If you haven’t seen The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones, this list isn’t for you. We’re not highlighting the most obvious shows that you should have binge-watched already if you’re a real binge-watcher like us. This is a list of shows that you’ve probably considered at one point or another but weren’t absolutely certain.
This list should make you absolutely certain.
As usual, no spoilers.
We’ve seen all of these and have reviewed some of them, so this isn’t a list of shows pulled from other lists. In fact, there are shows we’ve seen that are regulars on other lists that we didn’t include because, despite critical acclaim or being fan favorites, they simply aren’t as good as these.
12. The Night Of
It was supposed to be a limited series, but buzz started surrounding The Night Of as soon as it was released on HBO. Now, they’re working on a follow up to the unique show. In it, character development in extreme situations over time is the prominent theme. It revolves around an innocent man (or is he?) charged with a heinous crime, his street-smart lawyer, and some incredible supporting characters who bring both of the leads to life.
From beginning to end, the theme of this 8-episode limited series is discomfort. You are supposed to feel uncomfortable within the first few minutes of the first episode and at no point until the credits roll in the final episode are you supposed to feel okay. The catch is, if you want shows to make you feel happy, hopeful, or redeemed, you won’t find it here. Nobody grows in a positive manner. Nobody is better off in the end than they were in the beginning.
11. Stranger Things
A handful of shows on this list have received a ton of buzz, and few have received as much as Stranger Things. The tale of 80s kids, supernatural events, a powerful young girl, and a demogorgon keeps viewers on the edge of their seats throughout. We know you’ve probably already binged this one, but if you haven’t, do so now.
Lastly, it can’t be understated that the biggest strength of the series came from the very beginning when they picked the cast. Their choices were incredible across the board and they continued this trend with the new characters in 2. Sean Astin was particularly perfect.
The real challenge will come with trying to top their first two outings with a third installment. Two-in-a-row is tough when trying to achieve greatness with any television series, but they have the core necessary to make it happen. Can’t wait to binge again next year.
I’m not a fan of overused tropes, including the brilliant cop who bends the rules to put justice over protocol. Bosch is a walking embodiment of that trope, but it’s able to overcome it by embracing it and mixing in incredible acting across the board. The stories are realistic enough that we don’t get caught into false magnitudes of importance surrounding the main character. He’s just a great cop with a perfect partner and a stellar boss. None of them are perfect without each other, but combined they do what they can to keep the streets of Hollywood safe.
Right off the bat, this feels like The Wire. While not possessing the same grit or ensemble cast of characters, it’s clear this is going to be a straight-forward police procedural without the glamour associated with so many cop shows over the last decade. Detective work isn’t glamorous. It’s tedious and we get to feel that very quickly. Of course, the presence of two very notable actors from The Wire helped make the connection.
Another popular show, this one made the list because rumors are circulating that it’s coming back for a 5th season. If we are willing to forgive the abysmal 4th season, the rest of the seasons are immaculate. Not much needs to be said other than Sherlock; if you’re a fan of the drug-using, narcissistic high-functioning sociopath, then you’ll probably enjoy this modern interpretation.
It’s fair to say that even after leaving Sherlock behind, co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are pretty busy at the moment, whether they’re working together on new supernatural drama Dracula or separately on other projects (like Moffat’s newly-announced Time Traveller’s Wife TV series).
However, that doesn’t mean that their most famous collaboration is being left behind forever – because some new information has arisen suggesting that the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring BBC detective drama might just be returning to screens sooner than expected.
The show has been canceled. That alone should be enough to keep it off any binge-watching list, but Daredevil is special. The self-contained nature of the seasons means they come to proper conclusions, including the final season. There are a handful of unanswered questions that are annoyingly left, but it’s no more than most completed series. Of the various superhero shows, this is by far the best. There’s also a chance it could be resurrected by Disney+, the upcoming streaming service that notably has a cozy relationship with Marvel.
Daredevil has proven to be everything fans of vulnerable superheroes could be. I’m not a fan of titan versus titan; the superheroes in Marvel and DC movies don’t impress me because they’re too strong. When the only challenge has to come in the form of demigods or advanced alien invasions, it’s no longer intriguing. It’s just explosions and noise.
This is why I was a huge fan of the Dark Knight trilogy. Batman and the villains he faced were exceptional humans, but humans nonetheless. He had to worry about attack dogs and women with knives, a far cry from the immense powers of Superman or the Hulk, Wonder Woman or Thor.
Shows that go episode-to-episode rarely interest me, but this one was different. First, the setting was unique; a small county in Wyoming isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when people think of murder mysteries, but Longmire pulls it off remarkably. Unlike other shows on the list, the characters in this particular show aren’t outstanding other than the titular lead character himself. Thankfully, he’s able to carry the show the first couple of seasons before it switches gears and formulates a long-spanning cohesive storyline.
Granted, this particular 10-episode run will likely be a profoundly mixed blessing, no matter how excellent those episodes might be, since it will be the final season for the series that Netflix picked up in 2014 when it was canceled by A&E (reportedly because it appealed to an older demographic that was unappealing to advertisers, despite it scoring respectable ratings over three seasons on the cable network). But first things first. Before we can even think of what awaits us at the end of the trail, we want to see how Longmire walks us back from the cliffhangers that were set up in the Season 5 finale.
