Recently, I did an article about the most disturbing films of all times, but today I wanted to do a “Best TV Drama article,” to catalog some of my favorite shows. I’ll likely end up doing a “funniest TV shows,” list, and maybe even a mindfuck list as well. Like I said in the other article, I have consumed entirely too much TV and Film for a normal person. This list will help prove that.
50. I’M DYING UP HERE.
Set in the celebrated and infamous L.A. stand-up comedy scene of the ’70s, where the careers of most comedy superstars began, “I’m Dying Up Here” delves into the inspired and damaged psyches that inhabit the hilarious, but complex business of making an audience laugh. The series is based on William Knoedelseder’s book of the same name.
49. BATES MOTEL.
“Bates Motel” is a contemporary prequel to the genre-defining film “Psycho,” and gives a portrayal of how Norman Bates’ (Freddie Highmore) psyche unravels through his teenage years. Fans discover the dark, twisted backstory of Norman Bates and how deeply intricate his relationship with his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), truly is.
48. AMERICAN CRIME STORY.
An anthology series centering on history’s most famous criminals, including O.J Simpson and Andrew Cunanan.
James Keziah Delaney returns to 1814 London after 10 years in Africa to discover that he has been left a mysterious legacy by his father. Driven to wage war on those who have wronged him, Delaney finds himself in a face-off against the East India Company, whilst playing a dangerous game between two warring nations, Britain and America.
The town of Deadwood, South Dakota in the weeks following the Custer massacre is a lawless sinkhole of crime and corruption. Into this uncivilized outpost ride a disillusioned and bitter ex-lawman, Wild Bill Hickok, and Seth Bullock, a man hoping to find a new start for himself. Both men find themselves quickly on opposite sides of the legal and moral fence from Al Swearengen, saloon owner, hotel operator, and incipient boss of Deadwood. The lives of these three intertwine with many others, the high-minded and the low-lifes who populate Deadwood in 1876.
A series centered around a group of football players and their families, friends, and handlers.
44. SIX FEET UNDER.
A drama series that takes a darkly comical look at members of a dysfunctional family that runs an independent funeral home. With the prodigal elder son (Nate) returning home for the holidays to shattering news, the family must learn to deal with a death of their own, while figuring out how to go ahead with the business of the living. A funny and emotional look at a grieving American family…that just happens to be in the grief management business.
Navy SEAL Team Six attempt to eliminate a Taliban leader in Afghanistan when they discover an American citizen working with the enemy.
After her husband’s unexpected death and subsequent financial woes, suburban mom Nancy Botwin (Parker) embraces a new profession: the neighborhood pot dealer. As it seems like everyone secretly wants what she’s selling — even city councilman Doug Wilson (Nealon) — Nancy is faced with keeping her family life in check and her enterprise a secret from her neighbor/pseudo-friend/PTA president, Celia Hodes (Perkins).
41. FEAR THE WALKING DEAD.
Spin off series of The Walking Dead that portrays the beginning events of the zombie apocalypse in the West coast during the same time frame when the city of Atlanta was falling under attack, while Rick was in a coma at the local hospital. It shows how the strain was already in full effect in the south while it’s just starting in California.
40. SNEAKY PETE
A con man on the run from a vicious gangster takes cover by assuming the identity of his prison cellmate, Pete, reuniting with his estranged family, that threatens to drag him into a world just as dangerous as the one he’s escaping.
39. TRUE BLOOD.
The series follows Sookie Stackhouse, a barmaid living in Louisiana who can read people’s minds, and how her life is turned upside down when the Vampire Bill, walks into her place of employment two years after vampires ‘came out of the coffin’ on national television.
Daniel Holden must put his life back together after serving 19 years on Georgia’s Death Row before DNA evidence calls his conviction into question.
37. AMERICAN HORROR STORY.
An anthology series centering on different characters and locations, including a house with a murderous past, an insane asylum, a witch coven, a freak show, a hotel, a possessed farmhouse, and a cult.
Two plastic surgeons – one a dedicated family man and one an unscrupulous playboy – strive to maintain their business whilst having to work their way through numerous hardships ranging from personal relationships to clients with criminal connections.
Intriguing story of a well off family in the Florida Keys that have many dark secrets. The siblings are heirs of a beautiful inn that has been in their family for 50 years. It is their childhood home with many great memories, but the deep dark past holds many untold tales. All combined makes the future very uncertain.
