The Best TV Shows on Hulu Right Now
It can be tough to keep an account of everything running on a multitude of platforms these days: from traditional broadcast and cable to premium networks to a multitude of streaming options, knowing where to find the best TV and movies can be a nearly impossible task.
But we are here to help! For those who are already subscribed to Hulu (or who are thinking about it), we’ve compiled a list of our favorite series available, from new classics to old favorites, and everything in between. We’ll also be updating the list as the library changes, or new original series debut that make their case for being some of TV’s best. And, if you’re not quite ready to invest in an entire series and are looking for something shorter-form, check out our list of the Best Movies on Hulu Right Now.
Friday Night Lights
Created by: Peter Berg
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Gaius Charles, Zach Gilford, Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki, Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons, Scott Porter, Aimee Teegarden, Michael B. Jordan, Jurnee Smollett, Matt Lauria, Madison Burge
Before Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and other Netflix-made series seemingly designed to binge watch, there was Friday Night Lights. The show kicked off on NBC back in 2006, but now it’s almost as if it were made to watch over and over again from start to finish, and I’ve done so more times than I care to admit. It’s a brilliant and addictive mix of football, romance and drama that rocks a roster of conflicted yet especially charming characters you come to know and love. Soon after starting the show, Dillon, Texas quickly starts to feel like a cozy home, making the show extremely tough to turn off after each episode. – Perri Nemiroff
Parks and Recreation
Created by: Michael Schur and Greg Daniels
Cast: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Chris Pratt, Retta, Rashida Jones, Aubrey Plaza, Jim O’Heir, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, and Paul Schneider
Parks and Recreation will go down in history as one of the greatest comedies ever made, mark my words. This story of local government stars Amy Poehler as the bright and ambitious director of the Parks and Recreation Department in a fictional Indiana town, chronicling her day-to-day issues with her fellow team members and local government officials. The series evolved into a smart but never preachy political satire, while always maintaining a deep compassion for its characters. This is a nice show about good people trying to do good in the world, no matter how small their deeds. As the show goes on, Schur and his writers prove they aren’t afraid to shake up the formula with major plot twists, and this keeps the series continually fresh all the way up through its brilliant series finale. – Adam Chitwood
Created by: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee
Cast: Kelsey Grammar, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, Moose
The 90s were a golden age for sitcoms, and Frasier was one of the most distinct and best performed of the bunch. Mixing highbrow and lowbrow humor, Frasier follows Kelsey Grammar’s psychologist from the Boston bar Cheers to Seattle, Washington, where he has his own radio show and a new roommate – his curmudgeonly father Martin. Frasier and his brother Niles are the very picture of snobbish intellectual elites, but their dad is blue collar to the bone and that cultural clash provides an endless stream of comedy, as does the life-long petty rivalries and jealousies between the preening brothers. Smart without turning its nose up and endlessly endearing, Frasier is one of the best family comedies in a decade full of good ones and easily one of the best spinoffs of all time. – Haleigh Foutch
The Last Man on Earth
Created by: Will Forte
Cast: Will Forte, Kristen Schaal, January Jones, Mel Rodriguez, Mary Steenburgen, Cleopatra Coleman, Jason Sudeikis, and Boris Kodje
Truly one of the most innovative sitcoms of the last few years, The Last Man on Earth got off to a rollicking start with a pilot in which Will Forte is the sole character. The MacGruber star plays the titular last man on Earth (or so he thinks) after a virus decimated the world’s population. Slowly but surely, a ragtag group of survivors assembles, but this is far from The Walking Dead. Instead, Last Man on Earth leans heavily into shenanigans and family-building while not ignoring the dark psychological effects such a situation would have on a human being. The earlier episodes remain the high point of the series as it became a bit too sitcom-y by the show’s end, but if you’re a fan of Forte’s brand of silly humor, The Last Man on Earth will be right up your alley. – Adam Chitwood
The Bold Type
Created By: Sarah Watson
Cast: Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, Meghann Fahy, Melora Hardin
The Bold Type follows three young women — newly promoted writer Jane Sloan, social media maven Kat Edison and Sutton Brady — who are co-workers at the women’s magazine Scarlet. They are exactly the kind of friends everyone desires; they are always there for each other, encourage each other’s success, and are willing to admit when they are being too judgmental. They’re far from perfect, but they’re strong and confident and striving to find their own power, personally and professionally, all with the help of their boss and mentor, Jacqueline, an unapologetically fierce woman herself who guides her staff by standing behind them and embracing what they each bring to the table. It’s a love letter to modern feminism that explores social and political issues while also expressing a love for fashion, as well as highlighting how much more we can accomplish when we look out for each other instead of tearing each other down. – Christina Radish
My Hero Academia
All three seasons of My Hero Academia are currently airing on Hulu, so whether you need to play catch-up or simply want to keep up with the current season, they have what you need. Don’t let the superhero aesthetic of MHA turn you off if you feel the comic book fatigue creeping in; this award-winning anime series is among the best in the sub-genre. It centers on Deku, a powerless young boy born into a world where superpowers have become the norm. When his conviction and willingness to sacrifice himself to save others reveals his heroic heart, he’s granted a once-in-a-lifetime chance to become a superhero in earnest.
