From Emmy-winning comedies to groundbreaking dramas, audiences and critics praise certain shows regularly. On the opposite side, some never receive the praise they deserve. On a popular forum, fans discuss the television shows that rarely get their deserved hype. Whether they be niche shows ripe for more viewers or ones whose popularity has faded over time, there’s an abundance of underrated content to discover today.
1. Pan Am (2011-2012)
Breezy, stylish, and thoughtful, Pan Am follows four flight attendants for Pan American Airlines in the 1960s. Sweet and naïve Laura (Margot Robbie) runs away on her wedding day to join her tenacious older sister Kate (Kelli Garner), who becomes a spy. Free-spirited Maggie (Christina Ricci) takes no abuse but harbors a great secret, and graceful Colette (Karine Vanasse) wears her heart on her sleeve but hides her childhood scars.
Traveling to glamorous and exotic destinations such as Paris, Rome, and Rio De Janeiro, these ladies form unbreakable friendships, fall in and out of love, and learn about the world. Pan Am never truly got off the ground with only one season, but many point out that its positive feminist ideals could’ve made it more popular today. The use of historical events and figures of the time, a glossy and nostalgic feel, and a terrific cast make Pan Am soar.
2. Reba (2001-2007)
The “single mom who works two jobs, loves her kids, and never stops,” Reba, gives a voice to all the hardworking mothers who must learn to find the joy and humor in life after heartbreak. The show follows Reba Hart as she juggles a complicated family life. Her eldest daughter is pregnant, younger kids are precocious troublemakers, and her ex-husband’s mistress/fiancée insists on becoming her friend.
Reba McIntire is one of a kind, and so is this bright and uplifting sitcom with plenty of laughs and heart. It’s a prime example of a steady and under-the-radar series that was moderately successful but did not always get its due.
3. iZombie (2015-2019)
For medical student Liv Moore, a single night changes her life forever when a party she attends becomes a zombie massacre. She awakens undead and so, she becomes a medical examiner to have access to the brains that allow her to function. But iZombie takes the “zombie” premise in a new direction.
Liv takes on the personality of each brain she consumes, giving her a newfound purpose as she assists in homicide investigations. It also allows actress Rose McIver to showcase her acting range, embodying a different persona in every episode. The darkly humorous series had a respectable four seasons, but we do not hear about it nearly enough.
4. Veronica Mars (2004-2006)
Look up cult classic television, and you’ll find Veronica Mars at the top of that list. The series follows the intelligent, feisty, and soft-hearted high schooler Veronica, who solves crimes big and small in between school work. A modern, Neo-noir Nancy Drew, the razor-sharp writing and distinctive characters give the show humor, profound drama, and an incredible edge.
The layered and complex season-long storylines involving the murder of Veronica’s best friend, Lilly, and the perpetrator are gripping and intense. Serialized mysteries rarely get their due praise, but Veronica Mars takes the crown for the most criminally under-appreciated.
5. The Mentalist (2008-2015)
The Mentalist features the tried-and-true crime series formula but gives it a fresh perspective. The series follows Patrick Jane, a charming but guarded man whose observations and intuition make him an invaluable consultant to the CBI. The weekly crimes and over-arching storyline about infamous serial killer Red John are enthralling. But it’s the characters that move the audience. The Mentalist was successful in its day but never reached its deserved heights compared to others in the genre.
6. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015-2020)
Wacky and irreverent, this series centers on a woman who escapes the captivity of a cult leader along with two other women. Dark as this sounds, Kimmy Schmidt leans heavily into comedy with over-the-top characters and situations. Finding humor out of the darkness is a common practice and is what this show does well. In the same vein as 30 Rock, the series balances a weird, thoughtful, and goofy tone to great effect. Overall, Kimmy Schmidt shows us the power of positivity.
7. Hot in Cleveland (2010-2015)
How could anyone underappreciate a show with the late great legendary Betty White? But despite a solid five seasons, Hot in Cleveland still flies under the radar in the audience’s purview. The series follows four unlucky in life and love women whose flight makes an emergency landing in Cleveland. And they discover they are attractive to the city’s unpretentious men compared to Los Angeles. So they decide to stay.
Make no mistake, while the women each find love, this series champions female friendship with irreverent and heartwarming humor and an exceptional cast that includes Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick.
8. A Discovery of Witches (2018-2022)
With a creepy atmosphere and an evocative love story, A Discovery of Witches beautifully captures the spirit of Deborah Harkness’ novels. The series centers on Diana Bishop, a scholar who discovers she’s a witch, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire with inner demons who craves her love. Dark magic, time travel, and forbidden love define this lesser-known but solid fantasy series.
