• Adventure Time (Seasons 1-9)
    • Even after watching hundreds of episodes of Adventure Time, I'm still not sure how exactly to describe it. I mean, it features a boy and a shape-shifting dog in a colorful post-apocalyptic world populated by princesses, robots, vampires, and sentient candy. Episodes cover every imaginable genre. Most are funny, or at least have an element of humor. Some are satirical. Long-form narratives, with a few exceptions, are absent; episodes are generally self-contained stories with crossovers and references to other segments of the show. I don't know how exactly to describe Adventure Time, but I do know that it's smarter than it needs to be and is certainly worth watching whether you're a kid or not. 
  • Angel (Seasons 1-5)
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer's gritty, noirish spinoff beautifully expands upon the world of its parent show while establishing a tone and a style entirely its own. Bright Sunnydale gives way to Los Angeles at night, and the darkness of Angel's visual palette is mirrored by its content: this is a show about the daily grind, a show that is not about defeating evil so much as going into battle against it even when you know it's going to defeat you. Like BuffyAngel is a series with high highs and low lows—but those highs include one of the most compelling character arcs and one of the most jaw-dropping finales ever put to screen. This is the rare spinoff that can stand toe-to-toe with the show that spawned it. 
  • Arrested Development (Seasons 1-3)
    • Mitchell Hurwitz's influential comedy is famous for its layered jokes; you can watch episodes over and over again and still uncover sly references and laugh-out-loud humor. The almost unrivaled attention to detail demonstrates the show's commitment to character, and the self-aware narrator (voiced by Ron Howard) distinguishes Arrested Development with a metafictional quality—one need only look to YouTube videos of presidential debates spliced with Howard's commentary to see the impact Hurwitz had on pop culture. Comedy on television has rarely been this good. 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender (Seasons 1-3)
    • You might not think that an animated children's program on Nickelodeon could be one of the most sophisticated shows on television, but you'd be wrong. Over three brief seasons, The Last Airbender tells a complete and compact story that demonstrates the benefits of creating a series with a definitive and preplanned ending; taking place in a world where some people have the ability to "bend"control elements like fire, water, earth, and airit chronicles the seemingly-simple story of Aang, who has the potential to control all four elements and wakes up one hundred years into a war with the fire nation. It's a setup practically built for one-note characters and black-and-white morality. But over the course of its run, The Last Airbender creates richly-drawn figures on both sides of the conflict and engages intelligently with themes such as responsibility, loyalty, and honor, even as it creates a deft political critique of American imperialism in the early 21st century while seeking to understand, rather than condemn, how people behave in war. And that's to say nothing of the vivid, visceral battles that bring the series to life with distinct combatants and exceptional use of the surrounding environment.
  • Avatar: The Legend of Korra (Seasons 1-4)
    • Picking up seventy years after the conclusion of The Last AirbenderThe Legend of Korra steps in to follow the next Avatar after Aang in the cycle. Korra, a waterbender, is a hotheaded counterpoint to her predecessor, and the world she lives in is wildly different: technology has advanced roughly to the equivalent of the 1930s, and socio-political conflicts broil under the surface as benders and non-benders struggle to live harmoniously with one another. It's a tight, nuanced show that takes everything that worked so well in The Last Airbender and hones it to a razor's edge while taking thematic and structural risks; it may lack the consistency of the former series, but the audacity of its storytelling is as rewarding as the heights of its ambition are dizzying. This is television at its most exquisite. 
  • Band of Brothers (Season 1)
    • Capitalizing on their work with Saving Private Ryan, this WWII miniseries created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks is a strong contender for the best show ever made. Each of its ten episodes is a meticulously-crafted hour of television, produced with the visual fidelity and acting caliber of a big-budget film (which was far more unusual at the time of its release in 2001 than even ten years later). There isn't much point in extolling the endless virtues of Band of Brothers; this is just one of those shows that, regardless of any other factors, is mandatory viewing for absolutely everyone. 
  • BBC Natural History Unit: The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Nature's Great EventsSouth PacificLife, Human Planet, Madagascar, Frozen Planet, Africa, Life StoryThe HuntPlanet Earth IIBlue Planet II
    • These documentaries represent the best of the best when it comes to nonfiction television about the natural world; featuring narrations from the iconic David Attenborough (except for Human Planet, in which John Hurt provides the voiceover), they are epic in scope and sweeping in their stories—even the struggles of the smallest insect become grand battles of life and death. This is all possible due to the ingenious editing, which brings out the humor and drama of the animal interactions on display through the use of clever cutting. Best of all, the BBC Natural History Unit doesn't fall into the trap of glamorizing death and violence the way so many other nature documentaries do. A+ television. 
