1. Breaking Bad (2008 - Present)

Imdb rating: 9.4/10

Breaking Bad has the basic synopsis of a chemistry teacher who turns into a meth cook after contracting cancer was one that always conjured up bewilderment as oppose to interest and a want to actually watch it. But believe me; don’t make that mistake as I did. Having now seen every episode from the first season to the final (Five seasons) I am positively chomping at the bit in anticipation for the release of the last eight episodes in summer 2013 to conclude the season and the TV series. The protagonist of Breaking Bad is Walter White (Bryan Cranston) who turns to meth cooking in order to pay for his medical bills and leave enough money for his family when he passes from his illness. What is fascinating about the series is watching the slow transformation of Walt as he descends deeper into the drug underworld, seeing his placid family man image being wiped away by his ruthless, criminal alter-ego known to his enemies and associates as ‘Heisenberg’. Thrilling, violent and pulsating, Breaking Bad is every bit as addictive as the methamphetamine produced by Mr. White. (Below are a few tasty clips from Breaking Bad that are just a teaser as to why I consider it a must see tv show!)

Breaking Bad: Season 1
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Intrigued by Breaking Bad? Why not try out the first season here and enjoy of the top TV shows ever!

2. Spartacus (2010 - 2013)

Imdb Rating: 8.7/10

Having come to its conclusion in 2013, Spartacus has been one of the most compelling TV shows of the last few years. It tells the famous tale of the gladiator Spartacus who led a massive slave uprising against the Romans in a bid to earn their right to freedom. Initially the first few episodes, featuring a mammoth helping of blood and sexual content, seemed quite gratuitous but it must be said that Spartacus has matured into one of the best TV shows around. Of course the spraying of blood everywhere and graphic sex has remained, but it is in keeping with the era it portrays and the style the show has made its own, going on to gather legions of fans and enjoy great success. Its success is made more spectacular by challenges faced after the tragic passing of Andy Whitfield, the actor who played Spartacus in the first season. Casting a new Spartacus could have seen the shows appeal drop but credit to Liam McIntyre who was recast as the new Spartacus and who has performed admirably. Filled with epic fights (much slow motion matrix style), engaging visuals and breathtaking action, Spartacus episodes are an adrenaline fuelled watch. It was hard for me not to rank this as my number one, but is certainly ranks for me as one of the best must see TV shows ever. A definite must see TV show for those interesting in the period/story of Spartacus and the Romans, as well as those who just love epic action tales!

3. Prison Break (2005 - 2009)

Imdb rating: 8.6/10 

Prison Break remains one of my all time favourite television shows. Whilst none of the subsequent three seasons were able to capture the brilliance of its first, the whole series still managed to produce moments of excitement and genuine interest episode after episode after episode. It begins with the story of two brothers; one sent to prison with the death penalty for a crime he didn’t commit, and the other a genius who commits everything in order to save his sibling. The meticulous planning and intricate details that are put together by Michael Schofield (including getting sent to prison himself) along with the real mix of engaging criminal characters that are woven into the plot are what makes the first season just so outstanding. If you get hooked by Season One like I did, then you will find the other seasons just as enjoyable as your anticipation builds to see if there will ever be an end to the woes of the escapees.

Don Draper in Mad Men
Credit: www.guardian.co.uk

4. Mad Men (2007 - Present)

Imdb rating: 8.8/10

Mad Men is an American drama that revolves around the comings and goings at the fictional advertising agency Sterling Cooper in the 1960s. The main man of the show is the exceptionally talented Don Draper (Jon Hamm) who occupies the position of creative director at the firm, and is regarded as one of the best ad-men in the business. His personal life, be it coping with the numerous women in his world (both those attached to him and those not) or trying to subdue memories of his troubled past, is very much part of the series as the audience sees how much it effects his work. Although perhaps Mad Men is a little slowly paced for some tv viewers, it is an artistic delight in the eyes of the majority - a showpiece of fine acting and storytelling. With five seasons down and currently in the middle of its sixth, there is much more to come from this award winning tv series.

5. Game of Thrones (2011 - Present)

Imdb rating: 9.4/10

One of the more recent TV series on this list having premiered in 2011, Game of Thrones falls into the fantasy genre and is based on the bestselling books by George R. R. Martin. The game that it refers to is that of the challenge for power amongst the various kingdoms and rulers in the mythical realm of Westeros. The medieval style is juxtaposed with make-believe creatures such as the ‘White Walkers’ and it makes GoT an intriguing prospect. It is hard not to find yourself immersed in the politics of the series once you get into it, deciding whether to root for the Starks or the Lannisters in the battle for power. As with fantasy TV series it may not be for everyone, but it is worth at least dipping your toes in because you may well find a series that is superbly directed and produced to ensure maximum enjoyment. With the new season currently underway, Game of Thrones mania is peaking as eager fans are loving the return of one of the must see TV shows of modern times.

