Though HBO gets all of the fanfare, Starz has quietly been putting out quality TV for a long time. The premium network may be known for the amount of nudity in its series, but unlike HBO, it displays far more gender equality. To that end, Starz was also the first premium network to meaningfully produce and promote projects led by women and people of color. Even its historical dramas like The Spanish Princess include accurate depictions of POC in a European period piece where other networks would dare not tread. From fantasy and sci-fi to docu-series, off-beat comedies, and crime thrillers, Starz has an audaciously unique library well worth exploring (but it is definitely Rated for Adults).
A note on streaming: Of the 25 shows listed below most are available in full via the Starz app (which is linked), the Starz add-on to Amazon and Hulu, or through a cable provider like DirecTV. But, if series are available to stream through an existing subscription to Netflix, Amazon, etc. without the Starz add-on, those will be linked directly. And of course, streaming libraries move around all of the time, so keep an eye out for availability on other platforms as time goes on.
Below are our picks for the 25 best TV original series (and internationally co-produced series) on Starz:
Sweetbitter, based on Stephanie Danler’s novel, was much maligned in its short first season. Some felt it was a standard coming-of-age in New York story that didn’t do enough to shake up the genre, or that it didn’t do the beloved book justice, or that it was too focused on the privilege of the fine dinning culture in which it resides. Sweetbitter is a slight show in many ways, but is also the kind of perfect summer watch that makes you quasi-nostalgic for your own coming-of-age experiences: young love in a big city, being the new kid at a job, and being open to the experiences that will come to shape your adulthood. In that regard, the series succeeds greatly, quietly exploring restaurant life—and the life of a young person making big moves and big mistakes—with the flitting charm and randomness that so closely defines these kinds of encounters.
Where the show excels is in its portrayal of the connections within the microcosm of the restaurant in which it is set, one that completely runs the lives of those who are a part of it. It’s all funny, emotional, warm and quickly forgotten in turn. There’s a feeling of family here, and yet, some of the characters also acknowledge that it’s all temporary and meant to be so. They won’t stay there forever, and when they move on, they won’t keep in touch with the people they’re so close to now. That’s part of the specificity of this time and place; it can feel so all-important and all-encompassing in the moment, but ultimately it’s as ephemeral as the first taste of white truffle. —Allison Keene
24. American Gods
Watch on Starz
Watch on Amazon Prime
American Gods is a lot of things at once: it’s intense and funny, it’s lively and filled with death, it’s horrific and beautiful. Sometimes it works, and when it does, it’s spectacular. The story revolves around Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), who leaves prison and learns that his wife and best friend have both been killed in a car crash. (The good news is that he’s free; the bad news is his wife is dead.) Lucky for him—or maybe unlucky—Shadow meets a man called Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), who offers him a job as his errand boy/bodyguard/vigil holder. Under Wednesday’s influence, Shadow’s life quickly becomes like living in a dream as truths he knew before he went to prison turn false around him.
