The 50 Best Streaming TV Shows of All Time

It’s crazy to remember it’s only been about seven years since Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu began making original series. From the humble beginnings of shows like “Lilyhammer,” “Alpha House,” and “Battleground,” the industry has witnessed a massive seismic shift — a complete explosion of the very concept of how we approach “television.”

Today, these platforms have added literally hundreds of shows to the TV landscape, which inspired IndieWire to evaluate and rank the 50 best that have debuted since those early days. From terrifying dystopias to intimate relationships, these are series which have made the most of opportunities presented by the distribution revolution — and transformed them into great storytelling.

50. “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” (Netflix, 2015-present)

“Marvel’s Jessica Jones”

David Giesbrecht/Netflix

The best of the Netflix/Marvel series, “Jessica Jones” begins with a bang, introducing a new kind of hero to Marvel fans: a super-powered young woman whose internal demons are stronger than anyone she has to fight on the streets of New York. As Jessica investigates the darker side of the city as a private investigator, the viewer comes to understand the depths of her trauma, and the corner of her heart which still hopes for some sort of happiness. Or, at least, another bottle of the good stuff and a night off from assholes. Tough, uncompromising, and yet deeply vulnerable, from the beginning of the series Jessica, courtesy of creator Melissa Rosenberg, opens up the possibilities for what a darker, sexier take on superhero stories can look like. – LSM

Popular on Indiewire

49. “Forever” (Amazon, 2018)

“Forever”

Amazon

Explaining what makes this series from Master of None co-creator Alan Yang and long-time “30 Rock” genius Matt Hubbard so special requires spoiling it. So don’t read on if you don’t want to know the show’s true premise! Suffice to say that you should take the title very, very literally, as the series depicts a marriage between stars Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph that has slowly slouched toward boredom and frustration, a situation that is shaken up considerably when Armisen’s character dies. But Rudolph’s strange mixture of sadness and relief at her husband’s death is punctured when she, too, dies, stranding both in the afterlife — forced to truly be together forever. – LH

48. “Castle Rock” (Hulu, 2018-present)

Sissy Spacek and Andre Holland in “Castle Rock”

Patrick Harbron / Hulu

Creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason turned Stephen King’s most famous fictional setting into their horror-streaked playground in the first season of this new Hulu hit. Though the show didn’t always hit every target it aimed for, its blend of terror, trauma, and family drama made for an intoxicating mix, especially in its standout seventh episode, “The Queen.” In it, Sissy Spacek’s Ruth Deaver flits between past and present, as writer Shaw and director Greg Yaitanes capture what it’s like to struggle with dementia in the context of an hour-long show. It’s this focus on the emotions of horror as much as the raw scares that sets “Castle Rock” apart. – LH

47. “The Crown” (Netflix, 2016-present)

“The Crown”

Robert Viglasky / Netflix

There’s an impressive sense of ambition baked into this royal drama, trying to capture the full weight of regal expectations through the lens of the 20th century’s most famous monarch. Cutting against being the Buckingham version of “Forrest Gump,” “The Crown” still manages to highlight certain vital points in time for the entire nation’s history. Emanating from Claire Foy’s riveting central performance, the shifting fate of Britain localizes itself in the way Elizabeth’s successes and failures extended out on a global scale. Brought to life with an impressive, immersive craft that recreates decades’ worth of history through wardrobe and location related details, the interpersonal sagas of “The Crown” draw their strength from the visual artistry surrounding them. Time will tell how the impending, time-jumping Season 3 continues this project, but as it stands, it’s a lush portrait of a larger-than-life institution that manages to go beyond the normal trappings of a standard period piece. – SG

46. “Mozart in the Jungle” (Amazon, 2014-2018)

“Mozart in the Jungle”

Sarah Shatz

Despite multiple wins at the Golden Globes, one of Amazon’s longest running series to date was always an under-the-radar entry — which remains a shame, because the light but sensitive dramedy about life in the strange and highly competitive world of classical music is one which deserves consideration. The cast was peerless, including a bravura lead performance by Gael Garcia Bernal as the maverick composer who comes in to take over a New York orchestra, Lola Kirke as the aspiring oboist who discovers new passions within her field, Bernadette Peters charming the pants off every scene she’s in, and Malcolm McDowell having a lot of fun on camera. But “Mozart” is also fascinating thanks to producers Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Paul Weitz, whose experiments with form and function are a treat for any film nerds. “Mozart” is a show about artists, artistry, and the costs and joys associated with that pursuit. And the music is so, so beautiful. – LSM

45. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix, 2018-present)

Kiernan Shipka in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”

Diyah Pera/Netflix

Something wicked this way came to Netflix with this devilishly dark reimagining of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” In the series, Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) and her high school friends face down ghosts, demons, and witches in a ghoulish horror homage-filled romp. But the series also uses those horror trappings to explore bigger themes of empowerment and accountability, adding surprising depth and gravitas to this provocative coming-of-age tale. Satan is a real presence on the show, and his followers are not to be taken lightly, even if the series embraces camp as much as gore. Thus far, “Sabrina” is a worthy successor to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and has the potential to last as long. – HN

44. “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Netflix, 2017-2019)

“A Series Of Unfortunate Events”

Joe Lederer/Netflix

Lemony Snicket’s wonderfully idiosyncratic novels had been a young adult favorite for years before finally getting the perfect on-screen treatment. It turns out three seasons was just the right format for bringing to life the complete story of the tragic Baudelaire orphans, forever chased by the loathsome Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris, operating at a whole new level of commitment) for their vast fortune. With rich production design, an addictively gloomy tone, and great performances from both its young cast and the strange adults they encounter on their way toward a happy ending, “Unfortunate Events” is the perfect example of a show intended for children and adults alike… as long as those children and adults aren’t at all put off by the terrible nature of the horrible tales being told. – LSM

43. “The Looming Tower” (Hulu, 2018)

“The Looming Tower”

JoJo Whilden/Hulu

It takes a lot of hard work to keep a tragic and true story from feeling like a history lesson, but the combined talents of Dan Futterman, Alex Gibney, and Lawrence Wright did just that. Tracking the rise of Osama bin Laden while the American government bickered blindly amongst itself, “The Looming Tower” is packed with valuable lessons and timely sentiments. But it’s also lively, engaging, and light on its feet — until it drops the hammer. Jeff Daniels, as FBI Agent John O’Neill, brings a ferociousness to his work that’s only matched by his casual charm off the clock. Bill Camp gives a masterclass in interrogation, Tahar Rahim is all bubbly, youthful energy, and Michael Stuhlbarg will make you hope you’re never called into his office for the wrong reasons. (He’s not angry, he’s just disappointed.) There are so many little things to appreciate in the 10-episode series, it’s easy to forget the horrific end. Of course, you can’t, but the distractions only make the ultimate takeaway stronger. – BT

42. “Red Oaks” (Amazon, 2015-2017)

“Red Oaks”

Amazon Prime

Gregory Jacobs and Joe Gangemi’s endearing ‘80s coming-of-age comedy is one of the few nostalgia-driven stories to work without all the homages. Sure, the smart but lost tennis pro who falls in love with the club president’s daughter is the kind of story you’d expect from John Hughes or Harold Ramis, but they didn’t make this. With its amazing body swap episode and regular references for cinephiles, “Red Oaks” is an ode to the ‘80s. But more than that, it’s an ode to that fleeting moment between adolescence and adulthood, when you’re carefree and crazy pressured at the same time; when you don’t feel the need to do anything important, but know if you don’t do something you’ll be lost for a long time. Funny, sweet, and surprising, Amazon’s three-season comedy is worth checking out, no matter what element draws you in. – BT

41. “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix, 2013-2019)

“Orange is the New Black”

Netflix

In 2016, Netflix made the unprecedented move of renewing “Orange Is the New Black” for not one, but three seasons — which means that when the show unveils its seventh and final season at some point in 2019, it’ll hold the title of Netflix’s longest-running series to date. That’s a huge accomplishment for the hour-long prison dramedy, which isn’t a perfect show, but does so much, so well thanks to the way in which it evolves. Its strengths are found not in the story of a privileged white woman confronting the prison system as an inmate, but in the stellar inclusive ensemble. “Orange” made award-winning stars of actors like Laverne Cox and Uzo Aduba, who might never have found purchase in this industry, while always aiming to tell stories about the sort of women who might never be featured in a prestige drama. – LSM

40. “Patriot” (Amazon, 2017-present)

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…”

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)

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)

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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

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)

“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

30. “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” (Netflix, 2015-2019)

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”

