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What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today? 

Ryleigh Nucilli
Updated November 22, 2018 10.5k votes 907 voters 5.7k views 37 items

List Rules Vote up the television shows that most accurately portray contemporary American life; vote down the ones that don't.

Is there such a thing as "the" American experience? If so, where can a person see it? In novels? Films? Television? If it's the last of these, which television shows come the closest to portraying real life as it exists for Americans now? 

The television shows on this list, none of which qualify as "reality TV" and all of which ran sometime within the last decade, depict contemporary American life, both comedically and dramatically. But how close do they come to representing the real thing? Do any of the following offer quintessential, lifelike windows into what day-to-day life in America looks in the present moment?

Vote up the shows that do the best job of representing real American life as real Americans live it day to day.

Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
The Office is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer

Premiered: 2005

Number of Seasons: 9

Network: Global Television Network, NBC

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Mockumentary, Satire, Romance TV, Romantic comedy, + more

The Office is an American television comedy series that aired on NBC from March 24, 2005 to May 16, 2013. It is an adaptation of the BBC series of the same name. The Office was adapted for ...more

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#3 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #77 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time Jim Halpert Is A Scumbag, And It's Obvious If You Just Pay Attention

2
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen

Premiered: 2009

Number of Seasons: 11

Network: ABC

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Mockumentary, Family, Comedy, Family Film

Modern Family (ABC, 2009) is an American comedy television sitcom created by Francisco Bobadilla. The series follows the lives of Jay Pritchett and his family, all of whom live in suburban Los ...more

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#28 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #28 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years The Best Characters On Modern Family

3
This Is Us is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown

Premiered: 2016

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Comedy, Family drama

This Is Us (NBC, 2016) is an American television series created by Dan Fogelman. Follows a unique ensemble, as their paths cross and their life stories interwine, from sharing the same birthday, ...more

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#106 of 157 TV Shows Most Loved by African-Americans #197 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time The Best Characters on This Is Us, Ranked

4
Black-ish is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi

Premiered: 2014

Number of Seasons: 6

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Sitcom

Black-ish (ABC, 2014) is an American sitcom created by Kenya Barris. A family man (Anthony Anderson) struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity while raising his kids in a predominantly ...more

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#160 of 204 The Most Important TV Sitcoms #16 of 84 The Greatest Black Sitcoms of All Time

5
Shameless is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Emmy Rossum, William H. Macy, Ethan Cutkosky

Premiered: 2011

Number of Seasons: 3

Network: Showtime

Genres (Tv): Drama, Comedy

Shameless is an American television comedy-drama which airs on Showtime. This remake of the award-winning British series is set in Chicago's Canaryville neighborhood on the South Side, although ...more

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#35 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #92 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years Every Season of 'Shameless', Ranked Best to Worst

6
Roseanne is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf

Premiered: 1988

Number of Seasons: 9

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Comedy

Roseanne is an American sitcom that was broadcast on ABC from October 18, 1988, to May 20, 1997. Starring Roseanne Barr, the show revolved around the Conners, an Illinois working-class family. ...more

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#136 of 571 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time The Juicy Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'Roseanne'listed on The Longest Running US Sitcoms

7
Atlanta is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield

Premiered: 2016

Network: FX

Genres (Tv): Comedy, Drama

Atlanta (FX, 2016) is an American comedy-drama television series created by Donald Glover. College dropout Earn (Donald Glover) navigates through life with his ex-girlfriend (Zazie Beetz), his ...more

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#189 of 216 The TV Shows with the Best Writing #37 of 59 2019 Golden Globes: Biggest Snubs

8
Silicon Valley is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Josh Brener

Premiered: 2014

Number of Seasons: 1

Network: HBO

Genres (Tv): Comedy

Silicon Valley is an American television sitcom created by Mike Judge, John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky. The series focuses on six young men who found a startup company in Silicon Valley. The ...more

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#185 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #214 of 482 The Funniest TV Shows of All Time All The Hints Silicon Valley Ever Dropped About Jared's Tragic Backstory

9
Fresh Off the Boat is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Constance Wu, Randall Park, Hudson Yang

Premiered: 2015

Number of Seasons: 6

Network: ABC

Genres (Tv): Sitcom

Fresh Off the Boat (ABC, 2015) is a comedy series starring Randall Park, Constance Wu, Ian Chen, Hudson Yang, and Forrest Wheeler that is inspired by the life of chef and food personality Eddie ...more

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#466 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #9 of 43 All The TV Shows Ending in 2020, Ranked Ranking the Best Seasons of 'Fresh Off the Boat'

10
Last Man Standing is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Alexandra Krosney

Genres (Tv): Sitcom

Last Man Standing (Fox, 2011) is an American television sitcom created by Jack Burditt. The show follows Mike Baxter (Tim Allen), a senior executive and director of marketing for an outdoor ...more

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#71 of 204 The Most Important TV Sitcoms #97 of 295 The Greatest Sitcoms in Television History

11
Parenthood is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard

Premiered: 2010

Number of Seasons: 3

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Drama, Comedy-drama

Parenthood is an American television drama series developed by Jason Katims and produced by Imagine Television and Universal Television for NBC. The show tells of the Braverman clan which ...more

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#173 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #264 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years The Best Seasons of Parenthood