My Hero Academia could have easily devolved into just another “quirky kids in a weird Japanese high school” series, but it goes above and beyond the typical tropes to bring viewers characters they actually care about, as well as some pulse-pounding action sequences that put said characters in peril. The third season got off to a rocket start by pitting supervillains against Deku and his fellow young heroes, pushing them to their limits and splitting up the friends in heartbreaking ways. The story that’s unfolding right now might be the best so far, so get watching! – Dave Trumbore
The Handmaid’s Tale
Created by: Bruce Miller
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel,O. T. Fagbenle, Max Minghella, Samira Wiley
No show felt more uncomfortably timely in 2017 than The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s seminal novel. While I don’t normally love Hulu’s weekly distribution of its new shows, in this case, it was helpful to give us some distance from the horrors portrayed in each episode. Elisabeth Moss was exceptional in her lead role as Offred/June, who is captured and raped repeatedly to try and conceive a baby in a dystopian future where fertility rates have dropped dramatically. The Handmaid’s Tale expands from the book in several ways, allowing a larger view not only of the world this tale inhabits, but the resistance movement outside of it (and includes a particularly scene-stealing performance by Alexis Bledel). The series also has a distinct visual style to not only reinforce the strict rules of the repressive Gilead regime, but to establish the unique look of a uncanny world that feels, especially in those flashbacks, a little too real. As for Season 2, well, it’s still insightful and pretty brutal. — Allison Keene
Created by: Donald Glover
Cast: Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Keith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz
FX has commissioned a number of out-of-the-box comedies in the last few years, but none have been as successful as Atlanta, which was truly experimental on a number of fronts. For one, it focused on an all-black cast on a network not previously known for giving a voice to minorities (something they are actively changing), and the show’s form and format was one that could, refreshingly, never be pinned down. The general trajectory was that a smart young guy named Earn (Donald Glover) tries to make some money by managing his cousin’s (Brian Tyree Henry) rap career, while also needing to step up as a father. But wrapped up in that was a very specific look at a variety of facets of life as a young black man in a city like Atlanta, told through a juxtaposition of raw truth and surrealist effects.
Atlanta had a number of stand-out episodes that focused on just one topic, and “B.A.N.” in particular is notable not just because of how it uniquely it told its story, but in the way it incorperated fake commercials that played out as long, drawn-out jokes within the series. For the weary TV viewer it can’t be overstated how fresh and exciting that is.
A huge amount of kudos also goes to Hiro Murai (who directed most of the first season’s episodes), for setting up the show’s visually distinct and atmospheric tone. While Glover created something wonderful here in a series that easily cut through the din of Peak TV, he also showed how collaboration can make a singular vision into something extraordinary. — Allison Keene
Rick and Morty
Created by: Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon
Cast: Justin Roiland, Chris Parnell, Sarah Chalke, and Spencer Grammer
Rick and Morty is not only one of the most delightfully twisted animated shows on television, it’s actually also one of the most consistently brilliant pieces of sci-fi storytelling in recent memory. Loosely based on the Back to the Future relationship of Doc Brown and Marty McFly, the series revolves around a meek young boy named Morty and his genius, sci-fi-gadget-equipped grandfather Rick. The two go on sci-fi adventures week-in and week-out, with the show consistently delivering wildly compelling science-fiction stories set on different planets or even sometimes different dimensions. While hilarious, the show also has a finger on its self-aware pulse, allowing the characters to behave badly, but not allowing them to go on like it doesn’t affect them and the loved ones around them. The result is this insane—and insanely entertaining—cocktail of humor, heart, philosophy, and sci-fi. – Adam Chitwood
Created by: Ava DuVernay
Cast: Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Kofi Siriboe
One of the most beautiful dramas on television, Queen Sugar focuses on a fractious Louisiana family who is forced to come together after the death of their patriarch, and to take over his sugar cane farm. Though the seasons suffer a little bit from length (a lot of the show’s honest and truthful portrayals gets a little soapy after 16+ episodes), there is no other show that so closely examines a southern family’s roots, beliefs, hardships, and triumphs. The way the series portrays the complication of family while still holding on to the coziness (and difficulties) of country life is laudable, as is its exploration of what it means to be black today, and in that place, and as both a rich person and a poor one. — Allison Keene
