25 TV Dramas to Binge-Watch Right Now

Perrie Samotin
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25 TV Dramas to Binge-Watch Right Now

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We’re neck-deep in some serious winter weather right now, which means it’s the perfect time to hunker down and binge watch the heck out of shows like “Homeland,” “Friday Night Lights, and “Breaking Bad.” But those are just a few of the best binge-worthy TV shows—it’s 2017, the golden age of television, after all.

MORE: The Best TV Shows of 2017: Your Definitive Guide to Every Must-See Series

The shows we’ve rounded up here aren’t all new—lots aren’t even on the air anymore—but they’re all compelling, entertaining, and totally worth watching. From pop culture stalwarts like “Twin Peaks and “The Shield to razor-sharp lesser-known series like “Damages” and “Rectify to water-cooler programming like “Homeland” and “Game of Thrones,” here are 25 excellent TV dramas to binge-watch right now.

“The Affair”
Network: Showtime
Seasons: 1, renewed for a second
First aired: 2014

In episode one of Showtime’s newest series “The Affair,” there was an attention-getting twist that proves things aren’t always what they seem. Tracing—you guessed it—an affair between Brooklyn teacher and writer Noah (played by Dominic West) and damaged Montauk waitress Allison (Ruth Wilson), we quickly learn that people tend to remember things very differently. Also starring Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson—yes, Pacey from “Dawson’s Creek”—you’ll blow through the first season in no time.

"The Affair" (Craig Blankenhorn/Showtime)

“The Affair” (Craig Blankenhorn/Showtime)

“Beverly Hills, 90210”
Network: FOX
Seasons: 10
First aired: 1990

If you were too young to have watched this game-changing series when it originally aired, we suggest you start from the beginning, stat—if for nothing else than the unbelievable 1990s fashion. Not that the soapy series won’t suck you into to its plot: Two wholesome twins—Brenda and Brandon Walsh played by Shannen Dougherty and Jason Priestly—move with their parents from small-town Minnesota to excess-filled Beverly Hills. Yes, there was enough drama to fill ten seasons.

best dramas to binge watch

“Beverly Hills, 90210” (Photo: FOX)

“Boss”
Network: Starz
Seasons: 2
First aired: 2011

Not nearly as buzzy as “House of Cards,” yet similar in several respects, “Boss”stars Kelsey Grammer as Tom Kane, the ruthless mayor of Chicago, who—in the first amazing scene—is diagnosed a fatal form of dementia.

The slickly-shot show delves deeply into Chicago’s often-corrupt political system, a powerful marriage of convenience, and the intense behind-the-scenes maneuvering of political campaigns. Grammer puts his dramatic acting chops to excellent (if a little frightening) use.

tv dramas to binge watch

“Boss” (Photo: Starz)

“Narcos”
Network: Netflix
Seasons: 1, renewed for a second
First aired: 2015

This obsession-worthy original drama stars Brazilian actor Wagner Moura as infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and tells the story of the Medellin Cartel, which was once the world’s most violent trafficking organization.

Narcos netflix

“Narcos” (Photo: Netflix)

“Breaking Bad”
Network: AMC
Seasons: 5
First aired: 2008

Look up “water cooler TV” and a photo of Walter White appears in the dictionary. Not really, but now’s the time to finally commit to all five meth-infused seasons of what most critics call the best TV drama of all time.

"Breaking Bad" (Photo: AMC)

“Breaking Bad” (Photo: AMC)

“The Bridge”
Network: FX
First aired: 2013
Seasons: 2

This super-slick show only ran for two seasons but they were two really solid ones. It follows two detectives – one Mexican (Damian Bachir), one American (Diane Kruger)–and their joint effort to investigate a serial killer wreaking havoc on both countries along the Texas–Chihuahua border. Needless to say, the investigation is riddled with corruption.

"The Bridge" (Photo: FX)

“The Bridge” (Photo: FX)

“Brotherhood”
Network: Showtime
Seasons: 3
First aired: 2006

Some call this series the Irish Sopranos, and for good reason. It follows intertwining lives of the Irish-American Caffee brothers from Providence, Rhode Island where Tommy is a local politician and Michael is a professional criminal involved with New England’s Irish Mob. Consider this a warning: While it’s an excellent show, it’s also pretty violent.

MORE: The 101 Best Podcasts to Binge on Right Now

"Brotherhood" (Photo: Showtime)

“Brotherhood” (Photo: Showtime)

“Call the Midwife”
Network: PBS
Seasons: 4 so far
First aired: 2012

If you’re into period dramas, seek out this beloved BBC series about a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London during the 1950s.

