The 100 Best Sci-Fi TV Shows of All Time

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50. Timeless (2016-)

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Creators: Eric Kripke, Shawn Ryan
Stars: Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Malcolm Barrett, Paterson Joseph, Sakina Jaffrey, Claudia Doumit, Goran Višnji?
Network: NBC

NBC’s Timeless treats history and historic underdogs and the dangers of weaponized technological advancement with more respect and quietly radical, inclusive humanity than just about any other time-travel show out there. The compassion and intellectual rigor with which Lucy (Abigail Spencer), Wyatt (Matt Lanter), Rufus (Malcolm Barrett), Jiya (Claudia Doumit), Agent Christopher (Sakina Jaffrey), Conor (Paterson Joseph) and even, occasionally, laser-focused former-enemy Flynn (Goran Visnjic) face the moral knottiness of infiltrating past timelines—and their utter commitment to progress and reparative equity and individual humility—is a weekly master class in how to keep getting better at being human. Season Two’s two-part finale, featuring one timeline in which the team supported a badass Harriet Tubman (Christine Horn) and one in which the lives of multiple of their own team members were the core plot points but Lucy used her walk-and-talk to underscore the shameful truth of San Francisco’s oppression of its Chinese residents in the 1880s rather than rehash their personal problems, is a perfect example of this, but so was the previous episode which saw Reagan’s attempted assassination serve as the fulcrum for a focus on the importance of Agent Christopher’s wife and kids, and the thunderous changes honesty about one’s identity make across time, and so was the one before that, which saw women’s suffrage nearly snuffed out. And so on, and so on. —Alexis Gunderson

49. Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)

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Creator: Garry Marshall, Dael McRaven, Joe Glauberg
Stars: Robin Williams, Pam Dawber, Jay Thomas, Gina Hecht, Jonathan Winters
Network: ABC

The world was introduced to Robin Williams playing the Mork from the planet Ork on an episode of Happy Days. His talent was so apparent that ABC gave him his own show. His comedy was already alien, and the mile-a-minute slapstick of that first season felt completely original. Things went largely downhill from there with the introduction of Jonathan Winters as Mork and Mindy’s “baby” in Season 4, but even bad Mork & Mindy was better than most sitcoms of its era. —Josh Jackson

48. The Outer Limits (1963-1965)

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Creator: Leslie Stevens
Stars: László Benedek, Abner Biberman, John Brahm, John Erman
Network: ABC

In the realm of influential, early anthology shows, The Outer Limits is probably forever cursed to play second fiddle to the likes of The Twilight Zone. Yet, while the program’s 49 episodes may not always have the consistency or emotional wallop of Rod Serling’s masterpiece, its stories embraced an arguably more complex, morally relative worldview, whether that week’s installment was a monster-centric horror yarn or a Harlan Ellison-penned “hard” sci-fi joint. What’s more impressive is how, over half-a-century after the fact, some of the show’s super-cheap creature designs remain eerily unnerving, as evidenced by the human-faced insectoids at the center of “The Zanti Misfits” (don’t Google it, it will give you nightmares). On the larger scale, it’s fascinating to note how the show may have planted the ideas for future seminal works, whether it be “The Architects of Fear” for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen or “Demon with a Glass Hand” for The Terminator franchise (though James Cameron will legally dispute that). Each week, the opening title sequences promised that we were “about to participate in a great adventure.” More often than not, The Outer Limits kept this promise. —Mark Rozeman

47. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-)

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Creator:   George Lucas  
Stars: Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane
Network: Cartoon Network/Netflix

Contrary to popular belief, Lucasfilm did manage to create an engaging storyline set in the “prequel” universe. Enter Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Acting as a bridge between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the show finds Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, along with new character Ahsoka Tano, battling against the forces of Dooku and General Grievous. What started as a series full of fun, exciting space battles, however, soon grew into a much deeper and richer story that explored the complications and brutality of war. Moreover, The Clone Wars did more to set the stage for Anakin’s inevitable turn to the Dark Side than any moment in the films. While the show’s brand of photo-realistic animation may not be for everyone, there are few who will deny that the sophisticated storytelling on display would not have been greatly welcome in the traditional Star Wars movie universe. —Mark Rozeman

