1. Bates Motel - I hesitate to praise a show after only one season (which is the case for 3 shows on this list), since many shows lose their way. I think (and hope and pray) that Bates Motel is going to continue being great, so I recommend catching up now, before season two starts in March. The first season was able to captivate my attention, by building suspense and successfully twisting the story in unexpected ways. The show is just plain odd - like nothing else you will see on television. It's the story of Norman Bates as a teenager, way before Psycho takes place, yet the story is told in present day (and surprisingly, it works!). Vera Farmiga, as Norma Bates, is my favorite performance on television right now. She's so chilling, yet soft and feminine. It's incredible. So, even if the show goes to shit in season two (which I doubt), it is still worth watching the first season just to see her shine. Max Thieriot is so hot; he reminds me of Ryan Phillippe (a.k.a the sexiest man alive), but he's also really good on this show. The weak link is Freddie Highmore, as Norman Bates. He's a terrible actor, cringe-worthy even. However, the story is so strong and the surrounding actors are so good that it almost highlights Norman's character as an "outcast". I stopped focusing on how bad he is by the third episode and just went with it.
2. Arrow - This show is one of my favorite things on television right now. I had no interest in watching it, as I am not a comic book reader. I appreciate the art form, but it's just not for me. I do, however, love several movies based on comics and I'm a huge fan of superhero stories. The concept of Green Arrow seemed really dumb to me, though, so when the show first aired, I decided to give it a miss (even though I usually watch all CW shows. I'm such a sucker for teen drama). A few months ago, I started reading really great things about Arrow, everywhere from twitter to Entertainment Weekly, the show seemed to be exceeding expectations. I was a little annoyed at first (come on, the first CW show that I don't watch, is actually good! Of course.), but after watching the first episode I was hooked. It's so much fun!! The story moves really quickly, the dialogue is sharp and witty, the back-story is continuously intriguing and Stephen Amell is fucking hot. The supporting cast (minus Katie Cassidy) is also fantastic. The best part is that season 2 (so far), is even better than season 1!!! The show raises the stakes by focusing much more attention on other characters and even set up a nice introduction for The Flash (which will be another CW show; I believe beginning this fall. Grant Gustin (from Glee) is so perfect for this role). I admit that there are probably a lot of references and relationships that fans of the story will understand better than I do, but I sort of like being in the dark about where the story is going and how the characters will develop.
3. Hannibal - If you are a fan of Bryan Fuller shows, then you HAVE to watch this show (and really, if you're not a fan, it's probably because you've never seen any of his shows. Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls. Watch them). Hannibal is stunning; visually poetic and beautifully dark. Hugh Dancy and the rest of the cast are all above average, but Mads Mikkelsen, as Hannibal Lecter, is superbly creepy. I never imagined that someone would be able to fill the role as well as Anthony Hopkins, but Mads is fantastic - and it's not a direct copy, either. He made the role something completely different, but still obviously psychopathic. Like previous Fuller shows, every episode feels like it belongs on a big screen enabling the audience to absorb everything, it's all a bit overwhelming for television (and shocking that it's on network t.v., with some of the gore that is shown). Fuller's shows tend to get canceled quickly (2 season curse), mostly due to production cost, but this show seems to have a stronger and more active fan-base than his previous efforts, so here's hoping that it lasts! I would love to see what he can do, if given the time to really develop a series.
4. Almost Human - This show isn't perfect....yet. I think everyone needs to start watching it, though, so that it gets a chance to improve. It has potential to be epic! The relationship between the two main characters, John and Dorian ( if you don't think of Scrubs, well then, you probably have never seen Scrubs. What's wrong with you?), is so fantastic. At first, their banter was mildly amusing but in the most recent episodes, it's actually laugh out loud funny. Also, the technology is AWESOME! The show is set in the future, but doesn't feel so far away that we can't relate to it. I would love for the show to go a little deeper into a "mythology", which is what I'm used to with Bad Robot productions, but the case-by-case episodes are working for now. The biggest issue that needs to be resolved, is that they have no idea how to use their female characters. So far, Lili Taylor had one really strong plot (contained to one episode) and the gorgeous Minka Kelly spends most of the episodes standing around looking adorable (like, really fucking adorable, but still...enough is enough.). It's a glaring problem that could easily be fixed. I first noticed Karl Urban in The Bourne Supremacy andI specifically remember walking out of the theater wondering who that really hot guy was. I feel like this is the first project where he can show a little personality - a dark, brooding, sarcastic personality, and I fucking love it.
5. Parenthood - The best show on television right now (ok, aside from Mad Men, but that's almost over and I want Parenthood to last forever!). It is assumed that the show is canceled pretty much every year, especially last year, but it just keeps tugging along. I'm not a particularly emotional person, some things hit me hard, but I'm not really an emotional viewer. Yet, I cry during every single episode of Parenthood. Once, I made it through an episode without tears, only to bawl hysterically at the preview for the following weeks episode. I think the show gets under my skin so much because this is how I envision "family". They're not perfect, they don't always agree, but they are there for each other 100%. I always dreamed of having a big family, and on occasion I have been a part of some (my mother has been married a few times to guys with big families. And I've found that I am attracted to guys who come from big families. The problem is that it's never felt like a permanent situation. I am always the outsider, peeking in at this extraordinary human connection that people have). I connect with Amber the most, because of her fucked up father situation (and man, her relationship with Ryan just crushed me. Ryan is EXACTLY the kind of guy I would go for - he's like an even more fucked up version of Ryan Atwood. When he confronts her mother about his family situation and says "not everyone has a family like yours"; seriously, a flood of tears like never before). However, in all honesty, I find myself connecting with every character. They all have something to relate to and care about - and no one is ever made out to be "the bad guy"; instead everyone is just a complicated human being. Peter Krause is my second favorite television actor ever (Michael C. Hall is my first. Obviously, I am a huge fan of Six Feet Under.), but every actor on this show has become a favorite of mine. Mae Whitman and Monica Potter have given Emmy-worthy performances. I'm hoping the show continues to quietly be the best show on television for years to come, because I don't want to live in world without the Bravermans.
6. Raising Hope - This is a show that has been on for a while now (it's in the middle of its 4th season, which is quite a success, in this day, for comedies), but I don't think I've ever mentioned it on this blog. It started off as an okay show, but more of a time-filler for me; something that I would put on while I cleaned my apartment or wrote on my blog), but at some point it grew into must watch television - and I'm not quite sure when that shift happened. I think the best way to describe it is as a "modern day Roseanne", but I'm not sure that gives it justice. I feel like Roseanne was a little more cynical and depressing, while Raising Hope is a very happy and heartwarming show. Virginia and Burt are a hard-working couple who are very much in love (which is refreshing to say the least - a happy, drama-free couple on television is almost unheard of nowadays) and they are happy with their life. Don't let the fact that the title refers to raising a baby (Hope), deter you, because it's really just about family. A really funny, lovable family. *This list is in addition to shows I've already written about in previous posts including: Parks and Recreation, Scandal, The Americans and Archer.