What TV dramas DON'T suck?

In another thread, some folk are “correctly” observing issues in The Good Wife - one of the few TV dramas I watch regularly. Sure, I’m aware of such issues, but I give it a ton of slack because it is just a TV show, and my expectations are mighty low. I also watch Elementary, used to enjoy House, and a couple others. Of course the West Wing was very good, and shows like the Sopranos and the Wire.

Basically, all I want is reasonably intelligent dialogue, and some characters/storylines I find somewhat interesting or care something about. And - a HUGE bar for me - there is enough ugliness in the real world that I don’t need to watch for entertainment twisted violence and depravity. (Yeah, plenty of violence in Sopranos and Wire, if you want to debate my inconsistency …). So that knocks out basically all of the CSI and Law and Order shows - seemingly at least half of the hour-long dramas.

Another huge clump of shows fits into what I consider Castle and the latter years of Bones. I used to really like Bones, before the main characters turned into (IMO) really unbelievable caricatures. And in Castle, is there any less convincing cop on TV than the main female character? And I do not find the personal lives of the main characters in Bones or Castle - reflecting apparently boundless wealth - in the least believable or interesting.

I don’t know that things were ever better, tho in prior years I’d say shows like Gunsmoke, Mission Impossible, The Waltons, Streets of San Francisco, etc. provided more opportunities for simply enjoyable watching.

I realize I’m expressing an opinion contrary to the often expressed opinion that we are currently in a “golden age of television.” And maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, bothered at current trends of what passes for entertainment. I tried to give Game of Thrones a good chance. Think I made it through an entire season. But when I realized there wasn’t a single character I cared whether they lived or died. And the unpleasantness and lack of characters I cared about took me out of Breaking Bad as well. But I see enough of people being mean to each other every day at work. I don’t need it for entertainment when I plop down on the couch at the end of the day.

Perhaps this just boils down to “tastes differ.”

The whole Law & Order franchise. Some of the best drama on TV today.

If you liked West Wing, you’ll like The Newsroom.

Wife and I are hooked on the new show “Blindspot” - no violence, just some police drama with a great plot twist.

Not really.

NCIS is a character driven drama.

Never though of Castle as ‘drama’. It didn’t start out that way. It was ridiculous and fun. When they started to try to get ‘dramatic’, they lost the focus and lot of us gave up.

I still enjoy Elementary, although I haven’t seen any of the current season.

Seconded. I liked the former, couldn’t stand the latter.

Madam Secretary would seem to fit your requirements perfectly. It’s intelligent, interesting, and generally non-violent.

Manhattan, on WGN. A fairly intelligent drama about the group developing the atomic bomb. Good cast. Some rough stuff, but mainly political and personal intrigue.

You might also try Damages, which is available on Netflix. Lawyer fu.

Damn, forgot Longmire: sheriff in a modern day Wyoming county.

Oddly enough, you’re completely right. You can’t watch it for the insightful writing of the plots; they’re easily predictable after about the first act. You watch it to see the characters interact with each other in the context of these issues, and how they act over time. NCIS is surprisingly well at maintaining continuity- they bring up stuff about characters from like 9 seasons ago with shocking regularity.

It’s not “great television” by any stretch of the imagination, but I think the secret to its success is the attention paid to the characters.

I am enjoying the hell out of Once Upon A Time.

Try “Rectify” on the Sundance channel (I think Netflix has the earlier seasons). I’ve finally gotten around to starting it and it really is as good as rumored. “The Americans” is violent, but has strong characterization, acting, and well done dialogue. And I’ve heard good (but depressing) things about “The Leftovers.”

The Knick, on Cinemax is excellent. It’s a hospital drama set in Manhattan around 1900, directed by Steven Soderbergh with a stellar cast. A bit heavy on the ick factor, so avoid it if, say, a syphillitic patient with missing nose, or a failed C-section (in all its glory) would be a deal breaker. The actor around whom the drama revolves, Clive Owen, is almost as riveting as Ian McShane in Deadwood.

The best drama to come out of the UK recently is the This is England film and the three follow-up miniseries. It’s based around youth (mainly skinhead) subculture in 80s England (the film was set in 1983, and the miniseries were set in 1986, 1988 and 1990). It has the gritty realism of the kitchen-sink dramas fashionable in the UK in 1960s, it’s very dark in places and does contains realistically depicted violence (including sexual violence), but it never glorifies the violence and also manages to be funny and uplifting in plenty of places.

Now it’s possible that it’s something that is never going to travel well outside of the UK because as well as telling the story of a group of young people, it also tells the story of UK culture at the time, but I mention it because the dialogue is very intelligent in its realism and Shane Meadows is a master at creating characters that you care about. On the other hand it is difficult to watch at times because it does have unpleasantness depicted in a way that is much more realistic than is usually found in mainstream drama and it falls very much into the category of “thought-provoking” rather than “simple”.

The Americans is what came to mind for me - yes there’s violence, but not in a torture-porny or over-the-top gory way.

I really enjoy Major Crimes which picked up where the **The Closer **left off, replaced Kyra Sedgwick with Mary McDonnell and somehow managed to make her likable! It’s on TNT and starts back next Monday, if I’m not mistaken.

I also like Rizolli & Isles on TNT (Angie Harmon is great).

Then there’s **SUITS **on USA, which is an awesome show.

And even in Season 17, L&O:SVU still manages to keep my attention!

Yep, The Americans is drama for mature adults - compelling on family, entertaining on derring do.

Folks may have seen a thread a recently started on 3 current UK dramas, they are all layered, intellectually engaging pieces of work and worth a look:

That might remind you of early years of some of the procedurals you used to like.
Also, have you checked “Halt and Catch Fire” (uneven, but has good characters, no violence, decent writing)? or “Better Call Saul” on AMC?
On the streaming services, you might like “Transparent”

We are liking **Masters of Sex. **