The 10 Best TV Dramas for Marathon Viewing

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5. Battlestar Galactica

Ronald D. Moore turned a cheesy ’70s show into a gritty, unflinching look at what it means to be human, and ended up with one of the best sci-fi series of all time. With the crew of Galactica encountering no aliens during its exodus, the show was free to pit religion against science, freedom against security and family against conscience—tensions with no easy answers. It’s an epic tale with few villains and fewer heroes—just flawed people fighting for survival. Josh Jackson


4. Lost

The show’s title isn’t just a comment on the characters’ state; it’s a comment on the viewers’ as well. Lost was the epitome of less-is-more restraint, doling out just enough of its mysterious plot to keep you begging for more. It defined addictive TV. While I’m unsatisfied with the answers they finally revealed, I don’t regret a moment of the glorious suspense-filled journey there.


3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon’s masterpiece used dark humor, pop-culture references and metaphors galore to explore life at its most basic and its most profound. As episodic television, it was more hit than miss, but its real genius was in its character development and seasonal (and cross-season) story arcs. From the Shakespearian tragedy of seasons two and three to the existential angst of season six, Buffy displayed a mastery of suspense, character and meaning seldom witnessed on the small screen.


2. The Wire

Series mastermind David Simon conceived The Wire as a modern Greek tragedy, a morality play set in a drug-infested urban war zone where conventional good guys and bad guys barely exist. Everyone is conflicted and compromised. We didn’t need The Wire to remind us that “the system”—the criminal justice system, the political system, the education system—is broken. But no other cultural enterprise (and certainly no television show) has shown us precisely how the infrastructure has collapsed, forcing us to consider the impossible decisions required for repair. Amidst the rubble of a failed city, Simon created an engrossing human drama about the eternal struggle between aspiration and desperation, ambition and resignation—in other words, the fight for the American Dream. The vast cast of characters combined with the slow pace of the plot makes this one you’ll definitely want to power through. Nick Marino


1. Dexter

Showtime’s series about the serial killer with a moral code is the pinnacle of compelling television, the perfect blend of plot and character development. Dexter Morgan’s copious monologues let us inside the mind of a riveting personality. As he realizes the alienation, secrets, doubts, social anxiety and flawed parenting that made him into a self-professed monster aren’t unique to him, he becomes more human. While Dexter fights to conceal his secret, each season is propelled by fast-moving episodes centered on a complex and compelling main arc (the Ice Truck Killer, Doakes and the Bay Harbor Butcher investigation, the Trinity Killer). Every episode leaves you jonesing for your next hit.