Over the course of the past five years, most television fans have had the thought that there’s just too much good TV to keep track of. In the current era of so-called ‘prestige television,’ with excellent shows from around the world being made available on streaming services that we can access at the touch of a screen, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with everything good. And while some shows rise to the top to be seen by seemingly every television fan – Game Of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and the like – there are plenty more that are overshadowed, relatively speaking.
That’s not to say the following shows are by any means unheard of. But they’re definitely less popular than many of the most well-known shows of the current decade, and they’re well worth taking a long look at the next time you need a new program.
1. Trial And Error
Trial And Error has been one of the best comedies on television for about two years now. It’s a fairly bold concept, as a sort of early spoof on the newly popular true-crime documentary phenomenon, but it’s executed to perfection. It revolves around a southern poetry professor accused of murdering his wife, and the ensuing trial, and it stars Nicholas D’Agosto, Jayma Mays, Steven Boyer, and Sherri Shepherd, with some bigger names like John Lithgow and Kristin Chenoweth appearing as well. The good news is, this show has a chance to have a sort of late surge in popularity. Warner Bros. is exploring options for a new network or streaming service after two seasons, and it seems very much like the kind of show that could find the popularity it deserves at a new home (having been broadcast on NBC to this point).
2. Marco Polo
The world may just only have room for so much historical content on television. That would at least explain to some extent why the Netflix series Marco Polo – big and beautiful in execution and acted well enough – hasn’t made much of a dent in pop-culture. Two seasons into a largely fictionalised account of the famous 13th century explorer’s journey into ancient Mongolia, it’s a series full of incredible scenery, captivating adventure, and general majesty. And frankly, Lorenzo Richelmy – who pays Polo – ought to be getting some nice opportunities as a result of his work here (even if Benedict Wong can steal the show at times, as Kublai Khan).
Broadchurch is actually fairly popular among certain audiences, and certainly more so than the first two shows on this list. However, for its sheer quality, it can still rightly be called overlooked. Essentially exploring small town mysteries through the actions of two detectives (played brilliantly by David Tennant and Olivia Colman), it’s almost like a British version of True Detective, at least in tone, genre, and style. Season one in particular is extraordinarily good television, and it almost feels like this show is due for some kind of future cult revival – though it’s already made it to Netflix, which is where such a resurgence would ordinarily come from these days.
Vikings – a show about, well, the Viking age – has gathered a certain following, and actually seems to have gotten more popular with each fresh season. Lead actor Travis Fimmel (who plays the character Ragnar Lothbrook) is getting opportunities such as starring in the World Of Warcraft film and playing Wyatt Earp in a forthcoming anthology. And the show has also inspired a game, albeit one in the increasingly crowded online slot space. Even with its respectable cultural reach though, Vikings feels somewhat undersold. One has to believe that if it had debuted on HBO or Showtime, rather than the History Channel, it would have been something of a sensation. It’s that well produced.
5. Big Mouth
Big Mouth may yet gain a significant following. It’s gotten a great deal of critical acclaim and its second season was only just uploaded to Netflix (where it’s an original animated show). And in a way, it’s a perfect show for a modern audience; Inverse rightly called it Netflix’s nastiest show, but also its most woke. That’s actually the perfect description. This is a raunchy, nasty, very much R-rated adult animated comedy – but it’s also one that makes genuinely progressive and honest observations about growing up. It deserves a place among the cleverest and most important comedies running today. Whether or not it achieves this is anyone’s guess.