Game of Thrones
2011-2019, HBO, 8 Seasons, 73 Episodes. Genre: Serial Drama, Fantasy. Where can you watch: HBONOW, HBOGO
Probably one of the greatest television shows of all time, the show is set in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, with varied intersecting plot lines and an incredible ensemble cast. The primary plot of the show is made up of several characters vying for rule of the Iron Throne and of Westeros itself. It is very difficult to stop watching this show once you get into it, as the episodes pass the drama unfolds and the intrigue deepens. You will root for many, yet you best get used to that no character is safe. The last season will be airing this April 2019, with episodes that have become as incredible as full length feature films.
2010-2017, BBC, 4 Seasons, 12 Episodes. Genre: Crime Drama, Procedural. Where can you watch: Netflix
This is Sherlock Holmes as you have never seen it before. Go beyond the fact that Mark Gatiss, and Steven Moffat have written an incredible show, both Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson give some of the most incredible performances seen on the silver screen. Cumberbatch brings forth a modern day Sherlock, who is a self described “high functioning sociopath,” a truly credible performance of a man who lives entirely in his own mind with little regard to the world outside. He is balanced by a dependable and capable Watson as played by Freeman - thus bringing a sense of warmth to the pair. The crime deduction sequences are ingenious, and intricate - a show to be surprised by. If the heroes don’t convince you, then the primary villains very well should - Andrew Scott’s Moriarty in particular has refined the television villain, you end up rooting for him just as much as you root for Sherlock.
2012-2014, HBO, 3 Seasons, 25 Episodes. Genre: Political Drama. Where can you watch: HBONOW, HBOGO
This show chronicles the behind-the-scenes events of the fictional Atlantic Cable News network. With an ensemble cast led by Jeff Daniels as primetime anchor Will McAvoy, the show interpolates the telling of the news, with how that news is found, sourced, and presented. While some of the news events depicted on the show are made up, the show also utilizes events from our lives and offers commentary on it. The first newscast we are presented with in the pilot deals with the Deepwater Horizon spill - as the episodes follow you can track the timeline with the real life events that are depicted. The show is excellently written, acted, directed and produced; it pulls no punches, but much like the characters in the show, it is focused on the facts about journalism: the news is a broadcast of facts, the facts are presented by credible individuals with proof of their statements, the job of the journalist is to both inform and commentate on the news of the day while remaining as impartial as possible. With todays tendencies to find your news from posts on social media, this show is a great reminder of why the career of journalism exists in the first place.
2000-2007, 2016, The WB, CW, and Netflix, 7 Seasons, 153 Episodes, 4 Part MiniSeries Revival. Genre: Drama, Comedy. Where can you watch: Netflix
This show is a staple. It follows the life of Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory, and in turn their incredible relationship. It is filled with incredible characters, and the storylines are varied, entertaining, and heartfelt. The show explored a variety of issues and life events stemming from family, romance, education, friendship, disappointment, ambition, class divides, and growing up. We attend Chilton and later on Yale with Rory, we accompany her as she experiences her first love, school pressure, and family drama. We go along with Lorelai as she goes from Inn Manager to Inn Owner, from her varied relationships (like that one time she tried dating Jon Hamm), how her relationship with her parents is mended, and broken, and mended yet again. We meet Emily and Richard Gilmore, Luke Danes, Lane, Kirk, and Sookie, and hundreds of other lively and entertaining characters from the eclectic Stars Hollow, and the Dignified Hartford. This is one of those shows where everyone feels like family and you care about each and every one of their outcomes. Also, you will end up wanting to have Lorelai as your mother, or wanting to be her.
2016-present, Showtime, 3 Seasons, 36 Episodes, Genre: Financial Drama. Where can you Watch: Showtime, Showtime Anytime
This show has little to do with finance and more to do with the people who work in the field. Starring Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis in opposing leading roles, it follows the story of an US Attorney and his attempts to arrest a hedge fund manager by discovering any illegal acts he may have been involved in. The strength of the show is in the intrigue: the intrigue of how Lewis’ character Bobby Axelrod conceals his less than legal activities, and how Giamatti’s character, Chuck Rhodes, moves the pieces to uncover them. You root for both to succeed, and for both to fail. The other boon: the show sets up the primary characters in the first season, and it offers enough plot to keep everyone entertained, but as the seasons have passed, the show continues to introduce new strong characters while maintaining incredible storylines. The fourth season is expected to premiere March 17th, 2019.
How I Met Your Mother
2005-2014, CBS, 9 Seasons, 208 Episodes, Genre: Sitcom. Where can you Watch: Hulu
The show begins with Ted Mosby telling his children the story about how he met their mother. The story also recounts most of his life with his best friends Marshall, Lily, Barney, and his often friend and once girlfriend Robin. In fact, while you do see glimpses of what will at one point be referred to as “The Mother,” you do not meet her almost until the end of the show. This is the modern day version of Friends - a sitcom detailing the lives of a group of people, and how their lives intersect with each other and others. Not only is the show incredibly well scripted, and produced, the show has created staples of television, and some of the most amazing hours of silver screen in all time. Additional props need to be given to Neil Patrick Harris for his portrayal of Barney Stinson - one of the most iconic characters ever created: from his epic lines, crazy plots, and down right awesome-ness, Barney Stinson is one of those characters you can’t help but to root for. If it was not made clear, I am team Barney and Robin.
