THE 100 TV DRAMAS EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH

This list only includes shows that aired in the last 20 years. It skews heavily toward American series, even though lots of great dramas have aired overseas, and it's light on teen shows. If you're attempting television literacy, here are 100 recent-ish dramas that are worth at least trying.
  1. THE OBVIOUS MEGAPRESTIGE ONES
    When people try to make claims about a "golden age" of TV, this is what they're talking about, usually. These are the straight-up masterpieces. Battlestar Galactica Breaking Bad Deadwood ER Friday Night Lights Homicide: Life on the Streets In Treatment Mad Men My So-Called Life NYPD Blue Six Feet Under The Shield The Sopranos The Wire The West Wing Twin Peaks
  2. THE PRECIOUS WEIRDOS
    Not just the characters (though sometimes them, too), but the shows that are a little off the traditional path, maybe a little too delicate for this harsh world. Carnivàle Chuck Dead Like Me Enlightened Fargo Hannibal Joan of Arcadia Picket Fences Pushing Daisies Wonderfalls
  3. CURRENT SHOWS THAT ARE GOOD BUT WHOSE LEGACIES ARE STILL TBD
    These shows have high highs, often, and also some bumpy patches. But who knows how things will shake out? Maybe they will walk among the greats! Maybe they will not. American Horror Story Downton Abbey Doctor Who Grey's Anatomy Homeland Orphan Black
  4. THE UNDER-THE-RADAR SECRET GREATS
    Gems! Gems! As far as the eye can see! Unfortunately, no one's eyes were looking in these shows' directions. Boomtown Brotherhood Kings Medium Men of a Certain Age Once and Again Profit Sleeper Cell Southland Terriers The Riches Thief
  5. MAYBE NOT THE GREATEST OF THE GREAT, BUT HAVE PLENTY GOING FOR THEM
    Hey, we all contain multitudes. 24 The 4400 Army Wives Big Love Boardwalk Empire Boss Chicago Hope Dexter Dirt House Lost Melrose Place Nip/Tuck Nowhere Man Parenthood Rescue Me Saving Grace Sons of Anarchy Spartacus Tell Me You Love Me True Blood
  6. THE STILL-WONDERFUL TIER TWO
    Great shows still! Buffy the Vampire Slayer Damages Freaks and Geeks Gilmore Girls Justified Law & Order Northern Exposure Sisters Slings and Arrows Oz Veronica Mars The X-Files
  7. OKAY, A FEW INTERNATIONAL SHOWS
    There could be more, obviously. Black Mirror Borgen Bron/Broen Luther Sherlock Utopia
  8. TEEN SHOWS
    Again, this list could have a lot more teen shows on it. Everwood Felicity Gossip Girl Grosse Pointe The OC Party of Five
  9. CURRENT AND EXCELLENT SHOWS
    Please stay good, please stay good, please stay good … The 100 The Americans The Fosters The Good Wife The Knick Mr. Robot Orange Is the New Black Rectify Top of the Lake Transparent UnREAL
  10. THAT'S JUST THE START
    We didn't even talk about Alias, Being Erica, Better Call Saul, Boston Legal, The Closer, CSI, Deutschland 83, Elementary, Firefly, Game of Thrones, Halt and Catch Fire, House of Cards, Huff, Life Unexpected, Lights Out, Luck, Masters of Sex, Narcos, Outlander, Penny Dreadful, Person of Interest, Prison Break, Queer As Folk, Rome, Scandal, Suits, Switched at Birth, The Affair, The Borgias, The Bridge, The Leftovers, The Practice, The Tudors, and Treme. Next time.