The 50 Best TV Shows to Binge-Watch Right Now

Though, historically, baseball has always been cited as America's favorite pastime, it's hard not to argue that since the arrival of entertainment streaming networks like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, binge-watching has pretty much usurped that title. But with so much content and so little time, it can be easy to find yourself spending half of your evening just figuring out what you want to watch in the first place. So we're here to help.

Whether your tastes lean toward fun-but-frightening sci-fi anthologies or laugh-out-loud absurd comedies, here are the 50 TV shows we're binge-watching right now—all of which run for more than a single season (sorry, Firefly and Freaks and Geeks)—so that you've got more to watch, and all of them just a click away.

1. ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1955-1962)

Where to watch it: Hulu

With his tack-sharp introductions and tightly-plotted morality plays, Alfred Hitchcock—already renowned for his feature film work—became the prototype for Rod Serling with the 1955 debut of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Each episode of the anthology focuses on a different criminal scheme and its inevitable unraveling, from a woman’s novel disposal of a murder weapon (“Lamb to Slaughter”) to the plight of a man being robbed after he’s paralyzed in a car accident (“Breakdown”). If the stark black and white cinematography looks familiar, you have a good eye: Hitchcock used most of the TV show’s crew to film 1960’s Psycho. —Jake Rossen

2. THE AMERICANS (2013- )

Where to watch it: Amazon

To their neighbors in a sleepy D.C. suburb, travel agents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings seem about as boring as you can get. But to anyone who gets in their way (including FBI agents), these undercover Russian spies are quick, efficient, and deadly. If you like intrigue, action, steamy sex scenes, '80s nostalgia, and honest, thought-provoking depictions of marriage, you’re going to love The Americans. —Kate Horowitz


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3. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (2003-)

Where to watch it: Hulu, Netflix

This smart, snarky series follows the riches-to-rags story of the Bluths, a dysfunctional Orange County family that loses their real estate fortune after the SEC begins investigating the family business for fraud. After the family patriarch, George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), goes to prison, his son Michael (Jason Bateman) is left to grudgingly hold the family together. Arrested Development’s intricately crafted plotlines, recurring gags, and relentlessly clever wordplay earned the adoration of a cult following, but didn’t drive ratings high enough to keep Fox from cancelling the show after its third season. After fans lobbied hard to revive the series, Netflix released a disappointing fourth season in 2013 that failed to live up to the original run’s magic. (A fifth season is currently in the works.) —Nicolas Rivero

4. BETTER CALL SAUL (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Before he was Saul Goodman, lawyer to Albuquerque’s favorite chemistry teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White on Breaking Bad (more on that below), Bob Odenkirk was Jimmy McGill, the ne'er-do-well brother to one of the city’s most well respected attorneys whose mental issues (or electricity allergy, if you prefer) leave the brothers frequently at odds. Though, deep down, Jimmy clearly cares about people—well, some people—he cares about winning more, and proving to his brother that he's matured since his day of running scams back in their hometown of Cicero, Illinois, where he was known as "Slippin' Jimmy." Fans who lamented the end of Breaking Bad have gotten a stellar prequel with Better Call Saul—one that manages to enrich the backstory of Breaking Bad yet stand alone as its own stellar series. —Jennifer M. Wood

5. BLACK MIRROR (2011-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

OK, full disclaimer: Do not attempt to binge-watch Black Mirror all in a day. With just 13 episodes spread out across three seasons (plus a Christmas episode), you could physically do it—but mentally, you need more breathing room. Though the anthology series has been compared to The Twilight Zone due to its twisty, technology-themed tales, at its heart, Black Mirror is a reflection of society. “The technology is never the culprit in our stories,” creator Charlie Brooker told Vogue. “The technology is just allowing people to do terrible things to themselves or others.” It only takes watching the first episode to understand what Brooker is talking about. —Stacy Conradt

6. BOB’S BURGERS (2011-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

In this animated series, Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) and his family run a struggling burger joint in a seaside town where one of their only regular customers is the mortician next door. The three mischievous but well-meaning Belcher children get up to plenty of hijinks as the family tries to scrape out a living selling Bob’s innovative burgers—which have now been released as a real-life cookbook. Its musical interludes—enough to put together into a 112-song album—fart jokes, and regular burger-themed puns put a hilarious spin on what is, underneath it all, a sweet show about a deeply loving family. It’s the kind of show that’s jam-packed with enough jokes to make it worth watching again and again. —Shaunacy Ferro