Friday Night Lights
2006-2011, NBC, 5 Seasons, 76 Episodes, Genre: Sports Drama, Teen Drama, Family Drama. Where can you watch: Hulu
This series is based in Dillon, Texas; a small rural community who loves football. The primary cast includes Coach Eric Taylor and him leading the Dillon Panthers high school football team through their regular season. The show was received to critical acclaim, with both audience and critics commenting on his realistic portrayal of Middle America and how deeply the characters were developed. It is a show that feels contemporary no matter that it ended over five years ago, tackling issues such as family values, school funding, racism, drugs, education, lack of opportunities, and relationships. While all drama shows are known for the confrontation of characters emotions, few have done so as strongly or directly as Friday Night Lights. This is also, in my opinion, one of the most binge-worthy shows of all time. It is extremely difficult not to finish once you’ve started.
2007-2015, AMC, 7 Seasons, 92 Episodes, Genre: American Period Drama. Where can you watch: Netflix
Set primarily in the 1960s, the show follows main character Don Draper, a creative director for the fictional Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency; the plot of the show focusing a balance between the business of ad agencies as well as the personal lives of the characters - which often intersected with the changing social and mood environments of 1960s America. The show received critical and audience acclaim for the writing, acting, direction, and production. Mad Men, which was often lauded for its realistic portrayal of society in the 60s, depicted themes of alienation, social mobility, and ruthlessness in life. It did not shy away of portraying characters drinking at work, smoking socially, having affairs, confronting social and personal issues, as well as displaying some of the darker sides of the times. The shows primary character struggles with his own identity, and as such, the theme of personal identity is a recurring storyline through out the show. In fact, many have said that the character of Don Draper is so interesting since he is the lie he sells - from hiding his true identity, Don Draper and his life are a sweet fabrication of his own design.
The Night Manager
2016, BBC, 1 Season, 6 Episodes, Genre: Drama, Espionage Drama. Where can you watch: Amazon Prime Video
The show follows luxury hotel manager Jonathan Pine, played by Tom Hiddleston, as he is recruited to the life of a spy by Angela Burr, an enforcement agent office, played by Olivia Colman; as they attempt to infiltrate and expose arms dealer Richard Roper, played by Hugh Laurie. The short series was received with high praise - it delivers one of the best adaptations of a John Le Carre novel ever made. The show is built on strong characters, with Hiddleston’s Pine, you find a strong, and resilient hero, purely motivated to do anything to stop Laurie’s Roper, a character who plays a horribly convincing villain. The polarity between the motivations of both characters becomes the more and more apparent as the show progresses and events unfold. In a side plot, we also see a storyline of how far reaching Roper is, as he manipulates the heads of the CIA and MI6 in London, to maintain his operation. The show moves at a steady pace, with the events neither rushing nor dragging, but moving seamlessly from scene to scene, plot point to plot point. A second series is rumored to be in the works - and while we may or may not see Tom Hiddleston as James Bond, he still makes one hell of a spy in his portrayal of Jonathan Pine.
The West Wing
1999-2006, NBC, 7 Seasons, 156 Episodes, Genre: Political Drama, Serial. Where can you Watch: Netflix
A series set in the fictional administration of Democratic president Josiah Bartlet, and it follows the political landscape from the staff in the West Wing, where the Oval Office as well and the office of presidential senior staff are located. This show has received praised from numerous critics and publications, from political science professors, and from former White House staffers, and has often been the subject of critical analysis. The show’s legitimacy, political slant, and idealistic representation of Washington is carried through its seasons, as political events (both completely fictional or based on true events) unfold and their repercussions are managed by federal staff. The realism of the show is its rock and its bane, with critics often finding that the realism of the plot often meant that the naivety of certain characters where out of place. In that respect I often took the character’s optimism and purity, as an idealized representation of the people we hope were in office. Similar to his other show on this list 'The Newsroom,’ Aaron Sorkin is making a commentary on life, while also making the subject feel a lot more real than the picture we get in our lives. It is a show that speaks volumes to the character and morality of people in office, especially when the show goes out of its way to depict, explain and point out the fact that federal positions such as Presidents, Senators and Congressmen and women serve the people, and in this idealistic depiction of American politics the corrupt are often the rare exception instead of the common rule.
Honorable Mentions: Downton Abbey, The Office, Batman: The Animated Series, This is Us, Sopranos, The Wire, House MD, Friends, Prison Break, The Sopranos, Rome, 24, ER, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Cheers, Band of Brothers, Parks and Recreation, Avatar: The Last Airbender.