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I’m out of commission today, guys, but I’ve been wanting to ask this question for awhile. What’s the best written show on television?? It seems to me that since Breaking Bad ended, there’s been a lowering of quality in the TV offerings. I’ve tried to get into a lot of shows, and while I’ve liked a few, there’s been nothing that’s exhibited that same addictive quality Walter White and Jesse Pinkman brought to the table every week.

So, in your opinion, what’s the best-written show out there? Emphasis on “WRITTEN.” This is a screenwriting site, so while there are shows with awesome production value, I’m more concerned with what ropes you in on the storytelling end. I admit this post is selfish. I’m looking for a show to commit to. So here are ten options. I’m not doing comedy since you can’t really compare comedy to drama. Maybe we’ll do comedy another time. Feel free to write a show in, though I think I’ve covered all the best ones here…

1) Mr. Robot – I like Mr. Robot a lot. The only reason why I haven’t ravenously kept up with it is because it can be a little intense and heady at times. It’s the show that makes you think more than any other show out there, and sometimes when we watch television, we like to cycle down. Still, this is a strong contender for the top spot.

2) Stranger Things – I initially wrote this off as two writers who’d jumped on the Nostalgia Express, with zero stops at originality. But the show has grown on me, particularly the stellar score. Of course, the score has nothing to do with the writing. This one is a tough call. It’s hard to nail down.

3) The Night Of – This is currently the most hyped TV show on television, and I’m not surprised why. It’s got Steven Zallian and Richard Price behind it, two of the top 15 screenwriters in the world. I remember reviewing this though and feeling it was pretty ordinary. The setup felt familiar. I’ve seen “wake up with dead woman” movies and shows before. Watching the pilot didn’t do much to change that. But maybe the show gets better in the later episodes?

4) Game of Thrones – I’ve tried so hard to keep up with Thrones. I’ve blocked out times to binge watch so I can catch up to the current season (I’m still at the beginning of 5). But the writing’s weaknesses keep bleeding through. Too many scenes with people sitting around talking. Keeping the audience’s attention by killing off characters as a substitution for solid dramatic storytelling. Hey, I understand how hard it is to keep a show fresh past its third season. But Thrones might want to switch its focus from kings to emperors, since this one doesn’t seem to have any clothes on.

5) The Walking Dead – Speaking of trying to keep a show fresh. Holy Moses. The Walking Dead doesn’t have any idea what it wants to do and is continuously repeating previous seasons’ story beats. I gave up a couple of seasons ago when they became part of yet another “perfect” community (repeat of season 3). And, again, when your main source of entertainment is killing off characters, you’ve lost your show.

6) The Americans – Everyone keeps telling me this is the best show on television. I have tried to watch the first episode no fewer than four times now. I have yet to get through the entire thing. The shoddy production value didn’t help. The Cold War stuff isn’t interesting to me (never liked Cold War stories – I think that time in history is extremely boring). If someone could try and explain to me why I should watch this show, they better be offering me a lifetime supply of In and Out double-doubles along with it. Cause I don’t think there’s any other way to get me to give this another chance.

7) Better Call Saul – One of the most understated shows on television. Every episode keeps me just entertained enough to keep watching. But it’s not lost on me how little story they put into each season. I think the main reason I keep watching is because once “Saul” finally emerges, I believe the show will become more like Breaking Bad.

8) Homeland – Like a lot of people, when Homeland won the Emmy for best drama, I binge-watched the first season and loved it. But five episodes into season 2 and I felt like I’d figured the show out. Once you’re ahead of the writers, your show is done.

9) Fargo – The only reason I hesitate to put this up is because it’s an anthology. So we don’t get to continue with those amazing characters from last season. But Fargo Season 2 came out of nowhere to be some of the best writing I’ve seen on TV in years. Wow was this a surprise.

10) Ray Donovan – I LOVE the character of Ray Donovan. I think he’s great and a big reason I watched the first 7 episodes of this show. But like Homeland, I started to feel like I’d figured the show out. There was no mystery or uncertainty anymore. Maybe I jumped the gun, though. I’ve been feeling like I should jump back in to Ray.

Honorable Mentions: The Flash, American Horror Story, Billions, Suits, Orange is the new Black, House of Cards, Outlander

So guys, what’s the best-written show out there???

