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Best cult TV shows you can stream online
Brilliant takes that fans say are well worth watching.
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Even if a show doesn’t drive huge ratings, it can still gather an enthusiastic and loyal following. And loyal fans tend to be very vocal about their preferences — so much so that they can persuade a network to give a series another season. Or even take up the cause and fund a movie to wrap up the story in a satisfying way if their beloved has been unceremoniously taken off the air.
Most recently, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Lucifer were both saved from cancellation thanks to fan-based online campaigns. They pleaded and tweeted and wrote fervent articles on why these (great) series should be given another shot. Because that’s the thing about cult shows: They might not appeal to everyone, but no one can argue they’re not quality TV.
- Year: 2006
- Cast: James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Corbin Bernsen
Psych is a different breed of procedural. While it’s based on the popular premise of a detective solving cases, it also involves a lot of silliness, 80s references and ridiculous catchphrases. That’s mainly because the detective is goofy and doesn’t like to take life too seriously.
Shawn Spencer has incredible powers of observation. When he’s accused of committing a crime that he actually solved, he convinces the police that he’s a psychic. Then, with the help of his best friend Gus, he starts aiding the detectives in their investigations.
There’s a lot to love about Psych such as the bromance between the two buddies, the unusual way in which Shawn makes deductions and the amazing supporting cast. However, the show is an acquired taste, so proceed with caution.
2. Parks and Recreation
- Year: 2009
- Cast: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt
Parks and Recreation centers on Leslie Knope, a midlevel bureaucrat in an Indiana Parks and Recreation Department. She loves her job and strives to make the community better, despite any reluctance from co-workers, superiors or the community itself.
Flawlessly portrayed by Amy Poehler, Leslie doesn’t run away from a challenge. Instead, she works hard and pushes her colleagues to do the same, often to hilarious or absurd results.
The series had a bumpy first season, but completely reinvented itself during its sophomore run. It became heartfelt, funny, charming and compulsively watchable.
Plus, the ensemble cast has perfect chemistry, with everyone from Aubrey Plaza to Nick Offerman bringing their A game. Despite struggling to stay on the air, Parks and Recreation lives on, with memes and clips still making the rounds on the Internet.
Make sure you binge it to join in the conversation. Or to see Chris Pratt kill it as Andy Dwyer before he became the ripped action movie star we all know and love today.
3. The Wire
- Year: 2002
- Cast: Dominic West, John Doman, Deirdre Lovejoy, Wendell Pierce
The Wire is generally regarded as one of the best television shows of all time, so it may surprise you to know that the crime drama has never been a hit for HBO. That’s probably because of the tough subject matter.
The Wire dissects the narcotics scene in Baltimore through the eyes of law enforcers, drug dealers and users, while also touching on other facets of the city as it progresses — mainly the government, schools and the media.
It’s not an easy binge. Often dark and gritty, The Wire takes its time to get started, which can be a challenge for those who like to be thrown into the action from the very first minutes of a pilot episode. Besides, it’s more edutainment than entertainment as the series shines a light on many of the societal issues the US struggles with today.
Yet, despite its weak ratings and constant fight for renewal during the time it was on the air, The Wire is now regarded as an iconic and beautifully crafted show, well worthy of praise. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s never a wrong time to bask in its timeless glory.
4. The Comeback
- Year: 2005
- Cast: Lisa Kudrow, Lance Barber, Robert Michael Morris, Laura Silverman
Out of the six Friends, Lisa Kudrow took on the most interesting — yet not particularly popular — projects after wrapping up the successful sitcom. She voiced Wanda in the criminally underrated BoJack Horseman, starred in the kooky Web Therapy and played Valerie Cherish in this satirical dramedy about the entertainment television industry.
The Comeback only lasted for one season before being cancelled. It was revived nine(!) years later for a second season that aired in 2014.
Valerie was a once-upon-a-time famous sitcom star. As the years went by, her popularity significantly drops, until she has no choice but to make a comeback via a reality show.
Season One is presented as found footage shot for said reality show. Kudrow puts on a great performance as Valerie and The Comeback is a brilliant, yet cynical series overall.
If that’s your kind of thing, you’ll love it. If not, it’s worth watching for Kudrow’s dedication to this character alone. Her acting chops are no joke.
5. Twin Peaks
- Year: 2017
- Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Michael Horse, Chrysta Bell
Twin Peaks was a phenomenon back when it first aired, and it’s still beloved by many. In fact, its 2017 revival was pretty well-received, despite airing about 17 years after the original.
It follows an investigation into the death of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, in a small town in Washington — and it features plenty of eccentric characters, supernatural elements and offbeat humor.
Twin Peaks is peculiar, to say the least, so it’s not odd that the show’s unconventional structure and visuals couldn’t find a mass audience. However, it’s often listed among the greatest television series of all time, so you should definitely tune in to see what all the fuss is about.