Eric Liebowitz/Netflix

Tina Fey and Robert Carlock had developed a signature sparky style over the course of seven seasons of “30 Rock,” but their follow-up to that iconic series came with a premise staggering in its darkness. What happens when a girl gets released from 15 years of captivity in an underground bunker? The answer made for captivating TV, albeit perhaps a bit too wild for NBC — fortunately, Netflix was able to swoop in and give the adventures of the truly indestructible Kimmy a home for four seasons. Concluding this week with a finale that doesn’t compromise but does offer some closure, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a comedy about trauma, one which thrives thanks to star Ellie Kemper’s talents, as well as the stellar supporting cast and the show’s oddball alternate New York City, one where rats and magic are found in equal supply. – LSM

29. “Queer Eye” (Netflix, 2018-present)

“Queer Eye”

Netflix

The need for positivity and understanding has never been greater, and in answer, Netflix delivered “Queer Eye.” This reboot of the original Bravo series “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” follows the same formula: five gay men teach clueless subjects how to care for themselves through lessons in basic life skills that translate into overall self-improvement. The updated Fab Five have an effortless, unfeigned chemistry that drives home the joy, and it’s not lost on the Southern men who have never thought to tolerate a gay man, much less embrace him as a friend. An emphasis on connection and heartfelt conversations gives hope, a byproduct that’s beyond the reach of any ordinary reality series. These are global ambassadors with one, unequivocal message: “Yasssss.” – HN

28. “Last Chance U” (Netflix, 2016-present)

“Last Chance U”

Steve Dietl / Courtesy of Sony P

In the time that streaming services have been generating original programming, the public attitude toward football has shifted by a stark degree. Even though this documentary series focusing on junior college athletes trying their best to create a future for themselves does incorporate a lot of football into its runtime, both in prep and actual game footage, there’s a balance between players and their off-the-field lives that make this time well spent even for non-sports fans. “Last Chance U” also serves as a corrective of sorts, giving the participants in a sport that demands rigid adherence to a hierarchical system a chance to show that they’re more than just Xs and Os on a whiteboard. Going out into the communities of Scooba, Mississippi, as well as Independence, Kansas, Greg Whiteley’s doc series also looks at how an old community connects with both the team and the legacy of each school’s respective program. Somehow, even a sport with its own specific dangers can still provide momentary hope, even in the face of long-term uncertainty. – SG

27. “Flint Town” (Netflix, 2018)

“Flint Town”

Netflix

To its credit, “Flint Town” doesn’t set out to become the definitive portrait of a city in tumult. Instead, Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper, and Jessica Dimmock’s series looks at a still-shifting city through a very specific lens. The series doesn’t treat law enforcement as an amorphous group or present the viewpoints of the Flint, Michigan police department as the only valid way to see the consequences of the city’s ongoing water crisis. Instead, it serves as a time capsule of 2016 anxieties on a local, state, and national scale. It’s a series that manages to engage with the racial and economic realities of what’s happening in cities like Flint without treating any one element of the city’s makeup as a definitive stand-in for a whole. The series’ runtime allows for a look at how each of these central officers’ lives extends out into the community, and the extent to which each of them uses their authority in a way to benefit Flint’s citizens. “Flint Town” doesn’t seek to lionize or condemn, but instead looks at what a city can lose through the mismanagement of those in power and the effort it takes to regain precious resources once they’re lost. – SG

26. “Black Mirror” (Netflix, 2016-present)

“Black Mirror”

David Dettmann/Netflix

Diabolical British TV producer Charlie Brooker’s grim sci-fi anthology show casts a jaundiced eye on the dangers of technology taking over humanity’s, er, humanity. Boasting the most cynical and depraved first episode ever, “Black Mirror” has leveled up and evolved in surprising ways over the years, especially after shifting to Netflix: It’s dabbled in optimism, along with new concepts and jargon that have taken hold in the greater “Black Mirror” universe, making it a self-referential engine. With the innovative choose-your-own-adventure “Bandersnatch” episode, in which the actual plot of the episode echoes how the show is viewed, it’s basically become a veritable meta-ouroboros of television. One never knows what to expect from Brooker next, but if the show somehow becomes sentient and uploads his consciousness, it would be a fitting way to continue the series forever. – HN

25. “Easy” (Netflix, 2016-present)

Zazie Beetz and Dave Franco in “Easy”