7. BREAKING BAD (2008-2013)

Where to watch it: Netflix

If you haven’t seen what is probably the most critically-acclaimed show that has ever aired on television, now is as good a time as any to start watching. Breaking Bad follows Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a down-on-his-luck high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Desperate to provide for his family before his death, White teams up with a former student and small-time drug dealer (Aaron Paul) to cook and sell crystal meth. As Walter finds his footing in New Mexico’s criminal underworld, he discovers that both his ambitions and his ego extend far beyond his medical bills and his children’s college funds. Breaking Bad brims with dark secrets, surprising humor, and a pulsing humanity that renders this gritty drama all too believable. —NR

8. BROADCHURCH (2013-2017)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Though it was a bona fide television phenomenon when it premiered in its native England in 2013, it took a while for American audiences to catch on to Broadchurch—and it’s a good thing they finally did. Like a less strange version of Twin Peaks, the series follows two newly partnered detectives (David Tennant and Olivia Colman) tasked with solving the murder of a 12-year-old boy in a tiny seaside town where everyone knows each other, and everyone is a suspect. In addition to being a phenomenal crime procedural that keeps you guessing until the very end, Broadchurch is not afraid to take its viewers into the darkest corners of the human psyche, yet still maintains a message that tells us we have the power to bounce back from even the worst tragedies. —JMW

9. CATASTROPHE (2015-)

Where to watch it: Amazon

It’s the classic story: American boy meets Irish girl while traveling for business, boy and girl have a fling, boy gets girl pregnant, boy and girl decide to have the baby. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, who write and star in the Amazon original, have an acerbic (usually foul-mouthed—this show isn’t for the kids!) sense of humor that will leave you in stitches, and rewinding to catch the joke you missed while you were laughing. With only 18 episodes to date, it’s the perfect length to devour over a lazy weekend. —Abbey Stone

10. CHEWING GUM (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

The most embarrassing day of your life has nothing on a normal day for Tracey Gordon. The first episode of this laugh-until-you-feel-sick series opens with its adorable and painfully inept 24-year-old protagonist trying desperately to lose her virginity, and it just gets more awkward from there. Michaela Coel created and stars in the BAFTA-winning show, which makes ample use of her astonishingly expressive face and talent for physical comedy. —KH

11. DEADWOOD (2004-2006)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Like many of the prestige dramas that HBO aired in the wake of The Sopranos's success, David Milch's Deadwood managed to attract a small but rabid fan base that has only grown with time, as new generations get the chance to discover the series via streaming networks like Amazon. Set in the late 1800s, not long after Custer's Last Stand, the show mixes fact with fiction as characters like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Wyatt Earp make their way in and out of Deadwood, South Dakota. Its main characters, Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), Sol Star (John Hawkes), and Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) are also real people. And while it includes all of the fun tropes we've come to expect of a great western—including gunfights, gold rushes, and fun-filled brothels—the series, which ran for just three seasons, is really about the evolution of civilization and how we build communities out of chaos. And with a lot of f-bombs dropped (mostly from McShane). —JMW

12. DOCTOR WHO (1963-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, BritBox

Originally making its debut in 1963, Doctor Who is the kind of sci-fi juggernaut that can seem a bit daunting to non-hardcore fans of the genre. While the earlier incarnation (which you can watch on BritBox) has a definite sense of humor, the reimagined version of the series—which made its triumphant return in 2005—offers loads of kitschy fun. The series follows a time-traveling alien who travels through space and time to help save the world with the help of his trusty (and ever-changing) companion. Though the reboot kicked off with Christopher Eccleston playing the Ninth Doctor, part of the fun is that regeneration is canon—so while The Doctor is technically always the same character, he can regenerate into a new face and body every time an actor leaves the show. (David Tennant, Matt Smith, and Peter Capaldi followed). With 26 seasons and more than 900 episodes (or 10 seasons and 275 episodes if you stick with the reboot), there’s a lot to get through—but the kitschy nature of it all keeps it light and fun. Plus, with former Broadchurch star Jodie Whittaker making her debut as the first female Doctor in the series’s history later this year, now is the perfect time to invest in the otherworldly series where anything’s possible. —JMW

