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
16,450 6,141
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs Sherlock is a British television crime drama that presents a contemporary adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it ...more

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2
20,837 10,466
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 Game of Thrones is an American fantasy drama television series created for HBO by showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. It is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's ...more

3
12,046 6,636
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 House of Cards is an American political drama television series developed and produced by Beau Willimon. It is an adaptation of the BBC's mini-series of the same name and is based on the novel ...more

4
13,450 5,819
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
-1456031746037 added Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn Breaking Bad is an American crime drama television series created and produced by Vince Gilligan. The show originally aired on the AMC network for five seasons, from January 20, 2008, to ...more

5
11,435 6,220
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Angie Meche added Dexter Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas Dexter is an American television drama series. Set in Miami, the series centers on Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter pattern analyst for Miami Metro Police Department who also leads a secret life ...more

6
10,888 5,379
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Lilian Stock Bonzi added The X-Files David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi The X-Files is an American science fiction horror drama television series created by Chris Carter. The program originally aired from September 10, 1993 to May 19, 2002 on Fox, spanning nine ...more

7
13,390 4,865
House is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Lilian Stock Bonzi added House Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard House is an American television medical drama that originally ran on the Fox network for eight seasons, from November 16, 2004 to May 21, 2012. The show's main character is Dr. Gregory House, a ...more

8
10,126 6,199
Hannibal is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
CorbyDaniel added Hannibal Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas Hannibal is an American psychological thriller–horror television series developed by Bryan Fuller for NBC. The series is based on characters and elements appearing in the novel Red Dragon by ...more

9
11,064 5,838
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
NessySheep added Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Matt Smith Doctor Who is a 2005 TV series.

10
8,744 4,129
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
MidnaTP added Firefly Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk Firefly is an American space western science fiction drama television series created by writer and director Joss Whedon, under his Mutant Enemy Productions label. Whedon served as an executive ...more

11
7,842 4,653
Last Week Tonight with John Ol... is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver John Oliver, David Kaye, Noel MacNeal

12
7,114 4,855
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
4,598 4,359
Sense8 is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Sense8 Aml Ameen, Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton

14
6,031 4,384
True Detective is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
True Detective Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams True Detective is an American crime drama television series created and written by author Nic Pizzolatto. The series is broadcast by the premium cable network HBO in the United States, and ...more

15
11,127 7,597
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Big Bang Theory Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco The Big Bang Theory is an American sitcom created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, both of whom serve as executive producers on the show along with Steven Molaro. All three also serve as head ...more

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16
8,468 5,007
Jeopardy! is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Jeopardy! Alex Trebek, Johnny Gilbert, Jimmy McGuire Jeopardy! is an American television game show created by Merv Griffin. The show features a quiz competition in which contestants are presented with general knowledge clues in the form of ...more

17
9,330 6,998
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
leslie-parrish added The Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies The Walking Dead is an American horror drama television series developed by Frank Darabont. It is based on the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie ...more

18
6,069 4,609
The Daily Show is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Daily Show Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a parody TV program.

19
6,007 5,279
Lost is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Rosemarie Krajewski added Lost Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia Lost is an American television drama series that originally aired on the American Broadcasting Company from September 22, 2004, to May 23, 2010, over six seasons, comprising a total of 121 ...more

20
5,642 1,789
Westworld is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Brody Hillstock added Westworld Ben Barnes, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Clifton Collins Jr.

21
6,115 4,379
Jessica Jones is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Kamille Heraclide added Jessica Jones Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, Eka Darville

22
6,100 2,614
Star Trek: The Next Generation is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
William Patrick Consoliver added Star Trek: The Next Generation Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes Star Trek: The Next Generation is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry twenty-one years after the original Star Trek series debuted in 1966. Roddenberry, ...more

23
6,396 3,485
Vikings is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Mike Dishmon added Vikings Travis Fimmel, Clive Standen, Gustaf Skarsgård Vikings is an Irish-Canadian historical drama television series written and created by Michael Hirst for the television channel History. It premiered on 3 March 2013 in the United States and ...more

24
7,585 1,585
Stranger Things is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Andrew Parmi added Stranger Things Winona Ryder, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard On November 6, 1983, in the town of Hawkins,[12] Indiana, 12-year-old Will Byers vanishes mysteriously. Will's frantic mother, Joyce, searches for him while Police Chief Jim Hopper launches his ...more

25
6,602 3,871
American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Isabela Quintão added American Horror Story Lady Gaga, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett American Horror Story is an American horror television series created and produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. Described as an anthology series, each season is conceived as a self-contained ...more

26
5,695 3,349
Penny Dreadful is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
bubbletrouble added Penny Dreadful Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green Penny Dreadful is a British-American horror TV series created for Showtime and Sky by John Logan, who also acts as executive producer alongside Sam Mendes. The show was originally pitched to ...more

27
5,841 4,446
Better Call Saul is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Better Call Saul Bob Odenkirk, Michael Mando, Jonathan Banks Better Call Saul is an American television drama series created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. It is a spin-off of Breaking Bad, which was also created by Gilligan. Set in 2002, Better Call ...more

28
5,188 3,904
Fargo is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Fargo Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman Fargo is an American black comedy–crime drama television series created and written by Noah Hawley. The show is inspired by the 1996 film of the same name written and directed by the Coen ...more

