Choosing Television Shows to Watch

It’s always a big debate. You find a show you like, and it’s all fun and games while it lasts. But sooner or later the show comes to an end, and you’ve got to find something else to watch. And let’s face it; it’s not like tv shows are being made at a rate that keeps up with the rate we can binge them. Not good ones, at least. When you finish watching an excellent series, you don’t want to leave it and go to something that’s just sort of okay. You want something excellent.

So I’ve taken some time to try and get a list of shows I want to watch, so I can have one ready the next time I finish a series. (We’re currently working our way through The Americans, which I mostly really enjoy. It seems to be getting progressively better, which helps a lot as well.) To try and see what I’ve been missing, I went through all the shows that were nominated for an Emmy for Best Drama from 1990 to today. It was an interesting look into some TV history I hadn’t always paid much attention to.

You see certain patterns develop. Some shows lodge themselves into the nominations and just don’t let up. Game of Thrones. Mad Men. Downton Abbey. But beyond that, the type of show has changed and evolved over the years. At first I’d planned on going much further back than 1990, but the shows that were getting nominations in the 90s were already ones I’m not too interested in bingeing today.

Compare some of the popular shows (nomination-wise) of the last few years with the ones in the 90s. Today we have Westworld, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, and more. In the 90s it was shows like Law & Order, NYPD Blue, and ER. I haven’t seen the latter two, but I’ve seen my fair share of Law & Order. It’s a show that worked well when you were just watching it once a week, but I’m not sure how much I want to try bingeing a show like that.

As I looked through the shows, I realized I don’t just want a drama. I want a drama with a long, sweeping arc. With real character development over time and intersecting stories as one of the prime features of the show. Then again, I loved West Wing, and it was a great show to binge, and it was much more a “flavor of the week” show, where each episode generally dealt with something specific.

I suppose the trick is I’m never quite sure what I’ll think of a show until I’m in the middle of it. The other trick is that you can’t really compare a show you’ve just finished multiple seasons of to a show you’re just starting on. Of course the characters aren’t as deep and ingrained with you yet. They haven’t had time to really develop. The same is often true of the first season of a show. It can take time for it to really get its feet under it, even though that might be frustrating for the first while of a show.

One other thing I noticed is how some excellent shows just don’t get recognized at all. (Note the complete lack of a single nomination for the Wire. That’s just criminal.)

Anyway. I thought I’d share my findings with you, in case it’s useful for others. After going through the exercise, a few shows I’m eyeing next are The Handmaid’s Tale and a return to Breaking Bad. We’ll see what I actually go to.

Show NameBest Drama NominationsBest Drama Wins
This Is Us20
Stranger Things20
Handmaid’s Tale21
Game of Thrones73
House of Cards50
Better Call Saul30
Mr. Robot10
Downton Abbey50
Orange is the New Black10
Mad Men84
True Detective10
Breaking Bad52
Boardwalk Empire20
Good Wife20
Friday Night Lights10
True Blood10
Big Love10
Boston Legal20
Grey’s Anatomy20
West Wing74
Six Feet Under30
Joan of Arcadia10
Law & Order111
NYPD Blue61
Chicago Hope30
Star Trek TNG10
Northern Exposure41
Picket Fences22
I’ll Fly Away20
Quantum Leap30
LA Law32
China Beach20
Twin Peaks10


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