13. DOWNTON ABBEY (2010-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

In the picturesque English village of Downton, the Earl (Hugh Bonneville) and Countess (Elizbaeth McGovern) of Grantham have got a problem: They’ve just received word that the Earl’s nephew and heir (and the kinda sorta fiancé of his eldest daughter, Mary) has died aboard the Titanic. Unfortunately for Mary (Michelle Dockery), there’s no such thing as a female heiress in 1912 England. So in addition to getting her married off to some well-to-do gentleman who will keep her social status intact, they need to track down the stranger who will end up inheriting their beloved estate and the bulk of their fortune. Enter Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), a middle-class lawyer from Manchester, England, and his meddling mother Isobel (Penelope Wilton), who must find a way to adapt to the Crawleys’ way of life, and who the family must learn to accept. Though the series straddles the line between historical drama and nighttime soap opera, even when it’s at its soapiest, the show’s impeccable attention to detail—thanks in large part to historical adviser Alastair Bruce—and its Upstairs, Downstairs-like balance between the dramas that face a 19th-century aristocrat and the troubles of the trusty servants downstairs keep it rather addicting, even when the plotlines seem to be stretching it a bit. —JMW

14. EASTBOUND & DOWN (2009-2013)

Where to watch it: Amazon

First things first: Eastbound & Down is not for the easily offended. If you’re familiar with Danny McBride’s body of work, you’ll understand why. (Even the clip above could be considered NSFW.) From 2006’s no-budget indie The Foot Fist Way to his current HBO series Vice Principals, McBride is at his best when he’s acting like a raging a-hole—and he does that to an astonishing degree as Kenny Powers, an obnoxious former pro baseball player whose well-documented rise and fall in professional sports has left him with no choice but to move in with his brother and become a P.E. teacher. Created by McBride, Jody Hill, and Ben Best (the trio also responsible for The Foot Fist Way), the series tracks Powers’s epic highs and painful lows—almost all of which he brings upon himself—and isn't afraid to say, do, or show the things that no other series would dare. —JMW

15. THE FALL (2013-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Though it steered a bit off course in its second and third seasons, The Fall is one of those crime dramas that is compelling enough on the “crime” level that it’s easy to overlook some of its flaws (like the fact that the police seem pretty inept a lot of the time). Before he was getting nasty in 50 Shades of Grey and its sequel, Jamie Dornan played a masochist of a different kind in The Fall as Paul Spector, a family man and bereavement counselor who just so happens to have a penchant for stalking and murdering women. Part of what makes the show so watchable is that we know his deep, dark secrets from the very beginning—there’s no whodunit guessing game. Instead, you’re waiting for the police force, which has enlisted the help of badass detective Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), to catch up. —JMW


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16. FARGO (2014-)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Making the jump from movie to television screen has rarely turned out to be a great idea (see the small-screen versions of: Ferris Bueller, Serpico, Uncle Buck, and Casablanca). But Fargo is an absolute exception to this rule. Brilliantly crafted, the show is technically designed as an anthology series (though there are connections between each of its three—and hopefully counting—seasons). Even better: It doesn’t try to retell the Coen brothers’ 1996 film, but it does pay tribute to their work—not just with its title or setting, but with its unique tone, quirky characters, and perfectly honed black comedy. Plus, serious Coen fans will recognize all sorts of Easter eggs that relate not just to the Oscar-winning big screen version of Fargo, but several other movies in their filmography—like the inclusion of Billy Bob Thornton in season one (who starred in The Man Who Wasn’t There), who plays a sociopath not unlike No Country for Old Men's Anton Chigurh, whose evil seems to know no bounds. —JMW

17. GAME OF THRONES (2011-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

Based on the fantasy book series by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones is a brilliantly realized power struggle that pits various factions against each other for the fate of the land of Westeros. Multiple plot threads are woven together to form a tapestry of violence, deception, and infighting, with a colorful army of characters that will either delight or disgust you (or maybe a bit of both). The cast is highlighted by breakout performances by Peter Dinklage, Maisie Williams, Kit Harington, and Lena Headey; though be cautious when getting attached to any of the show’s characters—showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have no problem killing off even the most beloved characters. Even if you’re not a fan of high fantasy, the familial struggles and blockbuster action should be more than enough to keep you hooked. —JS

18. GILMORE GIRLS (2000-2007; 2016)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Enter the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut and follow Lorelai Gilmore (Lauren Graham) and her daughter Rory (Alexis Bledel) as they drink coffee, talk fast, and tackle the challenges of life. Gilmore Girls explores themes of friendship, romance, generational problems, and class issues in fast-paced episodes packed with fantastic dialogue. The show has many distinctive characters that will have you coming back and singing the theme song along with each episode. Once you’re all caught up, don’t forget to check out the Netflix revival series, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life! Renee Borcas

19. HANNIBAL (2013-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Prior to taking on a TV adaptation of American Gods, auteur showrunner Bryan Fuller took on Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal, which aired on NBC from 2013 to 2015. The series extrapolated storylines from author Thomas Harris’s novels Red Dragon and Hannibal, and presented the infamous cannibal psychiatrist before he’d been unmasked as a psychotic serial killer. Hugh Dancy stars as unstable FBI profiler Will Graham, who is able to reconstruct serial killers’ methods in his mind and understand their motivations and behaviors to capture them. As each case takes its mental toll, his boss, Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne), insists that he see psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Lecter manipulates both Graham and the FBI as he continues to kill—and serve up killer human-based meals to unsuspecting dinner guests.

