The 50 Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now

October 2018

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The 50 Best TV Shows on Amazon Prime Right Now

Amazon Prime  may still be chasing Netflix when it comes to original series, but the streaming service’s hits go much deeper than Transparent. Along with Amazon’s own offerings, including 2017 debut Sneaky Pete, 2016 breakout Fleabag and Sharon Horgan’s stalwart comedy, Catastrophe, its catalogue, unlike its competitors, also features a number of HBO series that might reasonably be considered the best TV series ever made: The Wire, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and more. The rest of Amazon Prime’s selection may not compare to the 75 Best TV Shows on Netflix or the 75 Best TV Shows on Hulu, but there are plenty of binge-worthy TV series to enjoy. (Be sure to check out our list of the 75 Best Movies on Amazon Prime, too.) Here are the 50 best TV shows on Amazon right now:

50. I Love Dick
Creators: Jill Soloway and Sarah Gubbins
Stars: Kathryn Hahn, Kevin Bacon, Griffin Dunne, Roberta Colindrez, India Salvor Menuez, Lily Mojekwu
Network: Amazon


“Desire isn’t lack,” writes Chris Krauss (Kathryn Hahn), the author and filmmaker whose 1997 novel is I Love Dick’s source material. “It’s excess energy. A claustrophobia inside your skin.” In Jill Soloway and Sarah Gubbins’ new series, which grows richer and stranger as it progresses, this notion is reflected and refracted through Hahn’s perfect sensitivities: Her performance is so perceptively physical—contorting her face in orgasm, recoiling from touch, tapping and pacing and fretting and squatting—that the series often depicts her in triptychs of still images, as if desperate to slow her down. I Love Dick’s most compelling insight, though, is that the taciturn sculptor—played by Kevin Bacon and filmed by Soloway with such indecent abandon that rolling a cigarette seems a come on, rejection a seduction, humiliation a form of foreplay—is the symptom of Chris’ upset, and not the cause. Its sublime treatment of the intersection between lust and (self-) love, culminating in the bold, brilliant “A Short History of Weird Girls,” echoes the truth of its titular declaration, in which Dick is the object and not the subject, ultimately replaceable by art. Matt Brennan

49. Avatar: The Last Airbender
Creators: Michael Dante DiMartino
Bryan Konietzko
Stars: Zach Tyler Eisen, Mae Whitman, Jack DeSena, Jessie Flower, Dee Bradley Baker, Mako, Grey DeLisle, Mark Hamill
Network: Nickelodeon 

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Don’t be put off by M. Night Shayamalan’s clunky 2010 live-action adaptation. This richly animated TV series merges the wild imagination of Hayao Miyazaki, the world-building of the most epic anime stories and the humor of some of the more offbeat Cartoon Network originals. Following the exploits of the Avatar, the boy savior Aang who can control all four of the elements—fire, water, earth and wind—the series is filled with political intrigue, personal growth and unending challenges. Spirits and strange hybrid animals present dangers, but so do the people who seek power for themselves. This is one you’ll enjoy watching with your kids or on your own. Josh Jackson

48. One Mississippi
Creator:   Tig Notaro  
Stars:   Tig Notaro, Noah Harpster, John Rothman, Rya Kihlstedt
Network: Amazon

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Double mastectomy. Your mother dying. A life threatening infection. Not exactly hilarious stuff. But comedian Tig Notaro’s deeply personal series about returning home after her mother’s death will make you cry and laugh at the utter absurdity of life. Particularly impressive is Notaro’s performance. She’s not an actress by trade which brings a raw believability to her character. The people who inhabit Tig’s world from her emotionless stepfather to her clingy girlfriend pulse with a realism rarely seen on TV. They aren’t TV characters. They’re real people who will remind you of your own family and loved ones. One Mississippi didn’t receive the hype of Amazon’s other shows. But it deserved to and now’s your chance to rectify that. Amy Amatangelo

47. The Night Manager
Creator: Stephen Garrett
Stars: Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Debicki, Olivia Coleman, Alistair Petrie
Network: AMC

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John le Carre stories are usually morose or opaque as spies are seen either trapped in dark and cold worlds or dealing with the monotony that makes up most of their days (witness Gary Oldman’s slow, emotionless swim to fill the days of his “retirement” in the 2011 film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). But not The Night Manager. In this miniseries, we have bona fide movie star Tom Hiddleston looking dashing in linen suits—or sometimes nothing at all—as he goes undercover in the world of yachts and fresh lobster salads to take down Hugh Laurie’s Dickie Roper, the worst man in the world—the type of person who learns of a sarin gas attack and thinks “business opportunity.”

