In No Particular Order
1. The Shield – 2002 – 2008 – The Shield marked FX’s first foray into original programming to great success. The show follows Vic Mackey and members of his Strike Team, part of an special anti-gang unit in the Los Angeles Police Department, as they break laws and bend the rules to prosecute criminals and maintain peace in the streets, all while generating a profit for themselves. The show has seven seasons and is complete.
2. The Wire – 2002 – 2008 – Considered by many to be one the best television dramas of all time, The Wire is an American crime-drama television series produced and set in an around Baltimore, Maryland. The show chronicles the seedier sides of Baltimore, from the streets and drug trade, the seaports, to the widespread dysfunction seen in city government and bureaucracy, the school systems, and the media. The show has five seasons and is complete.
3. Game of Thrones – 2011 – In Progress – Based on the award-winning books by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones follows several noble houses in a civil war for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Through several plot lines told through multiple perspectives, the story’s morally ambiguous characters navigate through issues involving social hierarchy, religion, loyalty, corruption, sexuality, war, crime and punishment. Currently the show has three seasons available for binging, with a fourth set to begin in April.
4. The Americans – 2013 – In Progress – Set during the 1980s in the midst of the Cold War, The Americans is the story of two Soviet KGB officers posing as a married couple living in the Washington D.C. suburbs with their unsuspecting children. The series focuses on the personal and professional lives of the KGB agents and their family, while incorporating real-life events into the narrative. The show is currently airing the second season on FX on Wednesdays, but the first is an absolute must-watch.
5. Hannibal – 2013 – In Progress – Based on the characters and elements from the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, Hannibal focuses on the relationship between FBI investigator Will Graham and psychiatrist / forensic analyst Dr. Hannibal Lector. The show owes a large part of its success to the outstanding performance of Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal, who by day helps Graham to maintain his sanity while he investigates and pursues serial killers, and by night commits the murders himself and then serves the cannibalistic cuisine to his unsuspecting dinner guests. The show is currently airing the second season Friday nights on NBC.
6. The Following – 2013 – In Progress – The Following tells the story of FBI Agent Ryan Hardy and his attempts to re-capture serial killer Joe Carroll. The story soon takes a sharp twist however, as Hardy discovers that Carroll has amassed a cult of like-minded fanatical killers who have been unleashed to create chaos and death in their wake. The show is currently airing it’s second season Monday nights on FOX.
7. Vikings – 2013 – In Progress – Vikings marks the entrance of The History Channel in original show programming. Based on true historical events, Vikings tells the tale of Ragnar Lodbrok, one of the most lauded Norse heroes and known as the scourge of France and England. It portrays Ragnar as a Viking farmer who masterminds the first raids into England with the support of his warriors, his brother Rollo, and his wife, the shieldmaiden Lagertha. Currently the show is airing it’s second season Thursdays on The History Channel.
8. Sherlock – 2011 – In Progress – Sherlock is a British television crime drama that presents a contemporary imagining of Sir Authur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Starring actor sensations Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, Sherlock depicts “consulting detective” Holmes assisting the Metropolitan Police in solving various crimes, with a recurring involvement of Sherlock’s arch nemesis Jim Moriarty. Having currently completed and aired three three-hour seasons on BBC, the show has been included in the Masterpiece anthology series airing on PBS in the United States, with two more seasons supposedly in the works.
9. Mr. Selfridge – 2013 – In Progress – Like Downton Abbey but haven’t heard of Mr. Selfridge? Then you are really missing out. Mr. Selfridge is a British period television drama series loosely based on the true story of Harry Gordon Selfridge and his London departments store Selfridge & Co. The show focuses the story of Selfridge; the drama inside his department store, his family dynamic, the growth of women’s rights, difficulties during World War I and a look at the inner-workings of a London socialite. The show is currently airing its second season on ITV in England, with a future airdate expected in the U.S. on PBS.
10. Downton Abbey – 2010 – In Progress – Downton Abbey, set in a fictional Yorkshire country estate around the turn of the century, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants. The story includes great events in history, the effects on their lives and on British social hierarchy. The show has quickly won vast acclaim becoming one of the most widely watched television drama shows in the world. Currently Downton Abbey has four seasons aired and released with their respective Christmas episodes (a fan favorite), and is expecting to air the fifth season on ITV in 2014, with an airdate to be determined in the United States.
11. House of Cards – 2013 – In Progress – House of Cards is an American political drama television series and is the first television show to be funded, produced and released in its entirety by the online-streaming service Netflix. Based on the BBC series of the same name, the show follows Frank Underwood who, after getting passed up for Secretary of State, decides to exact his revenge on those who betrayed him. Currently two seasons are available for immediate streaming on Netflix now and a third season expected to be released in February 2015.
