There are so many factors that go into making a TV show a hit that have little to do with its quality.
It can depend on timing, the size of the network, the size of the network’s marketing budget, and whether that show is up against sizable competition. Great shows can get lost in the midst of all these factors.
Some would argue that ratings are an effective way of deciphering quality, but truthfully it’s a flawed system at best that overwhelmingly rewards the shows that win the lottery or get caught in a perfect storm.
That’s where critics come in. We can advocate for the shows we believe deserve your attention.
Here’s a list of the shows you’re probably not watching, but we believe you should be:
“The Exorcist” (Fox)
- Jean Whiteside/Fox
Yes, there was (and continues to be) a flood of TV remakes. But “The Exorcist” is a standout. It’s well-written, well-acted, and it doesn’t appear like Fox skimped on the budget. But alas, it’s Fox’s lowest-rated new show.
“Good Girls Revolt” (Amazon)
- Amazon Prime Video
Amazon has already canceled feminist drama “Good Girls Revolt,” but it’s actively looking for a new home. That doesn’t mean it’s still not worth watching the first season. It’s a really compelling look at the role of women in journalism in the late-’60s. It’s inspired by the real female employees who took on Newsweek for its unfair hiring practices and promotion practices for women in the newsroom.
- Trae Patton/NBC
Once the home of “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” and “The Office,” NBC hit a comedy dry spell in recent years. But the network has vowed to rebuild its comedy offerings, with big-box-store comedy “Superstore” as its cornerstone. The honor is well-deserved.
“Superstore” stars two talented actors, America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”) and Ben Feldman (“Silicon Valley,” “Mad Men”), part of an ensemble cast playing retail employees. The sad part is that NBC is not only in the hole for ratings but it doesn’t really have the programming to push “Superstore.” But “Superstore” is well worth the visit.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (CW)
- Adam Rose/The CW
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is one of the most enjoyable shows on TV right now.
Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) is a smart attorney, but loses all couth when it comes to her high-school ex, Josh (Vincent Rodriguez III). Plus, they break into random original songs written for the show. It’s fun, critics love it, awards voters love it, and no one’s watching. You should be.
“The Good Place” (NBC)
- Ron Batzdorff/NBC
The fact that “The Good Place” stars Ted Danson and Kristen Bell is an automatic draw to this comedy. But getting beyond that, the show continues to surprise each week with its twists and turns as Bell’s Eleanor will do anything to make sure no one finds out she was mistakenly sent to the good place. The alternative is, well, not called “the bad place” for nothing. The show has a lot of heart and its surreal setting allows the story to to go to some trippy, fun places.
Issa Rae brought the spirit of her hit YouTube series, “Awkward Black Girl,” to HBO’s “Insecure.” Cocreated by Larry Wilmore, the comedy explores what it’s like to lack confidence in a world where you’re expected to be a strong, black woman. The results are pretty insightful, often funny, and many times heartbreaking.
“The Last Man on Earth” (Fox)
- Kevin Estrada/Fox
This comedy created by and starring Will Forte is a hilarious study of how one person would behave if he were one of the last humans on earth after a virus takes out most of the population. Forte’s Phil is just a regular guy driven by regular desires. He rarely does the “right thing” when left to his own devices, so it’s a really hilarious way to test whether human beings are naturally selfish or if Phil is just a horrible human being.
Though it started off a hit, you may have dropped off watching “Last Man on Earth.” Rectify that.
“The Crown” (Netflix)
- Robert Viglasky/Netflix
For the money Netflix put into “The Crown,” it will probably continue for a few seasons. That doesn’t mean it was an instant hit for the streaming company. Although Netflix doesn’t release ratings, SymphonyAM has been using its technology to approximate ratings and “The Crown” was low on Netflix’s ratings ranking.
A show about the early years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign may not appeal to everyone, but it really brings an intimate feel to her life, her marriage, her family obligations, and her role in an evolving England.
“Dr. Ken” (ABC)
- ABC/Ron Tom
“Dr. Ken” gets lost in the television comedy shuffle. And it doesn’t help that it airs on Friday nights, TV’s dead zone. First off, Ken Jeong is a pretty incredible comic actor, who fully commits to the jokes and throws his own strange style on top.
When it comes to Asians as leads, there’s still quite a ways to go. The existence of two shows doesn’t mean it’s suddenly normal. “Fresh Off the Boat” may have the better night, but “Dr. Ken” should at least be part of your DVR schedule.
“Madam Secretary” (CBS)
- Barbara Nitke/CBS
As far as political dramas go, it’s hard not to compare them to “The West Wing” and “House of Cards.” “Madam Secretary” isn’t at that level of drama, but it has other things going for it. Téa Leoni has really carved out a unique balance of gravitas and wistfulness in the role of the country’s lead diplomat.
The show also frames the job with a perspective that includes the issues that aren’t necessarily threatening national security – more a danger of bruised egos than anything else – but still require a high level of diplomatic ability. It’s also simply amazing to see how the show’s plots can be so relevant to what’s challenging the US today.
“The Affair” (Showtime)
- Mark Schafer/Showtime
The last time most people heard about “The Affair” was during its big first year. Its captivating style of juxtapositioning two views of the same events and its passionate stars were a real awards draw in 2015. But the storytelling trick became a novelty (and it wasn’t necessarily done well after the first several episodes, to be honest). But to watch the show now, it’s a whole different world.
Sure, the first season was about the passionate affair and the destruction it caused. But in the next seasons the show became about passion itself and the people left in its wake. The show’s views opened up and it really became a very compelling mystery.
“High Maintenance” (HBO)
Have you ever wondered about the people who are connected by their drug dealer? Probably not, but turns out it’s an intriguin question. They run the gamut of personalities, class, and age, you’ll learn from HBO comedy “High Maintenance.”
Adapted from a popular web series, “High Maintenance” follows Ben Sinclair’s pot-dealer character through the neighborhoods of New York City as he serves his clients. Each episode then examines the often kooky lives they lead. It’s always nuts, eye-opening, and hilarious.