  • Better Call Saul (Seasons 1-3)
    • The tonal and structural disparity between Better Call Saul and its parent show, Breaking Bad, is somewhat shocking; whereas Breaking Bad is a relentlessly-paced shot of adrenaline, Saul is relaxed almost to the point of lethargyand that's not a detriment to the series whatsoever. It's deliberate, meticulous, a character study in minor movements that exudes confidence; it's the work of mature storytellers who don't need to rely on shocks and cliffhangers to tug viewers along from episode to episode. Better Call Saul is the quiet antidote to television obsessed with volume. 
  • Big Little Lies (Season 1)
    • What a show. What a show! Across a mere seven episodes, Big Little Lies exemplifies everything that makes the limited series such an exceptional format for high-caliber storytelling: each episode is an impeccably-crafted hour, edited to a perfect edge, and the core cast—Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, and Reese Witherspoon—all turn in what may be career-best performances (Kidman and Witherspoon especially). Best of all, regardless of race or class issues, this adaptation of Liane Moriarty's novel makes real progress in terms of legitimizing the experiences of modern women on television. Whether that be sex, rape, marriage, motherhood, domestic abuse, or even just having a goddamn voice in the world, Big Little Lies considers seriously and respectfully what women go through and what they have to say about it. This is not a soap opera; this is great television. Watch it. 
  • Black Mirror (Seasons 1-4)
    • Black Mirror is something of a spiritual successor to The Twilight Zone; every episode in this British anthology series is a contained and complete story, usually concerning some aspect of modern technology extrapolated into the future. Words like "dark" and "twisted" are frequently thrown around by critics, but Black Mirror is not without humor or hope, and it shines in its ability to showcase the persistence of empathyeven if series creator and writer Charlie Brooker doesn't always know how to stick the landing after meticulously building his elegant dystopian worlds. Available on Netflix. 
  • Breaking Bad (Seasons 1-5)
    • There are a lot of good shows out there, but there are few as consistent as Breaking Bad; the quality of its sixty-two episodes range from "better than almost everything else on television" to "masterpiece." Chronicling the choices of family man/high school chemistry teacher Walter White as he begins cooking meth in order to provide for his wife and child after finding out that he has cancer, the series is less of the satire that its premise suggests and more of an exploration of consequences, of domino-chain cause-and-effects set off by the gravity well of power. Breaking Bad isn't worth watching for its story, however, so much as for its cinematic technique and knockout performance from star Bryan Cranston. The strength of a story is in execution, not in idea, and here is the prime example. 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Seasons 1-7)
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my all-time favorite show, so I'm going to evangelize it at the expense of everything else. It's certainly not a perfect series, not even as consistent as others on this list, but the audacity of its storytelling, the strength of its writing, and the breadth of its tone are more than enough to propel it into the highest echelon of television. Buffy tackles seemingly every theme under the sun through its "monster-as-metaphor" lens, and it does it all with genuine laugh-out-loud humor, thrilling action setpieces (cringeworthy CGI aside), and real emotion that will break your heart in half before putting it back together again—slowly, agonizingly, one piece at a time. Consequences matter on Buffy. Forget death; life can't be cheated, and nothing comes easy. Episodes like "Hush," "Restless," "The Body," "The Gift," and "Once More, With Feeling" rank among the best that television has ever offered. 
  • Cowboy Bebop (Season 1)
    • An obvious precursor to FireflyCowboy Bebop is space Western that is more interested in telling razor-sharp single-episode stories than longform narrative arcs (although there are a few overarching plotlines). The writing and direction are as good as anything ever seen in animation, but Cowboy Bebop's real claim to fame is its music: spanning what seems like every imaginable genre, it creates a rich and vivid soundscape that enhances what you see onscreen in unexpected ways (perhaps even more remarkable is the use of silence—I couldn't name another show that so brilliantly wields the absence of sound). The director of Cowboy Bebop, Shinichirō Watanabe, chose to end the show after a single season, leaving behind twenty-six of the greatest episodes to ever grace television. 
