18 Most Underrated TV Shows
18 1/2 Underrated tv shows – Ever been in that situation where you have just seen an amazing series and your dying to chat about it with your friends, but nobody has seen it? Yeah, me too. You can shout about it until your blue in the face but for whatever reason some shows just do not get the attention or acclaim they deserve. Then usually about five years later your friend comes up and says “Hey, have you seen or how good is [insert exact tv show that you raved to this exact person about for ages]”. And your instant reaction will be a face palm, followed by said person asking “what’s wrong?”. Or maybe that just happens to me? Anyway, enough of that. Here are the 18 (and a half) most underrated tv shows of the last 20 years.
Note: Some may be considered lesser known rather than underrated tv shows. But not having the wide success the show deserves is, in my opinion, a form being under valued. So they are on this list.
18. Agent Carter (2015-2016)
In 1946, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) is accused of treason and Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is relegated to secretarial duties after playing an active role in the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) during the war. Peggy has to find her way back into the SSR’s investigation team, while secretly working to prove Howard Stark’s innocence with the help of Stark’s butler Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy).
It is fun and funny show with gorgeous sets portraying 1940’s New York with a sprinkling of cool sci-fi tech. I would watch it just for the cool old N.Y diners, 40’s cars and fashion. Unfortunately, popularity and viewership dropped significantly in season two so this underrated tv shows third season may not ever happen.
17. Utopia (2013- 2014)
So this show technically may not be one of the underrated tv shows by those who know about it, but it is certainly bordering on criminal for the lack of attention given to this British gem.
A group is hunted down by an organisation know as ‘The Network’ after they come into contact with a mysterious graphic novel.
Don’t be fooled by the bright colours they use to grade this show. It is extremely dark, violent and scary!
16. Legit (2013-2014)
Legit based on the life of Australian stand up comedian Jim Jeffries. Who is searching for meaning and trying to be a better person with the help of his best friend Steve (Dan Bakkedahl) and Steve’s disabled brother Billy (DJ Qualls). The show is crude, rude and politically incorrect, but also incredibly sweet.
As the show started to move away from Jim’s stand-up content, it really started to flourish. Unfortunately, it was cancelled in the second season and was not given a chance to really get popular.
15. Life (2007-2009)
A police officer named Charile Cruz (Damian Lewis) is exonerated after serving 12 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Cruz is given a large settlement with the expectation that he can retire comfortably after the years of trauma that he endured. He decides to return to the job instead.
This show was so interesting. When we enter the show we (the viewers) only know the Charlie now. A quirky but zen guy trying to fit in with his new partner. As well as navigating his ex partners who helped put him away. As the show goes on we learn more about what was really going on before he went to prison.
14. Fringe (2008-2013)
Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) is assigned to a special F.B.I task force that investigates crime involving fringe science events that link to a larger conspiracy know as ‘The Pattern’. Agent Dunham is helped by a formally institutionalised expert in the field of fringe science Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his son Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson).
I think a lot of people watched the first few episodes and gave up. Those of us who persevered got rewarded with an outstanding show. Give it another go.
13. Better Off Ted (2009-2010)
Better Off Ted follows a man named Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington) as he tries to manage the Research and Development sector of Veridian Dynamics.
Better Off Ted is really similar to Arrested Development. You could easily mistake it for being written by the same person. It also co-stars Portia De Rossi. Like Arrested Development, it was prematurely cancelled. Will Netflix come to the rescue like it did for Arrested Development? Lets hope so.
12. Southland (2009-2013)
Southland follows the personal and professional lives of officers within the Los Angeles Police Department. It is an amazing portrayal of a wide cross section of the police department. Meaning, the show follows character from top to bottom. The new officers or the ‘boots’, wide eyed and bushy tailed straight out of the academy to the top ranking officers operating within the political echelons of policing.
Probably one of the closest shows to The Wire & The Shield I have seen. And binge-worthy to boot.
