For those who know me, it’s not exactly a surprise that I keep up with many shows. I’ve narrowed my choices down to 10, of which I think, are the best shows on television – or at least my favorite – right now. I do not discriminate between drama, comedy or genre. Though, I still grieve long gone shows such as LOST and Parks and Rec (that’s a whole ‘nother post), there are plenty that can fill the void.
So, in order, they are:
#10 Stranger Things
I was excited about Stranger Things since Netflix premiered the trailer. I loved the aesthetic: 1980’s, Indiana, very E.T., Stephen King, Stand By Me-esqe. Never could I have imagined it was going to be better than I anticipated and take off as it did. I watched it over two days and it truly felt like I was watching something filmed in the 1980’s. The cinematography, directing, and writing paid homage to movies of that era and truly transported its viewers back in time. The show, and its mystery, were able to bring in viewers that would not normally enjoy a genre show. In terms of viewership, it crossed genres, it crossed demographics, and it crossed countries. The writing is engrossing, engaging and, most importantly, adamantly human. It easily bridged the gap between genre viewers and contemporary viewers. I originally was very happy to see it as a one off series, but I’m excited to see what the writers will come up with next and how they will expand on the mystery, after we’ve already got *some* answers.
Boy, is this show EX – TRA, but so, so fun. I, personally, was a big fan of the Archie comics growing up, and I was always a Betty girl. This show takes a darker spin on a sort of “pleasentville” town. The ‘Riverdale’ in the comics was similar to a 50’s, 60’s utopia, so it’s interesting to see these characters and this town given a darker twist. Betty, Veronica and Archie were boxed into very specific stereotypes: Betty was the nice girl next door, Archie was the golden boy, and Veronica was the rich girl. This show gives the characters new perspectives, and shows deeper, different sides to them. It may be a teen show, but the mystery at heart, a murder mystery, is very intriguing. It is as “drama” as drama can get, but still makes fun of itself, whilst keeping the watcher attentive to the mystery at hand. It’s already been renewed for a second season, but the show runners have warned that the season finale, coming up in a few weeks, has a “genre twist”. One popular theory is that the show will spin off into the “Afterlife with Archie” territory, a zombie take on the original comics, as we already have a dead body in the show. Either way, the show is super entertaining and will leave you waiting for the next episode!
#8 Bob’s Burgers
This show has a special place in my heart. I’ve watched many other adult cartoons, most notably Family Guy, but somehow this show was able to retain an adult viewership whilst remaining very wholesome and not stooping down to non-PC jokes. Each character is drastically distinct, and very lovable. It’s extremely rewatchable, and has developed a cult viewership. If you are normally a fan of adult cartoons, but have yet to indulge in Bob’s Burgers, I adamantly insist you check it out. It’s available on Netflix, Hulu and its home, Fox.
#7 New Girl
Number seven on my list (though number 1 in the way of comedy) is Fox’s New Girl. In the wake of Parks and Rec and 30 Rock, what could fill the sitcom comedy hole in my heart? It recently wrapped up its 7th – and potentially last – season, but this awkward ensemble comedy has been rock solid since the beginning. Each character is just as lovable, if not more so, than the next. It may be reminiscent of Friends, in a more millennial, PC type of way, but it remains fresh and funny. Its humor is truly its own. The characters are their own. It feels real and genuine. This show’s personality will go down in tv comedy history with Parks and Rec, Friends and 30 Rock. Now, Fox, give us a farewell season! The ratings remain steady, meaning it has a devoted viewership, but it’s currently the lowest rated comedy on Fox, which truly blows my mind.
#6 Black Mirror
Black Mirror, an anthology in which each episode is based in a different potential future, is not a show to binge, but it is brilliant, and it never underestimates its viewer. It’s first two seasons, consisting of 7 episodes in total, aired on BBC from 2011 to 2013. A few years later, in 2015, Netflix picked it up for an addition 2 seasons, each with 6 episodes, the first of which premiered in October 2016, and that’s when it truly exploded. The title “Black Mirror” is representative of a dark reflection of our own technological society. If you are familiar with Kurt Vonnegut, this may sound familiar. The series very much reminds me of the short story collection, “Welcome to the Monkey House” by Vonnegut. The very first episode is particularly brutal, but as I said, this is not a binging show. Each episode is heavy enough to leave you needing a stiff drink and a walk; even I haven’t watched all of them. But the writing and execution is beyond brilliant, and the show itself, I’m sure, will be picked up for more seasons on Netflix, and continue to disturb us all, whilst enlightening us.
#5 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
In the wake of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report announcing the end of their seasoned shows, we needed another strong voice to help us through the political turmoil of the past few years. We turned to John Oliver, who was only on his sophomore season of his new show by the time both Stewart and Colbert’s reigns had ended. Even in its first season, Last Week Tonight began to rival the two beloved hosts on Comedy Central. Oliver found a new formula as a political, comedic pundit, different than what we were use to seeing. Indeed, he poked fun at the world’s biggest headlines, but majority of the show was spent digging deeply into one specific social, political or economical issue, exploiting issues rooted within our systems. It feels more like extensive investigatory journalism than a simple recap of the week. He ends the show with hilarious asks from his audience (that are accompanied by hilarious responses), or songs and videos. It’s clever and interactive.
Trevor Noah, Larry Wilmore, Bill Maher and Samantha Bee are all fantastic, but John Oliver has truly emerged as the King of late night political comedy.