Ned Stark in GoT
Credit: http://www.filmchronicles.com

6. Dexter (2006 - Present)

Imdb Rating: 9.0/10

The simple plot of Dexter is: lab geek at Miami Metro Police moonlights as a serial killer. It was this simplicity that put me off watching Dexter for quite a while assuming it just would lack the exciting element that draws me into the best TV series. Boy, how I was wrong - Dexter blew my initial apprehensions out of the water, and then some. It is so much more than what I envisaged, such inventive storytelling to make such a simple idea so complex with all the intricacies surrounding Dexter’s family life, his work life, his past as well as his dark secret. Not wanting to reveal any spoilers about any of the plots, all I will say is that Dexter delivers season after season producing new characters, new challenges, and most importantly new kills. Having watched all of the seven seasons I am now eagerly awaiting the eighth, and final, instalment of this must see TV show.

7. Band of Brothers (2001)

Imdb Rating: 9.6/10

Band of Brothers reunites Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who worked together on the superb war film Saving Private Ryan, and sees them create an epic 10 episode series following ‘Easy’ Company and their campaign in Europe during the Second World War. It is based on the research and interviews collected by the historian Stephen E. Ambrose from Easy Company veterans. The first episode is a bit of a slow-burner as we are introduced to the characters whilst at a training camp, but once they are dropped into action the show really becomes a winner. Great characters like Lt. Richard Winters (Damian Lewis), breathtaking action scenes allied with stunning visual effects make Band of Brothers a definite must watch TV show. Fans of Band of Brothers should also check out The Pacific, a show that is very much in the same class as BoB.

Band of Brothers
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The exceptional Band of Brothers boxset is well worth a watch, if you are fan of the series, great tv shows, or even if you just like history!

8. Suits (2011 - Present)

Imdb Rating: 8.8/10

Suits is a classy drama laced with an ample dose of comedy that revolves around life at the fictional law firm Pearson Hardman, mainly focusing on the relationship between ‘top closer’ Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) and his new associate Mike Ross (Patrick Adams). Hardly an eye opener at face value However, Mike Ross happens to be a genius college drop-out who manages to get this prestigious job position despite never having been to law school and also despite the fact he turned up at the interview because he was running away from the police. The relationship between Specter and Ross is the winning point for me, as the master-protégé feel is evident very early on as the two tackle legal problems head on. A notable character who deserves a mention is Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), Harvey’s nemesis within the firm, as he is just brilliant. Even though only two season in, Suits is one of the best TV dramas around at the moment and well worth watching.

Hank Moody in Californication
Credit: www.good-wallpapers.com

9. Californication (2007 - Present)

Imdb rating: 8.2/10

Californication is about a gifted yet inherently apathetic writer, Hank Moody (played by David Duchovny), who spends the majority of his time drinking, seeking short trysts with beautiful women, or attempting to win back his ex-lover Karen – who is also the mother of his child, Becca. The show’s title gives a none-too-subtle hint to a lot of what it focuses on as Hank’s ‘don juan’ womanising ways encourage a seemingly endless stream of new women to appear and disappear each season. Along the way some strong connections are made to these female companions, but the underlying subtext is that the only two females that Hank desires to love are Karen and Becca. His problems come in that his childish and immature behaviour drives a wedge between them time and time again. A great TV series, Californication combines the comedy and intrigue that surrounds these sexual encounters with the much deeper issue of a dysfunctional family trying to stay in touch.

10. Blue Mountain State (2010-2011)

Imdb Rating: 8.2/10

Although perhaps one of the softer choices in my top 10 must see TV shows list - it nips in ahead of great TV shows like Homeland and Justified - Blue Mountain State is still a bawdy comedy of worthy sustenance. Sold as homage to the 1978 film ‘Animal House’, Blue Mountain State focuses on the exploits of members of an American football team as they party their way through college. Copious amounts of drinking, drug usage and casual sex are the norm which explains its appeal to the younger generation as it portrays a life of extremity bordering on mythological proportions. For an outsider like myself, whilst it may give a very tainted and incredibly exaggerated view into what life may be like for some college football stars, it is thoroughly entertaining from the outset and one of the funniest TV shows I’ve watched recently. 

Hopefully you have enjoyed reading about my recommended must see tv shows and are intrigued by at least one of them. If you are interested in films then have a look at some of these pages:

Best Films of 2012

Best Films of 2011

Best Films of 2010