordan Peele was becoming the name in modern genre filmmaking (and winning an Oscar in the process), they were dominating the comedy conversation with their pitch-perfect sketch series, KEY & PEELE. As far back as the first episode of the first season, the duo put out memorable, quotable bits, and across the eventual five seasons put out countless more. Wendell, the overweight nerd complaining about his Superman bed to a customer service rep; The two valets, literally exploding with praise for one “Liam Neesons” and; Barack Obama and his anger translator Luther – which was so good President Obama actually brought Key’s Luther in for a Correspondent’s Dinner bit – are just a few of the iconic gems these two gifted to the world. Not a wasted episode in the bunch, you can breeze through the Comedy Central series and lament how there aren’t 10 more seasons on the way, but admire how the duo exited at the peak of their craft.
KEY & PEELE is currently streaming on Hulu.
Out of all the entries on this list, LOST is in a unique space for being the show that you not only will want to binge more than once, but will probably have to. Created by Jeffrey Lieber, Damon Lindelof and pre-Hollywood big shot, J. J. Abrams, LOST quickly became the talk of the watercooler back when that was still how human beings shared information between one another, and the big reasons for that were a.) it was really good, and b.) it was really weird and confusing. I mean the earliest episodes feature a plane crash, a polar bear on an island, lots of flashbacks and whole lot more that need detailed explaining. There’s a ton going on, and the fact that it just kept getting weirder and weirder as it went on is just a testament to its ambition. In juggling so much it got a little murky in the later seasons, building to a contentious finale, but as the dust has settled the fan base remains passionate, and time has been mostly kind to the series. The sheer scope of it may have put many off of starting the series if they haven’t managed to over the years, but now is the perfect time to fit this TV milestone into your schedule…and even a second time if you need it.
LOST is currently streaming on Hulu.
There are few television dramas out there as pretty to look at than MAD MEN. Set in the 1950s (and later 60s), the show is brimming with lavish period decor, stylish and colorful costume design, and an entire ensemble of stunning performers — and that’s just all the surface-level excellence. Underneath MAD MEN is a richly layered examination of the time period through the lens of a Madison Avenue advertising agency, centering on Jon Hamm‘s Don Draper, a character with so much more to him than looking good in a suit with a glass of fine liquor in his hands. Through him and the rest of the key players — played by Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones and more — MAD MEN compellingly brings the time period to life with unflinching attention to detail, examining social conventions, sexism, the struggle to find a sense of identity and place and much more. Sensual and mysterious, going through the series will change your perspective on the time period and constantly engage you with terrific characters, with Hamm’s masterful work as Draper making the character one of the best male TV characters of all time, ranking right up there with Tony Soprano and Walter White. It’s hard to hate him when he’s lounging there with a cigarette dangling from his fingers.
MAD MEN is currently streaming on Netflix.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus
If none of these American comedy classics really floats your boat, streaming services have a solid selection of English comedies to expand your horizons. You can’t go wrong with EXTRAS or THE IT CROWD but now is as good of a time as any to go back even further and start binging the show so many comedians today point to as a source of inspiration: MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS. Before they were fighting off killer rabbits or recounting the life of Brian, the comedy team from England (and one American) were pushing the boundaries of comedy with complete absurdist abandon. Thanks to the artistic flourishes of Terry Gilliam and the pure lunacy of some of the sketches the show can feel like a bizarre acid trip at times, but most of the time it’s just downright silly. “The Spanish Inquisition,” “The Ministry of Silly Walks,” and “The Parrot Sketch” are just a few of the iconic bits, and the less-than-iconic ones are great fun too. On top of being classic television you should give a shot while you have the time, the series makes the list because it’s such a departure from everything else we’ve selected, and there’s nothing wrong with breaking things up a bit, let alone with one of the greatest comedy teams ever to grace the earth.
FLYING CIRCUS is currently streaming on Netflix.
I don’t believe it’s farfetched to think the world of streaming wouldn’t be the same without THE OFFICE. Even now, a large percentage of Netflix viewership hinges on audiences going through their 10th run of the series, and the entire concept of vegging out and binging a show from start to finish with the ease of the digital world rests on the shoulders of the Dunder Mifflin crew. And it’s not even a mystery as to why that is. Led by a career-launching performance by Steve Carell as delusional and lovable boss Michael Scott, and rounded out by one of the best ensembles put to TV – including Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and more – watching the entertaining shenanigans and relationship drama of the paper company is digital comfort food of the highest order. Consistently hilarious and quotable, the series never lacked for absorbing pathos either, masterfully walking the fine line between relatable character work and wacky antics. Whether it be your 11th time or your first, there’s never been a better time to travel to Scranton and spend several days with the King of the Binging Ring – especially before it’s taken off Netflix and placed on *snickers* Peacock.
