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Missed out on classics? Fallen behind on the new big hit? We've got you covered

1 of 34 Michael Muller/FOX


Where to Watch It: Amazon

Why to Watch It: It's all about Jack Bauer, dammit! Thanks to its real-time conceit and the countless terrorist threats facing the world, the show was an action-packed thrill ride. Sure, it had its moments of ridiculousness (the cougar in Season 1 is just the beginning!), but the pure joy derived out of watching Jack kick ass and take names as he saves the day again and again hasn't been matched.

2 of 34 Ali Goldstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

30 Rock

Where to Watch It: Netflix

Why to Watch It: 30 Rock was a little ahead of its time because it was made to be binged. There's ample enjoyment and laughter from an initial viewing of the Liz Lemon and the TGS crew's antics, but the manic show is dense with layers and layers of jokes, Easter eggs, gags, zingers and Tina Fey's observational humor that force you to pause and rewind to notice and appreciate them all -- or just take a few to recover from laughing so hard. Trust us, you want to go to there again and again.

3 of 34 Patrick Harbon/FX

​The Americans

Where to Watch It: Amazon

Why to Watch It: Like KGB agents Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) living double lives as Americans during the Cold War, the FX series masquerades as a spy drama when at its true core, it's a stellar study of the complexities of a marriage and raising a family -- which (mild spoiler alert) becomes very high stakes by Season 2. If you're not into spycraft or relationship assessments, just come for the wigs!

4 of 34 Netflix

​Arrested Development

Where to Watch It: Netflix

Why to Watch It: We'll be honest: Mitch Hurwitz's show about the Bluths, a "wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together," takes effort to watch. Like 30 Rock, it's jam-packed with jokes -- subtle, obscure, cerebral ones that likely played a big part in its premature death after three seasons in 2006 (Netflix revived it in 2013) -- that rewards you if you go all-in on their absurdist humor. Stick with it and pretty soon, you'll blue yourself too.

5 of 34 Corbis

Battlestar Galactica

Where to Watch It: Amazon

Why to Watch It:
Battlestar Galactica is a sci-fi show even non-sci-fi fans can love. Centered on questions of redemption and humanity, BSG is a political and religious saga in which some of the characters just happen to be sentient machines. Much like Lost, it's addictive, philosophical and (spoiler alert!) has a terrible ending. But it's still worth watching.

6 of 34 Frank Ockenfels/AMC

​Breaking Bad

Where to Watch It:Netflix

Why to Watch It:
Because it's arguably the most talked-about TV show of the past few years. The journey of Bryan Cranston's Walter White from meek high school chemistry teacher to meth-making kingpin is both an acting tour de force and one hell of a thrill ride. Thanks to the plight of Jesse (Aaron Paul), the show always had heart, but because of the consistently tense plotting of mastermind Vince Gilligan, that heart was always in our throats.

7 of 34 UPN /Landov

​Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Where to Watch It: Amazon, Hulu, Netflix

Why to Watch It: The fashion within Buffy might be dated, but the way the series subverts horror tropes and gender norms is incredibly modern. Joss Whedon uses Buffy's monsters of the week to become metaphors for some of the most complicated issues facing teens: virginity loss, the death of a parent, depression and even rape. So if you're looking for some snappy dialogue mixed with excruciating romance and kick-ass action sequences, this is the show for you.

8 of 34 CBS /Landov


Where to Watch It:Netflix and Hulu

Why to Watch It: There's a no-drink minimum to enjoy this timeless comedy that offers the same refuge to the everyday, flawed people who are regulars of the watering hole known as Cheers. We all know them -- the know-it-all blowhard, the has-been golden boy, the pretty girl who's better than this lousy waitressing job has to offer -- but at this bar, everyone is equal, everyone belongs. Tune in to see a naive, youthful Woody Harrelson, but stay because the show is as welcoming as it is warm and fuzzy. Plus: "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" will become your favorite retro theme song.

9 of 34 HBO


Where to Watch It: Amazon, HBO Go

Why to Watch It:
Perhaps the definitive TV Western, David Milch's aggressive, poetic story of the titular South Dakota settlement's journey from camp to town is often overlooked in discussions about the all-time TV greats. But the show, with its standout ensemble cast including Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant, helped cement HBO's status as the home of prestige television even though its run was awkwardly cut short after only three seasons. Although that ultimately makes for an unsatisfying ending, watch for no other reason than to hear Milch effectively invent his own language in this beautifully written show about the brutal battle that leads to civilization.