Both highly anticipated and highly fraught, American Gods went through several major transitions. Showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green were fired, and another showrunner, Jesse Alexander, was hired and subsequently sidelined. With all the moving parts behind the scenes, this adaptation of Neil Gaimon’s novel became something of a mess, though picked up a cult following. The first season was stylized and meandering, with its tone jumping from horror to romance to adventure faster than Shadow can pick a lock. At the start of Season 2, a celebration of common purpose is interrupted by a very American tragedy: Mr. World (Crispin Glover) orders someone to open fire on the restaurant. American Gods moved into a new phase of its storytelling, but it won’t stop picking at America’s wounds. —Rae Nudson and Allison Keene
23. Now Apocalypse
Though it presents complications soon enough, the pleasure principle is the guiding force of Now Apocalypse, Gregg Araki and Karley Sciortino’s twisted, thirsty Odyssey, their masterpiece of comic kink. It opens on our hero, Ulysses (Avan Jogia), following the noise of a man’s moans into an abandoned building, lit in lurid purplish-pinks: “I often find myself in these situations where my heart’s pounding so fast I can barely breathe,” he explains in voiceover, “and I can’t tell if it’s excitement, or terror, or both.” As he rounds the corner, the camera glimpses a rocking, thrusting silhouette, and Uly recoils in horror—before the picture cuts to an anonymous L.A. apartment, his face contorted in orgasm as his playmate cries “Harder! Harder!” from his all-fours perch on the bed. By the time Uly escapes the man’s husband, tossing his condom in the bushes while he hikes up his pants, Now Apocalypse has already emerged as TV’s most gloriously frank depiction of sex and its unorthodoxies: the monstrous configuration of bodies in motion, the unavoidable humor of our expressions and sounds, the cataclysmic intensity of a truly great fuck. —Matt Brennan
22. The Girlfriend Experience
Much like Starz’s acclaimed Outlander, The Girlfriend Experience came out of the gate fully formed. There were no signs that the show—an abstract, tense and often confounding look at Christine (Riley Keough), a high-end escort who’s also making her way up the corporate ladder at a law firm—needed any time to find its footing. Instead, in its first season The Girlfriend Experience delivered 10 tightly wound episodes that used their half-hour runtime to ratchet up the tension until it was almost unbearable. In an age of TV that often privileges either instant gratification or contrived delayed gratification, The Girlfriend Experience found something special in the organic mystery of Christine. The show, paced with expert precision by directing and writing duo Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan, is a character study like no other. Keough’s taut and sometimes silent performance keeps Christine at a distance while also giving us small insights into her mental state as she grapples with the issues of power, identity and sexuality that come with her newfound career path. The Girlfriend Experience is unlike anything else, refusing to hold the audience’s hand as it unravels not only a twisty plot, but the threads that make up a complicated psyche. Anna Friel stars in the similarly excellent second season. —Kyle Fowle
One of Starz’s biggest early hits, the oiled-up, testosterone-fueled Spartacus began with Blood and Sand, which focused on the historic gladiator (and a historic amount of male nudity) and his loyal rebellion of freed slaves growing stronger as Roman troops readied themselves to fight back. Tragically, star Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with cancer after filming the first season, and Starz filled in the production gap with the prequel miniseries Spartacus: Gods of the Arena. Whitfield died in 2011, but the series continued on with a new lead, Liam McIntyre, for the follow-ups Vengeance and War of the Damned. Stylized battle sequences defined the series, but it also picked up more heart and substance as it continued. Look for early roles from Manu Bennett, Jai Courtney, Katrina Law, and more. —Allison Keene
20. The White Queen
Much of Game of Thrones is based on the Wars of the Roses, the battle for the throne of England that took place when the House of York rose against the House of Lancaster to unseat the Mad King. Based on Philippa Gregory’s novel by the same name, The White Queen picks up the story in the mid-1400s. After overthrowing the Mad King, Max Irons’ Edward IV of York (now the newly minted King of England), marries commoner Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson) for true love, instead sealing his fledgling kingship with a political marriage (this should also sound familiar). While the duration of Elizabeth and Edward’s marriage underwent continuous betrayals and attempted coups, they, luckily, did not end up like Robb Stark and his wife Talisa at the Red Wedding—although tragedy does strike with Aneurin Barnard’s Richard III waiting in the wings. Pointing out the many other connections would lead to spoiling The White Queen, but make sure to look out for Queen Margaret of Anjou and her son, who bear many similarities with Cersei and Joff. —Madina Papadopoulos