THE OFFICE is currently streaming on Netflix.
Before they were paying for expensive dragons or Dr. Manhattan’s CGI penis, HBO was dominating the airwaves with their gritty dramas centered on even grittier aspects of life. They had the Wild West with DEADWOOD, the mob life with THE SOPRANOS and more, but before them all, they got deep into prison life and all he viciousness therein with OZ. Out of all the HBO series on this list, OZ often gets lost in the mix, despite the fact that it airing in 1997 no doubt helped pave the way for what was to come from the premium cable service. Featuring great work from J.K. Simmons, Dean Winters, Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and more, the series is not an easy one to watch as an unflinching examination of life on the inside, while also balancing the violence out with compassion and thoughtful arcs. Perhaps you’ve heard of this one and haven’t quite gotten around to it — or maybe you remember watching it once and haven’t done so in some time (*hand raises*), but that’s exactly why this is the time to give it a shot, and appreciate that it’s boldness led the way for all the HBO greatness to follow.
OZ is currently streaming on HBO Now/Go and Amazon Prime.
Parks and Recreation
Out a few years after THE OFFICE and 30 ROCK, NBC capped off a trifecta of iconic TV comedy with the debut of PARKS AND REC. While it took a season or two to find its footing, when it gets going there’s hardly a TV comedy out there that can touch the pure joy of this show. A perfect blend of the aforementioned two shows, the series blends the documentary-style and relatable character work of THE OFFICE with the sheer burst of colorful comedy and weirdness of 30 ROCK – and all with a perfect cast including Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Aziz Ansari, Retta, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe and, for most of the run, a pre-hunk Chris Pratt. At its very best it’s both endlessly funny and a thoughtful examination of local government and a small town, the series transcends even its NBC colleagues by infusing a dash of THE SIMPSONS, with Pawnee being a live-action Springfield, the citizenry of wild characters an invaluable asset. Pop it on, sit back and watch the world go by in a flash and feel your heart grow ten sizes in the process.
PARKS AND REC is currently streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.
Portland, Oregon is as unique and odd a place as the stories say, and the on-screen duo of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein deserves all the praise in the world for realizing the hipster-filled, brunch-loving, store-dedicated-to-selling-only-one-kind-of-shirt-having city was the perfect playground for a comedy series. PORTLANDIA finds Armisen and Brownstein lampooning every sort of odd shop, locally-sourced restaurant and the seemingly endless parade of unique individuals with a firm acknowledgment of all the city’s ridiculousness, but undeniable love for that very ridiculousness. Outside of SNL, Armisen found a perfect starring vehicle to show off his expert comedy chops, bringing all of his colorful characters to life in a way where all he has to do is play in the environment or give a supporting character the strangest glance to leave you in stitches. Brownstein too got to show some impressive skills, often rising to Armisen’s level and bouncing off him wonderfully. Much like KEY & PEELE, the work these two did resulted in a cavalcade of memorable characters, and there are eight delightful seasons ready for you to binge in all their ridiculous glory.
PORTLANDIA is currently streaming on Netflix.
If we’re talking about shows that you can jump right into – any season, any episode – and have complete confidence you will get solid gold, with the added benefit of not needing to watch what came before, then SEINFELD is the Alpha and the Omega. The misadventures of comedian Jerry Seinfeld (playing a version of himself), George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) and Kramer (Michael Richards) broke the boundaries of what was expected from sitcoms of the 90s. It centered on four less-than-noble people, poked fun at all varieties of social convention, and introduced a whole new lexicon of phrases in the process. “Yada yada yada,” “Man Hands,” A Low-Talker,” “the Puffy Shirt,” all iconic bits you’ve probably heard of even if you’ve never watched a second of the show. If you, in fact, have never watched an episode, you really have no excuse now. This classic run of television is as effortlessly bingeable as the newest comedies (if you can get over the ridiculous hairstyles and sweaters), and after you’re done you’ll never look at waiting to get a table at a restaurant the same way again.
SEINFELD is currently streaming on Hulu.