This is the second of four BBC shows to make this list, and one can easily argue it deserves to be closer to the top. It’s the most watch BBC drama in decades and for good reason. Though only six episodes long, it makes the most of it and introduces us to the person we think is most likely to be the next James Bond once Daniel Craig finishes his run. Of all the shows on here, this has arguably the best overall acting.
At six hour-long episodes, this first series is a self-contained story that leaves the possibilities for the second series wide open. But don’t wait until the next series to launch before diving into the first. It’s fully resolved by the end in an almost too-neat ending. Intended to be a standalone mini-series, its popularity has sparked calls for expanding it. At this point, that seems like a foregone conclusion. Madden is set to meet with show creator and writer Jed Mercurio later this month.
5. Mr. Robot
Few who have seen Mr. Robot argue that the biggest appeal is a tight race between the astounding storytelling that dives into the deep hacker world or the amazing character built by Rami Malek. After three seasons, we’re ready to wrap it all up in 2019 for the final season, but not without a sense of a void that no show will ever be able to fill. Like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, this is a show that will own its genre for a long time. Anyone who tries to take on hacking as a topic will be compared to Mr Robot and will fall short.
The end of the road for USA Network’s critical hit Mr. Robot is in sight, as the previously announced fourth season of the Sam Esmail-created drama starring Rami Malek will be its last. The network-defining series will begin production in the winter in New York for a premiere in 2019, meaning the show will have been off the air for more than a year when the final season debuts.
It’s no coincidence this show made it to #4 on our list. It was hard to know which of Sam Esmail’s creations would rank higher, but since this show seems to have a longer future than Mr. Robot, we went with Homecoming. It’s a smaller drama (at least for now) that doesn’t deal with the shift of civilization like Esmail’s previous show did. But being smaller by no means it’s any less entertaining.
With Homecoming, there aren’t insanely talented hackers taking on the biggest corporation in the world with vast criminal organizations intermingled into the plot. Instead, we have a waitress, a low-level government pencil pusher, a creepy mid-level executive, and a soldier. Esmail takes this humble premise and somehow keeps us immersed in intrigue. I can’t say much more without spoiling it, so I won’t.
Season two is already green-lit. We don’t know how well the first season did since Amazon doesn’t report viewing numbers, but the critical response has been strong, scoring a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. Reports indicate we can expect the next installment in fall, 2019.
3. Peaky Blinders
The top three could really go in any order. We’re starting off with Peaky Blinders because it’s the one that has the most flaws. As the ever-expanding power of Thomas Shelby starts to weigh down the show’s gritty and more humble beginnings, we’re start to see challenges in keeping up the tension without artificially creating it. Season one was better than two, which was better than three. But season four came along and blew us out of the water, so all is forgiven. It’s also worth noting that season 3, the worst of the bunch, was still great. It just wasn’t quite as great as the rest.
Fans of Peaky Blinders are unique. The vibrant world revealed to us through the show is so enthralling and different from our own that it can have a direct effect on our worldview in the same way Game of Thrones does now and Boardwalk Empire did in the past. Television shows set in times and places unfamiliar to us can only accomplish this when they have characters who truly draw us in. That’s what makes us unique. A part of us is left on the streets of early 20th century Birmingham even when the final credits roll.
2. The Expanse
Of all the shows on this list, The Expanse is the most underappreciated. It already suffered through cancellation by SyFy to be picked up by Amazon, promising a long run ahead. The thing that makes this show so great is the part that’s hidden from most who haven’t seen it yet. They look at the premise or watch a trailer and think it’s just another sci-fi drama. It is, but behind the science fiction is a rich story that works as both a political thriller and a stunning mystery. Sorry Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica fans (of which I am one). This is the best sci-fi show on television.
The biggest challenge with The Expanse is getting past its complicated premise. In the first two or three episodes, it’s hard to follow who’s on which side, how everything ties together between multiple storylines, and how the complex political structure plays out. There are three government entities: Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Earth is the biggest of the three. Mars is smaller but technologically more advanced as a colony from Earth that broke away to become a standalone entity. The Belt, as in those living and working in or beyond the asteroid belt, is made up of various factions and is still beholden to both Earth and Mars as the primary source for resources in the solar system.
If you’re not watching Luther, then shame on you. This isn’t just the best cop drama on television. It’s the most binge-worthy show right now, period. That’s not to say it’s the best overall show on television, but one of the attributes necessary to make a show binge-worthy is its ability to make you want to keep watching even after you’ve been sitting around for a three or four hour binge session. Season five is coming soon. If you haven’t watched Luther yet, now’s the perfect time to start.
Here are three reasons everyone who likes a good cop show should binge the first four seasons now. When you’re done, you’ll be ready to wait like the rest of us for the highly anticipated new installment.
Watch the trailer. Catch up on the show if you haven’t yet. Watch it again if you need to refresh your memory. One thing spoiled in the trailer is another reason to watch this show: Alice is back.
What do you think? Did we miss a show? Are there any on the list you think don’t belong here? Let us (and everyone else) know.