FX’s The Americans took the TV world by storm and became one of the most critically acclaimed dramas of the last year. Starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, The Americans is a story about marriage and family masquerading as a intense, blood-soaked spy thriller set during the Cold War.
This NBC horror series based on Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon may have seemed like a bad joke at first, but it crawled out of the shadow of its inspiration and became a solid hour of television — and a Tumblr fandom favorite. It’s gross and engrossing, and Amazon smartly closed a deal for the first season.
MTV hasn’t exactly been known for its original programming, but Awkward. is the best show on the network right now. It’s a teen dramedy that tackles sex and relationships in high school in a refreshingly candid and extremely funny way.
Nathan For You
You may not have watched Nathan For You, but you’ve definitely heard of him thanks to his recent Dumb Starbucks stunt. Nathan For You is a comedy docu-reality series where Nathan Fielder helps struggling businesses with offbeat ideas. It was my pick for the funniest new show of 2013, and once you watch the first season, you will be impatiently waiting for the second.
What a perfect concept: a tween (and very diverse) version of Saturday Night Live. It ran for ten seasons (and prepared Kenan Thompson for SNL) on Nickeledeon and featured some pretty funny sketches (and amazing musical guests). It’s the show that every kid wanted to be on. Amazon has a handful of the best episodes up.
The Amanda Show
Speaking of All That, this wacky spinoff hosted by Amanda Bynes was an inspired variety show featuring sketches that took on pop culture (like Judge Judy and Dawson’s Creek). Bynes proved herself to be a nonstop ball of energy and incredibly talented performer.
Before creating Bob’s Burgers, Loren Bouchard created the equally excellent Home Movies. This animated sitcom that lasted four seasons over two networks is one of the smartest and most honest depictions of childhood that has ever been on television. It will make you laugh and cringe, but you’ll love it.
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Hands down my favorite teen drama of all time, Degrassi is equally ridiculous and poignant. The show tackles a wealth of teen issues: pregnancy, drug abuse, sexuality, school violence, and so on. It’s campy and over-dramatic, but it’s impossible to watch just one episode of it.
Before the modernized version that so many of us know, there were two other popular iterations of Degrassi, one in junior high (1987) and one in high school (1989). These earlier versions were better at handling the issues — and more controversial for the time when they aired — but are really just worth it for the outfits.
This show about an imaginative 11-year-old in a new town was a huge hit for Nickelodeon. Amazon has the full Nick run — because let’s face it, the Disney version isn’t worth revisiting — available for streaming.
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
One of my favorite things about Amazon Instant Video is its large selection of Nicktoons. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was an underrated show about adolescent monsters going to school to learn how to scare humans. It’s the grosser, weirder version of Monsters, Inc.
Jason Katims struck gold with adapting Friday Night Lights and then moved on to create the equally impressive Parenthood, loosely based on the movie. Parenthood follows multiple generations of one family. It’s realistic, sweet, and guaranteed to make you cry.
Inside Amy Schumer
Comedy Central has been on fire with its sketch shows. The wonderful Key & Peele and the inimitable Kroll Show get the most attention, but Inside Amy Schumer is just as downright hilarious as its peers.
It’s no secret that we love Veronica Mars at Flavorwire. The teen noir is an instant classic that has crossed over to multiple platforms (a movie, book series, and soon-to-be web series), but the television series is the best. The first season has a mystery built for obsessive binge-watching.
This teen comedy with a Western spin starred a young Christine Taylor aired for five seasons, and the first three are available on Amazon. Hey Dude! was only Nick’s second original live-action series, but it was golden.
This beloved BBC show about clones was near-impossible to find until Amazon snagged the streaming rights for it. And just in time! You can watch the entire (short) first season before the second season premiere airs on April 19.
No, 7th Heaven isn’t what you would call a “great” show or even a “good” one, but its super-clean issue-of-the-week formula is unintentionally hilarious. It’s perfect for lazy, hungover watching on a weekend afternoon when you want to turn your brain off and laugh at the Camden family.
Everybody Hates Chris
Chris Rock’s four-season sitcom was as much a love letter to Brooklyn as it was a slight memoir of his adolescence. The show tackled a variety of tough subjects (and reflected upon race and class) without losing its clever sense of humor.
Perhaps the most popular of Nickelodeon’s Nicktoons, Rugrats was a milestone for the network. Uniquely told from the babies’ point of view and appealing to both children and adults, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a pleasant memory associated with Rugrats. Amazon has five volumes of the show — and its whimsical holiday specials.
Rugrats: All Grown Up!
When you’re done burning through all of the original Rugrats, why not check out its follow-up? If you’ve ever spent an unfortunate afternoon on deviantART, then you know that the internet loves to imagine what various Nicktoon characters would look like in the future. This is the one time when Nickelodeon beat everyone to the punch.
Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous
Bo Burnham’s Zach Stone only had eight episodes but was one of the standouts of the year. It’s a sendup of the reality shows that make up the very network it aired on: MTV. Zach Stone features cringe-worthy, secondhand embarrassment humor, and also a surprising amount of pathos. But the theme song will get stuck in your head.
