There is a whole lot of bad television programming out there. Worse, there’s a whole lot of bad TV that gets unwarranted media coverage, attention and critic’s praise for no good reason. Even worse still, the small majority of rather exceptional programming often gets overlooked and passed over. Let’s put an end to all of this! Here is a listing of some of the most overrated and underrated TV shows, broken down into several categories.
Crime or Cop Shows
Overrated – The Sopranos – I understand this show is over and all I have to say is “Finally!” What better way to end a show that any honest-with-themselves-person will tell you has disappointed for at least the last three seasons, than to come up horribly, irreparably short in the finale. Meaningless, unfocused and overly extended story lines plagued the show during the last three or four years. Follow that up with an overly contrived and all-too-easy ending, that didn’t tie anything together or show any conclusion. Yes, I got what they were hinting at. I wanted to see it.
Underrated – The Wire – The Wire delivers a gritty, well thought out look at the police/criminal world and all of the places in between. From the eyes of people on both side of the fence, learn about the politics of police work as well as the work that goes into setting up drug dealers for a big bust; while you also get to see the workings of an inner city crime organization. Watch the moral dilemmas facing kids, former criminals and desperate cops as they try to survive and find their place in the world or merely do their job. All of the stories intertwine excellently and the entire show is shot on location in the real life less than stellar sections of Baltimore.
Underrated – Dexter – I was extremely skeptical about this show when it first aired last year, however, something always compelled me to keep on watching. Dexter, the namesake for the show itself and the name of the main character, are both not what they seem. A forensic blood specialist in the homicide department of a Miami police department has more than just a passing interest in his work. After the first season I’m not quite sure where the show goes from here, however I’m sure there will be some interesting and edgy ground to cross.
Rated Just Right – The Shield – The Shield certainly seems to get the recognition it richly deserves, otherwise it would most definitely be on the underrated list. With one more season left, The Shield has set itself up very nicely for an exciting, fast paced and meaningful conclusion. Unlike, ahem, a different aforementioned program. Detective Vic Mackey constantly switches from hero, to antihero to pure villain; and watching the ride as he struggles for self preservation is an adrenaline filled pleasure.
Overrated – Big Love – While the background topic for this show seemed interesting, the novelty quickly wore itself out. One guy with lots of wives, tons of kids, a society that won’t accept it and a cult past that is messing everything up just doesn’t cut it for me. All of that amounts to not a whole lot of interesting drama. It would’ve made for a good miniseries, just not a fulltime show.
Underrated – HUFF – HUFF is absolute entertainment; funny, bizarre and engaging. Hank Azaria as a psychiatrist with his own out of control life; sounds more like a fledging cookie cutter sitcom than a successful and well done drama. However, it surpasses any and all expectations one could have. Huff has a brother who needs more help than any of his patients, a struggling marriage and an alcoholic (and homicidal?) mother. Oliver Platt, playing Huff’s drug addled, prostitute addicted and father to be best friend Russell, puts on a brilliant and charismatic performance.
Overrated – Entourage – Nothing happens in this show. Nothing. Ever. Happens. It’s not like they have a lot of time to fill, the show generally lasts an absurdly short 20 minutes. Throw in some beautiful people, some rich people and mix in a healthy amount of horrendous, predictable dialogue and acting. Somehow the overlord that is this country’s media caught wind of this show and decided to pump it up for something it simply doesn’t come close to being. The only, minimal, saving grace for this show is Jeremy Piven’s performance as Ari. If it wasn’t on HBO, it would never have gotten any attention.
Underrated – It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia – Absolute and unending hilarity, there is hardly a better way to describe this show. Some like to tout it as “Seinfeld on crack” however I think that doesn’t give this show enough credit for its originality and being downright funny in its own right. The addition of Danny DeVito as the father to two of the main characters added even more mayhem. It’s not politically correct and it doesn’t apologize for that; however it is without a doubt worth a watch. Laugh even when you don’t think you should, it is another FX gem.
Rated Just Right – The Office – This is another great show where if it wasn’t getting so much positive attention it would fall into the underrated section. Steve Carrell is comedy brilliance; and I don’t want to hear any longer about how the original, British version was better. Will those silly kids Jim and Pam ever get it together? If you aren’t on the bandwagon yet, it’s never too late to join in. Go rent some DVDs and get caught up before next season!
Overrated – The Simpsons – Whoopee, the movie is finally here! About ten years too late, and about five years since the show ceased to be funny. Out of ideas due to the sheer volume of episodes, the show is now almost entirely reliant on special guest appearances and voices. Years and years of new episodes have drained all the creative and funny juices this show used to have. Homer, already a caricature, is now an even larger caricature of himself. It’s long overdue time to send this show out to pasture, where repeats (of the first ten years only) can be shown to the early evening television watchers out there.
Underrated – Robot Chicken – Robot Chicken is a stop motion animated show created in part by Seth Green. Green also does many of the voices on the show. The show parodies many pop culture people and items as well as current events. In your face and unafraid to poke fun at any and everything, Robot Chicken is already a cult classic in the online, video sharing world.
Rated Just Right – Family Guy – A few years ago, this would’ve led the charge for the underrated shows not getting enough appreciation and support. However, Family Guy has reemerged from its oft-canceled embers to gain a wide audience. When the season 1 and 2 DVDs came out, they were the best $40 I ever spent in my entire life-and I still watch them, almost 5 years later!
Overrated – HBO – This should be of no surprise considering that three of the four overrated shows on this list are HBO shows. The network does have representation in the underrated sect, with The Wire, however that show is only underrated due to the network’s stubborn insistence in not promoting the show enough. HBO also gets subscriptions for their boxing matches, however lately the matches have been largely sub par or PPV based, contributing to the gradual demise of boxing (read about that here). Comedy specials are few and far between, the movie selection has been nothing to write home about and clearly the highly touted original programming isn’t what it’s supposed to be.
Underrated – Showtime – With several shows falling beneath the underrated umbrella here, Showtime has made a strong push in the last several years to vastly improve their programming. It has worked. Where HBO fails boxing, with too many PPV fights and mismatches in others, Showtime does the sport a solid by not having any fights on PPV while also showcasing many of the young, up and coming talents boxing has to offer. While there has been across the board average-at-best movie selection for all of the pay movie channels, Showtime makes up for that with it’s original programming and sports, which has now also expanded into televising MMA bouts.
Underrated – FX – FX is doing everything a pay channel does, but is doing it on cable. All of the edgy shows Fox or any other main network can’t put on, FX gladly supports. FX shows have nearly all the language, intense drama and sexual scenes of a pay network. Because the movie selection isn’t based off of new releases, the ones that are shown are generally very worthy and entertaining. In addition to a personal favorite, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, FX also has The Shield, Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me (once an underrated show it may now be a bit overrated, but is still high quality programming).
Other – Spike TV – Spike TV is the up and coming contender in the cable network world. That is due largely to the very successful and prosperous partnership they formed with the UFC. Spike airs an original reality show with the MMA organization as well as live bouts. Catering to men, the network delivers with sports programming such as the above mentioned UFC, older action or kung fu movies and much more. It doesn’t have the power to get all of the programming or movie quality it would truly need, but if you’re a guy or a guy’s-girl, you should definitely check out Spike and be in from the ground up.
Now go turn on that TV, ignore the critics and find something good to watch!