ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS
With his tack-sharp introductions and tightly-plotted morality plays, Alfred Hitchcock—already renowned for his feature film work—became the prototype for Rod Serling with the 1955 debut of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Each episode of the anthology focuses on a different criminal scheme and its inevitable unraveling, from a woman’s novel disposal of a murder weapon (“Lamb to Slaughter”) to the plight of a man being robbed after he’s paralyzed in a car accident (“Breakdown”). If the stark black and white cinematography looks familiar, you have a good eye: Hitchcock used most of the TV show’s crew to film 1960’s Psycho. —Jake Rossen
To their neighbors in a sleepy D.C. suburb, travel agents Philip and Elizabeth Jennings seem about as boring as you can get. But to anyone who gets in their way (including FBI agents), these undercover Russian spies are quick, efficient, and deadly. If you like intrigue, action, steamy sex scenes, ’80s nostalgia, and honest, thought-provoking depictions of marriage, you’re going to love The Americans. —Kate Horowitz
This smart, snarky series follows the riches-to-rags story of the Bluths, a dysfunctional Orange County family that loses their real estate fortune after the SEC begins investigating the family business for fraud. After the family patriarch, George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), goes to prison, his son Michael (Jason Bateman) is left to grudgingly hold the family together. Arrested Development’s intricately crafted plotlines, recurring gags, and relentlessly clever wordplay earned the adoration of a cult following, but didn’t drive ratings high enough to keep Fox from cancelling the show after its third season.
BETTER CALL SAUL
Before he was Saul Goodman, lawyer to Albuquerque’s favorite chemistry teacher-turned-meth kingpin Walter White on Breaking Bad (more on that below), Bob Odenkirk was Jimmy McGill, the ne’er-do-well brother to one of the city’s most well respected attorneys whose mental issues (or electricity allergy, if you prefer) leave the brothers frequently at odds. Though, deep down, Jimmy clearly cares about people—well, some people—he cares about winning more, and proving to his brother that he’s matured since his day of running scams back in their hometown of Cicero, Illinois, where he was known as “Slippin’ Jimmy.” Fans who lamented the end of Breaking Bad have gotten a stellar prequel with Better Call Saul—one that manages to enrich the backstory of Breaking Bad yet stand alone as its own stellar series. —Jennifer M. Wood
Though the anthology series has been compared to The Twilight Zone due to its twisty, technology-themed tales, at its heart, Black Mirror is a reflection of society. “The technology is never the culprit in our stories,” creator Charlie Brooker told Vogue. “The technology is just allowing people to do terrible things to themselves or others.” It only takes watching the first episode to understand what Brooker is talking about. —Stacy Conradt