9. Dead to Me (2019-2022)
Starring Christina Appelgate, Linda Cardellini, and James Marsden, Dead to Me showcases the complexities and nuances of life with sharp humor and heart-wrenching realism. The series begins with Jen grieving the untimely death of her husband, a victim of a hit-and-run driver. At a grief counseling session, she befriends Judy, unknowing that she is the driver in question.
Dead to Me has many unexpected twists and turns that genuinely shock viewers. The show’s cornerstone themes are friendship and forgiveness, as we see good people doing despicable things while remaining likable and sympathetic. It’s a testament to the writing and brilliant performances.
10. Happy Endings (2011-2012)
Similar to Friends and How I Met Your Mother, Happy Endings follows a close-knit group navigating lives filled with setbacks, hiccups, and heartache. But they do so with their supportive friends by their side. Happy Endings does not offer anything particularly new and exciting. We’ve seen this premise many times. But dash it all if it isn’t laugh-out-loud hilarious and worthy of more praise and recognition, especially for its funny and relatable characters.
11. Alias (2001-2006)
Addictive, poignant, and slick, Alias follows Sydney Bristow, a woman fresh out of college who becomes a spy for the CIA- or so she thinks. Wanting to make a difference in the world by utilizing her talents with languages, disguises, and self-defense, Sydney’s journey becomes fraught with challenges, danger, deception, and love.
Sydney is brave and heroic, but her unfailing open heart and willingness to go above and beyond make her one of television’s finest heroines. Alias thrills its viewers with a cast of fascinating, fallible characters and shocking and intense moments. Launching the careers of Jennifer Garner and Bradley Cooper, the show was popular in its heyday. But many have yet to discover its brilliance.
12. The Middle (2009-2018)
How can a series with nine seasons and a loyal fan base still not receive the hype it should? The simple answer demonstrates the nature of television as a whole. Even successful shows can fail to garner the peaks of others, even when they’re equally entertaining. The Middle is such a show. Following the loving but chaotic Heck Family, we see an authentic peak into middle-American life through an often goofy and over-the-top lens. Relatable, sweet, and uplifting, The Middle did not reach the critical heights of similar shows, but it deserves just as much credit.
13. Agent Carter (2015-2016)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe features a slew of dynamic television shows. And its most underappreciated is undoubtedly Agent Carter. The criminally too short series follows Peggy Carter after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger. She becomes an SSR agent but must constantly deal with men who belittle or underestimate her abilities. Luckily for Peggy, she knows her value and does not let anything deter her. Thankfully, she has co-workers Daniel Sousa, Howard Stark, and especially Stark’s valet Jarvis as faithful friends. Agent Carter is stylish and inspiring, with terrific period fare and poignant performances.
14. Madam Secretary (2014-2019)
As engaging as any show, Madam Secretary follows the US Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord as she tries to balance her family life with her challenging profession. This series successfully balances these two sides of life with as much grace as Elizabeth. Politics can be messy, but so too are marriage and motherhood. Through characters with great integrity, Madam Secretary shows us that the balance isn’t easy but always worthwhile.
15. The Flight Attendant (2020-2022)
In two solid seasons, the story of free-spirited but self-destructive flight attendant Cassie Bowden captivates us. The first season sees Cassie dealing with her childhood trauma and drinking problems while being under suspicion for the murder of one of her passengers- the handsome man she spent the night with. In season two, Cassie continues her healing journey and witnesses a murder, again thrusting her into constant danger. Kaley Cuoco’s exceptional performance and creative visual style elevate The Flight Attendant, making it a memorable and exciting Neo-noir series that deserves more viewers.
16. Chuck (2007-2012)
Chuck combines multiple genres to create a fun series that remains underrated. The follows lovable nerd Chuck Bartowski, who opens an email from a former friend and accidentally gets the government’s secrets implanted in his mind. With this “intersect” inside his brain, Chuck becomes a valuable asset and teams up with the alluring CIA agent Sarah Walker and imposing FBI agent John Casey.
Chuck has a loyal fanbase and diehard fans. However, many still have yet to witness this original and undeniably fun series. It combines the comedy, drama, spy thriller, and adventure genres to exceptional results, thanks to the clever writing and fantastic chemistry with the cast.