Created by: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, and Howard Overman
Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Eliza Coupe, Derek Wilson, Ed Begley Jr., Glenne Headly, Keith David, and Haley Joel Osment
If you’re looking for a comedy series with the sci-fi of Rick and Morty, R-rated humor of films like Neighbors and This Is the End, and pop culture references of Community, then the Hulu original series Future Man is a swell choice. Executive produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the series stars Josh Hutcherson as a lonely janitor at a scientific research facility who beats an unbeatable video game, only to be visited by two warriors from the future played by Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings) and Derek Wilson (Preacher). The game was sent back in time to find the savior that can change the course of history and prevent a terrifying dystopia, but the warriors are surprised to find that their “savior” is just a lazy dude who’s good at video games and very bad at fighting. The show has a lot of fun with its sci-fi premise and really digs deep into time-travel to hilarious and compelling results, but the relationships between the characters also blossom in surprisingly emotional ways. Future Man is incredibly funny, chock-full of movie references, and super nerdy. If that sounds like it’s your speed, give it a spin. – Adam Chitwood
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Created by: Gene Roddenberry
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, and Whoopi Goldberg
You can’t argue against this series. One of the most iconic shows in the history of television, this long-running award winner picked up decades after the original series captained by William Shatner. Well Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) makes a strong case for best Enterprise captain in the franchise with his performance in TNG. One of the few shows in history to run this long and never “jump the shark,” Star Trek: The Next Generation followed the crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D as they explored strange new worlds, sought out new life and civilizations, and boldly went where no space crew had gone before.
For fans of cerebral, philosophical, and slow-burn type shows, TNG is the gold standard. There’s plenty of action to be found, but it’s not the first order of business to fire photon torpedoes as soon as the Enterprise runs up against an obstacle. In fact, there are many instances in which the Galaxy Class Starship is outmatched in terms of weapons and defense, so it’s up to the crew’s cleverness and cooperative abilities to keep them alive, and maybe earn a new ally along the way. Modern TV has yet to see its equal, so it’s a good thing that all 178 episodes are available to assimilate online. – Dave Trumbore
Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Created by: Dave Willis. Matt Maiellaro
Voice Cast: Dana Snyder, Carey Means, Dave Willis, Matt Maiellaro, George Lowe, C. Martin Croker, Andy Merrill
For viewers of a certain age, Aqua Teen Hunger Force was a defining animated series of the early to mid-aughts, one whose rise was concurrent with its late-night Cartoon Network home of Adult Swim. The show ran for 11 seasons along with a theatrically released movie, and follows the adventures of three (not teen nor part of any force) roommates that are essentially fast food items — Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad — as they interact with each other, various villains, and most especially their angry and sex-crazed neighbor Carl Brutananadilewski. The series is smart, dumb, adult, juvenile, and with an animation style that is both rudimentary and iconic. It can’t be defined, just experienced. But I’ll try anyway: it’s a hilarious and surreal journey of demented comedy that deserves to be sampled. “Number one in the hood, G.” — Allison Keene
Created by: David Lynch and Mark Frost
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, Warren Frost, Peggy Lipton, and Ray Wise.
What a strange, wonderful thing Twin Peaks is. Technically, this two-season drama (*) is the story of an investigation into the murder of a young girl named Laura Palmer in the sleepy mountain town of Twin Peaks. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is called in to investigate, but as he looks further into the girl’s death by poking around the town, twists and turns arise with increasing frequency. And while the investigation into Palmer’s death provides the storytelling backbone for Twin Peaks, it’s really more of a wholly unique character drama as David Lynch and Mark Frost delve into the dichotomy between the self we present to the world, and our true nature. As with most works of Lynch’s, things get really weird, but always in a delightful manner that keeps the audience engaged with the characters. And with the show’s revival just around the corner, you really have no excuse not to check out this stone-cold classic. – Adam Chitwood
(*) = You can see the recent continuation of the story, Twin Peaks: The Return, if you have Hulu’s Showtime add-on.
Fresh Off the Boat
Created by: Nahnatchka Khan
Cast: Randall Park, Constance Wu, Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, Ian Chen, Lucille Soong
Fresh Off the Boat is a comedy that works on three very distinct levels in a way that feels seamless. It’s a family comedy, a 90s show, and series that highlights the specific experience of a Taiwanese family living in America. It also tackles each with aplomb. The show was unfairly maligned early in its run by Eddie Huang (on whose memoirs the show is based) for being what it was — a broadcast sitcom — yet it has continued to push the boundaries of the bizarre and avant-garde, particularly in Season 3. Few comedies can handle both adult and kid-focused stories with equal weight and humor, but Fresh Off the Boat succeeds in this and in extraordinarily well-rendered nostalgia jokes (Zoobooks! Tamagotchi! The Browns almost leaving Cleveland! Shaq Fu!) that never feels forced or like overkill. Plus, it cannot be overstated how much it matters that this is a show about an Asian family and exploring Asian culture — that was also very long overdue. — Allison Keene
Both National Treasure (review) and its anthology sequel Kiri are complex portraits of the role media plays in criminal trials, both for good and (far more often) for ill. In the first set of episodes, Robbie Coltrane plays a fictional veteran television personality accused of rape and sexual assault dating back decades, all of which he vehemently denies. The series unravels the truth, or what each character sees as the truth, in emotionally excruciating ways, which is also at the heart of Kiri. In Kiri, a young black girl is kidnapped from the care of her white foster family by, everyone guesses, her violent and drug-using biological father. But the truth is again anything but simple. Like Coltrane, Sara Lancashire and Lucian Msamati give an acting tour-de-force, which is always the series’ strongest attribute. While the short episode orders (each running only 4 episodes) don’t really give enough time for a thorough exploration into very complicated stories and plotlines, in a world of Peak TV they also offer fairly satisfying mini-binges that are dark but never bleak. No one does crime series quite like the British, and National Treasure (particularly its first series) continues to prove that truth. – Allison Keene
The Office (UK)
Created by: Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis
The mockumentary comedy that started off what feels like a never-ending wave of imitators is still one of TV’s greatest series. Far bleaker than its younger American cousin, Gervais and Merchant’s The Office follows the work lives of a group of people at a fictional paper company, and is also a whip-smart character study and satire of cubicle life. Gervais is excellent as the horribly cringe-worthy boss David Brent, but Martin Freeman’s likable Everyman, Tim, is the element that gives The Office its heart through his crush on secretary Dawn (Davis) and his low-key antagonistic relationship with team leader Gareth (Crook). Still, it’s Brent’s buffoonery that provides the best quotes and memorable scenes, and yet, he too gets his emotional moments and earned viewer empathy.
The Office broke the mold when it arrived in 2001, but its universal themes of frustration, disappointment, hope, and desire remain forever relevant. Running a mere 2 seasons (12 episodes total), and 2 Christmas specials (as is the British way), this outstanding, funny, dark, engrossing series is still the pinnacle of mockumentary television. — Allison Keene
Created by: Mitch Hurwitz
Cast: Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jessica Walter
Surely one of the best sitcoms ever made, Arrested Development was far ahead of its time when it debut in 2003. Its wit and wry sense of humor now feels in lock step with the modern state of the genre, but at the time it was incredibly different, which led to an early cancellation. But Netflix revived the series in 2013 to mixed results, with credit going to Hurwitz for at least trying something different than before. Regardless of how you feel about Season 4, the show’s previous episodes are undoubtedly some of the silliest, smartest, and funniest TV comedy ever produced. – Adam Chitwood
Created by: Noah Hawley
Cast: Anthology including Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemmons, Martin Freeman, Ewan McGregor, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Allison Tolman
Here’s what you need to know about Noah Hawley’s anthology-as-homage to the Coen Brothers’ movie Fargo: every season is reminiscent of the movie’s tone and has a lot of callbacks to Coen Brothers’ work in general, but it’s rare to find the person who loves all three. Your mileage may vary, but I really disliked Season 1, adored Season 2, and felt pretty good about Season 3 (many people are the exact opposite). While Hawley’s deeply considered aesthetic (which only grows which each season) makes each “Year” worthy of consideration — not to mention the stellar cast of each — he’s also created three very distinct stories. But, all three are also united by their dry humor, grisly violence, and emotionally complex stories of regular people who do some very bad things — Allison Keene
Created By: Andrew O’Connor, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain
Cast: David Mitchell, Robert Webb
This long-running British sitcom Peep Show follows the lives of two very different roommates — pessimistic loan manager Mark Corrigan (Mitchell) and the more up-beat Jeremy “Jez” Usbourne (Webb), an unemployed musician. The two have an indefinable co-dependency while often also hating each other, but their chemistry is undeniable, and their performances are augmented by a bizarre cast of supporting characters, including Jeremy’s girlfriend Big Suze (Sophie Winkleman), their friend Super Hans (Matt King), and Sophie (Olivia Colman), the object of Mark’s obsession.
