Some of the highest rated, or most culturally significant television shows in history were nearly unwatched at one point. Breaking Bad, one of the greatest shows of all time, premiered with only 1.4 million viewers in the United States, growing to 10.8 million for its series finale. The Office was nearly cancelled after the first season due to a small viewership. Some gems were even lost due to low viewers (Firefly, anyone?). Here are 5 shows that I think should be watched before it might be too late:
1. Hannibal (NBC)
Synopsis: “Jack Crawford, head of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, seeks out special investigator Will Graham to help solve various murder cases across the Maryland area. Graham has a special ability to assume the point of view of a killer, as well as empathize with them. This ability, while it saves lives, has a haunting affect on Graham. In some cases, Graham’s fearful mind can lead to distortion of reality. Jack assigns a psychiatrist to Will Graham to help him cope with the work he does.
The psychiatrist: Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Known to his colleagues as a brilliant mind and praised doctor, but known to no one as The Chesapeake Ripper, the most wanted serial killer in recent years. As Jack, Will, and Hannibal develop a friendship, Hannibal uses his position to not only play dangerous games with the FBI, but break down Will’s mental state. The question is… Why?
The series begins a prequel to Red Dragon, but will later shift as a retelling of the complete Hannibal Lecter story.” (IMDb.com)
Why It Is Great: Hannibal is a horror show, infused with a psychological drama, masquerading as a police procedural. The acting is top notch, and the story always keeps you on your toes. The violence is quite graphic (especially for network television), but with a wonderfully compelling script and special effects that amazingly fuse gore and beauty into a singular entity, you may very likely find yourself mesmerized by these horrendous acts of cruelty.
Why Nobody Is Watching: As you may guess, the violence can be over barring for most, overshadowing the excellent show underneath. Combined with a detrimental time slot (Fridays, 10pm), Hannibal has been toeing the line between survival and cancellation, many times leaning towards the latter. After two seasons, Hannibal has caught stride along with the attention of TV critics, but networks don’t keep shows for good reviews alone. Hannibal needs more viewers if it is to thrive as it should.
# of Seasons and Where To Binge Watch: 2 seasons. Season 1 can be seen on Amazon Prime for free, with Season 2 coming soon.
Start of Next Season: Early 2015 (Unofficial)
2. Fargo (FX)
Synopsis: An original adaptation of the Academy Award®-winning feature film, Fargo features an all-new “true crime” story and follows a new case and new characters, all entrenched in the trademark humor, murder and “Minnesota nice” that made the film an enduring classic. Oscar® winner Billy Bob Thornton stars as “Lorne Malvo,” a rootless, manipulative man who meets and forever changes the life of small town insurance salesman “Lester Nygaard,” played by BAFTA Award® winner and Emmy®-nominated Martin Freeman. Colin Hanks plays Duluth Police Deputy “Gus Grimly,” a single dad who must choose between his own personal safety and his duty as a policeman when he comes face-to-face with a killer. Allison Tolman also stars as “Molly Solverson,” an ambitious Bemidji deputy. (FX.com)
Why It Is Great: For anyone who has seen the original film, Fargo is proof that you can recapture the magic of an original work in a “reboot”. Fargo is a wonderful blend of dark humor and odd twists. The acting is absolutely phenomenal, leading Fargo to be nominated for multiple awards, including two Emmy nominations for “Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie”. The story is always fun to explore, and the style and characters are wonderfully quirky, keeping audiences entertained from episode to episode.
Why Nobody Is Watching: Despite a cult following, the cultural significance of Fargo has certainly thinned since the original film’s release in 1996. The network knew this, The Coen Brothers who were the creators of the film knew this, everyone knew this, which is likely why nobody expected the TV show to be successful. With an excellent script penned by Noah Hawley, FX and the Coen Brothers decided to create a single 10 episode season of Fargo, and be done with it. Once that single season garnered universal praise from critics as well as multiple award nominations and wins, including the Emmy Award for “Outstanding Miniseries”, FX decided to take another trip to Minnesota for season 2. The hope being that a larger audience will do so as well.
