This post is updated frequently as TV shows leave and enter Paramount+. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
Paramount+ has been in a bit of an identity crisis in the streaming era. For years, it was known as CBS All Access, the portal for people to watch both current and classic CBS programming, but the company rebranded as Paramount+ in 2021. The best thing that Paramount+ has had going for it is the development of creators, particularly the Kings, the team behind originals The Good Fight and Evil, and Taylor Sheridan, who has created a ratings juggernaut in his Yellowstone universe — there are four spin-offs on the air or in development. There are also some classic Paramount properties on the service like MTV originals Jackass and Beavis & Butt-Head, along with so many trips to the final frontier.
This Month’s Critic’s Pick
* Penny Dreadful
Length: 3 seasons, 27 episodes
Creator: John Logan
Fans of this show were crestfallen when it ended after only three seasons, but its limited run has arguably made it even more of a cult hit in the years since. Penny Dreadful is drenched in violence and sexuality, using a ton of 19th century Gothic fiction as its base, inspired by the tales of characters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll. In fact, some of those famous characters appear directly with Harry Treadaway memorably playing Victor Frankenstein. But the show is stolen by the formidable Eva Green, who should have won at least one Emmy for her work here.
Length: 1 season, 10 episodes
Creator: Taylor Sheridan
The first spin-off of Sheridan’s massive hit Yellowstone ran for only one season, reportedly surprising Paramount execs who didn’t know it was limited until they saw the finale. It may not be great for business, but it means viewers can catch the whole saga of the Dutton family’s settlement in Montana that would eventually become Yellowstone. Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Sam Elliott star in a show that should appeal to fans of the original.
Creators: Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Andrew Ross Sorkin
Paramount+ added old and current Showtime shows in Summer 2023, which was just in time for subscribers to catch up with the saga of this excellent drama before it ends after its seventh season, premiering in August 2023. It started as the story of hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) butting heads with U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti), but it has become more of an ensemble piece over the years (especially after the departure of Lewis, who is returning for the final year).
Length: 8 seasons, 96 episodes
Creator: James Manos Jr.
One of the biggest critical and commercial darlings of the Showtime legacy is this thriller based on the books by Jeff Lindsay. Michael C. Hall segued beautifully from HBO’s Six Feet Under to playing Dexter Morgan, everyone’s favorite serial killer with a conscience. Dexter is a Miami forensic analyst who happens to murder the bad guys who slip through the police department’s grasp. It arguably outran its welcome (like a lot of Showtime shows) but it was brilliant for at least four seasons.
* Escape at Dannemora
Creators: Brett Johnson, Michael Tolkin
In 2015, two inmates escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York. It turned out that they had some help from a female prison employee, played in this series by the spectacular Patricia Arquette, who won an Emmy for her efforts. She’s matched by great turns from Benicio del Toro and Paul Dano, along with ace direction from Ben Stiller. It’s one of the best mini-series of the 2010s.
Length: 1 season, 6 episodes
Creator: Abe Sylvia
An Emmy nominee for the delayed ceremony now taking place in 2024, this miniseries is a stunner in terms of ensemble, and a welcome reunion for two of the best actors of their generation in Michael Shannon & Jessica Chastain (who co-starred in Take Shelter). The pair play the title characters, George Jones & Tammy Wynette in this unpacking of their personal problems and professional legacy. It co-stars Steve Zahn, Walton Goggins, Tim Blake Nelson, Kelly McCormack, and many more.
Length: 6 seasons, 60 episodes
Creators: Robert King, Michelle King, Phil Alden Robinson
After the end of The Good Wife (which is also on Paramount+), the creators spun off a superior drama in this original series that followed Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart to a Chicago law firm. The ensemble here is phenomenal — including wonderful guest turns from Michael J. Fox and Michael Sheen — but it’s the writing that really elevates this very unusual drama, one that was entirely unafraid to incorporate real world issues into its storytelling. In the end, The Good Fight may be one of the best television reflections of the Trump era, and how we survived it.
Creators: Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa
When people think of Showtime original dramas, Homeland is one of the first shows that comes to mind. Running for basically the entire 2010s, it was a rollercoaster in terms of quality, but viewers who gave up in the rocky chapters should know that it found its voice again near the end, finishing strongly. Throughout, Claire Danes was excellent as Carrie Mathison, a CIA officer who balanced her personal issues with one of the most high-pressure jobs in the world.
Length: 2 seasons, 29 episodes
Creators: Stephen Chbosky, Josh Schaer, Jonathan E. Steinberg
In the wake of LOST, every network wanted their own high-concept hit, and Jericho ended up being one of the most interesting. It now feels like a show a bit ahead of its time, especially given how much audiences love post-apocalyptic tales nowadays. Skeet Ulrich stars in the story of a nuclear attack that levels much of the United States, leaving survivors to try and form a new society. It was notoriously canceled after one season, only brought back after a fan campaign … just to be canceled seven episodes into the next one. If those fans are still out there, here’s the place to be.