Peep Show sets itself apart by using point-of-view camera angles to experience what Mark and Jeremy see, using voiceover narration to convey their thoughts (the effect takes some getting used to at first). It’s quirky, extremely funny, and often perceptive. There’s no laugh track, or anything expected about the series, of which there are 54 episodes are available to stream. Peep Show is a world that’s easy to immerse one’s self in, and then to be grateful to leave to fiction … though the theme song by Harvey Danger will stay forever lodged in your brain. — Allison Keene
Created by: Joss Whedon
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morean Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, and Ron Glass
There’s a reason Firefly has one of the most devoted fanbases of all-time after 15 years and only 14 episodes (plus the movie, Serenity). Joss Whedon combines sci-fi and western into a beguiling concoction that works perfectly thanks to his whip-smart dialogue, clever pacing, and outstanding cast. The most difficult part about recommending this show, which follows a motley crew as they attempt to earn money from odd jobs and stay away from the authorities, is that it’s only 14 episodes and you’ll definitely be left wanting more. Serenity scratches the itch a bit, but once you’re done, you’ll always be left wondering, “What if?” – Matt Goldberg
Top of the Lake: China Girl
Created by: Jane Campion, Gerard Lee
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, David Wenham, Gwendoline Christie, Nicole Kidman
Ignoring shifts in cast and subject matter, the most noticeable difference between the brilliant first season of Jane Campion and Gerard Lee‘s Top of the Lake and its second season, Top of the Lake: China Girl, is in setting. The original series, set in the New Zealand wilds surrounding the town of Paradise, felt primordial and surreal, as Elisabeth Moss‘ Detective Robin Griffin explored the verdant environs for a missing pregnant 12-year-old. In contrast, China Girl is set in the buttoned-up, largely affluent suburbs of Sydney, where Griffin has been assigned to investigate the murder of a pregnant Jane Doe whose body washes up on the beach, stuffed in a rolling suitcase. There is, yet again, a sense that it’s all a meticulous veneer, a docile mask for a world run by murderous nihilists and self-satisfied misogynists, rapists and pimps, men and their monstrous impulses.
Gwendoline Christine and Nicole Kidman are part of the second season’s rousing, thoughtful cast, who are swept up in the complexities of making peace with a ruinous life, which often means being in a constant state of anxiety, fury, and unimaginable heartache. As the case unfolds, so does a complex consideration of motherhood, all of which plays into the success of this unique series’ engrossing new story — Chris Cabin
Key and Peele
Created by: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele
Cast: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele
There’s a proud history of sketch comedy on TV, but few series have hit the heights hilarity and insightful commentary like Key and Peele. Before he became an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, Jordan Peele brought his incisive comedy as one-half of the powerhouse comedic duo alongside Keegan-Michael Key. Together, the pair played every kind of character under the sun, from Devil-possessed church ladies to impossibly-named footballers, and tackled tough topics on the regular. Nearly every sketch was a laugh-out-loud homerun. Fearlessly goofy, impeccably performed, and endlessly inventive, Key and Peele is a show that’s guaranteed to get a laugh. –Haleigh Foutch
Created by: Pendleton Ward
Voice Cast: Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio, Hynden Walch, Niki Yang, Tom Kenny
The wonderfully trippy Adventure Time is a true joy of television. Pendleton Ward’s animated series is a fantasy adventure (obviously) that essentially chronicles a boy and his dog, except that this boy, Finn, lives in a weird, post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo, and his dog, Jake, is really an adoptive brother who has magical powers where he can change his shape and size. The long-running series is a fantasia of wonder, as Finn and Jake help Princess Bubblegum battle the Ice King and others with the help of a vampire queen named Marceline, a video player named BMO, and so many other colorful characters.
