This one has some of the best acting and character development I’ve seen – and I’ve seen a lot. I get excited every time I see a new episode is ready to watch. Even the signature subtle opening each time makes me tingle in anticipation of my favourite escape. Though it’s a scripted drama, there are frequent funny moments. The plot centres around the married wife of a politician in scandal who returns to work as a lawyer. It’s got all the intrigue of a law case per episode with the cuteness of Matt Czuchry (who won my crush back in Gilmore Girl days).
This one is great to watch with your mom. The current finale season is particularly superb at pushing those teary-eye buttons following the struggles and loves of three generations of a family. And speaking of Gilmore Girls, it features Lauren Graham, as well as Peter Krause from Six Feet Under, plus the beautiful Erika Christensen.
Of all the shows listed, this is the one loved just as much by my boyfriend as by me. It’s intelligently scripted with outstanding performances, particularly from Claire Danes. She plays the main character, an intelligence officer with bipolar depression, who starts the series suspicious of a war hero returned from Iraq. The suspense and twists will keep you wanting more.
Moving onto scripted comedy, this one always delivers feel-good laughs and sends me off with a smile after each episode. Admittedly, the plot is pretty cliche centering around a quirky woman is successful as a doctor but is a mess in her personal life. So yes, the comedy can be a bit slapstick and the characters can be a bit superficial, but Mindy Kaling guarantees surprise laughs, deep laughs, and witty laughs despite the aforementioned occasional superficiality.
5. Web Therapy
In opposition to the last show, this one makes me laugh in that cringing way watching characters so ridiculously selfish interact. Lisa Kudrow plays a therapist who offers 3-minute Skype sessions, through which she always finds a way to use them or be used by them, and certainly insult each other with smiles plastered on tightly. There are great guest stars and you can tell how much fun they have making the show.
6. Marry Me
This is a new series with gems Casey Wilson from Happy Endings and Ken Marino from Party Down. The two of them play an engaged couple and reenact the roles they tend to play, which are generally pretty funny. I’ve only watched a few episodes and wouldn’t go so far as to name it my favourite ever, but it shows promise of a faithful sitcom without all the awful elements that usually come with sitcoms like dumbed-down dialogue and a laugh track.
I couldn’t make this list without revealing my adoration for reality TV, and this one is a classic that never disappoints. The premise is just so perfect: drop a bunch of strangers on an island and make them vote each other off until the last person standing wins a million dollars. The reason I shamelessly watch reality TV is for the social experimental aspect, peeking inside people’s reasonings for their interpersonal actions, following their attempts at manipulations, and enjoying their failures and successes. The link is to my favourite season, the first Fans vs. Favourites.
Another big name: the UK version continues to gather regular business people for crazy business tasks under the scrutiny of a fairly silly billionaire. You might not like it, but I started watching while I was in business school and still appreciate it for reflecting how it felt to be thrown in a group and judged on creativity and sales by deadlines.
9. The Profit
If you’d rather a bit more realistic business theme with just as much insanity, this one is newly discovered to me and I’ve already watched most of the two seasons. Marcus Lemonis proves his savvy by investing in small businesses and transforming them. The entertainment, of course, is largely to do with the drama of the people running the businesses. For instance, it’s not uncommon for them to try to hide debt or spending business money on personal pleasures.
10. Below Deck
A friend has been recommending this one for awhile, and when I finally checked it out, I marathon watched the two seasons that just wrapped up. What’s nice to see in reality TV is this features people actually performing their jobs, it just happens they work on a yacht with demanding guests and entertaining interpersonal developments.
Though short-lived, the idea was to run for an entire year with 24/7 live feeds of a group of people on a big plot of land trying to shape a better society among themselves. The theme song is horrific, but the people are interesting – as you can imagine, there are many conflicting personalities living together.
12. Silicon Valley
I realize I set this up as currently airing shows, but I can’t help but include one I’m anxious to come back. It’s a hilarious HBO show about a tech start-up with the likes of Martin Starr (also from Party Down, another favourite of mine) and Zach Woods from The Office.