11. How to Make it in America (2010-2011)
How to make it in America follows Ben (Bryan Greenberg) and Cam (Victor Rasuk), two young entrepreneurs trying to start their own fashion label while enjoying living and growing up in New York.
Although it is kind of hipster-y, I still like that it is more about growing up in the city, trying to find your place and chasing your dreams. All that warm and fuzzy kind of stuff. It never really got any attention and I guess it did not have a wide appeal.
10. Carnivale (2003-2005)
Oklahoma farm boy Ben Hawkins (Nick Stahl) has a powerful gift. He can heal and bring people back to life, but only with grave consequences. After his Mother dies, having refused to be healed by Ben’s powers, he is taken in by a traveling carnival. Ben begins to learn more about his gift and his past.
Carnivale has a similar vibe to Twin Peaks and was also cancelled in its second season. It did get some awards during its run but never caught any real traction with viewers. This show should easily make the top 10 best t.v. shows of all time. I just does not get the love it deserves. Lets hope someone comes to their senses and brings it back!
9. Firefly (2002)
Firefly is a sci-fi western set 500 years in the future at the end of an intergalactic war. The series follows a rag tag crew that run a small transport ship named Serenity. Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his crew do any odd jobs (legal or otherwise) to keep the ship going, while trying to protect two crew members Simon (Sean Maher) and his sister River (Summer Glau) who are on the run from the interplanetary government agency know as “The Alliance”.
Easily one of the best sci-fi TV shows ever made. Even if sci-fi is not your thing the characters and story are strong enough that the setting won’t ruin it for you. It was cancelled after just 14 episodes, but it is followed up by a movie called ‘Serenity’ so it doesn’t just leave you hanging.
8. Jericho (2006-2008)
Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) returns to his hometown of Jericho after a fractured relationship with his Father forced him to leave. While there, a giant mushroom cloud is seen over Denver leaving the people of Jericho in the dark over the cause of the blast. The townspeople look for answers while learning how to survive after the nuclear blast.
Before The Walking Dead skyrocketed the popularity of the post-apocalyptic genre there was Jericho. If it had of come out after 2010 it may have been a wildly popular show. But I guess we will never know. Jericho defiantly starts a little shaky, especially with the characters. But there is more than enough mystery to keep you intrigued until it hits its stride and becomes a great show. Fans were so devastated by the cancellation that they did this:
When CBS canceled Jericho in May 2007, fans began sending nuts to CBS in reference to the shows final episode, [removed spoiler]. Three weeks later, over 8 million nuts had been shipped to CBS NY and CBS LA offices totalling over 40,000 pounds. Nina Tassler, president of CBS, sent out a memo on 6 June 2007 saying they have ordered seven more episodes to air within the year. They also asked the fans to stop sending nuts. Source: IMDb.
Unfortunately season 2 was only 7 episodes and felt very rushed, but the story behind its creation is an absolute classic!
7. Freaks & Geeks (1999)/Undeclared (2001)
Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, both coming of age comedy/dramas surrounding groups of friends. Freaks and Geeks follows Lindsey and Sam. Lindsay is a geek who starts hanging out with a cool group of ‘freaks’. While her younger brother Sam tries to navigate his freshman year of high school. Undeclared is similar, but follows Steve Karp in his freshman year of college.
Both underrated tv shows only did one season runs and neither were really given a chance to flourish. Freaks and Geeks was on Saturday nights (worst slot on TV) and then moved to Mondays, whereas Undeclared’s 17 episode run was over a 25 week period with several time slot changes (full article here). Unfortunately a recipe that sinks so many shows.
6. Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
Pushing Daisies follows Ned (Lee Pace), a pie maker that can bring the dead back to life. But with a catch. If the dead are brought back to life for more than one minute, someone or something else dies. Ned teams up with a private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) to collect the rewards for unsolved murder cases. Ned and Emerson’s world is turned upside down when Ned brings his murdered childhood sweetheart Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Charles (Anna Friel) back to life for good.