19. Blunt Talk
The handful of us who watched and enjoyed Jonathan Ames’ series Blunt Talk when it aired will know that despite a rocky start (that relied too heavily on the conceit of “Patrick Stewart plays an obnoxious news anchor!”) the series turned into one of surprising tenderness. As the comedy expanded beyond the rudeness that blunted (indeed) its wit, it found more depth and even sweetness than one might have expected (especially after the supporting cast found their way out from Stewart’s formidable shadow). Not everything works, and the “it’s Starz, we can say whatever we want about sex!” of it all is sophomoric at best, but when Blunt Talk calms down and examines the various neuroses of its core cast, it does so with a much softer humor. It’s still wacky, but somehow gracefully so. There is a quiet, beating heart to Blunt Talk that didn’t get its due after initial dismissive reviews, but its sweetness is ultimately undeniable (with a Season 2 ending that, thankfully, served well as a series finale). —Allison Keene
18. The Chair
Much like Project Greenlight, executive producer Chris Moore’s previous high-profile foray into film-centric reality shows, 2014’s The Chair presented a fascinating, if often sobering, documentation of the creative process. Where the show differentiates itself from Project Greenlight is in its emphasis on the director’s role as story crafter. The central conceit of the 10-episode season concerns two filmmakers who are given the same script. Their task is to each make a film, independent of one another, that reflects their wildly different sensibilities. Popular YouTube personality Shane Dawson decides to produce a broad, brassy farce, whilst indie filmmaker Anna Martemucci chooses to interpret the text as a Sundance-esque dramedy. Spoiler alert: neither of the projects turns out to be a masterpiece. Martemuccis’s film is mediocre at best, and Dawson’s is nothing short of an offensive disaster. End products aside, however, the series puts forth a very clear thesis—namely, putting any film together is very, very hard work. Compelling and addictive, The Chair is a gift (and warning) to aspiring filmmakers everywhere. —Mark Rozeman
17. The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follet’s sprawling historical novel, The Pillars of the Earth , gave a wonderful glimpse at life across social strata in 12th-century England. Spanning the multi-decade construction of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, the book is as much a poem to architecture as it is a tale of intrigue. Minor innovations in stone work are treated as miracles of God. And while some of that passion is lost in the translation to an eight-part miniseries, the intrigue is enough to entertain. At its heart, it’s a story about ambition, both selfish and noble. Tom Builder’s (Rufus Sewell) driving ambition is to build a cathedral, a desire shared by the artistic young Jack Jackson (Eddie Redmayne) and the pious Prior Philip (Matthew Macfadyen). Their goal is thwarted by the selfish aspirations of everyone with power, whether from the church or the state. Money and titles are central to every decision made by those who already have some level of riches or power. The few honest men and women (including Hayley Atwell’s Aliena) must use their own cunning and faithfulness to survive the onslaught of deception that rarely slows during the nearly eight hours of film. —Josh Jackson
16. The Missing
Watch on Amazon Prime
Watch on Starz
The Missing is an engrossing crime anthology series from Harry and Jack Williams that tells two very different stories of missing children; in the first hauntingly-filmed season, an English couple are on vacation in France when the father loses sight of their child. Blame, shame, and an obsessive search for truth dominate this incredibly-acted season that jumps through time to examine the toll taken by such a tragedy, yet done in beautifully human ways that never make it oppressive. In the second season, a missing child returns after many years, but the family is not quite sure that they believe she is who she claims to be (while hoping desperately that she’s telling the truth). Both iterations feature a common detective, Julien Baptiste, who is such a compelling character that he is getting his own spinoff. Though they can be difficult given the subject matter, both seasons of The Missing are well worth exploring. — Allison Keene
15. Survivor’s Remorse
Watch on Amazon Prime
Watch on Starz
One of Starz’s best comedies, Survivor’s Remorse is about a pro basketball phenom going from the projects to fame and fortune, and all the problems that arise from the trappings of wealth—plus the “survivor’s remorse” that stems from “getting out” and all the people you left behind in your old life.