10 of 34 ITV/PBS

​Downton Abbey

Where to Watch It: Amazon

Why to Watch It: It's so British and so soapy, you'll want to wash your knickers in it. On one hand, the Crawley family is haughty, mannered and yet throws the most amazing shade that 1920s British aristocrats can deliver. Before you know it though, you'll be cheering and mourning along with their struggles to enter the new modernity or go the way of the dodo. Their loyal and lovable servants' romances and scandals, however, are every bit as delectable as those upstairs. The period garb, the breathtaking English countrysides and the dynamically engaging characters all come to an end next season. Learn from the Crawleys and savor the high life in Downton Abbey while you can.

11 of 34 Chuck Hodes/FOX


Where to Watch It: Hulu

Why to Watch It: There's a reason no one could stop talking about Empire when it premiered. Set within the world of a family-run record label, the Fox hit has a little bit of something for everyone: great music, soap opera absurdity, Shakespearean family drama, romance and, of course, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). So don't miss out on the buzziest show of the year and get caught up before it returns for Season 2!

12 of 34 Jeff Katz/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images


Where to Watch It: Amazon

Why to Watch It: Grey's what? ER, which ran for 15 years, is arguably the barometer by which all medical dramas are measured -- because it actually puts the "medical" in "medical drama." Every hour is riveting, breathless chaos of a life in trauma, led by everyman Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards). Emergency room doctors don't have time to stop and breathe, and neither do viewers. Filmed in a then-groundbreaking, immersive Steadicam style for full realism effect, the series -- to borrow one of its signature lines -- "set the tone" for many shows that came after it. Plus, it gave us one of the greatest TV couples of all time: Doug (George Clooney) and Carol (Julianna Margulies).

13 of 34 FOX/Photofest


Where to Watch It: Amazon,Hulu, Netflix

Why to Watch It: Before he was king of the Avengers, Joss Whedon couldn't even get a second season of his space Western on Fox. But today, Firefly lives on as one of the most beloved one-season wonders - and for good reason. The cult hit is smart, exciting and has a killer cast, including Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Alan Tudyk and Morena Bacarin. And if 13 episodes isn't enough for you, Whedon later revived the series as a feature film, Serenity.

14 of 34 Corbis


Where to Watch It: Netflix and Hulu

Why to Watch It: As a regular at the bar in Cheers, Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) didn't seem to be the most obvious character ripe for a spin-off. He was too brainy, fussy and holier-than-thou snobby. Ugh, right? But behind the high-brow demeanor lay a warm and quirky fellow with an irascible, blue-collar dad and eternally heartsick brother. Somehow, like the mothership sitcom, Frasier was able to find heart in the most unlikely of places. Also, it showcased an adorable Jack Russell terrier named Eddie, so what more do you need?

15 of 34 Bill Records/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

​Friday Night Lights

Where to Watch It: Netflix

Why to Watch It: You don't have to be a sports fan to love this drama that focuses on a high school football team, but at its heart, it's really about family and friendships. The five-season series not only raised the profiles of previously underused actors Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, but cemented them as one of the TV's best couples. Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Binge Now.

16 of 34 NBC


Where to Watch It: Netflix

Why to Watch It: So you don't feel left out when everyone makes lobster, trifle, pivot and atrium vs. vestibule jokes. More than 20 years later, Friends remains a cross-generation pop culture phenomenon that still holds up, and it ushered in a slew of hangout show wannabes that imitated but never duplicated the magical chemistry between Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer. Could they be any more perfect?

17 of 34 HBO

​Game of Thrones

Where to Watch It: HBO Go/HBO Now

Why to Watch It: Forget the Lord of the Rings and your other preconceptions of what fantasy is. This engrossing series feels more like a historical drama that combines backstabbing, double-crosses, depravity and debauchery with a healthy sense of irony and humor. Despite this power-mad struggle in which everyone and their mother (literally) is vying for the Iron Throne, the upstanding Stark family is the heart that holds the series together. Too bad that heart will be ripped out and drop-kicked into the trash. Watch if you dare!

