We all have our guilty pleasure TV shows (looking at you, Grey’s Anatomy) that we watch for the sake of entertainment and escape. These types of TV shows are easy, they don’t challenge us, you can watch them while making dinner and only half pay attention. And then there are the TV shows that stay with us because they are so well written that we think about them long after the final episode has aired. These are the types of TV shows we wish we could watch again for the first time and that we want everyone to watch so we can have discussions about them. If you’re looking for a show that is more than a guilty pleasure, here are ten shows with excellent writing that will stay with you for years to come.
The West Wing: This witty and intelligent political drama about fictional president, Josiah Bartlet, and his staff as they navigate global crises, personal dramas, and interoffice dynamics is one of the best tv shows I’ve seen. If you don’t trust my opinion, maybe the fact that it won three Golden Globe Awards and 26 Emmy Awards will convince you of this show’s superiority.
Friday Night Lights: First off, it might seem like this show is about football, but it’s not; this show is really about relationships and passion and small-town life. Football is simply the catalyst for revealing the ways that people are both brought together and torn apart. Spend a few hours watching this show and you’ll wish you were friends with the Taylors and could go spend Friday night at this week’s football game.
Parenthood: Where Friday Night Lights can be misleading in its title by making you think the show is about football, Parenthood really is about parenthood. It’s also about siblings and families, relationships and commitments, and love and heartbreak. This show is somehow both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time and is incredibly relatable.
Sherlock: Oftentimes, when a classic show is recreated, it flops miserably. Fortunately, this contemporary retelling of the classic Sherlock story is impeccably written––drawing you into the mystery and intrigue with clever details, humorous dialogue, and intelligent stories.
Madam Secretary: As Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord is tasked with navigating international diplomacy, brokering peace deals, and dealing with national and international threats to the United States. Elizabeth McCord is the kind of politician I wish we had more of in real life––she is fair and ethical, seeks to do what’s right, and is deeply committed to her husband and family. This show does an excellent job of using contemporary political crises to tell compelling stories that are applicable to real life.
Parks and Rec: The magic of this show lies in the character development. The writers of Parks and Rec do a fantastic job of portraying a whole host of quirky and delightful characters that you wish were your friends in real life. In addition to the characters, the show is delightful glimpse into the joys and challenges of working in public service.
The Sopranos: An unexpected look into the life of a crime boss in New Jersey as he struggles with anxiety and doubt about his life choices. The Sopranos is a show that is humorous, serious, and cynical all at once. This show isn’t afraid to challenge the viewer and demand that the audience be fully present.
The Wire: On the surface it might appear that The Wire is simply another police/detective show, but this show goes much deeper than that. The Wire delves into the social, political, and economic struggles of Baltimore with precision and ambition, ranging from the top of the social structure to the bottom. This isn’t a story that is all warm and fuzzy, but it also isn’t a story that is without hope.
Mad Men: At first glance, this shows pulls you in with its stunning visual style, but it’s the over-the-top, frenzied storytelling that keeps you coming back for more. The London Times called it “one of the…best television series of all time.” And the repeated awards speak to that statement, the show has won multiple Emmys, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Writer’s Guild Awards, and Producers Guild Awards.
Seinfeld: This show debuted more than 25 years ago and is still watched and talked about today because of the way this show handled telling stories about the trivialities of life. While the characters never talk about deeper feelings,, this show is accessible, humorous, and relatable because it delves into the little details of life that we’ve all experienced.
Bonus – This Is Us: If you haven’t watched This Is Us, do it now. This show is new, so it’s not out on DVD yet, but the writing is incredible. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll cry while watching this show.