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The Most Underrated TV Shows Of The Last 15 Years

When critics discuss the "Golden Age" of television, we immediately think of shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. Aside from dramatic shows, comedies like 30 Rock, Veep, and The Office have become legendary in their own right, proving that even though the medium of film has always been viewed as superior, certain television shows have made their mark thanks to excellent performances, superb writing, impeccable direction, and high production values.

Now that television is now more respected than ever, with major movie stars flocking to the small screen in droves, there are almost too many shows on the airwaves. Thanks to all this content, it feels borderline impossible to keep up, and as a result, there are still too many shows that fly under the radar while they're on the air. So if you need a break from the classics and want to find a show that needs a little love, here are a few underrated, unappreciated shows from the last 15 years that are absolutely worth watching.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is one of the best comedies in TV history

The literal definition of the "little show that could," It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia shot its pilot on a shoestring budget, only to keep going until it tied with Ozzie & Harriet to become one of the longest-running live action comedy series in history. A deranged, surreal series that focuses exclusively on "The Gang" — made up of Mac (Rob McElhenney), Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Charlie (Charlie Day), Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and Frank (Danny DeVito) — the whole thing feels like if Seinfeld was darker and far more reckless, letting its characters commit every imaginable sin and faux pas while still somehow remaining likable. 

Considering that Always Sunny has proven itself to be an extremely meme-able and popular show, it might feel crazy to call it "underrated," but it's important to remember that throughout its 14 seasons, it has never been nominated for any major award (except for three Emmy nominations for ... Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program). It's gotten so egregious that McElhenney (who created the show) and his creative team wrote an entire episode about the Gang desperately trying to win an award. Yes, the show is dark, upsetting, and downright gross most of the time, but the sharp scripts and pitch-perfect performances rival any other acclaimed comedy, and to see it continually fly under the award-show radar feels just as wrong as any of the bad things the Gang has done during their time on the air.

You're the Worst is actually the best

FX has always taken a chance on difficult concepts, and one perfect example of this approach is their support of You're the Worst, an anti-romantic comedy that tells the story of an incredibly destructive (and ultimately successful) relationship between two horrible people. Playing Jimmy and Gretchen, Chris Geere and Aya Cash give everything to their roles, starring as two total dirtbags who meet at a wedding (Jimmy's ex-girlfriend's wedding, to be specific) and go home together, eventually realizing their particular dysfunctions actually create a pretty solid relationship. With a supporting cast that includes Kether Donohue as Lindsay, Gretchen's big-hearted but vapid best friend, and Desmin Borges as Edgar, Jimmy's unwilling friend who struggles with PTSD, You're the Worst paints a picture of depressed, loyal, drunk, and hilarious friends making their way through life in Los Angeles.

With anchoring performances from the four core cast members — Cash, in particular, plays the ups and downs of clinical depression with pure guts and honesty — and excellent stories by showrunner Stephen Falk, this "mean" comedy with a big heart was constantly overlooked by wider audiences and big awards. Now that it's come to a (perfect) close, hopefully new generations of fans will discover it as the years go on.

It's definitely worth wading into Schitt's Creek

Created by comedy legend Eugene Levy and his son, Dan Levy, Schitt's Creek might have one of the more off-putting names in television, but don't judge this show by its title. Starring both Levys alongside Catherine O'Hara and newcomer Annie Murphy, Creek tells the story of the wealthy Rose family, who lose their fortune and move to a podunk town called Schitt's Creek that they once purchased as a joke. Eventually, Johnny (Eugene Levy), eccentric former soap star Moira (O'Hara), and their children David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Murphy) must try and adjust to their new lives, a feat which they eventually kind of pull off by making friends and helping out other people in the town.

Part of the reason that Creek has flowed under the radar for so long is how it's broadcast. As a Canadian production, it originally aired on CBC, but it played on the little-known Pop network in the States. However, ever since the show got picked up by Netflix, it's been discovered by a whole new generation of fans, with critics flocking to praise this excellent family comedy. Though it will end with its sixth season, slated to air in 2020, the show has started to get a bit of respect. Dan Levy recently won an MTV Movie Award for his role, and the series even earned Emmy nods for its fifth season. Hopefully, once it ends, the show will one day take its place as one of the very best cult comedies.

