25 Best Cult TV Shows – Netflix 13, Amazon 11

I’m culling this from an article in Entertainment Weekly entitled “25 Best Cult TV Shows from the Past 25 Years”. Netflix has 13 of the 25 series available on instant.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2002)

“Despite her desire to live a normal life at Sunnydale High, tough-as-nails teenager Buffy Summers fulfills her mystical calling as a Slayer to protect humankind from vampires, demons and other supernatural creatures- with some help from her friends.”

Although nowhere near as good, the spinoff series Angel does have its moments and is also available.

Arrested Development (2003-2005)

“This Emmy-winning sitcom follows the Bluths, a wealthy California clan gone to the dogs after patriarch George Sr. gets busted for fraud. Now, long-suffering son Michael keeps the family business afloat as he spars with his dysfunctional relatives.”

There’s always money in the banana stand.”

Mystery Science Theater 3000

“The hit comedy television show about an ordinary man (Michael J. Nelson) and two robots being forced to watch the worst movies ever made becomes a movie about an ordinary man and two robots forced to watch the worst movies ever made. A demented scientist schemes to subject Nelson to unspeakable horrors, but his test subject has mankind’s ultimate defense: a sense of humor, which he and his robot companions use to make hilarious commentary.”

Netflix has the movie and thirteen of the movie episodes available on instant.

The X-Files (1993-2001)

“Tracing both their personal and professional lives, this award-winning Fox series centers on FBI agents Scully (Gillian Anderson), a skeptic, and Mulder (David Duchovny), a believer, and their efforts to uncover a government conspiracy to hide evidence of extraterrestrial activity. From voodoo curses to bodies found in California that are missing various internal organs, the chilling show also stars Mitch Pileggi and Robert Patrick.”

Not only does Netflix have all nine seasons of The X-Files available but they also have the series that inspired The X-Files, Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1993)

“In the year 2364, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard leads the new Enterprise on missions of discovery. First Officer William Riker, engineer Geordi La Forge, and Klingon crewmember Worf join Picard as they explore the universe and interact with alien species.”

Instant Netflix also has Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Enterprise available.

My So-Called Life (1994)

“Suburban teen Angela Chase (Claire Danes) is changing, but her hair color isn’t the only thing that’s different. She’s also pulling away from her parents to spend more time with a new crop of friends — and a major crush (Jared Leto) with amazing eyes. Along with launching the careers of Leto and Danes (who won a Golden Globe in the series’ first and only season), this teen drama garnered a loyal cult following before its cancellation.”

Lost (2004-2010)

“After their plane crashes on a deserted island, a diverse group of castaways adapt to their new home in this Emmy-winning drama. As if learning to survive and get along weren’t enough, they soon must contend with the island’s mysterious forces”

Firefly (2002)

“Set almost 500 years in the future, this short-lived but much-loved sci-fi series follows the adventures of the ragtag crew of the transport spaceship Serenity, who view no job as too small, too dirty or too close to the line of illegality.”

After you finish this marvelous series, watch Serenity, the movie sequel.

Twin Peaks (1990)

“In David Lynch’s surreal cult classic series, eccentric FBI agent Dale Cooper arrives in Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of teenager Laura Palmer. Soon, many secrets concealed beneath the small town’s façade of normalcy start coming to light.”

Battlestar Galactica (2003-2008)

Deep in the universe, cybernetic Cylons have all but wiped out the human race, laying waste to the Twelve Colonies of Man. Cast out, the few survivors aboard the Battlestar Galactica search for a so-called 13th colony: the mythical planet Earth.”

Instant Netflix also has the original Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980, and the prequel to the new Galactica, Caprica. While the 2003-8 Battlestar Galactica is fantastic, the others are not really worth the time.

Supernatural (2005-2010)

“Raised by their dad to fight supernatural forces, grown siblings Dean and Sam crisscross the country in their 1967 Chevy Impala, investigating paranormal activity and picking fights with deadly demons, ghosts and monsters.”

The first six seasons are currently available on Netflix and by the time you finish those I wouldn’t be surprised to see season 7 be available.

Farscape (1999-2002)

“This Australian science fiction series follows the crew of Moya, a living spacecraft that houses a group of various beings united in their desire to escape from a corrupt military force known as Peacekeepers. American astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) joins them when he accidentally flies through a wormhole. As the series progresses, John makes enemies with brutal Peacekeeper Scorpius, while developing a relationship with crewmate Aeryn”

Better Off Ted (2009)

“As head of research and development at soulless conglomerate Veridian Dynamics, conflicted single father Ted (Jay Harrington) attempts to balance his personal code of ethics with each of his immoral assignments, such as freezing co-workers or weaponizing pumpkins. This scathing corporate culture satire co-stars Portia de Rossi as Ted’s heartless supervisor and Andrea Anders, the new product tester whom he longs to bed.”

Archer (2009-2011)

“Sophisticated spy Archer may have the coolest gadgets, but he still has issues when it comes to dealing with his boss — who also happens to be his mother — in this wicked animated spoof of spy flicks and the sex-crazed agents who populate them.”

Netflix has the first two seasons of Archer on instant.

Amazon Prime has Pushing Daisies, Better Off Ted, