IMDb Picks: Old-School Cool TV

by IMDb-Editors | last updated - 2 weeks ago

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Amin Joseph and Damson Idris in Snowfall (2017)

"Snowfall" | Watch Now on Hulu

Plot: As the crack epidemic hits Los Angeles in 1983, young drug dealer Franklin begins to intersect with the daughter of a crime boss, an undercover CIA agent, and a luchador known as "El Oso."

Our Take: Know how sometimes it's late at night when you decide to start a TV show that's been on your list, then you realize that the sun's starting to rise? That's what happened to me several months back as I finally pressed play on the dearly departed John Singleton's crime-drama, that absolutely is a companion piece to his Boyz in the Hood and has matured into one of the finest shows that flies under the collective radar. — Arno

January Jones, Elisabeth Moss, Jon Hamm, Jared Harris, Christina Hendricks, Vincent Kartheiser, and John Slattery in Mad Men (2007)

"Mad Men" | Watch Now on IMDb TV

Plot: A drama about one of New York's most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s, focusing on one of the firm's most mysterious but extremely talented ad executives, Donald Draper.

Our Take: Perhaps all that needs to be said about the rewatchability of "Mad Men" is that Matt Weiner set a new bar for impeccable period detail. Every time I revisit the show, I find a new element to obsess over (they only had small fruit on set) or find new appreciation for costume designer Janie Bryant's outfits (pick any character, really). — James

Ted Danson, Shelley Long, John Ratzenberger, George Wendt, Nicholas Colasanto, and Rhea Perlman at an event for Cheers (1982)

"Cheers" | Watch Now on Hulu

Plot: Former pro baseball player Sam Malone is the owner of a homey Boston bar where his staff and regular patrons form familial bonds.

Our Take: I wasn't quite sure how "Cheers" would hold up nearly two decades after the show paid its bar tab. Soon into my recent binge, I realized I'd forgotten that the series, which ruled the 1980s airwaves, tackled subjects like alcoholism and homosexuality in a sitcom format that didn't just gun for cheap laughs or clichés. As Diane, Shelley Long served up drinks and arguably the show's best jokes, though Kirstie Alley is underrated for her performance as Rebecca Howe, the new owner of Cheers after the series-changing break-up that saw Diane say au revoir to the gang and sent Sammy on a boat trip around the world. — Arno

Caleb McLaughlin, Sadie Sink, Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, and Gaten Matarazzo in Stranger Things (2016)

"Stranger Things" | Watch Now on Netflix

Plot: When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief and his friends must confront terrifying supernatural forces in order to get him back.

Our Take: One of the special qualities of "Stranger Things" is how it relentlessly hit the nostalgic pleasure centers for those who grew up in the 1980s (guilty) while simultaneously capturing the imagination of younger generations. While it doesn't look like the actual '80s I experienced IRL, it definitely feels like a perfect pastiche of the '80s I watched in movies and TV. — James

Cillian Murphy, Paul Anderson, and Joe Cole in Peaky Blinders (2013)

"Peaky Blinders" | Watch Now on Netflix

Plot: A notorious gang in 1919 Birmingham, England, is led by the fierce Tommy Shelby, a crime boss set on moving up in the world no matter the cost.

Our Take: All of the conflicts in this series probably could have been avoided if people just for once did as Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) said, but as inevitably no one does, stylish slow-motion chaos ensues. Can't wait for Season 6. — Vanessa

Alex Borstein and Rachel Brosnahan in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017)

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" | Watch Now on Prime Video

Plot: A housewife in 1958 decides to become a stand-up comic.

Our Take: Most television programs were still broadcast in black and white during the 1950s, but "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" lets us experience the world of “Midge” Maisel in delicious technicolor. As her quest for liberation from housewife life evolved into a full-fledged stand-up comedy career, Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein brought their banter on the road to Vegas, Miami and beyond, and Season 4 promises more fun and fabulous style. — Hannah

Suranne Jones in Gentleman Jack (2019)

"Gentleman Jack" | Watch Now on Hulu or HBO Max

Plot: A dramatization of the life of LGBTQ+ trailblazer, voracious learner, and cryptic diarist Anne Lister, who returns to Halifax, West Yorkshire in 1832, determined to transform the fate of her faded ancestral home Shibden Hall.

Our Take: Although set in the 1800s, this series has a very modern feel as the incredible Suranne Jones breaks the fourth wall as Anne Lister, addresses you directly, and brings you along on her riveting journey to grow her business, save her estate, and find a wife. If you are looking for a sprawling romantic period drama centered on compelling women, you will not be disappointed. — Vanessa

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys in The Americans (2013)

"The Americans" | Watch Now on Prime Video

Plot: At the height of the Cold War two Russian agents pose as your average American couple, complete with family.

Our Take: The tension and uncertainty of Cold War America is fascinating to watch through the eyes of two Russian spies living undercover in suburban D.C. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys give killer performances again and again throughout the show’s six-season run, but the countless characters they play within their existing roles (and the epic 80s disguises that go with them) make the pair that much more impressive. Is there a wig they can't pull off? — Hannah

Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, and Betty White in The Golden Girls (1985)

"Golden Girls" | Watch Now on Hulu

Plot: Four previously married women live together in Miami, sharing their various experiences together and enjoying themselves despite hard times.

Our Take: I think the world has had an appropriate level of appreciation for the idea of "The Golden Girls" for a long time. But until recently, I hadn't actually watched an episode without my grandmother in the room. Enter Hulu, where you can watch all seven seasons and immerse yourself in the peak of grandma-chic. You're welcome for being a friend. — James

Clarke Peters, Wendell Pierce, Sonja Sohn, and Dominic West in The Wire (2002)

"The Wire" | Watch Now on HBO and DIRECTV

Plot: The Baltimore drug scene, as seen through the eyes of drug dealers and law enforcement.