Courtesy of Netflix

Joe Swanberg’s Chicago-set anthology series explores modern relationships with an open mind, a shrewd sense of humor, and more than a few beers. Each episode tells a different story with new characters (save for a few). Each love story is vastly different than the last (save the purposeful overlaps). Each episode is shot, written, edited, and produced by indie film favorite Swanberg (save none — they’re all him), but he invites everyone involved to have a voice in the story. That process helped create a diverse slate of episodes from various perspectives, while maintaining a steady, reliable tone. “Easy” always goes down smooth, but it will still surprise you with the rich, all-encompassing flavors. – BT

24. “Difficult People” (Hulu, 2015-2017)

“Difficult People”

Hulu

Over three seasons, the Hulu comedy created by Julie Klausner never once tries to duck away from the truth of its title, but that approach ensures every episode of “Difficult People” is indelibly true to the frustrated ambition of its quick-witted characters. Julie (Klausner) and Billy (Billy Eichner) are technically not playing themselves, but they are playing characters all-too-true to the journey they, and every other aspiring creator, are on. Averaging a dozen pop culture references per minute, and stacking its supporting cast with great talents like James Urbaniak, Andrea Martin, Cole Escola, Gabourey Sidibe, Tracee Chimo, Fred Armisen, and Jackie Hoffman, some of “Difficult People’s” jokes might not age too well. But well before Kevin Spacey, Bryan Singer, and Woody Allen allegations were too loud to ignore, the show wasn’t letting them off the hook. In so many ways, “Difficult People” was well ahead of its time. – LSM

23. “Five Came Back” (Netflix, 2017)

“Five Came Back”

Courtesy of Netflix

Sometimes it takes a modern master to honor an icon of the past. “Five Came Back,” written by Mark Harris and based on his book, enlists Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Lawrence Kasden, Paul Greengrass, and Guillermo del Toro to tell the WWII stories of John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens — all of whom were enlisted to make movies as part of the war effort. The practicing filmmakers dissect just how effectively their idols captured the battles for audiences back home, and then explain how the veterans’ experience informed their careers in Hollywood. Told with a clear sense of purpose and from a multitude of perspectives — there’s archival interviews with the enlisted directors as well as never-before-seen footage from their time overseas — “Five Came Back” is keenly aware of the audience its speaking to, and keeps cinephiles and history buffs glued to their seats, begging to learn more. – BT

22. “Chef’s Table” (Netflix, 2015-present)

“Chef’s Table”

Michael Chevas/Netflix

Director David Gelb changed food filmmaking forever with his breathtaking foreign-language documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” which he followed up with smaller portraits of chefs for the Netflix documentary series. As the title intimates, the show scores viewers a seat to some of the most exclusive restaurants and eateries, such as a South Korean Buddhist temple with vegan food prepared by a monk, told through the lens of the chef. Although “Chef’s Table” features the most stunning food camerawork on TV, merely wanting to consume the food isn’t the point. Rather, the full experience — the chef’s personal journey and food philosophy — is the draw. Global in scope yet intimate in storytelling, “Chef’s Table” transforms dining from a mere exercise in consumption and commerce into a conversation. – HN

21. “Wild Wild Country” (Netflix, 2018)

“Wild Wild Country”

Netflix

Chapman and Maclain Way’s intense docuseries proves immediately gripping with its strange story before it sneaks up on you with a profound push for tolerance. Viewers aren’t meant to come away from the six episodes with a clear delineation between right and wrong, so much as the found-footage of the time — when Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh established the controversial Rajneeshpuram community in upstate Oregon — and the haunting present-day interviews beg for a better alternative today. Rampant intolerance, driven largely by fear, is an American problem like no other, and “Wild Wild Country” puts an aptly ugly face on the issue. Watching Ma Anand Sheela and other divisive figures, while being asked to recognize your own instinctive reactions, helps explain how outright rejection can lead to deplorable action. – BT

20. “The Get Down” (Netflix, 2016-2017)

“The Get Down”

David Lee/Netflix

When Grandmaster Flash was just a young buck in the Bronx, he revolutionized how DJs played records by creating a quick-mix theory that extended “the get down,” the funkiest part of an album, from mere seconds to several minutes. In his own way, Baz Luhrmann is the DJ for Netflix’s short-lived wonder “The Get Down.” What could’ve been a fairly rote recitation of hip-hop’s rise in 1970s New York, Luhrmann spins into an extensive, heart-thumping event to move to. Mixing artists, romance, musical genres, business, religion, crime, and a descent into madness, Luhrmann’s hip-hop tale is an ambitious and sprawling experience. Bloated and troubled production accounts be damned; this love story about music that challenges and innovates follows that bold and defiant example. – HN

