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The 50 Best Streaming TV Shows of All Time

Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and other services, there have been some amazing shows changing the way we think about television.

catastrophe-bojack-dear-white-people-good-fight

Amazon/Netflix/CBS All Access

40. “Patriot” (Amazon, 2017-present)

Patriot Season 2 Michael Dorman

Michael Dornan in “Patriot”

Jessica Forde / Amazon

Steven Conrad’s weird, sad spy series isn’t quite the “assassin in a midlife crisis” story you’d expect when hearing it’s about a dissatisfied intelligence officer who really doesn’t want to kill people anymore. For one thing, John (Michael Dorman) doesn’t have loftier ambitions — or any ambitions, really. He just wants to get high all day and write folk songs. For another, he’s not a particularly good killer. He’s just stuck in the job because his dad (Terry O’Quinn) and brother (Michael Churnus) need him to keep at it. The hopeless persistence of his profession, as well as John’s boring cover job as a Milwaukee-based piping company, make him an ideal, unromanticized stand-in for anyone facing the corporate drudgery of an unfulfilling office job. While some hitman characters make viewers yearn for that kind of excitement in their own lives, John’s saga will make you feel better about whatever dullness you have to deal with. Made with all the style John himself lacks, “Patriot” is a fascinating excursion with a personality all its own. – BT

39. “The New Yorker Presents” (Amazon, 2016)

"The New Yorker Presents..."

“The New Yorker Presents…”

Amazon Studios

If the streaming age is all about taking advantage of a storytelling venue with no rules and expectations, few shows have embraced and capitalized on that freedom more than this season of a genre-defying experiment. Over its 11 episodes, a group of filmmakers, authors, and animators did the impossible: bring the pages of the long-running title publication to life. Incorporating contributions from some of the most notable nonfiction filmmakers of this decade, “The New Yorker Presents” placed short documentaries alongside adaptations of short fiction and visual essays. All tied together by a distinct New Yorker sensibility, there is an unpredictability in these episodes that makes for thoughtful and exciting viewing, no matter your familiarity with any of the subjects. – SG

38. “Grace and Frankie” (Netflix, 2015-present)

Grace And Frankie

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in “Grace and Frankie”

Ali Goldstein / Netflix

Few knew what to make of Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris’ Netflix original when it first hit. Is it a Jane Fonda drama about aging with a touch of Lily Tomlin’s colorful comedy on the side? Or is it a Lily Tomlin comedy about friendship with Jane Fonda’s gravitas grounding all that gaudy laughter? Turns out it’s both, and that combination works just fine. Easily accessible through its loving, all-inclusive attitude but exciting in how brash these eponymous characters can get when pushed, “Grace and Frankie” is a deft blend of real opinions and goofy entertainment. With these two talents leading the way, there should’ve never been a doubt. – BT

37. “Star Trek: Discovery” (CBS All Access, 2017-present)

Ep #201 - Pictured: Rachael Ancheril as Lt. Nhan; Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham; Anson Mount as Captain Pike; of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2018 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Rachael Ancheril, Sonequa Martin-Green, Anson Mount in “Star Trek: Discovery”

CBS

Ten years before the Enterprise, the U.S.S. Discovery set out to explore new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before. It’s a sturdy franchise installment for a new generation of Trekkies, confidently and courageously led by Sonequa Martin-Green as the first black woman to lead a “Star Trek” series. Longtime Trekkies might initially be taken back by the solemnity and darkness of the new series, which comes with a revamped depiction of the Klingons; but it should eventually win over the patient viewer with its well-written, diverse cast of profound characters, as well as familiar space opera tropes. The most common audience complaint has nothing to do with the quality of the show: to watch it, a subscription to the CBS ALL Access streaming platform is required. However, subscription-based shows arguably have advantages over those on broadcast networks, including the freedom to explore more complex and dark themes, at times graphically, which “Discovery” does. In short, as it exists, the series would not have aired on CBS. With references to contemporary politics and events, non-Trekkies new to the universe can still appreciate it, even though it may take a few episodes to get up to speed. – TO

36. “Take My Wife” (Seeso/VOD, 2016-2018)

Take My Wife

“Take My Wife”

Seeso

The comedy streaming platform Seeso boasted “HarmonQuest” and “Bajillion Dollar Propertie$” (the latter of which just missed landing on this list) in its stable of programming, but “Take My Wife” is by far the most ambitious and inclusive. In the biting and insightful series created by and starring married stand-up comedians Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, the two play fictionalized versions of themselves to examine what it takes to make it in both comedy and a relationship. With the goal to provoke as well as entertain, “Take My Wife” tackles topics ranging from financial struggles to sexual assault. The socially conscious creators also made a pointed effort to make this an inclusive production featuring large numbers of women, people of color, and queer folks in front of and behind the cameras. With the shuttering of Seeso, the fate of “Take My Wife” was left in limbo… and probable cancellation. – HN