But all the glitz and double crossing isn’t all that sells this production. Attention must also be given to the supporting cast. Tom Hollander’s Lance “Corky” Corkoran could have been your typical nefarious character who’s onto our hero, but instead he’s an addict in desperate need of Roper’s attention, which is all the more delicious. The fact that Olivia Coleman was very pregnant while shooting made the obsession that her character, agent Angela Burr, had with taking down Roper much more real and dangerous. Most impressive might be breakout star Elizabeth Debicki, who played the beautiful, if dead-eyed, Jed Marshall who knows she made a deal with the devil and doesn’t quite know how to get out of that web. Whitney Friedlander

46. Mr. Robot
Creator: Sam Esmail
Stars: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin
Network: USA

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Despite the structural problems plaguing the series’ frustrating second season, Mr. Robot’s Elliot Alderson (Emmy winner Rami Malek) remains one of the most seductive characters on television. To set an hour-long drama more or less inside its own protagonist’s head is a bold gambit, and Elliot, his philosophical narration roiling beneath his placid surface, is a convincing guide through creator Sam Esmail’s tumult of hallucinations, memories, delusions and dreams. If the draw in Season One was its (rarely seen on TV) anti-capitalism, Season Two witnesses Mr. Robot emerge as a claustrophobic portrait of a young man’s psychological extremes, and that it works at all is thanks mostly to our desire to understand the cryptic, complicated, always compelling Elliot. Matt Brennan

45. The Expanse
Creator: Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby
Stars: Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Paulo Costanzo
Network: Syfy


In Syfy’s The Expanse, Mars and Earth are two superpowers racing to gain the technological upper hand, while those who live in the Asteroid Belt mine resources for the more privileged planets and become more and more prone to radicalization.

Sound familiar?

In its relationship to our own age of authoritarianism, the series offers a kind of storytelling that seems essential: It manages to paint a portrait of a divided universe without vilifying one group and raising the other to god-like status, as evidenced by the complexities of hardboiled detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) or U.N. official Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo). The Expanse shows us a possible future, a future in which women can be leaders without the bat of an eye, in which racially diverse groups can unite in common cause, but it is also a warning about keeping institutions in check, about recognizing inequality wherever it might exist, in order to avoid past mistakes. In other words, it’s must-watch television for our time. Elena Zhang

44. Mr. Show with Bob and David
Creators:   Bob Odenkirk, David Cross
Stars: Bob Odenkirk, David Cross
Network: HBO 

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Before alternative comedy was a recognized thing, there was Mr. Show with Bob and David, a genius sketch comedy show that had a criminally short run on HBO from 1995 to 1998. Each episode was loosely based around a central theme and laboriously structured, with sketches leading directly into each other, and sometimes even wrapping around each other like Russian nesting dolls of comedy. Although celebrated for its absurd point of view, Mr. Show didn’t shy away from the real world, often tearing into the inequalities of society and the increasing domination of corporate America. Not every bit landed, but the show still had a shockingly high batting average over its four seasons, and very little of it feels dated today. Garrett Martin

43. Boardwalk Empire
Creator: Terence Winter
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon 
Network: HBO 

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Easily dismissed as just a Sopranos clone set in the 1920s, Boardwalk Empire wisely took many of the best elements of its predecessor and expanded its scope. It’s this wide-ranging spotlight, drifting from the highest levels of political office down to lowly bootleggers and prostitutes, that makes the show something special, offering up morality plays that hold the lives of millions at stake while putting an actual face on those being affected. The show’s political commentary is apt without seeming preachy, while characters maintained the balance between being archetypal ciphers and real people. Boardwalk Empire isn’t as energetic as other dramas but its meticulous slow-burn has a depth and beauty to it that’s rarely been matched on the little screen. And it only improved over time as it became less concerned with the minutiae of New Jersey politics in favor of featuring a much more compelling national landscape. As a result, both its characters and its stories became grander, more operatic and expressionistic. By its third season, Boardwalk Empire found its voice, finally living up to the promise of its Scorsese-directed premiere. Sean Gandert

