Suggest some gore-free quality television!
June 8, 2012 4:22 PM   Subscribe

I adore Mad Men. I also can't handle gore. What other shows might I enjoy?

I really wanted to enjoy the common suggestions of Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones but I couldn't handle the gratuitous violence so I never made it further than a couple of episodes in.

Any recommendations for amazing shows that are light on the on-screen death and torture? Implied violence is fine. Sex, drugs and rock and roll are all encouraged! I'm looking for terrific writing, terrific acting and shows that stay consistently good throughout.

I liked new Doctor Who, but sci-fi writing tends to decline in quality over time (feel free to prove me wrong!).
posted by theraflu to Media & Arts (53 answers total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
G.B.H. is one of the most fantastic tv shows I've ever watched, and all of the episodes are available on YouTube.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:29 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm looking for terrific writing, terrific acting and shows that stay consistently good throughout.

Arrested Development! Entire series is on Netflix Instant.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:31 PM on June 8, 2012 [15 favorites]

Breaking Bad was too much for us too.

We have enjoyed the following:
Friday Night Lights
The Wire (might be a little too violent for you)
Downton Abbey
West Wing
posted by fyrebelley at 4:33 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Six Feet Under
posted by okay-quiet-time at 4:34 PM on June 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

First couple seasons of Weeds was terrific fun.
posted by mochapickle at 4:37 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I just finished

Wish Me Luck
Better Off Ted
posted by spunweb at 4:39 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Good Wife is not cool in the least, but it is very very good.
posted by yellowbinder at 4:40 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I love all of the BBCA Dramaville series. White Heat is set from the 60s to today, Whitechapel is a great procedural,and, of course Luther. Looking forward to Ripper Street and Copper coming up in August and September. I guess I am a bit of an anglophile when it comes to television.
posted by Isadorady at 4:41 PM on June 8, 2012

posted by mollymayhem at 4:53 PM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Southland is a really well written show about the street cops and detectives of the LAPD. It has some gore, but nothing worse than the lawn mower incident of Mad Men.

Louie with Louie CK is starting up again soon on FX.

Seconding Community and Sherlock.
posted by topophilia at 4:59 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Parenthood is perhaps a terminally uncool show, but I think it has an amazing ensemble cast, and it's from the showrunner of Friday Night Lights.
posted by mykescipark at 5:03 PM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

posted by Wordwoman at 5:03 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

/I liked new Doctor Who,but sci-fi writing tends to decline in quality over time (feel free to prove me wrong!).

The episodes you like are from the 27th to 32nd sieries of that show?
posted by biffa at 5:05 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I second Treme. It doesn't get enough love.
posted by Chenko at 5:10 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Downton Abbey season 1 is safe - season two has some scenes set during WWII but they are still pretty tame.
posted by bq at 5:16 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ooo, also the new BBC Sherlock.
posted by bq at 5:17 PM on June 8, 2012 [8 favorites]

Another vote for Downton Abbey and Better Off Ted and Arrested Development. I'd add the IT Crowd. I don't think the quality stayed high throughout Community but I liked the first two seasons.

Depending on your reaction to gore, I think Sherlock might be a bit much. It's not bloody-gross-out-gory, but for me, the level of suspense is intense in the same way that I react to bloody-gory, so I lump it into the same category. Doesn't stop me from watching it, but I absolutely will not watch it before bed or alone in the house. YMMV.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:18 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Homeland was very very very good, but it might cross the line in terms of gore and torture.
posted by Seppaku at 5:24 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's a single season show, but Rubicon might work for you on 2 levels: 1) no gore, and 2) a retro feel: it's a callback to the 70's paranoid thriller style (as in The Conversation).
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 5:34 PM on June 8, 2012

Add my vote in favour of Downton Abbey. If you're into pure dialogue and top-grade acting, "In Treatment" is also worth checking out.

Also, I generally agree with this: "sci-fi writing tends to decline in quality over time."

I still haven't forgiven the writers for how they wrapped up Battlestar Galactica. But I'll always have a soft spot for how JMS conceived, implemented and saw right on through to completion the entire Babylon 5 story arc. Come to think if it, with that one, it was the reverse effect.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 5:48 PM on June 8, 2012

posted by kanemano at 5:55 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to caution you against Damages if you can't deal with gore. There's not a ton of it, but the gore there is is INCREDIBLY disturbing. I stopped watching the show because of it.