46. Counterpart (2017-)


Creator: Justin Marks
Stars:: J. K. Simmons, Olivia Williams, Harry Lloyd, Nazanin Boniadi, Sara Serraiocco, Ulrich Thomsen, Nicholas Pinnock
Network: Starz 

Creator Justin Marks’ espionage drama sucks you in with a gimmick—Why have one J.K. Simmons on screen when you can have two? Especially when his characters bicker much of the time because one is considerably more Alpha?—but amidst all its Cold War-meets-science fiction complexities, Counterpart has much more to offer than a story about rogue agents from an alternate universe who are sent here to kill us. Thanks in no small part to characters like Nazanin Boniadi’s Clare, the show offers a richly detailed and thought-out take on revisionist histories, terrorism by those who do not see themselves as terrorists, governmental cover-ups and even whether we can really know our own spouses. —Whitney Friedlander

45. Altered Carbon (2018-)

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Creator: Laeta Kalogridis
Stars:: Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Martha Higareda, Chris Conner, Dichen Lachman, Ato Essandoh
Network: Netflix 

Netflix’s recent sci-fi series Altered Carbon rivals HBO’s Westworld in terms of both beautifully constructed future worlds and naked bodies that are essentially ciphers, devoid of human soul. The cyberpunk noir show follows a resistance fighter revived into a new body, or “sleeve,” centuries after his revolution has failed. To win his freedom he must solve a murder mystery for one of the super-elite ancient Meths (short for that Biblical old-timer Methuselah), who buy new cloned bodies to house their back-up personalities, housed in a data core at the base of the brain stem. The technology, which allows for resurrection of the dead and instant travel across star systems, raises questions about religion, justice and familial relationships, like when agnostic police detective Kristin Ortega brings her grandmother home in the body of a pierced, tattooed convict to celebrate All Hallows Eve—her neo-Catholic family believes a soul brought back from the dead can never rest. It’s hard sci-fi without much of a sense of humor, but the acting (Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy, Renée Elise Goldberry), directing (Game of Thrones’ Miguel Sapochnik handles the pilot) and visual effects give the genre a claim to prestige television, and the hardboiled drama and blockbuster-worthy fight scenes have so far kept me coming back for more. —Josh Jackson

44. Dark Matter (2015-2017)

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Creators: Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie
Stars:: Melissa O’Neil, Anthony Lemke, Alex Mallari Jr., Jodelle Ferland, Roger Cross, Zoie Palmer, Marc Bendavid
Network: Syfy, Space

Based on the Dark Horse Comics series of the same name, Dark Matter kicks off as six people wake up on a spaceship with no memories of who they are or how they ended up there. What follows are three seasons of adventures that gradually ratchet up the stakes while still focusing on glorious character development. Because when you don’t know whether you’re a hero or a villain, you have to redefine your identity. Dark Matter also boasts three kickass female protagonists, including one of the most endearing Androids on television. So it was disheartening when Syfy recently made the shortsighted decision to cancel the show. We need more three-dimensional leading ladies interacting on our screens, and Dark Matter has them in spades. Luckily, you can still binge every season on Netflix. —Frannie Jackson

43. The Jetsons (1962-1963)

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Creators: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera
Stars:: George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler, Mel Blanc, Don Messick, Jean Vander Pyl, Howard Morris
Network:: ABC

