The summer television season's in full swing, but your television schedule might be sparse. While great shows do grace the small screen, trashy reality shows are in abundance. But don't fret, here's a list of oldies-but-goodies to get you through.

The Wire

Years the series ran: 2002-2008
Type of show: Crime Drama
What it's about: The Wire follows the Baltimore Police Department's struggle to fight crime, focusing mainly on the overwhelming drug dealers and the politics of the city that affect the fight. I once described it as a single episode of Law & Order, spread out and covered in-depth over 13 episodes. While that is a simplified overview of the show, it gives the uninitiated a taste of what's to come.
Why you should watch it: This show is almost universally regarded as the greatest program ever. [So says Salon, Metacritic, Telegraph, and The Guardian, to name a few.
The Wire is a raw, gritty, and brutally honest piece of television. At first, I didn't get what the fuss was about, but slowly the diverse characters and intricate plot captured my attention. The best part, for me, is the equal development of characters in the police and on the street. I don't think I've ever been fond of murderous drug dealers on television before. There are no one dimensional thugs on this show, each one has a personality and backstory that helps you understand their lives. It's a vulgar, crude, tough, and sometimes disturbing show. It casts a harsh light on society, one in which there are no good guys, just less criminal ones. I can't speak to it's accuracy in covering drug or police culture, but I can vouch for its quality. So watch it, now.
Where to find it: All seasons available for rental on Netflix



Years the series ran: 2001-2006
Type of show: Action/Drama
What it's about: Sydney Bristow believes she is working for a covert branch of the CIA called SD-6. After her fiance is murdered, she realizes she's been duped and is working for a criminal organization. Thus, she begins working as a double agent to bring down SD-6.
Why you should watch it:
If you're looking for a show with 5 perfect seasons, then skip this show. But if you're OK with two kick-ass seasons with Jennifer Garner, Michael Vartan, and Bradley Cooper, then you'll really like Alias. I have a little bit of a bias, Alias was the first show I became really obsessed with. It was a fascinating balance of Mission Impossible-like action and quality drama. In fact, the creator of the show, an unknown guy by the name of JJ Abrams, went on to directMission: Impossible III, create Lost and Fringe, and reboot the Star Trek franchise. Point is, it's always fun to check out where famous people started out.
Where to find it: All seasons available for rental on Netflix

Dead Like Me

Years the series ran: 2003-2004
Type of show: Sci-fi/Dramedy
What it's about: Georgia "George" Lass was on her way to interview for a job when a rogue toilet seat from the Mir space station crashes to earth and kills her. But her death is just the beginning, as she doesn't get to cross over. Instead, she joins a group of grim reapers, charged with taking souls of people prior to their death.
Why you should watch it: Do you love Pushing Daisies and/or female protagonists with boy's names? Then you will love Dead Like Me, the show about modern day Grim Reapers. Dead Like Me was created by the same guy who did the dearly departed Pushing Daisies, so expect similar (albiet less cutesy) humor and themes. In fact, if you found Pushing Daisies too twee, then Dead Like Me might be the perfect fit.
Where to find it: Hulu. All episodes streaming, free.

Freaks and Geeks

Years the series ran: 1999-200
Type of show: Teen Drama
What it's about: Freaks and Geeks followed groups of kids attending high school in the 1980's. It touched on a lot of the standard teen messages, like the value of family and whatnot, but also had humor and heart (and great writing).
Why you should watch it: Like a number of shows on this list, Freaks and Geeks boasts a cast of famous people before they were famous. The show features James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Siegel and was executive produced by comedy extraordinaire, Judd Apatow. Another plus is the cast all look like high schoolers. Several of the freshman characters don't even look old enough to be in high school. It's authenticity just adds to its charm. Its setting in the 1980's adds a twist to an oft tired genre with period music and references. It's an all around success and should be watched by everyone.
Where to find it: The full series is available for rental on Netflix


Years the series ran: 1999-2003, 2004 miniseries
Type of show: Sci-Fi
What it's about: John Crichton was a NASA astronaut. During a test flight, his space ship gets shot through a wormhole. The series follows his adventures on an alien spaceship, on the run with fugitives.
Why you should watch it: If you want to get into a fun sci-fi show, Farscape is definitely for you. It's got some pretty silly elements, including puppets as aliens, lots of prosthetics and makeup, and fake swear words. But if you are OK with that, Farscape is more like a soap opera (some call the show a 'space opera'). The characters and their relationships are a vital part of the program. The show might be sci-fi, but at the core, the show is all about sex. It's about who's sleeping with whom and the drama/humor that arises from those situations.
Where to find it: All seasons available for rental on Netflix, seasons 1-3 are streaming on