35. “I Love Dick” (Amazon, 2017)

I Love Dick Kathryn Hahn Season 1

“I Love Dick”

Jessica Brooks/Amazon

Jill Soloway and Sarah Gubbins created this series as an adaptation of Chris Kraus’ book as well as a tribute to avant-guard feminist filmmakers, even incorporating film scenes by creators like Sally Potter, Jane Campion, and Chantal Akerman into the episodes. Those moments only enhance the story of Chris (an unbelievably good Kathryn Hahn), whose move to a small Texas town/art community with her husband doesn’t just introduce her to a new world of free-thinking creators, but propels her sexual awakening courtesy of the idiosyncratic local artisan, Dick (Kevin Bacon). Between Hahn’s raw performance and the unforgettable episode “A Short History of Weird Girls” — a collection of short stories featuring the show’s female characters — “I Love Dick” will always remain an odd but memorable jewel of a series. – LSM

34. “The Path” (Hulu, 2016-2018)

THE PATH "The Beginning" - Episode 301 - Eddie is the new Guardian of the light, and with the help of his sleek new publicist Vera, Eddie removes security and opens up the doors of the movement; but when blood appears on the Compound, even his supporters will question his decision. After one of her blackmail victims commits suicide, Sarah seeks to be punished. For that she goes to Cal, who is living his own version of torture in Florida, along with Mary and his son Forest. Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul), shown. (Photo by: Jeff Neumann/Hulu)

“The Path”

Jeff Neumann/Hulu

Jessica Goldberg’s drama series lived and died by one line: “It’s not a fucking cult!” So shouted Aaron Paul’s faith-shaken Meyerist member when yet another New Yorker described his “movement” with the no-no word. But… was it? That’s the question, isn’t it? Regularly exploring the thin line between religion and opportunity, faith and manipulation, leading and dictating, “The Path” dug into delineations that make many people uncomfortable. No one wants to lump what they do in with the kind of things cults have been accused of, but it’s often not easy to see the forest from the trees when you’re that deep in the woods. Led by wonderful performances from Paul, Michelle Monaghan, and Hugh Dancy, Hulu’s first original drama managed to be respectful of religion while scrutinizing its purpose. Ultimately, you had to decide what to believe for yourself. – BT

33. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel ” (Amazon, 2017-2018)

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Nicole Rivelli

The incredible success of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s breezy period comedy on the awards circuit might feel a bit unexpected, given that prior to “Mrs. Maisel,” the writer-director had gone relatively unrecognized for her charming previous series, “Gilmore Girls” and “Bunheads.” But there’s something about the alchemy of Amazon’s smash hit that makes it one of the TV’s landscape’s more pleasurable experiences, from the snappy dialogue to the sumptuously rendered 1959 New York setting to the inspiring can-do spirit of its titular lead (embodied by a fearless, frank, and funny Rachel Brosnahan). As viewers watch Mrs. Maisel break free of the expectations that come with being the perfect ’50s housewife, thanks to discovering that she has an awful lot to say about the world and she’s very good at saying it into the microphone, it’s hard not to be inspired, and it’s that verve which helped it win the hearts and minds of many. – LSM

32. “Lady Dynamite” (Netflix, 2016-2017)

LADY DYNAMITE

“Lady Dynamite”

Beth Dubber/Netflix

Few comedians put themselves out there like Maria Bamford does, and even fewer get a platform like “Lady Dynamite” to do so. The two-season series takes readers on a wild trip into Bamford’s brain, especially when it comes to her ongoing issues with mental illness, never shying away from the uglier aspects of her condition. But the semi-autobiographical series, which also serves as one of TV’s zaniest Hollywood satires, is also fun, surreal, sweet, and ultimately full of hope, despite being fully aware of how hopeless the world can feel sometimes. – LSM

31. “This Close” (Sundance Now, 2018-present)

Shoshannah Stern as Kate, Zach Gilford as Danny - ThisClose _ Season 1, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Gunther Campine/SundanceNow

“This Close”

Gunther Campine/SundanceNow

For as many complaints as there are to be made about peak TV (and there are many) shows like “This Close” single-handedly make the entire ordeal worthwhile. Created by and starring Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman, the series showcases the relationship between two deaf best friends as they tackle the everyday struggles of 20-something life in Los Angeles. Also, you know, they’re deaf. The series thrums with the intimacy found in similar small-scale intimacies including “Girls” and “Atlanta,” while all the while forcing viewers to shift their perspective and experience their own world through new eyes (and ears.) – LH

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