  • Deadwood (Seasons 1-3)
    • This richly-textured HBO drama, which was inspired by actual characters in 1870s Deadwood, is a show that excels in the short game while occasionally struggling in the long gameunsurprising, given its infamous on-the-fly scriptingand that makes its status as one of the best shows ever made even more remarkable. You won't find many shocking twists and radical developments here; this is a show about the building of a community, about characters with a variety of dispositions learning to interact and coexist, which in many ways makes it infinitely more rewarding. The series finale has a bit of a reputation due to its lack of resolution (the show was cancelled before a planned fourth season), but the abrupt ending ultimately speaks deeply to the heart of everything that Deadwood is about. 
  • Family Guy (Seasons 1-8)
    • Few comedies have ever been as smart, as relevant, or as goddamn funny as the first eight seasons of Family Guy. The jokes are layered, the satire is biting, and creator Seth MacFarlane's voice talent is on full display; these qualities, along with its progressive faux-offensive humor, distinguished it as a cultural touchstone for a generation that missed the golden years of The Simpsons. Unfortunately, the quality of the show declines rapidly after the eighth season—having misunderstood what made it so popular, Family Guy quickly descends into gross-out humor, moral bankruptcy, and suffocating self-reference—but its early years remain as quick-witted, rewatchable, and immensely important as ever. 
  • Fargo (Seasons 1-2)
    • Fargo, unfortunately, had to face off against another crime anthology show called True Detective in its first year; the latter caught the public eye, but the former ultimately proved to be the better series (although True Detective is an excellent show in its own right). Inspired by the 1996 film of the same name, Fargo satirizes the "Minnesota nice" mentality while telling stories of murder and masculinity as absurd as they are brutal. It's one of the few shows that manages to perfectly thread the needle between drama and humor, with writing, performances, and cinematography that are always tongue-in-cheek and always on-point. Don't dismiss Fargo as a cheap rip-off because its source material was so strong; Noah Hawley's show isn't only smarter and funnier than the Coen film, it's top-notch television. 
  • Firefly (Season 1)
    • Joss Whedon's ambitious sci-fi/Western show was infamously butchered by Fox (aired out-of-order and then cancelled), truncating the complete series to a mere fourteen episodes—later rounded out by the film Serenity in 2005. But that's hardly a complaint when thirteen of those episodes are lean, engaging stories, masterfully crafted by a team of talented writers and brought to life by an impeccable cast. (The one episode that can't quite stand up to its companions, "Heart of Gold," is still a perfectly competent piece of work.) Featuring a vivid cast of characters and razor-sharp storytelling, Firefly more than earns its cult following with one of the best (partial?) seasons ever to air, out-of-order or not, on television. 
  • Futurama (Season 1) 
    • Futurama put me in a tough spot in regard to this list. It's an immensely influential show, having spawned some of the most persistent memes ever created ("Shut up and take my money!"; "Not sure if...")—some of which even went on to be referenced by the show itself. But frankly, Futurama is not a particularly funny series, and its best seasons are the final few. As such, I'm only including the first seasons on this list: you need to know who these characters are because of their cultural cache, but I wouldn't recommend wading through the entire series unless you really love it. Fortunately, if that happens to be the case, Futurama improves exponentially near the end and concludes beautifully. 
  • Game of Thrones (Seasons 1-7)
    • Game of Thrones, with its subversive fantasy storytelling and enormous cast of memorable characters that it is perfectly willing to kill off, is one of those shows that re-terraformed the entire landscape of television. But the story of the show is arguably more interesting than the show itself; Game of Thrones began to surpass its source material, George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, midway through its run, and largely lost the genre awareness and precise structure that distinguished its early seasons in favor of cheap shocks and unearned catharsis as a result. It didn't morph into a bad show so much as a different show (although there are certainly some low points), one defined by fan culture, with a warmer emotional palette and a more sophisticated sense of storytelling through visual language than written language. Gorgeous production and costume design, fabulous performances across the board, and a meteoric impact on pop culture make Game of Thrones essential viewing. 
  • The Girlfriend Experience (Season 1)
    • This quiet show took its title from the 2009 film directed by Steven Soderbergh, but they have almost nothing in common save for the occupation of the protagonist: a high-end call girl. Played magnificently in the first season by Riley Keough, law student Christine Reade becomes more and more entrenched in a secret life as a companion for wealthy clients—with all the trials and tribulations that that entails. But The Girlfriend Experience shines not in the story it tells, but it in how it tells it; it's beautifully shot in cold Soderberghian tones, impeccably structured, and climaxes in one of the smartest, boldest, most uncompromising season finales I've ever seen. The Girlfriend Experience is extraordinary television. 
