The Most Underrated TV Shows

Story posted November 25, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment by CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Staff.

“Freaks and Geeks” (1999-2000)

Arguably ahead of its time, the comedy-drama show “Freaks and Geeks” premiered in 1999 on NBC.

The series follows siblings Lindsay and Sam Weir, who belong to two different social groups in their high school. “Freaks and Geeks” takes place in a small suburb in Michigan in 1980 and depicts the plights of “freaks,” “geeks” and other types of students at the time.

The series produced only one season, airing from 1999 to 2000, after being cancelled due to low viewership. There are only 18 episodes for audiences to relish in, but each one features iconic ‘80s music and hilarious, ridiculous scenarios.

“Freaks and Geeks” was created by Paul Feig, who is also known for working on “The Office,” “Arrested Development,” “Bridesmaids” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” Judd Apatow was the executive producer for the series. Apatow went on to produce and direct many iconic comedies.

“Freaks and Geeks” is known for launching the careers of several famous comedic actors, including James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, Busy Philipps, John Francis Daley, Samm Levine and Martin Starr.

Though they were unknown at the time, these actors went on to star in numerous projects and create stories that changed the industries of film and television forever. “Freaks and Geeks” is a cult favorite for many and critics loved the series from the start. – Sarah Simpson

“The Comeback” (2005-2014)

Many people know Lisa Kudrow for her role as Phoebe Buffay on “Friends,” but they may not know her from her satirical comedy series, “The Comeback.”

The series released a single season in 2005 before being cancelled, but the series began to develop a following over time and a second season was released in 2014, nine years later.

“The Comeback” was Kudrow’s first independent project after wrapping “Friends.” This was a game-changer for Kudrow’s career, as she served as a co-creator, writer and executive producer for the series.

Kudrow stars as “Valerie,” a former sitcom actress who is desperate to get back into the spotlight. After receiving a role on a new show for the first time in more than a decade, she decides to document the experience by filming her own reality show titled “The Comeback.” The series used the “found footage” technique to present the story to the audience.

The first season of “The Comeback” received mixed reviews from critics, but the second season was met with an overwhelmingly positive response.

Kudrow was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series” for her performance as “Valerie Cherish” for both seasons of the series.

The series tackles issues like the presence of ageism and sexism in Hollywood. “The Comeback” is a hidden gem that over the years has developed a cult following. Kudrow said that she has considered creating a third season, but at this time it is not official. – Sarah Simpson

“Fleabag” (2016-2019)

“Fleabag” has been hailed as one of the best TV series in the 21st Century by many critics. Written and created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the show follows a young, witty woman navigating her life in London after the death of her best friend.

Waller-Bridge also stars as the titular character, “Fleabag,” who consistently breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience directly. One of the most unique things about this show is how Waller-Bridge subverts audiences’ expectations and surprises them in different ways.

The show presents itself as a comedy and it reels the audience in before hitting them with some incredibly tragic moments and pathos. Season one had already received rave reviews, but season two of the show expanded on the concept and delivered one of the most heartbreaking comedies in years.

Inspired by the cynicism that Waller-Bridge felt in her twenties with a touch of “female rage,” the show also talks about various subjects such as feminism, religion, sexuality, family, sisterhood, and grief all in the span of 12 episodes and 25 minutes each.

Waller-Bridge’s hilarious yet heartbreaking performance and her extremely sharp and witty writing are the core of the show, and she has delivered a profound piece of art that some shows only dreamed of achieving in such a short amount of time.

“Fleabag” can make the audience laugh just as quickly as she can make them cry, and that is the true testament of Waller-Bridge’s incredible range both as an actor and writer. – Jimmy Lu

“Insecure” (2016-)

“Insecure” could very well be one of the most successfully adapted TV shows from a web series.

Created by Issa Rae, who also created the web series, “Awkward Black Girl”, The show follows Issa, who is also played by Rae, as she deals with the everyday life issues with her best friend, Molly (Yvonne Orji).

The show has been described as one of the most revolutionary TV shows because it focuses on contemporary black experiences and how it deals with social and racial issues in the black community in a funny but thought-provoking way.

