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31 Best Showtime Series Of All Time Ranked

First hitting the airwaves back in the late 1970s, Showtime is one of the longest-lasting cable channels still kicking. In its many years of existence, the network has helped create the modern idea of prestige television by airing well-made dramas, edgy and sophisticated comedies, and talk shows that upend the form. Unbound by the restrictions of broadcast networks, Showtime is free to elevate television and bring new perspectives and stories to millions of appreciative viewers. 

Forever in competition with fellow pay cable outlets like HBO and Starz, as well as streaming upstarts such as Netflix and Hulu, Showtime has held its ground in the still-ongoing "Peak TV" era. Every year, it adds more and more high-quality productions to the TV landscape, from audacious, quirky horror stories to blockbuster crime sagas. Which shows reign supreme? These are the 31 best Showtime series of all time.

Updated on May 9, 2022: Showtime debuts fantastic new series every month. Whenever something truly special hits the airwaves, we'll update this list to reflect its superior status. Be sure to check back often to keep up on the latest and greatest Showtime series.

31. City on a Hill

"City on a Hill," a twist-filled saga about good cops, corrupt cops, and the fragile criminal justice system at large, explores '90s Boston as it experiences a massive crime wave. In an attempt to clean up the streets, crusading Assistant District Attorney DeCourcy Ward reluctantly teams up with grizzled FBI agent Jackie Rohr on a case that could change everything. But Rohr is wildly duplicitous about his many underhanded shenanigans, of which Ward is well aware. This creates a delicate balance they must maintain to work together, and no end of tension.

30. The Borgias

In the 15th century, the man appointed pope was more than just the head of the Catholic Church — he was one of the most politically influential landholders in the world. "The Borgias" explores this era through the life of calculating Rodrigo Borgia, who conspires to achieve the papacy by using his vastly wealthy family's connections to bribe bishops and dispatch whoever gets in the way. His enemies are legion, and not all of them back down. Religion, business, and politics proceed to collide in absolutely engrossing ways.

29. United States of Tara

In this lightly comic family drama set in Overland Park, Kansas, stay-at-home mom Tara manages far more than the typical American parent. Her kids are increasingly distant and engaging in problematic behavior, while her husband stays as supportive as he can, while being mostly ineffectual. Beyond all of this, Tara struggles with dissociative identity disorder. She suddenly and rapidly cycles between four separate, all-encompassing personas, all of which offer their own quirks and challenges. There's hard-drinking Buck, idealized '50s housewife Alice, high-energy teenager T, and Gimme, who operates on pure impulse. Tara's life is crowded, to say the least, but she's figuring it out — or at least, she's trying to.

  • Starring: Toni Collette, John Corbett, Brie Larson
  • Creator: Diablo Cody
  • Year: 2009
  • Runtime: 36 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

28. Brotherhood

A crime saga set in Providence, Rhode Island, "Brotherhood" looks at one family, whose members rule both sides of the law. One Caffee brother, Michael, is heavily affiliated with the Irish Mob, a criminal enterprise active throughout New England. The other Caffee brother, Tommy, is a local politician rising through the ranks of power. Both men fight to carve out a life while maintaining the tricky balance of their large family, which includes both shady criminals and law-abiding community members.

  • Starring: Jason Isaacs, Jason Clarke, Annabeth Gish
  • Creator: Blake Masters
  • Year: 2006
  • Runtime: 29 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

27. Resurrection Blvd.

An understated, engrossing show about a multi-generational East Los Angeles family, "Resurrection Blvd." thrives on tension. Widowed patriarch Roberto watches over his brood, training adult son Carlos in the family business of boxing, assisted by his other son, Miguel. A third son, medical student Alex, stands on the outside looking in. Roberto's daughters also represent different paths, with Yolanda becoming an attorney and Victoria enduring high school. Everyone faces a choice between tradition and striking out to do something new, and every decision is complex.

