Q: Has the Golden Era of Television Abandoned Us? (A: No, You just need to know where to look!)

By: Tiffany Vogt

It has been said that the past decade of television has offered the best shows ever. Television quality had reached such a degree that it was said to have surpassed the quality of films. Shows such as THE WEST WING, LOST, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, VERONICA MARS and DEADWOOD were hailed as examples of which television was producing award-winning caliber shows outshining its theatrical counterparts. Yet these days, all those incredible shows are gone.
Can what remains on television today compete with what is being offered at the box office? If I want to see brilliant comedy, there is Easy A. If I want a gripping, explosive drama, there is The Town. If I want to experience Aaron Sorkin’s biting, satirical dialogue, there is The Social Network. If I want to be haunted by a sci-fi, dystopian future, there is Never Let Me Go. If I am looking for a thoughtful, yet funny historical film, I go see The King’s Speech. And if I am looking for fun family fare, I go see Secretariat. All of these films easily outshine what is on television today.

Is there anything on television today that can compete — that will persuade one that staying home and watching television is comparable to a great film? The answer may surprise you — but, yes. It is just a lot harder to find and it is entirely unexpected. There are a number of television shows that do offer a consistently fun entertainment experience.

So what is worth watching on TV these days? A lot, if you are willing to look for it. With so many channels to choose from, it is getting harder to know where to look. Television guides are still only high-lighting networks paying for the privilege to be spotlight, so it behooves an avid television viewer to do a bit more digging to find gold on the television landscape. But like any good treasure hunt, there is treasure to be found if you search for it. Networks such as TNT, AMC, A&E, Syfy, FX, USA and even Cartoon Network are producing high-quality television shows. It is time to venture outside of the top five networks and find out what is out there. Do not be distracted by the multitude of reality TV shows meant to hook you with their momentary gratification. Turn the dial or the TV remote to something that will grip your mind and give you something more substantive to think about — a more rewarding entertainment experience.
The following is a list of TV shows that you should be watching, and if you are not, then you may want to check them out:
In the drama category, there is TERRIERS. Despite the misleading name, the show is not about canine critters. Instead, it focuses on two private investigators who stumble across a series of absurd cases that lead to further misadventures. TERRIERS is deservedly a late night program with many adult themes and dark turns. But it is also infectiously entertaining. TERRIERS airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on FX.
Turning to mysteries, there is LUTHER. LUTHER is a very dark mystery series; but for those seeking a razor-sharp, skin-crawling, psychological mystery series, LUTHER is it. Watching the complex dance between D.I. John Luther and his murder-suspect stalker Alice Morgan is simply riveting. LUTHER airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on BBC America.
For those seeking science fiction entertainment, there is no finer sci-fi on television than STARGATE UNIVERSE. Focused on a group of survivors stuck aboard a renegade alien space ship on the far side of the galaxy battling to survive amidst alien insurrection is gripping and haunting. STARGATE UNIVERSE airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. on Syfy.
Then on the comedy-side, an undiscovered gem is Fox’s new series RAISING HOPE. Based on the premise of a young twenty-something who finds out he has a baby daughter, from a one-night stand with a convicted serial killer is actually a charming look at being a single parent while living with an eclectic household of family members. Its Halloween episode stands-out as a great example of the lengths parents will go to in order to get hugs from their grown children was perhaps the funniest and cutest bit of comedy seen in ages. RAISING HOPE airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. on Fox.
If you are looking for family fare, then look no further than TOWER PREP. The series about high school students involuntarily recruited into an elite prep school where each demonstrates a unique ability. TOWER PREP shows the challenges of being held hostage at school and not knowing for what purpose. It is an amazing blend of teenage drama, mystery and a hint of sci-fi encased in a surprising story. TOWER PREP airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. on Cartoon Network.
Finally, for those who can stomach it, one of the best horror series on television right now is THE WALKING DEAD. Zombies literally crawling across the earth, stalking the last remaining humans to feed upon. Not exactly the most pleasant show to watch, but with some superb storylines and performances, your hair will stand on end as your heart pounds and you will be entranced for every second of it. THE WALKING DEAD airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on AMC.
(Caveat: It should be noted that intentionally omitted were summer shows and anything else that is not currently airing this Fall. No sense teasing about shows one cannot watch for many more months. Also omitted were shows just cancelled and pay TV shows on networks such as HBO and Showtime, which most viewers cannot afford to buy.)
These are five shows that may be flying under the radar and are worthy of special attention. Perhaps they are not yet worthy of their big name predecessors, but they are certainly worth a peek. They may be diamonds in their own right, or diamonds in the rough — but they are television treasure. Discover these fine jewels and add them to your TV viewing experience — you will feel richer for it.

Tiffany Vogt is a contributing writer to The TV Addict. She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at Tiffany_Vogt_2000@yahoo.com or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower). Tiffany also writes as a columnist for NiceGirlsTV, AirlockAlpha and InsideBlip.

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  • I had already decided to watch both Terriers and Luther a few days back, but you can’t be surprised that lot of us didn’t consider watching Tower Prep. Is it really good? I need a nice little guilty pleasure.

  • Only one I am watching from here is The Walking Dead.

  • Shilo

    Terriers is spectacular and the best show out right now (Donal Logue is giving an Emmy worthy performance, great chemistry, nice mix of standalone episodes and serial episodes, etc.). I also adore Raising Hope and think it’s got a good balance between goofiness and heart.

    I’ve not tried the rest, but I would consider watching Luther (I’m not a big fan of cop/detective shows, but Idris Elba is just awesome) and The Walking Dead (I don’t like AMC shows, so I was hesitant, but the word of mouth has been insane).

    Fantastic essay. I want to print it out and just hand it to the short sighted people who lament about reality TV and the death of scripted programming.

  • Ace

    I truly love Terriers and hope it doesn’t get the ax here soon. And I agree that Donal Logue should be considered come Emmy time, but seeing as Justified was completely ignored, it wouldn’t surprise me if the oddly named Terriers was ignored too.

  • TOWER PREP is a fun family show. It will not appeal to those looking for adult-type drama. But I like it a great deal. Recommended for those with teens and children, or those who like light-weight drama with good moral stories.

  • Liz

    Stargate Universe never ceases to entertain. It should not be lumped in with it’s more goofy predecessors Stargate, and Stargate Atlantis (no offense). This show is much darker, more psychological, less procedural. More reminiscent of a Battlestar Galactica in style.

  • I love “The Good Wife” and “Modern Family” as well and was tempted to mention them. But I was aiming to highlight UNDISCOVERED television shows. Both “The Good Wife” and “Modern Family” pull in over 12 million viewers each week. Similarly with “Sons of Anarchy.”

  • You forgot to Add Fringe as the only hardcore science fiction in tv today. Lets hope one of your doubles in an Alternate universe didnt.

  • mistake: stargate universe is not set “on the far side of the gallaxy”.. it is set across the universe… hundreds of gallaxies away

  • For family friendly dramedy, there’s nothing better than ‘CHUCK’ on NBC. Spy stuff, great cast, beautifully realised retail environment, romance, danger and the bar of so-called ‘stunt’ casting raised to a sublime level.