34. AMERICAN GODS.
Shadow is a man with a past. But now he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with his wife and stay out of trouble. Until he learns that she’s been killed in a terrible accident. Flying home for the funeral, as a violent storm rocks the plane, he is greeted by a strange man in the seat next to him. The man calls himself Mr. Wednesday, and he knows more about Shadow than is possible. He warns Shadow that a far bigger storm is coming. And from that moment on, nothing will ever be the same.
Hank Moody- a self loathing, narcissistic author struggles to overcome writer’s block while balancing his occasional drug use, alcoholism, and borderline sex addiction all the while trying to get back together with his girlfriend and raise his teenage daughter.
U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades goes after hedge fund king, Bobby “Axe” Axelrod in a battle between two powerful New York figures.
Watch the Irish American family the Gallagher’s deal with their alcoholic father Frank. Fiona, the eldest daughter, takes the role of the parent to her five brothers and sisters. Lip, Ian, Debbie, Carl, and Liam deal with life on the South Side of Chicago. Fiona balances her sex life and raising her siblings. Every episode is another crazy situation that one or more of the Gallagher six get into. Watch them grow and learn how to make their way in life with what little they have.
What if an angel and a demon procreate? What would that offspring be? Would it be holy or demonic or both? Preacher Is that tale. The offspring has no body, just a soul. That soul needs a body and chose Jessie. A preacher from Texas with a loss of faith and a drinking problem. The offspring called Genesis bonds with Jesse giving him the word of God. What he says is done.
28. STRANGER THINGS.
In a small town where everyone knows everyone, a peculiar incident starts a chain of events that leads to the disappearance of a child – which begins to tear at the fabric of an otherwise peaceful community. Dark government agencies and seemingly malevolent supernatural forces converge on the town while a few locals begin to understand that there’s more going on than meets the eye.
A pair of activists in 1970s London set out to free a political prisoner and wage a resistance movement.
26. TRUE DETECTIVE.
In 2012, Louisiana State Police Detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart are brought in to revisit a homicide case they worked in 1995. As the inquiry unfolds in present day through separate interrogations, the two former detectives narrate the story of their investigation, reopening unhealed wounds, and drawing into question their supposed solving of a bizarre ritualistic murder in 1995. The timelines braid and converge in 2012 as each man is pulled back into a world they believed they’d left behind. In learning about each other and their killer, it becomes clear that darkness lives on both sides of the law.
25. THE DEUCE.
A look at life in New York City during the 1970s and ’80s when porn and prostitution were rampant in Manhattan.
24. BLACK MIRROR.
A television anthology series that shows the dark side of life and technology.
In a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a ‘Synth’ – a highly-developed robotic servant that’s so similar to a real human it’s transforming the way we live.
22. THE PATH.
The Path follows a family at the center of a controversial cult movement as they struggle with relationships, faith and power. Each episode takes an in-depth look at the gravitational pull of belief and what it means to choose between the life we live and the life we want.
21. THE LEFTOVERS.
Three years after the disappearance of 2% of the global population, a group of people from New York struggle to continue their lives, while they cope with the tragedy of the unexplained nature of the event.
20. GAME OF THRONES.
In the mythical continent of Westeros, several powerful families fight for control of the Seven Kingdoms. As conflict erupts in the kingdoms of men, an ancient enemy rises once again to threaten them all. Meanwhile, the last heirs of a recently usurped dynasty plot to take back their homeland from across the Narrow Sea.
19. BOARDWALK EMPIRE.
Set in the Prohibition era of the 1920s Boardwalk Empire is the story of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the treasurer of Atlantic County, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Due to his relationships with mobsters as well as political contacts, the Federal Government start to take an interest in him. His lavish lifestyle seems at odds with his position, and as well as his connections, there is prolific bootlegging in the area.
U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is a modern day 19th century-style lawman, enforcing his brand of justice in a way that puts a target on his back with criminals and places him at odds with his bosses in the Marshal service. That conflict results in a reassignment for Givens to the U.S. District covering the town where he grew up. He is an anachronism – a tough, soft spoken gentleman who finds his quarry fascinating, but never gives an inch. Dig under his placid skin and you’ll find an angry man who grew up hard in rural Kentucky, with an outlaw father, who knows a lot more about who he doesn’t want to be than who he really is.
17. BETTER CALL SAUL.
Before Saul Goodman, he was Jimmy McGill. And if you’re calling Jimmy, you’re in real trouble. The prequel to “Breaking Bad” follows small-time attorney Jimmy McGill as he transforms into Walter White’s morally challenged lawyer, Saul Goodman.
16. ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.
Convicted of a decade old crime of transporting drug money to an ex-girlfriend, normally law abiding Piper Chapman is sentenced to a year and a half behind bars to face the reality of how life changing prison can really be.
15. THE WALKING DEAD.
Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes gets shot and falls into a coma. When awoken he finds himself in a Zombie Apocalypse. Not knowing what to do he sets out to find his family, after he’s done that he gets connected to a group to become the leader. He takes charge and tries to help this group of people survive, find a place to live, and get them food. This show is all about survival, the risks, and the things you’ll have to do to survive.
14. RESCUE ME.
On 9/11 firefighter Tommy Gavin lost hundred of friends, including his cousin/best friend Jimmy as well as part of his soul and sanity. Three years later and his life is in shambles and an everyday struggle not to take a drink. Between spying on (& trying to get back with) his separated wife and 3 kids, the growing sexual tension between him and Jimmy’s widow, his father and uncle’s erratic behavior and the antics of his crew, Tommy’s (Irish) anger and need to drink is at a tipping point – and now his survivor’s guilt is making him see and talk to dead people, particularly his cousin Jimmy. All these personal demons are threatening what he holds most dear – the inherent courage and pride it means to be a member of the perpetual boy’s club of the F.D.N.Y.
13. THE SOPRANOS.
An innovative look at the life of fictional Mafia Capo Tony Soprano, this serial is presented largely first person, but additional perspective is conveyed by the intimate conversations Tony has with his psychotherapist. We see Tony at work, at home, and in therapy. Moments of black comedy intersperse this aggressive, adult drama, with adult language, and extreme violence.
12. HALT AND CATCH FIRE.
Set in the 1980s, this series dramatizes the personal computing boom through the eyes of a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy whose innovations directly confront the corporate behemoths of the time. Their personal and professional partnership will be challenged by greed and ego while charting the changing culture in Texas’ Silicon Prairie.
11. MAD MEN.
The professional and personal lives of those who work in advertising on Madison Avenue – self-coined “mad men” – in the 1960s are presented. The stories focus on those at one of the avenue’s smaller firms, Sterling Cooper, and its various incarnations over the decade. At the heart of these stories is Donald Draper, the creative genius of the company. That professional creative brilliance belies the fact of a troubled childhood, one that he would rather forget and not let anyone know about except for a select few, but one that shaped who he is as an adult and as an ad man in the need not only to sell products but sell himself to the outside world. His outward confidence also masks many insecurities as evidenced through his many vices, such as excessive smoking, drinking and womanizing – the latter despite being a family man – and how he deals with the aftermath of some of the negative aspects of his life.
10. SONS OF ANARCHY.
Sons of Anarchy, aka SAMCRO, is a motorcycle club that operates both illegal and legal businesses in the small town of Charming. They combine gun-running and a garage, plus involvement in porn film. Clay, the president, likes it old school and violent; while Jax, his stepson and the club’s VP, has thoughts about changing the way things are, based on his dead father’s journal. Their conflict has effects on both the club and their personal relationships.
The adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok: the greatest hero of his age. The series tells the saga of Ragnar’s band of Viking brothers and his family as he rises to become King of the Viking tribes. As well as being a fearless warrior, Ragnar embodies the Norse traditions of devotion to the gods: legend has it that he was a direct descendant of Odin, the god of war and warriors.
8. THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.
A glimpse into an alternate history of North America. What life after WWII may have been like if the Nazis had won the war.
7. THE AMERICANS.
A pair of deep-cover Soviet spies masquerades as a typical DC couple whose children, neighbors, coworkers & friends are completely unaware of their activities. At home, they’re the stereotypical parents of stereotypical kids; at work, they pose as travel agents; but at night, they weave a web of confidants, lovers, dupes, and historical figures from the Reagan-era Cold War. The startlingly realistic plot twists force the viewer to consider the real cost of an undeclared war, what it takes to protect one’s beliefs, if it’s worth it, and if it actually worked for either side.
