There comes a time in everyone’s life when Disney Channel reruns just aren’t doing it anymore and you’ve exhausted yourself of MTV reality shows. You could watch a Law and Order: SVU marathon, a show full of hotties on The CW, or watch some of your favorite YouTube videos on loop instead, but what you really need isn’t just more variety in what you watch, it’s better content. In other words…what you need is good television. I’m talking about what is now commonly referred to as “prestige TV,” which is honestly just a fancy way of talking about TV shows that are critically acclaimed, whether they’re brand now or old-ish classics.
Before you make any assumptions, no, just because a show has a lot of critical praise doesn’t mean that it’s boring and snobby and only interesting to grown-ass adults your parents’ age. And just like how some shows meant for kids can have broad appeal to a wide range of ages–think Steven Universe or Adventure Time–shows geared toward a mature audience can definitely appeal to a teenager or a young adult. Besides, if you’re interested in pop culture or you’re just interested in not looking like you have the taste of a fourth grader by the time you hit college, it might be worth getting some more mature TV shows in your life. So, without further ado, check out these 12 “grown up” TV shows you need to watch already. From comedy, to drama, to avant-garde weird AF programs that have cult appeal (sup, Twin Peaks), there’s something for everyone here.
Twin PeaksUnofficially deemed every weird cool girl's favorite TV show, Twin Peaks is an absolute cult classic. This early '90s murder mystery series is aesthetically pleasing, ahead of its time, and absolutely bonkers. You can stream it on Netflix.
AtlantaAtlanta is one of the best new comedies out there, and it will make anyone fall in love with Donald Glover (if they haven't already). The show is about a recent college drop out from a prestigious university who moves back home to Atlanta to help his cousin's hip hop career get off the ground. The writing is hilarious and so current and you'll fall in love with the characters immediately. Don't sleep on this, seriously. Stream it on FX .
Black MirrorWhether you love sci-fi or you're just a sucker for edgy social commentary, Black Mirror is worth a watch. Every episode tells a new story from the near (or distant) future and has a message about our relationship to technology. Sure, it can come across as a little heavy handed sometimes, but the approach is always really innovative and striking. Some episodes are a little heartfelt, others are downright disturbing, but they're all worth a watch. Stream it on Netflix.
The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid's Tale snatched a few Emmy's recently, and the show totally deserved it. This new series--based on the Margaret Atwood book of the same name--is about a dystopian near-future in which people are subjected to utter tyranny. To counter rising infertility rates, traditional gender roles are prized and maintained under dictatorial rule. One such feature of this new society are handmaids, fertile women who are systematically raped to produce healthy children for the upper echelon of society. The series follows the life of one Handmaid's quest to bring everything crumbling down. You can stream it on Hulu.
Sex And The CityPeople like to clown on Sex and the City now and point out how not-so-woke it was. And honestly, a lot of those criticisms are true. The show's approach to bisexuality alone is enough to make you cringe and realize just how outdated a show from the late '90s/early '00s already is. But criticism aside, this show is iconic for a reason. It was one of the first shows to be really open and candid about women, sex, relationships, and everything in-between. Seriously, it brought everything from the clitoris to a Hitachi Magic Wand vibrator into focus for millions of people. Also, it's just a great show to binge watch, so if you want something new to check out, just give this a go, will you? Stream it on HBO Go.
Big Little LiesWhen I saw the commercials for Big Little Lies, I thought that the show looked like something cheesy from Lifetime Network. But then all my friends were raving about it and I realized that I got it all wrong. This mini-series about three young mothers leading seemingly perfect lives touches on everything from neglect to abuse, without the cheese factor. It's definitely one of the best shows to come out this year and it's only seven episodes long, so you have no excuse not to check it out. Stream it on HBO Go.
Mad MenPeople either love Mad Men or just couldn't get into it. Count me as someone who loved this slow burn drama about men and women in the New York City ad agency in the '60s. It's not just a show about white men drinking whiskey in the afternoon, cheating on their wives, and making advertisements...though there's plenty of that too. It's also a really interesting study on gender and sexism, and the relationships and character dynamics on this show are just unparalleled. Oh, and the '60s clothes and soundtrack are to die for, honestly. Whether you get into it for the aesthetic, Jon Hamm's hotness, or the actual plot, try to stick with it. You won't regret it! Stream it on Netflix.
VeepSomething Veep-related seems to get an Emmy every year, and there's a reason for that: This show about a fictional vice president and her dysfunctional cabinet is funny, smart, clever, and doesn't take itself too seriously. Also, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is one of the most talented women on the planet; it's worth watching for her alone. You can stream it on HBO Go.
The AmericansThe Americans is touted as the best show that nobody is watching. Please, help turn that around by watching it because it's so damn good. Set in the '80s, this show about two Russian spies appearing to live normal lives despite living right across the street from an FBI official has it all: Romance, drama, action, and a great soundtrack. One of the most interesting things about it is the fact that the main characters' children are both American teenagers who have no idea what their parents actually do. Watching the secrets slowly unravel is one of the most rewarding things about this show; you'll be hooked. Stream it on Amazon.
The WireThis is the show that your snobby TV buff friend is obsessed with and claims is one of the greatest TV shows of all time. You'll roll your eyes, but then you'll actually sit down and watch it and realize that this friend of yours was absolutely right. Dammit. No, but seriously, The Wire is an amazing program that'll really pull at your heartstrings. It's about the lives of cops and gang members in Baltimore, and how their lives constantly overlap, interconnect, etc. These characters will stay with you forever, seriously, that's how poignant it is. Stream it on HBO Go.
Breaking BadI finally watched Breaking Bad after being yelled at for years for not doing it...and, yeah, it's as good as people say it is. This drama about a science teacher who starts selling meth to pay for his medical bills after being diagnosed with cancer isn't for the faint of heart, however. I couldn't even watch more than a few episodes in a row without wanting to die from stress. So if you want a show that'll really set you on edge, this is the one. Stream it on Netflix.
The SopranosEven as a kid, I was intrigued by this show that was showered with loads of praise. Even when the finale aired I was excited about it despite never watching a single episode of the show, because it was that much of a cultural phenomenon. Maybe there's something about a murderous mob man who loves his family that just gets people really worked up. You can stream it on HBO Go.
What other TV shows should be on this list? Tell us in the comments!