What really puts Adventure Time a cut above other series of its kind is that there are no other series of its kind. It’s smart, emotional, and definitely not just for kids (and maybe not even for kids — it can also be scary!) There are some darker and more complicated themes and dynamics as the series goes on, but everything is always anchored by the joy that Finn and Jake have in their never-ending cycle of battle. Joy permeates Adventure Time, but it’s also a series that has won a slew of awards for its innovation and intelligence. As the song in the closing credits says, “Come along with me / And the butterflies and bees / We can wander through the forest / And do so as we please.” — Allison Keene
Created by: Damon Lindelof, Jeffrey Lieber, and J.J. Abrams
Cast: Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Jorge Garcia, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Dominic Monaghan, Naveen Andrews, Emilie de Ravin, and Terry O’Quinn
Lost is a flawed show. It has plotlines that sometimes go nowhere. The series finale is half-great, half-infuriating. Some characters you don’t really care about, but they’ll get an entire episode about their backstory. And yet despite these flaws, Lost remains one of the greatest shows ever made. What started as a story about survivors of a plane crash landing on a mysterious island quickly revealed itself to be about so much more. While some viewers were looking for concrete answers about the Dharma Initiative or the Numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42), Lost is at its best as a show about the choices we make and the possibility of changing who we are. It’s a show with outstanding production values, but what makes it memorable is that we care about the characters and where they come from. Lost isn’t perfect, but it’s a show you’ll never be able to shake. – Matt Goldberg
Created By: Chris Carter
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson
The first four seasons of The X-Files includes some of the best science-fiction storytelling to grace television in the wake of the original run of The Twilight Zone. Human-flatworm hybrids, gender-bending Amish men, werewolves, vampires, and, of course, aliens pepper the stories of Agent Mulder and Agent Scully, played by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, and often the stories were self-contained within the episode. Certain episodes boil down premises that films would extend for two hours regularly into a rousing, funny, and occasionally scary shot of outlandishly inventive pulp.
As the series went on, the overriding story arc of Mulder’s sister, the titular volumes of bizarre cases, and a cigarette-smoking man began to smother out the creativity of the singular episodes, whereas the original seasons never allowed the season-arc to drown out the wild exuberance of the singular episodes. Now, to be fair, the bigger arcs ended up being more involving and refreshing than many series of the ilk would allow, but when I think back to this thrilling, genuinely kooky show, it’s more the agents’ interactions with the likes of Eugene Tooms, Clyde Bruckman, and Darin Peter Oswald that have kept the series’ cult alive, and have paved the road to the imminent Fox revamp of Scully and Mulder’s unique, prickly relationship. -Chris Cabin
Created by: David Greenwalt, Joss Whedon
Cast: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Andy Hallett, Amy Acker, James Marsters, Julie Benz
Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets a lot of well-deserved love in the television-nostalgia category, but its concurrent spin-off series Angel often gets overshadowed by his vampire-killing on again, off again girlfriend. While he was introduced as a potential love interest/vampire to be vanquished by the Slayer, David Boreanaz’s vampire cursed with a soul proved too charming, handsome, and beloved by the fans to fall victim to a metaphorical stake through the heart.
Getting his own side series in 1999, Angel moved away from Sunnydale to seek out the most likely locale for a vampire: the even sunnier city of Los Angeles. With more than a century of murder and torture under his belt, Angel’s restored soul now compels him to defend the innocent from supernatural evil. He becomes a private detective along with Cordelia Chase, Allen Francis Doyle, and Wesley Wyndam-Pryce in order to “help the helpless,” battle his own personal demons, and take down the Hellish law firm of Wolfram & Hart.
