10 TV Shows That All The Smart People Watch

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10 TV Shows That All The Smart People Watch Kristen Bell Reefer Madness youre so smart gif


The Emmy nominations will be announced this Thursday, so it’s the perfect time to talk about quality television. Sometimes it’s good to take a break from watching strangers look for love or half-laughing through derivative comedies to experience the type of show smart people watch. And I don’t mean smart people as in people who can recite the first thousand digits of Pi or list all the U.S. presidents in order. I mean smart as in they watch these TV shows I’m about to list. That might sound really confusing to you. Oh, bless your heart. You probably don’t watch these shows then, huh?

The shows I’m talking about get glowing reviews from critics and probably get quite a few Emmy nominations. They’re also the types of shows that inspire conversation the next day that goes beyond “Do you think Janet should have been eliminated last night?” and “That poop joke was really hilarious.” Instead you talk about performance and subtext and tone and symbolism. Just saying you watch one of these shows gives you instant cool points, even if you can’t form a single comprehensible sentence about it.

1. Mad Men

10 TV Shows That All The Smart People Watch Mad Men Peggy dancing gif


The classic. You’ve got a period setting, lots of angst, fast-paced dialogue interspersed with uncomfortable silences, and the kind of plots where if you zone out for five seconds and miss one line, you’ll be utterly confused for the rest of the episode. But the next day you’ll be talking about T-shirt symbolism and what Don really meant when he said that thing.

2. Louie

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If ever a smart comedy existed, it would be Louie. Mostly because a lot of the time when you watch it you’re going, “Wait a second, is this even supposed to be funny?” or simply “Wait, what was that episode about?” Long takes and absurd situations abound. This is definitely not The Big Bang Theory.

3. True Detective

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Oh, what’s that? You haven’t watched this brilliant addition to television history? I bet you participated in that #TrueDetectiveSeason2 hashtag though, didn’t you? What a poser. (I’m a poser too, it’s okay.)

4. House of Cards

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This one’s on Netflix, which automatically adds a cool factor to a show, because if you subscribe to Netflix you’re probably more than just a casual, whatever’s-on-right-now kind of viewer in the first place. Second of all, politics. Politics are smart. As is breaking the fourth wall.

5. Hannibal

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Dark shows are always smart. And I’m talking dark in terms of subject matter and dark in terms of how well you can see what’s going on. If you have to adjust the brightness on your TV while you watch something, odds are it’ll increase your intelligence by at least 10%.

6. Community

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This one hasn’t gotten a whole lot of Emmy love, but the critics love it. Even when it fails, it still succeeds, because it does things differently from most other series, especially comedies. So much meta, so little time. And now it has that whole “We were canceled but brought back to life” thing going for it, so you can say, “I watched it before it was on Yahoo.”

7. Orphan Black

10 TV Shows That All The Smart People Watch Orphan Black Cosima are you being beth gif


It’s time to jump on the “Tatiana Maslany is a goddess and we should all bow down to her and shower her with Emmys” bandwagon. It’s just the smart thing to do.

8. Game of Thrones

10 TV Shows That All The Smart People Watch Game of Thrones King Joffrey Annoyed gif


Game of Thrones is not only critically acclaimed and nominated for awards, but it offers plenty of opportunities to show off your smarts if you’ve read the books. You can be all, “Yeah I knew so-and-so was gonna die” or “In the book this-and-this actually doesn’t happen for another 700 pages.”

9. Girls

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Smart people watch Girls so that they can then go analyze whether they hate it or love it. And then they can debate with people about exactly how gratuitous Lena Dunham’s nakedness was in that particular episode.

10. The Good Wife

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I don’t know when it happened, but suddenly The Good Wife is, like, a really important show and stuff? And everyone needs to watch it because it’ll blow your mind with how good it is? If I sound immature, it’s because I don’t watch it and therefore am not so good at that whole words thing.