Why do we rush home and turn our cell phones off when our favorite show is on the air? What is it about these actors and storylines that completely capture our attention and influence our emotions? That’s the magic of television, and this articles showcases 10 of the most creative, brilliant, thoughtful and impactful TV shows that have ever graced our television screens.
Resurrection is one of the newest shows on this list, and it’s also one of the most mind-bending. What would you do if deceased loved ones from the past started returning decades after they’d been buried and cremated? Is it a supernatural occurrence, a huge hoax or is something even more sinister and demonic at play? Well that’s the premise of the hot new show Resurrection currently airing on ABC. It’s only a few episodes in, and for the most part, America is already hooked up. The reason this show really hits home is that we’ve all had people in our lives that we lost: a cousin, brother, parent, auntie and we all remember how difficult it was to accept their death. Now imagine if this loved one randomly appeared at your door on your way to work one day as if nothing happened. It certainly stretches the mind and that’s why it’s such a huge hit.
9 The X-Files
The X-Files was a show on the FOX network and is definitely one of the most loved, cult hits in TV history. It had such a strong following that it stayed on television from 1993 to 2002. So why was this show such a hit? Well it had tons of intriguing subject matter that captivated the imagination; aliens, paranormal happenings, government conspiracies, serial killers and a revolving door of some of the weirdest TV characters you could ever imagine. Plus, there was also the ever-present sexual tension between Agent Dana Scully and Agent Fox Mulder that added a constant sizzle to the equation. There were actually two films made of the X-Files which were equally praised and panned by the show's followers. The visionary executive producer behind this show was Chris Carter, and you’ll notice him pop up on this list gain.
The best and most creative television shows are the ones that are able to meld elements of regular life with themes and storylines that completely bend the imagination. Lost was one such show. It ran from 2004 to 2010, and the main story line revolved around the plight of survivors of plane crash that was traveling between Los Angeles and Sydney. They surface on a mysterious island and that’s where the show unfolds. Nothing is as it seems; there is a “Smoke Monster,” an unfriendly group of island inhabitants called The Others (who aren’t too pleased with their sudden appearance); there are power struggles, love triangles – all interspersed with competing concepts of faith, superstition, religion, faith and science. The show won numerous awards and it’s worth noting that it was the brainchild of a talented group of producers including J.J. Abrams (who is also the writer behind the highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII)
With the huge success of the X-Files in the nineties, the big wigs at FOX network approached Chris Carter, the executive producer to create another show for them. Carter was already thinking about creating an episodic series that was inspired by the Y2K phenomenon that was on the collective conscience of pretty much everyone. The show he ended up creating was called Millenium and it revolved around a stony-faced, ex-FBI agent with the ability to see gruesome crimes through the eyes of the criminals and serial killers. He becomes a consultant for a clandestine organization called The Millenium Group. Throughout the course of the series, it’s never clear whether the group’s intentions are good or evil. The show was particularly adept at mixing apocalyptic, demonic and supernatural themes into a suspenseful, highly-stylized affair. The show was on the air from 1996-1999.
6 Twilight Zone
The brainchild of Rod Serling, Twilight Zone was probably the prototype science fiction show on television. The show had its strongest run between 1959 and 1964, but it generated several spin-offs including a feature film, television show, radio series, comic books. Because of the time when the show came to prominence, the talented writers of the show (including the creator Serling) wove social stories of that era into episodes that centered around supernatural/science fiction themes. For example, one of their most heralded episodes The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street uses the storyline of a mysterious shadow creating bizarre experiences on a picturesque, small town street to outline the dangers of prejudice and unfounded suspicions in society. The Twilight Zone continues to be a cult classic till this day.
The show Grimm is a cop drama that brings fantasy and folklore to the forefront. This television series is about a Portland police detective who has the ability to fight a group of supernatural beings called Wesen (pronounced Vessin: which means “being” in German). Similar to the animal kingdom, these Wesen come in several different forms and classifications; some of them are similar to wolves, sheep, snakes, bears etc). The Wesen can roam the streets as human beings but change into these beasts when they want. Not all these Wesen are evil – and it’s the job of the show’s star Detective Nick Burkhardt – who is the descendant of a long line of Wesen slayers to weed out the evil ones. The show is loosely based on the 19th century stories by The Brothers Grimm famous for penning folkloric tales like Cinderella, Snow White, Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. It debuted in 2011 and it’s still on the air showing on Friday nights on NBC.
4 Game of Thrones
Quite simply, Game of Thrones might just be the most badass show ever created. It’s actually a fact that this highly vaunted and critically-acclaimed HBO series is the most pirated series ever in television history. So what makes this show so special? Well, most of the praise belongs to the mercurial and brilliant author George R.R. Martin who wrote the book A Song of Ice and Fire on which the series is based. It’s an epic fantasy series based in mythical lands that could be 12th or 13th century England. It involves idyllic castles, amazing battle scenes, fierce dragons, wicked witches, erotic sex and cutthroat connivers and schemers jockeying for power. When Season 4 debuted earlier this year, it garnered 7 million viewers and crashed HBO Go. With that type of success, HBO immediately renewed the season for a 5th and 6th season. If you’re not watching this show, it’s not too late to start. You won’t regret it.
3 Breaking Bad
The show Breaking Bad aired on the AMC cable channel from 2008 to 2013. It’s different from most other shows on this list because it doesn’t involve any supernatural, paranormal or extraterrestrial themes. However, the central plot was quite brilliant. It was about a chemistry professor in New Mexico who goes from being a modest school teacher to a fully-fledged and ruthless drug kingpin over the course of five attention-grabbing seasons. The drug of choice in the movie was meth, and the role was played expertly by Brian Cranston. What this show succeeded in proving was how far humans are willing to go for the things they want – no matter the legalities or vices involved. It’s worth noting here that show’s creator Vince Gilligan was a frequent collaborator on another show on this list, The X Files.
2 Mork and Mindy
For the most part, the sitcom Mork & Mindy which ran from 1978 to 1982 is the precursor to shows like 3rd Rock from The Sun and even the animated Futurama. The show featured the incomparable comedic talent of Robin Williams. He starred in the show as a precocious alien who came to earth in a one-man egg from the planet Ork. On earth, his roommate was a cute young lady named Mindy played by Pam Dawber. Most of the show’s comedy centered on Mork’s experience of understanding the nuances and intricacies of human behavior. The show was greatly aided by the sharp and unique comedic timing and physical comedy of Robin Williams.
1 Once Upon A Time
Debuting in 2011, Once Upon A Time follows a fantasy, fairytale theme similar to Grimm (discussed earlier). Actually, one of the writers of this show was also a major contributor on the show Lost – (also talked about in this piece). The show is set in a fictional town called StoryBrooke in which the residents are also characters from some of the most loved children’s fairytales. Recurring characters in this show include the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin , Pinocchio, Snow White and Red Riding Hood. The show is currently still on the air garnering very decent ratings – it all goes to show that no matter how old we get, we all still want to be carefree kids all over again.