  • Girls (Seasons 1-6)
    • Where do I even start with Girls? Lena Dunham's controversial show—inseparable from its even-more-controversial creator—is annoying and insufferably stupid almost as often as it is a bold and inventive storytelling machine. Many viewers (and, let's be honest, non-viewers) falsely conflate the intelligence of the characters with the intelligence of the series, completely glossing over the razor edge of its satire; that quality aside, though, Girls is also a sharply-written show in its moment-to-moment dialogue, which is brought to life by a cast of exceptionally-talented actors (Adam Driver, perfectly cast, turns in one of the best performances in the history of television). Girls is a messy, muddled show that gets by on the strength of its writing and acting talent; despite an awful third season, it comes back strong with episodes such as "Sit-In," "The Panic in Central Park," and "American Bitch" in the subsequent seasons. 
  • Gravity Falls (Seasons 1-2)
    • Gravity Falls is another one of those children's shows that is light-years more intelligent than it needs to be; featuring siblings Dipper and Mabel, who are spending the summer with their uncle Stan in the Pacific Northwest, Gravity Falls gently pokes fun at the likes of psychics and ghost hunters—even as its characters deal with legitimately supernatural events. The exquisitely-written cast of characters and compelling narratives propel the show through its two lean seasons, and its morals and messages are richly nuanced rather than condescending. There's something here for kids and adults alike. 
  • The Handmaid's Tale (Season 1)
    • Although this  adaptation of the classic Margaret Atwood novel unravels a bit in its second half of the first season, it brought the story into the pop culture zeitgeist at precisely the right time (the initial months of the Trump presidency) and legitimized Hulu as a creator of original programming. For all the faults of its ending, though, the opening episodes of The Handmaid's Tale exude excellence from every frame. This blistering examination of the role women play in society will chill you to the bone. 
  • Hannibal (Seasons 1-3)
    • Like a Caravaggio come to life, Hannibal is a dreamlike procedural soaked in blood and shallow focus. The three seasons completed before its unfortunate cancellation chronicle events through those of Red Dragon in Thomas Harris' original novels, centering on FBI profiler Will Graham and his relationship with serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lector. The darkness of the shownot just in content and tone, but in its heavily-tinted visual palettecan sometimes make it (literally) difficult to watch, but the elegance of its cinematography and performances make it more than worth the effort. 
  • Legion (Season 1)
    • I'm not entirely sure how to feel about Legion, which takes place in the X-Men universe but focuses in on the ultra-powerful son of Charles Xavier. Underneath its stylish exterior is a surprisingly conventional show—a superpowered character faces off against a superpowered villain and non-superpowered goons—but that exterior is unlike anything else in the genre. It is almost antagonistically subjective, tossing the viewer head-first into the confused mind of protagonist David Haller, drawing upon the experience of mental illness and evoking the cinematic styles of everything from silent films to Kubrick's 2001: A Space OdysseyLegion's substance doesn't match its style, and that's a shame. But its style is bold, uncompromising, boundary-pushing, and it blows the genre wide open. 
  • Marvel's Jessica Jones (Seasons 1-2)
    • I'll admit that I almost forgot to put the Marvel's label in front of Jessica Jones; not to be blunt about it, but it's just so much better than anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This isn't a show about a superpowered person—it's a show about a person who happens to have superpowers. Jessica Jones drinks, fucks, and punches holes through walls. She was also abused by a man named Kilgrave (masterfully played by David Tennant in a genuinely sickening performance), a self-entitled rapist who can literally make people do whatever he wants through verbal hypnosis. It's all metaphor, yes, but Jessica Jones understands the power of using metaphor and hyperbole to say something that needs to be said about the world—in this case, the persistence and insidious nature of misogyny and rape culture. Jessica's confrontations with Kilgrave over the course of the show's first season are the exact embodiment of what a superhero story should be: full of sound and fury, signifying everything. 
  • The Leftovers (Seasons 1-3)
    • It's a premise we've all seen before: a percentage of the world's population simply disappears with no explanation, leaving everyone else to reel in the aftermath. But The Leftovers isn't interested in sledgehammering a religious message so much as exploring how people cope with sudden and inexplicable loss—with a dose of magical realism thrown in for good measure. Careful viewers may notice allegorical echoes of Dante's Divine Comedy running throughout the show, and The Leftovers frequently mirrors the bold structural choices of the classic poem: episodes (and entire seasons) jump from character-to-character and location-to-location, weaving a tapestry of stories rather than creating a driving linear narrative. It's confident, unexpected, powerful television. 
