We’re living in a golden age of TV, so there are always new shows getting buzz. Given the thousands of channels available through most cable providers and the dozens of popular streaming sites online, it’s difficult for the average viewer to sift through the new and returning TV premieres to find those that are actually worth watching.
Luckily, we’ve compiled the following list of new TV shows that go above and beyond the competition to create entertainment that is truly worth your time.
Atlanta creator and star Donald Glover honed his comedic chops in online videos and on NBC’s cult comedy series, Community. He then learned to express his emotions and insecurities more articulately in his rap career under the name, Childish Gambino.
Now, Glover has combined his two disparate career paths into one with the audaciously hilarious and ambitious Atlanta. The series follows two cousins trying to rise through the ranks of the titular city’s rap scene while grappling with timely issues, which tend to be tackled better on Glover’s series than anywhere else on TV.
2. Stranger Things
The summer of 2016 brought with it an obsession that no one saw coming: Stranger Things-fever. This Netflix original series debuted quietly, but soon became a phenomenon unlike any the streaming site had ever seen.
Fans flocked to their screens to experience the sci-fi ’80s nostalgia, fantastic performances (from both young actors and those more experienced), and surprisingly good special effects. Critics were fans, too — the first season won the SAG award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
3. One Mississippi
Comedian Tig Notaro’s greatest success as a stand-up comedian came in 2012, when she began a set by saying, “Good evening, hello. I have cancer. How are you?”
Her Amazon series, One Mississippi might be labeled a sitcom, but it contains all the darkness and discomforting truths of that memorable special. The semi-autobiographical series follows Notaro as she returns to her Southern hometown after her mother’s death, trafficking equally in poignant dramatic narrative and quietly hilarious observational comedy.
4. Luke Cage
Like its predecessors, Jessica Jones and Daredevil, Marvel’s third Netflix series, Luke Cage isn’t quite as fast moving as a good comic book series should be, but the pacing problems are typically overshadowed by the show’s gorgeous aesthetic, which compliments its strong cast (led with stoic confidence by titular star, Mike Colter).
The show features the gritty cinematography of modern day Harlem and a nonstop soundtrack of soul, jazz, and hip-hop perfectly matched to the setting.
5. Big Little Lies
This 2017 HBO miniseries received almost universal acclaim, and fans began discussing the possibility of a second season almost immediately. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley as three mothers whose small-town lives are soon wrapped up in a murder mystery.
All seven episodes are concise, compelling, and clearly well-acted. Big Little Lies is darkly humorous, and a nail-biting ride from start to finish.
6. The Good Place
Michael Schur created two stellar workplace comedies with Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but his third series, The Good Place, invents a surreal new setting — the afterlife. Kristen Bell stars as a recently deceased shyster lawyer trying to navigate bureaucracy and prove herself worthy of staying in “The Good Place,” with the help of a staff member played by Ted Danson.
In only its first season, the series managed to fulfill the promise of its premise, offering vaguely philosophical musings as easily as it does gut-busting character-based comedy.
7. Twin Peaks
Though technically not a brand-new series, this revival of the prematurely canceled early-’90s drama brought back with it the original cult following — and then some. In rare form, Twin Peaks manages to keep the elements that made the original good, building upon the mystery that occurred so many years before, and reuniting much of the original cast, including star Kyle MacLachlan.
This 18-episode limited series, which was brought back by creators Mark Frost and David Lynch, was kept well under wraps before its premiere. It found a home on Showtime, where it can go to places it wasn’t able to on ABC.
8. Better Things
Better Things is a comedy about the difficulties of being a single mother, and it doesn’t sand down the edges to avoid the harsh truths of its central character’s situation. Pamela Adlon stars as an actress struggling to raise three children in yet another FX series that hits it out of the park in terms of both jokes and emotional honesty.
Even in this golden age of tragicomedy on television, Better Things is a welcome day-in-the-life look at the realities of juggling career and parenthood.
9. The Handmaid’s Tale
Ever wonder if a show could be both poignant and foreign at the same time? Enter The Handmaid’s Tale, a Hulu original series that captures a dystopian world that doesn’t feel so far away in today’s political climate. Based on the 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood (a producer for the series), actress Elisabeth Moss leads this compelling and terrifying look at the destruction of modern society, and what could take its place.
10. This Is Us
For a network series, critics were surprisingly excited about This Is Us leading up to its premiere. And it didn’t disappoint, earning NBC some of its highest numbers in the 2016–2017 TV season.
There’s not too much that can be said without giving the big twists away, but this family drama starring Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore so captivated audiences that the network renewed it for not one, but two more seasons.
Another sci-fi show that hit hard and left audiences astounded is HBO’s Westworld. The series takes place in a theme park made to look and feel like the Wild West, which is filled with humanoid robots who help to shape the experience for the wealthy people who visit.
Viewers are captivated not just by this fantasy world, but the behind-the-scenes operations, which are never what they seem. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins, and Ed Harris, Season 2 of this thriller isn’t due until 2018, but you should get started now if you want to know what everyone’s been buzzing about.
12. 13 Reasons Why
Whether or not a series is really deserving of praise doesn’t always determine how well it does. 13 Reasons Why, a Netflix drama based on the novel of the same name, garnered plenty of attention both before and after it premiered on the streaming service.
The story is told partially through the narration of Hannah Baker, a 16-year-old who committed suicide after recording six and a half cassette tapes, a side of each one dedicated to someone who she blames for her death. Each episode represents one tape, allowing for a perfectly binge-worthy experience as you keep pressing play in order to find out when Clay Jenkins, Hannah’s former crush, will be implicated.
Unsurprisingly, the dark subject matter caused controversy, and many say that the topics of depression and suicide were handled poorly for a teenage audience.
13. Santa Clarita Diet
Child actress-turned-movie star Drew Barrymore headed to TV in 2017 for Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet, a dark comedy about an ordinary suburban family rocked by a severe case of “Mom’s a zombie.” Though they mostly refrain from using that word, the trajectory of the series is fairly familiar territory, as Sheila’s husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant) scrambles to cover up his wife’s homicidal tracks and find a cure for her new craving.
If you’re thinking of taking a bite out of this series, a word of caution: While most found it delightful, the gore is a bit heavy, so refrain from partaking if blood and guts aren’t your thing.
Even on HBO, a cable channel with an incredible track record, achieving a 100% Rotten Tomatoes critic’s rating is almost impossible. But Insecure, a poignant comedy from Issa Rae, managed to win over audiences easily.
Partially based on her web series Awkward Black Girl, Insecure is Rae’s first mainstream role, and she stars, writes, and produces the show. The perspectives of Issa and Molly, the best friends who lead the plot, are fresh and profoundly relatable, and there’s little doubt the series will have a long life.
After The CW dominated the DC Comics adaptation game with their Arrowverse, they turned to a lighter source material for their next comic project: Archie Comics. But they took the series in a very unexpected direction, shifting Archie, Betty, and Veronica into a dark, mysterious version of their world.
Riverdale bares little resemblance to the cheerful tone of the comics, primarily borrowing the city and its inhabitants. As the network is known for its dramatic teen fare, this isn’t surprising, but what may shock you is that it’s actually really good. Its only major downfall is its treatment of its more diverse characters, but a Josie and the Pussycats spinoff could fix that.
Additional reporting by Becca Bleznak.
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