The show also explores different places in LA through the lenses of native LA people. Instead of just shooting the tourist spot, “Insecure” immerses the audience in the city by focusing on black businesses, restaurants, and music.

Inspired by Rae’s real-life experiences, the show also focuses on female friendships and modern-day relationships. “I didn’t see a lot of female friendships on TV, let alone black female friendships,” says Rae.

Each season dives deeper into the character’s mind and relationships before it all exploded in season four, which could very well be the best season yet.

Rae’s outstanding performance as herself “Issa,” is the biggest highlight of the show. Her awkward encounters and her hilarious freestyle rapping carries the show. She continues to be one of the most innovative and versatile stars in the industry by simply being who she is, unapologetically. – Jimmy Lu

“Please Like Me” (2013-2016)

It’s hard to make comedy shows stand out when countless comedy shows are being released each year, but that’s exactly what “Please Like Me” did.

Created and written by Australian comedian Josh Thomas, the show follows Josh, a twenty-something gay man, as he moves back with his mom after learning that she tried to commit suicide, which is inspired by Thomas’s real-life mother.

The show never shies away from candidly discussing mental illness without ever making it taboo or a gimmick. It portrays them as normal people who are just going through life as everyone else.

“Please Like Me” also explores realistic issues with humorous tones throughout the four seasons, such as homophobia, racism, depression, workplace harassment, STDs, and many others.

Thomas’s poignant writing and his unique point-of-view of the world always has a way to find humor in simple or devastating things. The show also deals with death in a completely different way. With some characters passing away without any given warnings, but yet it shows that it’s the reality for many people.  

The final season is the best out of the series, and the last two episodes will for sure make the audience cry.

One of the main characters of the show committed suicide at the end, but instead of focusing on why the person did it, they focus on how it affected every single character in the show.

Some of them were a mess, some of them refused to believe it, and some of them didn’t know how to react.

The brutal honesty is what the show did best, and Thomas has established himself as one of the best upcoming new writers in the industry.

Steph Harmon from The Guardian praised the show by saying, “Please Like Me became one of TV's most honest and devastating shows.” – Jimmy Lu

“Teenage Bounty Hunters” (2020)

“Teenage Bounty Hunters” was a teen dramedy released by Netflix released this summer. The show would sadly be canceled after only one season. This show was filled with amazing humor and spectacular acting.

The show's two protagonists were both newcomers who had a lot to offer to the genre. They both shined in their roles and were very enjoyable to watch. Maddie Phillips and Anjelica Fellini had great chemistry and they played twins perfectly.

The side characters also were perfect. There were many comic-relief characters that really work and never felt out of place. Each character had intriguing character development and all of the actors on this show were really incredible.

The writing in the show was spectacular. The unique storyline worked really well with the fact that the two protagonists go to Catholic school. The show was also unpredictable. The story went to many unexpected places that never felt rushed or out of nowhere.

It also left off on a huge cliffhanger that would’ve made for a spectacular season two.

This show is a must watch for those who love teen comedies that involve a bunch of action-packed scenes and a lot of teen romance.

It is a very quick watch, and there is something in this show for any audience member to enjoy. Although there was only one season this fantastic show is definitely worth a watch. – Jack Freiser

“Crashing” (2017 – 2019)

“Crashing” was one of the first creations from the spectacular Phoebe Waller Bridge. She has gone on to write and star in many comedy classic shows such as “Fleabag”, “Killing Eve”, and “Broad Street”.

Although all of these shows are great, “Crashing: is without a doubt her most underrated show.

This show only ran for one season and consisted of a mere 6 episodes. It was no normal comedy. This show was very emotional and although it was laugh out loud funny at many moments, it was also heart wrenching and very thought provoking.

The ensemble cast for this show was outstanding. Each character was intriguing and the audience was rooting for each character. They all had their scenes to shine and each character left their mark on the comedy genre.

The writing in this show was incredible. Each episode told a chaotic and very enjoyable story and the finale successfully wrapped up each character’s story effortlessly. As much as a second season would’ve been amazing, this show worked with only having a single season.