19. “One Day at a Time” (Netflix, 2017-present)

“One Day At A Time”

Mike Yarish/Netflix

The best reboots are always the ones which take the core of what made the original show great and find their own spin on it. Thus, Norman Lear’s classic sitcom about a lower-class family trying to balance a complicated life becomes relevant on a whole new level when recast as a modern-day Cuban-American family dealing with life in an America increasingly less friendly to immigrants. Justine Machado brings incredible energy to the multi-camera format. Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz as her swiftly aging adolescent children are some of the steadiest young actors working today, and Rita Moreno gets the material a legend like her deserves. Plus, the writers prove incredibly savvy about how making a multi-camera sitcom for a streaming platform means they can embrace serialization in a way that would have been impossible on TV 30 years ago. Some of the ways they explore those possibilities, in fact, create haunting moments and make “One Day at a Time” one of Netflix’s most stealthily surprising series, with no shortage of heart. – LSM

18. “Salt Fat Acid Heat” (Netflix, 2018)

Samin Nosrat in “Salt Fat Acid Heat”

Adam Rose / Netflix

Directed by Caroline Suh, this four-part food documentary loosely based on Samin Nosrat’s book of the same name reinvents the food show in elegant and effortless ways that make cooking actually feel accessible. In each episode, Nosrat focuses on one element that, once mastered, will help anyone make flavorful fare. Yes, this series boasts gorgeous photography, visits foreign lands, and outlines recipes step-by-step, but it lacks the labored construction of a typical travel or cooking show. Instead, its most important asset is Nosrat herself, who is a connector of ideas and people. She shops with locals and prepares meals with them, learning from home cooks and butchers in their element as she breaks down concepts in the field. And while the show lacks any political message, the optics of this series are powerful: An American woman of color descended from Iranian immigrants shows the ultimate respect in her travels as she follows age-old traditions, speaks the local tongue, or both in her pursuit of getting back to basics. It’s revelatory in its simplicity and yet a woefully rare sight on TV. – HN

17. “The First” (Hulu, 2018)

“The First”

Paul Schiraldi/Hulu

Beau Willimon’s drama about the pursuit of a voyage to Mars is ambitious in the ways that help reframe our understanding of what that mission truly is. Now entrenched in the pantheon of canceled-too-soon shows, this eight-part series follows the crew of a potential Martian exploration not through life aboard a generic spacecraft, but by spending meaningful moments with the people they’ll be leaving behind. The members of this tight-knit team of astronauts aren’t just interchangeable pieces of a spectacular voyage. They are individuals each with their own traumas and insecurities and prayers for the future. Set 20 years from now, “The First” also managed to avoid the cardinal sin of overcomplicating the look of the future. It instead integrates advancements in technology of this forthcoming society into the fabric of what drives each of these characters, from the daughter that Tom Hagerty (Sean Penn) is leaving behind to Laz Ingram (Natascha McElhone), the woman on whose shoulders the entire mission’s success or failure rest. Told with patience and grace, it’s a story about space that was only beginning to reach the upper levels of the atmosphere. In the process, it showed you can learn a lot about what drives humanity to reach outward, even with feet planted on the ground. – SG

16. “One Mississippi” (Amazon, 2016-2017)

Tig Notaro in “One Mississippi”

Jessica Brooks/Amazon

Tig Notaro’s semi-autobiographical comedy is a delightful, infectious ode to Southern living without abiding by the South’s presumed perspectives. Tig’s character on the show is a lot like her stage personality: She speaks candidly, doesn’t back down from confrontations, and can drop in a dry joke when it’s least expected. Her personality forces folks used to living behind polite remarks to engage on a more human level, including her stepdad Bill (John Rothman) and brother Remy (Noah Harpster). Through her radio show, Tig expounds on what she’s learned from the city around her, and the easy charms of “One Mississippi” flourish as two contrasting worlds come to terms with each other. In just two seasons, Notaro’s vision evokes a disproportionate amount of joy, insight, and courage — a vital combination, now more than ever. – BT

15. “Alias Grace” (Netflix, 2017)

“Alias Grace”