12. Entourage – 2004 – 2011 – Come hang out with Vinnie and the boys! Entourage is a comedy-drama show produced by HBO, with the show’s premise based loosely on Mark Wahlberg’s experiences as an up-and-coming star. The show chronicles the acting career of Vincent Chase, a young A-list movie star, and his childhood friends from Queens, New York City as they live and party it up in Los Angeles. The show has eight seasons and is complete.
13. True Detective – 2014 – In Progress – True Detective is a crime-drama series appearing on HBO that uses multiple perspectives to trace two Louisiana homicide detectives on their hunt for a serial killer in Louisiana across a span of 17 years. Season one finished recently to much critical acclaim, with plans to continue the series as an anthology, with each season featuring a different cast of characters and story.
14. Masters of Sex – 2013 – In Progress – Don’t be thrown off by the name, Master of Sex is a fantastic new drama series from Showtime telling the true story of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson who were ostracized by the medical community for their research into human sexuality at Washington University. The show is particularly notable for it’s protagonist, portrayed by actor Michael Sheen, who, in this author’s humble view, is the best actor alive today. The first season is in the books, with a second season expected sometime in 2014 on Showtime.
15. Mad Men – 2007 – In Progress – Set in the 1960s, Mad Men attempts to recreate the glam and glitz of advertising agencies on Madison Avenue in New York City. The focal point of the story is on Don Draper, but branches out to include the people both in his life and in the office. The plot circulates around the personal lives of the characters, regularly incorporating real-life events and changing social moods in the United States during the 1960s. Mad Men has received wide acclaim for its incredible production quality, and is most certainly one of the best television dramas of all-time. Currently six seasons are available for viewing, with the seventh and final season expected to air on AMC in both 2014 and 2015 in two seven-episode parts. The first of those parts will premiere on April 13, 2014.
16. Broadchurch – 2013 – In Progress – A British crime-drama, Broadchurch tells the story of the death of young boy in small town in the Dorset coast of England, and the investigators search for the boy’s killer. Casting the lead detective with David Tennant of Doctor Who fame helped bolster the shows interest before the premiere, and has since achieved wide recognition for reigniting the “Whodunit” mystery genre. Currently the show is prepping for the release of season two, however Fox Broadcasting Network recently announced that they will be remaking Broadchurch for U.S. audiences under the name Gracepoint, with David Tennant again cast as the lead detective in the series.
17. Top of the Lake – 2013 – Filmed and set in New Zealand’s wide-open terrain, Top of the Lake is a drama series that follows a young detective investigating the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl. Produced by the Sundance Channel in collaboration with BBC Worldwide, the show is six episodes and is complete.
18. Breaking Bad – 2008 -2013 – It’s a story of meth, it’s a story of power. Breaking Bad is the two-year-long tale of Walter White, a struggling high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at the onset of the show. To pay for his medical bills and ensure the longterm security of his family, he turns to a life of crime, teaming up with a former student Jesse Pinkman to produce and sell meth. Widely regarded as one of the greatest drama series of all time, Breaking Bad was an instant hit for AMC, and is the highest rated cable show of all-time. Breaking Bad is five seasons, and is complete.
19. Sopranos – 1999 – 2007 – What does one say about the indisputable champion of television dramas? Sopranos has been named best television drama of all time by TV Guide, Writer’s Guild of America, People Magazine…the list goes on and on. The show is about fictional New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano, and the difficulties of running a criminal syndicate and maintaining a happy home. Nothing tops the performance of the late James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, who was born to play the role. The Sopranos is six seasons long, and is complete.
20. Walking Dead – 2010 – In Progress – How would you survive the zompocalypse? Based on the comic series of the same name, Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic horror drama series about a group of survivors looking for just that…a place to survive. At every turn the group is faced with the horror of walking zombies, changing dynamics within the group, and hostility from other scattered survivors who are also struggling to live off of limited resources. The show currently has four seasons available for viewing and is in its fifth season airing on AMC on Sundays.
21. Justified – 2010 – In Progress – Justified is the story of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylon Givens, an Old West lawman living in modern times, whose unconventional methods of justice make him a target for both criminals and his bosses. Marshal Givens, played by Timothy Olyphant, works out of the Lexington, KY bureau, but the plot frequently takes him to his home in Harlan County. Justified currently has four seasons in the books, and are in the middle of season five airing on FX on Tuesdays.
22. Lilyhammer – 2012 – In Progress – Lilyhammer is a Norwegian series about fictional New York gangster Frank “The Fixer” Tagliano, a former mob underboss who relocates to Norway through the witness protection program after testifying against the mafia. In Norway, Frank uses his unique set of skills in blackmail, extortion and violence to establish himself as businessman with some serious clout. Steven Van Zandt, of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band fame, is credited with writing, producing, and starring in the show, in addition to contributing to the musical score. The show is a Netflix original and currently has two seasons available for instant streaming online, with a third in production.
These are all serious dramas, so if you were looking for something a bit more lighthearted, I would recommend one of these four shows:
1. Archer – FX
2. The League – FX and FX2
3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – FX
4. 30 Rock – NBC