Netflix recently came out swinging when it came to television ratings. The streaming titan’s content chief Ted Sarandos explained that the methodology put “a lot of creative pressure on talent,” adding that ratings “[have] been remarkably negative in terms of its effect on shows.” And it’s hard to argue with — even some of the best shows of all time have struggled to stay alive. HBO’s The Wire famously found itself in an uphill climb to stay on the air following its first season, and it’s scary to think that the show often heralded as the greatest ever nearly got cancelled multiple times. So if you find yourself lacking in new shows to watch this summer, check out these seven shows you may not know about — because the ratings show that’s probably the case.
1. Mr. Robot
If you haven’t watched Mr. Robot yet, right now is the perfect time to catch up with its second season set to premiere on July 13. The surprise hit of last summer, Mr. Robot tells the story of Elliot Alderson — a hacker suffering from social anxiety disorder and clinical depression who finds himself recruited into an anarchist hacking group. Earning universal acclaim in its first season, don’t let its roots on the USA Network fool you into thinking this aligns with its previous content. This is a fresh, dark series that shows USA is interested in following in the footsteps of AMC Networks and premium channel content.
With two seasons now available on Amazon and a third on the way, Transparent tells the story of a Los Angeles family and what happens in the wake of their father coming out as transgender. We don’t really know how many people are watching Transparent because Amazon, like Netflix, doesn’t track viewership via Nielsen TV ratings. But a simple water-cooler eye test seems to suggest that the show isn’t being nearly as watched as it should be even though its first season earned universal acclaim en route to the a Golden Globe for “Best Television Series – Music or Comedy,” “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series,” and later the Emmy Award for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.”
Of all the shows on this list Rectify might be the least known as it quietly airs on SundanceTV, which is a shame because it might also be the best. Originally premiering back in 2013, Rectify tells the story of Daniel Holden who, after spending 19 years on death row for the rape and murder of his girlfriend, is exonerated via DNA evidence. The series is the definition of a slow burn with events unfolding around him and his family in the style of a southern gothic, but the star of the show is Aden Young who portrays Holden with such clarity that it’s impossible to take your eyes off of him. Each of Rectify‘s three seasons have earned universal critical acclaim and with its fourth and last season premiering this fall it’s a great time to catch up.
4. The Knick
Cinemax’s The Knick just barely escapes the viewership cellar on this list, which is crazy considering how good the show is and the fact that none other than Steven Soderbergh has directed each of the series’s 20 episodes through two seasons. Unflinching and dark, The Knick revolves around a fictionalized version of New York City’s Knickerbocker Hospital at the turn of the 20th century as Dr. John W. Thackery attempts to innovate surgery while addicted to cocaine and opiates. The show stars Clive Owen as Dr. Thackery in a strong ensemble cast, but the real star of the show is director Soderbergh who gives the show his trademark style and energy that pumps the often static period-drama full of life.
5. The Americans
The Americans has had a tough go in the ratings ever since its first season premiered on FX in 2013 — and those troubles are continuing as it completes its forth season amid its lowest ratings ever. To put it simply, no one is watching The Americans and no one really ever has. So why has FX already renewed The Americans for a final fifth and sixth season? Because The Americans might be the single greatest show on television right now. Following two Soviet KGB spies posing as a married American couple during the Cold War period of the 1980s, The Americans has gotten better over time even as viewers disappear.
It’s hard to find them, but if you come across an Outlander fan they’ll be sure to sing the show’s praises. Airing on Starz, Outlander is based on the historical time travel series of novels of the same name about a married World War II nurse who is transported back in time to Scotland in 1743. There, she meets a Highland warrior and gets sucked into the Jacobite risings in a show that serves up a lot of time traveling wish fulfillment. While the show found itself in a bad spot premiering in the wake of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which many critics compared it to, the show has made a name for itself in its second season with glowing reviews. And now the series has been renewed for a third and fourth season based on the third and fourth Outlander novels.
7. The Girlfriend Experience
The Girlfriend Experience is both the newest show on this list and the one with the lowest viewership — if you’ve seen it, you’re one of the very, very few. Premiering on Starz back in April, the series is based on the film of the same name by Steven Soderbergh (who executive produces) about a law student intern who moonlights as a high-end escort. The show has earned high marks from critics who have appreciated the shows ability to transform into many different things, often in the same episode. Additionally, the final episode earned high praise making a second, stronger season even more of a possibility — Matt Zoller Seitz of Vulture called it of the most “daring, dense, allusive, and multilayered single episode of TV” that he’d seen in several years.
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