Fuller’s fantastical fingerprint is all over the florid murder scenes, which are as beautifully staged as they are gruesome. (You will frequently ask yourself how this show ever aired on network TV.) Hannibal’s cooking scenes, scored with classical music, are lush, and filmed like the most gorgeously wrong cooking show of all time. Your mouth might water—but you will definitely cringe when Hannibal’s guests take a bite.

At a criminally-short three seasons, Hannibal is easy to devour; the last episode of season three was filmed before the show was cancelled, and its post-credit cliffhanger will leave you hungry for more. (And if Fuller has anything to do with it, a fourth season that delves into Silence of the Lambs territory will be dished up soon.) —Erin McCarthy

20. HOUSE OF CARDS (2013-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

In a way, House of Cards is really the show that kickstarted the whole binge-watch trend in a serious way. As one of the first series to debut on a streaming network (in this case, Netflix), it almost begged to be consumed in one sitting—and not just because all 13 episodes in its first season dropped at one time, but because it was impossible not to be seduced by Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a South Carolina Congressman and Democratic House Majority Whip who vows revenge when newly elected POTUS Garrett Walker (Michael Gill) reneges on his promise to appoint Frank as Secretary of State. The more havoc Underwood wreaks, the more powerful he grows—aided by his equally cunning wife Claire (Robin Wright). Though the series has stumbled a bit in its more recent seasons (season five arrived on Netflix earlier this year), it’s still fascinating to watch the political machinations and wonder just how on-the-nose they are regarding real life in the nation’s capital. —JMW

21. IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA (2005-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

FX’s longest-running (12 seasons and counting) series is also television’s most tasteless, with plots that sound cobbled together from the depths of internet sub-forums. The Gang (a.k.a. the going-nowhere owners of a seedy Philly bar) finds a dumpster baby and decides to profit by casting him in commercials; the Gang uses CSI-level techniques to find out who pooped in one of their beds. Almost every episode could be titled “The Gang Learns Absolutely Nothing.” So why watch? Because greed and incompetence—and Danny DeVito—have made the show a cult classic. —JR

22. JANE THE VIRGIN (2014-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Jane the Virgin follows Jane Villanueva (played by Golden Globe-winner Gina Rodriguez) as she navigates the aftermath of her accidental artificial insemination. The show is a little more grounded than the Venezuelan telenovela it’s based on, but with family drama, a steamy love triangle, and a face-changing crime lord (and that’s just in the first season), it packs plenty of action into each episode. —Michele Debczak

23. JUSTIFIED (2010-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

On its surface, Justified looks and feels like your standard cop procedural: Displaced lawman Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) returns to his Kentucky hometown to face old demons and an oppressive supervisor. (Yes, he’s even asked to turn in his badge.) But it sure doesn’t talk like one. Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, Justified has an ear for dialogue that approaches music, with Givens trading verbal jabs as easily as he exchanges bullets. While Olyphant has the laconic-hero approach down, it’s Walton Goggins as onetime friend-turned-foe Boyd Crowder who, as The New York Times observed, “makes a habit of being the best thing about television shows he’s in.” —JR

24. THE LAST KINGDOM (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories series of historical fiction novels, The Last Kingdom follows the life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), a Saxon who was kidnapped by Danes as a child and grows up in the middle of two warring worlds upon his return home. The fictionalized tale of Uhtred is set against the backdrop of the rise of Alfred the Great (David Dawson), the real-world King of Wessex in the 9th century who fought off Viking invaders, promoted literacy and education, and helped build toward a unified England. Amidst all the history lessons, the series features a twisting plot, complex characters, and plenty of sword-and-shield warfare. Originally airing on BBC, The Last Kingdom is a Netflix exclusive in America. —Jason Serafino