"Call the Midwife" (Photo: PBS)

“Call the Midwife” (Photo: PBS)

“Damages”
Network: FX (2007-2010); DirecTV (2010-2012)
Seasons: 5

If you haven’t seen this addictive legal thriller, get on it—you’ll be hooked after episode 1. It stars Glenn Close as ruthless litigator Patty Hewes and Rose Byrne as her protegé Ellen Parsons, a relationship that takes on a captivating cat-and-mouse narrative throughout.

What’s so interesting about the show is that each season is based on one case—modeled after something going on in the world right now—and never steps foot into a courtroom. Instead, it uses non-linear storytelling to focus on the characters’ lives. Plus, the guest stars throughout the show’s five seasons are excellent, and include Ted DansonŽeljko Ivanek (who snagged an Emmy for his role as a slow-burning Southern lawyer), Marcia Gay Harden, and John Goodman.

"Damages" (David M. Russell/Sony Pictures Television)

“Damages” (David M. Russell/Sony Pictures Television)

“Deception”
Network: NBC
Seasons: 1
First aired: 2013

Sure, it got the axe after one season, but this delicious network drama is a blast. When a famous socialite named Vivian Bowers is found dead in a motel room from what appears to be a drug overdose, her estranged best friend Detective Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good)  is re-embraced by the wealthy Bowers family. In time, she begins to uncover the truth of what really happened with her friend’s death and to figure out who was behind Vivian’s death. The show also stars Tate Donovan, Victor Garber, and Laz Alonzo.)

Deception

Deception

“Firefly”
Network:
FOX
Seasons: 1
First aired: 2002

To give you a sense of just how beloved this 2002 Joss Whedon sci-fi series is, fans are still lambasting FOX for canceling it after a season. This beloved series is set in 2517 and features nine space cowboys who are staring “into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things.” Turns out, we still have the same political, moral and ethical problems in the future as we do right now.

"Firefly" (Photo: FOX)

“Firefly” (Photo: FOX)

“Friday Night Lights”
Network: NBC
Seasons: 5
First aired: 2006

This critically-acclaimed network drama centers around a high school football team in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, a close-knit community in rural Texas. And while its football scenes are masterful, there’s also enough small-town drama and overarching contemporary culture issues to keep any non-sports fan engrossed.

"Friday Night Lights" (Photo: NBC)

“Friday Night Lights” (Photo: NBC)

“Game of Thrones”
Network: HBO
Seasons: 5, renewed for a sixth.
First aired: 2011

Even if you’ve read the books, HBO’s excellent interpretation of George R.R. Martin’s beloved fantasy series requires your full attention, making it the perfect holiday binge.

game of thrones s4e3 arya 25 TV Dramas to Binge Watch Right Now

“Game of Thrones” (Photo: HBO)

“Homeland”
Network: Showtime
Seasons: 4, so far
First aired: 2011

What are you waiting for? Now’s a good a time as any to start Season 1 of this drama about mentally unstable, terrorist-chasing CIA agent Carrie Mathison (hauntingly played by Claire Danes.)

20141120 homeland 25 TV Dramas to Binge Watch Right Now

“In Treatment”
Network: HBO
Seasons: 3
First aired: 2008

This drama—which originally aired on HBO five nights a week—stars Gabriel Byrne as a psychotherapist and each episode dives (very) deep into his weekly sessions with a patient, in addition to his time with his own therapist. Blair Underwood, Diane Wiest, Melissa George, and Mia Wasikowska are among the actors who play Byrne’s patients.

"In Treatment" (Photo: HBO)

“In Treatment” (Photo: HBO

“Penny Dreadful”
Network: Showtime
Seasons: 2, renewed for a third.
First aired: 2014

The title of this British-American horror series refers to penny dreadfuls, a type of lurid horror fiction popular in 19th-century Britain. The show features plenty of characters from Irish and British fiction including those from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Frankenstein, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Oh, and it also stars ’90s heartthrob Josh Hartnett.

Penny Dreadful

“Penny Dreadful.” (Photo: Showtime)

“Political Animals”
Network: USA
Seasons: 1
First aired: 2012

This six-episode miniseries got a lot of flak for being hokey, but trust us: It’s so fun and entertaining that you’ll breeze through it in a day. Sigourney Weaver kills it as Elaine Barrish, a divorced former First Lady and Governor of Illinois, who also happens to be the Secretary of State. Similarities to Hillary Clinton abound, but the show’s real sweet spot is spotlighting a powerful political family, and what goes on behind closed doors.

