From 'Walking Dead' to 'Downton Abbey,' Great TV Dramas Are Everywhere

A Renaissance is upon us, so get thee to a DVR -- stat! -- writes THR's chief TV critic Tim Goodman.
Still more top tier television ahead, with "Mad Men."

It's happening again, people. And here it comes again. We are in the midst of a surge of brilliant dramas on television. Just to pause and look around is to be astounded.

Currently on air? The Americans from FX, House of Cards from Netflix, Downton Abbey from PBS, The Walking Dead from AMC, Shameless from Showtime, Justified from FX, Ripper Street from BBC America and Banshee from Cinemax.

Those are eight dramas you should definitely be watching.

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Still to come in the near future: Southland (Feb. 13) on TNT. The miniseries Parade's End (Feb. 26) on HBO. Vikings (March 3) on the History Channel. Top of the Lake (March 18) and Recify (April 22) on Sundance Channel. Bates Motel (March 18) on A&E. Orphan Black (March 30) on BBC America. Dr. Who (March 30) on BBC America. Call the Midwife (March 31) on PBS. Game of Thrones (March 31) on HBO. The Spies of Warsaw miniseries (April 3) on BBC America. Rogue (April 3) on DirecTV. Mad Men (April 7) on AMC. DaVinci's Demons (April 12 sneak, April 19 regular slot) on Starz. The Borgias and Nurse Jackie -- yes, it's a drama -- (April 14) on Showtime.

That's 16 more dramas. Start freeing up some time, people.

The only series on that list with question marks surrounding their quality are Vikings, Rogue and DaVinci's Demons. We'll have to wait and see as the episodes come in and flesh out. 

A bit lower on the creative ladder, series that have proven themselves at least intriguing and sometimes ambitious include CBS' The Good Wife, Elementary and Person of Interest on CBS, Lost Girl and Being Human on Syfy, Spartacus on Starz, Nashville on ABC, Suits and White Collar on USA, Scandal on ABC, The Following on Fox and Revolution (returning March 25) on NBC.

Now, personally, there's only a handful of those that I would deem worthy enough to clog up the DVR (though I check in on all of them), but I included this batch simply because these are popular dramas that are hogging up people's available time. People who might be doing the guilty-pleasure thing on a few of those shows but are also waiting anxiously for the return of Game of Thrones or Southland. Right now, it's not so much about judging as being astonished about the time commitment asked of people. 

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That is -- what's the word? -- a shit-ton of television. Now, if you need to parse out the truly good stuff -- and I definitely do -- it doesn't actually increase anyone's available time for, say, hugging the family/friends/significant other or going outside or reading. Because here's how I'm counting the truly excellent in that bunch and thus allotting DVR space:

The eight that are on now. Plus Southland makes nine. Then add Bates Motel, Orphan Black, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Rectify, The Borgias and the miniseries Parade's End, Top of the Lake and Spies of Warsaw.  That's 18. I also regularly watch Elementary and Person of Interest from the sub-category, making it 20. And, man, if any of those others turn out to be truly worth the investment, I'm going to have a Moses beard.

Hell, I even liked the crazy-ass pilot Zero Hour from ABC that starts Thursday.

Oh, but it doesn't even end there, people. HBO has Al Pacino starring as Phil Spector on March 24, plus Matt Damon and Michael Douglas in the Liberace bio-pic Behind the Candelabra in May. And one of the dramas I'm most excited to watch is Showtime's Ray Donovan. But at least that doesn't start until June 30.


Twitter: @BastardMachine