25. THE LEAGUE (2009-2015)

Where to watch it: Netflix

The League is not the kind of show where you’re really rooting for the characters to succeed. This gang of NFL uber-fans who put together a hyper-competitive fantasy football league is full of characters who are deeply offensive, completely incorrigible, and a delight to watch. The fast-paced, crass show was created by husband-and-wife team Jeff and Jackie Schaffer, who modeled the semi-improvised series after Jeff's own obsession with fantasy sports. (They run their own league with the cast, giving the show an extra boost of realism.) Even if you couldn't care less about football, you’ll love watching a group of sharp-tongued friends completely debase themselves in service of winning a trophy that’s worthless to everyone but them. —SF

26. THE KNICK (2014-2015)

Where to watch it: Amazon

Renaissance man filmmaker Steven Soderbergh directed and shot this two-season Cinemax series, which is not for the faint of heart. The drama is set in a New York City hospital in the early 20th century, and features gory and historically accurate surgical techniques. Clive Owen toplines the cast as John Thackery, the talented but damaged chief surgeon of the eponymous Knickerbocker Hospital who is hiding a serious addiction to cocaine; André Holland plays Algernon C. Edwards, the brilliant Europe-educated African-American surgeon who joins the Knick as assistant chief of surgery, to objections from other surgeons on staff; and Eve Hewson (daughter of U2's Bono) is Lucy Elkins, a young nurse at the Knick caught between her religious morals and her torrid affair with Thackery.

From Thackery’s inventive surgical techniques and one doctor’s wife going insane, to an illegal abortion business and the hospital manager’s shady dealings with contractors and mobsters, there’s plenty of life-or-death drama both inside the hospital and outside of it—and there are so many historical Easter eggs (keep an eye out for Typhoid Mary!) that history buffs will find themselves as addicted to the 20-episode show as Thackery is to his drug of choice. —EM

27. LUTHER (2010-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

For just about as long as there have been cop shows there have been conflicted cops starring at the center of them, and this gritty British crime series is no different. What makes it stand out is Idris Elba as DCI John Luther, a detective who regularly finds himself on the wrong side of London's most unhinged criminals. But Luther will stop at nothing to make sure he gets the bad guy—even if he has to bend the law, or befriend a sociopathic genius (Ruth Wilson) who murdered her parents, to do it. Even the most deranged criminal is no match for Elba's hulking intensity. With just 15 episodes over the course of four seasons, you've got plenty of time to catch up on Luther before Elba returns for a fifth season. —JMW

28. MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES (2012-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) is Melbourne’s finest detective … even if she’s not actually employed by the police. Set in 1920s Australia, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a lighthearted detective show that follows the amateur investigator’s capers as she solves some of the city’s toughest crimes. The self-assured, thoroughly modern Fisher ruffles the feathers of the old-fashioned detectives on the police force, but she can’t stop herself from following the clues, and more often than not, they lead her straight to the bad guy while the real police struggle to catch up. The show has a little jazz, a little romance, and plenty of shootouts. Oh, and a lot of great flapper fashion. —SF

29. THE OFFICE (2001-2003)

Where to watch it: Netflix

With all due respect to Greg Daniels's American version of The Office (which is also available on Netflix and worth your time), when it comes to the fine art of awkward comedy, there's no more talented a practitioner than Ricky Gervais. Whereas Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott is a sort of sweet social misfit who just wants to be liked, Wernham Hogg's David Brent is more of a self-centered jerk who regularly tries, and desperately fails, to command respect from those around him. And when things don't go Brent's way, he unleashes the childish beast inside—and those are the series's finest moments. His attempt to out-dance his immediate superior, who has everything David wants, is the kind of thing you'll want to rewind and re-watch. Especially to witness that Martin Freeman has a perfect facial response to every situation. —JMW

30. ORPHAN BLACK (2013-2017)

Where to watch it: Amazon

You want great sci-fi? We’ll give you great sci-fi. The Canadian breakout hit Orphan Black raised the bar for storytelling, cultural commentary, hair and makeup design, and unparalleled acting. Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany’s star-making turn as dozens of unique, complex, lovable (okay, mostly lovable) characters—all clones—is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. —KH


ROBYN BECK / Getty Images


ROBYN BECK / Getty Images

 

31. PARKS AND RECREATION (2009-2015)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Parks and Recreation proved that the bureaucracy of small-town government is a goldmine for comedy. Amy Poehler plays Leslie Knope, the optimistic deputy director of Pawnee, Indiana’s parks and recreation department. She’s joined by established names like Rob Lowe as well as burgeoning stars like Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, and Aubrey Plaza. Even when the gang is losing political battles, or planning a memorial service for a tiny horse (RIP Lil' Sebastian), the show remains a feel-good sitcom at heart. —MD

