Though books hold a special place in my heart, over the past few years I’ve come to realize that my absolute favorite storytelling medium has to be television. Because of this, I decided to share the 25 TV shows which hold special places in my heart, and why!
25. Degrassi: Season 12 (2012-2013)
Favorite Episode: Rusty Cage (12×13 & 12×14)
Degrassi is a weird situation as it is one of two instances on this list where I didn’t watch the whole series, only a season. It is also unique in that I never even watched the whole season or a full episode of the season. My exposure to Degrassi, a soapy high school canadian drama, is extremely limited in that it comes in the form of the 2 hours a single character was on screen.
I have zero memory as to how I found out about either the show or the character, but Season 12’s Campbell Saunders is probably the character I’ve seen the most of myself in onscreen. Yeah, I would’ve preferred not to have seen myself mirrored in an overdramatic kids soap, but we take what we can get.
Campbell was an insecure, depressed kid struggling to connect with others despite an overwhelming sense of loneliness. There are definitely drastic differences between the two of us (most notably the fact that he doesn’t suck at hockey) but the core of his character resonated with me so deeply. The sense of hopelessness that bears down on him over the course of his season, the way he feels pulled in so many different directions, the way he never seems to click with his hockey team the way they click with each other. It was surreal to watch.
Unfortunately (*SPOILERS*) Campbell’s narrative was not intended to reflect the journey of a depressed teenager. It was intended to teach the viewers how to cope with a friend’s suicide. Needless to say that this show did not impact me well emotionally, but it did impact me deeply, and it certainly handled the issue far better than the sensationalist, amoral 13 Reasons Why.
24. Don’t Trust the B– in Apartment 23 (2012-2013)
Favorite Episode: Daddy’s Girl (1×02)
The inverse of the preceding entry, a show I barely watched, technically didn’t enjoy, and have complex feelings about, Apartment 23 is the case of a show I watched the entirety of and just enjoyed. It followed the hilarious, Odd Couple-esque pairing of the straightlaced June, who rents an apartment with Chloe, an amoral, unstable con artist who somehow ends up becoming her best friend.
Chloe did crazy, wrong things, and seemed to lack a basic grasp of human decency (such as when she set June up with a nice man only to reveal it was her own father and proceeding to justify it by saying her mother was never there for her only for it to be revealed her mother was never there for her because she was IN A WHEELCHAIR) but at the same time, she was likable, cared about her friends, and ended up doing the right thing in peculiarly sympathetic ways.
23. Parks & Recreation (2009-2015)
Favorite Episode: Gryzzlbox (7×05)
I really don’t need to explain why I like Parks & Rec because, come on, everyone likes Parks & Rec, and for good reason. A bizarrely uplifting show about government bureaucracy and trees, P&R boasts a well-rounded look at politics, three dimensional characters who are also hilarious, and plotlines that juggle forward momentum and storytelling with side splitting humour.
It’s admittedly been a while since I saw P&R so it has kind of blended together, but Season 7 will always hold a special place in my heart, with its ominous integration of a vaguely dystopian future and the presence of triplets.
22. The 100 (2014-Present)
Favorite Episode: Praimfaya (4×13)
The 100 is undoubtedly one of the most complex television dramas I’ve ever seen, and boasts one of the best fleshed out worlds. Its grim view of humanity and willingness to allow its protagonists to go to horrific lengths to save themselves (how many Teen Dramas can boast that their lead has committed genocide?) really sets it apart from other shows in the drama. The 100 is a stylish show of risks, ethical quandaries, and makeshift families, but time and time again it has failed to hold itself together.
The 100’s first season was above-average but still basically average dystopian teen fare, which was why it was so surprising when S2 turned so many tables, bringing in the aforementioned genocide, a more morally grey view on the savage “Grounders”, and, most shockingly, an LGBT relationship between lead Clarke Griffin and Grounder Commander Lexa. As Season 3 began, poised to introduce a frightening new enemy in the form of the A.I. ALIE, however, the narrative fell apart.
Season 3 rushed through at breakneck speed, making countless questionable plot choices as “main” characters acted out of character and vanished for episodes at a time without reacting to, say, killing their own mother. The fascinating question of whether or not life was worth the pain was undercut by these narrative holes, undercutting what could’ve been an amazing season and rendering it below-average. Season 4, in many ways, recovered from its predecessor, delivering my personal favorite season, but continued to allow many dangling plot threads and refused to develop many characters past their S2 status quo.
Now, I haven’t seen all of Season 5 yet but so far it seems to be a mixed bag to me, rehashing many of the previous plot points from S1-3 without any sense of forward momentum, but I can’t really speak on that until I see the season as a whole.
21. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (2013-2014)
Favorite Episode: Dirty Little Secrets (1×10)
Yes, I did watch Once Upon a Time, and no, it did not make this list due to its toxic relationships, stagnant fandom, and decision to cancel the show the moment they produced a quality season. That’s all I’m saying about OUaT. We’re here to talk about OUaT… in Wonderland.
In case you forgot, ABC aired a lovely spinoff for 1 season on Thursday nights before it was unfairly cancelled. Far more committed to the fantasy genre than its parent series, OUaTiW delivered an intensely intriguing “Core Four” of characters– Alice, a swashbuckling heroine defined by her determination to escape the trappings of her old life, Will, a hilarious and multifaceted former Merry Man and Knave of Hearts reluctantly pulled along for the ride, Anastasia, the fascinating and secretive Red Queen, and Cyrus, the admittedly less developed dude-in-distress Alice spent half the season chasing.
