Television has reached a level of quality that often exceeds major Hollywood films. And with so many shows reaching a level of recognition and acclaim that transcends pop culture itself, it is easy to stop paying attention to the underdog. Some of the best TV series out there are hidden gems that mainstream audiences probably don’t know about, due to a wide variety of reasons. Not every show can be as famous as “Game Of Thrones” or “Breaking Bad”, so let’s shine a light on 10 criminally underrated shows that anyone can go and binge right now:
10 MISFITS (2009)
This British dark comedy tells the story of a group of five delinquent teenagers in community service, who find their lives completely changed when a mysterious thunderstorm strikes them, giving them supernatural abilities that reflect elements of their personalities. As they try to navigate their new reality, everything takes an even darker turn when the consequences of the storm lead to an accidental murder they now need to cover up.
The beauty of “MISFITS” stands in its ability to take a cliché premise and flip it on its head in order to tell a truly unusual story. The show has some of the best writing we have seen in this type of plot, with incredibly charismatic characters, clever humour, and a twisted style of storytelling that manages to leave you at the edge of your seat more than once. “MISFITS” is unapologetically weird and fun, and while the last couple of seasons are not as perfect as the first three, the show is still an absolute blast from start to finish.
9 The OA (2016)
When a young blind girl named Prairie Johnson suddenly goes missing from her little town, her family is broken. However, seven years later, she reappears under mysterious circumstances, and everyone seems really happy to get her back. Her return is considered to be a true miracle, but something is strange: not only does Prairie refuse to tell anyone where she has been for the last seven years or what happened to her, the town is also stunned to discover that she is no longer blind.
This Netflix original, created by Brit Marling (who also stars as Prairie), is as weird and innovative as it gets when it comes to storytelling in American shows. The ideas it presents are unlike anything we have seen before, which is refreshing in a world of comic book adaptations and franchise reboots. It is a highly artistic, intelligent and original show with world class performances from a fantastic cast. Unfortunately, “The OA” fell victim to the infamous Netflix Cancelling Curse, and it was axed after only 2 seasons, leaving both fans and the show’s cast heartbroken.
8 Penny Dreadful (2014)
In 1891 England, a mysterious woman named Vanessa Ives seeks the help of an American gunslinger to track down and stop a vicious killer that has been terrorizing the streets London at night. As they investigate further with the assistance of a hunter carrying his own motivations, they come to the shocking realization that what they are up against is not exactly human.
Good horror television is quite hard to come by these days, but “Penny Dreadful” definitely justifies the need for the search to keep going. With a dark, twisted, and at times disturbing story, the show uses its gothic 19th century setting to perfection, and develops a very specific atmosphere that quickly becomes somewhat of an artistic signature. With classic horror characters like Count Dracula, Abraham Van Helsing and Victor Frankenstein being reinvented in this creepy world, “Penny Dreadful” is a high energy descent into madness that will leave you begging for more.
The show came to an end in 2016, after three critically acclaimed seasons, and a spin-off series titled “Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels” (starring Game Of Throne’s Natalie Dormer) premiered in 2018. However, despite favorable reviews from critics, the spin-off ended up being cancelled after only one season due to poor ratings.
7 The Good Place (2016)
When Eleanor dies in a freak accident and wakes up in The Good Place (AKA Heaven), she is introduced to Michael, an angel who reveals to her that she has been granted an eternity in his perfect utopia, as her reward for living a righteous life as a good-hearted lawyer. However, Eleanor knows she was sent to heaven by mistake — she is not at all an ethical person (or a lawyer), and she has spent her entire life being a rude and manipulative crook, to her great pleasure. But, in a final show of selfishness, Eleanor decides to play along and stay, tricking everyone into believing she is a kind and loving individual with a big heart.
“The Good Place” was created by legendary producer Michael Schur, the man behind masterpieces of comedy like “Brooklyn Nine Nine”, “The Office” and “Parks & Recreation”. It’s an intelligent and surprisingly inventive show with a very specific sense of humour that never fails to crack up. With Kristen Bell, Jameela Jamil and Ted Danson leading the cast, “The Good Place” gets better every single episode, up until its fourth and final season, which wraps their highly engaging story with a perfect little bow.
6 Skins (2007)
“Skins” is a poignant and intense anthology series that tells the story of various groups of British teenagers who are trying to navigate their messy lives in Bristol, South West England. From the darkest and most challenging parts of their lives (dealing with drugs, sex, mental health issues, family and bullying), they try to find some level of comfort into one another, but often end up affecting each other in tragic ways.