Each scene meant something. Because the episodes were around thirty minutes, there wasn’t much time to tell a full story with seven main characters. However, Phoebe Waller Bridge succeeded in making a cohesive story with a ton of heart.

This show is a must watch for any comedy lover and it is a very bingeable show. “Crashing” is a show that is very rare to come across. It is the best of the best of hidden gems that is both a laugh out loud comedy and a very meaningful drama. – Jack Freiser

“Little Fires Everywhere” (2020)

While “Little Fires Everywhere” was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award by the critics. This show is extremely underrated by audience members and viewers worldwide.

Not only is this drama series starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington but the two also sit alongside Liz Tigelaar, Lauren Neustadter and Pilar Savone as executive producers.

The production team is full of diverse women. They all share and have experienced events based on this raw television series.

“Little Fires Everywhere” takes viewers back to the 90s for this emotional, chilling story between two different mothers and how they raise their families in a small Ohio town.

This series should gain more recognition because the strong female leads bring to light prominent issues of race, social class, privilege and families. All of which are prevalent in this day and age especially due to the pandemic and racial inequality.

The fiery, unfiltered characters lure the audience in to find out the events that lead to the tragedy in Shaker Heights. The show exemplifies that no one’s life is truly “perfect” and that many people hide behind a facade to pretend everything is fine when in reality it is not.

Right now, the entire globe is experiencing challenges and hardships. “Little Fires Everywhere” will remind the audience to never take things for granted and be true to themselves.

This show will help bring many people together and to light on numerous social issues. It needs to be recognized for the phenomenal performance from both the powerful cast and crew. – Courtney McGinley

“30 Rock” (2006 – 2013)

“30 Rock” is an underrated television series because of the lack of talk surrounding the show's unbelievable cast, writers and comedic innuendos.

The show was created by Tina Fey after her run on “Saturday Night Live”. It expresses and alludes to her life as head writer and performer in 30 Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock for short.

From the outlandish skits and satire to love and friendship, all produced by Lorne Michaels, bring the show together with cast Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski and many more strong, talented actors.

Additionally, several episodes have a new guest star similar to that of Saturday Night Live with a guest host. Some recognizable guests include Jennifer Aniston, Steve Martin, Salma Hayek, Jason Sudeikis and even Oprah Winfrey.

It is interesting and takes a lot of hard work and preparation to create a show and even more fascinating to create one about your own life. Fey should be recognized on a higher level for this work and achievement.

The strategic series follows Liz Lemon who has to juggle all the egos and problems of her fellow writers and actors whilst trying to figure out her own life and chase her own dreams.

If the viewer needs a good laugh or want to take their mind off of something, “30 Rock” is the perfect show. With each episode only 22 minutes, it is easy to binge and perfect to watch on a rainy day. – Courtney McGinley

 

Sarah Simpson is a junior majoring in film-video. To contact her, email sus816@psu.edu

Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu is a senior majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email jfl5603@psu.edu

Jack Freiser is a freshman majoring in either media studies or telecommunications. To contact him, email jef5614@psu.edu.

Courtney McGinley is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email cbm5861@psu.edu

About the Contributors

Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu's photo

Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu

Senior / Telecommunications

Jimmy (Chien-Hsing) Lu is a senior from Taiwan majoring in telecommunications at Penn State. He is a contributing writer for the CommRadio arts & entertainment department. If you’d like to contact him, please email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Courtney McGinley's photo

Courtney McGinley

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Sarah Simpson's photo

Sarah Simpson

Senior / Film-Video

Sarah Simpson is a senior from Irwin, Pennsylvania majoring in film-video, and minoring in Journalism and Spanish at Penn State. She is a member of Centre County Report. She is also the president of Penn State Network Television (PSNtv), Penn State’s student-run television network, as well as the director for PSNtv’s weekly news broadcast PSN News. She has interned with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as a photo/video intern and Penn State Athletics as a live video production intern. If you’d like to contact her, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Jack Freiser's photo

Jack Freiser

Freshman / Telecommunications

Jack Freiser is a caring and creative people-person who loves music and film. He aspires to impact the music business as a successful A+R by signing artists who will be culturally relevant and will leave an impact on the world, and through keeping a strong relationship with the artist and their team. Email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).