42. Sneaky Pete
Creators: Bryan Cranston  
Stars:Giovanni Ribisi, Marin Ireland, Shane McRae, Peter Gerety, Margo Martindale
Network: Amazon

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In Sneaky Pete, Giovanni Ribisi plays Marius, a conman who, in a moment of tragicomic brilliance, fakes a bank robbery (albeit with a real gun and by scaring the bank customers) in order to avoid being killed by his pursuers. When he’s released from prison three years later, after listening to his cellmate Pete’s non-stop stories of his long-lost family, Marius assumes Pete’s identity. The result is a series whose humor is based on the interplay between truth and fiction, what is real and what is fantasy, and the gradual understanding of what constitutes “family”: Sneaky Pete’s revelations are unlikely to earn commendation from the Family Research Council, but for those of us who understand that families comprise people who love each in whatever structure works for them, it’s the ultimate show about family. Lorraine Berry

41. Glee
Creators: Ryan Murphy  
Stars: Chris Colfer, Jane Lynch, Lea Michele, Matthew Morrison, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley, Cory Monteith
Network: Fox

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Ryan Murphy  isn’t exactly known for creating reality based shows. So no you didn’t go to a high school where the glee club could put together multiple Broadway level productions complete with costumes, special effects and elaborate sets each week. But Murphy understood teens. Glee spoke to the football jock and popular girl who always felt like they were pretending. It spoke to the gay teen who wished he could sing “Single Ladies” on the football field and the overachiever who would settle for nothing less than a Tony winning career. You didn’t have a teacher like Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) because she would have been fired. But you definitely had a teacher who terrorized students the way she did. And if you were lucky you had a teacher who believed in you the way Mr. Schuester(Matthew Morrison) believed in his students. The series could be maddening (you could create a whole show with the characters Glee forgot about) and the plot twists were often ridiculous, but when Glee soared you never wanted to stop believin’. Amy Amatangelo

40. Damages

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Creators: Glenn Kessler, Todd A. Kessler, and Daniel Zelman
Stars: Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, Tate Donovan, Ted Danson, Noah Bean, Zeljko Ivanek, Marcia Gay Harden
Networks: FX, DirecTV

Glenn Close created one of TV’s greatest characters in Patty Hewes, a lawyer who will do anything (legal, illegal, somewhere in between) for her clients. The series is worth watching just for Close’s nuanced, duplicitous, Emmy-winning performance. Just when you thought Patty was pure evil, she would reveal her more vulnerable side. Recent law-school graduate Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) is unwittingly manipulated as part of Patty’s grand scheme. The first season follows the class action case against Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson), who has bilked his employees out of their life savings. It’s become commonplace now for TV shows to play with time and the sequence of events—to start at the end and work their way backwards. But Damages pioneered this narrative device, simultaneously confusing viewers and allowing them to put together the puzzle. As the series progressed, Patty’s relationship with Ellen grew more complex and dysfunctional. For its final two seasons, the series moved to DirecTV, but now you can binge all five seasons on Netflix. Just stay away from Statue of Liberty bookends. Amy Amatangelo

39. Frasier
Creator: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee
Stars: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, Moose
Network: NBC

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Frasier is arguably the best spin-off in television history. Kelsey Grammer played the character for 20 years, and made Dr. Crane the longest-running live-action character on TV. Grammer won four Lead Actor Emmy awards for his portrayal. In total, the series won 37 Emmy Awards during its run. Though it was about a psychiatrist, the heart of Frasier was Dr. Crane’s relationships with his father and brother. Like Cheers, it also produced one of the longest “will they, won’t they” relationships with Niles and Daphne. Of course, they will. Adam Vitcavage

38. Orphan Black
Creators: Graeme Manson, John Fawcett
Stars: Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Michael Mando, Maria Doyle Kennedy
Network: BBC America 

