Watchworthy

What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today? 

Ryleigh Nucilli
Updated November 22, 2018 10.6k votes 924 voters 6.4k 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
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen

Premiered: 2009

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

Modern Family (ABC, 2009) is an American comedy television sitcom created by Francisco Bobadilla. Three different but related families face trials and tribulations in their own unique way from ...more

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2
The Office is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski

Premiered: 2005

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Mockumentary

The Office (NBC, 2005) is an American mockumentary sitcom television series developed by Greg Daniels, based on the 2001 British series. Led by manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell), the office ...more

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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

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 intertwine, from sharing the same ...more

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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

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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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

Genres (Tv): Comedy, Drama

Shameless (Showtime, 2011) is an American comedy-drama television series developed by John Wells, based on the 2004 British series. Led by drunk patriarch Frank (William H. Macy), the poor and ...more

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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

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Comedy

Roseanne (ABC, 1988) is an American television sitcom created by Matt Williams, Marcy Carsey, and Tom Werner. The series centers around the everyday life of an American working-class family.

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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

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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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

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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9
Last Man Standing is listed (or ranked) 9 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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10
Fresh Off the Boat is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Constance Wu, Randall Park, Hudson Yang

Premiered: 2015

Genres (Tv): Sitcom

Fresh Off the Boat (ABC, 2015) is an American comedy television series created by Nahnatchka Khan. Louis Huang (Randall Park) relocates his family from Chinatown of Washington, DC to Orlando, ...more

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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

Genres (Tv): Drama, Comedy-drama

Parenthood (NBC, 2010) is an American television drama series created by Jason Katims. Four siblings share the joys and heartaches of parenthood in their California hometown of Berkeley.

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

Premiered: 2009

Genres (Tv): Sitcom

Community (NBC, 2009) is an American comedy television series created by Dan Harmon. After being disbarred for faking his college degree, a narcissist lawyer (Joel McHale) enrolls in community ...more

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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

Genres (Tv): Sitcom

New Girl (Fox, 2011) is an American sitcom television series created by Elizabeth Meriwether. A quirky teacher (Zooey Deschanel) moves into a Los Angeles loft with three men (Jake Johnson, Max ...more

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

Premiered: 2006

Genres (Tv): Teen drama, Sports drama, Family drama

Friday Night Lights (NBC, 2006) is an American sports drama television series developed by Peter Berg, inspired by the 1990 nonfiction book by H. G. Bissinger. A drama that follows the lives of ...more

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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 drama

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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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

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Comedy

Workaholics (Comedy Central, 2011) is a sitcom television series created by Blake Anderson, Adam Devine, and Anders Holm. They star as alternate versions of themselves, as three recent college ...more

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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, Laura Prepon, Michael Harney

Premiered: 2013

Genres (Tv): Comedy, Drama

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix, 2013) is an American comedy-drama web television series created by Jenji Kohan, based on the memoir by Piper Kerman. Convicted of a decade old crime of ...more

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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

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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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

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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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

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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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
Love is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust, Claudia O'Doherty

Premiered: 2016

Genres (Tv): Romantic Comedy

Love (Netflix, 2016) is an American romantic comedy web television series created by Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, and Lesley Arfin. Both recently single, Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) ...more
24
Will & Grace is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list What TV Shows Best Represent American Life Today?
Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally

Premiered: 1998

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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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

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