You recently told us which critically acclaimed TV shows just don't do it for you. Today, we're asking a similar but very different question: What TV shows deserve MORE love from TV critics? You know, not just high ratings or a million .gif-cluttered fan Tumblrs, but positive reviews from the so-called experts.
I admit this is an awkward discussion question for me to pose because there's a slight chance I could be considered a critic myself. Hold on, let me check my job description, BRB. Whoops! Yeah, I review things. The trouble is, I often like and latch onto things that don't seem to get much attention or love from my classier, more discerning colleagues. My natural instinct is to just chalk it up as me having terrible taste (because in many ways I definitely do). But then I watch these shows and I realize, "Hey wait a minute. This is objectively GOOD. Why aren't more mainstream TV critics admitting it?" So what follows are my top six shows that I think all critics should pay more attention to. And then below, please chime in and tell me what YOUR picks would be!
While we should never give in to the notion that reboots are an acceptable norm, it's clear that any idea, no matter how questionable, can result in something decent when placed in the right hands. Last summer MTV took a property beloved only by a specific demographic of irony-loving thirtysomethings and turned it into a compelling, frightening, and visually poetic teen dramedy that is far better than it has any right to be. While the various werewolf beefcakery and dewy-eyed romances are handled in surprisingly non-annoying ways, the show's real strength is its marriage of music to visuals, as well as its truly great supporting players Colton Haynes and especially Dylan O'Brien, whose Stiles may be one of the best characters on TV. I don't mean to tell you how to live your life, but this show is definitely one to marathon-view (preferably in the middle of the night) before it returns next June.
It's incredibly hard to pull off bro humor without immediately alienating 80 percent of the population. So few TV shows or movies have gotten it right; for every National Lampoon's Animal House there are a thousand National Lampoon's Dorm Dazes. Frankly, so many of these exercises fail because they come across as slightly hateful toward women or anyone who's not a privileged, heterosexual Caucasian prankster. But Spike's Blue Mountain State pushes its bongs 'n T 'n A humor into the realm of the clever and joyful. Its women are generally smarter than its men and it takes place in a world where testosterone-ridden Alpha male types do the most self-consciously gay things and there's absolutely no stigma about it. Add to that a dizzying joke-per-minute ratio and some of the most relentlessly, knowingly clever jokes and it's amazing this thing isn't getting more attention. Sure, it's incredibly raunchy and base, but that doesn't mean it's not good.
Much as Spike's Blue Mountain State consistently subverts the bro-comedy genre, MTV has figured out how to upend the female observational comedy with Awkward., the second of its two scripted surprise hits on this list. Awkward. tells the tale of Jenna, a gorgeous-without-knowing-it girl with a vibrant inner life (and not-so-vibrant high school existence) who frequently finds herself at the center of humiliating school-wide gossip. But rather than serving as an exercise in unbearable embarrassment, Season 1 developed Jenna into a highly relatable, intelligent character, and even rewarded her with TWO handsome romantic options. It's Teen Wish Fulfillment 101, but mainly because we should ALL wish our teen lives were this colorful and alive.
Bravo's Work of Art: The Next Great Artist is a concept that presumably puts off many critics, and for a variety of reasons. For one thing, its format is essentially a carbon copy of Project Runway's. For another, the idea that fine art can be a way for artists to compete with each other is borderline detrimental to the value of fine art. But regardless of whether you think art is an appropriate subject for a competition reality show, I think it's inherently respectful and even admirable that Work of Art brings the work of unknown artists into our living rooms each week. Whether they receive good critiques or bad critiques, we are being entertained by art criticism, which is an undeniably great thing. But my favorite aspect of Work of Art is how inspiring it is for people who create; so many mediums are represented here and each episode presents a number of mini-tutorials on how these artists achieve their pieces. This show has both educational and cultural worth, and for a Bravo reality show that's pretty awesome.
I don't know how old these kids are. Sixteen? Seventeen? And it's not like the world needed yet another lazy office worker sitcom. But Comedy Central's Workaholics ended up being something a lot better than its logline suggested. Yes, these three dudes drink and get high on the job, and constantly get themselves into and out of terrible situations. But there's some deceptively smart writing going on here, from its dense conversational humor to its bigger-picture takedowns of stuff like the Gathering of the Juggalos. Plus, now that we're in Season 2 on a network that rarely renews its shows, with a third season already confirmed, it's clear Workaholics is doing something right. Critics, don't let these babyfaces fool you, these guys are hardworking pros.
All right, this is a stretch. The Vampire Diaries HAS recently started getting praised by more and more critics. But not enough, in my opinion! And I'm not just saying this because I devote half of my working week to this show... The Vampire Diaries is pulling off some storytelling feats that are right up there with some of HBO's most prestigious dramas. Obviously critics seem averse to the teen stuff, but there's a point to setting this story in a teen world: Everything is more intense when you're in high school. Seasons 1 and 2 were known for their breakneck narrative speed, but Season 3 has truly elevated this show beyond the typical CW framework and transformed it into something more sublime. Seriously, Peabody Award people, what are you waiting for?
Now it’s your turn to weigh in with your own choices, or to defend or support my selections above: What non-critically acclaimed TV shows do YOU think deserve more love from critics?