  • Starring: Michael DeLorenzo, Tony Plana, Marisol Nichols
  • Creator: Dennis E. Leoni
  • Year: 2000
  • Runtime: 53 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%

26. Kidding

"Kidding" is a sad drama about sweet people who make happy television. Comedy icon Jim Carrey plays Jeff Piccirillo, the hugely successful star of "Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time," a long-running TV show for kids and the center of a branding empire. The show finds him picking up the pieces of his life one year after the death of his son and the subsequent breakup of his marriage. He tries to approach things with the humor and gentleness he's encouraged others to embrace, but struggles to do so as he faces pushback and tension at work and further turmoil in his personal life.

25. Billions

A simmering financial thriller that pulls drama from real-life commodities trading scandals, "Billions" is about the dance between two titans: Bobby Axelrod, a self-made hedge fund millionaire, and Chuck Rhoades, a federal attorney sniffing around for evidence of big money crimes. Caught in the middle and complicating things massively is psychiatrist Wendy Rhoades, Axelrod's house performance coach who happens to be Chuck Rhoades' wife. Her alliances and ethics are consistently tested as the two men try to outwit one another.

  • Starring: Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Maggie Siff
  • Creators: Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • Year: 2016
  • Runtime: 70 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

24. The Tudors

Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Britain's King Henry VIII in this scandalous series. As "The Tudors" progresses, viewers are privy to his cutthroat political actions and religious machinations, which see him expel the influence of the Catholic Church in favor of the easily manipulated Church of England. This sets Henry up to divorce the many queens who do not provide him with a male heir. As you might expect, "The Tudors" vividly depicts Henry's many violent and tragic relationships with the women he marries and disposes. It's seamy, shocking, and incredibly entertaining.

23. Sleeper Cell

Just a few years after the events of 9/11, when millions of Americans became hyper-aware and supremely afraid of domestic terror attacks, Showtime premiered the audacious and intense "Sleeper Cell." This series takes viewers inside of a terrorist unit planningan attack in Los Angeles through Darwyn Al-Sayeed, an undercover FBI agent. He befriends and closely watches the group's leader, but suspicions are never far behind. Darwyn will need sharp wits, well-honed skills, and a lot of luck to make it through his mission.

  • Starring: Michael Ealy, Oded Fehr, Henri Lubatti
  • Creators: Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris
  • Year: 2005
  • Runtime: 18 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%

22. Twin Peaks: The Return

Co-created by iconoclastic filmmaker David Lynch, 1990's "Twin Peaks" begins as a murder-mystery set in a tiny Pacific Northwest town. As FBI agent Dale Cooper attempts to figure out who killed teenager Laura Palmer, the series quickly becomes a fascinating jumble of surrealism, dream sequences, and supernatural occurrences. In 2017, Showtime debuted another round of "Twin Peaks," set 25 years after the original series. Agent Cooper is back, and this time, the odd events extend far beyond Washington's borders, involving dozens of guest stars, altered realities, and creepy mechanical boxes.

21. Flatbush Misdemeanors

This wry and charming comedy explores life in a once-gritty, now-gentrifying area of Brooklyn. But really, it's about the annoyances of modern society and millennial culture. Iso and Perlman play versions of themselves in this quirky series: The fictional Kevin and Dan are lifelong best friends trying to get by while dealing with personal and political issues, as well as the rising ride of insidious hipsterism.

  • Starring: Kevin Iso, Dan Perlman, Kristin Dodson
  • Creators: Kevin Iso and Dan Perlman
  • Year: 2021
  • Runtime: 10 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

20. The Affair

Sorrow proves to be entertaining on "The Affair," a narratively experimental drama. At its slowly crumbling heart, this series is about the demise of a marriage between novelist Noah and real estate agent Helen. When Noah starts up a fling with Long Island server Alison, it unravels multiple lives. Everyone becomes both an unlikely hero and an improbable villain, because "The Affair" tells the same story from multiple angles. An intensely emotional saga emerges from these frequent point-of-view changes that you won't soon forget.

