These days, it’s hard to keep up with what’s on TV. We have regular cable, premium networks, and the ever-growing list of streaming services that offer original content. There are the shows you have to watch right away to avoid spoilers, like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. There are the shows your friends have told you for months you’re missing out on, like Fargo and Mr. Robot.
And then there are the shows that aren’t talked about as much. They receive critical acclaim and have modest ratings. But they’re never really “must-see TV,” except for a core group of fans that watch each episode religiously. That doesn’t mean those shows aren’t worth your time — in fact, often this under-the-radar fare is more entertaining and impressive than the series that top the ratings charts. Here are five current TV shows you should be watching.
1. The Leftovers
An unexplained event — in which 2% of the human population vanishes — rocks the entire world. And what becomes of those that are left behind? That’s the premise behind The Leftovers, a stellar HBO drama series that just finished up its second season.
The series focuses on small communities grappling with the “Sudden Departure.” Religious fervor is at an all-time high — as is the rise of cults like the uber-creepy Guilty Remnant, whose members stand watch over those who are trying to move on, like small-town police chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux).
As you might expect, the series deals with some pretty heavy themes — death, the meaning of life, and how society can possibly move on after unspeakable loss. But The Leftovers — bolstered by increasingly strong writing and unforgettable performers from its ensemble cast — isn’t just a heavy-hitting series. It’s also one of the most gripping, unsettling, and watchable shows on TV right now. After battling shaky ratings, HBO thankfully just renewed the series for a third and final season, which will premiere in 2016.
2. The Americans
Surveillance, spies, the CIA — it sounds like the makings of a hit modern drama. But The Americans, FX’s intriguing political thriller, is set during an equally volatile time period — the Cold War. It stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as two Russian KGB spies who live as Americans on the outskirts of Washington D.C. Their children don’t know the truth about their mission. Their neighbor Stan (Noah Emmerich) works for U.S. counterintelligence. With constantly high stakes, The Americans works on multiple levels. Over three seasons, it’s developed memorable, complicated characters and created some of the most nail-biting scenarios on TV today. The fourth season will premiere in March, but you can catch up with The Americans on Amazon Instant Video.
3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
There are so many TV shows about crime and the police, it can be difficult to keep them straight. But one clearly stands out from the rest these days — Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Breaking tradition from the current crop of heavy-hitting police procedurals, this sitcom brings some much-needed levity to the genre. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a smart comedy — but not so smart that you feel like you have to race to catch up with the humor. And it has one of the most likeable ensembles on TV, lead by SNL alum Andy Samberg and the perfectly cast Andre Braugher as Captain Ray Holt. In a crowded field of increasingly complicated series, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a breath of fresh air. The third season currently airs on Fox.
4. You’re the Worst
Romantic comedies are the worst. Well, usually. But this one is surprisingly awesome. You’re the Worst tackles this wildly overdone genre head on and makes it feel new again. It follows two pretty toxic people — Jimmy (Chris Geere), a narcissistic writer, and Gretchen (Aya Cash), an erratic PR exec. They’re terrible for each other, but they date anyway. And the results are an edgy, boundary-pushing, and highly-entertaining blend of comedy and surprisingly potent drama. You’re the Worst was just renewed for a third season — you can watch the second right now on FXX.
5. Better Call Saul
It’s hard to follow a series like Breaking Bad, which scooped up every award imaginable and left fans breathless for six seasons. But Better Call Saul is trying to pick up the pieces that Walter White left behind — and it’s doing an admirable job. The AMC series serves as a prequel, and explores the origins of one of BB’s most notorious and memorable supporting characters, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). We learn plenty about the slippery lawyer — who started out as low-profile public defender Jimmy McGill. Better Call Saul manages to balance McGill’s offbeat theatricality with a surprising amount of gravitas as he’s pulled into Albuquerque’s criminal underworld. It’s a worthy follow-up to Breaking Bad, but also unique enough that it stands on its own for fans weary of its predecessor’s darker themes. Better Call Saul’s second season recently premiered in February 2016.