Television Today: The Top 5 TV Shows Currently on Air

It seems like it’s been a long time since the U.S. was first enveloped in a society that has become obsessed with reality-based television programs after much of what was offered by the networks were traditional sitcoms (laugh-tracks included) and CSI-like procedural dramas. Recently, it does seem like there has been more of an effort from cable networks that don’t have the letters HBO in them to provide quality television programs. This is a shame since the actual golden age of television went by with somewhat of a whimper.

The most notable of the most recent quality television series would be the astonishingly popular The Walking Dead, which is a Zombie film. The show, while it is much different than most material of the sort, failed to capture this writer’s attention, but definitely caught the eye of many an audience as the premiere of the show’s 3rd season raked in nearly 11 million viewers in the first run of the episode (these are astonishing numbers for a cable network).

As you may have guessed from the previous paragraph though, The Walking Dead will not be included in this list of what I consider to be the best 5 television programs currently running. There are only a couple of simple requirements for a series to make it onto the following list. One, the show must not have finished its final season yet and two, I need to have seen at least one episode (preferably more) of the series. This isn’t necessarily a ranking, considering all of these programs still have some time to change this viewer’s opinion of the overall view of the shows, but all of these shows are absolutely great.

5. Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones

Never in my life did I think I would be so entertained by a show that is as heavily inked with conversation as Game of Thrones. There is so much exposition in this show that it really is mind boggling how they’ve managed to keep the story intriguing. It is a program which perfectly mixes into the exposition exquisite moments of sex, violence, and plot. I’m very excited for the third season to start in March of 2013 to see if this show can become one of the HBO greats and join the ranks of The Sopranos and The Wire (although to be fair, not much has come even remotely close to the quality and significance of The Wire).

4. Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreaton

This is the only network television show on my list and also the only 30-minute comedy. After a slow start with a brief 6 episode introduction that counted as an official 1st season of this mockumentary-type NBC comedy, the show immediately became a must watch once the first episode of season 2 began. This show has hit a perfect groove between hilarity and emotion and has managed to become what the American version of The Office was during the first 3 seasons, without relying too heavily on a Jim/Pam, Ross/Rachel, or whatever other type of romance. Leslie Knope is an amazing character with an exceptional supporting cast and this is a show, although its run may be nearly over, that should be true appointment viewing.

3. Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

There has never been a show that has taken such a shift in tones and plots as much as Breaking Bad has over the past 5 seasons. This show went from being a dark comedy, to a purely thrilling experience as it has moved along with its captivating story of a chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer who decides to start cooking meth in order to provide for his family’s future. This show was very close to not making the cut, as it was decided to split the final season into two shorter seasons for pacing purposes and the first part of the last season was much weaker than the preceding episodes. This is a show, however, that is so well done episode to episode that it managed to keep me absolutely captivated during an episode in which the main story was about the main character and his partner removing a fly that infiltrated their meth lab (the director of that episode is Rian Johnson, who directed great films like Brick and more recently Looper).

2. Homeland


I know there have been a lot of people talking about this show, and there’s a very good reason for it. The story is about an American P.O.W. who is rescued after 8 years and the CIA agent who is convinced that he has been turned into a terrorist. The performances are what really drive this series as Claire Danes plays the CIA agent and Damian Lewis plays the P.O.W. Both characters have suffered some horrendous experiences and both are putting up Oscar-worthy performances in a television series (yes, I’m aware the Oscars are for films, but that’s how brilliant these two performers have been in this show). While it is true that there are some 24-like (see: Fox, 24, Keifer Sutherland) ridiculous moments, those horribly flawed moments are so heavily outweighed by the wonderful performances from Lewis and Danes that they quickly become forgotten.

1. Mad Men

Mad Men

In the past season of Mad Men, the show reached a pinnacle that forced me to believe that there is absolutely nothing on television right now that can match up with the storytelling, personality, and wit of this program. This entire show is centered around the identity of Don Draper, one of the most interesting characters in television history. I won’t go into why in order to avoid spoilers for those who need to become fans of the series yet (assuming that as soon as you watch the first episode you’ll automatically become a fan because there’s no way anyone should dislike this show). Draper is a very complicated character who is trying to find his way in the world, even though most people look at him as highly successful and having it all. It’s not only a brilliant character study, but a very interesting look at history.

So those are the top five programs that still have episodes left in their runs (even if those runs are almost over, like with Parks and Rec, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men. Hopefully, some of the other shows out there will start taking steps forward to carry on the quality television that has been spawned from the aforementioned golden age.

To cap this post off, here are a few other programs that are at least worth some honorable mentions, but weren’t quite good enough to make this list:


The New Girl

The Mindy Project

Sons of Anarchy

Boardwalk Empire

Go On

Modern Family

Up All Night 

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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I'm Kevin Licht, a graduate from the University of Missouri with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor emphasis in Film Studies. When I'm not working I watch and write

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  1. Getter Trumsi

    Interesting of you to mention Go On in the list in the end.. I wouldn’t consider it as a best show currently on air though I am a fan of Matthew Perry. Plus, no mention of Dexter and The Walking Dead is also rather interesting. I’m guessing it is a matter of taste.

    • Kevin Licht

      Dexter is probably the one I regret most about leaving out, but I haven’t watched it since season 2. I mentioned The Walking Dead, and while I do have some appreciation for what the show has accomplished, I’m not a big fan of it after having tried it out multiple times. I think Go On has some potential, and I like to root for Matthew Perry. He seems to be an under-appreciated performer who is never the reason I stop watching something. I’m sure there are other shows out there as well like The Good Wife, but the criteria required me to have seen at least one episode.

    • OhBless

      Dexter jumped the shark on last season IMO.

  2. OhBless

    BrBa should be higher no? AMC is really proving to be a great source of original drama. Once Breaking Bad ends, I will decide if it should have the crown of Mad Men…

  3. Jordan

    I definitely will check out Game of Thrones at some point 😀

  4. Mike G

    Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Venture Bros. are probably my favorite show on TV right now. Decent list!

  5. GothamRogue

    I have to say Go On is my favourite new comedy of the season. Pretty impressive for a show I was intially not going to watch at all.

  6. Michelle Webb

    Game of Thrones would be the front-runner now!

    • Kevin Licht

      If I were doing this list today, I’d probably still have Mad Men with a slight edge over GoT, and I might even consider putting Parks & Rec in the top slot simply because there are so few quality shows out there that leave me smiling.

  7. Jessica Eve Kennedy

    Parks and Rec is so brilliant! It’s been consistent from mid S2, and I think that’s really impressive for a comedy. New Girl, a show that I didn’t immediately warm to, had a really solid second season as well. And I’m hoping The Mindy Project will really come into its own in S2. Mindy Kaling was always one of my favourite writers for The Office.

  8. Nat Parsons

    I thin you’ve convinced me that as a lover of the US Office my next thing to do is devour Parks and Recreation. Amy Poehler is divine, no?
    Also, love your choices. Mad Men deserves top billing, in my opinion. x

  9. Tatijana

    Hah.. I saw all but 1! I feel so semi cultured.

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