A precursor to BREAKING BAD, FX’s THE SHIELD put viewers in the challenging position of following a lead character who goes beyond questionable in his actions and into full-on criminal territory. And yet, you may somehow find yourself sympathizing and even liking Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), even though the very first episode finds him shooting a fellow cop in the head. The rest of the series is full of Mackey and his Strike Team engaging in criminal behavior as they attempt to clean the streets of criminal behavior, as they not only blur the lines of ethical police procedure, but erase it entirely. With exceptional work from Chiklis in the lead role, and some other great work from supporting players like Walton Goggins, CCH Pounder, and Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker in later seasons, you should take advantage of the whole series being on Hulu now.
THE SHIELD is currently streaming on Hulu.
Six Feet Under
A show that focuses so much on death, human mortality and the existential exploration of what it all means may not sound like a humdinger of a way to pass the time, but it’s no less rewarding. Set primarily on the Fisher family, who own a funeral home and are dealing with the death of their father (Richard Jenkins), each episode begins with a death, and the series revolves around how the main characters deal with death as a concept, exploring how people who come to face to face with The End on a daily basis cope with the nature of it all. Created by Alan Ball (AMERICAN BEAUTY), the series is loaded with great work from the cast, featuring Jenkins, Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy and more. The series also has a darkly comedic string to it, sometimes veering things off down an inconsistent path across the run. However, that hasn’t stopped the series from being regarded as one of the all-time greats, featuring a finale held in equally high regard. Expect to do some heavy ruminating with this one.
SIX FEET UNDER is currently streaming on HBO Now/Go and Amazon Prime.
Ah, mafiosos; whether it’s in books, movies or TV if there’s blood, wine and finely-pressed suits, acclaim seems to follow. THE SOPRANOS is to TV what THE GODFATHER is to movies, meaning that it’s at the very top of the list on many best-of lists, and it goes hand-in-hand with references to quality. This tale centering on mob “capo” Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) as he balances family and mafia-ing began on HBO in 1999 and kicked off a Golden Era of television, remaining today the absolute peak of the medium that every other TV drama hopes to meet the level of. I can sit here and rave about the perfect character arc for Tony, with iconic work from the late Gandolfini, and the equally great work from the likes of Edie Falco and the supporting cast, but simply put, there’s no praise I can give it that it hasn’t already been getting for 20+ years. It’s the f**king SOPRANOS. If you haven’t watched it, you have no excuse now; if you have, there’s no reason you can’t start it once again. Like the title itself now stands for, you know the level of quality you’ll be getting.
THE SOPRANOS is currently streaming on HBO Now/Go and Amazon Prime.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Ever since the arrival of the first series back in the 60s, there have been numerous new takes in the world of STAR TREK, with a new series airing even now in STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. The third entry after The Original Series and the Animated Series, THE NEXT GENERATION introduced audiences to a whole new crew, led by the smooth, commanding voice of Patrick Stewart‘s Jean-Luc Picard. While the original show may be more memorable in the eyes of even non-fans (who doesn’t know who Spock is, amiright?), TNG was, by and large, a more exciting and dramatic show, benefitting from more advanced visual effects, a greater exploration and expansion of the series lore, and the incredible leading work of Stewart as a superior captain to William Shatner‘s Kirk. There are seven seasons and almost 180 episodes for you to binge on Netflix right now, and it may not take you all that long to see why this series was the most successful of all the TV TREKs during its time on the airwaves. Better yet, you can watch the spinoff show following the later years of Picard with CBS All Access’ PICARD, as you can never get enough of Stewart as the leader we would all follow happily into the final frontier.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION is currently streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
After starring in a show with the level of popularity as SEINFELD, I can’t imagine it was easy for the cast to break the mold of their iconic characters. For actress Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, what’s most impressive — and a true testament to her genius — is that with VEEP she not only shattered that mold but in the process solidified Selina Meyer as an even more memorable character than Elaine Benes. Commanding, image-obsessed, politically irresponsible, and a master of profanity and put-downs, Dreyfuss’ Meyers is about as perfect a leading role as you can find across all of television. The political satire from Armando Iannucci is always finding incisive and gut-busting ways for Meyer and her equally crude staff to navigate through the world of American government. The work from the ensemble cast (including Tony Hale, Matt Walsh, Anna Chlumsky, Gary Cole, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons and more) alone is enough to justify a binge-watch, and with VEEP you’re getting easily one of the smartest, funniest shows put to TV across seven nearly pitch-perfect seasons. Very much for viewers looking to introduce themselves to an R-rated version of PARKS AND REC, where the characters are less lovable and goofy and more delightfully despicable.
