Honorable mentions: Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Atlanta, Fargo, Justified, Orange is the New Black, The Good Wife, Transparent, House of Cards, Silicon Valley, True Detective, Mr. Robot, This is Us (aka all shows that are buzzy and/or amazing since 2010 that I’ve seen at least one episode or one season or occasionally read a recap, just so I can know what my coworkers are freaking out about and offer an opinion on it even though I didn’t see it, just kidding I never do that because I’m not the worst.) (Oh, also You’re the Worst.)
5. The Americans, FX, January 30, 2013 – Present
I just started this show and it’s so fantastic that I’m actually annoyed with myself that it’s taken me this long to get into it. It has all of my trigger points – Keri Russell, chock full of character actors, pristine 80s fashion and music choices, and it’s all about the spies next door. Fun fact- my sister lives in Mont Clair, NJ and her house is across the street from a boarded up house that, up until about a month before my sister moved into her house, was owned by a married couple with kids who were arrested for being Russian spies. Ever since then, I’ve found the subject fascinating. This is my favorite kind of high-concept show and I love that it’s grounded in grim reality (especially these days) with, okay, some outsized sex and violence and mayhem. I mean, come on… we’re Americans.
4. New Girl, FOX, September 20, 2011 – Present
I read an article recently decrying how much the romantic comedy has changed. Modern audiences don’t want to see a traditional, You’ve Got Mail-esque movie or, at least, Hollywood has definitely stopped making them the old-fashioned way. I’d argue that we spend a lot of time talking about what a boon of fantastic TV we have at the same time movies are seeing a creative decline, but it’s usually the dramas that get all the focus. Dramas may bring the prestige but if you’re craving that old Preston Sturges black magic, or hearing a little voice whisper in your ear, “you wish Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan could be in every movie”, New Girl is the fix for you. Sure, it’s had its off episodes (this is a show that would absolutely benefit from shorter season runs), not to mention off-casting (please keep Megan Fox and her monotone line delivery away from my beloved TV screen) but at its heart is the Nick and Jess love story and I can assure you, it’s a good one, worthy of a swoon or two. The show is not perfect but it’s quirky and sweet and some scenes are genuinely, absolutely, deeply funny.
3. Downtown Abbey, January 9, 2011 – 2016
Downtown Abbey will be regarded as a cultural touchstone for this part of the century. It’s Masterpiece Theater and produced to the nines so it should probably be held in the same category as, say, Roots in the ’70s but it also unmistakably has elements of a soap opera too, let’s be real. At the height of its popularity, before Dan Stevens decided to quit and ruin all of our lives, it felt like it was being watched by everyone I had ever met (Note: it should be obvious by now that I know mostly white people.) It also forced us to appreciate Dame Maggie Smith, more vocally and more often. You’ll get no complaints from me; she’s an international treasure and this role felt like her personal gift to us.
2. VEEP, HBO, April 22, 2012 – Present
The news that Arrested Development is coming back for a fifth season doesn’t exactly fill me with happiness; the last time we tried to bring back AD, it was a disaster. A messy, convoluted plot and just disheartening that they couldn’t find a way to bring the cast back under the same roof. And why do we need AD anyway, when we have VEEP? It’s like a merger of West Wing, the movie In the Loop, Curb Your Enthusiasm and I’m here for all of it, every uncomfortable second. It should be considered a privilege and an honor that we live in an age where Julia Louis Dreyfus is working and this material, in particular, is heaven-sent. Julia Louis Dreyfus should frankly be on television at all times. As soon as one show ends, please just give her another show until one of us dies.
1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix, March 6, 2015 – Present
I love this show so much that it almost prompted me to have a mental breakdown.
Season 1 was great but there are parts of the darker, more ambition second season that set my heart aflame (Amy Sedaris, Mikey’s entire Italian family, David Cross to name a few). It’s the mile-a-minute jokes of Tina Fey’s 30 Rock with the surreality jacked way up and the premise, written and executed perfectly for Ellie Kemper, could feel tired by now but really is just a gift that keeps on giving. I walked into work after bingeing the whole second season over the weekend and when I mentioned it to my two closest friends and they responded, “Eh,” about a show that they had also binged but just didn’t find quite as funny as I did, I felt my soul basically crash through my body and hit the floor. The moment made me realize I was actually in a serious depression at the time and my failure, in the moment, to connect with people over this thing that brought me so much joy was too much for my heart to bear. It was a moment that needed to happen and in a weird way, it only made me appreciate the show more. Like being hit by a car but Tina Fey was driving and she said, “I’m sorry, text me anytime and I’ll occasionally tell you a joke.” So, you know, getting hit by a vehicle was basically worth it. Season 3 started streaming this week. I don’t need the laughs quite as much as I did the last time but I cannot wait to watch the shit out of it this weekend.