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The 40 Best TV Shows on Paramount+

Photo: NBC

CBS All Access rebranded on March 4 as Paramount+, and the depth of its TV catalogue remains strong, including next-day availability for current CBS hits like NCIS, Clarice, and The Equalizer. ViacomCBS is also promising a more robust slate of original programming for the streaming service, including a new SpongeBob series available on launch day and plans for a show based on the game Halo, a Frasier reboot, and a prequel to Yellowstone (which is not streaming on Paramount+, but instead is available on Peacock). Until then, these are the best 40 shows to watch on Paramount+ right from the very beginning.

60 Minutes

When 60 Minutes premiered in 1968, the concept of watching it on a streaming service like Paramount+ was unimaginable. And yet here it is over half a century later, available on Paramount+ the day after it airs on CBS, along with old episodes available for your newsmagazine-watching needs. This kind of television simply doesn’t get better than the original. It’s the longest-running show in TV history, and one of the best.

The Amazing Race

There are many reasons why this CBS reality show hit has been so successful for so long, winning consecutive Emmys for the best reality competition show on any network. One of them is that Phil Keoghan is as good as any host on these shows, finding ways to make this journey around the world pop. But this is really a model of perfect reality-show editing, keeping viewers as excited as the contestants on every leg of the competition.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Paramount+ owns the brand Nickelodeon, so fans of that network can find some of its biggest hits on the streaming service, including this massively successful animated program from the ’00s. The classic series is set in a world in which people can manipulate one of the four elements — water, earth, air, and fire — but there can also be an “Avatar” who can control all four. Elements of classic anime and modern Western animation blend in this highly entertaining action show for all ages. It’s so popular that Nickelodeon has doubled down and created an entire studio dedicated to expanding the franchise on Paramount+.

Beavis and Butt-Head

Paramount has always owned MTV, and so that means its streaming service will be the home for programming old and new from the cable network that once played music videos, believe it or not. The most influential and popular non-reality show in MTV history is Mike Judge’s hysterical showcase for the animated icons who love to play frog baseball and make fun of those classic videos. A new movie is on the way. See where the magic started, uh-huh-huh.

The Brady Bunch

There’s a reason why the creators of WandaVision centered an entire episodic homage on this ’70s classic about TV’s most unforgettable blended family. Running for only five seasons, The Brady Bunch actually became more popular in syndication in the ’80s as people fell in love with Mike Brady, Carol, Alice, and the rest of the bunch. It’s still easy to see why.

Chappelle’s Show

For people who were too young when it premiered, it’s hard to overstate the impact that Dave Chappelle’s sketch comedy had on the world for the two seasons it aired in 2003 and 2004. It regularly makes lists of the best television shows of all time for a reason, and it’s easy to see its influence all over the comedy world in the years since.

Cheers

Any list of the best TV comedies of all time that doesn’t include Cheers is just wrong. For most of the ’80s, this was quite simply the best show on TV, and it’s held up incredibly well over the years. It’s still laugh-out-loud hysterical, anchored by one of the best ensembles in comedy TV history and razor-sharp writing. There’s a reason this show won 28 Emmys.

Double Dare

This Nickelodeon classic has been revived for pretty much every generation, but the most influential version is the one that ran from 1986 to 1993. It set the standard for family game shows in its simple structure of two teams who compete to answer trivia questions and win physical challenges, most of them pretty damn messy.

Everybody Hates Chris

Based loosely on the life of creator Chris Rock, this UPN comedy was one of the highlights of that short-lived network before it merged with The WB and became The CW. Tyler James Williams plays a young Chris in a sitcom that offers a unique take on many of the tropes of the coming-of-age genre and features great supporting performances from Terry Crews and Tichina Arnold.

Evil

This unusual CBS procedural is the best show on network television, even if its second season has been annoyingly delayed because of COVID. Catch up with it on Paramount+ so CBS doesn’t cancel it. It’s basically like The X-Files, but with cases of supernatural good and evil instead of aliens. Katja Herbers is the skeptic and Mike Colter is the believer, while the great Michael Emerson messes with both of them. It’s scary and brilliant.

Family Ties

For most of the ’80s, families around the world shared time with the Keatons, the center of this incredibly lovable sitcom from Gary David Goldberg that was really ahead of its time. Of course, it made Michael J. Fox a household name as Alex P. Keaton, the conservative son of ex-hippies played by Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter.

For Heaven’s Sake

The best original series dropping on launch day for Paramount+ is this unique comedy/documentary hybrid from the producers of American Vandal. Whereas that great Netflix series was pure fiction, this actually tells a true-crime story with an eccentric style as a young filmmaker tries to solve the disappearance of his great-great uncle, Harold Heaven.

Frasier

What’s better: Cheers or Frasier? And is this the best spinoff ever? Why don’t you watch the massive NBC hit that won so many Emmys that they practically had to disqualify it to let other people get a chance and get back to us? In all seriousness, the saga of Frasier Crane and his put-upon brother Niles has held up marvelously. Frasier’s regularly defeated pomposity will never not be funny. At least that’s what the people behind the Paramount+ reboot (that, bafflingly, will only star Kelsey Grammer from the original) are hoping.