The all new “true crime” case of Fargo’s new chapter travels back to 1979 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Luverne, Minnesota, where a young State Police Officer Lou Solverson, recently back from Vietnam, investigates a case involving a local crime gang and a major Mob syndicate. Helping him piece things together is his father-in-law, Sheriff Hank Larsson. The investigation will lead them to a colorful cast of characters that includes Karl Weathers, the town lawyer of Luverne, Minnesota. A Korean War vet, Karl is a flowery drunk blessed with the gift of gab and the eloquence of a true con artist. Joe Bulo, the front man for the northern expansion of a Kansas City crime syndicate. The new face of corporate crime, Joe’s bringing a Walmart mentality to small town America. His number two is Mike Milligan. Part enforcer, part detective, Mike is always smiling – but the joke is usually on you. Bulo and his crew have their sights set on the Gerhardt crime family in Fargo, currently led by matriarch Floyd Gerhardt. With her husband at death’s door, Floyd takes over the family business, frustrating her eldest son, Dodd Gerhardt. An impatient hothead with a cruel streak to match his ambitions, Dodd can’t wait for both his parents to die so he can take over and expand their business from kingdom to empire. Bear Gerhardt is the middle son, an intimidatingly large man who, although inarticulate, is the most decent of his clan. Rye Gerhardt, the youngest of the Gerhardt clan, views himself as a big shot, but in reality he’s just a small dog who barks big.
5. THE NEWSROOM.
A news team attempts to create a news show that reports the news in an ethical and reasonable way. They take real, newsworthy events from our world as they’re happening (such as bin Laden’s justified killing, NSA spying, etc) and report on them as if they were an actual news station that followed rational and moral guidelines, in a biting criticism of our popular press and a clever blurring of art and reality
4. HOUSE OF CARDS.
Majority House Whip Francis Underwood takes you on a long journey as he exacts his vengeance on those he feels wronged him – that is, his own cabinet members including the President of the United States himself. Dashing, cunning, methodical and vicious, Frank Underwood along with his equally manipulative yet ambiguous wife, Claire take Washington by storm through climbing the hierarchical ladder to power in this Americanized recreation of the BBC series of the same name.
Westworld isn’t your typical amusement park. Intended for rich vacationers, the futuristic park allows its visitors to live out their most primal fantasies with the robotic “hosts.” However, the robotic hosts have evolved an artificial consciousness that is similar to, yet diverges from, human consciousness. No matter how illicit the fantasy may be, there are no consequences for the park’s guests, allowing for any wish to be indulged; but there is a price to be paid.
2. BREAKING BAD.
When chemistry teacher Walter White is diagnosed with Stage III cancer and given only two years to live, he decides he has nothing to lose. He lives with his teenage son, who has cerebral palsy, and his wife, in New Mexico. Determined to ensure that his family will have a secure future, Walt embarks on a career of drugs and crime. He proves to be remarkably proficient in this new world as he begins manufacturing and selling methamphetamine with one of his former students. The series tracks the impacts of a fatal diagnosis on a regular, hard working man, and explores how a fatal diagnosis affects his morality and transforms him into a major player of the drug trade.
1. MR. ROBOT.
Follows Elliot, a young programmer working as a cyber-security engineer by day, and a vigilante hacker by night.
DEXTER. (IGNORE THE LAST SEASON)
Dexter Morgan, Miami Metro Police Department blood spatter analyst, has a double life. When he’s not helping the Homicide division solving murders, he spends his time hunting and killing bad guys that slip through the justice system. He spends his sun-drenched days solving crimes – and moonlit nights committing them. But not to worry, our cool-blooded Dexter doesn’t kill just anyone. He reserves his homicidal hobbies to taking only the lives of other killers.
After creating this list, I found a new amazing TV Drama. Thought I’d give it an honorable mention.
Created and written by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij (The East), the latest Netflix original delves into the inexplicable reappearance of Prairie Johnson (Marling). Having gone missing seven years ago, the previously blind Johnson returns home, now in her 20s and with her sight restored. While many believe she is miracle, others worry that she could be dangerous.
This one is another late entry, but this show is absolutely amazing. It probably rivals Mr. Robot for the number one spot.
ALTERED CARBON is set in a future where consciousness is digitized and stored in cortical stacks implanted in the spine, allowing humans to survive physical death by having their memories and consciousness “re-sleeved” into new bodies. The story follows specially trained “Envoy” soldier Takeshi Kovacs, who is downloaded from an off-world prison and into the body of a disgraced cop at the behest of Laurens Bancroft, a highly influential aristocrat. Bancroft was killed, and the last automatic backup of his stack was made hours before his death, leaving him with no memory of who killed him and why. While police ruled it a suicide, Bancroft is convinced he was murdered and wants Kovacs to find out the truth.