If you were a fan of LOST, you’ll be a fan of Westworld. The show, for it’s very first season, was given a budget similar to Game of Thrones, at $8 to $10 million per episode. HBO was ready for a new powerhouse hit, after lacking in any new Drama hits since Game of Thrones, and they went all in. After recasting, filming set backs, and pushing the premiere date farther and farther back, the show finally premiered in October 2016 and it exploded on the internet, theories galore. The show was layer on layer of twists and turns, even coming down to the very basic question of, “who is human and who isn’t?” Though internet sleuths picked up the huge end of season revelation by episode 2, majority of casual viewers were shocked, and I think it’s safe to say the end shocked us ALL.
The premise sounds a bit crazy, sure. Similar to it’s predecessor and source material of the same title, Westworld is about a Wild West theme park, full of human-like, interactive robots that customers can talk with, go on adventures with, and even sleep with. It’s reminiscent of a RPG video game, except in real life. Westworld, like LOST, doesn’t underestimate it’s viewer (though, perhaps they underestimated web sleuths), and is full of layers upon layers of questions and answers that only open up to more questions and answers. Season 2 will drop on HBO in early 2018, and the show runners have already mapped out the first 5 seasons, and I would expect Westworld to take over the HBO’s Iron Throne once Game of Thrones concludes in 2018.
#3 The 100
This show. Thiiiiis show. I could talk about this show for ages. In the not-so-distant future, the Earth is inhabitable, and the only humans left live on a space station. Unfortunately, the space station is dying, and in a last ditch effort to save their people, they decide to send one hundred prisoners (who are all under the age of 18, as when adults commit a crime – any crime – they are put to death, they don’t have the resources to keep them alive) to “the ground” to see if it is habitable. When the delinquents land, they quickly discover the Earth is indeed habitable – and they are not alone.
Yes, this show starts off as if it’s another CW grab bag but quickly differentiates itself as an original, new story. Perhaps it would have been better off on Sy-fi, alas, it has been renewed for a 5th season. The show has three strengths: its ethical dilemmas, its characters, and its world building. Many compare this show to Lord of the Flies, but this show goes much beyond that; it adds elements of sci-fi. We watch as these young, innocent characters are faced with horrible ethical dilemmas as they try to establish themselves on the ground, whilst trying to stay true to themselves and not becoming a “monster.” But by the end of the day, the black and white lines of good and bad are quickly erased and you realize “maybe there are no good guys.” At the core of the show, a question begs: are “who you are” vs. “who you need to be to survive” the same thing? The 100 writers do not hold back, from radiation poisoning to massacres, this show can be brutal, and will challenge your own morals. More often then not, there is no “good” solution for the situations the characters find themselves in. Perspective is a large part of it. The world is constantly growing, revealing new people and new places, but it always comes back to its roots. If you haven’t already, check it out on Netflix.
#2 Game of Thrones
What can I say? I’m sure you’ve heard of it, if not already watched it, so I won’t spend too much time on it. After watching the first three episodes I was already set on reading the books, then, I binge-read them over the course of a few months. This is truly the gold standard of television. I mean, the world building, the storylines, the characters and the execution (pun intended), feel like more than television (Thanks, HBO). I can only say, when it comes to storytelling, the books and the show are beyond compare. The world is so rich, and expansive, it feels like a real place, in some other time and world. HBO definitely anticipated its success; they held out with the huge revelations, planting the seeds seasons ago, only to sew them years later. It’s patient and smart. It crosses genres and viewership. Simply put, this as rich as television can get.
#1 Doctor Who
It takes a time traveling alien to bring about the best of humanity, right? Well, usually. Sometimes humanity can bring out the worst in him, but that’s part of what makes this show so brilliant. No other show has shows me the turmoil of life or the beauty of it and how most of the time they are deeply intertwined Storytelling-wise, I could have very easily given this spot to Game of Thrones, but it lacks what Doctor Who can make us feel.
I truly don’t think any other show has ever, or could, make us feel the same level of hope, or desperation or fear or love or understanding of our quiet moment in the universe. This show is able to make us feel how small we are in the scope of this whilst making us feel like we are truly the only thing that matters, all at the same time. The Doctor does not discriminate between miracles:
“The universe is big, its vast and complicated, and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.
The Doctor is just a visitor in our lives, but he shows us the best of who we are, and who we can be. He has chosen to defend the Earth as his own, because his planet, his family and his people are gone. Though he is alone in the universes, he refuses to let others be alone and solidly believes that every soul, on every planet, is important. He says:
You know that in nine hundred years of time and space and I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important before.
Doctor Who, a man-made creation, truly is here to show us how good humanity could be, and how wonderful it is to be alive. The Doctor, though different than us, as a foreigner, understands how magical our lives are. The Doctor represents all the mystery and beauty that life can hold; and he holds out his hand towards us. He begs us to ask the question, “What if?”
(Usually followed by, “run!”)
Goblin: The Great & Lonely God
Here me out: this is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever watched. I’m putting this as an honorable mention because it is in Korean, and I know some people are not privy to reading subtitles, but it is worth it. The “goblin” (which really doesn’t translate into english) is a human that has become immortal, and can only be killed by his bride, aka “the goblin’s bride.” So, he’s waited around for a long and lonely 900 years to finally be able to meet his death – his bride – but of course, once he meets her… he finally has a reason to live. This story goes beyond the Goblin and his bride; we meet a grim reaper, a dead soul who has chosen to forget the sins of his past, and a lonely woman, reaching for a void she cannot explain. If you are intrigued by the idea of reincarnation, gods on earth, and destiny vs. fate, check this show out! Sure, things get lost in translation, but most of the time it’s completely beautiful. The cinematography is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and it’s just as beautiful as the story itself. Check it out on Dramafever.com.