In a new article, I highlight the ten TV shows that are worth catching up on this summer. If you’re looking for something different and exciting to watch beyond the normal staples like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, this article’s for you. I’ve tried to offer a diverse selection and we’ve got a variety of crime, science fiction, horror and period dramas to be found within. Hit the break to find out what these shows are, and they’re mostly in a pretty random order and I’ve kept this as spoiler free as possible.
PERSON OF INTEREST (2011-)
Creator: Jonathan Nolan | Genre(s): Crime, Science Fiction, Action, Thriller | Starring: Jim Caviezel, Sarah Shahi, Michael Emerson, Kevin Chapman, Amy Acker & Taraji P. Henson | Network: CBS | Seasons: 4 | Status? On hiatus, renewed for season 5*
What is it about, and why should you watch it? Person of Interest is my favourite show currently airing and it’s essentially Batman for television. After 9-11 an Artificial Intelligence system was built by Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) to predict crimes before they happen, but the only information that Finch knows is who’s going to be involved in the crime. It doesn’t tell him if they’re going to be the victim or the perpetrator. But Finch isn’t exactly the most athletic guy around, and he needs someone to do the heavy lifting for him – enter former CIA Agent, John Reese (Jim Caviezel). Reese is a badass, and is happens, needs a purpose. So together, Finch and Reese find themselves pitted against various threats such as the corrupt police division known as HR, the sinister mob underworld, the mysterious computer hacker known only as Root (Amy Acker), as well as Reese’s CIA past which has come back to haunt him in a big, terrifying way.
The first few episodes are unfortunately standard crime procedural stuff (You’ll want to stick around to episode 7, Witness, where things finally start to get interesting), but it really starts to reward viewers who stick with it in the long haul, with Season 3 being one of the finest, most cleverly plotted and unpredictable seasons ever seen on US Network Television. The characters are so well defined and the cast is incredible, with a great mix of strong, well developed male and female characters alike. The show only gets more complex as it goes on, plunging it deeper and deeper into science fiction territory that fans of the genre should love. Whilst there’s a lot of catching up to do with the seasons being twenty plus episodes long (*the upcoming Season 5 appears to have been reduced to thirteen episodes however), it’s certainly worth it with some great material inside this show. And if you needed another reason to catchup, the show’s creator is Jonathan Nolan, who’s done a few scripts for his brother, Christopher Nolan.
Watch It If You Like/Watch These Next: 24, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Fringe, Elementary, Arrow, The Blacklist, Homeland, Ray Donavan, Hannibal & Blue Bloods.
The 100 (2013- )
Creator: Jason Rothenberg (Based on Kass Morgan’s The 100) | Genre(s): Science Fiction, Action | Cast: Eliza Taylor, Paige Turco, Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos, Thomas McDonnell, Devon Bostick, Ricky Whittle, Henry Ian Cusick & Isaiah Washington | Network: The CW | Seasons: 2 | Status? On hiatus, renewed for Season 3.
What is it about, and why should you watch it? The 100 is quite simply, the best science fiction show on television right now and that’s not an exaggeration. Whilst yes, like most shows, it does take a while to get going with the first half of Season 1 being rough around the edges, The 100 is another show that really rewards those of you who stick with it, because the plot twists and turns that come with Season 2 (and the backend of Season 1) is excellent, and it’s fantastic television. If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games and want to try something similar I’d strongly point you in the direction of this show, because it’s damn good. Taking place 97 years into the future after a nuclear war has meant that the only survivors can exist in Space (on a cluster of ships called “The Ark”), the Government, headed by Chancellor Jaha, (Isaiah Washington) has decided to send 100 imprisoned teenagers who have been arrested for various crimes down to the planet below to see if they can possibly survive on Earth, because the Ark itself is dying. Once on the ground, the kids find themselves rallying to either idealist Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) or the tough, and relentless Bellamy Blake (Bob Morley) as they begin to realise that they are not quite as alone as they thought they were.
