You know what, I’m just straight up sick of people raving out Breaking Bad. I’m sorry, I’m sure it’s a fantastic show, but pretentious film students have made me never want to pick it up. Ever. Like the amount of film students telling me they’re “so into television now” makes me scoff. No, it’s completely amazing how television is taken more seriously now because of shows like Breaking Bad, but honey, watching that and Game of Thrones does not make you “so into television now.” Before you go about telling me, “That’s completely stupid, it’s like saying Arctic Monkeys fans aren’t real fans because they’ve only listened to AM,” that’s not where I’m going with this. It’s that you can’t claim to “love television” if you’ve only touched the very surface of all the shows that are out there. It’s much like a person claiming to “love movies” because they’ve seen Titanic and The Notebook. I mean… I guess that’s where I went with this isn’t it? Oh shut up, I’m pretentious too, sue me.
Anyway, I’ve listed ten television shows in the mainstream (for the sake of it being easy for people to find ways to watch) that I think deserves much more love and accolades in the States than it garners at the moment. Accompanying the titles, I’ve listed websites and ways for you guys to watch! Enjoy.
10. Orphan Black (Sci-fi/Drama, mostly TV-14, but some episodes are rated TV-MA)
To summarize quite terribly, the series focuses on Sarah Manning (Tatiana Maslany) who at the start witnesses a doppelgänger’s suicide at the train station. After assuming the jumper’s identity, she unravels an entire cloning conspiracy and shit seriously goes down. It’s a pretty light sci-fi with more commentary on the implications of cloning than spaceships and time travel or anything of that nature, so you don’t have to be a “sci-fi person.” Really, all you need to be is someone who enjoys a great cast, complex female characters, and a well-written show. And if that’s not an incentive enough already, Tatiana Maslany should be. She plays every single clone, which if you think about it, could’ve gone so wrong. But no, each clone feels like a different person, it’s scary! Honestly, she’s so good that when I’m watching, I always forget all the clones are Maslany. I can’t even explain it dude, just watch it. You won’t regret it.
The reason why I placed Orphan Black #10 is because lately, it’s been getting a lot of attention. Well-deserved attention, but I just feel that of everything I listed here, it’s not as underrated.
My rating: 8/10, but +0.5 because of Tatiana Maslany, so 8.5/10
Original Channel: Space (CA) / BBC America (US)
Catch Up With: Amazon Instant Video (S1 for Prime users), Space (S2, download Hola! to watch on this site if you aren’t in Canada)
9. Shameless (U.S.) (Comedy/Drama, TV-MA)
Adapted from the critically-acclaimed British show of the same name, Shameless is nothing like its UK counterpart. Sure, the names have some sort of similarities, and the premise of a dysfunctional broke family in the ghetto stayed, but that’s about it. Now trust me, as someone who wants to develop shows for the BBC, I’m not a fan of US taking British shows (or any shows from any other country) and making our own American version. It shows how painfully unoriginal our networks are and how scared they are to take creative risks. Also, to assume that American audiences are dumb and won’t understand any of the jokes and references is a load of piss. But for once, I’m actually all for it. I have watched a couple of episodes of Shameless UK, and it’s safe to say that the content humor will most certainly not fly here in America. The UK version really is quite… shameless. And if this is important to you, US Shameless’ production quality is much better than UK Shameless.
Shameless US is a perfect blend of comedy and drama. The humor might be a bit too… fucked up, for lack of a better term, for some people, but if black comedy is your thing, then this may be your cup of tea. It’s dirty, it’s raunchy, it’s offensive, it’s fast-paced, it’s crazy, it’s ridiculous, and even through all that, tugs at your heart strings and so, so, so addicting. There are currently four seasons, and the fifth season, to be premiered early 2015, just started shooting on the Warner Bros. lot. Your time to catch up is now!
My rating: 9/10
Original Channel: Showtime (US)
Catch Up With: Nothing official at the moment, sorry…
8. Bob’s Burgers (Animated/Comedy, TV-14)
Oh man, the amount of weird looks I get when I tell them to watch Bob’s Burgers is ungodly. I honestly don’t even know how to sell this show, because the plot of the entire series is just about Bob, his wife and kids, and his burger joint. Hilarity ensues. That’s it. And it’s so goddamn funny. It’s just… ah… it’s like… just watch it.
My rating: 7.5/10
Original Channel: Fox (US)
Catch Up With: Netflix
7. Misfits (Supernatural/Comedy/Drama, TV-MA)
If you’ve ever watched NBC’s Heroes, you might want to check this show out. Like Heroes, it’s about a group of teenagers with superpowers, but Misfits is grittier and British black comedy gold. It begins with a group of teenagers that have ran into a bit of trouble with the law, and are forced to carry out community service. During a freak storm, they are struck by lightning and all given superpowers. Some, like Kelly (Lauren Socha), can read minds. Others, like Simon (Iwan Rheon), can turn invisible. Unlike Heroes, none use their superpowers for good. More realistically, they do absolutely nothing selfless with their powers. Juvenile delinquents with superpowers. What could possibly go wrong? (Hint: A lot).
