17. “Lucky Louie” (2006)
Let’s be clear — if Louis CK or Pamela Adlon had never made another TV series after this HBO multi-camera experiment, it might not be one we were discussing today. But “Lucky Louie,” while critically rejected at the time, is a fascinating viewing experience when you consider CK and Adlon’s future work. The raunchy comedy was unflinching in its approach to its subject matter while working within an extremely traditional format. In looking through old reviews, it’s clear that critics just didn’t really know what to make of it. Now, after we’ve been exposed to “Louie” and “Better Things,” we have a clearer sense of these creative voices and what they were aiming to say in 2006. “Lucky Louie” serves as a beautiful artifact of their emerging talents.
16. “Terriers” (2010)
“Terriers” had one hell of a pedigree in that it was created by “Ocean’s Eleven” screenwriter Ted Griffin and counted “The Shield” mastermind Shawn Ryan as its showrunner, but for some reason it never got to be anything more than a critical favorite. The series followed two unlicensed private detectives in Ocean Beach, but it was far more intelligent and character-driven than your run-of-the-mill procedural on NBC or USA. The cases ranged from large to entertainingly small, but “Terriers” was a show about the dynamics between its two leads: Donal Logue’s former cop Hank and Michael Raymond-James’ former thief Britt. Their friendship became the beating heart of this scrappy San Diego noir, and critics will forever want to know where they went next in another season.
15. “The Get Down” (2016-2017)
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Baz Luhrmann’s movies are as divisive as cinema gets, so it’s no wonder his first television series, the Netflix hip-hop drama “The Get Down,” proved polarizing to many. The series’ first and only season was split into two parts and tried to cover a lot of ground, from the origin story of the “The Get Down Brothers” to the romance between Justice Smith’s Zeke and Herizen F. Guardiola’ Mylene. Some story threads worked better than others, but it was Luhrmann’s hyper-realized style that made every single episode pop with infectious energy. “The Get Down” took a musical genre overexposed and misunderstood in the modern day and investigated its past with true passion. It wasn’t perfect, but it was exhilarating.
14. “Grosse Pointe” (2000-2001)
Any “Beverly Hills 90210” fan will appreciate Darren Starr’s delightful satire of the behind-the-scenes life of a teen soap opera — one that aimed to give the characters some actual depth beyond archetypes. But really, with the theme song “Sex Bomb,” there was no denying that “Grosse Pointe” knew exactly what kind of show it aimed to be. Points also for a young cast including Bonnie Somerville, Nat Faxon, Lindsay Sloane, and more.
13. “Trophy Wife” (2013)
ABC has a knack for giving their most underrated comedies terrible titles (see “Cougar Town”), and such was the case with “Trophy Wife,” which earned more and more critical acclaim during its first season but was cut short due to low ratings. The title would make you think the series is a shallow look at a gold-digging wife, but it was actually a much smarter and very sweet multi-generational sitcom. Malin Åkerman, showing a natural gift for physical comedy, was the eponymous party girl who marries a middle-aged lawyer (Bradley Whitford) and must contend with his two ex-wives, deliciously played by Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins. For awhile, “Trophy Wife” had one of the best comedy ensembles nobody was watching, especially with young breakout Albert Tsai.
12. “Rubicon” (2010)
AMC already had two of the best dramas on television going into the 2010 season, thanks to “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.” Looking for a worthy follow-up, the network put its hopes on two potential hit series: “The Walking Dead” and “Rubicon.” The former became a blockbuster in the fall, while the latter died out over the summer despite strong reviews and a buzzy premise that could have lasted seasons. “Rubicon” was an updated spin on the 1970s conspiracy thriller, telling the story of a brilliant intelligence analyst (James Badge Dale) who discovers that his company may include members of a secret organization that manipulates world events. The show was in many ways a predecessor of “Mr. Robot,” and fans of that series would be wise to give the short-lived AMC drama a try. It’s a well-developed mystery that forces you to try and crack its code as each episode twists the conspiracy more and more.
11. “Wonderfalls” (2004)
The first broadcast drama created by Bryan Fuller (along with Todd Holland) is very much in line with his established tradition of cranky female anti-heroes who have better put-downs handy than anyone else on television. The story of Jaye (Caroline Dhavernas) was more quirky than some of Fuller’s grimmer series (for one thing, she wasn’t dead) but “Wonderfalls” did have an existential malaise to it, as Jaye struggled with the question of whether the fact that gift shop tchotchkes were talking to her were a sign of mental illness or something larger.