Superstore is a majorly underrated gem

NBC has been home to plenty of hit comedies over the years, from Cheers to Friends to The Office. But sometimes, an excellent comedy survives for years on the network without making any major waves. One example of this is Superstore, a single-camera workplace sitcom in the vein of Parks and Recreation (but without the mockumentary format), focusing on a big box superstore and its perpetually disgruntled employees.

With a cast of talented players like Ben Feldman (Mad Men), Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall), and Emmy winner America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) alongside relative newcomers like Colton Dunn and Nichole Bloom, Superstore lampoons the ins and outs of working at a Walmart-style store while still handling serious issues like maternity leave and undocumented immigrants. For years, it's been one of the least noticed shows on TV, but as it continues, it keeps quietly anchoring NBC's comedy lineup and having plenty of fun to boot. 

Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 but definitely watch her show

Long before Krysten Ritter was kicking butt and taking names as New York City's most intoxicated superhero on Jessica Jones, she was scamming newcomers to Manhattan as the world's worst roommate in Don't Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. As Chloe — a ruthless, seemingly soulless, and extremely vivacious woman with basically no moral center — Ritter lures new roommates to her amazing apartment, and then immediately acts out so that they leave but are still required to pay some of their rent and their security deposit. However, once she invites over June (Dreama Walker), she meets her match, and June sticks around to try and tame Chloe.

Thanks to an excellent cast, which is made up of Ritter, Walker, Eric Andre as June's close friend, and James van der Beek as an exaggerated version of himself (who happens to be Chloe's best friend), Don't Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 quickly established itself as one of the cleverest comedies on TV, even when it got unexpectedly dark with plot lines involving pervy neighbors and unlikely adoptions. However, it ended its two-season run on ABC abruptly in 2013, when the network cancelled the show, pulled the remaining episodes, and chose to stream them instead. Clearly, the network executives weren't fans, but for anyone rediscovering the series years later, they can check out Ritter's earlier work and dive headfirst into this twisted, smart sitcom.

Happy Endings is like a way crazier Friends

At first glance, Happy Endings probably seemed like yet another Friends knockoff, featuring six good-looking thirty-somethings dating in a variety of combinations in Los Angeles rather than New York. But a closer look reveals a snappy, sharp show that utilizes its talented cast perfectly. Featuring an ensemble made up of Eliza Coupe, Damon Wayans Jr., Elisha Cuthbert, Casey Wilson, Adam Pally, and Zach Kingston, Happy Endings was a weird, lovable, and gut-bustingly funny sitcom that let its characters be as outrageous as possible while still remaining relatable (as well as featuring a perfectly written LGBTQ character in the main cast). 

Unfortunately, ABC didn't have much faith in this plucky sitcom. According to Coupe, during the third and ultimately final season, the network basically stopped promoting the show entirely, eventually canceling it as the third season closed out. However, ever since Hulu purchased streaming rights to the show, it's found a new life and new fans, and the last laugh rests with Happy Endings' creative team, considering that two of the show's producers/directors, a pair of brothers by the last name of Russo, went on to helm some of the biggest blockbusters on the planet.

Hannibal is a bloody and beautiful TV masterpiece

Between Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me, showrunner Bryan Fuller has made a name for himself by creating some of the most stunning television shows in the entire medium. And when it comes to combining gorgeous visuals and stomach-churning gore, well, it doesn't get any better than Hannibal. Inspired by the Thomas Harris novels, Hannibal is one of the bloodiest and most striking shows to ever air. This super stylized series, which ran on NBC for three seasons, starred Hugh Dancy as criminal profiler Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, and the show followed their intense cat-and-mouse dynamic.

Unsurprisingly, thanks to its distinct style, Hannibal garnered immediate praise for its visuals, but despite plenty of critical love and attention over its three seasons, it was eventually canceled by the network due to low ratings. Nevertheless, this is one of the best shows in television history, and if you're into murderous works of art, diabolical dinner parties, and sexual tension between psychos, then Hannibal is definitely worth sinking your teeth into. 