Praised for its extremely realistic and sinister representation of teenagers (something American TV seem to struggle with), “Skins” is a wild ride for start to finish. Its commitment to writing pragmatic and flawed characters makes you feel like you are watching real people interacting, which is only made better by the incredible talent that is showcased in the series. It is the show that revealed actors like Dev Patel, Kaya Scodelario, Nicolas Hoult and Hannah Murray to the world.
“Skins” introduces the concept of “generations”, meaning that the cast changes every two seasons to tell a new story, with some characters being somewhat connected to previous ones. It is an incredibly atypical show that many tried to replicate and failed — MTV notably tried to make an American version of “Skins”, but only delivered a weak copycat that lacked all of the guts that made the original so dark and realistic. It was cancelled after one season.
5 Ergo Proxy (2006)
In a post-apocalyptic future where humanity is forced to live in gigantic domed cities in the sky, Re-L Mayer, an extremely talented detective, has to investigate the emergence of a mysterious virus that causes androids to become self-aware and develop emotions. As her investigation leads her to darker corners of the city, Re-L realizes something is seriously wrong with this affair when she is suddenly attacked in her home by a Proxy, a rare and enigmatic species of humanoid beings that people venerate as gods.
Japanese animation is no stranger to deep philosophical exploration (just take a look at classics like “Ghost In The Shell”), but “Ergo Proxy” definitely puts a spin on it that makes it as fascinating as ever. It is a grim, infinitely weird and ambitious story that is only made better by its inventive cyberpunk visuals and experimental narrative structure. While some might find it too complex for its own good, the show still does an incredible job at rounding out a unique concept in a way that remains consistent throughout its 23 episodes.
4 You’re The Worst (2014)
This brilliant comedy tells the story of Jimmy, a pretentious and selfish writer from England, who meets Gretchen, a dishonest and manipulative publicist, at his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. After a very random one night stand, they begin to develop feelings for one another, and despite their utter disgust of love, we watch as this extremely toxic and self-destructive couple decides to attempt having a romantic relationship.
“You’re The Worst” is probably one of the best written comedies ever made. It has the ability to make you root for characters who are awful (and enjoy it) against all odds, and it succeeds at making their relationship incredibly real and engaging, despite its highly dysfunctional nature. The show was also praised for its painfully realistic depiction of mental health, being handled in a way where the natural humour of the show never feels like it is making fun of the dark themes it tackles. And with award-winning performances from Chris Geere and Aya Cash, “You’re The Worst” deserves way more recognition than it already has.
3 The Marvelous Mrs Maisel (2017)
“The Marvelous Mrs Maisel” tells the story of Miriam “Midge” Maisel, a Jewish-American housewife who finds her life flipped completely upside down when her husband Joel suddenly leaves her for his secretary. Having to face the hard reality of her situation, Midge goes on a journey of self-discovery when a drunken incident leads her to reinvent herself as a standup comedian, while dealing with her status of single mother in 1950’s New York.
This Emmy Award winning series is one of the biggest surprises television has seen in a very, very long time. “The Marvelous Mrs Maisel” is a drop-dead gorgeous masterpiece with fantastic writing and unbelievably vivid dialogue. It also has one of the most talented casts in modern television, and the storytelling is on a whole other level of originality. Many believe that the show will eventually go down in history as one of the greatest of all time, and it’s not hard to see why.
2 Banshee (2013)
Coming out of prison after a 15-year sentence for stealing $15 million worth of diamonds for a Russian mob boss, a nameless and enigmatic ex-con makes his way to the small town of Banshee, Pennsylvania, where he assumes the identity of a murdered sheriff to attend some unfinished business unbothered.
“Banshee” is the show that put actor Antony Starr on the map, who most people now know as the terrifying Homelander in Amazon’s “The Boys”. Created by the original maker of HBO’s “True Blood”, the show is an amazingly fun ride that is 100% carried by its outstanding cast of characters. “Banshee” ran for 4 exceptional seasons, ending its run in 2016, but due to being a Cinemax original, it never quite got the audience and recognition it deserved.
1 DARK (2017)
The small town of Winden in Germany is completely shaken when a young boy suddenly goes missing in the woods. Police, family and neighbours alike all work together to search for him relentlessly, but, when a series of similar incidents are revealed to have been occurring every 33 years, they make a horrifying discovery that raises more questions than it answers: the boy might still be in Winden…but in a different time.
“DARK” is a masterpiece. The German Netflix original is considered by many to be the greatest time travel story ever told, with an attention to details that has never been equaled. The show is virtually perfect, with grandiose storytelling, incredible performances and a sinister sense of mystery that will make you crave answers in the most intense of ways. The story is treated like a trilogy, ending after its three seasons in an absolutely mind-bending finale that still has people talking. On all accounts, “DARK” is not only one of the most underrated shows ever made, it also deserves a place in the conversation for the being one the greatest TV shows of all time.