Skillfully intertwining the comedic and the tragic and emotional is no easy feat, but the UK has repeatedly shown us that it’s very possible. Misfits more than proves it.
My rating: 8/10
Original Channel: E4 (UK)
Catch Up With: Hulu, Channel 4 (you must be a UK resident to make an account, but there are ways to get around that… also download Hola!)
6. Torchwood (Sci-fi/Drama, TV-14)
Torchwood is a spin-off of UK’s darling franchise Doctor Who, and it follows a group who hunts aliens that fall through a rift in the space-time continuum in Cardiff, Wales. This series is much more popular in the UK than it is in USA, which sucks because it’s a really great show. The leading man is Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), who Doctor Who fans have seen throughout the revived run of Doctor Who time and time again. He’s that sexy charming American conman who can’t age or die and flirts heavily with anything that moves regardless of their gender. It’s all of the aliens and sci-fi goodness that you loved in Doctor Who, but instead of whimsy Torchwood kicks up the emotional turmoil and leaves us with nothing but heartbreak in the end. Basically, Torchwood is the “mature” version of Doctor Who, chock full of sex, profanity, drama, and bisexual encounters.
Doctor Who not your thing? That’s cool, it’s actually not mine either. I stopped somewhere in season two with David Tenant. It was too silly for me. But I thoroughly enjoyed Torchwood with every bit of my heart, so don’t let the fact that it’s a Doctor Who spinoff put you off. Don’t compare and just watch it for what it is.
And whatever you do, don’t watch “Miracle Day.” Fuck, I’ll say it again and I’ll keep saying it. DON’T WATCH “MIRACLE DAY.” In fact, you can stop after season 3. If you choose to carry on and watch “Children of Earth,” fine. Go for it. Peter Capaldi’s in it. But under no circumstance should you ever, ever watch “Miracle Day.” You’ll thank me.
My rating: 8/10 (excluding “Miracle Day”)
Original Channel: BBC One, Two, and Three (UK) / BBC America, and Starz only for “Miracle Day,” but we don’t talk about that (US)
Catch Up With: Amazon Instant Video (on Prime), Netflix
5. Pushing Daisies (Fantasy/Comedy/Drama, TV-14)
Bryan Fuller is the fucking god of television writing. He can write sci-fi (Star Trek: DS9 and Voyager), he can write thriller (NBC’s Hannibal), he can write dark comedy (Dead Like Me), and then there’s this: Pushing Daisies. This much-too short-lived series follows Ned (Lee Pace), a necromantic pie-maker, who, with his detective friend Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), revive the dead to solve their deaths and in turn get the reward money. The catch? Once the corpse is reanimated, Ned cannot touch them or else they go back to being dead, and if the corpse is revived for too long, somebody random in close proximity falls dead. Yes, you heard that right. And it’s as fantastical and crazy as it sounds. When Ned revives Charlotte “Chuck” Charles, his childhood love, he can’t find it in himself to unanimate (is that a word?) her.
Now let’s talk about the set, because holy WOW! This series is set in a fantasy world where everything is highly saturated in color, bright, and hyperbolized, almost like the world was taken out of a storybook. It’s full of cute romance, hilarious one-liners, and ridiculousness, because face it, the entire premise is ridiculous–in the best possible way. Damn you, ’07-’08 writer’s strike! We need a season three.
My rating: 9/10
Original Channel: ABC (US)
Catch Up With: Amazon Instant Video (on Prime)
4. In the Flesh (Fantasy/Drama, TV-14)
I already wrote about this, but I don’t even give a shit because this show is my heart and soul. It’s basically a zombie drama done so well that I hate that it has to share the category with other zombie TV shows. Not that I hate zombies or anything (because who could hate zombies?!), but damn have zombies been overused! In the Flesh is such a refreshing addition to the zombie genre that I absolutely need more people to know about it for the sake of my sanity. Unlike others in its genre, it’s character-centric and more of a drama series than anything else.
Just to reiterate the important points from my earlier post, this show takes place in the small Lancashire village Roarton after the undead rising. Those who had risen were taken into government treatment facilities, given proper medication, and are now reintegrating back into society with the living. And of course, the living are outraged! The mini-series follows young Kieren Walker (Luke Newberry), who came back as a zombie after committing suicide following the death of his best friend Rick in battle. This show has strong writing, great believable acting, porn for cinematography lovers, and most of all: representation.
