Television today is rife with shows to watch. Programs like Game of Thrones and Orange is the New Black dominate the headlines, acting as figureheads for what many dub the Golden Age of Television. In the midst of all this, it’s easy for many shows to get lost in the shuffle. Some are patently terrible, and thus shouldn’t be bothered with. But others still are more than worth your time, despite the fact that every Internet news site doesn’t provide detailed recaps of every episode.
There’s a simple beauty in discovery, and this applies well to television. There are tons of shows out there less publicized, but just as high in quality as their contemporaries. They span a whole range of genres, from revisionist fiction-history to fantasy and science-fiction. And now that the schedule of summer shows has wound down to a close, there’s no better time to go out in the wide world of TV to find something new and exciting.
1. Da Vinci’s Demons, Starz
There’s a very good chance you’ve never even heard of this one, but trust us when we say Da Vinci’s Demons is well-worth your time. The show follows a young Leonardo Da Vinci, navigating the treacherous terrain of the Medici family, the Papacy, and a number of strange apocalypse cults that vary in their support and/or opposition of his destiny. It’s very much in the revisionist history category, but that doesn’t make its story any less exciting, starring the charismatic Tom Riley in his first leading TV role. The third (and apparently final) season ended on December 26, 2015, but you can still catch it on Starz website or on DVD or Blu-ray.
2. Sense8, Netflix
The latest from the Wachowskis comes in the wake of their disastrous sci-fi space-romp, Jupiter Ascending. Many have opined, though, that the two filmmakers may have found a friendlier format in television, and so Sense8 was born on Netflix. The series follows eight individuals who find themselves linked together as one, sensing each others emotions, fears, and location at all times. While not as talked-about as other Netflix shows like Daredevil and House of Cards, it’s a return to more unique and groundbreaking sci-fi storytelling for the Wachowskis, something they haven’t been able to accomplish since the first Matrix movie.
3. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, BBC America
It seems odd that in a pop culture climate that lauds both Harry Potter and revisionist history that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell wouldn’t be getting more hype. Its name may not be all that descriptive, but delve into the world of the show and you’d be surprised by just how intriguing things can get. The premise is based on the idea that in Napoleonic Europe, real magic exists but is seldom practiced, save for by a few individuals. It’s a peculiar tale following the two titular characters through both Britain and France, making for a fantasy period piece more than worth tuning into on BBC America. While the show concluded in June 2015, it is available for download via the BBC website, as well as other video on-demand services.
4. The 100, The CW
The 100 kicked off its third season on The CW in January of this year, quietly becoming the network’s boldest show for a number of reasons. On the surface, it seems like your run-of-the-mill post-apocalypse survivalist tale, featuring a group of teens and 20-somethings as they attempt to survive on Earth long after nuclear war almost completely wiped out humanity. But beneath this, it delves into complex human relationships, questioning the very nature of how we treat each other. Admittedly, the first couple episodes are a bit of a teen-drama snorefest, but The 100 really didn’t take long to find its feet as a real adult sci-fi series.
5. Penny Dreadful, Showtime
While HBO currently boasts a selection of shows that numbers among its best offerings ever, networks like Showtime are quietly trying to accomplish the same. Penny Dreadful represents a foray into fantasy elements the network has never before invested in. The basic plot is simple: Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, and Eva Green fight supernatural monsters in Victorian London. In its execution though, it manages to be even weirder than its premise lets on, giving Showtime a truly strange yet entertaining journey into the world of classic monsters. Showtime has already renewed Penny Dreadful for a third season that is expected to air in mid-2016.