Meet George Jetson! Zipping through the clouds of Orbit City in his flying saucer, he’s off to work in the morning with his family. He drops off his son, Elroy, at elementary school, his teenage daughter, Judy, at high school, and his wife, Jane, at the mall. He arrives on a moving sidewalk for his job at a sprocket company, where he simply has to press buttons. This is the future of The Jetsons, the Space Age equivalent of The Flintstones, where everyone lives in elevated Space Needle-type platforms high above the Earth and technology isn’t just commonplace, it’s a way of life. As with The Flintstones, the setting is less the subject of social commentary than a backdrop for the show’s sitcom format and an excuse for period-themed jokes and gags. Much of the technology we use regularly today didn’t exist when The Jetsons was produced, including cell phones, personal computers and the Internet. But in today’s world, where everyone’s got their nose in a laptop or iPhone, it’s nice not to see everyone in The Jetsons’ version of the future doing the same. For all the perks of the 21st century, we might still have some growing up to do. —James Charisma

42. Sense8 (2015-2018)

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Creators: The Wachowskis, J. Michael Straczynski
Stars: Tuppence Middleton, Brian J. Smith, Doona Bae, Aml Ameen, Max Riemelt, Tina Desai, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Jamie Clayton, Freema Agyeman, Terrence Mann, Anupam Kher, Naveen Andrews, Daryl Hannah
Network: Netflix 

There was no bigger WTF TV show in the world than Sense8. This globe-trotting and glitzy sci-fi series, created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski (co-directors of The Matrix trilogy) and former Babylon 5 showrunner J. Michael Straczynski, drops us into a world where eight strangers in different parts of the planet are somehow psychically and emotionally linked. Through the first season’s 12 episodes—and the recent Christmas special follow this assortment of confused and beautiful people as they try to understand this connection, use their newfound abilities to help one another, and engage in not one but two blissfully queer orgies. As wacky and over-the-top as Sense8 can often get, the series remains important as it deals with issues of sexuality and gender identity through the work of trans actress Jamie Clayton and performers Miguel Silvestre and Alfonso Herrera’s portrayal of a gay couple in Mexico City. —Robert Ham

41. 12 Monkeys (2015-2018)

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Creator: Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett
Stars: Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, Kirk Acevedo, Noah Bean, Todd Stashwick, Emily Hampshire, Barbara Sukowa
Network: SyFy

12 Monkeys co-creators Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett set themselves up with a pretty difficult task for their show’s first season. Not only did they have to juggle time-travel paradoxes, the post-apocalypse and the nefarious organization behind it all, they also had to make believers out of skeptical fans of the Terry Gilliam cult classic that inspired the sci-fi series, mostly succeeding. Latter seasons expanded the story both in scope and theme, exploring philosophical questions like the meaning of free will. —Rick Mele

40. 11.22.63 (2016)

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Creator: Bridget Carpenter
Stars: James Franco, Chris Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Cherry Jones
Network: Hulu 

When it comes to adapting Stephen King for television, the various attempts over the past 30-odd years could politely be characterized as “iffy.” Then, along came Hulu’s 11.22.63—based on King’s celebrated 2011 novel—to majorly screw with that quality curve. Developed as an eight-episode limited series by Friday Night Lights scribe Bridget Carpenter and produced by J.J. Abrams and King himself, 11.22.63 stars James Franco as Jake Epping, a recently divorced English teacher who learns that his friend, Al (Chris Cooper), has been attempting to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy via a time portal in the back of his diner. When Al is unable to continue the mission, Jake assumes the mantle and travels back to 1960, where he must spend the next three years meticulously plotting to hinder Lee Harvey Oswald’s world-changing murder, all while the forces of time throw obstacle after obstacle in his path. The series has been whittled down from King’s 800-plus page opus, and as a result, some of the plot elements feel a tad rushed, while others seem like little more than glorified filler. That said, the emotional core of the piece is present, especially with regard to Jake’s relationship with a beautiful young librarian (Sarah Gadon). What’s more, the narrative’s final stretch is tense and suspenseful. Though calling 11.22.63 the “best Stephen King miniseries of all time“ might sound like a backhanded compliment, it’s a moving and honest-to-God enthralling bit of sci-fi wizardry. —Mark Rozeman

39. Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams (2018-)