"Political Animals" (Photo: Andrew Eccles/USA Network)

“Political Animals” (Photo: Andrew Eccles/USA Network)

“Rectify”
Network:
Sundance
Seasons: 3, so far
First aired: 2013

After 19 years on Death Row for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend, Daniel Holden’s conviction has been vacated due to new DNA evidence and he’s a free man. This razor-sharp drama follows him home, where his reentry into the outside world isn’t easy. The show does an excellent job of creating character studies of Daniel, his extended family, and the people in his sleepy Southern town.

"Rectify" (Photo: Sundance)

“Rectify” (Photo: Sundance)

“Ringer”
Network: The CW
Seasons: 1
First aired: 2012

Yes, this addictive drama—based on the 1964 Bette Davis film “Dead Ringer”—first aired on the CW, but was likely a little too high-minded for the network, thanks to its very adult themes (drugs, sex, murder) and twisty, serialized plot.

Sarah Michelle Gellar plays estranged twins—Bridget, a down-on-her-luck former addict and stripper being chased by a Native American gangster who thinks she witnessed a murder, and Siobhan, a cold-as-ice devious Park Avenue society wife (think a grown-up version of Gellar’s Catherine from “Cruel Intentions.”) The two reunite briefly, Siobhan disappears, and Bridget assumes her identity. And that’s just in the first few minutes. Still not convinced? Here’s a compelling case as to why you should watch it, stat.

"Ringer" (Photo: The CW)

“Ringer” (Photo: The CW)

“The Shield”
Network: FX
Seasons: 7
First aired: 2002

Some call “The Shield” (which ran from 2002 to 2008) one of the best dramas of all time because it broke new ground for FX and cable TV in general. Essentially, it’s about an experimental division of the LAPD that features a group of unethical detectives called the Strike Team who will stop at nothing to bring their version of justice to the streets. Michael Chiklis portrays the show’s shady main character Vic Mackey, who uses questionable methods to maintain peace on the streets, while making a profit through illegal drug protection schemes and robbery.

 

"The Shield" (Photo: FX)

“The Shield” (Photo: FX)

“Sons of Anarchy” 
Network: FX
Seasons: 7
First aired: 2008

This drama just wrapped it’s seventh and final season, and we suggest binging on each and every one. Loosely based on Hamlet, the series centers around a Northern California motorcycle gang, and manages to fuse its abundant violence with family drama. It’s led by Charlie Hunnam and Katy Segal, who plays a fiercely protective (if violent) matriarch, and happens to be married in real life to SOA showrunner Kurt Sutter.

"Sons of Anarchy" (Photo: FX)

“Sons of Anarchy” (Photo: FX)

“Transparent”
Network: Amazon
Seasons: 1, so far
First aired: 2014

See why everyone’s buzzing about Amazon’s original series, which chronicles the effect on a family when its patriarch (played by Jeffrey Tambor) reveals that she is a transgender woman.

"Transparent" (Photo: Amazon Studios)

“Transparent” (Photo: Amazon Studios)

“True Detective”
Network:
HBO
Seasons: 2, so far
First aired: 2014

Even if you’ve never seen it, you’ve probably heard plenty about this intense drama that nabbed Matthew McConaughey a Best Actor Emmy in 2015. Season 1—arguably the best season— uses multiple timelines to trace two Louisiana State Police Criminal Investigations Division homicide detectives’ hunt for a serial killer in Louisiana across seventeen years.

"True Detective" (Photo: HBO)

“True Detective” (Photo: HBO)

“Twin Peaks”
Network: ABC
Seasons: 2
First aired: 1991

There’s a reason why David Lynch‘s groundbreaking series earned its spot in the pop culture canon, despite the fact that viewership wasn’t through the roof. Set in a small rainy Pacific Northwest town, the series was—at face value—about a murder (“Who killed Laura Palmer?” was a catchphrase you couldn’t escape in the early 1990s), but the murder served as an excuse to create a show about the secrets that lie beneath small-town living, and the odd characters that inhabit it.

The show is rife with strange symbolism, spooky music, and more than its share of “huh?!” moments, but we suggest you give it a shot—the two-hour pilot is a brilliant way to get involved before it returns to Showtime next year.

twin peaks 4 25 TV Dramas to Binge Watch Right Now

“Twin Peaks” (Photo: ABC)

“The West Wing”
Network: NBC
Seasons: 7
First aired: 1999

Regarded as one of the best shows of all time—at least for network TV—all seven seasons of the political drama are up on Netflix now.

"The West Wing" (Photo: NBC)

“The West Wing” (Photo: NBC)

 

Originally published September 2015. Updated February 2017.

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