The Good Place - Far and away the smartest show on TV right now. It's all about moral philosophy, dressed up as a sitcom about the afterlife.
Your examples are sci fi heavy. Have you watched Stargate SG-1? It was very good once it got it's legs under it (starts slow). Lot's of great action...
Best answer: The Good Place - Far and away the smartest show on TV right now. It's all about moral philosophy, dressed up as a sitcom about the afterlife.
Your examples are sci fi heavy. Have you watched Stargate SG-1? It was very good once it got it's legs under it (starts slow). Lot's of great action episodes, but also many of the one-offs were great sci fi as commentary on society.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most dissected shows in TV history. There are several colleges with a course dedicated to all the symbolism in this one show. Entire books. On the surface it looks like a show about killing monsters with a bunch of funny one liners thrown in, but in fact everything is metaphor for Buffy's growing up into an adult. The monsters, the situations all are symbols and metaphors. Even the other characters are metphors for different parts of Buffy - Giles her intellect, Xander her heart, and Willow her spirit. And each of their reactions to things usually reflect how that aspect of Buffy would react to the metaphor of the day. Unfortunately, it's another slow starter...the show doesn't REALLY hit it's stride until mid season 2.
Firefly was brief but great.
Babylon 5 was the most uneven show ever in that it was both slow starting and slow ending, but that middle-bit was some of the best stuff of it's era.
If you like Anime at all, Death Note is pretty great. Watch the anime, not the Netflix live action adaptation.
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency was pretty excellent, albeit killed before it's time, and I love the way the seemingly crazy things from the first half of the show are beautifully and organically explained in the second half.
Future Man, a Hulu Original, is hilarious and uses time travel and sci fi and lots of references. It's characters are dumb as bricks, but it's very creative always taking a 80s sci fi reference and then putting enough twist on it to subvert your expectations.
iZombie is the most unusual take on zombie lore I've ever seen. Though, at it's heart the show is an episodic procedural cop drama, the zombie veneer and continuity developments of that part weave nicely together and where the show is now, it's broken out of the usual repetitive trap these sorts of shows end up in, where the characters are secret forever and the world is static. The iZombie world changes DRAMATICALLY in Seasons 3 and 4.
Dead Like Me is a sitcom about a group of grim reapers that take a bittersweet look at death (and life) in a black comedy.
Wonderfalls only got about half a season, but was an upbeat look at the lives of people who crossed the path of the protagonist, Jaye who intervened in people's lives reluctantly because inanimate things with faces were talking to her and telling her to do, seemingly random things that had huge impacts on people's lives in sort of a Rube Goldbergian way.
If you're willing to step out of sci fi, Veronica Mars was a great show. A teen detective show that was smart and funny and warm.
Pushing Daisies showed promise before it was cancelled. It's about someone who can bring people back to life, but only briefly and only once. This makes him the perfect detective. It's very much a show in the vein of Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls (same creator, IIRC), but it wasn't given enough time to find it's rhythm.
I see some other people have suggested Breaking Bad, Americans, and those are good. Not sci fi obviously. I would add Dexter to that list.
Arrested Development is also not sci fi, and is a sitcom, but it was one of the cleverest sitcoms of it's era, mastering the running gag trope by constantly tweaking and refreshing them and using them in unexpected situations. Only watch the original 3 seasons. The 2 netflix seasons are GARBAGE.
I don't know how open to cartoons you are, but Archer is a HILARIOUS cartoon featuring sci fi and spy elements. It's a bit adult, but I think it would be okay for a teen.
Futurama is also pretty darn smart. Like all cartoon sitcoms (Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy) it went on too long and lost it's mojo, but Futurama was arguably one of the best sci fi shows of it's era. It used just about every sci fi trope and layered alot of messages and commentary in subtly.
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