32. PARTY DOWN (2009-2010)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Before Glee and Parks and Recreation made them famous, Jane Lynch and Adam Scott ate lots of canapés together while starring in Party Down. The short-lived TV series—which ran from 2009 to 2010 on Starz—follows a group of struggling actors (and one screenwriter) as they moonlight as caterers to pay the bills. Along the way, they encounter colorful party guests, experience awkward hookups, and struggle to hold onto their dreams. —Kirstin Fawcett

33. PEAKY BLINDERS (2013-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

This BBC series, created by Steven Knight, is essentially the British Godfather, and was inspired by the real-life gang that operated in Birmingham, England, during the 19th and 20th centuries. (They reportedly got their name from the razor blades they sewed into the brims of their caps.)

Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby, the sprawling gang’s reluctant but fiery leader, who must take over the family business out of a sense of criminal duty. Scored with a modern soundtrack (it’s the best use of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” ever) and shot with a classically staged intensity, Peaky Blinders gets its binge-ability from constantly confronting the viewer with how people doing such wrong could seem so right. The series also guest stars actor Tom Hardy as marble-mouthed Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons, the ruthless leader of a rival gang, which is among the more intense roles of the infamously intense actor’s repertoire.

Each season is just six episodes—easy enough to devour over a weekend. You can catch up before season four, which will feature Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, airs. —EM

34. PENNY DREADFUL (2014-2016)

Where to watch it: Netflix

In a way, it's kind of hard to pinpoint exactly where Penny Dreadful went wrong. Perhaps if it had aired on HBO as opposed to Showtime, we'd be deep into season four already. But seemingly just as quickly as it appeared, this beautifully shot series created by John Logan (the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind Gladiator, The Aviator, Skyfall, and Alien: Covenant) ended after 27 episodes, with viewers only realizing that we'd officially come to the end when the words "The End" actually appeared on the screen. Like a highbrow monster movie mashup, the series takes several familiar characters from literature—including Victor Frankenstein and his Monster, Van Helsing, Renfield, Count Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll—and throws them all together in Victorian England. Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, and Josh Hartnett lead a formidable cast of characters telling dark stories that will have you wishing the series had not yet concluded. —JMW

35. PUSHING DAISIES (2007-2009)

Where to watch it: Amazon, CW Seed

In the words of Stefon, Pushing Daisies has it all: a cruise ship murder, agoraphobic aunts, a piemaker who can reanimate the dead, and Swoozie Kurtz. This brightly colored "forensic fairytale" stars Lee Pace as the proprietor of The Pie Hole pastry shop, but piemaking is just one of his talents. He can also revive the dead with a single touch. Unfortunately, a second touch kills them again. His gift proves especially problematic when he revives his childhood sweetheart after she’s mysteriously murdered. Sadly, Pushing Daisies kicked the bucket too soon: It was canceled after just 22 fantastical episodes. Reboot whisperings have been swirling for years, but until someone reanimates this corpse, you can binge the original episodes on CW Seed. —SC

36. SCHITT’S CREEK (2015-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

If you’ve enjoyed Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy in any of their past film roles as oddball parents, you won’t be let down by the Canadian television series Schitt’s Creek. In it, the two return to familiar cringe-comedy material—this time as rich narcissists clumsily trying to adjust to their new, unglamorous lives in the small, rural town of Schitt’s Creek after losing all of their money. They’re joined by their two lovably vain children, David—who is played by Levy’s real-life son, Dan—and Alexis (Annie Murphy), who provide an additional layer of chaos to the series as they attempt to maintain normal twenty-something social lives. At just 22 minutes an episode, it’s more than possible to accidentally finish off a season (or two) in one sitting. —Colin Gorenstein

 


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37. SHERLOCK (2010-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

In 2012, Sherlock Holmes (the character) became a Guinness World Record holder when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed detective nabbed the title for "the most portrayed literary human character in film & TV," with a total (at the time) of 254 onscreen depictions. But you don't have to have seen every single one of them to know that Benedict Cumberbatch, as the consulting detective, and Martin Freeman as his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson have brought a totally new spin to Doyle's works with Sherlock. Set in modern-day London, the series imagines a world in which Holmes would have the benefit of Google and social media to help him in his investigations, with Watson regularly blogging about their strangest cases (which turns Sherlock into a kind of social media star). Though it may sound like a breeze to get through just 15 episodes, most of them run about 90 minutes apiece—the length of a kids' movie—so it can be a longer investment. But approaching each episode like a standalone film allows the show to experiment a bit, even creating one episode which sends Holmes and Watson back to the era for which they were created. —JMW