  • Starring: Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, Maura Tierney
  • Creators: Hagai Levi and Sarah Treem
  • Year: 2014
  • Runtime: 53 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

19. Nurse Jackie

Jackie Peyton works as an emergency room nurse in a perpetually cash-strapped New York City hospital. It's basically on her to run the place, what with incompetent young doctors, overworked administrators, and plucky nurses desperate for Jackie's approval. When she isn't barely keeping her workplace together, Jackie is preoccupied with her home life, which is slowly falling apart. Her marriage is crumbling under the weight of her daughter's troubles, not to mention Jackie's ill-advised affair with a hospital pharmacist. To make things even worse, she's only carrying on with him because he keeps her stocked in prescription painkillers, to which she has a debilitating addiction. This is dark stuff, but "Nurse Jackie" is a comedy-drama — and a skillful one at that.

  • Starring: Edie Falco, Merritt Wever, Paul Schulze
  • Creators: Liz Brixius, Evan Dunsky, Linda Wallem
  • Year: 2009
  • Runtime: 80 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

18. Ray Donovan

The title character of "Ray Donovan" is forever trying to balance the criminal life he thought he escaped with his current one — and both involve a hefty amount of strong-armed manipulation. After spending years as a Boston criminal, Ray has become a glitzy Hollywood fixer — aka, the guy who makes big, bad problems go away for wealthy celebrities and tycoons. Unfortunately, his shady brothers and estranged father, released from prison after 20 years, keep showing up to get a piece of what Ray has created. 

17. The L Word

Airing in the 2000s, when there weren't a lot of stories about LGBTQ+ people on TV, "The L Word" broke ground in depicting the many social, professional, and romantic entanglements of a group of Los Angeles-based lesbian and bisexual women. "The L Word" is a frothy soap, akin to "Melrose Place" or "Thirtysomething," with heavy touches of humanity. It explores its central women at many different points in their lives: Some are single, some are coupled, some are still forging their identity, and some are looking for redemption.

  • Starring: Jennifer Beals, Leisha Hailey, Laurel Holloman
  • Creators: Michele Abbott, Ilene Chaiken, and Kathy Greenberg
  • Year: 2004
  • Runtime: 70 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 57%

16. Ziwe

Comedy sensation Ziwe Fumudoh expands her popular series "Baited with Ziwe" in this Showtime production. On each episode, she welcomes celebrities, politicians, artists, and other notable people, then asks them hilariously honest questions about hot button issues. She keeps things going with filmed comedy bits featuring some of the edgiest and funniest actors in the business, like Cole Escola and Patti Harrison. You never know what you're going to get from "Ziwe," but you can bet it's going to be good.

15. Episodes

"Episodes" is a darkly funny behind-the-scenes look at how sitcoms barely get made. After creating a hit comedy series, happily married British TV writers Sean and Beverly are recruited to head up an Americanized remake. Due to constant unnecessary meddling from network executives and stars with huge egos, however, the show quickly spins out of their control and veers wildly into complete dreck. Meanwhile, the temptations and superficiality of Hollywood threaten to undo their marriage and mental wellbeing.  Also, Matt LeBlanc is there, playing a fictionalized version of himself. That alone is worth tuning in for.

  • Starring: Matt LeBlanc, Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Greig
  • Creators: David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik
  • Year: 2011
  • Runtime: 41 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

14. House of Lies

A mixture of "Veep" and "The Office" with an extremely cynical view of corporate culture, "House of Lies" is a dark comedy about a pod of skilled, morally flexible consultants who negotiate high-priced business deals, buyouts, and mergers. The members of this group are also incompetent failures in their personal lives who jump into ill-advised relationships and deal with the fallout of their broken families. All of this drama is the direct result of their workaholism and cutthroat tendencies, but it's not necessarily enough to make them change.