18 of 34 Michael Desmond/The CW/Landov

Gilmore Girls

Where to Watch It: Netflix

Why to Watch It: You'll instantly fall in love with the fast-talking, mother-daughter duo of Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel), who are only 16 years apart in age. Exploring familial themes through Amy Sherman-Palladino's witty dialogue, the series was one of the first to actively make pop culture references and speak the language of millennials before millennials were a thing. And if our praise isn't enough to convince you, ask the thousands of fans squealing about the upcoming cast reunion this summer.

19 of 34 Brooke Palmer/NBC


Where to Watch It: Amazon

Why to Watch It: There is no show that sits with you quite like Hannibal. Lush and terrifying, Bryan Fuller's intoxicating rendering of Thomas Harris' classic franchise is a cinematic feast for the senses, from the oddly beautiful murder tableaux to Hannibal's mouth-watering dinner spreads to the moody score. But more stunningly, the show is a brilliant psychological tango between Hugh Dancy's Will and Mads Mikkelsen's Hannibal that's rewriting the serial killer genre as we speak. It's a show that's not just rare on network TV, but all of TV.

20 of 34 ABC


Where to Watch It: Netflix

Why to Watch It: Are you that person who always has to plug your ears or slink off quietly in a crowd once a crowd starts debating the merits of the _Lost_ series finale? Do you think that "Smoke Monster" is a term that people use to describe someone who blows cigarette breath into your face? Here's your chance to get in on the conversation. Head back to the island to see the show that sparked people's obsessions with Easter eggs and conspiracy theory TV.

21 of 34 Prashant Gupta/FX


Where to Watch It: Amazon

Why to Watch It: This Elmore Leonard-inspired story is perhaps the best adaptation of the prolific writer's work ever. Chock-full of fully realized, three-dimensional characters who spit the wittiest dialogue on TV, Justified is among the most purely entertaining shows made during this recent golden age. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are perfect as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and his former friend-turned-silver-tongued-nemesis Boyd Crowder, respectively, and their chemistry takes the usual cop-chases-bad-guy format to a whole new level. The song may say "you'll never leave Harlan alive," but after watching, you'll never want to leave Harlan.

22 of 34 ABC/Photofest

​ My So-Called Life

Where to Watch It: Hulu

Why to Watch It: It may have only lasted a season (barely at that -- 19 episodes), but the '90s teen drama that starred a young Claire Danes and Jared Leto has managed to maintain cult status. The groundbreaking series remains one of the most realistic depictions of high school life without being preachy, pedantic or saccharine, and featured one of TV's first openly gay teens. Plus: 20 years later, you'll still swoon for Jordan Catalano, even if you now know you're better off with Brian Krakow.

23 of 34 HBO/Photofest

​Sex and the City

Where to Watch It: HBO Go

Why to Watch It: In case you were living under a rock from 1998 to 2004, this show about four best friends in the Big Apple changed the way people talked about sex on TV while also making it look extremely fashionable and glamorous -- well, most of the time -- to be single in the city. A decade later, we're still quoting lines, drinking cosmos, and asking the age-old question: Are you a Carrie, a Samantha, a Charlotte or a Miranda?

24 of 34 FX Network/Photofest

​The Shield

Where to Watch It: Hulu

Why to Watch It:
The dirty deeds of Vic Mackey and the Strike Team followed The Sopranos' anti-hero lead, but The Shield was able to pull off its goals within the bounds of basic cable. Shawn Ryan's gritty cop show is raw, violent and relentlessly entertaining, but it also deserves credit for blazing a trail for the basic cable boom and creating a business model that made it possible to create compelling drama on a non-network budget.

25 of 34 HBO/Everett Collection

The Sopranos

Where to Watch It:Amazon, HBO GO

Why to Watch It:David Chase taught us to empathize with the bad guy when he created Tony Soprano, who struggled to deal with his overbearing mother while balancing his responsibilities to his family -- and his other family. The series began the decade's anti-hero boom while exploring the role of violence in America. And somehow it was very, very funny. Its ending may be the most dissected in television history.

26 of 34 Courtesy of Amazon Studios


Where to Watch It: Amazon

Why to Watch It: Is the hype around Amazon's first Golden Globe-winning show justified? We think it is, but you can see for yourself. The first season, which consists of 10 episodes, is short enough to polish off in a weekend afternoon, and we guarantee that once you meet Jeffrey Tambor's Maura Pfefferman, a transgender woman, you'll want to see where her journey is going to take her. At the very least, _Transparent_ is a show you can (and should) easily check off your to-watch list before this year's Emmy Awards, where it's sure to be a major contender.

