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 with the best writing, characters, and storylines 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.

1
19,481 7,432
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

2
14,298 7,865
House of Cards is listed (or ranked) 2 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

3
23,659 12,263
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011) is an American fantasy drama television series created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, based on the series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin. Nine noble ...more

4
15,915 6,808
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
13,108 7,384
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
15,402 5,801
House is listed (or ranked) 6 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

7
12,233 6,383
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 7 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

8
12,473 6,887
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
NessySheep added Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith Doctor Who (BBC, 2005) is a British science-fiction television show created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, and Donald Wilson. The further adventures in time and space of the alien adventurer ...more

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8,510 5,674
Mr. Robot is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Mr. Robot Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday Mr. Robot (USA Network, 2015) is an American drama–thriller television series created by Sam Esmail. Elliot (Rami Malek), a cybersecurity engineer and hacker who suffers from social anxiety ...more

10
11,316 7,069
Hannibal is listed (or ranked) 10 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

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7,026 5,084
True Detective is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
True Detective Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan True Detective (HBO, 2014) is an American anthology crime drama television series created by Nic Pizzolatto. Each season focuses on detectives investigating violent crimes.

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Firefly is listed (or ranked) 12 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

Really Stupid Shows That Are Actually For Smart People

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9,551 2,361
Stranger Things is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Andrew Parmi added Stranger Things Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard Stranger Things (Netflix, 2016) is an American science fiction-horror web television series created by The Duffer Brothers. When a young boy (Noah Schnapp) disappears, his mother (Winona Ryder), ...more

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7,552 4,749
American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Isabela Quintão added American Horror Story Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Evan Peters American Horror Story (FX, 2011) is an American anthology horror television series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. An anthology series centering on different characters and locations, ...more

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9,014 5,663
Last Week Tonight with John Ol... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver John Oliver, David Kaye, Noel MacNeal Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO, 2014) is an American late-night talk and news satire television program hosted by comedian John Oliver. The half-hour-long show takes a satirical look at ...more

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6,902 6,240
Lost is listed (or ranked) 16 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

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9,539 5,758
Jeopardy! is listed (or ranked) 17 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

The Most Annoying TV and Film Characters Ever

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Sense8 is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Sense8 Aml Ameen, Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton Sense8 (Netflix, 2015) is an American science fiction drama web television series created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski. A group of people around the world are suddenly ...more

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7,203 2,374
Westworld is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Brody Hillstock added Westworld Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright Westworld (HBO, 2016) is an American science fiction western thriller television series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, and based on the 1973 film. In a technologically advanced Wild ...more

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12,722 9,269
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 20 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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7,417 4,079
Vikings is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Mike Dishmon added Vikings Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, Clive Standen Vikings (History, 2013) is a historical drama television series created by Michael Hirst. A farmer (Travis Fimmel) rises to fame by successful raids into England, and eventually becomes a ...more

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6,798 5,522
The Daily Show is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
The Daily Show Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Hasan Minhaj The Daily Show (Comedy Central, 1999) is an American late-night talk and news satire television program. Described as a fake news program, the show draws its comedy and satire from recent news ...more

Current TV Shows You Totally Lie About Watching To Sound Smart

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Star Trek: The Next Generation is listed (or ranked) 23 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

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10,254 8,373
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 24 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 (A&E, 2010) is an American post-apocalyptic horror television series developed by Frank Darabont, based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie ...more

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6,615 4,123
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 25 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

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6,850 5,093
Jessica Jones is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Kamille Heraclide added Jessica Jones Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Rachael Taylor Jessica Jones (Netflix, 2015) is an American web television series created by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the Marvel Comics character. Following the tragic end of her brief superhero career, ...more

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5,960 4,424
Fargo is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Fargo Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks Fargo (FX, 2014) is an American black comedy–crime drama anthology television series created by Noah Hawley, and inspired by the 1996 film. Various chronicles of deception, intrigue and murder ...more

The Funniest Female TV Characters

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Criminal Minds is listed (or ranked) 28 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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5,791 4,386
The Blacklist is listed (or ranked) 29 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

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5,906 3,608
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

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6,397 3,900
Penny Dreadful is listed (or ranked) 31 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

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6,620 4,981
Better Call Saul is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Better Call Saul Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn Better Call Saul (A&E, 2015) is an American television crime drama series created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, and a spinoff prequel of Breaking Bad. The trials and tribulations of ...more

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Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 33 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

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5,990 3,206
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Isabela Quintão added Supernatural Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Katie Cassidy Supernatural (The CW, 2005) is an American fantasy horror television series created by Eric Kripke. Two brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles), follow their father's ...more

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4,874 3,027
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 35 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

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5,630 3,514
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

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4,787 3,763
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

The Worst Traits for an Employee

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6,221 4,475
The Simpsons is listed (or ranked) 38 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

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6,696 3,458
MythBusters is listed (or ranked) 39 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

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4,719 3,229
Daredevil is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Daredevil Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson Daredevil (Netflix, 2015) is an American web television series created for Netflix by Drew Goddard, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Blind lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) ...more

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3,981 2,788
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 41 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

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3,572 2,853
Six Feet Under is listed (or ranked) 42 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 ...more

British Reality TV Shows That Far Outshine American Shows

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5,322 5,148
Friends is listed (or ranked) 43 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

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4,466 3,552
Sons of Anarchy is listed (or ranked) 44 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

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3,737 3,992
Homeland is listed (or ranked) 45 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

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3,897 1,221
The Twilight Zone is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Vamp Doll added The (original) Twilight Zone Rod Serling, Robert McCord, Jay Overholts The Twilight Zone is an American television anthology series created by Rod Serling. It is a series of unrelated stories containing drama, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, ...more

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3,545 2,814
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

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4,866 2,669
bones is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Isabela Quintão added bones Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Michaela Conlin Bones is an American crime procedural comedy-drama television series that premiered on Fox in the United States on September 13, 2005. The show is based on forensic anthropology and forensic ...more

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3,201 3,697
The Newsroom is listed (or ranked) 49 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

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3,136 1,694
Black Mirror is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate
Timothy Holdiness added Black Mirror Daniel Kaluuya, Toby Kebbell, Rory Kinnear Black Mirror is a British television anthology series created by Charlie Brooker that features speculative fiction with dark and sometimes satirical themes that examine modern society, ...more