17. Once Upon a Time (2011-2018)
In this enchanting series, we witness classic fairy tales in fresh and modern ways that maintain the heart and spirit of their source material. The series centers on Emma Swan, a tough but caring woman who unknowingly has a fantastical lineage – she is Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter. On her birthday, the son she gave up for her adoption knocks on her door and brings her to his home in Storybrooke, where he insists everyone is a fairy tale character who doesn’t remember who they are. Little does Emma know she is the key to breaking this spell.
To its true blue fans, Once Upon a Time brings magic with every viewing thanks to the creative versions of characters and themes of true love, family, and hope. Indeed, the series delighted its viewers and did so for seven seasons with solid success. Still, we do not hear about this show nearly enough.
18. Locke & Key (2020-2022)
Locke & Key follows the Locke family, who moves into an old home with unexpected secrets and magic. Following the death of husband and father Rendall Locke, wife and mother Nina, and their three children, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode, do their best to put the pieces back together. The siblings discover magic keys in their new homestead that can perform various functions. The fun soon turns sinister when an evil spirit escapes, jeopardizing everyone they hold dear.
I speak from personal experience when I say Locke & Key is addicting and engrossing. Each season elevates the mysteries and adventure. And the captivating journey ends with a satisfying and beautiful conclusion.
19. Hart of Dixie (2011-2015)
Uplifting, heartwarming, and engaging, Hart of Dixie follows Doctor Zoe Hart, a woman who uproots her sophisticated life in New York and accepts a job in the small town of Bluebell, Alabama. After the initial culture shock and clashing with the residents, Zoe forms solid relationships and finds something in herself she wasn’t expecting.
Hart of Dixie is like a lesser-known Gilmore Girls. The Southern small-town charm, colorful, lovable characters, and positive, upbeat tone make Hart of Dixie a treasure.
20. Mad About You (1992-1998, 2019)
Mad About You may have been revered and successful in its day, but its scope has faded over time. But the quality of the show remains the same. The series follows Paul and Jamie Buchman, a married couple living in New York City. It’s a simple premise akin to Seinfeld, where the plots are straightforward and uncomplicated. And that is the show’s appeal- it’s about the everyday ups of a couple mad about each other, navigating the crazy thing called life. Mad About You’s superb cast shines and makes the simplest things hilarious.
21. Timeless (2016-2018)
The ingenious series Timeless follows the time travel adventures of professor and historian Lucy, Army Delta Force soldier Wyatt, and scientist and time machine pilot Rufus. Initially, they travel back to various historical events to stop the ruthless Garcia Flynn from changing history and life as we know it. But soon, the “time team” discovers a widespread conspiracy of epic proportions and forms an untenable bond.
With a fresh and dynamic approach to the genre, we see a reverence for history while acknowledging how far we’ve come. Moreover, the characters bring emotion and depth to the engaging storylines. Timeless has loyal followers but still deserves much more love and attention.
22. Leave It to Beaver (1957-1963)
Audiences in the 1950s and 60s had a great deal of love for Leave it to Beaver. And it remains a beloved classic. Still, the series also has its critics and doesn’t have the widespread appeal of other shows of its era. Some refer to the series as sentimental and unrealistic. But I’d venture to guess those people have never seen the show.
Truthfully, the series follows the misadventures of brothers Beaver and Wally. The two fight constantly but care for each other. They get into trouble regularly on their own and with friends while their parents, Ward and June, try to instill good values in their sons. Despite what some may say, the series is often hilarious and never overly sweet or unrealistic. It may be wholesome instead of dark and irreverent, but some families relate more to the Cleavers.
23. Baby Daddy (2012-2017)
Akin to Three Men and a Baby, the sitcom Baby Daddy possesses all the fun and heart of that film, with equally lovable characters. In the series, three roommates, Ben, Danny, and Tucker, discover a baby girl left on their doorstep. A note reads she’s Ben’s daughter, and what follows are fun and zany happenings as the three attempt to be worthy caregivers. The sweet-natured show may feature a familiar premise, but the terrific cast shines, resulting in hilarious hijinks.
24. Smash (2012-2013)
The lively show-stopper Smash follows the backstage happenings in making a Broadway musical. Smash showcases all the juicy drama, from songwriting to finding the perfect performers. The characters fit archetypes, from the arrogant director to the ingenue actress. Still, they go far beyond stereotypes, creating memorable characters to care about.
The story is captivating, but Smash’s shining stars are the incredible musical performances from every episode. Its steadfast fans still play these songs on repeat and re-watch the series every year. But Smash deserves droves of endless applause.