Now that the year is coming to an end (and the Earth didn’t end), it’s time to highlight television’s most deserving series: the underrated ones.
With so many channels and programs to watch, many great television shows get lost next to the series’ always nominated for awards. The thing is: just because it’s nominated doesn’t always mean it’s the best.
Check out our list of television’s 12 most underrated shows in 2012.
As a follow-up to the hit documentary of the same name, Catfish: The TV Show follows Nev Shulman and (now) Max Joseph through the lie-filled world of Internet relationships, by connecting people who have had longtime relationships through the computer. Is anyone really who they say they are?
If you thought what happened to Nev was impossible, you’ll never believe what happens to the folks on this show. Some lies, some truths, some surprises – all completely captivating.
What You Need to Know: If you haven’t seen the movie Catfish, skip the opening credits, where everything that happened in the film is revealed in detail.
In 2012, Ricky Gervais stepped away from his longtime writing partner, Stephen Merchant, for his new comedy-drama pilot, Derek. Only airing in the UK, Gervais plays the title character, Derek, a mentally disabled 50-year old who works in a senior citizen’s home.
Although the pilot caused some controversy from people believing Gervais was simply mocking the disabled, the truth is that Derek is one of Gervais’ strongest series since The Office and is equally as funny as it is touching.
What You Need to Know: Netflix picked up the series and will air it in 2013. (The pilot is available to those who Google its name.)
Face Off, now entering its fourth season (January 15th), has become one of the hidden competition gems on cable television, where audiences get an in-depth look at what it takes to make the special effects make-up needed to create the greatest characters in film and television.
And after each of the contestants spend hours perfecting their characters, they have to present them to a judging panel of award-winning special effect artists who will be completely honest with their praises (and critiques).
What You Need to Know: Face Off is like a weekly installment of DVD or Blu-ray bonus features about creature making. If that sounds good to you…
From its start, Happy Endings has always been seen as a second-tier series to ABC’s Modern Family and TGIF revival – yet it is still one of the strongest comedies on the network. Sure, it doesn’t have the sassy family appeal of some of the network’s other shows, but Happy Endings brings a more mature telling of friends living (and growing) together, like How I Met Your Mother.
Thanks to the series not needing a 9-year reveal of the “mother,” viewers get to explore a more realistic version of the “current” generation.
What You Need to Know: If you liked Damon Wayans Jr. in Fox’s New Girl pilot, Happy Endings has all that and more. And it’s reason why he was written out in the second episode (when Happy Endings got renewed).
Ever since the celebrity-filled pranks of MTV’s Punk’d, television’s hidden camera show genre has largely become a place where famous people can “hilariously” prank each other. And then… TruTV’s Impractical Jokers came along. In what’s been the most creative evolution of the hidden camera show since Candid Camera in 1948, Impractical Jokers takes four friends and puts them front and center for each and every hidden camera setup.
Instead of making fun of the unsuspecting public, the purpose of Impractical Jokers is for the friends to make fun of each other – which it does, brilliantly.
What You Need to Know: Impractical Jokers is the best and “Tru-est” show TruTV has (as in it’s completely real).
If you’ve ever wanted to see a “real” reality competition, there isn’t anything better than Spike’s Ink Master, where the nation’s top tattoo artists battle for the title of “Ink Master.” Each season, over 100 tattoos are applied to unassuming human canvases who may or may not receive a “jacked” tattoo from any or all of the shows contestants. But when the tattoo’s are done right – which they often are – the results are astounding.
What’s most compelling about the show, however, is that judges and constants constantly argue back and forth about the quality of their tattoo, often leading to a constant or judge to lose control in a hilarious and completely real way.
What You Need to Know: You’ll be surprised how many “jacked” tattoos good tattoo artists can do.
Out of all the underrated shows on this list, The League may very well be the most underrated of them all, and here’s why: The League, from Curb Your Enthusiasm executive producer Jeff Schaffer (and Jackie Marcus Schaffer), follows 5 friends as they battle it out in their fantasy football league for the top trophy, The Shiva. If you’re not a fan of fantasy football – or football in general – you might easily pass the show over as some kind of sports-themed program not worth watching.
Here’s what you need to know: football is to The League what meth is to Breaking Bad – everything you need to know is explained to you (which isn’t much). Football is only one element of the series, often taking a backseat to other hilarious storylines and adventures that the cast finds themselves in.
What You Need to Know: If you’re still not sold on giving The League a chance, check out some of the best of their secret comedic weapon, Raffi, HERE. (You’re welcome.)