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Having one actor play several characters in a single show is nothing new. But that doesn’t take away from what Tatiana Maslany accomplished in the first season of BBC America’s Orphan Black. Maslany plays a host of clones on a sci-fi show that’s not just for sci-fi fans. Her main character, Sarah Manning, is a young British mother living in Canada. A small-time con artist, she’s trying and failing to get her life together when she sees her doppelgänger commit suicide by stepping in front of a train. After stealing the woman’s purse and identity, Sarah the con artist becomes Beth the cop, scrambling to fool her partner and discovering more women who look just like her. Each one she comes across—the uptight suburban mom, the gay hipster scientist, the Ukrainian religious fanatic—feels like such a different character that it’s easy to forget that the same actress is behind them all. And though there are elements of sci-fi—human cloning and the Neolutionists who believe in scientifically improving themselves (one character has a tail)—most of the characters aren’t the type who would even watch sci-fi. The show is as much about identity and motherhood as it is the consequences of technology. But none of it would work without the humanity Maslany brings to each of the clones she portrays in the show. Josh Jackson

37. Mozart In the Jungle
Creators: Paul Weitz, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman 
Stars: Gael Garcia Bernal, Lola Kirke, Bernadette Peters, Malcolm McDowell
Network: Amazon

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Based on the salacious memoir by noted oboist Blair Tindall about the down-and-dirty world of the New York classical music scene, Mozart in the Jungle plays like a rock-and-roll tell-all where the players are equipped with violins and woodwinds instead of guitars and drums. Acting as Tindall’s stand-in is Hailey Rutledge (Lola Kirke) an ambitious, if reserved oboist who finds herself thrust into the high-stakes, cutthroat world of a major New York symphony orchestra in the months before its season-opening performance. Kirke’s charming and grounded character provides a nice anchor when paired with the show’s more outlandish performances, which includes turns from Saffron Burrows, Bernadette Peters and Malcolm McDowell. The series’ true star, however, is Gael Garcia Bernal as the ensemble’s eccentric and flamboyant new conductor who struggles to reconcile his experimental tendencies with the symphony’s more rigid, conservative structure. While it may lack the emotional depth and complexity of a Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle is the kind of fun and vibrant experience that one would have no trouble binging in a day or two. Mark Rozeman

36. American Horror Story
Creator: Ryan Murphy  
Stars:Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Denis O’Hare, Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Lily Rabe
Network: FX

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Even fervent fans of Ryan Murphy’s high-camp horror anthology American Horror Story would have a tough time defending its Freak Show, Hotel and Roanoke seasons. But the first three story arcs—Murder House, Asylum and Coven—pushed the bounds of scary storytelling on television and helped kick off a small-screen horror renaissance when AHS first debuted around Halloween 2011. AHS’ evolution since its genuinely terrifying first season, starring Connie Britton, mirrors just about every major horror film franchise: a shockingly strong start followed by unexpected space shenanigans, complicated continuity callbacks, distracting guest stars, openly humorous installments and the departure of key players (most notably Jessica Lange, Murphy’s muse for the second, third and fourth seasons after her breakout supporting turn in the first). This murderous medley of elements clutters the show, but can’t suppress the glee that a horror hound feels seeing so many well-known genre tropes recycled and repurposed by Murphy and his rotating cast of players, from the chameleonic Sarah Paulson to Misery’s Kathy Bates. American Horror Story may be a big, bloody mess, but it’s clearly in love with the genre in its title. Steve Foxe

35. Patriot
Creator: Steve Conrad
Stars: Michael Dorman, Terry O’Quinn, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Chernus, Kathleen Munroe, Aliette Opheim
Network: Amazon


What if 007 dealt with his PTSD and the moral ambiguities of being a spy by revealing his deepest inner turmoil (and state secrets) at open-mic nights in Amsterdam? What if Q had trouble requisitioning his apartment with a single chair? And M sent him to work at a piping firm in the Midwest with an extra digit in his social security number? What if the American version of a Bond film replaced the car chases, femme fatales and slick gadgets with the dark humor of the Coen brothers, mixing deep ennui with side-splitting moments of levity? That’s Patriot in a nutshell. The stakes are high—keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of an Iranian extremist leader—but everything depends on our hero, John Tavner, (Michael Dormer) first navigating the mid-level corporate world of industrial piping. Josh Jackson