The Good Fight

After The Good Wife ended, creators Robert King, Michelle King, and Phil Alden Robinson took some of their characters to CBS All Access and launched a series that’s arguably even better. More topical than any modern drama, this one stars Christine Baranski, Rose Leslie, Cush Jumbo, and Delroy Lindo, with unforgettable guest turns from Michael Sheen, Michael J. Fox, and more. It’s so smart.

The Good Wife

Was this CBS award winner the last great network TV drama? Maybe. It aired on CBS from 2009 to 2016 and barely registered in terms of ratings, which means you probably haven’t seen most of it. You should correct that oversight, then go and check out the spinoff The Good Fight on Paramount+ too. Even Paramount and CBS knew that drama this good would have to move to streaming services. It’s the future.

I Love Lucy

Lucille Ball and her real-life husband Desi Arnaz changed television comedy history forever in the ’50s with this masterful series. Running for 180 episodes over only six years, it’s the tale of Lucy Ricardo, housewife to a bandleader named Ricky, and all of the trouble she gets into. It’s cliché to say that a classic sitcom was influential, but it’s really easy to see the DNA of this classic in shows that are still premiering today.

Jericho

In 2006, CBS launched this drama about Jericho, Kansas, after the impact of a nuclear attack on most of the major cities of the United States. Smarter than its critics gave it credit for being, it never made an impact in the ratings, but had such a vocal fan base that CBS actually had to cancel it twice. Maybe if enough people watch it on Paramount+, the long-rumored reboot/revival can actually get off the ground.

Key & Peele

Now that Jordan Peele is an Oscar-winning writer/director, it’s even more interesting to look back at the development of his voice over three seasons on this Comedy Central smash hit. Matched by his best buddy Keegan-Michael Key, the pair created some of the smartest sketch comedy of the ’10s, and they had the nerve to go out on top after only 53 episodes over five seasons. Watch them all. Then watch them again.

Kroll Show

If people fell in love with Nick Kroll via The League or Big Mouth, they need to make sure to go back and check out his Comedy Central sketch comedy show, which ran on the cable network from 2013–2015. Kroll is the constant presence, in basically every sketch, most of which are hysterical parodies of reality TV. He’s such a smart comedian with a gift for a variety of characters.

Medium

Before her Oscar and Emmy in the ’10s, Patricia Arquette anchored this NBC supernatural drama for five seasons over on NBC. Hot on the heels of a hit like The X-Files, every network was tapping the other side for drama, and Medium is one of the best products of that trend: It’s the story of a woman who works for the Phoenix DA who can communicate with the other side to help solve cases.

Mission: Impossible

No, not the Tom Cruise franchise, although most of those films are on Paramount+ too. This is the series that started it all way back in 1966. The great Peter Graves played Jim Phelps (starting in season two), who leads a team known as the Impossible Missions Force. Pretty badass. Check out where one of the most famous spy sagas in TV and film history began. This entry will self-destruct in ten seconds.

Mom

Often lumped in with lesser CBS sitcoms that are heavy on the laugh track, this Chuck Lorre creation developed into a smart comedy that’s also about trauma and addiction. One of the reasons that Mom is better than its reputation is its one-two punch of Anna Faris and Allison Janney in the lead roles. They’re both so perfect.

NCIS

One of the biggest TV franchises of all time calls CBS its home, and so its catalogue is naturally going to live on Paramount+. Why are people so enamored with the world of Naval Criminal Investigative Services that they have made the original 2003 show such a consistent performer, along with two spinoff series (with a third in Hawaii in production), also on Paramount+? Watch the literally hundreds of episodes on Paramount+ and get back to us.

The Odd Couple

Name a property that changed theater, film, and television. The Odd Couple did exactly that with a huge Broadway play turned into a successful film and then a massive hit on ABC. The TV version of the saga of divorced roommates Felix and Oscar stars Tony Randall and Jack Klugman in the timeless roles. Some of its humor is a little dated, but the writing and comic timing will always be funny.

One Day at a Time

What a strange trip it’s been for the fans of this wonderful family comedy update to the classic 1975 series of the same name. Viewers loved it for three seasons on Netflix, but the streaming giant canceled it before a resurrection on Pop TV for year four. COVID put a halt to negotiations for a potential new home for the series after its end at Pop, but the producers are reportedly still shopping around. Maybe it could finally be a Paramount+ original if enough people check it out here. It deserves to run for years.

Perry Mason

Every modern courtroom drama owes a debt to this CBS classic, which ran from 1957 to 1966 and defined a genre. Raymond Burr plays the title character, a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles who handles a different unique case every week. This was not only a definitive courtroom show but actually the first weekly one-hour series filmed for television in history. It wrote the rule book in so many ways.