Nurse Jackie has been receiving nominations since it started in 2009, so while most people are familiar with its name, they still haven’t watched it. Nurse Jackie follows emergency room nurse Jackie Peyton (Edie Falco) through her pain killer-fueled life of chaos and lies. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea for a comedy series, you should know Nurse Jackie is a great dark comedy that is filled with more endearing characters than most series you currently watch – and Nurse Jackie is probably funnier, honestly.
There’s a reason why Edie Falco has been nominated for an Emmy every year it’s been on the air – and it’s not because everyone is still talking about The Sopranos finale.
What You Need to Know: If you’ve ever wanted to know what people who work in a hospital really think, Nurse Jackie will give you hilarious crash-course in the devilish world of health care.
CBS is known for its strong staple comedies that garner tens of millions of viewers, yet Rules of Engagement somehow continuously gets treated like the red-headed stepchild of the network, often having to play second-tier to whatever Chuck Lorre comedy the CBS chooses to run with.
That being said, Rules of Engagement is one of the most solid comedies CBS has. Fact. Sure, it’s not a textbook ratings comedy like The Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men, but Rules of Engagement can easily stand next to many heavy-hitters in the same genre, and still come out on top.
What You Need to Know: The first 6 seasons are available to watch on Netflix; since you probably won’t believe what WE said about the show, check it out for yourself.
Shameless is one of Showtime’s unfortunate secrets – as in, it shouldn’t be a secret. Often having to bat clean-up after Homeland and Dexter, the crazed tales of drunks, drugs, crime, love, children and relationships of the Gallagher family are often overlooked on television.
If the fact that William H. Macy is leading this show doesn’t have you won over, you should know that everyone in the cast – especially the 6 children of varying ages – are equally as terrific a performer as Macy. And if you’re looking for a truly earnest series, nothing beats Shameless‘ ability to bring every chaotic element of the family’s life alive by staying true to characters and the environment in which they live.
What You Need to Know: Shameless is like a modern-day version of Roseanne, with much more swearing and nudity.
If you’ve only used Shark Tank as the punchline to jokes about the quality of non-scripted shows – but never actually watched it – you’re missing out on one of the most interesting (and educational) shows on television. Each week, inventors bring their products in front of a group of investors (“Sharks”) and are willing to give away a percentage of their product, business or invention for specific amount of money. Of course, Shark Tank is much more than its description implies.
When it comes to actually investing in something, the Sharks breakdown every aspect of their business and then begin to negotiate their terms – that is, if they don’t berate the inventor out of the room beforehand. You’ll see million dollar deals, complete corporate takeovers and (a lot of) fighting between Sharks, which often gets very heated. If being honestly educated by millionaires (and a billionaire – Mark Cuban) isn’t interesting to you, Shark Tank is also a great alternative to HSN and QVC – so don’t be surprised if you end up buying things you see on the show (in-stores or online).
What You Need to Know: The UK and Canada have their own versions of Shark Tank (called Dragon’s Den) – both are good (particularly the UK version).
Before “winter” came to HBO with Game of Thrones, Starz had already begun telling its epic tale of the great gladiator, Spartacus – and everyone who watched it knew how great it was. The problem: not that many people watch Spartacus, likely because it’s on Starz.
Still, Spartacus has been bringing the action since 2010, and it often comes out on top as the show with the highest body count, so it’s a shame that it doesn’t get as many viewers as it deserves. Still, with Spartacus: War of the Damned, the final season, beginning next month – and all previous seasons available on home video, etc. – you still have a chance to catch up before the battle is over for good.
What You Need to Know: Spartacus: Gods of the Arena is a prequel series that was created when Andy Whitfield, the series’ original Spartacus, was diagnosed with cancer. Andy Whitfield died on September 11, 2011, and was replaced by Liam McIntyre, who has filled the role wonderfully.
Now that you’ve checked out our list, you shouldn’t be saying “there’s nothing to watch!” for quite some time.
Our Picks again:
- Catfish: The TV Show (MTV)
- Derek (Channel 4 & Netflix)
- Face Off (Syfy)
- Happy Endings (ABC)
- Impractical Jokers (TruTV)
- Ink Master (Spike)
- The League (FX)
- Nurse Jackie (Showtime)
- Rules of Engagement (CBS)
- Shameless (Showtime)
- Shark Tank (ABC)
- Spartacus: Vengeance (Starz)
Of course, if you think there’s a series that we missed, please don’t hesitate to leave your suggestion in the comments below.