  • Frankie Hollywood

    Preacher has been a must watch for me. I can’t wait for Sunday nights. It’s one of the few shows I watch live (not on Xfinity). Great cast too.

    I also love Mr. Robot, and Stranger Things was a lot better than I expected.

    Yeah, check out Preacher.

    • Frankie Hollywood

      BTW, one of the main producers on Preacher is Sam Catlin from Breaking Bad. He also wrote Preacher’s pilot episode.

  • Frankie Hollywood

    I forgot to include Animal Kingdom. Talk about a fucked up, dysfunctional family of thieves. Maybe not on the same level as a lot of other shows on your list, but I think it’s entertaining as hell.

  • http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts Eldave1

    Right now – I think Better Call Saul and Billions leads the pack. VEEP is very funny and underrated as well.

  • Scott Crawford

    Erm… it’s SUNDAY!!!

    • Poe_Serling

      Not for a time traveling screenwriting blogger.

      ;-)

  • ripleyy

    “Writing” is hard to judge a show on. If I had to judge a show purely on writing, it would be season one of Fargo. But Ray Donovan and Homeland (particularly the latest season) have really great writing, but it isn’t on par with season one of Fargo.

    Mr. Robot is intense, like that one person you date based on looks and soon realise he/she is a goddamn sexual deviant who loves role-playing as serial killers and call you “duckling”. You admit that you kinda like it but it’s only because you’re in a really bad place in your life that you have no idea you’re being held hostage and used as a sexual toy to this lunatic who collects how-to books on parenting.

    The moral of that story? It’s intense but super fun to watch. It is dark but enjoyable. It also has a really fucked up side to it that makes you feel anxious and on edge like you forgot to turn the oven on after going to work.

  • Dan B

    To me, Homeland failed after the first season because we lost the basic hook. The first season was this mystery/love story between a CIA Agent and what possibly was a terrorist. There was so much mystery in the Brody character, was he bad, or wasn’t he? Every scene had tension and suspense, because we didn’t know the truth yet.

    Once we got the pay off, the built in mystery was gone, it became a standard CIA show.

    Another one I’d like to point out was the difference between True Detective Season 1 and 2. Season 1 had his terrific built in hook. With the story being told between two different eras, we knew there was some pending payoff coming. They had been investigating this crime, but what kept me watching was that I needed to know why are these ex-detectives being brought back in… what’s going on, who are the cops after? Season 2 lacked this element, it was a straight noir. While Season 2 gets a lot crap, I was still impressed that Pizalloto was able to tie in every single detail of an insanely complicated plot. Every single thread was closed, and there were so many details. Unfortunately, even though the complicated plot was completely paid off, the journey through it wasn’t that great. I think part of the blame goes on the characters, they just weren’t as interesting as the ones in Season 1. And Season 2 was missing the big HOOK that season 1 had.

    Now – I’ve been catching up on old stuff, like Boardwalk Empire. Boardwalk is a decent, though the later seasons lose some luster. During the first few seasons, you really never know what to expect. However, one thing that this show kills the execution on is character development and character arcs. So many characters have this complete arc, even minor supporting ones. One of my favorites is Federal Agent Nelson Van Alden, who goes from this stern, God fearing Federal Agent, to a nut case that can’t control his urges, to a man on the run, to this man working for the very people he used to spend time putting behind bars. In the later seasons, Michael Shannon (who plays him) probably has the best lines in the show. He becomes this tragic yet comic character.

  • Dan B

    I really enjoyed Stranger Things. I read an interview from the Duffer Brothers, and they said they have a 30 page bible that explains everything about the upside down, and what is going on in the show. Yet, they only scratched the surface of this in the first season. They said that in the next seasons of the show, they will explore the mysteries of this world further, and that will drive the plot of the next few seasons.

  • BMCHB

    Monday? What year is this?

    1984?

    There’s a robot that will not stop…

  • Ashley Sanders

    Apart from Fargo season 2, I’d say the best written TV show I’ve seen over the last year is the BBC show River. Written by the writer of Suffragette it’s a London set detective show with a difference. And like a lot of UK shows, only six episodes – imagine the time saving. . . Might be difficult to track down in the US though?

  • Mazhar

    The Night Of is written by Steven Zaillian and Richard Price and not Steven Knight.