Pushing Daisies is a mash up of a quirky fairy tail and a crime procedural.It is narrated in a similar fashion to The Grinch, and the sets and colour grade give it the fairy tale vibe. Unfortunately, quirky shows have never really done well. But, this is by far the most original procedural to ever grace television.
5. Person of Interest (2011-2016)
A genius computer programer named Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) builds a machine to detect acts of terrorism before they occur. These threats are marked as relevant and sent to the government to stop them. However, Harold realises that the machine also detects murders but filters them out as non-relevant threats. He enlists the help of ex-C.I.A operative John Reese (Jim Caviezel) to help him save the lives of those people marked as irrelevant.
This is a great original procedural that does something not that many show do. It explores a topic that is unique to the world today. Living in a post 9/11 world where surveillance & security is everywhere. The fate of Person of Interest is unknown, but executive producer J.J Abrams believes that season 5 will be the last.
RELATED: Person of Interest Season 5 Will Be Last.
4. The Tick (2001)
Based on the comic book of the same name. The Tick follows a group a oddball superhero’s through their daily lives and crime fighting escapades.
This underrated tv shows category falls more into the unknown rather than underrated. Because fans who know the show generally love it. It is an interesting mash up between a sitcom and a superhero show. Don’t go in expecting it to be a live action version of the comic or cartoon, because it differs from both.
3. Hannibal (2013-2015)
Hannibal explores the early relationship between Will Graham, an F.B.I agent who has the ability to empathise with serial killers, and his psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lector.
Hannibal may have been overlooked because of what happened with the movies. i.e subsequently getting worse with each release after Silence of the Lambs. However, this show is not to be missed and is horror done right! Yes it has the typical murder and gore. But this underrated tv shows scariest attribute, is that it has a way of planting the seed of doubt about your own sanity.
2. Orphan Black (2013- )
Sarah Manning, an orphaned street wise hustler, is pulled into a conspiracy after witnessing the suicide of a women who looks exactly like her.
A lot of shows like Orphan Black start so strong and then get bad real quick because they struggle to keep up with the number of things going on. I think the main thing that Orphan Black really gets right is the pacing of the show. They start narrow, with one really interesting concept, and then slowly start to add and uncover which makes the show sustainable and interesting for the viewer.
The show may not stay underrated for much longer as BBC America is moving season four to Thursdays nights at 10pm from its original Saturday night slot.
1.5. The Black Donnellys (2007)
The Black Donnelly’s follows four Irish-American brothers, Tommy (Jonathan Tucker), Jimmy (Tom Guiry), Kevin (Billy Lush) and Sean (Michael Stahl-David) who all get mixed up in the world of New York organised crime. The brothers swore an oath to always put family first and have to learn to navigate the ruthless nature of organised crime while remaining loyal to each other.
The Black Donnelly’s is a show that just completely slipped under the radar. Which makes no sense because it was co-created by Paul Haggis. Screenwriter of back to back oscar winning movies, Million Dollar Baby & Crash. How this does not get you network support and a chance to build an audience in a second season I will never understand.
This underrated tv shows acting, story and writing is excellent. Especially the leading man Jonathan Tucker. Who does a great job at playing the level headed yet ruthless Tommy Donnelly.
Terriers follows Hank Dolworth (Donal Logue) an recovering alcoholic and ex-cop and his best friend Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James) a former criminal. As they open their own off the books private investigation firm.
This was not originally on the underrated TV shows list because it is depressing to get invested in a great show only to have it cut short. But after seeing it mentioned time and time again I took the plunge. Terries started as a solid procedural type and thoughtfully builds into an interesting web of conspiracy that is driven by deeply flawed but loveable characters and some great back story plot lines. If you have not seen it, I thoroughly recommend it and the way it ends gives it a perfect platform to be picked by a Netflix or Amazon type. So there is some hope for this underrated tv shows future.