38. THE SHIELD (2002-2008)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Television has traditionally been more hospitable to antiheroes than feature films have been, but none have been quite as arresting as Vic Mackey, the “different kind of cop” who murders, plunders, and lies his way through the politics of Los Angeles law enforcement. Michael Chiklis won an Emmy for his portrayal of Mackey, and it’s easy to see why: As Mackey’s lies and deceptions continue to pile up, the actor does a fantastic job of keeping him (almost) sympathetic. It’s not that Mackey wants to blur the line between good and bad—he wants to erase it altogether. —JR

39. SILICON VALLEY (2014-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

Mike Judge’s obsessively detailed satirization of life in the tech industry follows Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) as he attempts to build a startup around a revolutionary algorithm he created in his spare time. Pied Piper’s rag-tag team of coding misfits have the technical skills to change the world, if only they could stop getting in each other’s (and their own) way. The series shows comedians like Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, T.J. Miller, and Zach Woods at their best, trading quick barbs and dealing with the outsized egos of Bay Area billionaires who do things like hire a “blood boy” to supply them with regular transfusions of youthful blood. (Like most of the show’s most ridiculous plot lines, that was inspired by a real Silicon Valley startup.) —SF

40. SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005)

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime, HBO Go

As the title implies, death is everywhere in Six Feet Under. Alan Ball's critically-acclaimed HBO series begins with the death of Fisher family patriarch Nathaniel (Richard Jenkins), who runs the Fisher & Sons funeral home (out of the family's California home) with youngest son David (Michael C. Hall, in his first television role), who is struggling with his sexual identity. When Nathaniel passes the family business on to David and his older brother Nate (Peter Krause), it forces Nate to move back to California and get to know his family again—including mother Ruth (Frances Conroy) and teenaged sister Claire (Lauren Ambrose). Though it's a show about death—each episode kicks off with a death sequence, some of which can be truly bizarre and even disturbing—it's really about family and making every moment of the life we do have. Which isn't to say that it's not utterly heartbreaking at times. Though you'll want to keep watching, it's best to limit the number of episodes you watch in any given day, lest you spend your non-watching hours questioning the meaning of life. —JMW

41. THE SOPRANOS (1999-2007)

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime, HBO Go

The Sopranos was never going to be shackled to the clichés of a mob series. The show is just as comfortable with shootouts and whackings as it is with the dissection of Tony Soprano’s (James Gandolfini) psyche on a therapist’s couch. And when his day as a mobster ends, he has a strained marriage to Carmella (the brilliant Edie Falco) and two hormonal teenagers at home to contend with. The characters are relatable, the plots are always engrossing, and there are plenty of quotable moments that will keep you binging through the show’s six-season run. —JS

42. STRANGERS WITH CANDY (1999-2000)

Where to watch it: Hulu

In high school, Jerri Blank was the kid your parents warned you about. The self-described “boozer, user, and a loser” dropped out of school, worked as a prostitute, and ultimately ended up behind bars. Now, at the ripe and reformed age of 46, Jerri is back at Flatpoint High School and ready to earn her degree—and learn a few life lessons along the way. Written as a spoof of after school specials of the 1970s and 1980s, Strangers With Candy reminds us that fashion trends come and go, but the humiliations of adolescence remain eternal. —KF

43. SUPERNATURAL (2005-)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Soon to be entering its 13th season, Supernatural is the longest running fantasy series on American television. This show follows the adventures of brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively) as they travel around the country hunting demons, ghosts, and monsters, all while listening to an epic soundtrack of classic rock hits. The series may have its origins in the horror genre, but its numerous laughable and heartfelt moments are what have truly enabled Supernatural to stand the test of time. —RB

44. 12 MONKEYS (2015-)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Though it shares a name and some basic plot points with filmmaker Terry Gilliam’s 1995 movie (which was itself based on the French short film La Jetée), Syfy’s 12 Monkeys, co-created by Travis Fickett and Terry Matalas, is its own beast by the second episode. Post-apocalyptic scavenger James Cole (Aaron Stanford) is sent back in time—“splintering,” in the show’s terminology—by mad scientist Dr. Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa) to find Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull), the one person the future freedom fighters hope can help them stop a plague that will wipe out most of humanity. They enlist the help of Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), the maybe-crazy daughter of Leland Goines, the CEO of a biomedical engineering company. He's in league with a mysterious organization, known as the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and its mysterious leader, The Pallid Man (Tom Noonan), who want to bring the world to an end.