34. Sons of Anarchy
Creator:Kurt Sutter
Stars:Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Dayton Callie, Kim Coates, Tommy Flanagan, Ryan Hurst, Johnny Lewis, William Lucking, Theo Rossi, Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman
Network: FX

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Take the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold archetype, replace the hooker with a rough-around-the-edges bike club set in the ironically named town of Charming, Calif., add a conscience and things always going wrong, and you have the basic setup for Sons of Anarchy. Kurt Sutter’s gang of motorcycle-riding brothers and their lovingly nicknamed “old ladies” constantly find themselves in hot water trying to do the right thing while bending the rules just a little… which turns into bending the rules a lot. Having the town chief of police in their back pocket, along with Charlie Hunnam as the conflicted vice-president of the club who is carrying on his father’s legacy doesn’t hurt, either. It would be really easy to make the show’s motorcycle club reminiscent of a gang of pirates on bikes, pillaging and plundering with a complete lack of morals, but Sutter resists that temptation and makes the gray area of right and wrong the driving force behind each episode and each decision. Patty Miranda

33. Oz
Creator: Tom Fontana
Stars: Kirk Acevedo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney, Christopher Meloni, George Morfogen, Rita Moreno, Harold Perrineau, J. K. Simmons, Lee Tergesen, Eamonn Walker, Dean Winters
Network: HBO 

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Certainly a “water cooler show” if there ever was one, Oz made waves with its violence and sexual content early on and its equally deep and disturbing storytelling once people got over the fact that it was set in a maximum security prison. It’s probably safe to say that there’s an entire subset of former viewers out there who think of every prison and prison caricature in terms of what they saw on Oz, from the racial gangs to the unpredictable violence and stress of daily living. A truly ensemble cast was one of the selling points for the large and ambitious HBO series, which showed that an adult-content drama could still turn great ratings. The fact that it was on a premium network was essential, allowing a much deeper (and more realistic) depiction of the horrors of incarceration in the United States. Jim Vorel

32. Rescue Me
Creators: Denis Leary, Peter Tolan
Stars: Denis Leary, Michael Lombardi, Steven Pasquale, Daniel Sunjata, Andrea Roth, Callie Thorne, John Scurti
Network: FX

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From the opening moments of the series when off-color but very funny jokes are made about the amount of sex these firemen have been able to have since 9/11, Rescue Me distinguished itself as the rare series that could easily handle the tragedy and humor that life brings. No show before or since has so eloquently portrayed the long-lasting and haunting effects the attack on the World Trade Center had on those who were the first responders. As the soul of the series, NYFD firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) is simultaneously utterly despicable and utterly lovable. You’ll root for him and you’ll want to slap him. The show had its faults—creating fully realized female characters was not its strong suit—but the raw emotion and huge laughs the show delivered on a weekly basis still linger. Amy Amatangelo

31. Treme
Creators:   David Simon, Eric Overmyer
Stars: Khandi Alexander, Kim Dickens, India Ennenga, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Wendell Pierce, Jon Seda, Steve Zahn
Network: HBO 

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When the show tried to tell big stories to address big problems, it could occasionally drag. But when it chose to focus intently on the ordinary events of life, the parades and shows and meals and everything else that we fill our time with, there was a wonderful glorification of the city’s people. Characters didn’t need to be doing anything particularly vital, like solving crimes or stirring up trouble, to be important. The historical bent of the show was actually a perfect match for this ordinariness, simply because political and social events are always happening in the background and making up the backdrop of our lives. The Wire was one of the best plotted shows in the history of television, but the moment David Simon tried to replicate any of this formula, Treme always seemed to stumble. But the many crowd-pleasing moments throughout the show felt earned. Sean Gandert

30. 24
Creators: Howard Gordon and Evan Katz
Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Carlos Bernard, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Dennis Haysbert, Elisha Cuthbert, James Morrison, Kim Raver
Network: Fox

