Best Sci-Fi/Supernatural Shows I've Never Heard Of?
November 23, 2014 9:26 AM   Subscribe

There are a million of these questions, but none with my particular set of preferences, so here goes. I'm looking for great sci-fi/supernatural TV shows (e.g. Star Trek/Buffy), weird comedies, or violent dude soap operas (e.g. Sons of Anarchy). Many more details within!

I like shows that fall into three genres: sci-fi/supernatural/dystopia, weird comedies, and "gritty" dramas that are essentially violent soap operas. Overlap between these is even better (e.g. funny sci-fi or supernatural soap operas). I tend not to like shows about DC politics and am tired of police procedurals. Not overwhelming sexist/entirely white is a plus. Available streaming on netflix or amazon is a big plus!

Here are some more detailed preferences (that are making me feel terrible about how much TV I've watched in my life!).

Love: All the Star Treks (TNG most of all), Buffy/Angel/Dollhouse/Firefly/Joss Whedon generally, Psych, Better Off Ted, Battlestar Galactica, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, True Detective, Futurama, The Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad (who doesn't like those last three, though?).

Like: Stargate (SG-1 most, but I've seen them all), Farscape, Reaper, The Shield, Supernatural (certain seasons, anyway), Dr. Who (when it's not too cutesy)/Torchwood, Being Human (UK), Life on Mars, Life, The Finder, Twin Peaks, Survivors, Boston Legal, White Collar, Oz, Dexter, Six Feet Under, Community, Prison Break (first 2 seasons), Flash Forward, Orphan Black, Orange Is the New Black, Luther.

Ok but not my favorites: Grimm, The Blacklist, Burn Notice, Eureka, Parks & Rec, Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, Chuck, Continuum, Flashpoint, Heroes, Bones, The Guild, Grey's Anatomy, Defiance (ok, it's terrible, but somehow I keep watching it), Freaks and Geeks (I kind of love it but really can't deal with that much second-hand embarrassment), Haven, Sanctuary.

Don't like: Mad Men, Spaced, Arrested Development, Homeland, The IT Crowd, Babylon 5, Jericho, Walking Dead (too scary, not assessing on the merits here), It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Treme, Boardwalk Empire, Red Dwarf, Lost Girl, Warehouse 13, Bob's Burgers, Alias, Lost, 30 Rock (I loathe Alec Baldwin), Once Upon a Time.
posted by snaw to Media & Arts (54 answers total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The 4400 was one of my favorite shows in High School. It's a SciFi show about a group of 4400 people who went missing through the last 50 years and just all appeared outside of Seattle and the special task force assigned to oversee it. Also they have powers. It's amazing.
posted by KernalM at 9:32 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We have really similar taste in TV.

Looks like you haven't seen Fringe, so I'd really strongly recommend that.
posted by juniperesque at 9:34 AM on November 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The first 6 seasons of The X-Files are fab.
posted by kariebookish at 9:34 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Some oldies I don't see mentioned:

Quantum Leap
Sliders (first 2 seasons)
posted by AndrewInDC at 9:41 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Violent soap opera? That's Banshee.

You've got lost loves returning, people stealing other people's identities, small-town everybody-knows-everybody atmosphere, parents discovering children are/aren't theirs, tense family situations. Amish subplots, and copious amounts of cartoon level violence. Just be prepared for Cinemax's sex and nudity levels. Includes a few non-white and non-straight secondary characters who become more important as the series develops.
posted by sardonyx at 9:44 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Lost Room was a mini-series so good it had no place being on SYFY. Only six episodes, so they don't screw around, they get in and have smarts and plot all over the place.
posted by instead of three wishes at 9:47 AM on November 23, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I enjoyed the heck out of the BBC show The Fades which is currently streaming on Amazon Instant Video for free if you have Prime.
posted by dgeiser13 at 9:49 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It sadly only ran for a season and a half, but the FX series The Riches may fit somewhere in there between dude soap opera and weird comedy.
posted by drlith at 9:50 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Arrow, Agents of Shield, The 100, Haven? They're all on Netflix.
posted by sevenless at 9:51 AM on November 23, 2014

Best answer: If you like the Shield and SOA, I think you'd enjoy The Peaky Blinders.