Creators: Ronald D. Moore, Michael Dinner
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Greg Kinnear, Anna Paquin, Terrence Howard, Vera Farmiga, Mel Rodriguez, Juno Temple, Maura Tierney, Annalise Basso
Network: Amazon

If you’re in the mood for some serious dystopian foxfire, riddled with existential dread and quirkily romantic, you’re in for a treat. This anthology of wonderfully filmed episodes can be seen in whatever order pleases you, and the subject, style and genre vary broadly, though the episodes share a sumptuous production sensibility and terrific casting. The what-ifs span numerous worlds and times and alternate realities, but each questions the fundamental human-ness of humans and they do it in some awfully clever and affecting ways. Timothy Spall plays a railway worker who finds himself in an alternate world where that thing you wish hadn’t happened actually never did. Geraldine Chaplin plays a 300-year-old woman on a mission to see Earth before she dies. Jack Gore’s father (Greg Kinnear) is replaced by an alien, and no, it’s not an overactive imagination and angst about his parents’ imminent divorce: The dude’s an alien. Each episode is richly imaginative, directed with seat-edge-gripping tension, and peopled with strikingly strong performers (Chaplin, Spall, and Benedict Wong, as a cynical tour-spaceship operator, are standouts, but there’s not really any significant dead space here). Some are post-apocalyptic, some are not. Some have a decidedly dystopian feel and some are just plain old neurotic. Each clocks in at a little under an hour, and while sci-fi isn’t always my go-to genre, I didn’t find a single episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams to be anything but compelling. —Amy Glynn

38. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013-)

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Creators:   Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen
Stars:: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, Chloe Bennett, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Nick Blood, Adrianne Palicki
Network:: ABC

Nothing in S.H.I.E.L.D. ever stays the same for long. It is this vital characteristic that allowed the show to endure a series of early rough patches that not even Phil Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) flying car could avoid. This element would also end up making the series unique. A re-watch of the beginning of the show’s first season almost feels like the launching point for a different series. Each week found Coulson and his team of agents going on a wacky new spy-laden adventure. Though intended to be fun and lively, the show reached a little too far over the top, resulting in an awkward feeling of camp (think Roger Moore’s Bond films) that simply didn’t mesh with the world the Marvel films established. Then, in 2014, as the show’s first season began its final arc, Captain America: The Winter Soldier happened. The events of the Captain America sequel tied in heavily with the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, and it finally felt like it belonged within the MCU instead of being relegated to the outside looking in. Ironically, H.Y.D.R.A.’s attempt at destroying S.H.I.E.L.D. proved to be the show’s saving grace. The series often turns on a dime, but the viewer never feels whiplash. An impressive accomplishment given the multitude of times this show could have easily veered off the rails. Always remaining in a state of reinvention, no two seasons are alike. Revolving team lineups keep the character dynamics fresh, and the audience can never fully guess which direction the series is going to head next. This sense of ballsy exploration keeps the narrative from ever becoming stale, resulting in a show that is both criminally underrated and underappreciated. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. absolutely belongs in the upper echelon of Marvel’s catalogue, be it works from the small screen or the silver one. —Geoff Miller

37. Chuck (2007-2012)

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Creators: Josh Schwartz, Chris Fedak
Stars: Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez, Sarah Lancaster, Adam Baldwin, Ryan McPartlin, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Scott Krinsky, Vik Sahay, Julia Ling, Bonita Friedericy
Network: NBC

Chuck was a show that took various genres, including sci-fi, comedy, action and drama, and melded them all together like a blender. The thing that tied these divergent tones together, however, was the sense of boundless fun and enthusiasm that permeated every aspect of the show, from the cast’s fantastic performances (Zachary Levi deserved an Emmy for his work) to the exciting action set pieces to the dynamite soundtrack (thank you, Josh Schwartz and Alexandra Patsavas for the endless stream of bands like Bon Iver, The Shins, Beck, Frightened Rabbeit, The National, Gnarls Barkley and Band of Horses). The show, which told the story of a regular guy who, by chance, got U.S. intelligence downloaded downloaded directly into his brain to become the government’s most valued secret agent, lived under the perpetual threat of cancellation. So, when the end finally came, the writers were ready. For five seasons, our nerdy everyman accompanied sexy superspy Sarah and the grumpy John Casey on life-threatening, top-secret missions. Slowly but surely, despite the obvious setbacks, Sarah and Chuck fell in love with each other, but whether their biggest setback could be overcome was left somewhat ambiguous. But with Chuck being Chuck, one can be assured that there is always a sense of hope. —Mark Rozeman

