When you hear about singing competition shows like The Masked Singer and The Voice drawing between eight and nine million viewers an episode, it starts to make sense — why so few people are watching, or have even heard of your favorite TV shows. With more viewing options and service providers than ever before, it’s allowed for more niche programming, but that doesn’t guarantee it’ll last very long. Smaller shows require critical praise or a passionate fan base to push it into future seasons of potential ratings growth. Oftentimes, success at an awards show can be just the push needed for a lesser-known series to go global like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel did a couple years back. And prior to last month’s Emmy’s, Fleabag would have been sitting at the top of this list. But for the time being, there are too many great shows on TV that viewers are simply not watching. Here are 10 of the best shows on television that you’re probably not watching.
Let us know in the comments your favorite, most underrated TV series!
One of the very few sitcoms on network television worth 22-minutes of your time, Superstore is classic NBC Must See TV. Featuring an unforgettable ensemble of relative unknowns who steal the show on a weekly basis, you almost forget that the pilot was initially marketed as a starring-vehicle for America Ferrera’s television comeback. This criminally under-appreciated series, currently in its fifth season, puts the Emmy-winning actress in a blue-collar retail environment – a sharp contrast to the fashion magazine setting of Ugly Betty. Originally structured around the cliché “will they, or won’t they” love story of big-box store employees Amy (Ferrera) and Jonah (Ben Feldman), the show has now expanded to be much more reliant on the main characters’ hilarious Cloud 9 co-workers including Dina (Lauren Ash), Garrett (Colton Dunn), Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom), and the incomparable Mark McKinney as store manager Glenn Sturgis. Smart, quirky, and well acted by all – while Superstore isn’t a ratings or awards darling, it is quality network programming at a time when the big 4 networks continue to struggle for relevancy beyond reality and live sports.
The Deuce (HBO)
From David Simon, the creator of arguably the most overlooked show in television history, The Wire, comes HBO’s latest period drama, The Deuce. Telling the story of the Golden Age of Porn set around 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, commonly referred to as “The Deuce” – this three season series spans from 1971-1985. Beginning with the prostitution business of the early ‘70s, introducing hookers, pimps, johns, and corrupt cops to the story, season two expands into the rapidly growing pornography industry. The series’ third and final season is currently airing to its lowest ratings to date. Why no one is watching this series escapes me. Perhaps it will be like The Wire and viewers will fall in love with the show 5-10 years from now. Regardless, the stellar acting performances by stars and executive producers, James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, have gone completely unnoticed thus far – cast in the shadow of HBO giants like Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies, and Westworld. But take my word for it – if you’re not already watching The Deuce, it’s officially time to start.
South Side (Comedy Central)
After back-to-back failed pilots at HBO, former Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writers/performers Diallo Riddle (Marlon, Silicon Valley) & Bashir Salahuddin (GLOW, Looking) have finally broken through the scripted comedy gates with not one, but two new hit series. The first being IFC’s Soul Train parody, Sherman’s Showcase. However, today we’re going to focus on their Comedy Central series, South Side. Set around the working class neighborhoods of Chicago’s South Side, the aptly titled show follows two recent community college graduates (Sultan Salahuddin & Kareme Young) whose jobs at a rent-to-own retail store take them across town where they meet a variety of the city’s most eclectic residents. The show’s police characters, Officer Goodnight and Sergeant Turner as played by co-creator Bashir Salahuddin and his wife Chandra Russell, and its unapologetic love for Chicago add a tone akin to past Comedy Central shows like Reno 911 and Detroiters. Both South Side and Sherman’s Showcase are absolutely hilarious, and while South Side has received a second season order, neither of these shows are ratings titans. The only way we get more episodes is if more people start watching.
On Becoming A God In Central Florida (Showtime)
The path from page to screen has been a wild but worthwhile ride for Showtime’s dark comedy, On Becoming A God in Central Florida. Originally developed at AMC with Oscar-nominated director Yorgos Lanthimos set to helm, a year and a half later the show moved to YouTube Premium (without Lanthimos) with a 10-episode first season order. Finally, over a year after moving to YouTube, the series is now a hit for Showtime. Starring Kirsten Dunst as a minimum-wage water park worker who, following the sudden death of her husband, climbs her way up the pyramid scheme that ruined her family – On Becoming A God in Central Florida is tonally unlike any other show on television. Blending comedy and drama with a distinct bizarre Florida quality, the series also stars Theodore Pellerin (Boy Erased), Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs), Mel Rodriguez (The Last Man on Earth), and Beth Ditto (Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot) in roles they were born to play. On Becoming A God In Central Florida has already received a second season pickup along with plenty of awards buzz surrounding Dunst’s transcendent performance as Krystal Stubbs. However, the ratings aren’t currently enough to keep the series on the air as long as it deserves.