Also, as much as I love hearing a thick Irish brogue, I watch it with the subtitles turned on, which I find really helps in understanding the finer details of the plot.
posted by invisible ink at 9:51 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ahem. Sleepy Hollow. Although I clearly don't share your sense of humor, I think we have similar taste in terms of other things. Sleepy Hollow is extremely well-cast, entertaining contemporary fantasy. The historical stuff veers between completely ludicrous (though it IS a secret history alternate world, so why not) and intermittently educational. Buffy-like team dynamics, if not so much with the word play. On the other hand, if you thought Warehouse 13 was too silly, it might also ping the too-silly vibes. But give it a try.

Also, Homicide. THE cop show of cop shows.
posted by wintersweet at 9:55 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Returned! It's in French, but I found that the subtitles were excellent.
posted by 9000condiments at 10:00 AM on November 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The Prisoner, maybe?
posted by ringu0 at 10:01 AM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't see any mention of LEXX, which might be worth looking at.

Also - I'm not sure where you'd find this, but back in the late 1980s there was a television series that was a 'sequel' to George Pal's War of the Worlds. I remember enjoying it at the time - although that was 25 years ago.

Both of these shows are somewhat notable for not maintaining a consistent 'mood' throughout the series run. Ie, each season of LEXX is very different. The first season of WotW was, as I recall, played dead seriously. The second season was much 'looser', and had some comedic moments.

Oh, also: WotW was notable for having a rather good and very satisfying wrap-up, end-of-the-series finale.
posted by doctor tough love at 10:05 AM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I really liked the Swedish series Äkta människor aka Real Humans, which is about artificially-intelligent robot servants that have become self-aware. From the Wikipedia entry:
The first season of the program received glowing reviews. Io9's Charlie Jane Anders called the program "startlingly beautiful", disturbing and "creepy as hell". The Australian called it "the best science fiction to hit the small screen in a long time". Joe Hubris called it "the best android story ... since Blade Runner".
There are several trailers on YouTube to help get a feel for the show—this slightly NSFW one has English subtitles. It's not hard to find bootleg episodes online and there are good subtitles floating around, too.
posted by bcwinters at 10:11 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Don't think any of these are on Netflix but should be otherwise, uh, available.

If you're open to old stuff, UFO is pretty good. It's all very dated, and not always in great ways, but it's set in one of those awesome retro-future-1980s. And it has the best title sequence EVAR; you'll crave a martini in two seconds flat. I like it more than I liked Space: 1999, which wandered off into silliness a bit too often for my taste.

Likewise, the 1990s BBC short-series Ultraviolet is really, really good. At the leading edge of the IF IT AIN'T ZOMBIES IT'S VAMPIRES trend. Takes a very kind of Charlie-Strossy-sensible-mundane approach to the whole vampire thing; you can easily imagine that the anti-vampire squad are run by the Laundry. Amusingly it also has Vampahr Beeyul from True Blood in it.

The pilot for the failed show Virtuality was pretty good and has Jaime Lannister.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:27 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Weeds: "The show is inspired by crime series such as The Shield and The Sopranos, in the sense of an antihero serving as the protagonist while retaining an individual moral code, which usually goes against the norms of society."
posted by kinetic at 10:37 AM on November 23, 2014

Best answer: Deadbeat has Sock from Reaper starring in his own show where he can talk to ghosts. It's pretty great, very similar tone to Reaper, only a bit less melodramatic.

No Heroics was a British half hour sitcom about superheros. They don't actually do anything heroic. They barely do anything super. But it's pretty amazing anyway.

Happy Endings is a really witty sitcom, right up there with Better Off Ted for me.

Seconding LEXX. It is terrible and amazing. You may want to skip the mini series that acts kind of like season one. Or watch it, but know that it is pretty different than the rest of the series.
posted by Garm at 10:40 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Since you are such a Joss Whedon fan you might like Castle. It stars Nathan Fillion and has some Whedon-esque writing, even though he isn't involved. Also Sherlock from BBC - I think all existing seasons are on Netflix now.
posted by COD at 10:42 AM on November 23, 2014

Best answer: Misfits (supernatural and violent and billed as a comedy, weird)