If you’ve been itching for something to replace Battlestar Galactica ever since it went off air, then you’ll be right at home in The 100, which even features several familiar faces from the show. It’s got plenty of complex plots and characters, with the apparent stereotypes that are there at the beginning being virtually abandoned or played with over the course of the season so the characters are no longer recognisable as who they were early on. Actions have consequences and it isn’t afraid to shy away from putting their main characters through hell and back (there’s a Red Wedding-sized moment that the Good Guys commit in the end of Season 2), and to top it all off there are some very well developed characters here with some fantastic lead female ones. Whilst it is The CW so you can expect some standard love triangle moments here and there, they are virtually gone by Season 2 as it really is one of those shows that just gets better and better. A must watch.
Watch It If You Like/Watch These Next: Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Stargate, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe, The Hunger Games, The Flash, Helix & The Originals
THE AMERICANS (2013-)
Creator: Joe Weisberg | Genre(s): Spy, Espionage, Period Drama, Thriller | Cast: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor, Noah Emmerich, Keidrich Sellati, Alison Wright, Anett Mahendru & Margo Martindale | Network: FX | Seasons: 3 | Status: On hiatus, renewed for season 4.
What is it about, and why should you watch it? The Americans is probably the best show on television that you haven’t seen. A dark, complex period drama that takes place during the height of the Cold War, Joe Weisberg puts you on the side of the Russians as Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Phillip (Matthew Rhys) Jennings find themselves as deep undercover agents, working in the USA, on a long term assignment where their own children don’t even know that they’re spies. However, they also have to worry about their neighbour, Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), who happens to be an FBI Agent, and the investigations of their own daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), who is starting to suspect that her parents might just be hiding something.
If you want to see where some of the best acting on television is look no further than The Americans. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell knock it out of the park with their excellent performances and fantastic chemistry and it’s easy to see why the critical praise for this show is extremely positive. The attention to detail on the period setting is incredibly awesome (those wigs!) and the soundtrack is excellent. It’s heavily serialized, and even though it may be slow in places, it’s something that’s essential viewing for those looking for something different.
Watch It If You Like/Watch These Next: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Allegiance, The Game (BBC America), Justified, Masters of Sex, Top of the Lake, Rectify, The Leftovers & The Bridge (US).
HALT AND CATCH FIRE (2013-)
Creator: Christopher Cantwell & Christopher C. Rogers | Genre(s): Period Drama | Cast: Lee Pace, Mackenzie Davis, Scoot McNairy, Kerry Bishe & Toby Huss | Network: AMC | Seasons: 2 | Status: Currently airing season 2.
What is it about, and why should you watch it? The show with the least amount of catching up on this list, coming in at only 10 episodes in the first season and a second season that’s currently airing, Halt and Catch Fire is the Mad Men replacement you’ve been waiting for, dealing with the computer boom of the eighteens as Joe MacMillan (Lord of the Rings’ Lee Pace), unites unorthodox computer expert Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) and Gordon Clarke (Scoot McNairy), in order to Reverse Engineer a IBM Computer. However, not only is their approach illegal, but they also have to deal with internal divisions and attention from not only IBM, but also a certain company called Apple.
With a great 80’s rock soundtrack and one of the best opening theme songs you will see on television, Halt and Catch Fire kicks off with an incredibly strong pilot episode that you won’t want to miss. It’s great for binge-watching with a serialized approach that works. The characters are varied, great and awesome with Cameron Howe being a fantastic female lead and even though Gordon’s wife, Donna (Kerry Bishe) isn’t perfect at first she does get a lot better as the series goes on. The period drama itself is brought to life in great detail and the backdrop works pretty well. If you’re looking for something on AMC that’s not about drug dealers or zombies then you should consider watching Halt and Catch Fire (or the Western Hell on Wheels), because it’s so damn good.
Watch It If You Like/Watch These Next: Mad Men, Silicon Valley, The Knick, Turn: Washington’s Spies, Hell on Wheels, The Affair, Aquarius & Masters of Sex.