  • Lost (Seasons 1-6)
    • The finale of this iconic show left a stain on its reputation in pop culture, which is a shame—it still holds up as six seasons of extremely riveting television with a surprising commitment to character amidst the plot-centric mysteries that continue to draw ire from viewers and fans. The two-part pilot, immaculately produced and impressively cast, was a gamechanger back when it first aired in 2004, and the setup brimmed with promise: a few dozen people, trapped on an island together with a mysterious monster and God knows what else. For all its faults, it's hard to stop watching. Lost may lack some (or much) of its luster for seasoned television viewers who know the tricks of the trade, but it's the perfect initiation for those just starting out with the medium—a rich, engaging story that is at once both intellectually and emotionally stimulating, always willing to try something new and sometimes fail miserably. 
  • Louie (Seasons 1-5)
    • Louie gives no fucks about what its audience wants or expects, and the result is one of the most audacious shows to ever grace the small screen; it switches genres and even casting on an episode-by-episode basis, constantly upending and reinventing itself. Like its creator and star, Louis C.K., Louie is ostensibly a series designed to make you laugh. It will make you laugh. But the comedy also cuts so deep to the heart of the human condition that you will just as often find yourself riveted by the drama and wincing at the truth of it all. This is bold television, and it is brilliantly executed. 
  • Making a Murderer (Season 1)
    • Making a Murderer has serious faults, cheap cliffhangers and bloated pacing being chief among them, but it was an undeniable flashpoint for nonfiction (particularly true crime) in pop culture; primed by podcasts such as Serial, the American public devoured the show when it debuted and kept it alive in the popular consciousness for many months. The series itself is concerned with chronicling the story of Steven Avery and whether he was framed for the murder of Teresa Halbach by local law enforcement in his county. Making a Murderer may be more concerned with keeping its viewers in a stranglehold than actually providing an accurate portrayal of the case, but it's riveting television nevertheless. Available on Netflix. 
  • Master of None (Seasons 1-2)
    • Comedian Aziz Ansari, coming hot off his Parks and Recreation fame (one of television's best comedies during the years it was on, provided you exclude the first and last seasons), surprised and delighted viewers when he debuted this Netflix exclusive. Louie is a clear influence, but Ansari's show is more warm-hearted and laugh-out-loud; that said, his commentaries on racism and romance cut just as deep as they lay bare the bones of American prejudice and willful ignorance. Master of None is proof that feel-good humor and biting satire aren't just compatible, they're companionable. 
  • Mindhunter (Season 1)
    • Every other TV show should be embarrassed for existing in the same world as Mindhunter. Although created by Joe Penhall, David Fincher was heavily involved in the production (he served as executive producer and directed four of first season’s ten episodes), and every second showcases his obsessively perfectionistic touch. Meticulously acted, written, and directed, Mindhunter chronicles the FBI’s early forays into the profiling of serial killers, and its ability to evoke fear, tension, and revulsion in the viewer while only rarely portraying anything graphic is a masterclass in storytelling. Television rarely gets any better than this. Available on Netflix. 

  • The Pacific (Season 1)
    • The Pacific, a ten-episode miniseries that functions as a sort of companion piece to Band of Brothers, is typically regarded as the lesser of the two (although that's not saying much when you're going up against one of the best shows ever made). As the title indicates, the key difference between The Pacific and its big brother is location: rather than Europe as in Band of Brothers, the action takes place in (wait for it) the Pacific theater. It's another season of extraordinary war drama, with perhaps a bit more emphasis on action than its predecessor's deep character work, but still worth watching.  
  • Rome (Seasons 1-2)
    • This lavish dramatization of the years leading up to and following the fall of the Roman Republic wisely chooses two common soldiers to anchor its narrative throughline; major figures like Julius and Augustus Caesar, Brutus and Cicero, and Antony and Cleopatra all feature, but they do not constitute the heart of the show. Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pollo form the backbone of Rome, and they give us people to invest in while the political drama seethes around them. And what a drama it is! The murders, the betrayals, the backstabbings, even though we know they are coming, are as enthralling as ever thanks to the work of immensely-talented actors performing at the absolute top of their game. 