What do I mean by representation? Well, the most obvious is the message told through the series. The zombies are an allegory for any minority group in society: queers, POCs, etc. But also, Kieren is bisexual/pansexual. I’m about to spoil something very minor, but if you truly don’t want to be spoiled, just skip to the **** okay? I’m warning you… Okay, here it goes. We find out that Rick is not only Kieren’s best friend, but also is Kieren’s love. Rick was sent off into war by his father when he found out that Kieren and Rick were more than friends, and so Kieren, unable to bear with the fact Rick had been killed in action, offed himself. Nothing revolutionary, you say? Au contraire. Everything is told through contextual information. Nobody had to state that Kieren and Rick were more than friends. Nobody had to call him out on being with a guy. It was all inferred. It was so normalized, like heterosexual relationships, and it was great. **** Overall, Kieren’s sexuality and whatever relationships he pursues aren’t front and center in any shape or form. Have you ever loved a show, and then lost interest when it seemed that the main plotline was just relationship drama that nobody gives a shit about? I have. That’s when you know a writer has run out of ideas.
I’m sorry, this was so long, but I tend to go off like that when I talk about this show. All I have to say is, screw The Walking Dead, man! It’s all about In the Flesh.
My rating: 8.5/10
Original Channel: BBC Three (UK), BBC America (US), Space (CA)
Catch Up With: Space (download Hola! to watch on this site if you aren’t in Canada)
3. My Mad Fat Diary (Drama, TV-14)
Truth be told, I don’t even have words to express how important this show is to me. As someone who’s dealt with self-esteem issues and body image problems, as well as had somebody in life with suicidal tendencies, this show means so much.
Set in 1990’s Stamford, Lancashire, the series follows an overweight Rae Earl (Sharon Rooney) after she’s released from the psychiatric hospital, and the rekindling of her friendship with Chloe (Jodie Comer), who is completely unaware of Rae’s problems. Rae readjusts to her life outside of the hospital, and befriends those in Chloe’s social circle.
The premise is quite simple, but the resounding impact is seriously on another fucking level. Not only is the music amazing (so much Oasis and Weezer!!!) and fashion to die for, but also it’s so real. I’ve never watched a show where I could relate to a protagonist to such an extent. All the insecurities and situations she faced felt so familiar, and you’d think that it would be depressing to watch, but it’s one of the most empowering shows I’ve ever watched in my entire life. My Mad Fat Diary is the biggest “fuck-you” to the world. It’s the “fat chick” getting the hot guy. It’s the pretty girl with complexities and insecurities. It’s that personality and the honest goodness of your heart beats beauty. It’s that vulnerability is in everyone: whether you’re tall, short, skinny, big, etc. Watch this fucking show, okay?
My rating: 9/10
Original Channel: E4 (UK)
Catch Up With: Channel 4 (you must be a UK resident to make an account, but there are ways to get around that… also download Hola!)
2. Bomb Girls (Period/Drama, TV-14)
Bomb Girls is a Canadian period drama set during World War II in a munitions factory. The series follows female factory workers, focusing on four protagonists: Gladys (Jodi Balfour), Lorna (Meg Tilly), Betty (Ali Liebert), and Kate (Charlotte Hegele).
Good writing, solid acting, extremely well written female characters, and Canadian?! Who knew that Canada made good television? (That was a joke)
My rating: 7.5/10
Original Channel: Global TV (CA)
Catch Up With: Netflix
1. Utopia (Sci-fi/Thriller/Drama, TV-MA)
**WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC VIOLENCE** Like, enough to spark controversy in the UK.
The fact that HBO is making a US adaptation of Utopia with David Fincher makes me really mad, and I fucking love David Fincher. See, this is what I mean by UNNECESSARY AMERICAN REMAKES. Come on, America! Use your fucking brains and think of original material, yeah?
Anyway, the general plot of this show follows a group of people in possession of a manuscript of a cult graphic novel called the Utopia Experiments, which is rumored to have predicted horrifying events in the past. An organization called “The Network” will practically do anything to get their hands on the manuscripts, so in addition to finding out the secrets of the manuscript, our lovely group of protagonists are forced to run and evade The Network.
First off, holy cinematography. It’s unreal and breathtaking, unlike any cine work I’ve ever seen. Yes, even Fincher films can’t even compare. Second, hello sound design! Definitely adds to the creepy and thrilling factor to this show. Any technical buff would get a nice kick out of this show. Third, the writing is spot-on. With such a complex plot, writing quality is imperative or else writers easily risk losing their audience in the dark. The only thing I’d say is that if you’re into fast-paced stories, this may not be for you. This show is very dark and heavy, but that shouldn’t prevent you from trying either. I’m very picky when it comes to heavy dramas, and I rarely do slow-paced, but I do make an exception for this and True Detective.
My rating: 8.5/10
Original Channel: Channel 4 (UK)
Catch Up with: Channel 4 (you must be a UK resident to make an account, but there are ways to get around that… also download Hola!)
Well, happy watching folks! Don’t forget to take breaks every couple of hours, and stay safe my friends. Because watching TV is dangerous????