Length: 11 seasons, 134 episodes
Creator: John Wells
The longest-running scripted series in Showtime history started modestly as an adaptation of the British hit of the same name. The story of a Chicago family dealing with life’s speedbumps was initially a vehicle for William H. Macy, who earned multiple Emmy nominations for his work here, but it also launched the careers of both Cameron Monaghan and one Jeremy Allen White, now killing it on The Bear. Like any 11-season run, Shameless has its ups and downs, but fans stayed loyal enough to it to keep it on that long for a reason.
Years: 1990-1991, 2017
Length: 3 seasons, 48 episodes
Creators: Mark Frost, David Lynch
When Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) went to Twin Peaks, television changed forever. To say something was ahead of its time is clichéd, but audiences legitimately had no idea what to do with this show when it premiered in 1990, forever changing expectations of network TV (and leading the way for the cable domination and Prestige era). By the time it returned in 2017 for The Return, which is also on Paramount+, its brilliance was widely recognized. It’s simply essential television.
Beavis and Butt-Head
Years: 193-1997, 2011, 2022-present
Length: 9 seasons, 245 episodes
Creator: Mike Judge
It took forever for Mike Judge’s massively influential MTV hit to get to a streaming service, mostly held up by music rights to the videos that these lovable morons mocked in every episode. Not only are most of them now on Paramount+, but they’re accompanied by a revival of the show that’s actually pretty damn hysterical. There’s something timeless about the adventures of Beavis and his BFF Butt-head.
Length: 3 seasons, 28 episodes
Creators: Dave Chappelle, Neal Brennan
Everyone has an opinion on Dave Chappelle in the 2020s, but back in the 2000s, he wasn’t yet a household name when his sketch comedy show premiered on Comedy Central. Everything changed. In instant hit, Chappelle’s Show felt like the new wave of comedy unfolding before our eyes. It was what was going to replace your parents’ sketch comedy in shows like Saturday Night Live. And then Dave walked away from it. It holds up incredibly well, and it’s easy to see its influence on so many imitators since.
Length: 11 seasons, 275 episodes
Creators: Glen Charles, Les Charles, James Burrows
Any list of the best sitcoms of all time that doesn’t include the gang at Cheers is simply wrong. Running for most of the 1980s, the NBC hit really defined that decade in terms of comedy, both in ratings and critical success. It’s also a great example of a show that needed time to find an audience after nearly being canceled after its first season. So many shows aren’t given time to find their people anymore. Thank God, someone at NBC allowed Cheers to do so.
Creators: David Crane, Jeffrey Klarik
This might be the best post-Friends project for any of its stars. Matt LeBlanc is excellent at satirizing himself in this send-up of the TV comedy industry about two writers who move from the U.K. to Hollywood and discover it’s a shark-infested profession. Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig play the couple while LeBlanc plays the problematic star of the show they’re writing. It’s smart and consistently funny, at least for the first few seasons. In fact, LeBlanc got more Emmy nominations for this (four) than he did for the show that made him a household name.
Length: 9 seasons, 210 episodes
Creator: Philip Rosenthal
One of the best sitcoms of all time, this CBS juggernaut remains hysterical, and Peacock is now the exclusive streaming home of the Barone family. The ensemble here is so strong from top to bottom but revisit it now for the timing of Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts as Ray’s parents. They make every single joke funnier than it is on the page.
Length: 11 seasons, 264 episodes
Creators: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee
Spin-offs are never this good. After the doors closed over at Cheers, Kelsey Grammer took the character of Frasier Crane to his own series on the same network and arguably found just as much as success. For over a decade, fans embraced Frasier and his professional and personal allies, including brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce), father Martin (John Mahoney), producer Roz (Peri Gilpin), and Martin’s care-giver Daphne (Jane Leeves). Consistently clever and funny, Frasier is one of the best sitcoms of the ‘90s. And it’s returning (sorta) in a reboot on the streamer later this year (with only Grammer back in the cast).
Length: 1 season, 18 episodes
Creator: Paul Feig
It was considered enough of a failure by NBC that the network only aired 12 episodes before pulling the plug, but few shows have ever reclaimed their legacy as much as this one. Judged on its own terms, it’s one of the smartest coming-of-age comedies to ever play on television, but it was also the minor leagues for comedy to come, helping launch the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, John Francis Daley, Martin Starr, Linda Cardellini, and many more.
Length: 3 seasons, 25 episodes
Creators: Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville
The adventures of Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Wee Man, and the rest of the lunatics over at Jackass have become an essential part of the Paramount+ brand. They have all four of the films (and Bad Grandpa) along with full episodes from the MTV era that started it all. Don’t try this at home, kids.
Length: 5 seasons, 54 episodes
Creators: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele
Sketch comedy doesn’t get funnier than the massive Comedy Central hit that reunited a pair of Mad TV stars and let their genius run wild. Hitting hot button issues with fresh insight and hysterical precision, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele revealed themselves to be two of the best comedy writers in the business, leading to a Peabody Award, two Emmy Awards, and millions of fans. You can see their fingerprints on so much of what people find funny and clever in the 2020s.
