14 TV Shows Brian Thinks Are Great (And You Can Too!)

OK, I shared a list of films to check out (not necessarily my favorites) a few weeks ago, and now I'm sharing some of my favorite TV shows, as they are a bit of a whole different category of entertainment. For the most part these are older or at least under-appreciated series, so yes I also like Westworld, The Haunting of Hill House, Bob's Burgers and a plethora of other series you don't need me to tell you are great. Also, I decided to leave out documentary series, as much as I love those too.

GARTH MARENGHI'S DARKPLACE

Created by Richard Ayoade & Matthew Holness

TV-MA | 2004 | UK | 6 episodes

(Available to stream now on Youtube)

A parody of hospital dramas, television reunion specials, Stephen King, 90s TV, and so many other tropes, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace is an incredible short series that everyone should watch, especially fans of British comedy or Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade (both from The IT Crowd). Seriously, stop reading this and watch it now! It’s on Youtube! There’s only 6 episodes! You can binge it in less than 2 1/2 hours! Stop reading, go watch it!

TWIN PEAKS

Created by Mark Frost & David Lynch

TV-MA | 1990-1991 | USA | 30 episodes

(Available to stream now on Netflix and Hulu)

Seriously, you can’t beat this classic. Decades ahead of its time, Twin Peaks is just a bizarre hybrid of surreal mystery, romance, comedy, and horror. Sure, season two kinda fell off the rails after studio meddling, but even those episodes have a unique charm and it still ends strong. If you’re fortunate enough to have access to 2017’s Twin Peaks: The Return  (the tone is much more in line with the divisive 1992 prequel film Fire Walk With Me) you’ll be treated to another mind bending experience that is also ahead of its time (Cahiers du Cinema loved it so much, they crowned it the best FILM of the decade!)

THE LEFTOVERS

Created by Damon Lindelof & Tom Perrotta

TV-MA | 2014-2017 | USA | 28 episodes

(Available to stream now on HBO)

In its three seasons, The Leftovers explores a world that has been struck with a global tragedy (2% of the world population simply vanishes) and how the lasting impact it has on “the leftovers.” There’s no zombie apocalypse, no hoards of marauders, but a realistic approach to what grief and continuation looks like, and it’s a powerful statement on the good, bad, and ugly of humanity.

HALT AND CATCH FIRE

Created by Christopher Cantwell & Christopher C. Rogers

TV-14 | 2014-2017 | USA | 40 episodes

(Available to stream now on Netflix)

For a brief period I had two favorite television shows, and literally no one else I knew was watching them - The Leftovers and Halt and Catch Fire. Initially regarded as "Mad Men but with computers” it grew beyond this label and instead they made one of the best series of the 2010s that revivals its predecessor. 

THE VENTURE BROS.

Created by Christopher McCulloch

TV-MA | 2003 - | USA | 86 episodes

(Available to stream now on Hulu)

Over the last 17 years The Venture Bros has kept fans in anticipation of when they’ll be treated with new episodes. Often going years at a time in between, they’ve released only 7 short seasons in that time. What started out as a quirky parody of Johnny Quest has slowly peeled back the layers to its expansive universe, with “throwaway” jokes and characters that took years to reveal their meaning, and a perfect series to rewatch again and again for deeper enjoyment. It also loves to reward viewers with several references that are so obscure that you need a vast knowledge of pop culture to get it (sadly, that’s me)!

THE KINGDOM (RIGET)

Created by Lars von Trier

TV-MA | 1994-1997 | Denmark | 8 episodes

(Available to stream now on Youtube)

From the dark auteur Lars von Trier - director of Dogville, Melancholia, Dancer In the Dark, Anti-Christ, and Breaking the Waves - is this pitch-black comedy from Denmark that is genuinely creepy and twisted in its humor. Although dated now, it was remade by Stephen King in the 2004 miniseries Kingdom Hospital, but it pales in comparison. I watched it on DVD years ago, but the series has been shared on Youtube and it’s definitely worth a watch if you like weird stuff.