Sabrina Lantos/Netflix

Despite its period trappings, Sarah Polley’s writing and Mary Harron’s moody direction give a vibrant immediacy to this adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s historical gothic tale of a woman trapped by society. In this gorgeous and spooky tale, Sarah Gadon is a beacon as Grace Marks, the lowly woman who suffers tyranny and injustice — you know, the usual patriarchal treatment — before she’s imprisoned for a double murder. “Alias Grace” takes Atwood’s story to its logical extreme, the ultimate female vehicle for woman-splaining — Grace’s only currency is how she manipulates her testimony — interpreted through multiple modern female gazes. It’s a testimony well worth listening to. – HN

14. “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu, 2017-present)

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

George Kraychyk/Hulu

While Season 2 didn’t reach the heights of Season 1, “The Handmaid’s Tale” remains one of TV’s most daring programs, taking big swings with its characters, its twists, and most importantly, its themes. The story of a dystopian post-America where women are treated like property gets a lot of flack for being too close to today’s reality (and indeed, keeping up with the news rarely does much to distract from that fear). But in adapting Margaret Atwood’s iconic novel, showrunner Bruce Miller finds power not just in exploring and developing all his characters, but the world of Gilead itself, building upon the horrors described previously in print and finding not just new depths of madness, but also new opportunities for hope. Hulu’s breakthrough drama isn’t easy viewing, but it remains a jaw-dropping look at the human soul, and how forces outside and within might bring on the darkness. – LSM

13. “Transparent” (Amazon, 2014-2019)

Jay Duplass and Trace Lysette in “Transparent”

Jennifer Clasen/Amazon Studios

When we talk about Jill Soloway’s “Transparent” in 2019, which version of the show do we discuss? The critically-acclaimed Amazon series debuted in 2014, committed to telling the tale of the Pfefferman clan as an entire family transitions into a new version of itself after their parent (Jeffrey Tambor) reveals she is a trans woman named Maura. The Pfefferman’s were unlike any other family on television, not because of their journey, but because of the series’ unflinching commitment to delving into the intimate details of the characters foibles and failures. Even if the audience could not recognize their specific struggles, they could find solidarity in their inimitable ability to mess everything up. What seemed groundbreaking five years ago can now seem backwards, given Hollywood’s efforts toward more accurate diversity and representation, perhaps best represented by FX’s “Pose.” Casting Tambor in a role that should have rightly gone to a trans actress now seems antiquated, a decision further tainted by accusations of misconduct on set that led to the actor’s removal from the show after its fourth season. There is a little bit more of the Pfefferman family yet to come, but perhaps their journey is best left a fondly, if half-remembered, memory of a time long past. Yet its impact on the medium is undeniable. – LH

12. “Neo Yokio ” (Netflix, 2017-present)

“Neo Yokio”

Courtesy Netflix

On paper, Ezra Koenig’s love letter to classic anime mixed with an alternate reality New York and a dash of English lit shouldn’t work, but its oddball aesthetic is as confident and consistent as Magistocrat Kaz Kaan’s (Jaden Smith) rose-colored locks. Whimsical yet beautiful, the series is a low-key delight that skewers capitalism and social constructs whilst also making its vain hero care deeply for all of those trappings, from midnight blue Chanel suits to public bachelor rankings. Cheeky callbacks and the soothing pastel-hued animations provide an homage to anime past, but the show’s idiosyncratic humor and tone is what makes this stand on its own. The show excels whenever it delivers gifts viewers didn’t know they needed, such as the coolest robot butler known to man (Jude Law) and catchy Christmas songs about friendship. “Neo Yokio” has composed its own elegant genre and is deserving of respect… as well as a giant Toblerone. – HN

11. “Master of None” (Netflix, 2015-present)

“Master of None”

Netflix

Inspired by stand-up comedian-turned-actor-writer-director Aziz Ansari’s comedic observations, the immensely likable, humorous, and big-hearted series follows the life of Dev (Ansari), a 30-year-old New York-based actor, and first-generation Indian-American, as he navigates the complexities of adulthood. A subtle meditation on ethnicity and race, the set-up, although not immediately evident, is ambitious, as Dev takes audiences on the journey that is his knotty life, as he and an entourage — which includes Lena Waithe (the first African-American woman to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series in 2017, for her work on “Master of None”) — tackle a myriad of both topical issues, as well as the minutiae of the everyday. Built upon a not-entirely-original foundation, it still manages to be refreshingly eccentric, teeming with empathetic, human considerations, underscored by a Season 2 episode dedicated to characters who would otherwise be peripheral in other shows — doormen, bodega employees, cab drivers, a scene done entirely silent to reflect the circumstances of the deaf characters at its center, and more. Ultimately, it’s a moving and necessary depiction of New York, seen through the eyes of a person of color. – TO