Length: 3 seasons, 30 episodes
Creators: Nick Kroll, Jonathan Krisel, John Levenstein
Nick Kroll doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the most consistently inventive comedians of his era. If you don’t believe me, look no further than his Comedy Central sketch comedy show that allowed the gifted actor to really go all-in with his warped sense of humor and remarkable skill at crafting memorable characters. It feels like Kroll could get a boost in the future from people who were teens when this show was originally on as they find it again. Let’s start that now.
Length: 3 seasons, 22 episodes
Creators: Andy Daly, Jeffrey Blitz, Charlie Siskel
Review is the funniest show you probably haven’t seen. The insanely talented Andy Daly plays Forrest MacNeil, a professional critic who decides to review real-life experiences instead of just movies or TV shows. He then rates each experience in an unfolding saga of a man who basically gets so swept up in a project that it destroys his actual real life. Each episode is titled after what Forrest is reviewing that week, and there may be no funnier half-hour of television in the 2010s than “Pancakes; Divorce; Pancakes.”
* The United States of Tara
Length: 3 seasons, 36 episodes
Creator: Diablo Cody
Juno scribe Diablo Cody created this show about a mother dealing with dissociative identity disorder, giving the phenomenal Toni Collette a part so rich that she won an Emmy for its first season. Collette plays Tara, an ordinary mother who has an extraordinary problem that leads her to express various other personalities. Risky and funny, it also features great supporting turns from Rosemarie DeWitt, John Corbett, and Keir Gilchrist.
Horror, Sci-fi, and Fantasy
Length: 3 seasons, 21 episodes
Creator: Peter Chung
Anyone old enough to remember MTV’s Liquid Television probably remembers how much it ruled. Experimental animated shorts on a major cable network wasn’t (and still isn’t) a common thing, and the show allowed for all kinds of unexpected visions and creative expression. One of the most memorable was Aeon Flux, which was then spun-off into its own series (and even an eventual movie). One wishes there were more things as ambitious as this on TV now.
Length: 3 seasons, 36 episodes
Creators: Robert King, Michelle King
The creators of The Good Fight launched a very different (but just-as-smart) series on CBS in 2019, but it moved to Paramount+ for its second season and got even better. Katja Herbers and Mike Colter star in a show that’s really about the modern definition of evil, and how it manifests in everything from social media to crypto currency. This is one of the smartest shows on TV, a modern X-Files riff that’s sexy, creepy, and brilliant.
Length: 3 seasons, 26 episodes
Creators: Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, Kirsten Beyer, Alex Kurtzman
There’s a lot of Star Trek on Paramount+, but Picard deserves its own entry as the best of the recent TV offerings, a show that brought the legendary Sir Patrick Stewart back to the series. Jean-Luc Picard returns in a show that picks up two decades after the action of Star Trek: Nemesis, incorporating new characters into the story while also bringing back some familiar faces (especially later in the run). The three-season run has been a bit divisive, but it’s a Star Trek show that people are talking about again, and that matters to the legacy of this influential franchise.
Length: 1 season, 9 episodes
Creators: Josh Boone, Benjamin Cavell
Stephen King’s breakthrough 1978 epic novel about the end of the world has been a puzzle for Hollywood for generations. They adapted it once as a mini-series for network TV in 1994, and then it was in various states of production for a feature film throughout the 2010s. It ended up a mini-series at the end of the decade and in the peak of the pandemic, and, well, it’s interesting but flawed. Still, King fans will want to check it out, particularly for Alex Skarsgard’s memorable work as Randall Flagg and solid turns from Greg Kinnear and Odessa Young.
Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Paramount and Star Trek have been partners for generations, so it makes sense that the streaming service has weeks-worth of trips to the final frontier for fans to watch. There’s a wave of new originals like Discovery, Prodigy, Lower Decks, Strange New Worlds, and Picard. But the real draw remains the classics, including The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise. You could watch nothing but Star Trek on Paramount+ and have little time to do anything else.
Length: 5 seasons, 156 episodes
Creator: Rod Serling
No, not the Jordan Peele reboot. We’re talking about the classic original, a show that deserves to be on any list of the best of all time. It’s certainly one of the most influential, a masterpiece of sight and sound that’s still rippling across sci-fi television. With episodes that play out like short films, Rod Serling explored the potential of storytelling on episodic television in a manner that elevated the entire form. If you only want to pick out the absolute best, use this guide to do so.
Creators: Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson
Even fans would admit that the sophomore slump stung this Showtime hit, but that’s in part because the first season was so unabashedly brilliant. Taking place in dual timelines, this is the story of a group of teenagers who crashed in the middle of nowhere in 1996 and were forced to go to extremes to survive. It’s also the story of them today as survivors, blending grief, mystery, and intrigue into a fascinating narrative stew. Most of all, it’s a show that clicks because of its rock star cast, including great turns from Melanie Lynskey, Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, Sophie Nelisse, and many more. The creators claim to have multiple seasons outlined, so there’s reason to hope that this show will fly again soon.