  • Sherlock (Seasons 1-2)
    • Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are perfectly paired as Sherlock and Watson in this modern-day adaptation of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories. With only three episodes per season, they come in at about ninety minutes each and tell complete feature-length stories. Not only is each episode meticulously written and intelligently shot, but they have been hugely influential in molding the visual language of social media on film by overlaying text directly into the cinematic frame. There are few forms of media where the ratio of quantity to quality is as important as it is in television, and Sherlock proves that in spades--with a low time investment, the payoff is enormous. (Caveat: Season three, while good, is hardly essential; season four should not be spoken of in polite conversation.)
  • Steven Universe (Seasons 1-4)
    • If we raised all our children with Steven Universe, the world would probably turn out okay. Not only does this children's cartoon feature what may be the most honest and most dynamic portrayals of gender and sexuality ever seen on television, but it is a masterclass in creative storytelling; it builds its world and subplots across episodes and across seasons with almost undetectable subtlety, culminating in climaxes of humor and emotion that are both entirely surprising and entirely inevitable. As unassuming as it looks, television rarely gets better than the astounding Steven Universe. 
  • Stranger Things (Season 1)
    • Bursting onto the televisual landscape almost without warning in the summer of 2016, this Netflix exclusive isn't shy about its genetic heritage: 80s Spielberg, Stephen King, and later nostalgia trips like J.J. Abrams' Super 8. The beats you expect are all there--negligent parents, kids on bicycles, a girl with telekinetic powers, a monster, and a synth-heavy soundtrack, but they are all implemented with care and love. Viewers responded to the conviction and honesty of the show, even if it sometimes relies a bit too heavily on nostalgia and cheap sentiment in order to plaster over storytelling weaknesses. Available on Netflix. 
  • Supernatural (Seasons 1-5)
    • Like protagonists Sam and Dean, Supernatural is the cult show that couldn't seem to die. Its premise is simple enough: the Winchester brothers drive around America in their '67 Impala and hunt down ghosts, demons, and monsters, but the show's convoluted mythology quickly ballooned to encompass the eternal war between heaven and hell—not to mention on-the-nose metafictional qualities and an insistence on self-awareness and self-reference. Although the bulk of the show occurs after its fifth season, creator Eric Kripke's departure in 2010 marks the conclusion of the Supernatural's core arc. 
  • True Detective (Season 1)
    • While not the first anthology show of the 2010s, True Detective was largely responsible for its surge in popularity—and, unlike its fellows American Horror Story and Fargo, it resists the temptation to create connective tissue and cross-pollinate characters and actors. The first season of True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in career-best performances, enraptured audiences with its claustrophobic storytelling and cinematography that would put most films to shame (a jaw-dropping six-minute tracking shot that punctuates the middle of the season stands as one of the best sequences in the show); the second season, which suffered from largely unjustified critical and public backlash, is still a beautifully-shot and beautifully-acted crime drama—it's just not essential viewing. 
  • Westworld (Season 1)
    • Westworld is a strange beast. Loosely inspired by the Michael Crichton film of the same name, its twist-heavy jazzhand storytelling might have been revolutionary alongside Fight Club and The Sixth Sense in the 90s; in 2016, however, when its initial season aired...not so much. That said, I'm including it on this list because it's the first major television series to wrestle with the narrative implications of interactive storytelling (the creators specifically cite video games such as BioShock and Red Dead Redemption as influences)—that's a meeting of cultural waters which cannot be overstated. Different forms of artistic media have impacted one another since time immemorial, of course, but television has never so explicitly capitalized upon the constructed moral systems of early 21st-century video games. 
  • You're the Worst (Seasons 1-3)
    • Stephen Falk's acerbic comedy features characters who wield words like razor blades, and they're not afraid to cut anyone who comes near. But beneath You're the Worst's vicious exterior lies one of the most honest and sensitive portrayals of mental illness—primarily PTSD and depression—television has ever seen; at its core, the series understands that different people need different things in a relationship (whether that relationship be with a friend, family member, lover, or spouse) and strives to understand how we can satisfy those needs while staying true to ourselves. This is a show that can bounce from legitimately profound to legitimately heartbreaking to legitimately hilarious in the space of a few heartbeats without once losing its uncompromising commitment to truthfulness—to its characters and to the human condition. This is comedy television at its funniest and most rewarding.