  • Starring: Don Cheadle, Kristen Bell, Ben Schwartz
  • Creator: Matthew Carnahan
  • Year: 2012
  • Runtime: 58 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 58%

13. Queer as Folk

An American remake of Russell T. Davies' British series of the same name, "Queer as Folk" takes a loving and expansive view of a big city's LGBTQ+ subculture. The intersecting lives and extended social circle of five gay men living in Pittsburgh take center stage. Mostly young and looking for romance, they experience the highs and lows of modern life, experiment with drugs and sex, and rely on one another for emotional support as the show unpacks the health and political issues specifically faced by gay men in 21st century America.

  • Starring: Gale Harold, Hal Sparks, Randy Harrison
  • Creators: Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman
  • Year: 2000
  • Runtime: 83 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

12. The Chi

The South Side of Chicago, as depicted on "The Chi," can be as tough and gritty as it is tight-knit and supportive. An emotionally probing series from the multi-talented Lena Waithe, the lives of young people living in this unique place take center stage. Ronnie meanders through life, looking for love and answers. Emmett needs guidance. Brandon and Jerrika try to make a go of romance. All of their trajectories are connected — but not in the ways they might expect.

  • Starring: Jason Mitchell, Jacob Latimore, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine
  • Creator: Lena Waithe
  • Year: 2018
  • Runtime: 40 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

11. Work in Progress

Abby, the character at the center of "Work in Progress," is as wonderfully hard to pigeonhole as the show itself. A proudly queer person with a history of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, she's ended up in a pretty dark place. To mark time, she counts the contents of a jar of almonds inexplicably gifted by a coworker. Abby throws one away every day until there are none left, and then starts leaving them alone. Slowly, she finds new reasons to live, and then live fully once new relationships blossom.

  • Starring: Abby McEnany, Karin Anglin, Celeste Pechous
  • Creators: Abby McEnany and Tim Mason
  • Year: 2019
  • Runtime: 18 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

10. On Becoming a God in Central Florida

Krystal Stubbs lives in a rundown Orlando suburb in 1992 with her newborn baby and jumpy husband. She works a poorly paid and deeply frustrating job in a waterpark, and is desperate to improve her station in life. Her husband is just as driven, but his head is completely in the clouds: He's been brainwashed by Founders American Merchandise, a multi-level marketing scheme which destroys the family's finances. After his sudden (and darkly hilarious) death, Krystal sets out to climb the FAM ladder and take it down from the inside — if she isn't corrupted by it first, that is.

  • Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Theodore Pellerin, Mel Rodriguez
  • Creators: Robert Funke and Matt Lutsky
  • Year: 2019
  • Runtime: 10 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

9. Masters of Sex

While much media has explored the sexual revolution of the 1960s, "Masters of Sex" takes a uniquely accurate approach to it, grounded in historical and scientific fact. Beginning in the mid 1950s, this series tracks the earth-shaking work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, human sexuality researchers working at Washington University. As they learn more about the biology of how humans physically relate to one another, their personal lives are affected. Eventually, they find themselves attracted to each other, making for some complicated dynamics at work and home.

  • Starring: Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan, Caitlin FitzGerald
  • Creator: Michelle Ashford
  • Year: 2013
  • Runtime: 46 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

8. Weeds

"Weeds" is a bit dated, given the United States' recent wave of cannabis legalization, but it remains a cutting satire of superficial suburbia starring a woman who will do absolutely anything to take care of her family. Strapped for cash after the death of her husband and with two traumatized sons to support, Nancy Botwin goes to work as a marijuana dealer. She sells her wares on the sly to prominent members of her otherwise staid, conservative, and monied community of Agrestic, California. Of course, a mom selling bags of pot to goofy dads is the least of this town's problems: Corruption, infidelity, and lies are rampant, a pattern which continues in later seasons when Nancy skips town.

  • Starring: Mary-Louise Parker, Hunter Parrish, Elizabeth Perkins
  • Creator: Jenji Kohan
  • Year: 2005
  • Runtime: 102
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%

7. Black Monday

"Black Monday" imagines the comical events that could have led to the real Black Monday, 1987's infamous stock market crash. Cocky Maurice Monroe lords over his Wall Street firm, destroying most anything that gets in his path and leaving his long-suffering partner Dawn to clean up the mess. The firm is further populated by shifty, self-serving dim bulbs, as well as Blair, a wannabe broker who eventually helps Maurice take over his wife's family's jeans company. That, and other ill-advised deals, invoke chaos on the stock market, which takes years (and more awkward and dangerous schemes) to undo.