OUaTiW truly stands out to me for its ability to do wonders in a CGI world with a TV budget, its commitment to characters over cheap plot gimmicks (something OUaT could learn from) and genuinely scary takes on the genie and the jabberwocky. OUaTiW is seriously underrated, and you should check it out if you have the chance.
20. Scream Queens (2015-2017)
Favorite Episode: Drain the Swamp (2×10)
It’s hard to explain why I liked Scream Queens so much, seeing as I detest both horror and cheap comedy, but somehow Ryan Murphy pulled it off. For two seasons, Murphy and company centered an eclectic ensemble cast around the vacuous, selfish “Chanels”, introducing a set of serial killers, and proceeded to kill everyone off in the most hilarious of ways as various characters try and fail to understand what’s going on.
Utilizing convoluted, outlandish murder plots, larger-than-life characters based off real people and phenomena, Murphy kept the viewers guessing while also laughing at himself. My favorite scene from the entire series is when the three “Green Meanie” killers in Season Two trip over each other trying to murder the three Chanels, resulting in an amusingly slapstick scene poking fun at the series’ decision to use multiple killers who just so happen to work together flawlessly any other time.
Despite everything, Scream Queens succeeds at making you root for the unlikable, laugh at the horrific, and keep watching even though the show, objectively, is about as deep as a toddlers’ wading pool.
19. Sense8 (2016-2018)
Favorite Episode: Happy F*cking New Year (2×01)
An ambitious, sprawling story following eight strangers across the world, Sense8 tested me at times with its hard TV-MA storytelling and mature content, but it was worth the pain. Dedicated to simultaneously diversifying the viewer’s idea of humanity and conveying the idea that we are all connected, Sense8 proved itself unique, fun, and resourceful time and time again, managing to eke out a final episode after it was cancelled by provider Netflix.
Despite its dark, gritty storytelling, Sense8 was ultimately an optimistic project, one that was willing to be corny at times just to convey a sense of joy and fun. There isn’t much to say about Sense8, because, despite the complexities of the project, it was a simple show. One about family, humanity, and the connection we all share inside of us.
18. Daredevil (2015-Present)
Favorite Episode: Nelson v. Murdock (1×10)
It’s been a while since an episode of Daredevil has aired, so some of my thoughts are a bit “Foggy” (hahaha okay) but here we go: I love Daredevil in the comics, and this show adapts them so well. The first season was pitch perfect superhero storytelling, producing a compelling and multifaceted antagonist, revealed gradually over time, a great Year One-esque origin rollout, and one of the best supporting casts on air. Matt and Foggy’s brotherhood is moving and hilarious, while Karen is reinvented from a whiny damsel in the comics to a fascinating part of the cast.
This show gets dragged down somewhat by its significantly weaker second season which, though home to strong new characters such as Elektra and Frank Castle, failed to weak together an above average storyline or move said characters in very satisfying directions. Nevertheless, Daredevil is one of the best shows out there, and despite what everyone else says, I think his horned costume rocks.
17. EastSiders (2012-Present)
Favorite Episode: East of Eden (3×06)
EastSiders is a strange entry on this list in that it wasn’t a show that I particularly enjoyed, and didn’t exactly provide the most compelling plot, but that was what made it shine. EastSiders presents the story of Cal and Thom, two almost-married boyfriends who are mired in a haze of exhaustion and emptiness. Feeling directionless, they become immersed in a series of scandals and affairs which honestly make the show sound a lot cheaper and trashier than it is. EastSiders isn’t a pretty show. But there is something cathartic about it.
I guess what works about EastSiders is that, as much as I enjoy storytelling, this show embraces the fact that in life there are rarely stories to tell. Often, we wander through without a true narrative arc, we make choices that don’t make sense, and we’re surrounded by people who aren’t truly good or bad. EastSiders offers few morals, and even less sense, but it offers characters, who feel real pain, and have real struggles, even if the way they handle it is miles from how I would.
16. Skam (2015-2017)
Favorite Episode: Det går over (3×09)
Skam is up there with Degrassi as a show I didn’t watch the entirety of, though I did watch a whole season (Season 3) and parts of Season 4 when I could. It remains the only foreign language show I’ve seen, and I’m currently following the American remake of it. Skam is up there with EastSiders as a show that deals in highly complex, realistic characters. Each season of Skam takes place at the same high school, but stars a different character, and the season I (along with most of Tumblr) watched starred Isak, the series’ only male lead.
Season 3 of Skam follows Isak as he struggles with the fact that, unlike the rest of his friends, he likes guys. A powerful exploration of sexuality, friendship, mental illness, and toxic masculinity, the show gives us a crystal clear picture of what it’s like to be a young, gay kid trying to become comfortable with who you are. There’s a lot more to it, and one could criticize the show for being a bit too optimistic in the end, but really… gay people can use some optimism once in a while. Season 3 puts the viewer through a gamut of emotions, all of them powerful, and it is worth a watch even if foreign language shows aren’t usually your thing.
Check back in seven days for #15-6!