- Year: 2009
- Cast: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Alison Brie
This smart sitcom never managed to acquire a large viewership, but its loyal following somehow kept it on the air for six seasons, first on NBC and then on Yahoo. At its core, Community is about an oddball group of students attending a community college in Colorado. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and often heartfelt as the heroes get into all sorts of shenanigans as they evolve from study group to erratic family.
The show is snarky, playful and inventive, featuring a tremendous ensemble cast and always experimenting with TV tropes to the delight of its faithful audience. Its quirky tone will make it or break it for you, so tread carefully. As for us, we’re still waiting for the movie.
7. Veronica Mars
- Year: 2004
- Cast: Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring, Francis Capra
Who would have thought that a teen noir mystery drama would gather such a vocal and passionate fan base? After being unceremoniously cancelled after three seasons in 2007, Veronica Mars came back in 2014 with a fan-funded movie. The Kickstarter campaign for the flick brought in $2 million in less than eleven hours, proving that loyal fans are willing to go to great lengths to revisit their favorite characters.
The show manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to brilliant writing, thoughtful subject matter and a nuanced performance by Kristen Bell, who plays the titular character. It follows a high school student who moonlights as a private detective under the tutelage of her dad.
The series seamlessly blends procedural elements with more serialized storylines and isn’t afraid to get dark, which makes it appealing for viewers of all ages. You’ll be hooked from the very first scene.
- Year: 2006
- Cast: John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Kai Owen, Gareth David-Lloyd
The British show is set inside a top-secret branch of a covert agency called the Torchwood Institute, where a team of experts investigates unexplained extraterrestrial incidents on Earth.
Coming from the producer of Doctor Who, Torchwood is actually a spin-off of the popular series. It ran for four seasons, until 2011, but was never officially cancelled. Instead, it’s on “indefinite hiatus” – which means that there’s a possibility it will come back some day.
Expertly written and acted, Torchwood is an insane sci-fi adventure, recommended for fans of early episodes of The X-Files. It’s ambitious, gripping, weird and often a lot of fun, which makes it a treat for both Doctor Who enthusiasts and newbies alike.
9. Party Down
- Year: 2009
- Cast: Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen, Martin Starr
The first thing that should grab your attention when it comes to Party Down is the show’s incredible cast. It features some amazing comedic actors, including Adam Scott, Martin Starr, Ken Marino, Ryan Hansen, Lizzy Caplan and Jane Lynch. The series only ran for two seasons, but it’s worth revisiting simply for the sheer amount of talent it managed to gather into one room.
Party Down follows a group of struggling actors who work as caterers while they wait for their big break. The series plays with the tone, going from depressing to hilarious in the span of only a few minutes, which makes for a lot of unexpected laughs. It also manages to pull off provocative episodes, thanks to the fact that the caterers work new events every episode — allowing them to interact with new groups and get tangled up in the guests’ absurd lives.
10. Star Trek: The Original Series
- Year: 1966
- Cast: Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols
Is this the most iconic cult show of all times? That may be debatable, but one thing is for sure: Star Trek‘s influence is undeniable as it set off a huge media franchise encompassing numerous movies and TV shows. It’s funny to think that the original show lasted for only three seasons back in the late 60s.
Star Trek: The Original Series is set in the Milky Way galaxy during the 2260s and follows the adventures of the starship USS Enterprise and its crew.
The ship’s mission is to explore strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations throughout the galaxy. In other words, to boldly go where no man has gone before. If you want to revisit the show that started it all, there’s no time like the present.
11. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
- Year: 1969
- Cast: Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
This British sketch series was created by iconic comedy group Monty Python. It’s an odd little show, mostly featuring innuendo-laden humor, sight gags and observational sketches. It was almost cancelled after only one episode, but went on to air four seasons, from 1969 to 1974.
Despite its offbeat tone, Flying Circus quickly became one of television’s most influential comedy shows and remains so to this very day, having a huge impact on pop culture.
Besides being tremendously funny, Flying Circus also often targets the idiosyncrasies of British life. While everyone’s sense of humor is different, there’s something universal about this quirky comedy series, which is likely why it managed to stand the test of time.
12. Mystery Science Theatre 3000
- Year: 1988
- Cast: Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu, Jim Mallon, Michael J. Nelson
Speaking of odd, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 is another excellent, yet unusual comedy show. Created by Joel Hodgson, it aired on Comedy Channel and then The Sci-Fi Channel in the US, being canceled both times. Hodgson eventually led a successful crowdfunded revival campaign for the series, resulting in Season 11, which dropped on Netflix in 2017.
The show follows a human and a bunch of robots as they watch and comment on B movies. It’s as good as the movies it parodies are bad, meaning that you’ll laugh — a lot.
The Netflix season maintains the goofiness of older installments, but the tone was updated to fit current times better and some twists may surprise you along the way. It feels new, but not too new, so it’s a great starting point for those who’ve never heard of this comedy gem before. Get bingeing!
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