6. Homeland

Based on an Israeli drama about the unbelievably intense world of counterterrorism efforts, "Homeland" is one part political thriller, one part psychological drama. Carrie Mathison, a CIA operative with bipolar disorder, becomes convinced that Marine and freed prisoner of war Nicholas Brody was radicalized by his captors, and is now a sleeper agent ready to attack America. And that's just the first of many high-stakes issues Carrie must face and defuse on "Homeland." Winner of the 2012 Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, it's a series that redefines the phrase "high-octane."

  • Starring: Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Damian Lewis
  • Creators: Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon
  • Year: 2011
  • Runtime: 96 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

5. Penny Dreadful

Psychic Vanessa, explorer Malcolm, and American gunslinger Ethan solve mysteries brimming with supernatural elements in dreary Victorian London. Like the cheaply produced horror stories of the late 19th century from which the show takes its name, "Penny Dreadful" gets plenty of monsters into the mix, primarily famous ones from literature. Dr. Frankenstein and his terrifying monster show up, as do Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and many other eerie creatures.

  • Starring: Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton
  • Creator: John Logan
  • Year: 2014
  • Runtime: 27 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

4. Dead Like Me

Georgia "George" Lass is a recent high school graduate with no real idea of what she wants to do with her life. It takes her death — she's struck by a falling toilet seat — for her story to truly begin. Stuck in a purgatorial state similar to the one she was in while among the living, George is assigned work as a grim reaper in the External Influence Division. In each episode of "Dead Like Me," she meets with other supernatural bureaucrats in a pancake house and is handed a slip of paper by her gruff boss, indicating the person whose soul she's tasked with collecting. As she escorts people to the afterlife, she learns a lot about living, and even more about love.

  • Starring: Ellen Muth, Mandy Patinkin, Jasmine Guy
  • Creator: Bryan Fuller
  • Year: 2003
  • Runtime: 29 episodes
  • Rating: TV-14
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 84%

3. Yellowjackets

"Yellowjackets" is two stories in one. The first follows a group of teenagers connected by an unthinkably tragic event, while the other is about those same young people years later, all grown up and deeply scarred by their shared experience. The Yellowjackets are an elite female soccer team from a New Jersey high school, whose plane crashes on the way to a tournament in 1996. They land in the wilderness, where they do horrible things to survive for nearly two years before they're rescued. They swear to keep their experiences a secret, but after years of silence, the truth starts to emerge and wreak havoc on their adult lives.

  • Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis
  • Creators: Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson
  • Year: 2021
  • Runtime: 10 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

2. Shameless

The various members of the large and troubled Gallagher family make themselves into Chicago legends by the time "Shameless" wraps up its 11-season run. Based on a British series of the same name, the American "Shameless" tells the alternately hilarious and aggravating story of Frank Gallagher and what he hath wrought. An unrepentant, self-aggrandizing cheapskate, con artist, and general schemer, he spends his days and nights drinking and scamming the system. This leaves his eldest daughter, Fiona, to put her own prodigious ambitions aside and take care of her many younger siblings. Everyone struggles to pull their school, work, and romantic lives out of the proverbial gutter, with varying degrees of success.

  • Starring: William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Allen White
  • Creators: Paul Abbott and John Wells
  • Year: 2011
  • Runtime: 140 episodes
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

1. Dexter

"Dexter" is a difficult show to pull off: The main character is a serial killer, and viewers actually root for him to get away with his crimes. Dexter Morgan works as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami police, a job which gives him cover and access for his many murders. But Dexter isn't a total maniac — he's trained himself to live by a code, instilled in him by his adoptive father, that sees him satiate his urge to kill by slaughtering other serial killers and various other evil individuals who terrorize Miami. This works pretty well ... for a while, anyway.