If you were around here last week, you know that Peder shared a great list of his top five TV shows. And now it’s my turn! I have to say, I didn’t find this any easier than picking my favorite books, which surprised me a bit — I love a good TV show as much as the next nerd, but it’s really only been in the last few years that I’ve had the opportunity to finally watch some of the really good stuff (chalk it up to intermittent cable access in my youth and nonexistent TV access during my college years, I guess).
And like Peder, I primarily watch TV when I want some escapist fun, and that comes in many different forms that are hard to even really compare. I mean, one day I might be in the mood for a fantastical show; another day I might want to watch sci-fi; and at another time, I might want to watch a few episodes of a drama. I enjoy all those (extremely different) things about equally; it just depends on what sort of mood I’m in.
All that is to say that the rankings in this list are somewhat arbitrary, and might change depending on the day you ask me. Regardless, these are the five TV series that rise to the top of my list:
This space opera-style show came under my radar (ha, see what I did there?) not too long after it first aired in 2013 — it started out strong right from the first episode, and hasn’t stopped since. The show follows a trio of bounty hunters who conduct their badassery in a system of planets known as the Quad. The setting is part Firefly-style space-cowboy romp, part grungy dystopian, part action drama, and all fantastic. It’s honestly worth watching for the aesthetic alone, but it’s so much more than that, too — it’s well-developed characters who have increasingly complex relationships with each other, perfectly paced action, and tons of plot twists to keep you guessing. If you’ve ever loved a space story, you’re bound to love this show, too.
This show has had a special place in my heart from pretty much the first episode. I discovered Chuck when I was freshly graduated from college and unemployed, so I spent many delightful hours binge-watching it. As the show begins, the titular character, a tech nerd who works in a ho-hum job at a pseudo-Best Buy, is getting through the daily grind, wondering if anything interesting will ever happen to him. As it turns out, things are about to get a little too interesting — when Chuck opens a mysterious email from his estranged college friend, the contents of a supercomputer known as the Intersect are downloaded into his brain (stick with me here), making Chuck a living repository of tons of top-secret government information. When his friend’s organization tracks Chuck down and assigns a stone-cold (and gorgeous) spy to him as his handler/bodyguard, Chuck’s life goes from boring days in Burbank to exciting espionage missions all around the world. The show has that fish-out-of-water trope I can’t get enough of, an absolutely delightful protagonist, and a great cast of characters. It’s one I know I’ll rewatch again and again.
Like Peder, I have to rank this show among the best-of-the-best. This goofy show about a serial-job-hopper-turned-fake-psychic and his hilariously squeamish best friend is pretty much everything I want in a show. It has my absolute favorite type of humor, characters who don’t fit the usual mold, a healthy dose of absurdity, and a lot of heart. The protagonist, Shawn Spencer, should be kind of insufferable but is somehow lovable, and he and the other characters play off of each other perfectly. The lightning-quick humor and silliness had me hooked from the start, and the sheer variety and delightfulness of the episodes make it immensely rewatchable.
It kind of feels like blasphemy to have this show as only the second on my list, but you can at least rest assured that my top choice squeaked by this one by a VERY thin margin. I started watching Doctor Who right after I graduated from college, mainly because I had to know what all my nerdy friends were on about. I started by watching the first season of the New Who iteration that Peder mentioned, and as he notes, the first few episodes are preeeetty rough. Because of that, I didn’t get sucked in right away. Eventually, though, I powered through the cheesier stuff, and found I’d fallen in love with the show almost without realizing it. Doctor Who literally has something for everyone — adventure, conceptual sci-fi weirdness, romance, history, horror, heart-wrenching storylines, amazing characters, and pretty much everything else in between. If you can’t find at least a couple of episodes to love in this show, I’m convinced you’re just haven’t found the right one for you yet. While some episodes and seasons are inevitably better than others for such a long-running show, the hits far outweigh the misses, and this show will always have me coming back for more as long as it’s around.
Out of the shows I love, this is the one that always rises to the top. I fell in love with A:TLA when it first came out during my high school years, and I know that no matter how much I re-watch it, it’s never going to get old. The show takes place in a fantastical universe where a large portion of the population can control the different elements — water, earth, fire, and air. As the story starts, we learn that the Avatar, who has lived for thousands of years by way of reincarnation and is the only person in the world who can control all four elements, has been missing for 100 years. When a sister and brother from the water tribe find a young boy named Aang frozen in an iceberg, they discover that he is the Avatar that everyone has been searching for. While the Avatar was lost, the Fire Nation took the opportunity to assert their control over the other nations, and the world Aang wakes up to is very different from the one he left. With the weight of the world on his shoulders, it’s up to Aang to restore balance between the nations and the elements, with help from the friends he meets along the way.
This show really speaks to the part of me that I don’t think will ever stop being a kid — it’s that combination of wonder, adventure, fun, and heart that just feels like home to me. The series is equally full of hilarious, quotable moments and serious themes that will linger with you for a long time. It’s impressively mature for a show that’s mainly geared toward the middle-grade set, and in my very not-humble opinion, it’s the best thing Nickelodeon has ever done, either before or since.
To finish things off, I have to include some honorable mentions that were *this* close to making it on the list: Pushing Daisies (an absolute delight that ended way too soon), Firefly (the best space cowboy show ever), Outlander (three words: ALL THE FEELS), Community (just stupid-hilarious), Silicon Valley (the most fun I’ve ever had being stressed out and having secondhand embarrassment), Bob’s Burgers (way better than it has any right to be), and Sherlock (smart, sexy, and absolutely legendary).
Do any of your favorites overlap with mine? What TV shows would make it into your top 5?
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