With the availability of free streaming services, I’ve had a chance to go back and watch some TV series that I enjoyed as a kid or had missed entirely. I’m sad to say that the results have been disappointing. Shows I liked, such as Family Ties, Battlestar Galactica (original), and The Greatest American Hero, were difficult, if not too painful to watch. Other shows that I had never seen and had high expectations for, such as Farscape and Babylon 5, were excruciating.
It’s probably unfair since I’m looking at shows from 20-30 years ago through modern eyes. But even knowing this, I had to abandon watching them. Yet somehow, I make room for all things Star Trek. Admittedly, nostalgia plays a role, but that only goes so far. I really wanted to enjoy the original Galactica but couldn’t. I can, however, enjoy original Trek in all its campiness.
But all is not lost. There are several shows from my early adulthood to today that I loved then and love now. Shows that (mostly) hold up well over time, even if not perfectly. Below is a list of shows that I can rewatch over and over–and often do.
Star Trek (All of it! 1966-current+) – There are far too many Star Trek series (not to mention movies) to mention. Let me just say that I love them all. Some hold up better than others, and they are not without their own continuity issues, but… it’s TREK!
Seinfeld (9 Seasons: 1989-1998) – The original Friends but far more dysfunctional. Probably the most dysfunctional group of characters on TV with almost zero moral compass, which leads to a lot of hilarious consequences. This show used pop culture to invent pop culture. I call that iconic.
The X-Files (11 Seasons: 1993-2002, 2016-2018) – My favorite show for many years. I loved both the muddled alien mythology and the cleaner monster-of-the-week episodes. Seasons 4, 5, and 6 are some of the absolute best sci-fi television.
Friends (10 Seasons: 1994-2004) – I watched Friends hit and miss when it aired and in reruns, and only as a full series after it had completed. With rarely a disappointing episode, Friends has become a classic that never grows old.
NewsRadio (5 Seasons: 1995-1999) – One of my favorite workplace comedies where office hijinks ensue week after week. Consistently funny and endearing at the same time.
Malcolm in the Middle (7 Seasons: 2000-2006) – Funny, irreverent, and dysfunctional while still adhering to the virtues of the family bond. It’s not just the boys who have gone wild, the parents too!
Firefly (1 Season: 2002) – Where BSG is a space military, Firefly is a space western. And if you don’t know how that works, you have to watch because the show pulls off high-tech and rugged outdoors in a way no other show has. Sadly the show was short-lived. All the characters we love came back for the movie Serenity in 2005, one of my favorite sci-fi movies. A worthy follow-up.
Battlestar Galactica (5 Seasons: 2003-2009) – BSG is space military executed to near perfection. Oddly, this show also landed on my disappointed list because they ultimately moved away from the military and ventured into prophecy / supernatural territory. But even though the end wasn’t strong, the show is an absolute blast to watch. The show also touches on a lot of current political and military/war themes without ever sounding preaching and even coming down on sides you wouldn’t expect.
Arrested Development (5 Seasons: 2003-2006, 2013, 2018) – This show also landed on my disappointment list because the last two seasons were utter garbage. Ignoring those, the original run of AD was pure comedic brilliance.
Deadwood (3 Seasons: 2004-2006) – A gritty and outright raw show about early settlers to Deadwood, SD, before South Dakota was a state. It follows a fictional account of real-life historical figures, weaving in some of the history we know. Deadwood is an amazing study of watching bad guys become good guys and good guys becoming not-so-good in order to deal with the even worse bad guys. Oh, and it’s a western.
Lost (6 Seasons: 2004-2010) – One of the best shows with a magnificently disappointing ending. But it’s still one of my favorites that I enjoy watching and rewatching. Great characters with a lot of (unsolved) mysteries. If you can get past the ending, Lost is a fantastic show.
The Office (9 Seasons: 2005-2013) – Quirky workplace comedy that we all know and love. I can’t believe I didn’t see this show until after it had run its course.
The Unit (4 Season: 2006-2009) – A forgotten military show that followed an elite Delta Force unit’s military, political, and sometimes domestic missions. The show tackled issues of military virtue and morality and the sometimes gray lines that the virtuous and not-so-virtuous face in protecting our country.
Eureka (5 Seasons: 2006-2012) – This show is a significant inspiration for my book. The idea of a secret government facility doing futuristic types of things. It’s quirky and fun. How many times can they save the world? A lot. And it’s enjoyable every time.
Psych (8 Seasons: 2006-2014) – One of the few police procedurals I love (X-Files being another), but only because it’s so different from the typical procedural. Psych is consistently funny and clever. I love the character dynamic. The episode plots are all secondary.
The Lost Room (1 Season: 2007) – A near-perfect sci-fi miniseries of three two-hour episodes. Mysterious and creepy, this show, sadly, is underappreciated.
Breaking Bad (5 Seasons: 2008-2013) – One of the greatest shows ever made. I once read a review stating it has no redeeming qualities. I vehemently disagree. It is a perfect encapsulation of the slippery slope of bad decision-making. The story behind BB is brilliant in its design and execution. The 2019 follow-up “movie” El Camino is good but doesn’t rise to the level of the series.
Community (6 Seasons: 2009-2015) – Such a funny and quirky show. It’s probably one of the most self-referential shows in existence, thanks to a character that relates to everything as if it was a TV show. Community went out of its way to break from the traditional sitcom mold, making episodes with the characters as puppets, claymation, in alternate timelines, and more. The first three seasons are superb TV. After that, it got a lot less funny.
Parks and Recreation (7 Seasons: 2009-2015) – In a similar vein as the office, P&R is the more endearing of the two. Where The Office has a lot of battles between characters, which makes for great TV, P&R’s characters all truly love each other. Even Gerry. You’d think that would create a lack of compelling stories, but it doesn’t. The show succeeded superbly without a workplace nemesis.
The Middle (9 Seasons: 2009-2018) – Another family comedy that does family comedy right. Where Malcolm often focused on family hijinks, The Middle is built around the monotony of everyday family life and how it’s all so funny.
12 Monkeys (4 seasons: 2015-2018) – I started watching this show only half paying attention. I was enjoying it but at the same time missing a lot while I multi-tasked. When the show concluded after four short seasons, I was blown away and immediately went back to rewatch, this time eyes glued to the screen. It was even better than I thought. Hands down my favorite show of all time. Many shows don’t know how to wrap up. That wasn’t the case here. This was perfectly crafted and executed. I can’t wait to watch it again!
Better Call Saul (6 Seasons: 2015-2022) – Season 6 has yet to air, and I’m not sure if I’ve even seen season 5, but I can’t imagine this show not ending strong. From the makers of (and a prequel to) Breaking Bad, BCS is almost better than its predecessor. It certainly has more heart and humor, which I think will also lead to more tragedy for a character we liked, have grown to love, and will probably learn to hate. I can’t wait.
What are your favorite shows?