Mike O’Malley’s canny, provocative comedy about a middle-class black family that joins basketball star son/brother/cousin/nephew, Cam Calloway, when he moves to Atlanta has continued to pick up converts, rewarding viewers’ commitment throughout its run. O’Malley and his diverse, take-no-prisoners team of writers (including Allen Maldonado, Ali Leroi, Tracy Oliver and Victor Levin) explore their appealing premise, digging deeper into racial and gender politics than almost any show on television. And despite navigating some fairly heavy material—sudden death, sexual assault—Survivor’s Remorse, true to form, never moralizes, consistently finding the funny in knockout satire, wry observations and adolescent stoner gags. Young lead Jessie T. Usher is a standout, but Survivor’s Remorse also features strong performances from RonReaco Lee (as Cam’s cousin, Reggie), Teyonah Parris (Reggie’s wife, Missy) and Tichina Arnold (Cam’s mom, Cassie), all delivering Emmy-worthy performances. —Kenny Herzog
14. Ash vs. Evil Dead
Watch on Netflix
Watch on Starz
Look, Ash vs Evil Dead isn’t simply “a horror TV show.” It’s the TV show-sized version of one of horror’s greatest franchises, the point in time at which Sam Raimi became Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell became Bruce Campbell, and all manner of genres in cinema, from horror to fantasy, gained a new well from which to draw influence. Evil Dead and its descendants are responsible for adding “groovy” and “boomstick” to the “Movies” section of the pop cultural lexicon. It’s the series that gave nerdy guys new heroes to claim as their own in Campbell and in Ash, the book-smart guy who’s as handy with a chemistry textbook as he is with a shotgun. Ash is a nerd, but a roguishly handsome nerd, well-endowed of chin, who can beat the crap out of Deadites, demons, and skeletons all day long. And that’s the essence of Ash vs Evil Dead, distilled into 20-45 minute chunks of pure, unfiltered monster ass-kicking goodness where Ash doles out the harshness and, as is his wont, brings about the fucking apocalypse. (Good job, Ash.)
Boil the show down to a mere two-word descriptor, and that descriptor would be “arterial spray.” If you’re a gore junkie who needs to feed their habit like clockwork, Ash vs Evil Dead has your back. The show’s stars—not just Campbell, but the great sidekick team of Ray Santiago and Dana DeLorenzo—regularly run up on Deadites with deli slicers, chainsaws, hand cannons, you name it. And if you need to have your funny bone tickled, well, Ash and company have you covered there, too. It’s the perfect blend of unapologetic black humor and batshit violent insanity to get you your horror fix, week in and week out. —Andy Crump
Created by Loki’s Michael Waldron—with Mike O’Malley serving as showrunner—Heels follows brothers Jack (Stephen Amell) and Ace (Alexander Ludwig) Spade as they navigate their way through the world of local, independent professional wrestling in their small, fictional Georgia hometown of Duffy. The series begins nearly a year after the shocking death of their father, “King” Tom Spade (David James Elliott), a local hero who left behind a legacy and big shoes to fill. He also left behind the family business, the Duffy Wrestling League (DWL). Family man Jack, who plays a heel in DWL and holds the company’s championship belt, takes over the responsibilities of running the promotion (booking wrestlers, writing the storylines, courting sponsors, and everything else he can possibly do to grow the DWL), while devil-may-care Ace—the promotion’s top face—has dreams of making it big in professional wrestling and finally getting out of Duffy the way Wild Bill did.