VEEP is currently streaming on HBO Now/Go.
The West Wing
We have on here two TV comedies that do an excellent job playing with the world of politics and government, but if you want a show that dives into the world with a spotlight that makes for some fantastic television drama, THE WEST WING is a must-watch. Created by Aaron Sorkin — where it stands as one of the most notable entries on his resume filled with notable entries — what makes the series so damn watchable is the same reason why the majority of the movies Sorkin writes are also so damn watchable: crisp, whip-smart dialogue and the ensemble cast chewing on every last bit of it. It may not be as brutal or challenging to watch as some of the other TV dramas on this list, but it’s a fascinating look at the functions of the White House, pre-dating what audiences would later binge with HOUSE OF CARDS years later. Then you got Martin Sheen as President Bartlet, Allison Janney, Bradley Whitford, Rob Lowe, Richard Schiff making up key parts of the cast — so really if you want solid, well-acted drama so help make the days go by in a flash, there’s nothing wrong with stepping inside with one of the best White House shows put to TV.
WEST WING is currently streaming on Netflix.
If you’re a human being living and breathing on this planet, you probably have had someone, somewhere, ask you if you’ve seen THE WIRE. Should you have said no, it was likely followed by some sort of gasp or sigh, and then that person saying you have to watch it. Well, now is as good a time as any, and you’ll soon understand why you were hounded as much as you were. Along with THE SOPRANOS and OZ, THE WIRE solidified HBO as a force to be reckoned with, giving audiences a compelling, suitably R-rated alternative to the crime dramas on network TV. Less about crimes-of-the-week and more about the relationship the links between law enforcement, our institutions, and society as a whole, the series remains as gripping and relevant today as it was when it first aired. Come for the excellent writing, stories and work from Dominic West, Wendell Pierce, Idris Elba, Michael K. Williams and more, and stay so that you can finally get everyone off your back about watching THE WIRE.
THE WIRE is currently streaming on HBO Now/Go and Amazon Prime.
The Wonder Years
Anyone who takes a look at TV history or watches any episode of FAMILY GUY will understand that the 80s was filled with plenty of laugh-track sitcoms, many with children or teens a key focus. You had FAMILY TIES, GROWING PAINS and more, which had hefty runs and big audiences, but they also likely left a hole in the market for a show that truly dug into our most formative years. Enter Neal Marlens and Carol Black‘s THE WONDER YEARS, which lacked the studio audiences and honed in on the turbulent coming-of-age years with a grounded, nostalgic approach. Centering on young Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) as he navigates school, friendship, learning to drive, and, making up a big chunk of the series’ heart, his first love, Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar). A network comedy in a prime slot, the show still had a more mature approach to it that made it stand alone compared to other children/teen-led counterparts, not veering away from painful sides of growing up. Sweet, funny and instrumental in its formatting to what came after, coming-of-age stories on screen wouldn’t be the same without THE WONDER YEARS. Shows like FREAKS AND GEEKS and many of the best movies of the coming-of-age genre have taken a page out of the show’s book, and with it streaming on Hulu right now, this is a key part of TV history that demands checking out…if mostly to be swept away in the smooth narration of one Daniel Stern.
THE WONDER YEARS is currently streaming on Hulu.
My earliest memories of THE X-FILES go back to my brother binging them on the DVD collections, my younger self often terrified by the creepy supernatural, extra-terrestrial characters and scenarios. Years later I sat down to watch them myself (now all the easier with streaming) and while the show may have lost some of its luster for everyone other than the die-hard fan base over the years, the series remains highly rewatchable and retains a sense of unique, almost mystical power. The intro music is iconic and a perfect lead-in to whatever unsettling mystery awaits in the episode, and David Duchovny‘s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson‘s Dana Scully rank among TV’s greatest duos. The quality isn’t as consistent in its later seasons, and even the rebooted 10th and 11th seasons left more to be desired, but even across its near-dozen-season run, there’s plenty to love. There’s no questioning the series’ impact on TV, paving the way for a more grounded, and yet still fantastical, sci-fi series, and you owe it to yourself to check this off your TV bucket list if you have yet to. Maybe skip the movies.
THE X-FILES is currently streaming on Hulu.