Angel has all of the charm and personality of its parent series but gives otherwise secondary characters room to breathe and grow, while staying true to the show’s supernatural and romantic roots. It’s a fun watch and a worthy companion to Buffy, both as star-crossed lovers and as series in a shared universe. – Dave Trumbore
Created by: Dan Goor and Michael Schur
Cast: Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Stephanie Beatriz, Joe Lo Truglio, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Chelsea Peretti, Dirk Blocker, and Joel McKinnon Miller
If you’re in the mood for a show with the smart humor and compassion of Parks and Recreation mixed with the procedural aspect of a compelling network cop drama, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the series for you. Created by two of the minds behind Parks and Rec, the Fox series stars Andy Samberg as a New York City detective and revolves around his unit’s various cases and workplace grievances. The show is consistently hilarious and surprising, unafraid to introduce plot developments that shake up the core dynamic of the series. And the procedural element adds an exciting mystery to a lot of the episodes. Through it all, there’s not a single unlikable character in the bunch. Much like Parks and Rec or The Office, this is an ensemble that just works, and it’s consistently one of the funniest—and sweetest—shows on TV. – Adam Chitwood
Creator: Michael Crichton
Cast: Anthony Edwards, Julianna Marguiles, George Clooney, Noah Wyle, Eriq La Salle, Sherry Stringfield, Gloria Reuben, Alex Kingston, William H. Macy, Goran Visnjic, Maura Tierney, John Stamos
While the Second Golden Age of Television didn’t officially begin until the arrival of The Sopranos in the late 1990s, another TV series was breaking ground in different way throughout the early 90s. ER premiered on NBC in 1994 and immediately announced itself as something completely different. The kinetic cinematography put viewers in the life-or-death situations in a Chicago hospital emergency room; the show’s refusal to shy away from the constant smell of death in an ER—and the impact that has on the doctors—also made it stand apart, resulting in tearjerking episodes of an organic sort. There was no time for melodrama here, and ER plays out like an action-thriller each week with a sneaky focus on character and emotions that makes every save—and every loss—that much more impactful. And the large ensemble cast, which would rotate as the years went on, was impeccable. While 331 total episodes may seem staggering, know that ER maintains a high level of quality for far longer than most of its peers. Buckle up folks, you’re in for a ride. – Adam Chitwood
Created by: Trey Parker and Matt Stone
Cast: Trey Parker and Matt Stone
It’s insane that not only has South Park been on the air since 1997, but Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been the creative voices in charge of the series ever since. Usually a creator will leave for greener pastures and the show becomes a shell of its former self (see: Family Guy, The Simpsons), but not with South Park. As a result, this Comedy Central series’ signature brand of off-color humor and social commentary has continued to evolve over the years, tackling various major issues, trends, and presidencies. – Adam Chitwood
Created by: Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett
Cast: Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, Emily Hampshire, Barbara Sukowa, Kirk Acevedo, Noah Bean, Todd Stashwick
If you’re a fan of time travel storytelling, 12 Monkeys is one of the best series to dig into for expansive world building and twisty, timey-wimey mythology. Built on the foundation of Terry Gilliam’s 1995 film, the series uses that basic concept as a jumping-off point and runs wild it. Basically, a man is sent back from the future to prevent a deadly plague, but unlike Gilliam’s contained film, the series is an ever-expanding, overlapping journey through time where every action has a ripple effect, but never the one you expect. Riding on fantastic performances all around, and reliably sharp writing, 12 Monkeys is one of the most imaginative, engrossing time travel stories you could ask for. – Haleigh Foutch
Created by: Noah Hawley
Cast: Dan Stevens, Aubrey Plaza, Jemaine Clements, Rachel Keller, Jean Smart
A superhero show like none you have ever see, Legion tells the story of a member of the X-Men universe (David Haller, the son of Professor X in the comics), but is in no other way connected to the X-Men stories we’ve seen playing out on TV or in movies. Legion is an immersive visual spectacle that is less a puzzle-box, as we try to distinguish mental projection from reality alongside David (Dan Stevens), and more of a genre-bending journey through a world as wide as the limits of ones dreams — or nightmares. It’s a stunning display of creativity and strangeness. — Allison Keene
Created by: Zach Galifianakis, Jonathan Krisel, Louis C.K.
Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Martha Kelly, Louie Anderson
In its second season, Baskets elevated its game. Jonathan Krisel’s direction, especially in those first few episodes where Chip (Zach Galifianakis) is living the life of a hobo, is gorgeously styled. It becomes a surprisingly beautiful tale, but one still marked with the show’s trademark physical humor that befits Chip’s clown training. Once back in Bakersfield, the story gives more time to Louie Anderson’s exceptional Christine Baskets, Chip’s mother, including a few stand-out episodes like “Ronald Regan Library” that really highlight why that character — and Anderson’s portrayal of her — is so wonderful. But Baskets also backed away a little bit from as much caustic humor as Season 1 held, and instead became a little sweeter. It was the right change. — Allison Keene
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Created By: Rick Berman, Michael Piller
Cast: Avery Brooks, Rene Aberjonois, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor, Michael Dorn, Nicole de Boer
Fair warning: You’re going to have to tough out two seasons of this series as the show fought to find its own identity. Although it already stands apart from other Star Trek series by being based on a space station rather than exploring the cosmos, many of the episodes from the first two seasons feel like leftover scripts from Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. It wasn’t until the show started interacting with the Dominion and moving towards war that Deep Space Nine created an absolutely captivating identity. Seasons 3 – 5 are great Star Trek, and the final two seasons are great television, period. The show gets surprisingly dark, but it’s always mature in its approach to warfare and the sacrifices that must be made during wartime. – Matt Goldberg
Created by: Kenya Barris
Cast: Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, Marsai Martin
Kenya Barris’ black-ish, which focuses on the trials and tribulations of an upper-middle class African American family, is one of the sharpest comedies of the last decade. Barris has a lot to say about white culture, black culture, and just about everything else, but his show is never preachy. Instead, black-ish is incredibly smart and funny, and also full of heart. So many comedies feel a need to push for a “lesson” to be learned, but black-ish incorporates any growth its characters go through as organic, never forced. With a stellar cast and a strong sense of itself, black-ish just keeps getting better and better. — Allison Keene
Created By: Adam Reed
Cast: H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, and Jessica Walters
One of the great mysteries to the 007 franchise is how James Bond, in any of his incarnations, remains so seductive and suave. The guy drinks like the last days of disco, fornicates with more women than Wilt Chamberlin and Gene Simmons combined, and then, for work, kills hundreds upon hundreds and impossibly survives thousands of fatal encounters, all while barely disguising his true, internationally known identity. The reality of such ludicrous endeavors is the pull of Archer, which pitches the inimitable H. Jon Benjamin as the voice of Sterling Archer, an improbably brilliant yet shallow and self-obsessed superspy.