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It can be hard to recommend 24, the style and spirit of which, with its split screens and ticking clocks, suggest nostalgia for a moment in which the ends were seen—on TV as in government—to justify the means. Of course, this destructive moral calculus was no more convincing in November 2001, when 24 debuted, than it is now: Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow’s counterterrorism thriller may seem outdated, but prescient critics recognized from the start that its treatment of torture, among other topics, reflected a discomfiting willingness to sacrifice our values at the altar of expedience. This isn’t to suggest that 24 never manufactured superb television—I remain staunch in the belief that Jean Smart’s performance as unstable First Lady Martha Logan, in the series’ fifth season, is one of last decade’s finest, opening with camp and ripening into courage—or to deny that I, too, once found it wildly entertaining. (Ages ago, before I had my wisdom teeth removed, I rented a season’s worth of DVDs at Blockbuster and devoured them in a single, painkiller-fueled weekend. It was glorious.) It’s simply to admit that 24 niggles, and to suggest that this is why it remains worth seeing: When cultural historians reflect on America in the first years of the 21st century, 24, in particular the damaged patriotism of Kiefer Sutherland’s unforgettable Jack Bauer, will likely be a primary source. Matt Brennan

29. Girls
Creator:   Lena Dunham  
Stars: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky
Network: HBO 


I believe Lena Dunham is one of the foremost badasses of our artistic culture, and as far as that goes, I’m already very much on the record. The one thing I really love about Girls is that it refuses to conform to identity politics. There are times when Dunham can be a wonderful spokesperson for female power, and there are times when she pisses off the feminists. There are times when she seems like the best liberal around, and others when liberals want to burn her at the stakes and aren’t afraid to write endless think pieces on the topic. This is not because Dunham is trying to aggravate anybody, but because she tells her story so honestly, and so relentlessly, that anyone who wants her to conform to a prevailing ideology will inevitably be disappointed;she’s too fluid to be molded into an emblem. Girls is absolutely refreshing and absolutely bold, and Dunham has become so powerful and popular that she doesn’t need to pull any punches. The stories of Hannah and Shoshana and Marnie and Jessa exist to reflect something real, and something instinctual, and it originates with a brilliant artist who, we can only hope, will stay unrepentant until the angry mob finally runs her off with their sharpened pitchforks. Shane Ryan

28. Justified
Creator: Graham Yost
Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Natalie Zea, Walton Goggins
Network: FX

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Award-worthy guest stars (Margo Martindale, Mykelti Williamson, and Neal McDonough) were the rule not the exception on this show. Combine that with the best ensemble on television (anchored by Timothy Olyphant, Walter Goggins and Joelle Carter), firecracker writing from show-runner Graham Yost with a dependable stable of wordsmiths, and the feature-film quality direction and cinematography from Francis Kenny, Michael Dinner and others, and what do you get? An instant classic that improbably translates Elmore Leonard’s twisted humor, Western deconstruction and damaged psyches into hour-long gems episode after episode. Jack McKinney

27. Downton Abbey
Creator: Julian Fellowes
Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Jessica Brown-Findlay, Laura Carmichael, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Siobhan Finneran, Joanne Froggatt, Thomas Howes, Rob James-Collier, Rose Leslie, Phyllis Logan, Sophie McShera
Network: PBS

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Downton Abbey is never short on drama and general strife. The ensemble series is extraordinarily well-acted (as evidenced by Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Froggatt, Jim Carter and Brendan Coyle all receiving Emmy nominations), and there’s perhaps no easier way to describe the second season’s plot twists than fucking nuts, a term we strongly feel the saucy Dowager Countess would approve of. Amnesia? Yup. Temporary paralysis? Got it. Murder conviction? Oh, big-time. In less capable hands, these stories would’ve likely flown off the rails and veered into the completely ridiculous, but the talented cast of Downton Abbey handle it with aplomb. As the seasons progressed, many more tragedies would befall the Crawley family, making for some of most compelling television in recent memory. Bonnie Stiernberg

26. Star Trek: The Next Generation
Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Network: Syndicated

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The original series was pioneering. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had their moments. But TNG was head-and-shoulders the greatest Star Trek franchise. Jean Luc Picard. Data. Worf. The holodeck. The Borg. Gene Roddenbury must not have had a cynical bone in his body, and at least while I was watching his characters explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, I didn’t either. Josh Jackson

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