The Other Two (Comedy Central)
From the minds of former Saturday Night Live co-head writers, Chris Kelly & Sarah Schneider, The Other Two is about the unsuccessful older siblings of America’s latest 13-year-old overnight Internet sensation, ChaseDreams (Case Walker). Cary, a struggling actor, and Brooke, a failed dancer, both take to their younger brother’s newfound celebrity with envy and opportunity. While Cary and Brooke are obvious proxies for the show’s creators, it’s the role of their mother, Pat, played to perfection by fellow SNL alum Molly Shannon – that takes the Comedy Central series from good to great. Chase’s clueless manager, Streeter Peters, also provides a great deal of the show’s humor courtesy of Ken Marino. Wanda Sykes makes a few appearances as well, playing Chase’s sharp-tongued record executive. Full of jokes catered to millennials, The Other Two is a mixture of SNL pedigree, an absurd yet true storyline, and the perfect cast to pull it off. Early into its first season, The Other Two was renewed for a second season that is expected to air on Comedy Central early next year.
Set to air its second season in February 2020, Jim Carrey’s dark comedy Kidding was one of the best-kept secrets on TV last year. The show stars Carrey as children’s television personality Jeff Pickles, presenter of the Mister Rodgers’ Neighborhood-meets-Michel Gondry PBS show, Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time. After suffering a major loss, Jeff is pushed to the brink, torn between work, family, and his own mental stability. Kidding is rooted in great writing and world-altering visuals/puppetry, however it’s the cast that delivers the most each episode. In addition to A-lister Carrey blessing Showtime’s small screen, his exceptional co-stars include Frank Langella as Jeff’s father, Catherine Keener as his puppet maker sister, Judy Greer as his ex-wife Jill, and Justin Kirk as Jill’s new boyfriend. Not to mention the phenomenal introduction to child actors Cole Allen, who plays Jeff’s twin sons, and Juliet Morris as Jeff’s emotionally damaged niece. And just wait until Olympic figure skater Tara Lipinski joins the fray. Kidding is smart, magical, and dark, while still delivered with plenty of heart. Now if only more people were watching.
What We Do In The Shadows (FX)
Based on the 2014 film of the same name co-created by Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords and one of the hottest directors in Hollywood, Taika Waititi – What We Do In The Shadows is a horror comedy about four vampire roommates living in modern day Staten Island. Starring the brilliant Kayvan Novak as Nandor the Relentless, a vampire from the Ottoman Empire – Nandor has a servant named Guillermo who serves as the viewer’s non-vampire perspective inside the home. Nandor’s other housemates include Laszio, a noble British vampire played by Matt Berry (Toast of London); Laszio’s Romanian wife Nadja, played by Natasia Demetriou; and Colin, a vampire who drains humans of energy by boring them, played to perfection by Mark Proksch (The Office). The first season also includes a memorable recurring performance from Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart) as Jenna, a virgin whose life changes when she meets Guillermo. What We Do In The Shadows lives up to its film predecessor, while introducing new characters in a fresh American setting. The 10-episode first season came and went much too quickly, making the news of a second season returning to FX in 2020 music to its niche audience’s ears.
TNT’s hour-long dramedy set in a Tampa nail salon, Claws, aired its third season this past summer. Originally developed at HBO as a half-hour comedy, Claws and its star Niecy Nash have become one of TNT’s flagship series over the past three years. Somewhat of a female-driven Breaking Bad, Claws follows five manicurists as they quickly ascend from petty crime to organized crime when they start money laundering. As they navigate the masculine world of Florida crime, they must stick together or lose everything. Alongside Nash, Claws co-stars Carrie Preston (True Blood), Judy Reyes (Scrubs), Karrueche Tran, Jenn Lyon (Justified), and Harold Perrineau (Lost, Oz) as Nash’s autistic brother. The fourth and final season of Claws is expected to air in June 2020. Catch up on the first three seasons before the Florida-set adventure returns for its final chapter.
Originally developed at Showtime, FX’s drama Snowfall is influenced by, but not officially based upon the origin story of drug trafficker “Freeway” Rick Ross. Created by Academy Award-nominated Boyz N The Hood director John Singleton, the show’s third season recently aired only three months following his sudden passing. The series follows various characters whose lives are on the verge of colliding during the 1980s drug trade. Snowfall stars Damson Idris as 19-year-old drug dealer Franklin Saint, Carter Hudson as CIA operative Teddy McDonald, Emily Rios as Lucia Villanueva, the daughter of a Mexican drug lord, and Sergio Peris-Mencheta as Mexican wrestler Gustavo “El Oso” Zapata. In a rare feat, as most series audiences either shrink or grow with each year, Snowfall’s third season’s ratings were nearly identical to those of its first two. A fourth season of Snowfall has been commissioned to return in 2020, marking the first episodes of the FX drug drama to not involve Singleton as executive producer. RIP John Singleton.
The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
Less than a year after the last episode of The Good Wife, co-creators Robert King & Michelle King teamed up with Phil Alden Robinson to create a spinoff revolving around Stern, Lockhart & Gardner partner and fan favorite, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski). The Good Fight picks up one year following the events of The Good Wife finale when a Madoff-like financial scam leaves Diane newly retired with no savings. Lockhart alongside her goddaughter, a ruined young lawyer named Maia Rindell, land at a well-known black-owned law firm working the excessive amount of police brutality cases plaguing Chicago. With a revolving door of cast members over its first three seasons, fans of The Good Wife will take to The Good Fight for the same reasons – great writing brought to life by even better performances. Memorable appearances over CBS All Access’ inaugural series include Delroy Lindo, Justin Bartha, Audra McDonald, and Michael Sheen. A fourth season will air next year.