Depending on the episode, the characters find themselves anywhere from post-apocalyptic 2043 to 1800s London or 1980s New York City to the trenches of World War I. As the characters splinter through time to unravel the mysteries of the Army of the 12 Monkeys and stop its prophet, The Witness, things get complicated—and more compelling. With each time period recreated with incredible attention to detail and each episode shot like a mini-movie, it’s hard to stop watching 12 Monkeys once you’ve started. Regular viewers had to wait between multi-episode and season-ending cliffhangers (and there are a lot of them), but lucky binge-watchers won’t have to. You can catch up before the show’s fourth and final season airs next year. —EM

 


Dia Dipasupil / Getty Images

 

45. THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-1964)

Where to watch it: Netflix

A must for fans of "the odd, the bizarre, the unexpected" (as Serling once described his show to TV Guide), The Twilight Zone made an indelible mark on pop culture by showing Americans that sci-fi could be smart. Yes, there are robots, aliens, UFOs, and time travel, but those are often just props in larger stories about human nature and Cold War-era social anxieties. Almost every sci-fi/fantasy show on TV today owes something to the show, which is a reason to watch in and of itself—as is Serling's mastery of the twist ending. While you're savoring the well-crafted plotlines and brilliantly macabre touches, keep an eye out for early appearances from famous names like Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, William Shatner, and George Takei. —Bess Lovejoy

46. TWIN PEAKS (1990-1991; 2017)

Where to watch it: Netflix

“Diane, I’m watching a dramatic series on television called Twin Peaks. It premiered in 1990 and centers around an FBI agent’s attempt to solve the murder of Laura Palmer, the homecoming queen of a small Pacific Northwest logging town. It seems like every character is filled with secrets—her boyfriend Bobby Briggs, her best friend Donna Hayward, her rival Audrey Horne, and especially her father Leland. The further I get into the show, Diane, the murkier it gets. I’ll give this series two seasons at most, but I have a feeling they’ll be the strangest, most inventive 30 episodes that ever aired on broadcast TV.” —Kat Long

47. VEEP (2012-)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

Unlike The West Wing’s high-stakes drama (see below), Veep puts a comedic spin on the White House that is no less effective. The show focuses on Vice President Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who has taken home her fair share of awards for the role), and a supporting cast that includes hapless colleagues and political enemies. Veep pokes, prods, and skewers the bubble of Washington, D.C., while at the same time diving into the complexities of the political arena. It’s a refreshing take on a political series—one that knows it’s dealing with heavy subjects without taking itself too seriously. —JS

48. THE WEST WING (1999-2006)

Where to watch it: Netflix

Aaron Sorkin’s benchmark political drama was prestige TV before we even started using the term. The West Wing focuses on the presidential administration of the fictional Democrat Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen. With its signature lightning-quick dialogue and eye for authenticity, the series is as close as most of us are ever going to get to seeing how the White House operates during both moments of mundanity and complete chaos. This is required viewing for any political junkie that missed this show’s initial run. —JS

49. THE WIRE (2002-2008)

Where to watch it: Amazon, HBO Go

“Have you ever watched The Wire?” is one of those questions you’ve likely been asked far too often by classmates, coworkers, and family members, but don’t take that annoyance out on the show. The truth is, The Wire is one of the most acclaimed series of the 2000s for a reason. The show focuses on different aspects of the city of Baltimore, including the criminal elements, the police, the politicians, and the media. A complex plot brings these facets of life together and shows how each one impacts the other. It’s an examination of our relationship with subjects like class, race, and capitalism, punctuated by a superb cast including Dominic West, Idris Elba, Sonja Sohn, and plenty more. —JS

50. THE X-FILES (1993-2002; 2016-)

Where to watch it: Hulu

Deep in the bowels of FBI headquarters, Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) try to solve cases that the bureau doesn’t really want publicized. In their investigations of extra-terrestrial abductions, UFOs, government cover-ups, and randomly occurring monsters, Mulder, the Kool-Aid drinker, and Scully, the weary skeptic, develop a dramatic chemistry that propelled the series through nine seasons from 1993 to 2002 (plus a reboot last year that will get another season). Blast through its 208 episodes in one sitting and you’ll believe in aliens, too. —KL

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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iStock
The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
iStock
iStock

Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
Genfare

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