12
Community is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Joel McHale, Danny Pudi, Donald Glover

Premiered: 2009

Number of Seasons: 3

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Comedy-drama, Comedy

Community is an American television sitcom created by Dan Harmon that premiered on NBC on September 17, 2009. The single-camera series follows an ensemble cast of students at a community college ...more

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#578 of 717 The Best Cartoons of All Time #120 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years Fan Theories About 'Community'

13
New Girl is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenfield

Premiered: 2011

Number of Seasons: 2

Network: Fox Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Comedy

New Girl is an American sitcom television series that premiered on Fox on September 20, 2011. Developed by Elizabeth Meriwether under the working title Chicks & Dicks, the series revolves ...more

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#250 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #88 of 295 The Greatest Sitcoms in Television History Schmidt's Best One-Liners From 'New Girl'

14
Friday Night Lights is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Aimee Teegarden

Premiered: 2006

Number of Seasons: 5

Network: Audience Network, NBC

Genres (Tv): Soap opera, Teen drama, Drama, Sports film

Friday Night Lights is an American drama television series about a high school football team in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas. It was developed by Peter Berg, and executive produced by ...more

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#146 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #366 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time 20 Fun Facts to Know About Friday Night Lights

15
Master of None is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Aziz Ansari, Noël Wells, Eric Wareheim

Premiered: 2015

Genres (Tv): Comedy

Master of None (Netflix, 2015) is an American comedy-drama web television series created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang. The personal and professional life of Dev (Aziz Ansari), a 30-year-old ...more

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#200 of 204 The Most Important TV Sitcoms #37 of 57 The Best Feel-Good TV Shows

16
Workaholics is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Blake Anderson, Adam DeVine, Anders Holm

Premiered: 2011

Number of Seasons: 3

Network: Comedy Central

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Comedy

Workaholics is a situation comedy currently airing on Comedy Central. The series, based on the web series 5thyear, stars Blake Anderson, Adam Devine, and Anders Holm of the comedy troupe Mail ...more

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#358 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #146 of 482 The Funniest TV Shows of All Time The Best Seasons of Workaholics

17
Gilmore Girls: A Year in... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Scott Patterson

Genres (Tv): Comedy, Drama

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (Netflix, 2016) is an American web television series created by Amy Sherman-Palladino. Set nearly a decade after the finale of the original series, this revival ...more
18
Orange Is the New Black ... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Taylor Schilling, Danielle Brooks, Taryn Manning

Premiered: 2013

Number of Seasons: 7

Genres (Tv): Drama, Comedy-drama, Comedy

Orange Is the New Black is an American comedy-drama series created by Jenji Kohan and first released on Netflix on July 11, 2013. The series, produced by Tilted Productions in association with ...more

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#56 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #158 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time The Best Characters on Orange Is the New Black, Ranked

19
Mom is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Anna Faris, Allison Janney, Blake Garrett Rosenthal

Premiered: 2013

Network: CBS

Genres (Tv): Television comedy, Sitcom

Mom is an American sitcom that premiered on September 23, 2013, on CBS. The series stars Anna Faris and Allison Janney and was created by Chuck Lorre, Eddie Gorodetsky, as well as Gemma Baker. ...more

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#141 of 295 The Greatest Sitcoms in Television History #66 of 271 The Best Female-Led TV Shows

20
Grace and Frankie is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston

Premiered: 2015

Number of Seasons: 6

Network: Netflix

Genres (Tv): Comedy

Grace and Frankie (Netflix, 2015) is an American comedy-drama web television series created by Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris. Finding out that their husbands have been romantically ...more

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#189 of 295 The Greatest Sitcoms in Television History #11 of 271 The Best Female-Led TV Shows Ranking the Best Seasons of 'Grace and Frankie'

21
Insecure is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Issa Rae, Jay Ellis, Yvonne Orji

Premiered: 2016

Network: Insecure

Genres (Tv): Comedy

Insecure (HBO, 2016) is an American comedy-drama series created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, based on the web series Awkward Black Girl. Black female friends Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne ...more

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#669 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #20 of 157 TV Shows Most Loved by African-Americans #1,078 of 1,328 The Best Guilty Pleasure TV Shows

22
Big Little Lies is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley

Genres (Tv): Comedy

Big Little Lies (HBO, 2017) is an American dramatic miniseries created by David E. Kelley, based on the novel by Liane Moriarty. While Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Celeste (Nicole Kidman) ...more

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23
Will & Grace is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally

Premiered: 1998

Number of Seasons: 10

Network: NBC, Lifetime Television

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Comedy

Will & Grace is an American sitcom, based on the relationship between Will Truman and Grace Adler, and is set in New York City. It was broadcast on NBC from September 21, 1998 to May 18, ...more

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#188 of 449 The Best Duos of All Time The Best Characters on Will & Grace, Rankedlisted on The Longest Running US Sitcoms

24
Love is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust, Claudia O'Doherty

Genres (Tv): Romantic Comedy

Love (Netflix, 2016) is an American romantic comedy web television series created by Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, and Lesley Arfin. The series is a "down-to-earth look at dating," exploring ...more
25
American Housewife is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
American Housewife Katy Mixon, Diedrich Bader, Meg Donnelly

Genres (Tv): Comedy

American Housewife (ABC, 2016) chronicles the daily life of an average wife and mother who tries to stand out among the housewives and their privileged children in her hometown of Westport, ...more