The Real World

It’s hard to believe, but three decades have passed since a producer got seven strangers into a loft in New York City and chronicled what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. Not only is the dense history of the MTV hit on Paramount+, but they’ve launched a reunion series of the original New York cast that’s fascinating and entertaining in how it captures the ways these people have not only changed, but stayed so recognizably the same too.

The Ren & Stimpy Show

The behavior of creator John Kricfalusi has clouded the legacy of one of cable’s best animated shows of all time, but he wasn’t the only voice behind this series and his collaborators shouldn’t go down with his ship. The truth is that the talents behind Ren & Stimpy weren’t so much ahead of their time as from another planet altogether, blending classic animation styles with something that felt insane and new in their stories of an unstable Chihuahua and a moronic cat.

Reno 911!

The partnership between Paramount and Comedy Central means a lot of funny shows from the cable network are on Paramount+, including this mockumentary spoof of dim-witted cops in Reno, Nevada. Created by stars Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, and Kerri Kenney-Silver, Reno 911! ran for most of the ’00s before a brief revival on the brief Quibi in 2020.

Review

A solid candidate for the best non-sketch Comedy Central show of all time, Review is a razor-sharp character study about a man named Forrest MacNeil (an amazing Andy Daly) who decides to review real-life experiences like “Road Rage,” “Getting Revenge,” and “Eating 30 Pancakes.” So astute about critical culture, it’s just an incredibly smart show about a man who learns a thing or two about life as he’s reviewing it.

SpongeBob SquarePants

One of the longest-running animated series of all time, Stephen Hillenburg’s Nickelodeon hit is more a franchise than a TV show. In fact, the launch of Paramount+ comes with a new film called Sponge on the Run and a prequel series called Kamp Koral. The adventures of a sponge with square pants and his underwater buddies have been running for over two decades now and you can find almost all of it on Paramount+.

The Stand

The newest adaptation of the beloved epic Stephen King novel was a CBS All Access exclusive, so it has of course made the journey over to Paramount+. This version by Josh Boone (The New Mutants) is deeply flawed but contains some captivating performances and ideas about good and evil, made even more effective by the parallels to the pandemic of 2020.

Star Trek 

Paramount’s flagship franchise will always be Gene Roddenberry’s adventures to the Final Frontier, and so the stories of the Starship Enterprise in film form will clearly be a draw for Paramount+ subscribers. As of launch, the blend of what’s on Paramount+ and what’s still on other services like Amazon Prime remains a bit muddled, but the original William Shatner series is definitely on the new service. Everyone should start there.

Star Trek: Discovery & Star Trek: Picard

The future of Star Trek appears to be exclusively on Paramount+, possibly in film and TV forms. As of right now, the service is intent on premiering new shows in this universe regularly, with Discovery, Picard, and Lower Decks now airing and another series in production. At least the first two are well worth a look, shows that fit firmly in the Star Trek legacy while also feeling modern and progressive in their own ways.  

The State

It was ignored and criticized when it aired on MTV in the mid-’90s, but that’s often what happens with comedy shows that are ahead of their time, and this one undeniably was exactly that. So much humor to follow owes a debt to the eccentric, fearless style of this sketch comedy show that launched comedians like Michael Ian Black, Thomas Lennon, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Showalter, and David Wain.

Survivor

The undisputed king of the reality series is only on Paramount+ in its entirety. Yep, you can relive all the buzz-worthy moments over the stunning 30-plus seasons of this show, especially needed now that the show has gone on COVID hiatus. There have been some stinkers, but Survivor remains a strong performer for CBS for a reason. It still has the most addictive structure to its game, demanding both social and physical acumen, and it has the best host in the history of reality TV in Jeff Probst.

Taxi

In the ’70s and ’80s, this ABC/NBC sitcom (it jumped networks) was one of the most popular comedies on TV, winning 18 Emmy Awards and launching the careers of Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, and Andy Kaufman. Winner of Best Comedy three times, it’s the story of New York City cab drivers and their troubled lives. A perfect workplace comedy, it’s held up remarkably well, largely because its ensemble was simply perfect.

The Twilight Zone

Jordan Peele’s reboot of the Rod Serling classic was a CBS All Access original and so now makes the leap over to the rebranded Paramount+. Like all anthology series, it’s a roller coaster of quality, but there are some undeniably great chapters in its two seasons. Check out “The Comedian,” “Replay,” and “Blurryman” in season one to start and take it from there.

Twin Peaks

Those of us old enough to remember when the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer dominated the cultural conversation will never forget it. There had never been anything like Twin Peaks on television and there wouldn’t really be anything like it again until David Lynch returned to this world 25 years later. The Showtime reboot isn’t on here yet, but catch up with the original and mark the days until it is.

The Unicorn

One of the best current comedies on network TV is this Walton Goggins vehicle which recasts the typical bad-guy character actor as a leading family man, a father dealing with raising his girls after the death of their mother. Smart and heartfelt, it also features great supporting work from Rob Corddry, Omar Miller, Maya Lynne Robinson, and Michaela Watkins.

The 40 Best TV Shows on Paramount+