Heels is a series that sets out to not just push back the metaphorical curtain (as opposed to the literal curtain) on the world of contemporary professional wrestling, but to examine how the lines of reality can be blurred—something professional wrestling takes to another level. That’s especially true when wrestling is literally your family’s whole life, the thing that you hope puts food on the table. Heels asks the questions one would expect a show about professional wrestling to ask: When does kayfabe (the established “fake” world of wrestling) become a shoot (the real world)? When does a shoot become kayfabe? What happens when those worlds co-exist? And in the specific case of Heels, how do these characters balance work and family when both are inextricably linked? It’s territory that Heels has its characters absolutely thrive in from the very moment we meet them. —LaToya Ferguson
Vida is truly the anti-Roseanne. Premiering a couple weeks before Roseanne Barr fired off the tweet that became the death knell for the (first) modern-day iteration of her pioneering ABC sitcom, creator Tanya Saracho’s family dramedy, on Starz, covered so much ground in just six half-hour episodes. Focusing on two sisters (Mishel Prada’s cut-throat Emma and Melissa Barrera’s beauty-equals-privilege Lyn) who are coming to terms not only with their estranged mother’s death, but also with the revelation that she’d married a woman without telling them, Vida manages to cover issues like LGBTQ acceptance in the Latinx community, gentrification, racism and the struggle for cultural identity that so often plagues children of immigrants or those who came to America at a young age. (Plus, it features some of the most queer-positive sex scenes on TV). Behind the scenes, it also broke ground by becoming the first-ever all-Latinx writers’ room, and for its push to cast non-binary talent like Ser Anzoategui. —Whitney Friedlander
11. Howards End
Watch on Amazon Prime
Watch on Starz
The gorgeous four-part miniseries adaptation of E.M. Forester’s masterful Howards End stars Hayley Atwell as Margaret Schlegel, the older sister (and de facto matriarch) of a progressive and independent family living in early 20th century London. Margaret and her siblings are on the forefront of changing social mores, sometimes controversially so, and it defines her relationship with an older, wealthy widower, Henry Wilcox (Matthew Macfadyen), whose conservative values clash with hers. The story feels timely in many ways, although the genuine curiosity and politeness with which these issues are broached can seem lamentably foreign. The series, stunningly directed by Hettie MacDonald and wonderfully adapted by Kenneth Lonergan, is in many ways an atypical and refreshing period piece. Anchored by outstanding performances, the series shines in its quiet moments of personal fortitude and in confronting one’s own biases in endlessly intriguing ways. It is truly a must-watch. —Allison Keene
10. The Spanish Princess
If you love historical fiction, then The Spanish Princess is the show for you. Instead of a typical Tudor story about Henry VIII, after he decides he wants to dump Catherine of Aragon for Anne Boleyn, this show shares Catherine of Aragon’s triumph. A story rarely told, The Spanish Princess details her happy years which, you may not know, were 24 years of marriage before her union was annulled. What makes this story particularly compelling is its intentional choice to use a diverse cast which is also rooted in history. While some might define the use of people of color in a historical fiction drama progressive, it is simply accurate. Chances are you have never seen this story of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon on screen, and it is well worth the watch. It’s season finale has set up a fascinating Part 2 that will further investigate the reign of Henry and Catherine, with all of the lies, romance, and beheadings that come with it. —Keri Lumm
9. The Serpent Queen
Starz’s latest female-focused historical drama is not only its first set outside the confines of Tudor-adjacent England, it’s also its first to tackle the story of a woman that isn’t remembered in a particularly positive light. Rightly or wrongly, much of history has decided that Catherine de Medici was a monster: a foreign commoner who poisoned her enemies, practiced the dark arts, and manipulated her children for her own ends. Was she? We’ll likely never know for sure, but The Serpent Queen doesn’t much care either way, and instead chooses to give its antiheroine lead the agency to be the chief architect of of her own story, for both good and ill.
The story follows Catherine’s remarkable rise to power, as she tells the story of her own life to a servant girl (for reasons that are not yet entirely clear), irreverently recreating the specifics of her arranged marriage to the second son of a French king and her struggles to find her place at court. Samantha Morton is mesmerizing as a vicious, snarky Catherine who is fully aware of what everybody’s saying about her, and leans into their worst imaginings of what that means, exploiting the very systems of patriarchy and misogyny in the name of survival. Bolstered by an outstanding ensemble cast, including Liv Hill as a feral younger Catherine full of grit and Ludivine Sagnier as her great rival, Diane de Poitiers, the show proves nothing so much as that although history may be a tale of kings, it is ultimately a story about women and the things they must do to survive in a world that is shaped both by and for men. —Lacy Baugher-Milas [Full Review]
P-Valley takes place at a strip club deep in the Mississippi Delta and deals with the tough personalities who both run it and frequent it, but the show’s visual language is deeply feminine. Created and written by Olivier Award-winning playwright Katori Hall (based on her play, “Pussy Valley”), the eight-episode first season is also directed exclusively by women. And like Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, you can feel it.