10. “Casual” (Hulu, 2015-2018)

“Casual”

Hulu

Zander Lehmann’s unconventional romantic-comedy makes a lot of bold choices. For one, its primary love story is between two siblings who grow too close, drift apart, and then have to find a functioning middle ground. The duo sort their romantic endeavors through the oft-challenging (and always changing) world of internet dating, while the daughter/niece tries growing up in a frank, free-spirited household. Needless to say, chaos ensues, but what made these four seasons tick ever more precisely was the care and attention given to each of the three leads. Alex (Tommy Dewey) matures from a cocky, bitter techie into an empathetic, caring softie. Valerie (Michaela Watkins) learns to love herself without hesitation or embarrassment. Laura (Tara Lynne Barr) grows up — painfully and awkwardly, like any other teen, but with the authority instilled by her therapist mother and the impetuous energy provided by her adolescent uncle. Each family member matters more than whatever crazy pursuit they chase in the name of love, to the point where no chase is needed — for they learn to love themselves. For an edgy original like this one, earning that kind of sincerity may be the greatest accomplishment of all. – BT

9. “American Vandal” (Netflix, 2017-2018)

“American Vandal”

Netflix

“American Vandal” instantly established itself as one of the great high school stories of all time not just because of its laser-focused dialogue and spot-on capturing of two distinct settings — an Oceanside, California high school and a private school tucked away in the Pacific Northwest. Across both its seasons, it also anticipated and reacted to — nearly in real time — to the specific anxieties of a shifting age. Doing so without preachy overarching screeds against the problems with the modern social media ecosystem, the show used outrageous setups to engender some empathy for a group of students living in an environment where there often are no rules. Sure, toss in the fact that the show reached the platonic ideal of a dick joke and managed to somehow turn a massive diarrhea epidemic into one of the most shocking season-opening sequences in recent memory. But it also found a way to make those daily tribulations of high school both relatable and darkly comic in a way that surpasses pure parody. – SG

8. “GLOW” (Netflix, 2017-present)

“GLOW”

Erica Parise/Netflix

“GLOW” could have been so silly. After all, professional wrestling isn’t a genre of entertainment which lends itself to a great deal of dignity, especially when you also factor in the 1980s’ big hair and bright spandex. But creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch turned the true story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling into an empowering tale of what women can do when they get the chance to live up to their full potential. Alison Brie leads a fantastic ensemble full of future stars, with Marc Maron providing the perfect dash of bitter citrus to keep the concoction from getting too sweet. “GLOW” is a series built to last for years down the line; there seem like no shortage of stories to tell in this world. – LSM

7. “Homecoming” (Amazon, 2018-present)

Julia Roberts in “Homecoming”

Jessica Brooks / Amazon

The power (and fleeting nature) of memory has been one of the most fertile grounds for storytelling throughout this period of time. Weaving together a story through two different timespans, this Amazon adaptation of the Gimlet fiction podcast harnesses not just the paranoia that comes from not having access to memories, but the way that the most powerful emotions can help drive a dogged pursuit to help recover a lost past. Anchored by an incredible performance from Julia Roberts, world-class cinematography from DP Tod Campbell, and one of the most efficiently used ensembles of any 2018 drama, “Homecoming” represented a new standard in half-hour drama and the capabilities of the form. Season 2 may not be bringing Roberts back, but there’s still plenty that the showrunner/director team of Eli Horowitz, Micah Bloomberg, and Sam Esmail can still bring to this ongoing mystery of corporate power and human vulnerability. – SG

6. “Big Mouth” (Netflix, 2017-present)

“Big Mouth”

Netflix

Few animated shows in today’s TV world are as unrestrained as this very specific depiction of life at the beginning of puberty. The weird grotesquerie and tiny miracles of going through changes are both on full display as Jesse, Andrew, Nick, and Missy each deal with a time of shifting bodies and shifting lives in their own painfully funny ways. As exaggerated and unbelievable as things like The Ghost of Duke Ellington and decrepit Hormone Monsters can be, the brilliance of the show is that none of that is all that far away from how bizarre and unpredictable being a teenager is anyway. Even voiced by adults, there’s still a childlike charm to the show, in amongst the tsunami of jokes about different bodily transformations. – SG