This sci-fi drama executive-produced by Steven Spielberg takes place in a post-apocalyptic society after the invasion of a group of aliens. Following a group of survivors, Falling Skies has already been renewed for a fourth season, but you can watch the first three on Amazon.
My personal favorite Nicktoon, Hey Arnold! is one of the most memorable shows the network has ever put out. Following the adventures of a group of fourth graders, it balances hilarity with a remarkable poignancy that feels all too familiar.
It’s no surprise if you’ve never heard of The Unusuals, because it only ran for one ten-episode season back in 2009. This quirky ABC drama had a lot of big names (Amber Tamblyn, Jeremy Renner, and Adam Goldberg) and unique characters but unfortunately never found an audience. It’s well worth a visit.
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
Studio 60 (and Aaron Sorkin) may have become a huge joke toward the end of its run, but it’s a fascinating case study in television. This drama about a comedy show had one of my absolute favorite pilots of all time before quickly becoming a total wreck. It’s fun to watch its downfall, but it’s worth mentioning that Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford remain brilliant throughout.
Clarissa Explains It All
The show that launched a thousand “Na’s.” Clarissa Darling is one of Nick’s most beloved characters, and her girl-power, computer-savvy, bright and creative attitude mean she’s still an icon today. Amazon has a ton of selected episodes from the five seasons — many more than are available on DVD.
Drake & Josh
It’s a common complaint that Nickelodeon has gone downhill from the ’90s, but Drake & Josh is one of the best live-action shows the network has ever had. Created by Dan Schneider, the show reunites Drake Bell and Josh Peck after The Amanda Show and pits them as reluctant and opposite stepbrothers.
Miranda Cosgrove had a great role on Drake & Josh as the guys’ conniving younger sister, and the network loved her so much that she got her own show. iCarly, the internet-obsessed, wildly popular program was about a teen girl who finds sudden popularity on the web.
If “Timothy Olyphant wearing a cowboy hat, drinking whiskey, and shooting guns” doesn’t do it for you, then I don’t know what else to say. Based on Elmore Leonard’s novels, this Kentucky-based crime drama is immediately engaging and features a cast of characters like no other. The second season is flawless, and you won’t be disappointed.
Party of Five
Party of Five was a melodramatic but highly addictive show that aired on Fox in the ’90s. Focused on a family of orphans and their struggle to run the family restaurant, Party of Five starred Matthew Fox, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Neve Campbell, and Scott Wolf — and, despite its low ratings, managed to snag a Golden Globe.
If you’re like me, you have several nights in bars trying to recall the full lyrics to the Animaniacs theme song. It’s such a great old-fashioned slapstick cartoon that caters to people of all ages, and one of the best to re-watch on Sunday mornings.
Remember Rubicon? Of course you don’t! This AMC conspiracy thriller was overshadowed by the better dramas that populated the network (and had a confusing premise). But now that Breaking Bad is over and Mad Men still isn’t back, there is time to watch the 13-episode first and only season.
The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo
Before there was Veronica Mars, there was Shelby Woo. This ’90s Nick show centered on a teen intern at the police department who loved to solve mysteries, much to the dismay of her worried grandfather.
This two-season wonder was beautiful in every sense of the word. It had a beautifully heartbreaking story about the relationship between a pie maker and the childhood sweetheart he can’t physically touch, two beautiful leads (Anna Friel and Lee Pace), and beautiful visuals. The color palette and compulsive symmetry is the closest we have to a Wes Anderson TV show.
Arguably the most engaging drama on USA Network right now, Suits is one of those “just one more episode” shows that you’ll find yourself plowing through. There are interesting cases, well-written characters, and lots of twists and turns to keep you interested.
Are You Afraid of The Dark?
With Amazon, you can revisit The Midnight Society in a selection of great Are You Afraid of the Dark episodes, a show that had fun with the supernatural and was known for scaring its young SNICK viewers. Some episodes may seem tacky now but many still hold up.
Before we all became obsessed with chronicling the lives of 20-somethings, this ABC drama focused on a group of baby boomers. It ran from 1987-1991 for four adored seasons, and is still considered one of the best dramas in television history.
Dead Like Me
The third of Bryan Fuller’s shows on this list (he also created Hannibal and Pushing Daisies), this Showtime comedy stars Ellen Muth and Mandy Patinkin as grim reapers. Its darkly comic nature made it a cult hit and even spawned a movie.
Kenan and Kel
Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell are one of the most underrated comedic duos, whether on All That or Good Burger. This ’90s teen comedy was sometimes too silly but always funny — the “I dropped the screw in the tuna!” bit still makes me laugh to this day.
Key & Peele
Another of Comedy Central’s sketch shows, Key & Peele has an original sense of humor — and the two leads/creators have a knack for making up funny names in sketches that go viral. Key & Peele is a show that you can pick and choose episodes of because each one is a winner.