The regulars of The Pynk are introduced to us fully formed: Mercedes (series’ breakout Brandee Evans) is the club’s star dancer, a tour de force who is ready to retire and start her own gym for girls; Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan), the colorful owner who manages to dress more outrageously than any of his bejeweled dancers, is struggling to keep the club afloat; Keyshawn, a.k.a. Mississippi (Shannon Thornton) is a beauty on the rise but with an abusive partner; and a newcomer, Autumn Night (Elarica Johnson), is running from a traumatic past and looking to find her place among this odd family.
It’s easy to feel connected to P-Valley’s overall world and want the best for the women (and occasional men) who are trying to live on their own terms amid the neon lights and trap music bass lines. There’s also a naturalism to this rare, true working-class show that imbues it with a sly humor, like using funeral home bricks meant to pad out arrangements for a bag full of cash, or razzing the club’s cook for making chicken wings that give the dancers’ gas. P-Valley wants you know to know this place and the people who call it home in intimate ways—and not always through sex. P-Valley may or may not be the next Power, but it deserves to be; what it adds to the TV landscape is fresh, raw, and provocative in all of the right ways. —Allison Keene
7. The White Princess
A follow-up to The White Queen, The White Princess covers the story of Elizabeth and Edward’s daughter (also named Elizabeth, referred to as Lizzie here) and the marriage she was forced into with King Henry VII and how she strategizes to take back power for herself and her family. Meanwhile, her mother-in-law, Margaret Beaufort, is probably the worst mother-in-law in the history of mother-in-laws (we’re talking likely a murderess several times over). Women and female agency are at the forefront of this Philippa Gregory adaptation which (unlike the book itself) provides meaty material for its leads. Powerhouse performances from Jodie Comer, Essie Davis, and Michelle Fairley make this short, riveting series a must-see. —Madina Papadopoulos and Allison Keene
6. America to Me
Director Steve James—known for nonfiction classics like Hoop Dreams, about two African-American high-school students in Chicago who are striving for the NBA, and The Interrupters, about those who try to mitigate violence in Chicago’s South Side—says that he didn’t want to go to the obvious places to see the problems of race and racism in this country; he wanted to look at where it plays out every day, in front of people who believe themselves to be progressives. So he returned to a setting he knew well: the high school where his own kids matriculated, and one that, like so many other places, has had its share of conflicts regarding race and society. The result is the miniseries America to Me, both a time capsule of hope and a prelude to our current moment, in which it seems increasingly untenable to bury our heads in the sand. And that’s kind of the point of America to Me: Racism, even when it isn’t the cross-burning kind, is so ingrained in our society that it’s almost unavoidable even by those who recognize it and want to help. —Whitney Friedlander
The excellent Starz series Counterpart introduces us to a world that has been split in two for decades, as two parallel Earths sharing a single portal in Berlin unbeknownst to all but government spy agencies on either side. Counterpart explores what-if questions of making different choices in one’s life, and how things might have changed. It does so through the lens of Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons), who unexpectedly meets his “other” after his wife Emily (Olivia Williams) suffers an accident that puts her into a coma and her own secrets are revealed. But Emily also has an other … as do we all, and thus starts the Howards’ journey of self-discovery x 2.
