The world owes Netflix a huge debt for saving us from hours and hours of commercials each and every year; however, we also owe them thanks for introducing audiences everywhere to a new type of entertainment consumption, the increasingly popular “binge watch.” The binge watch, wherein you enjoy many consecutive episodes of a single television series in order, has been made easier than ever with the popularization of streaming services. With that in mind, we here at Goliath have collected 10 underrated TV shows that are worthy of a binge watch any day of the week (and twice on Sundays). Now we’re not saying they’re all available on Netflix (what with their regionally specific content, it’s difficult to assume), but we will say these series all make for fantastic binge watching if you manage to line up the episodes and pop down on your couch for some quality tube time.
10. Louie (2010 – Present)
Aired on FX and starring hilarious everyman Louis C.K. (who also writes, directs, produces and edits the show, the definition of “creative control”) as a fictionalized version of himself, this underrated gem of a show has developed a cult following but has never broken through to the mainstream in the same way the comedian’s stand-up has. The show, which sees the comedian performing stand-up, dealing with the ramifications of his divorce and attempting to raise his two young daughters while providing them with a positive role model, also stars Pamela Adlon of Californication fame. Often interspersed with snippets of C.K.’s stand-up comedy and occasionally throwing continuity to the wind (Louis C.K. has stated that while some episodes do contain overarching plot elements or recurring characters, each episode is designed to operate in and of itself, giving the comedian more freedom to tailor the individual episodes to suit a specific purpose), Louie has five existing seasons and is well worth a watch for those comedy fans looking for a something funny to marathon.
9. Veronica Mars (2004-2007)
This much-loved but little spoken of show, created by Rob Thomas, had the misfortunate of being marketed as a teen dramedy along the lines of The O.C.; however, anyone who has actually sat down and watched Veronica Mars knows it’s anything but. A noir detective story set amongst the preppy trust fund youth of the fictional Neptune, California, Veronica Mars follows the titular character as she progresses through high school while moonlighting as a private detective. It’s a wickedly addicting show that’s beyond smart, and it mixes comedy, drama and detective pastiche to great effect. Kristen Bell, who got her start playing the show’s title character, is excellent in the role and is joined by a solid supporting cast in one of the most underrated TV shows of all time. With praise from cultural critics as varied as Joss Whedon and Kevin Smith (who also guest stars in an episode), Veronica Mars was a critical darling that was cancelled after three seasons (although it did receive a wrap up movie much later on).
8. Chuck (2007-2012)
Created by Josh Schwartz (of The O.C. fame) and Chris Fedak, Chuck was a nifty little show that ran five seasons on NBC. Critically lauded but with low viewership, the show was saved from cancellation on numerous occasions by its rabid fan base (of which we are undoubtedly a part) who love the show in an unnatural sort of way. Following the exploits of Nerd Herd member (read, computer repair technician) Chuck Bartowski, who accidentally gets a super secret database uploaded into his brain with the help of his former college roommate (now a superspy, played by the gorgeous Matt Bomer) and is forced into helping the government deal with delicate missions worldwide, the shoe also stars Firefly alum Adam Baldwin and Yvonne Strahovski. Featuring snappy dialogue, lots of genuine nerd humor and a heaping dose of humanity, Chuck is a fun and good-hearted show that makes for an awesome binge watch, either alone or with a significant other.
7. Dead Like Me (2003-2004)
Dead Like Me was a nifty little show that aired on Showtime for two seasons, and while it won’t make for the most satisfying of binge watches (two seasons leaves a little to be desired), it is a worthwhile watch due to the unique premise of the show and the solid production quality that comes along with a Showtime budget. Starring Ellen Muth and Mandy Patinkin, the show follows a small group of grim reapers as they wrangle the souls of the recently deceased and escort them to the netherworld. While this logline may sound grim on the surface, the show actually handles the issues and processes associated death with both humor and grace, and it makes for engaging and often hilarious television. While the show’s limited run may put off some viewers who fear an unsatisfying end, Dead Like Me did receive a direct-to-DVD movie release that attempted to tie up loose ends left at the end of the series.