Also count me as another +1 for Downton Abbey.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 5:57 PM on June 8, 2012

One note on The Good Wife, although I generally agree with yellowbinder. The first season was slow to start. I found myself bored with the plot and Margulies' line readings, although I knew her to be an excellent, compelling actress. Then I realized she was being directed that way, to be a little cold, aloof, and skittish. And then one day I was hooked. So, if you watch, have patience, because just like those Mad Men eps where nothing seems to be happening, it's all happening under the surface.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 6:02 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to give a few British suggestions, since that's what I grew up with!

If you like political dramas, a couple of excellent series/mini series are the "House of Cards" trilogy and "The Thick of It", which is kind of a modern version of the also brilliant "Yes, Minister" series of the 70s/80s.

If you like comedies, my favourite are "Father Ted" and the "Blackadder" series (2-4 are the best). An interesting comedy concept was "Drop the Dead Donkey", which was a sitcom about a satellite TV newsroom in the early 90s, but they incorporated the big real news headlines of the week into the storylines. (One of the main actors, Neil Pearson, also went on to star in a brilliant internal affairs police drama "Between the Lines"). Then of course, there's the original The Office, which built its comedy more along the lines of situations that would really happen to real people, unlike the American version, where the laughs seemed to come more from traditional sitcom situations.
posted by ccalgreen at 6:25 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Slings and Arrows is one of the finest television series I've ever seen. It was conceived to last only three seasons, so there's no burnout on the story line. Similarly to Mad Men, the characters are well-written and complex. There's loads of original Shakespeare performed, and it's both hilarious AND tragic, sometimes simultaneously. It's currently available streaming on Netflix!
I liked Downton Abbey, too, but doesn't come close to Mad Men's quality. It's a punched up soap opera: the story lines are ridiculous and the characters are one dimensional. It's still enjoyable, it's just not like Mad Men.
posted by missmary6 at 6:27 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I never gave Enterprise a chance and I'm really enjoying it. I like almost every show mentioned in this thread already.

I also really enjoyed Boston Legal though it's not my normal style really.
posted by zephyr_words at 6:40 PM on June 8, 2012

Be careful with Six Feet Under - someone dies at the beginning of each episode although only sometimes in a horrible way. The show is wonderful and mostly about a family that runs a funeral home and if you skipped the beginning bits (before the credits) you wouldn't miss too much.
posted by cranberrymonger at 6:55 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Six Feet Under (yes, someone dies at the opening of every show, but it's just about never gratuitous)
Arrested Development
Firefly (+ Serenity)
Freaks and Geeks
The Wire (I honestly don't remember very much "gore" at all, and none of the deaths are gratuitous or depicted in an unseemly way)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (miniseries)
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:05 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Killing! Slow to develop but fascinating. Not much gore.
posted by nkknkk at 7:17 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

In Treatment.

And definate second on The Killing.
posted by what's her name at 7:20 PM on June 8, 2012

I will respectfully disagree with The Killing, although it is strangely compelling. My husband and I called it the worst show we couldn't stop watching. That said, a lot of people I like and respect really enjoyed it, so maybe we're just weird.

Firefly is tons of fun. Violence, but not too much ick. Smartly written.

I thought Battlestar Galactica was terrific all the way through, so again, no accounting for taste.

In the Star Trek universe, Voyager and Deep Space Nine are both really enjoyable.

Everyone I know who watches network TV loves Community and the Good Wife.

The Wire is really excellent. It is occasionally violent, because of the nature of the show, but it never feels gratuitous. It's just set in a violent universe.

Friday Night Lights is often quite soapy but really good, and the performances are mostly outstanding.
posted by elizeh at 7:31 PM on June 8, 2012

Not mentioned yet: Spaced. Pretty sure it is on NetFlix
posted by edgeways at 8:44 PM on June 8, 2012

Life on Mars (original British version)
Ashes to Ashes
The Wire
Star Trek Deep Space Nine
Spooks (known as MI5 in the States)
Knowing Me, Knowing You (Alan Partridge)
I'm Alan Partridge
Archer (cartoon gore but comedic)
Venture Brothers
Murphy's Law (Irish BBC version)
Silent Witness
posted by juiceCake at 9:11 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed

When it was on the air. Only 2 seasons though.
posted by gradient at 12:35 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

How has no one mentioned Parks and Recreation?
posted by Chenko at 3:40 AM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm enjoying Sons of Anarchy, available on Netlfix. There's some violence (there are feuding motorcycle gangs) but nothing gratuitous.

30 Rock is a perfect hit of comedy for my family.

Strangers with Candy is one of the funniest and most bizarre shows ever. Early Stephen Colbert is a hoot.

Nurse Jackie has the sex and drugs (no violence but it does take place in an emergency room). I want to marry Edie Falco.