Banshee (violent soap opera, so very violent and awesome)
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 10:44 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Black Mirror. For the love of god, Black Mirror
posted by kitkatcathy at 11:13 AM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding Black Mirror. We have similar tastes and I love that show. Also, check out Utopia. The first season was great (the second not so much.) It's a British show about a secret group working toward building a utopia, secrets are laid out in a comic book. David Fincher is going to remake it in the US.
posted by nushustu at 11:26 AM on November 23, 2014

Best answer: Shameless (US) (you can try the UK original, but it's totally different in IMO a bad way)
Prisoners' Wives (not to be confused with the similarly-titled reality show)

+ nthing Misfits, Black Mirror, The Riches
posted by Sys Rq at 11:29 AM on November 23, 2014

Nthing Fringe. The first season is iffy but by the time you get to the third - holy moly.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:37 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I found that Lexx went so far into camp, and was so transparently cheaply made, that it was intensely unenjoyable.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:39 AM on November 23, 2014

Yeah, if you don't like Red Dwarf or Babylon 5, I can't imagine you'd get much enjoyment out of Lexx.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:57 AM on November 23, 2014

Lexx is a weird beast, definitely.

It is horrible and amazing and sexist and cheap and a huge ball of WTF. However, I like it, and if I had to choose one standout episode, I'd pick Brigadoom. It's an origin story of one of the main characters, which is presented as a stage musical.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:34 PM on November 23, 2014

I don't recognize any of the shows you have listed under like/ok/don't love except for Stargate but to answer the header of your question and in response to what you do love, I would strongly suggest X-Files standalone episodes from season 4, 5 and 6; The Hunger tv series - not the unrelated vampire movie; Night Gallery, which is a darker version of Twilight Zone; and American Gothic. The Lexx "first season", being the original four movies and not the awful tv show, are good... I think the tv series is to the original movies what seasons 7 onwards are to the X-File series. Also, I thought Jiggurata was campy awesomeness but some viewers may find characters like that tedious. I suspect the show veers more niche than what you are asking for. Be warned I cannot stand Buffy. I felt like it was Party of Five with vampires. And I don't like Game of Thrones (too much of a hateful rape-fest) so my recs may not be to your taste. If you have the patience for it, the season of Dark Shadows (the 70s gothic soap opera) where the characters all go to an alternate reality in the 1800s is quite good! Mind you the plot develops very slowly even by modern standards. It's nothing like that abomination that came out in the cinema a few years back at least. Outer Limits is a fairly good series that built on the X-Files hype but is still worthwhile. And Sliders is fun, a really good suggestion, even though the later seasons are painful to watch.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 12:48 PM on November 23, 2014

Have you seen Rome (hbo) or Vikings (history channel)?
posted by futz at 12:58 PM on November 23, 2014

Best answer: It might be worth giving Person of Interest a shot. The basic setup is that a reclusive billionaire recruits ex-special forces operative to help prevent crimes. It does have procedural elements, but the story arcs behind it keep the intrigue going and it switches focus a lot over the course of the series from the point it starts off at. Features action, conspiracy, dry humour and lots and lots of kneecapping. The first three seasons are coming to Netflix in the US in January 2015.

If you're looking for animation, try Rick and Morty. It's kind of like Back To The Future, but if Doc was a complete asshole, Marty was a trusting idiot and the Delorean could go to parallel universes. Co-created by Justin Roiland and Community's Dan Harmon, it's not afraid of going very dark at times. Full episodes are available at Also, you might want to have a look at The Venture Brothers, which riffs on the idea that boy adventurers like Johnny Quest might not grow up to be the most well-adjusted or successful adults. I say this with the utmost love: it's a program for nerds, written by nerds and it is wonderful. I think episodes are available on Netflix, with some online at adultswim.
posted by peteyjlawson at 1:39 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Since you are such a Joss Whedon fan you might like Castle. It stars Nathan Fillion and has some Whedon-esque writing, even though he isn't involved.