# of Seasons and Where To Binge Watch: 1 season. Yet to be available for free online streaming.
Start of Next Season: Fall 2015 (Unofficial)
3. Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Synopsis: MASTERS OF SEX stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan as real-life pioneers of the science of human sexuality, William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Their research touched off the sexual revolution and took them from a midwestern teaching hospital to the cover of Time magazine and multiple appearances on Johnny Carson’s couch. He is a brilliant scientist out of touch with his own feelings, and she is a single working mother ahead of her time. The series chronicles their unusual lives, romance, and unlikely pop culture trajectory. (Showtime.com)
Why It Is Great: Masters is a highly refreshing show in how it captivates you. It contains nudity, but doesn’t rely on it to draw you in. It is a period drama in the 50s, but that is not the highest part of Masters appeal. What truly makes this show great are the characters. Masters delivers more character development then some of today’s largest blockbusters in only its first episode, thanks in no small part to terrific acting from the cast. Masters does something you would not expect from a show greatly about sex: it makes you care for the people in it.
Why Nobody Is Watching: Unlike the other shows on this list, Masters is a show that has a smaller viewership for one reason alone: its network. Showtime, although riddled with quality television, is a premium network that many of us simply avoid. If Masters was a similar show on HBO, or some of the cable networks it would be much more widely viewed. Luckily, this fact allows Masters to have a smaller audience and still thrive. However, Masters still deserves to be enjoyed by a larger audience, at risk or not.
# of Seasons and Where To Binge Watch: Currently airing Season 2. Showtime On Demand.
Start of Next Season: Currently airing.
4. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Synopsis: Set in the Prohibition era of the 1920s Boardwalk Empire is the story of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the treasurer of Atlantic County, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Due to his relationships with mobsters as well as political contacts, the Federal Government start to take an interest in him. His lavish lifestyle seems at odds with his position, and as well as his connections, there is prolific bootlegging in the area. (IMDb.com)
Why It Is Great: In a time when villains were in charge, Boardwalk does a great job capturing the darkness in everyone. The cast is wonderful, led by Steve Buscemi in what likely is the role of his lifetime. With a setting that backdrops one of America’s most lavish decades, Martin Scorsese does a fantastic job of unifying a unique and extraordinary background with a group of fascinating characters in a story about the dark underbelly of society, leading to multiple years of Emmy nominations.
Why Nobody Is Watching: With great characters comes, great decreases in pace. This is no truer than with Boardwalk. The story can at times feel like it is going at a snail’s pace, leaving many viewers impatient for the overall story. The unfortunate result is a great series that has teetered on the edge of cancellation until finally HBO, and the writers agreed it was time to put an end to Boardwalk after its fifth season. My hope is to allow others to enjoy Boardwalks fun, unique style as it passes by for one final run this Fall.
# of Seasons and Where To Binge Watch: 4 Seasons. HBO Go. Season 1 on Amazon Prime for free; following seasons coming soon.
Start of Next Season: September 7th; the beginning of the final season.
5. Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)
Synopsis: Halt and Catch Fire is set roughly one year after IBM all but corners the market with the release of its first major product – the IBM PC. In this fictional drama, a former IBM executive, Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace) plans to reverse engineer the flagship product of his former employer and forces his current company, Cardiff Electric, into the personal computer race. MacMillan enlists the help of Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), a great engineer whose unrealized dreams of creating a revolutionary product have created tension in his marriage to Donna (Kerry Bishé), and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis), a volatile prodigy who puts her future in jeopardy to join MacMillan’s rogue PC project. Halt and Catch Fire thrives on the spirit of innovation and explores what it’s like to stand at the forefront of something world-changing and work towards it, no matter the risk. (AMC.com)
Why It Is Great: You may notice a trend with AMC shows. Halt has its own distinctive style that provides a wonderful setting for the cast to use, similar to Breaking Bad and Mad Men. With unique characters that intertwine to make the most unlikely of teams, audiences are given a look into the beginning of the personal computer revolution through the eyes of the people who believed that they could change everyone’s lives, even if their own lives were collapsing around them.
Why Nobody Is Watching: Like most AMC shows (with the exception of The Walking Dead), Halt started off rather quietly with viewers. Most AMC viewers are skeptical of shows attempting to replace greats like Breaking Bad and Mad Men, but AMC needs to try somehow, and Halt seems to be a great start in replacing these shows. Hopefully, people will not write it off since it may not be “as good” as its predecessors.
# of Seasons and Where To Binge Watch: 1 Season. AMC.com, but not for long.
Start of Next Season: Summer 2015
It seems we have a problem on our hands that is unprecedented: we have too much quality television. Granted this is one of best problems to have, but with more quality television, more great shows could be lost. With movies today being filled with remakes, reboots, and YA flicks, perhaps it is time for us all to return to the higher quality of television.