27 of 34 CBS /Landov

​Twin Peaks

Where to Watch It:Netflix and Hulu

Why to Watch It: This 1990s small-town murder mystery series shouldn't have worked, and yet its offbeat humor, horrific revelations and bizarrely supernatural elements all melded together to become one of the most addictive, cult-favorite series of all time. From the twisted and morally ambiguous mind of David Lynch, Twin Peaksintroduces us to Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), an FBI agent so quirky and so quotable, that his charisma is almost suspect. The investigation into the murder of prom queen Laura Palmer becomes secondary to the seedy secrets uncovered and almost campy melodrama. Check out the series that still has such a fervent following that a limited sequel series is being developed for the 25th anniversary of its cancellation.

28 of 34 CBS /Landov

​The Twilight Zone

Where to Watch It:Netflix and Hulu

Why to Watch It: The anthology series presented the best of science fiction -- daring, frightening and sometimes hilarious explorations of "what if." Hosted by the intense Rod Serling, whose clipped commentary became essential to the journey into the bizarre, the series presented a high-concept premise that inevitably ended with a moral twist. This was escapist fiction that somehow made you feel that your life was sane and manageable in comparison and boasted a range of stars from big name veterans like Buster Keaton to young upstarts like a pre-Star Trek Leonard Nimoy. For a B&W show from the '60s, The Twilight Zone was ahead of its time.

29 of 34 History Channel


Where to Watch It: Amazon, Hulu

Why to Watch It: If Game of Thrones isn't satisfying your thirst for complex characters and violent, sprawling, political drama, look no further than Vikings. Rooted in actual recorded events and Norse legends, Vikings tells the story of the unlikely ascension of curious farmer Ragnar Lothbrok into one of the most famous Viking rulers of all time.

30 of 34 UPN /Landov

​Veronica Mars

Where to Watch It: Amazon

Why to Watch It: The series only lasted three seasons, but has since spawned a fan-funded film, web series and two books (and counting). It's deeply addictive and like nothing you've seen on TV before. Kristen Bell stars as Veronica Mars, a high school girl reeling from the murder of her best friend, her own rape and the loss of all friends and social status following her father's disgraceful firing as town sheriff. But instead of letting the world victimize her, Veronica sets out to get justice (and some vengeance) while making a few bucks solving petty cases for her classmates along the way.

31 of 34 ABC

​The West Wing

Where to Watch It: Netflix

Why to Watch It: American politics got you down? In any case, the Bartlet administration is one that liberals and conservatives alike can get behind. Aaron Sorkin's magnum opus is a fine, inspiring illustration of what governments can accomplish when all the pieces fall into place -- and also an important reminder that all politicians are just people at the end of the day.

32 of 34 HBO/Photofest

​The Wire

Where to Watch It: Amazon, HBO Go

Why to Watch It: Whether exploring broken bureaucracy, dirty politics or news media shortfalls, David Simon's series argued that nothing can improve without a real commitment to systemic change. The exposition-free writing and stunning acting made this a triumph of TV storytelling, and one that remains relevant. The saddest thing about The Wire's bleak portrait of urban America? That it felt so accurate.

33 of 34 ABC

​The Wonder Years

Where to Watch It: Netflix

Why to Watch It: Relive your awkward high school years vicariously through the antics of Kevin Arnold and Winnie Cooper. One of the best shows of the '80s, _The Wonder Years_ is pure nostalgia, but avoids falling into a series-long "very special episode" hole with well-crafted coming-of-age plotlines set against the social changes of the Vietnam era that still resonate today. And you can marvel at how Danica McKellar has not aged a single day.

34 of 34 Fox/Photofest

​The X-Files

Where to Watch It: Amazon, Netflix

Why to Watch It: '90s nostalgia is all the rage these days, but not many shows from the decade hold up half as well as The X-Files. The cases of the week are clever, surprising and incredibly unique. Even the monsters, most of which are created by practical effects and prosthetics, could go toe-to-toe in scaring against the CGI creatures of today. But it's Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully's (Gillian Anderson) loving (and platonic) relationship that gives The X-Files its heart, as the pair go to the ends of the Earth for each other in the pursuit of the truth.