MAD MEN (2007)
7 seasons / 92 episodes
This is the show that truly started the new golden age of television, if you ask me. When HBO declined creator Matthew Weiner’s show about advertising executives in the ‘60s, Weiner took the show to fledgling cable channel AMC, where it not only put AMC on the map (allowing them to nab future critically-acclaimed series such as Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul), but it restored some of the luster back to cable that had been lost to the pay channels. Although HBO has had many a good show in its history, losing out on Mad Men has to go down as one of its greatest misses.
Mad Men stars Jon Hamm as Don Draper, a mercurial cad who also happens to be a genius at advertising. While the show mainly centers around Don’s various professional and personal pursuits, there is a cast of characters that swirl around him who are just as intriguing. The writing is unparalleled, the production design and costumes bring back the ‘60s in every way, and the performances are universally excellent. This show made stars out of Hamm and Elisabeth Moss and won the Emmy for Best Drama Series four years in a row.
THE WALKING DEAD (2010)
11 seasons / 177 episodes
It’s true, I did abandon this series in season 10, as it finally felt like it was going in circles, but, considering it took me 10 years to give up is a testament to how strong this show is, particularly in its first few seasons. Of course, it’s not for everyone—in fact, it’s probably not for most—as it’s about life on earth in the aftermath of a worldwide pandemic that turns humans into zombies. Zombies roam the earth, looking for fresh meat, and the few remaining humans who are alive are forced to find ways to survive. There was no more compelling television when this show first aired, it was appointment TV, at least in my house, as we had become totally invested in the characters and totally intrigued by the world that was built by show creator Frank Darabont. The show was a massive hit for AMC, so they have continued to let it stay on the air long after running out of good stories, but, if you are intrigued enough and are interested in world-building that is unlike any other, the first five seasons are most definitely worth your time, as long as you can handle some of the best gore on television. You really won’t believe the makeup and special effects in this show. Amazing.
DARK WINDS (2022)
1 season / 6 episodes (so far)
Executive produced by George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) and Robert Redford, this series that’s set on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico in the ‘70s blends a bit of supernatural with a whole lot of gritty crime drama, as we follow a Navajo police lieutenant, played by the always-good Zahn McClarnon, as he investigates a grisly murder on the reservation. I absolutely love the vibe and look of this show, as it attempts to be authentic to the people and places, honoring the Navajo culture while still telling a captivating story that will keep you guessing all the way to the end.