29
6,575 3,656
Criminal Minds is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Criminal Minds Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler, Thomas Gibson Criminal Minds is an American police-procedural television program that premiered September 22, 2005, on CBS. The series follows a team of profilers from the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit based ...more

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30
5,251 3,161
Fringe is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Fringe Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Jasika Nicole Fringe is an American science fiction television series created by J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci. It premiered on the Fox Broadcasting network on September 9, 2008, and concluded ...more

31
5,796 3,563
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Downton Abbey Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern Downton Abbey is a British period drama television series created by Julian Fellowes and co-produced by Carnival Films and Masterpiece. It first aired on ITV in the United Kingdom and Ireland on ...more

32
4,121 2,568
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Cindy Rose Raymond added The Sopranos James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco The Sopranos is an American crime drama television series created by David Chase. Revolving around the fictional New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano, the show portrays the ...more

33
5,323 3,754
The Simpsons is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Simpsons Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical depiction of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by the ...more

34
5,068 3,903
The Blacklist is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Dave Simonetti added The Blacklist James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff The Blacklist is an American crime drama television series that premiered on NBC on September 23, 2013. Raymond "Red" Reddington, a former U.S Navy officer turned high-profile ...more

35
5,039 3,061
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
bubbletrouble added Arrested Development Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi Arrested Development is an American television sitcom created by Mitchell Hurwitz, which originally aired on Fox for three seasons from November 2, 2003 to February 10, 2006. A fourth season of ...more

36
5,062 2,908
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Gael added Buffy the Vampire Slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an American television series which aired from March 10, 1997 until May 20, 2003. The series was created in 1997 by writer-director Joss Whedon under his production ...more

37
4,335 3,284
Battlestar Galactica is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
smitrof added Battlestar Galactica Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber Battlestar Galactica is an American military science fiction television series, and part of the Battlestar Galactica franchise. The show was developed by Ronald D. Moore and executive produced ...more

38
5,999 3,019
MythBusters is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
MythBusters Jamie Hyneman, Robert Lee, Adam Savage MythBusters is a science entertainment television program created by Peter Rees and produced by Australia's Beyond Television Productions for the Discovery Channel. The series is transmitted by ...more

39
4,166 2,747
Daredevil is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Daredevil Charlie Cox, Vincent D'Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll Marvel's Daredevil, or simply Daredevil, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Drew Goddard, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is set in the Marvel ...more

40
3,352 2,347
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
samara1408 added Mad Men Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser Mad Men is an American period drama television series created by Matthew Weiner. The series premiered on July 19, 2007 on the cable network AMC and is produced by Lionsgate Television. The ...more

41
2,815 3,234
The Newsroom is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
smitrof added The Newsroom Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr. The Newsroom is an American television political drama series created and principally written by Aaron Sorkin that premiered on HBO on June 24, 2012, and concluded on December 14, 2014, ...more

42
4,565 4,143
Friends is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Friends Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow Friends is an American television sitcom, created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman, which originally aired on NBC from September 22, 1994, to May 6, 2004. It lasted ten seasons and is now in ...more

43
3,151 2,427
Six Feet Under is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
abelljar added Six Feet Under Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy

Six Feet Under is an American drama television series created and produced by Alan Ball. It premiered on the premium cable network HBO in the United States on June 3, 2001, and ended on August 21, 2005, spanning five seasons and 63 episodes.

The show depicts members of the Fisher family, who run a funeral home in Los Angeles, and their friends and lovers. The series traces these characters' lives over the course of five years. The ensemble drama stars Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick, and Rachel Griffiths as the show's seven central characters. The series was produced by Actual Size Films and The Greenblatt/Janollari Studio, and was shot on location in Los Angeles and in Hollywood studios.

Six Feet Under is an American drama television series created and produced by Alan Ball. It premiered on the premium cable network HBO in the United States on June 3, 2001, and ended on August ...more

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44
3,220 1,905
Band of Brothers is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Marek Czudowski added Band of Brothers Scott Grimes, Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston Band of Brothers is a 2001 American war drama miniseries based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 non-fiction book of the same name. The executive producers were Steven Spielberg and Tom ...more

45
3,987 3,079
Sons of Anarchy is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Lunar Aurora added Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior Sons of Anarchy is an American crime drama television series created by Kurt Sutter, about the lives of a close-knit outlaw motorcycle club operating in Charming, a fictional town in ...more

46
3,266 3,572
Homeland is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Homeland Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Rupert Friend Homeland is an American political thriller television series developed by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa based on the Israeli series Hatufim, which was created by Gideon Raff. The series stars ...more

47
3,145 2,455
Orphan Black is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Kamille Heraclide added Orphan Black Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris Orphan Black is a Canadian science fiction television series created by screenwriter Graeme Manson and director John Fawcett, starring Tatiana Maslany as several identical people who are, in ...more

48
3,435 2,238
South Park is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Tom Islava added South Park Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Isaac Hayes South Park is an American adult animated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Comedy Central television network. Intended for mature audiences, the show has become famous for its ...more

49
5,190 2,666
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Isabela Quintão added Supernatural Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Jim Beave Supernatural is an American fantasy horror television series created by Eric Kripke. It was first broadcast on September 13, 2005, on The WB and subsequently became part of successor The CW's ...more

50
2,785 3,027
The Americans is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Americans Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Holly Taylor The Americans is an American television period drama series created and produced by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg. The series premiered in the United States on January 30, 2013, on the cable ...more