36. Fringe (2008-2013)

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Creator: J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci
Stars: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Jasika Nicole, Lance Reddick
Network: Fox

Like Lost, J.J. Abrams’s Fringe starts as a masterful slow-burn. The first season drops copious hints at the show’s central mythology, but doesn’t put all its cards on the table until the end of an unforgettable season finale. Until then it’s a paranormal procedural in the vein of X-Files; after that point it’s a tense, unsettling tale of two parallel dimensions at war with one another, sometimes unwittingly. Unlike Lost, Fringe remains well-paced throughout its final four seasons, popular enough to keep getting renewed and finish out its story, but not a Lost-style blockbuster that has to prolong and complicate its story to meet a network’s demand for more content. Fringe wasn’t as powerful or moving as Lost ultimately proved to be, but it was a far more focused and deliberate show, which makes it stronger and more satisfying in many ways. And John Noble’s turn as Walter Bishop, a brilliant scientist struggling with diminished mental faculties and his own guilt over his interactions with the parallel dimension he discovered, is one of the best and most heartbreaking performances in recent TV history. —Garrett Martin

35. Life on Mars (2006-2007)

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Creators: Matthew Graham, Tony Jordan, Ashley Pharoah
Stars: John Simm, Philip Glenister, Liz White, Dean Andrews, Marshall Lancaster
Network: BBC One

In this British a cop show with a sci-fi twist, Detective Sam Tyler (John Simm) is a 21st-century Manchester police officer who wakes up to find himself in 1973 after getting hit by a car. With no idea whether he’s “a time-traveler, a lunatic or lying in a hospital bed in 2006 and none of this is real,” he copes as best he can, trying to do police work without the benefits of modern technology. What makes the show great, though, is its exploration of misogyny and abuse of power on the ’70s police force. Tyler’s modern sensibilities are at odds with the rest of the boys in the police department, particularly DCI Gene Hunt (played brilliantly by Philip Glenister), who rides roughshod over suspects’ rights and well… anyone or anything else who stands between him and closing a case. As the show progresses, though Tyler keeps searching for his own truth, he starts to make the best of a strange situation. The show spawned both a spin-off Ashes to Ashes and a short-lived American remake. —Josh Jackson

34. Star Trek: Discovery (2017-)

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Creators:   Bryan Fuller, Alex Kurtzman
Stars: Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Shazad Latif, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Jason Isaacs, Wilson Cruz, Anson Mount
Network: CBS All Access

The latest Star Trek prequel lacks the optimism that Gene Roddenberry infused into the franchise, but considering it takes place during the Klingon War that preceded Star Trek: The Original Series, that’s understandable. At the center of the latest iteration is Michael Burnham (played by The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green), a human raised by Vulcans whose mutinous actions inadvertently start the catastrophic war. Despite a jail sentence, she’s recruited by the Captain Gabriel Lorca (Harry Potter’s Jason Isaacs) to serve as science officer on Discovery, a ship with a teleportation drive unique to among Federation ships that leads to an unexpected plot twist. CBS greenlit the show to help launch their All Access subscription package. The tone is a big break from previous entries in the Star Trek universe, but the set design is gorgeous and the acting (including The Shape of Water’s Doug Jones, Penny Dreadful’s Shazad Latif, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh and Broadway star Anthony Rapp) is top-notch. —Josh Jackson