Creator: Bryan Fuller | Genre(s): Horror, Psychological Thriller | Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Caroline Dhavernas, Laurence Fishburne, Gillian Anderson, Eddie Izzard | Network: NBC | Seasons: 3 | Status: Currently airing season 3
What is it about, and why should you watch it? Chances are, you’ve seen Silence of the Lambs if you’re a fan of horror, and you’ll want to know more about Hannibal Lector, one of the most well developed and terrifying serial killers in fiction. Well, Hannibal is a perfect example as it explores the early years of the character, before he became as well known and as well feared as was. Expertly casting the character as Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal has a thirteen episode runtime over the course of its three seasons with season three having just started airing. It’s smart, extremely well directed and incredibly well done, with this NBC show being a cut above other standard network TV dramas.
Hannibal is probably one of the most violent and gory shows on television and it’s not for the faint of heart. However, if you aren’t put off by the horror angle (the show usually goes for implied violence rather than on-screen, with a few exceptions), then you’ll love this show. The best thing is that not only is Mads Mikkelsen a great actor but also, Hugh Dancy and Laurence Fishburne (and also X-Files star Gillian Anderson) knock it out of the park as well. The cinematography of each episode is amazing and it looks spectacular, and although it may start off as a crime procedural it certainly has a rich layer underneath it that becomes far more serialized as it goes on. On paper it may sound like a more violent Castle, but trust me, it’s not. The crime procedural element is only a gateway drug to the serialized drama that takes place in Season 2, and its certainly worth catching up on it to experience the true awesomeness that is the show’s second season. And by the looks of things, the third is just as fantastic.
Watch it If You Like/Watch These Next: Dexter, Bates Motel, The Silence of the Lambs, True Detective, Fargo, The Mentalist, Penny Dreadful, Salem, The Following & House of Cards (US).
Creator: Graham Yost (Based on Elmore Leonard’s novels) | Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Neo-Western | Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Joelle Carter, Nick Searcy | Network: FX | Seasons: 6 | Status? Ended. Season 6 was the final season and it got a completed ending.
What is it about, and why should you watch it? Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins alone should be enough reasons to watch the neo-western drama Justified, the only show on this list that has finished and wrapped up. Coming in six seasons it requires some significant investment but the long haul is certainly worth it, with Seasons 2 and 6 being among the finest seasons that I’ve seen on television. This is a smart, fun and enjoyable crime drama set against the rich backdrop of Harlan County, Kentucky, inspired from Elmore Leonard’s Fire in the Hole short story featuring a 19th-Century style US Marshall with a Cowboy hat, who returns to his old hometown after the “Justified” shooting of a criminal. It’s an excellent series with some fantastic cast, and is one of the best dramas that you’ll see on television ever.
And that’s before we get to the dialogue, because the dialogue is the best. Literally, there’s nothing else like it on television. “If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you ran into assholes all day, you’re the asshole,” is just one of the awesome lines uttered throughout this slow burn drama that veers between procedural and serialized storytelling. Its rich and complex, ever changing characters are among the best you’ll see on television – the gung-ho Raylan Givens is joined by the unforgettable Neo-Nazi anarchist turned preacher turned mob ringleader Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), and Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) makes an excellent addition to the show as the woman who is a key witness in a case against Boyd. The series is excellent and incredibly unpredictable (especially in Season 6, you will believe that nobody is safe), and the villains are fantastic. As well as Boyd, you have Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) as the second season antagonist who’s easily one of the strongest villains in the show (In fact, the actress won an Emmy and a Critics Choice Award for her performance in 2011).
And to top it all off, the soundtrack’s excellent, with Gangstagrass’ opening theme Long Hard Times To Come being awesome and each season ending with different versions of You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive? Excellent. When you finish watching the show you’ll have them all on your music player/spotify playlist.
Watch It If You Like/Watch These Next: The Shield, Fargo, Longmire, True Detective, The Americans, Deadwood, Hell on Wheels, Ray Donavan & Banshee.