Our Take: Ever feel like crime dramas and police procedurals have gotten a bit too shiny and sophisticated? Then it’s time to strip away the glitz and take it back to "The Wire." I’m blown away by the deep character development and narrative scope of this show, and as shocking as some of the storylines can be, you’d be hard-pressed to pick out a corrupt politician, crooked cop or corner dealer in the cast that isn’t based in some truth about life in Baltimore in the 2000s. — Hannah

Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon in Sex and the City (1998)

"Sex and the City" | Watch Now on Fubo

Plot: Four female New Yorkers gossip about their sex lives (or lack thereof) and find new ways to deal with being a woman in the 1990s.

Our Take: Watching re-runs of "SATC" seriously sparks joy for me, and over years of sporadic, full-day marathons I’ve learned that there are layers to what makes this show great. What I find even more entertaining than the evolution of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte’s hairstyles, fashion sense, and taste in men is observing the changes that 90s-era New York City undergoes in the background. Manhattan is a living, breathing character in itself. — Hannah

Anna Gunn, Timothy Olyphant, and Bree Seanna Wall in Deadwood (2004)

"Deadwood" | Watch Now on HBO Max

Plot: A show set in the late 1800s, revolving around the characters of Deadwood, South Dakota; a town of deep corruption and crime.

Our Take: How could the Old West look so disgusting and so cool at the same time? When I see Ian McShane with his dirty pinstripes and greasy hair, I feel like I need to shower, but when Timothy Olyphant struts onscreen, he seems to be living out every young boy's Western fantasies. Praise costume designer Janie Bryant of "Mad Men" reknown, for dressing another obsessively crafted world (this time from showrunner David Milch). — James

Joel Kinnaman in For All Mankind (2019)

"For All Mankind" | Watch Now on Apple TV+

Plot: Told through the lives of astronauts, engineers and their families, "For All Mankind" imagines a world in which the global space race never ended and the space program remained the cultural centerpiece of America’s hopes and dreams.

Our Take: "For All Mankind" kicks off its alt-history Space Race tale with Russia getting the first man on the moon, then spins off with so many unexpected twists that will keep you guessing as you compare fact against this fantastical past. — Vanessa

John Amos, Ralph Carter, Esther Rolle, BernNadette Stanis, and Jimmie Walker in Good Times (1974)

"Good Times" | Watch Now on Starz or DIRECTV

Plot: This 1970s sitcom follows the lives of Florida and James Evans and their three kids — J.J., Thelma, and Michael — who live together in a Chicago housing project.

Mom Moment: The catchphrase "Dyn-o-mite!" minted J.J. Evans (Jimmie Walker) as one of the most popular characters on 1970s TV, but for me, Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) was the TV mom who raised me as my single mother worked three jobs to keep us at the waterline. "Good Times" reached icon status as the Evanses dealt with the loss of their patriarch, James Sr. (John Amos) — something a lot of us had never seen on a sitcom. And in real life, Rolle's decision to leave the show, citing it had gone in a frivolous direction, was another landmark moment in TV history. — Arno

Sarah Gadon, Jonathan Koensgen, and John Tench in Alias Grace (2017)

"Alias Grace" | Watch Now on Netflix

Plot: "Alias Grace" follows Grace Marks , a poor, young Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who, along with stable hand James McDermott, was convicted of the brutal murders of their employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, in 1843.

Our Take: Bingeable in a weekend, this haunting six-episode mystery series will get under your skin as you go back-and-forth trying to figure out if Grace Marks is a cold-blooded killer or a victim of circumstance. — Vanessa

Golden Brooks, Jill Marie Jones, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Persia White in Girlfriends (2000)

"Girlfriends" | Watch Now on CW Seed

Plot: Joan, Maya, Lynn, and Toni are four friends who work together to navigate the challenges of their professional and romantic lives in Los Angeles.

Our Take: "My girlfriends, there through thick and thin ..." Ahh, all 8 seasons of this show made 2000s me so happy in my low-rise jeans and hoodie. Joan and her GFs survived the transition from UPN to the CW (remember when?) until the 2007 industry-wide writer's strike contributed to its frustrating cancellation. This is the revival that millions of us are ready to re-embrace as we have fallen back in love with our stonewashed Levi's. — Arno

Amy Sedaris in Strangers with Candy (1999)

"Strangers with Candy" | Watch Now on Comedy Central or DIRECTV

Plot: At age 46, ex-con and drop out Jerri Blank returns home and re-enrolls as a freshman at Flatpoint High.

Our Take: The three seasons of this highly inappropriate and influential show still have me saying no to Glint and yes to "pizza, pizza, pizza!" It's weird to think about how Amy Sedaris was once best known through her brother David's stories, though "Strangers with Candy" changed that, as Sedaris and her Flatpoint High schoolmates hit late-night Comedy Central as the internet — a key to the show's cult status — was becoming a thing. — Arno

Anna Torv in Mindhunter (2017)

"Mindhunter" | Watch Now on Netflix

Plot: Set in the late 1970s, two FBI agents are tasked with interviewing serial killers to solve open cases.

Our Take: I feel some guilt about dabbling in the occasional true crime podcast, but this largely David Fincher-directed series manages to keep things classy while detailing an ultra-freaky period in American crime history. As Holden and Bill — inspired by two real former FBI agents in the 1970s — make their way across the country, calmly interviewing the most notorious killers of the decade, I am simultaneously captivated and creeped out. — Hannah