The Tick is the most underrated superhero show ever made

Usually, a comic book adaptation is a pretty surefire bet for a TV series, but some characters just can't carry an entire show on their own. A perfect example is The Tick, which aired on Amazon Studios for two seasons, one of which contained just six episodes. Created by Ben Edlund (who also created the character of the Tick himself and wrote the comic book), the show focused on a blue-suited superhero who teams up with his meek sidekick Arthur to protect their city and defeat a supervillain by the name of "The Terror."

Starring Peter Serafinowicz (Guardians of the Galaxy, Spy) as the titular Tick, Griffin Newman as Arthur, and Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) as "The Terror," the show was well-liked by critics and audiences, and praised for its quick sense of humor and convivial tone. Unfortunately, Amazon declined to renew it for a third season, and Edlund couldn't find a new home for this ambitious series, leaving it officially dead in the water. Still, both seasons are online for future Tick fans to enjoy.

It's time to get down with Party Down

On the heels of his beloved series, Veronica Mars, showrunner Rob Thomas embarked on a new, more adult venture called Party Down, a show about a not-so-successful catering company starring the likes of Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Ryan Hansen, Martin Starr, and Ken Marino. Plus, there are recurring roles from stars like Jane Lynch, Megan Mullally, and even Veronica herself, Kristen Bell. With each episode centered around a different event, the hardly-working crew suffers through everything from bar mitzvahs to boat parties, all while barely doing their jobs as they try to pursue their ailing acting careers. Sharp, dirty, and often odd, Party Down has become a cult classic ever since Starz canceled it in 2010. It was already suffering from low ratings, but things got even worse when it lost Adam Scott and Jane Lynch to Parks & Recreation and Glee, respectively. But while this cult classic has vanished from the airwaves, it's still totally worth checking out.

Difficult People is mean and amusing

The advent of streaming services has allowed many offbeat shows to find a home, and that's exactly what happened with Hulu's Difficult People. The series stars showrunner Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner as two unsuccessful, exaggerated, and outrageously cruel versions of themselves. As comedians who pretty much hate everyone except each other, Klausner and Eichner spend each episode trading barbs and quips at a breakneck pace, and with a cast that was rounded out by actors like the legendary Andrea Gordon and veteran TV actor James Urbaniak — as well as guest spots from huge stars like Nathan Lane, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tina Fey, Martin Short, and more — this filthy show was heavy on the pop culture references and delightfully mean, but unfortunately, it wasn't long for this world. Despite its strong pedigree (the show's most prominent executive producer was comedy star Amy Poehler) and really good reviews, Hulu axed Difficult People after three short seasons, but anyone with a Hulu login can still start the show from the beginning and bask in just how deranged Julie and Billy can get.

The Leftovers might've disappeared, but it's still worth watching

Based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, HBO's The Leftovers ran for a quick three seasons, and despite a total lack of love from any major award ceremonies, it left a lasting impression, critically speaking. The show, which was adapted by Lost alum Damon Lindelof, imagines a world where two percent of the population has mysteriously vanished. After this devastating rapture, the show focuses on the confusing, unsettling, and frightening aftermath of an event that has absolutely no explanation.

The first season received slightly above average reviews — by sticking too closely to its source material, it skewed pretty dark — but it took an upwards turn in quality during its universally beloved second and third seasons as it created its own story. Viewed by many critics as one of the best series of all time, the show kept a low profile while it was on TV, but it's clear that as audiences discover this challenging and groundbreaking series, it'll earn its place in television history.

A.P. Bio is an underrated comedy from an Always Sunny star

After It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia found some success, its newfound stars embarked on several solo projects. Take Glenn Howerton, for example, who played sociopath Dennis Reynolds on Sunny. Howerton's first solo outing was NBC's irreverent and underrated sitcom A.P. Bio — created by Saturday Night Live alum Mike O'Brien and produced by Seth Meyers — where he plays Jack Griffin, a disgraced Harvard professor who ends up teaching a high school biology class. Hell-bent on revenge, he enlists his class' help to mess with his rival, who ended up getting Jack's dream job.

The show premiered to solid reviews that praised Howerton's performance as well as the supporting cast (which includes Patton Oswalt, Paula Pell, and previously unknown but exceptionally talented younger actors), but NBC canceled it due to low ratings in 2019. It will be revived on NBC's new streaming service, so anyone looking for some comedy gold from an Always Sunny star should start binging now and prepare for the third season of this hilarious TV show.