ORPHAN BLACK (2013-)
Creator: Graeme Manson, John Fawcett | Genre(s): Science Fiction, Thriller, Drama | Cast: Tatiana Maslany, all the Tatiana Maslanys, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Michael Mando, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Eveylne Brochu, Ari Millen | Network: BBC America | Seasons: 3 | Status: Currently airing season 3.
What is it about, and why should you watch it? Orphan Black is an excellent show, and if you’re not watching it already then you most certainly should be, because Tatiana Maslany is superb, and to pull off the multiple different layered performances in this drama she has to be. We are initially introduced to her as Sarah Manning, a streetwise hustler with a gay foster brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris), and a foster mother Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy), and follow Sarah through the seasons as she witnesses somebody who looks exactly like her commit suicide and takes her wallet and Identification hoping to secure funds to leave her unstable boyfriend Vic (Michael Mando) and the city behind, with the money that she’s found. However, when she runs into Paul (Dylan Bruce) at the deceased woman’s house, Sarah stumbles into a conspiracy bigger than she could have ever imagined.
Orphan Black is a smart, intriguing and addictive SciFi thriller that really works, balancing humour with the conspiracy element very well. We learn that Sarah herself is a Clone and there are multiple versions of her living normal lives – the soccer mom Alison, the scientist Cosima, and the unhinged serial killer Helena (one of the show’s best characters) are characters who we are quickly introduced to and grow to love. The conspiracy element of the series grows deeper and deeper as the series progresses and we are introduced to Ari Millen eventually, and it’s worth keeping an eye on his performances particularly in Season 3 as he is somebody who I would love to see as the Joker someday. It’s just a fantastic mix of drama and character-building moments that work well, and it’s a unique offering that makes this series a must watch, with its serialized format being great for binge-watching
Watch It If You Like/Watch These Next: Fringe, Fargo, Continuum, Dollhouse, Utopia, Black Mirror, In The Flesh & Sleepy Hollow.
Creator: Robert Doherty (Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Novels) | Genre(s): Crime Drama, Procedural | Cast: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aiden Quinn, Jon Michael Hill, Rhys Ifans, Ophelia Lovibond, Natalie Dormer, Sean Pertwee, Vinnie Jones | Network: CBS | Seasons: 3 | Status? On hiatus, renewed for season 4, now with added John Noble.
What is it about, and why should you watch it? Elementary is an excellent crime drama that’s perfect for Sherlock Holmes fans who have either watched all of Sherlock and are looking for something different or didn’t like Sherlock and are looking for something different and longer. Yes, many of the die-hard Sherlock fans will call Elementary a ripoff of Sherlock and to a certain extent it is, but for several reasons, I actually prefer the CBS drama over the BBC series. For one, the cast is better. This may be a choice of personal preference but Jonny Lee Miller is fantastic and Lucy Liu is just as great. The show itself handles women a lot better than Sherlock does (Moffat tends to write the majority of his female characters in the same way), with the likes of Natalie Dormer and Ophelia Lovibond and of course Lucy Liu herself as a gender-flipped Joan Watson being excellent. There’s even a transgender Mrs. Hudson thrown in there for good measure. Yes, some of the plots may be your standard procedural drama, but it doesn’t matter. The characters are so great that you won’t care.
I was one of the many who first expected to fully hate Elementary when it was first introduced but quickly grew on the drama and now really enjoy it. The fact that there is more of the show really helps as well, as rather than three episodes every two years with seasons often ending on cliffhangers, you don’t get that here. You get a steady stream of episodes released in a reliable way that work really well. You know when the next season is coming, and there’s already a good chunk of around 60 episodes available to watch. This allows for of course plenty of plot twists and turns which is pretty awesome, with the element of humour being an excellent addition.
Also something else that’s worth mentioning, here the police aren’t idiots. One thing that happens in Sherlock that’s quite common is the police being treated as idiots as a way to remind how smart Holmes is often in unnecessary ways but Elementary avoids that. The show has interesting characters in the police force that it doesn’t make fun of them every chance it gets, and Aiden Quinn makes a really awesome Gregson (and this of course allows for a Sean Pertwee appearance as Lestrade during a Season 2 trip to London). Elementary is something different, fun and exciting that is generally well worth a watch.
