We might currently be in the Golden Age of geeky television, but you can’t talk about television today without acknowledging the amazing TV that came before it. We’ve compiled a list of classic geeky television shows that deserve your respect for setting the standard and appreciation for making geeky TV worth watching. (And also, you should have at least seen one episode of every show on this list.)
Before NBC had Friends, Parks and Recreation and Community, the channel had five seasons of Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a scientist who keeps jumping around spacetime and landing in the bodies of other people. A serialized show, where Dr. Beckett was in a new location and new identity each episode, Quantum Leap is a perfect mix of campiness, sci-fi, and social commentary that we now expect from shows today. Aside from setting new standards for TV, Quantum Leap also gave us the pop culture icon that is Scott Bakula – so, you know, we’re good.
Batman: The Animated Series
Fans everywhere consider this cartoon the best comic book adaptation of all time – and they’re definitely not wrong. B:TAS set a high bar for what cartoons were able to accomplish, both in terms of storytelling, character development, and emotional themes. Who knew that we could get so much out of a 22-minute cartoon episode? In terms of celebrity, the show also gave us Kevin Conroy as a near perfect encapsulation of Batman – and Mark Hamill as a definitely perfect Joker.
Aside from putting a brand new franchise into hyperdrive, Star Trek showed audiences the benefits of diversity in television and gave us several pop culture icons in the process. Many of the emotional themes still resonate with audiences today – family, what it means to be human, discovery, etc. – and some of the show’s best moments came from looking at the core of humanity, not at the different planets the Starship Enterprise encountered while traversing space. That said, the resulting spinoff series also led to some exceptional scripted moments – most notably the cliffhanger when Captain Picard is assimilated. Plus, the show also gave us this excellent meme:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Sure, Joss Whedon is a geek legend for a myriad of reasons, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the main reason Whedon is a household name. Whedon’s completely original TV series is a cult classic for a reason – the Scooby Gang is iconic (who doesn’t relate to Buffy, Willow, or Xander?) and the show uses monsters to discuss deeper themes – similar to how Star Trek did in space. The show bounced around genres (comedy, drama, high school soap opera, horror, musical and more) to create an entirely unique tone that modern shows try to mimic (but can’t).
The twistiest show before TV got twisty, The Prisoner was a show way, way ahead of its time. A former secret agent is held captive in a mysterious “village” while his former bosses try to extract information from his as to why he quit and what secrets he may be holding. The show’s high concept is similar to that of an Aldous Huxley novel, and it uses every minute of its 17 episodes to keep you on the edge of your seat. The show was so modern, fresh, and unique that it’s no wonder companies are consistently trying to remake it.