DIFFICULT PEOPLE

Created by Julie Klausner

TV-MA | 2015-2017 | USA | 28 episodes

(Available to stream now on Hulu)

Another surprisingly fresh, albeit incredibly cynical comedy from Julie Klausner, it feels a little like a darker version of a Tina Fey show like 30 Rock or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but much more pessimistic. 

EXTRAS

Created by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant

TV-MA | 2005-2007 | UK | 13 episodes

(Available to stream now on Netflix)

There are two camps when it comes to The Office, UK vs. US. I can appreciate the US version, but for me the UK will always be the one nearest and dearest to me. That said, following The Office, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant went on to create Extras, and while it is much less heralded, it’s a fantastic series that is hilarious and moving as well and more people should be aware of it! Plus it boasts some amazing celebrity cameos.

THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW

Created by Garry Shandling & Dennis Klein

TV-MA | 1992-1998 | USA | 89 episodes

(Available to stream now on HBO)

When Garry Shandling was passed on for a late night talk show, he created his own fictional one, and it redefined the sitcom! Granted, it is very much set in the 90s, but it was one of the first single-camera comedies (as opposed to 4 camera studio sitcoms) with a fresh voice of a narcissistic celebrity that focuses much more on his “off-camera” antics. 

BORED TO DEATH

Created by Jonathan Ames

TV-MA | 2009-2011 | USA | 24 episodes

(Available to stream now on Amazon Prime and HBO)

I absolutely adored this short-running TV series. A quirky comedy about a writer that becomes an amateur sleuth to help his writing, its true comedy comes from the masterful performances of Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson. A fairly short series to knock out, and a fun light-hearted distraction.

COMMUNITY

Created by Dan Harmon

TV-14 | 2009-2015 | USA | 110 episodes

(Available to stream now on Hulu)

Dan Harmon created one of TV’s greatest sitcoms in what at first seems like a run-of-the-mill sitcom premise that over time becomes a meta commentary on tired TV tropes. Fantastic writing, hilarious payoffs, and just as smart and complicated as his work on Rick & Morty.


BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER

Created by Joss Whedon

TV-14 | 1997-2003 | USA | 145 episodes

(Available to stream now on Hulu)

 know Firefly fans will disagree, but this is Joss Whedon at his finest. A follow-up to the film he wrote in 1992 (nostalgic for me, but not a great film), the series starts as your average “monster of the week” schlock but as the story becomes more serialized it dives into deeper themes and stories. I’ll admit, I rolled my eyes at it when first introduced to it, but the more I watched it took surprising leaps and convinced me that it really is one of TV’s greatest series. (Also, I apologize that the “HD conversion” is the most accessible now, as it ruined a lot of the color-grading, plus they did it carelessly so now you can see crew members in it).

EVERYTHING SUCKS!

Created by Ben York Jones & Michael Mohan

TV-14 | 2018 | USA | 10 episodes

(Available to stream now on Netflix)

So I was prepared to list Freaks and Geeks in this spot, but apparently all streaming platforms have taken it off (I'm assuming in preparation for HBO Max this summer). I remember watching Freaks and Geeks when it first aired and thinking “this is something special” and the first time I felt deeply disappointed when something that spoke to me got cancelled (what did you expect with a Saturday time-slot?). However, more recently I discovered a 90s version on Netflix in Everything Sucks!, which was also cancelled after one season. But, as timeless as the middle/high school experience is awkward, there are plenty of other shows that I appreciate in this ilk (see also PEN15 and Awkward., both on Hulu.)

THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD

Created by Jonathan Entwistle

TV-MA | 2017-2019 | UK | 16 episodes

(Available to stream now on Netflix)

A dark comedy romance, this British series’ premise starts about as black as you can get, and yet you fall in love with the protagonists and are ready to go anywhere with them.