The unique and generous thing about this uproarious, beautifully designed FX comedy is that the humor arises largely from delivery, the distinct, unerringly intelligent language accentuated by pauses, stutters, random inflections, and elongated vowels. Benjamin is backed up by a stellar cast, and each of whom attacks the material with comic gusto, molding wild, hysterical caricatures in the process. Even as they dodge bullets on a super-train on its way to Montreal or a drug dealer’s yacht, the overflowing laughs come from an outrageousness of character, rather than a cleverness of premise, which, in this case, just happen to be really freaking clever. – Chris Cabin
Created by: Pamela Adlon, Louis C.K.
Cast: Pamela Adlon, Mikey Madison, Hannah Alligood, Olivia Edward, Celia Imrie
Though tainted somewhat by the show’s close association with Louis C.K. (who co-created the series and has a writing credit on most of its episodes), Better Things’ second season is a thing of beauty. Directed in full by Pamela Adlon, who also stars, it is once again styled — but even more successfully — as a series of New Wave-y vignettes about a hardworking mom and her three difficult children (well to be fair, only two are difficult — the youngest is essentially an angel). Several intense episodes, including “Phil,” which focuses on the decisions surrounding aging parents, and “White Rock,” where the family absconds to have some time to themselves, are visually stunning and emotionally perceptive. Adlon’s direction is exceptional, and it plays a major role in the success of the storytelling. While most of the episodes include fantastical moments, or ones that seem that way, it all complements the series’ desire to explore true both within and without. — Allison Keene
Created by: Matt Groening and David X. Cohen
Cast: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, Tress MacNellie, Maurice LaMarche, and David Herman
There’s no lack for animated programming these days, but in terms of rewatchability and satisfaction, it’s tough to beat just about any of the 140 episodes of Futurama. The show was a huge deal when it premiered in 1999, hailed as the new series from the creator of The Simpsons, and the story possibilities seemed to be endless for a show about a guy who gets frozen in 1999 and wakes up in the year 2999. Buoyed by a fantastic voice cast and whip smart writing, the series is constantly engaging and packed with spot-on humor that never leans too hard on any one element (sci-fi, pop-culture, etc.), instead succeeding on its own merits as simply a great show. – Adam Chitwood
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Created By: Joss Whedon
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendan, Anthony Head, James Marsters, David Boreanaz, Emma Caulfield, Michelle Trachtenberg
Before he became the mastermind behind one of the biggest mega-blockbusters of all time, Joss Whedon had a knack for turning out beloved cult TV series, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer was his first, most successful, and one of his best. Based off his 1992 movie of the same name — though wildly superior and different in tone — Buffy the Vampire Slayer follows the title hero as she takes on vampires, demons, werewolves, werewolf hunters, lovesick AI, and just about every other creature on the monster spectrum from a bug lady to a god. In the meantime, she’s also dealing with the quotidien coming of age drama, and given that the show ran for seven seasons, we get to follow her as she matures through a lot of life stages — from the turmoils of high school and first love, through the awkward college transition to maturity, and ultimately to adulthood.
Buffy skillfully ties those two worlds together – the supernatural and the mundane – and like all the best genre storytelling, all the monsters and madmen are metaphors to make life’s harsh realities go down a little easier. Always entertaining, endlessly quotable, often laugh-out-loud funny, and occasionally downright devastating, Buffy the Vampire is an icon of genre television. -Haleigh Foutch