Deadwood has brilliant acting but some of the interactions between characters can get fairly grisly...but they're few and far between. It's not gratuitously violent, but there are a lot of people with guns.

Nthing love for Treme.
posted by kinetic at 5:35 AM on June 9, 2012

The hour, a British series with one season so far, was pretty good.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 7:10 AM on June 9, 2012

I'm going to anti-recommend a couple of the series mentioned above, based on the user not being able to watch Breaking Bad or The Game of Thrones.

I don't think you'd enjoy Deadwood or the Wire. They're both amazing shows, but there's a high level of violence throughout both of them.

I've never seen Sons of Anarchy or Homeland, but based on what I have heard about them I'm a little skeptical of the recommendations above.

I ADORE Firefly, but there is a fair amount of violence. Now for the most part the violence is heist/action based, but there are at least a couple episodes that would be problematic - "Bushwacked" has some disturbing gore, and I could barely make myself watch the prolonged torture in the episode "War Stories". (Still thinking about it makes me feel queasy, ugh.)
posted by warble at 7:30 AM on June 9, 2012

Yeah, Deadwood is far more gory and grisly than Breaking Bad ever was.

The Wire never seemed all that violent to me, relative to other TV shows. The most violent thing I remember was the razor thing from Season Four - the relatively few murders that do happen are more matter-of-fact and seen from far away.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:04 AM on June 9, 2012

Seconding recommendations for:

Freaks & Geeks!
Friday Night Lights!
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 9:45 AM on June 9, 2012

No mention of Farscape? If you like the Sci-Fi and you have the time to get through the initial episode and you like Muppets.
Even the Muppets get awesome storylines.

Looking uptread I can second Community, Archer and Venture Brothers for cartoons.
Likewise Freaks and Geek, Life on Mars (and maybe Ashes to Ashes - I enjoyed it, others less so) and anything Alan Partridge in small doses.
posted by Mezentian at 10:13 AM on June 9, 2012

Peep Show. The characters are strangely lovable and there's definitely some sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. On Netflix Instant, too.
posted by k8lin at 10:14 AM on June 9, 2012


Very good story and writing, brilliant turn-around acting by Kelsey Grammer. Some violence, but implied. Plenty of sex.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:22 AM on June 9, 2012

I haven't seen these listed yet:

Big Love (I haven't seen the last season yet, though - there is some Mormon violence)
United States of Tara (it absolutely sucked me in)
Party Down (at first I refused to watch this show when my husband had it on, but by the end I was the one requesting to watch it)
posted by Maarika at 4:08 PM on June 9, 2012

Another vote for The Killing. It's a slow-burn, and the critics have been savage with it, but it's really done some amazing stuff with moody settings and very emotional performances.

And that, of course, leads to a VERY strong vote for Twin Peaks, which The Killing is an homage to in a lot of ways.
posted by jbickers at 4:24 PM on June 9, 2012

I think people may be recommending the American version of The Killing. Don't! Watch the original Swedish version Forbrydelsen - my favourite series of 2011.
posted by meech at 4:58 PM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Eureka, maybe?
posted by jferg at 6:33 PM on June 9, 2012

Upstairs, downstairs dates from the seventies but it seems like a good match for what you're looking for.

My guess is that Spooks would be a bit intense for your liking (there's definitely gore, though none of it gratuitous) but British detective series like Silent Witness, Waking the Dead and Inpector Lynley might be right up your alley.

Come to think of it, I'd start by checking out Morse and its sequel, Inspector Lewis.
posted by rjs at 3:05 AM on June 10, 2012

I cannot believe I forgot to mention the wacky sex, drugs and rock and roll of Absolutely Fabulous, sweetie darling.
posted by kinetic at 5:27 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you have HBO, the two new series that started this year, Girls and Veep, both make me laugh a lot.

(I loved The Sopranos and Deadwood too, and I have a weakness for True Blood, but all three of those are violent. These two new ones are not.)

Archer and Community and Parks and Recreation are all also favorites. But I really like comedies on HBO because they're allowed to talk the way grownups really talk, and the plot pacing isn't dependent on commercial breaks.
posted by kostia at 8:05 AM on June 11, 2012

My boyfriend recommends the BBC miniseries "State of Play".
posted by warble at 12:09 PM on June 11, 2012

I haven't seen much Carnivale, but I would not call it gore-free. Good, but there was most definitely gore.

Life on Mars (UK), also good.
posted by Elysum at 10:03 PM on June 12, 2012

Intelligence. Amazing Canadian show. Just terrific and I can't really remember any gore.
posted by beccaj at 6:59 PM on June 14, 2012

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