(Well, this basically just turned into a Sherlock vs. Elementary post, didn’t it? The short version, watch them both actually, they’re great even if I prefer Elementary).
Watch This If You Liked/Watch These Next: Sherlock, The Blacklist, White Collar, Castle, The Killing (US), The Mentalist, Person Of Interest, House & Luther.
BLACK SAILS (2013-)
Creator: Jonathan E. Steinberg, Robert Levine (A prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island) | Genre(s): Drama, Adventure | Cast: Toby Stephens, Hannah New, Luke Arnold, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Tom Hopper, Zack McGowan, Toby Schmitz, Clara Paget, Mark Ryan | Network: Starz | Seasons: 2 | Status: On hiatus but renewed for season 3.
What is it about, and why should you watch it? Black Sails is an awesome show that took a while to get going and then became amazing in its second season. If you like pirates and/or have ever played Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, then Black Sails should be your thing. It’s so good. As mentioned above it’s a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, planting Captain Flint, Billy Bones and John Silver in a world 20 years before the events of the famous novel, and among real pirates like Charles Vane, Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny. It’s essentially Black Flag the TV series and really works, adopting a serialized format with a first season that’s only eight episodes long, and whilst it takes until the last couple of episodes for the show to really get good, trust me, it gets amazing after that.
Starz has a reputation for gratuitous sex and violence and there’s some here, but don’t let that put you off because the story is pretty good, using Game of Thrones as a jumping off point for various twisted alliances and political battles that have as much conflict as the open seas drama does. Toby Stephens is excellent as the lead Captain Flint and Luke Arnold is fun as the smooth-talking John Silver, who has not quite lost his leg yet.
The show itself is fun, there’s no getting around that. Whilst it remains landlocked for the most of season one the potential that it has really comes around full circle in Season 2, making it a must watch for viewers who are fans of period dramas. The sets are amazing and the costumes are pretty realistic, with the swashbuckling fight sequences being very awesome indeed. Game of Thrones fans will be delighted to see that Blackwater director Neil Marshall is at the helm of a couple of episodes and it’s great to have him on board as well. It’s a show that really comes into its own in Season 2 and will certainly reward viewers who stick around.
Watch This If You Liked/Watch These Next: Game of Thrones, Vikings, Rome, The Tudors, The Borgias, Deadwood, Spartacus, Da Vinci’s Demons, Salem & Outlander.
PEAKY BLINDERS (2013-)
Creator: Steven Knight | Genre(s): Period Drama, Historical Fiction, Gangster | Cast: Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, Iddo Goldberg, Annabelle Wallis, Joe Cole, Tom Hardy | Network: Netflix (US), BBC 2 (UK) | Seasons: 2 | Status: On hiatus but renewed for Season 3.
What is it about, and why should you watch it? As the only British offering on this list, it’s safe to say that Peaky Blinders is the best show that the BBC has given us in years, topping Sherlock and Doctor Who to emerge victorious as one of the best period dramas I’ve seen. Like Black Sails it’s lots of fun, but unlike Black Sails it uses a post World War 1 setting as a backdrop in Birmingham and is brought to you by the director Steven Knight, who wrote all the episodes in six-episode long the series, allowing for some fantastic consistency. It’s bold, stylish and has some amazing cinematography and a soundtrack that’s full of the likes Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys and Johnny Cash. And no, that’s not just my iPod playing in the background. It’s the show’s awesome tunes.
With excellent, charismatic performances from the likes of Cillian Murphy, Sam Neil, Helen McCrory, Annabelle Wallis and Tom Hardy in Season 2 among others, Peaky Blinders is a terrific, unpredictable and enthralling period drama at its very best. It’s a very cool drama that period drama fans will love, perfect for those looking for a Boardwalk Empire replacement.
Watch This If You Like/Watch These Next: Boardwalk Empire, Goodfellas, The Wire, The Godfather, Miller’s Crossing, Sons of Anarchy, Ripper Street, The Sopranos, The Departed & The Fall.