6. Dollhouse (2009-2010)
We know, we know. You’re tired of hearing about the beloved, ingenious shows of Joss Whedon that keep getting cancelled early. Just be happy we didn’t put Firefly on here, alright?!?! You can’t handle that heartbreak and neither can we. Instead, we’re using this opportunity to draw attention to Dollhouse, another Whedon gem that few have watched, but those who have rave about the show’s acting, mythology and wildly intriguing premise. The show follows the mechanizations of The Dollhouse, an international corporation with advanced technology which allows them to strip down the human brain and upload new personalities at will; in this scenario, desperate people surrender their body and trade five years of service for an unspecific (but extremely large) payoff afterwards. The show, which features a long list of Whedon favorites but stars Eliza Dushku as Echo, a new Doll with a sorted past, features all of the usual Whedon highlights, such as clever dialogue and strong female characters, and is a great watch for anyone looking for a Whedon fix in their post-Firefly depression. The pain is real, people.
5. Wilfred (2011-2014)
It’s about to get real weird in here, folks. Wilfred, starring Elijah Wood and series co-creator Jason Gann, revolves around a mentally unstable young man (Wood) who, after a suicide attempt, begins to spend an inordinate amount of time with his attractive neighbor’s dog, Wilfred (Gann), who is an extremely poorly behaved Australian man in a fluffy dog suit. Yes, it’s as strange and absurd as it sounds, but that absurdity makes it possible for the show to indulge its wildest and most inconceivable plotlines with little to no objection from the logical areas of your brain. While the show may be too strange for some viewers, for those with a taste for such things it will be a breath of fresh air from much of the formulaic and well-traversed territory that seems to inform most shows nowadays.
4. Luther (2010-2015)
We’re thoroughly convinced that there is no limit to Idris Elba’s charms; we’d watch that man read a phone book, if it came to that. Luckily, with the actor doing work as stellar as Luther, we won’t have to resort to such things. Airing for three seasons on BBC, Luther sees Elba star as the titular detective, a brilliant man whose obsession with his work borders on dangerous as he pursues all manner of killers and ne’er-do-wells. It’s an absolutely phenomenal TV series that is sure to captivate all levels of audience, and the production quality is on par with what you’d expect from a BBC-produced drama. While the show has not produced new material in a while, Elba recently promised that the series had not concluded and there was more material coming in the future, although when that might be remains to be seen. That’s a good thing for all those out there looking for some quality detective entertainment, because it doesn’t get much better than Luther if that’s what you’re looking for.
3. Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
Inspired by H.G. Bissinger’s novel of the same name (and the movie that was adapted from it), Friday Night Lights follows the members of the small, rural Texas town of Dillon as they navigate relationships, hardships and, most importantly, football, which in many ways defines the town and its individuals. Produced by Peter Berg (who directed the movie), Friday Night Lights stars Kyle Chandler, Taylor Kitsch, Connie Britton and Minka Kelly, among others, and is a rock solid drama through and through. For those of you worried you won’t enjoy a series all about football, fret not; the longer the show goes on, the less it seems to care about filming football sequences, and instead chooses to focus on the relationships of the primary cast members, a welcome shift that helps cement the show as one of the better dramas in recent memory. Chandler, in particular, is a star, and his performance as Coach Eric Taylor is one of the best television has seen in a while.
2. Psych (2006-2014)
We can confidently say that Psych is the funniest show you’ve never watched. Really, we can, and we know that because it’s one of the funniest shows we’ve ever seen and nobody we know has watched it. Psych, which aired on USA for six seasons, stars James Roday as a stubborn young man with an eidetic memory who tricks the local police department into believing he is a psychic so he can help them solve cases with the help of his best friend (played by Dule Hill). The show, which also stars Maggie Lawson, Corbin Bernsen and Timothy Osmundson, has razor sharp dialogue and some of the best inter-character relationships of anything we’ve seen, and while it is a police procedural (which means it can be somewhat repetitive), it’s by far one of the most enjoyable we’ve ever been privy too.
1. Justified (2010-2015)
Timothy Olyphant just can’t get any love. The wildly underappreciated actor is the star of FX’s Justified, the story of U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, a man not afraid to define justice in his own terms. Adapted from material by the acclaimed crime author Elmore Leonard, Justified is an amicable blend of Western, action and drama and was a critical darling for all six of its seasons, culminating in one of the better series finales we’ve seen in quite some time. The show, a worthwhile binge watch for any fan of, well, good television, also stars Walter Goggins, Nick Searcy and Joelle Carter and should remain one of the most consistently underrated shows from its era.