33. FLCL (2000)

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Creator: Y?ji Enokido, Kazuya Tsurumaki
Stars: Mayumi Shintani, Jun Mizuki, Inori Minase, Karen Miyama, Jun Fukuyama
Network: Adult Swim 

FLCL was intended to feel unlike anything else you’ve ever watched, anime or otherwise. It’s got an incredible Japanese alt-rock soundtrack from the band The Pillows. Its editing is frenetic. Its characters interact in extremes of manic, moody, or forlorn. Its plot—in which robots pop out of a young boy’s swollen, injured head, heralding the return of a powerful extraterrestrial being—kinda doesn’t matter. None of that stuff matters, according to series director Kazuya Tsurumaki. “Difficulty in comprehension should not be an important factor in FLCL,” he once wrote in a comment thread for Production IG. “I believe the ‘rock guitar’ vibe playing throughout the show is a shortcut on the road to understanding it.” Rock on, brother. —Eric Vilas-Boas

32. The OA (2016-)

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Creators: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling 
Stars: Brit Marling, Jason Isaacs, Scott Wilson
Network: Netflix 

Brit Marling  and Zal Batmanglij’s flawed, transfixing science (or is it spiritual?) fiction asks its audience, as the title character (Marling) does hers, for trust—to the point that the suspension of disbelief emerges as the subject of The OA, and not merely its mechanism. As the OA, or Original Angel, also known as Prairie Johnson, unfurls a tale of unimaginable trauma for four high school students and their math teacher (the surprising Phyllis Smith), the decision to focus on images of their rapt faces might appear premature, given the first season’s meandering course. And yet, mirroring the OA’s inscrutable message, Marling and Batmanglij’s snarled stories ultimately straighten, as if diagramming an indecipherable sentence or lining a complex hymn: When its nesting narratives come taut, when its forked paths converge, The OA rewards the faith it requires, coming to a climax of such sublime conviction it continues to reduce me to sobs even now, after countless viewings. —Matt Brennan

31. The Flash (2014-)

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Creators: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, Geoff Johns
Stars: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Rick Cosnett, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavenagh
Network: The CW

Over the past five years, the CW, born from a merger of The WB and UPN in 2006, has taken full advantage of its close ties with Warner Bros. to hand over much of its primetime slate to DC superhero shows, and it’s one of the most fun line-ups on television, especially with Barry Allen zipping around National City in The Flash, taking out bad guys with a quip and a smile. The Flash has tackled everything from the classic Flashpoint storyline about alternate realities to the giant, super-intelligent Gorilla Grodd, and fans are eating it up. At heart, comic books were designed as a fantastical distraction from everyday life. That doesn’t mean they can’t tell meaningful stories that push us to reexamine our world, but it’s taken time for the balance we see on the page to make the leap to the screen. With big-screen superhero stories becoming so bruising, both mentally and physically, small-screen comic stories are now a light-hearted oasis for fans just looking to have a good time, with a little angst thrown in for good measure. —Trent Moore

30. Dollhouse (2009-2010)

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Creator:   Joss Whedon  
Stars: Eliza Dushku, Harry Lennix, Fran Kranz, Tahmoh Penikett, Enver Gjokaj, Dichen Lachman, Olivia Williams
Network: Fox

Between Buffy and The Avengers, Joss Whedon had a habit of creating good shows that got canceled too soon. Dollhouse was no Firefly, but after a weak first season that focused on singular missions from Eliza Dushku’s character, it expanded into a fascinating sci-fi universe. The premise of the show was that brain-wiping technology could allow the techs of the Dollhouse to install different personalities and skills in their blank-slate agents. In the first season, this just felt weirdly exploitative for the viewer, but the sweeping arc of the second season began to question the ethics of imagined technologies and turn the first season’s plotlines on their heads. And the payoff was huge with an epic two-episode apocalyptic flash-forward that ended each season, starring Felicia Day as a survivor of the Dollhouse technology gone viral. —Josh Jackson

29. Future Man (2017-)

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Creators: Howard Overman, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Eliza Coupe, Derek Wilson, Glenne Headly, Ed Begley, Jr.
Network: Hulu 

