TV TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate  

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Since about the early 2000s, TV audiences have been blessed with what many experts call The Golden Age of Television. In other words, TV has never been so darn good or so darn smart. This list features smart TV shows that are currently running new episodes, even if we’re just anxiously awaiting for a fresh season. Here are the best shows that smart people watch.

There are several reasons why TV has never been better. First, there are more channels that cater to different tastes. Not only are cable networks like AMC and FX churning out Emmy Award winning dramas, but streaming channels like Amazon and Netflix, are also producing high-caliber programming that are not constricted to the tight guidelines typically associated with network television.

It’s not just about cursing and showing a little nudity, it’s about telling complicated stories that don’t just wind up neat and tidy at the end of a half hour episode. It’s safe to say that television is not just for the masses anymore to simply idle away wasted evenings, a smart TV show is a welcomed form of entertainment in even the most highbrow of houses.

You will see the total gamut of programming on this list. There’s the animated comedies. It’s true that a middling 8-year-old can watch The Simpsons or Family Guy and be extremely entertained. But, for the shows to truly be appreciated, an intellectual mind is needed to pick up on all of the nearly laugh-a-second nuances and understand the less obvious references.

Additionally, programs like True Detective and Fargo, offer a lot of hidden meaning. The better read the viewer is, the more the material will come to life. It’s not to say that a regular Joe Schmo can’t enjoy a show like The Americans, of course they can. However, these types of shows aren't dumbed down. They require a person to actually pay attention, to be active spectators aware of narrative shifts, and to be able to put the pieces of a complicated puzzle together without a lot of hand holding.

Which intelligent TV shows are your favorite? Be sure to vote up the TV series you think are the smartest shows on television.
list ordered by

1
+ - 12,924 4,622
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

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2
+ - 16,259 8,078
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Game of Thrones Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington

3
+ - 8,963 5,273
House of Cards is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
House of Cards Kevin Spacey, Michel Gill, Robin Wright

4
+ - 10,133 4,519
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

5
+ - 8,924 4,785
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

6
+ - 8,672 4,129
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The X-Files David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi

7
+ - 10,376 3,777
House is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
House Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard

8
+ - 8,442 4,819
Hannibal is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Hannibal Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas

9
+ - 9,137 4,519
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Matt Smith

10
+ - 3,607 3,045
Sense8 is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Sense8 Aml Ameen, Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton

11
+ - 7,125 3,100
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

12
+ - 5,397 3,887
Mr. Robot is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Mr. Robot Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday

13
+ - 7,482 5,295
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies

14
+ - 6,134 3,514
Last Week Tonight with John Ol... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver John Oliver, David Kaye, Noel MacNeal

15
+ - 4,684 3,552
True Detective is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
True Detective Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams

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16
+ - 8,704 5,522
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco

17
+ - 6,688 4,062
Jeopardy! is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Jeopardy! Alex Trebek, Johnny Gilbert, Jimmy McGuire

18
+ - 4,709 4,019
Lost is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

19
+ - 5,028 3,368
Jessica Jones is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Jessica Jones Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville

20
+ - 4,707 1,834
Star Trek: The Next Generation is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Star Trek: The Next Generation Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes

21
+ - 4,652 3,615
Better Call Saul is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Better Call Saul Bob Odenkirk, Michael Mando, Jonathan Banks

22
+ - 4,098 3,174
Fargo is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Fargo Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman

23
+ - 4,876 3,491
The Daily Show is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Daily Show Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver

24
+ - 5,024 2,904
American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
American Horror Story Lady Gaga, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett

25
+ - 4,530 2,613
Penny Dreadful is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Penny Dreadful Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green

26
+ - 4,846 2,719
Vikings is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Vikings Travis Fimmel, Clive Standen, Gustaf Skarsgård

27
+ - 4,264 2,456
Fringe is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Fringe Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole

28
+ - 4,577 2,837
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Downton Abbey Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern

29
+ - 3,990 2,409
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Arrested Development Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi

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30
+ - 4,152 3,176
The Blacklist is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Blacklist James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff

31
+ - 5,123 3,007
Criminal Minds is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Criminal Minds Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler, Thomas Gibson

32
+ - 3,099 1,979
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Sopranos James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

33
+ - 3,579 2,633
Battlestar Galactica is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Battlestar Galactica Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber

34
+ - 2,276 2,548
The Newsroom is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Newsroom Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr.

35
+ - 5,426 1,056
Stranger Things is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate

36
+ - 4,134 2,909
The Simpsons is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Simpsons Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner

37
+ - 3,389 2,116
Daredevil is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Daredevil Charlie Cox, Vincent D'Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll

38
+ - 3,094 2,409
Sons of Anarchy is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior

39
+ - 2,617 2,937
Homeland is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Homeland Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend

40
+ - 3,798 1,196
Westworld is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Westworld Ben Barnes, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Clifton Collins Jr.

41
+ - 2,483 1,781
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Mad Men Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser

42
+ - 4,834 2,508
MythBusters is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
MythBusters Jamie Hyneman, Robert Lee, Adam Savage

43
+ - 2,518 1,876
Orphan Black is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris

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44
+ - 2,253 2,461
The Americans is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Americans Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor

45
+ - 4,085 2,140
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan

46
+ - 3,459 3,104
Friends is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

47
+ - 2,668 2,410
Pushing Daisies is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Pushing Daisies Lee Pace, Anna Friel, Chi McBride

48
+ - 2,356 1,906
Nova is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Nova Jay O. Sanders, Lance Lewman, Craig Sechler

49
+ - 2,395 2,927
Suits is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Suits Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams, Meghan Markle

50
+ - 3,324 1,724
bones is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
bones Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Michaela Conlin