There are also a few episodes that never quite resolve the seemingly scifi/supernatural events that usually are determined to be mundane. I think it may check all your boxes: it's a soap opera, it's a comedy, it's slightly, maybe, supernatural.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:20 PM on November 23, 2014

Just wanted to second the recommendation for The Lost Room. Amazing show.
posted by tdismukes at 2:30 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You must seek out The Middleman, the 2008 TV show by Javier Grillo-Marxauch.
posted by fings at 2:35 PM on November 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Generation Kill, a mini-series by David Simon. I would rank his work in order:

The Wire
Generation Kill
The Corner
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:51 PM on November 23, 2014

Best answer: And, oh, Deadwood, a maddeningly excellent imperfect series. I would also include Carnivale in that category
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:53 PM on November 23, 2014

You are missing the very excellent Spartacus.
posted by merocet at 3:13 PM on November 23, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all! These are great and I have, in fact, not heard of a lot of them, which is awesome!

I'll add that I love the X-Files, Sherlock and Quantum Leap, and have watched Sliders and Castle already.

To resolve the LEXX debate, I get it recommended to me all the time and have watched a couple of episodes, but I'm not a fan.
posted by snaw at 4:12 PM on November 23, 2014

Going back in time, perhaps you'd like Blake's 7. Then again, you don't like Babylon 5, so I'm not sure if we can have this conversation.
posted by adamrice at 4:55 PM on November 23, 2014

posted by jabah at 5:53 PM on November 23, 2014

Your taste is all over the place from where I sit :) , so I'm just throwing out a couple my SO has checked out that may fit yr style.
Smallville - Superman in high school, sort of Buffy-esque though less clever. 10 seasons.
Gotham - Young batman & all the familiar faces. In 1st season.
Constantine - sarcastic demon hunter. In 1st season.

Also, I don't think you mention Fargo? There was only one season but very good - if you like Justified & True Detective I think it's worth a shot.
posted by mdn at 6:18 PM on November 23, 2014

I came in specifically to say Ultraviolet, but I see it's already covered. +1, then.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 7:06 PM on November 23, 2014

The 2 season British show Survivors is great Sci-Fi. The 1 season of Terriers on FX was very SOA, and pretty good, as is the FX show The Bridge.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:44 PM on November 23, 2014

I too came to just say "Ultraviolet" but it's worth saying again.
posted by BinaryApe at 9:39 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll second Sleepy Hollow. If you're okay with teen shows (like Buffy, which you mentioned), here's a bunch more fun ones: Roswell (aliens hiding from discovery), Star-crossed (alienness explored through racism), The 100 (dystopian future on a space station over a radioactive earth), Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (running from killer robots from the future)*, The Vampire Diaries (supernatural relationship and drama).

*Even if you weren't a fan of the movies, the show is worth it and compelling on it's own merits.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:48 PM on November 23, 2014

Ultraviolet was GREAT. Was broadcast on Channel 4 and not the BBC though if you go digging for it. Early Idris Elba!
posted by garlicsmack at 7:42 AM on November 24, 2014

I'm shocked that no one's mentioned American Horror Story yet. Start with the first season, then move on to whichever strikes your fancy.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 8:04 AM on November 24, 2014

'Hannibal' is excellent in so many ways - the acting, the score and sound design, the food. It is pretty horrific, though. I love it but sometimes I had to look away. Binge watching is probably a bad idea.
posted by h00py at 8:39 AM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: The Almighty Johnsons should fit the bill. Reincarnated norse gods hiding amongst mortals in New Zealand. Odin is a clueless student, Loki is a psychotic lawyer, gold of cold wants to be loved. Very well done.
posted by aeighty at 8:44 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Better Off Ted is a weird comedy I enjoyed a lot. For dystopian sci-fi check out Attack on Titan if anime is ok with you.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 9:15 AM on November 24, 2014

Another vote for The Almighty Johnson's. I'm really enjoying it on Netflix
posted by fshgrl at 2:37 PM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: Deadwood.

Deadwood, deadwood, deadwood.


Because McShane.
posted by Thistledown at 5:25 PM on November 24, 2014

Best answer: The 100 is actually great and not a "teen" show at all. The characters are extremely well written and acted for the most part, a few cheesy backstories aside, and they react to stuff like normal human beings would, not plot devices. Great female and male characters, lots of very human interaction, no "special" characters. It's really well done.

Just don't think about the science part. Ever.
posted by fshgrl at 6:00 PM on November 24, 2014

Okay, I feel a little weird recommending this since I'm only halfway into the first episode, which is running in another tab as I type this, but, yes, definitely strongly seconding The Returned.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:20 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hex (UK)
posted by poxandplague at 1:22 AM on November 28, 2014

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