Despite its sci-fi trappings, Counterpart has always been a deeply character-driven story about how our decisions affect us, giving a tantalizing look at how things might have been different with just a few zigs instead of zags over the years. In its second and final season, each of the Howards became trapped in each other’s worlds, but the story also expanded to see how the two Emilys lives diverged so dramatically—and what they could each learn from each other. Somehow, Counterpart manages to never be confusing, though, thanks especially to its excellent cast who made different versions of each character feel incredibly distinct (even when they were pretending to be each other). Its story is a deeply human one, told in extraordinarily interesting ways. —Allison Keene
4. Party Down
Party Down boasts a formula so simple and ingenious, it’s absolutely insane that no one had attempted it before. The general premise centers on a gang of aspiring LA-based actors, writers and entrepreneurs who make ends meet by working at a catering company. This being Hollywood, their assignments veer from the mundane (corporate retreats, birthday parties, weddings) to the absurd (backstage concert parties, porn awards, orgies). No matter what the setting, however, the lackadaisical crew of Party Down catering can always be counted on to ruin the occasion, frequently in ways that leave the audience crying from laughter. Taking cues from the best Judd Apatow productions, however, beneath all the crass, scatological humor and cringe-inducing scenarios lies a bittersweet story of dreams deferred and the lengths people go to, in order to find validation and acceptance. Boasting an insanely talented main cast that included Adam Scott, Ken Marino and Lizzy Caplan, the show also employed its “new week, new location” structure to recruit guest turns from the likes of J.K. Simmons, Kristen Bell, Rob Corddry, Thomas Lennon and Steve Guttenberg. In the end, despite strong critical reviews and a devoted cult following, the show’s ratings were nothing short of anemic and Starz pulled the plug after two seasons. However, fan love for the series never died and a long-awaited third season recently arrived, picking up right where the show left off in terms of quality. —Mark Rozeman
3. Black Sails
The most popular depictions of pirates in television and movies have mostly been created for the family. They are sweet, comic depictions of days gone by with hunts for buried treasure. Starz does not take that path with their pirate based show, Black Sails. The show is written as a prequel to Treasure Island and follows Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) as he hunts treasure alongside John Silver (Luke Arnold). While Treasure Island might be required reading for kids at school, this show is anything but family friendly. Black Sails is gritty, showing how hard real life was in the West Indies, and how brutal pirates were not only to their enemies but to each other. You can feel how difficult it was, and takes the shine off of the buried treasure. The show is also historically accurate, showing a diverse cross section of people—the women are powerful leaders, the love stories are strong, and you feel like you have an inside look at what pirate life was really like. Starz has shown that when it comes to historical fiction they are masters at their craft. When you watch Black Sails, you don’t have to wonder why their lifespans were so short; life was rough, but the rewards were a thing of legend. —Keri Lumm
The network’s seminal crime drama is also the series that has launched a thousand spinoffs (or more accurately, four). Power first gained attention by being co-created and produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (who also stars in the series) alongside Courtney A. Kemp, but after running for six seasons and continuing its reign as one of the network’s highest-rated shows, it proved itself as much-watch television long ago. Focusing on Ghost (Omari Hardwick), the series investigates the life of man desperate to go legit, while balancing two lives at war with one another. Going deep into the twists and turns that accompany those decisions, some criticism has been lobbied at Power for relying too much on plotting and a reliance on TV show tropes, at least in the first season. But its longevity and popularity have secured it as one of the network’s best. —Allison Keene
Watch on Netflix
Watch on Starz
Based on Diana Gabaldon’s immensely popular book series, Outlander follows the story of Claire Randall, a nurse in 1940s England who, while on a holiday to Scotland, gets transported back through mystical stones to the 1740s. There, as she fights for survival and a way home, she meets a tall, dark and handsome Highlander name James Fraser, and the rest is history. Except that Outlander actually does a really wonderful job of tracking the couple’s place throughout history, providing tense, riveting and yes romantic storytelling along the way. The series’ truly wonderful cast is augmented to the stratosphere by its leads, whose chemistry will make you believe in love at first sight. Full of battles, political intrigue and gorgeous on every level, the show is a wonderfully cozy (and sexy) adventure. From its hauntingly beautiful theme song by Bear McCreary onwards, Outlander will transport you to its dangerous, surprising world as quickly as those magical stones. —Allison Keene
For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.