Thursday, 24 December 2015

TV40: Summary of TV serials worth watching

As promised, here is my summary of hour-long TV serial television worth watching. Since The West Wing, very few episodic TV shows have held my attention, so the shows below represent at least 95% of the TV shows I have seen that I consider worth watching. 

I begin with a list of my thirty favourite television serials, in order. The numbers in parentheses refer to the blog post carrying my review of the show (the numbers are preceded by TV; e.g. my review of Six Feet Under is found in blog post TV26). It is no surprise that all thirty of these shows are either European or made-for-cable-TV. That means that most of these shows contain language, sex and/or violence that might offend some viewers. I have noted some exceptions to this with the letter G in parentheses. 

In the spirit of Gareth’s recents comments about the fact that good films are those that help us become better people or help make the world a better place, I have also noted, with an asterisk, those TV shows that are, for me, most worthwhile in that regard, recognizing that to some extent all good television shows, like those below, work at humanization.

Below the first list, I have also included alphabetical lists of other serials worth watching as well as a list of shows (in order of how much I like them) that don’t qualify as serials but have strong ongoing story arcs (e.g. LOST). Perhaps someday I will review these as well. For now, I will focus again on reviewing films, with the odd TV update.

There are, of course, many TV serials I have not had the time to watch. I am currently watching Orange is the New Black, The Returned (French version) and The Knick (yes, I am one of those crazy people that always has three TV serials and three novels on the go at the same time - makes me feel more productive). All of those shows look promising. Among the cable or European serials I am planning to watch in the near future are: Better Call SaulOrphan Black, The 100, White Collar and Spiral. Network serials I would like to watch someday include: Friday Night Lights, Extant, Parenthood and Everwood.

If you have other TV serials to recommend which are not listed on this post, please do so (but don’t suggest The Walking Dead - I don’t do zombies).
  1. Six Feet Under (26) *
  2. Rectify (20) *
  3. Mad Men (23) (G)
  4. Spooks (MI5) (6)
  5. Battlestar Galactica (28)
  6. Downton Abbey (10) (G) *
  7. Borgen (14) *
  8. The Killing (Danish) (8)
  9. Dexter (1 & 11) 
  10. Homeland (6 & 16)
  11. Game of Thrones (12 & 18)
  12. The Newsroom (3) (G) *
  13. True Detective (Season One) (13)
  14. The Hour (3) 
  15. Twin Peaks (32) (G)
  16. The Sopranos (7)
  17. Deadwood (1)
  18. Broadchurch (10)
  19. Treme (22) *
  20. ReGenesis (36)
  21. The Wire (30) *
  22. Fargo (17) 
  23. MANH(A)TTAN (21) (G)
  24. Fall, The (27)
  25. Carniv├ále (32) 
  26. Breaking Bad (5 & 11) 
  27. Boardwalk Empire (7) 
  28. Last Tango in Halifax (25) (G) *
  29. House of Cards (7) 
  30. Luck (2) 

The Affair (33) 
Big Love (31)
Brothers & Sisters (34)
Desperate Housewives (34)
Huff (39)
The Leftovers (33)
Masters of Sex (24)
The Tudors (36)
What About Brian (34)


The Americans (39)
Boss (7)
The Bridge (27)
Brotherhood (35)
Damages (39)
Durham County (36)
Fortitude (38)
Justified (29)
The Killing (U.S.) (8)
Magic City (35)
Murder One (Season One) (34)
Prison Break (34)
Ray Donovan (35)
Salamander (27)

Science Fiction

Caprica (39)
Dollhouse (34)
Invasion (34)
Jericho (34)
Odyssey 5 (36)

Good episodic TV shows with strong ongoing story arcs:
  1. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
  2. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
  3. Pushing Daisies
  4. Eli Stone
  5. Babylon 5
  6. LOST
  7. The Good Wife
  8. Doctor Who
  9. John from Cincinnati
  10. Wonderfalls
  11. Fringe
  12. Alias
  13. Ripper Street
  14. Silk


  1. Hhmm. Not sure if it's a good or bad thing that of your top 30, I have only seen 2 of them (The Newsroom and True Detective s01) all the way through. Another, I will be through soon (Manhattan). A couple others I've tasted and rejected and a few I've watched several episodes but couldn't sustain it. I'm a little surprised that shows that I've really liked (Salamander and The Honourable Woman) didn't make your initial list - and very surprised that the latter didn't even get an honourable mention.

    On the other hand, 4 of your shorter list of episodic shows (Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone, Alias and Wonderfalls) have been favourites with each episode devoured.

  2. There was no mention of The Honourable Woman because I consider it a miniseries. I will be offering reviews of a few miniseries (including this one, which I also liked very much) in the next month.