5. “The Good Fight” (CBS All Access, 2017-present)

“The Good Fight”

CBS All Access

Picking up one year after the events of the final episode of “The Good Wife,” the spin-off continues with Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), forced out of Lockhart & Lee, joining Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) at a Chicago African-American law firm that is also one of the city’s preeminent — and she brings goddaughter Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie) with her. Quite possibly an improvement on its predecessor, the delightfully snappy series boasts one of the more diverse casts in all of TV, in terms of gender, racial, ethnic, and sexual identity, led by a formidable trio of women and with Delroy Lindo, Sarah Steele, Justin Bartha, Michael Boatman, and Nyambi Nyambi in supporting roles. Plus, multiple Tony and Emmy Award winner Audra McDonald joined the Season 2 cast. It is thrilling courtroom dramatics, complemented by the stories of the complex lives of layered characters matching wits, as each navigates the challenges that come with family, friendship, love, and of course, interpreting the law. – TO

4. “Dear White People” (Netflix, 2017-present)

“Dear White People”

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Based on Justin Simien’s 2014 film of the same name, the Netflix satirical series follows primarily black college students at a fictional Ivy League institution, as they contend with contemporary issues around race relations, with smarts and a biting wit. Perceptively written, provocative, and very timely, “Dear White People” provides an engaging fusion of social commentary and shrewd hilarity, further complicated by a sophistication that helps heighten the show’s passionate contemplations, delivered by a lovely cast. The series’ charm and brilliance continues in a Season 2 that features maybe its most daring episode, in Chapter VIII, which mostly unfolds essentially like a two-character play featuring stars Logan Browning (Sam) and John Patrick Amedori (Gabe), taking place almost entirely in one room, as the pair dissects their relationship and sorts through their feelings about each other, over several long takes. The series has been renewed for an upcoming third season. – TO

3. “Catastrophe” (Amazon, 2015-present)

Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan in “Catastrophe”

Amazon

Part of the biggest success in the streaming world has come from taking advantage of an opportunity. Even though Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s series was a British co-production, “Catastrophe” embodies the best of being able to take a somewhat familiar premise and use a newfound creative freedom to show the best version of what that story can be. In Horgan and Delaney’s case, that means a portrait of an unlikely partnership, a one-night stand that eventually becomes one of the most honest depictions of love that TV has to offer. While it holds very little back about the physical and psychological pitfalls of marriage and parenthood, it also revels in the specific joys that both of those also bring. Rob and Sharon have gone through serious lows, but have also shown how that shared pursuit of a good life for themselves and their families can make that whole journey worth it. They’re never perfect, but the show is that much closer to being so for it. – SG

2. “Fleabag” (Amazon, 2016-present)

“Fleabag”

Luke Varley

From the moment that Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Fleabag locks eyes with you — yes you, the viewer — to share all the inappropriate thoughts she’s having, you’re a goner. This vicious and outspoken Londoner is a bit of a mess as she barrels through hookups and dreary family obligations, all while giving her hilariously raunchy and cynical takes. Somehow, over the course of six short episodes, the show just gets better and better even as the pitch-dark tone slowly, masterfully unmasks Fleabag’s devastating trauma. Waller-Bridge has an unerring instinct for authentic language and translating the darker aspects of human nature to screen (which she also practices to great effect in her other acclaimed series “Killing Eve”). Season 2 promises to be even more provocative and has attracted the likes of Kristin Scott Thomas and Fiona Shaw. What an embarrassment of talent. May Fleabag always grace our TVs with rudeness, pain, and complex badass women. – HN

1. “BoJack Horseman” (Netflix, 2014-present)

“Bojack Horseman”

Netflix

If you’re surprised to see BoJack Horseman occupy the top spot on our list, you haven’t been paying attention. The Indiewire darling about an alcoholic, anti-hero horse has always been a cut above, but what is it exactly that spurs “BoJack Horseman” ahead of the rest of its streaming series brethren? Is it the blink-or-you’ll-miss-them sight gags? The tongue-twisting wordplay? The searing indictment of Hollywood culture and toxic masculinity? No, it’s the empathy. For a series dedicated to giving viewers an unflinching look at some of society’s heaviest issues, including questions of addiction and identity, mental illness and childhood neglect, “BoJack Horseman” is always meticulous about treating each of its characters with grace and respect. It’s a show about a foul-mouthed, apathetic horse, yes, but each episode makes it a little more clear what it is to be human. – LH