The cure for herpes creates a dystopian divide between humans and mutant beings. Yeah, that’s the setting for one of the strangest, most compelling pieces of sci-fi comedy on television in recent memory. Future Man comes from the minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, both of whom are masters at genre tweaking. This genre gets tweaked a bit more than most—things get wet and wild almost immediately with some botched time travel, some plot points lifted from The Last Starfighter, and a talking house owned by James Cameron. Yes, that James Cameron. The silliness wouldn’t hold together unless it was seriously acted and the show has a killer cast, unlocking Josh Hutcherson’s potential as a comedy straight man and introducing newcomer Derek Wilson as a fish-out-of-water force. The gags are R-rated, sharp and quick inside the sci-fi pastiche, which makes the absurd dedication to plotting and nuanced characters so entertaining. —Jacob Oller

28. Black Mirror (2011-)

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Creator: Charlie Brooker
Network: Channel 4 (UK), Netflix 

There are probably times in most of our lives when we see our technological world as more of a dystopia than a utopia. The way it curbs our freedom, diminishes our privacy, and subjects us to anonymous attacks can feel like an unforgivable violation. But the worst part is, we’re complicit—we’ve accepted the intrusion, and in some cases, or even most cases, we’ve become addicted. The ubiquity of technology is a reality that we can’t fight against, and to maintain our sanity, we have to accept it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth questioning, which is exactly what Black Mirror is all about. The title is nearly perfect, as explained by creator Charlie Brooker: “The black mirror of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.” The job of this show is to reflect our society in an unflattering light, and they do it with a new cast and a new story in each episode. This is not fun watching—it’s mostly horrifying—but even if our brave new world is inescapable, the show represents a kind of protest that feels more necessary than ever. —Shane Ryan

27. Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1997-2004, 2017-)

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Creator: Joel Hodgson
Stars: Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt, Jonah Ray, Baron Vaughn, Hampton Yount, Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff, Michael J. Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett, Patrick Brantseg
Network: KTMA, Comedy Central, SyFy, Netflix 

From the depths of Minneapolis public access TV came MST3K, the show that forever changed how comedians (and comedy audiences) viewed the act of watching bad movies. Joel Hodgson’s brainchild transformed an act carried out by stoned college kids watching late night TV into some of TV’s sharpest comedy writing, leaving an indelible mark on the comedy world and inventing an entire subgenre of professional comedic exploration while he was at it: Movie riffing. At its creative peak during both the Hodgson and Michael J. Nelson years, there wasn’t a show on television that featured denser, more joke-packed episodes, while simultaneously covering such a wide, eclectic range in its pop cultural references. That cosmopolitan comedy legacy now lives on via the Netflix revival of the show, MST3K: The Return, which has one season in the tank and another on the way. Although the reboot hasn’t quite reached the heights of the show’s original run just yet, there’s reason to hope that it will continue rounding into form. Check out our massive ranking of every single episode of MST3K ever made. —Jim Vorel

26. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)

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Creator: Hideaki Anno
Stars: Hideaki Anno, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Hiroyuki Ishidô, Tsuyoshi Kaga
Network: Animax, Cartoon Network 

Is it a psychodrama about growing up? Is it a giant robot action show about the apocalypse? Is it an allegory for how humans are doomed and can’t communicate? If Neon Genesis Evangelion seems like a figurative roller coaster, guess what: it has an actual VR roller coaster, too. The thing is, Evangelion does manage to find treasure in all its complex digging into those questions, and it never feels bloated or boring in the process. Series director Hideaki Anno frames his characters’ traumas through horror imagery; crucifixion, sexual misconduct, child abuse, and the literal melting of humankind are all ideas he visually worked into this crazy, decades-spanning franchise. In the hands of someone else, it’d probably fall apart completely. Evangelion, however, is beautiful enough to use a cover of “Fly Me to the Moon” as its credits track and make it all work. —Eric Vilas-Boas

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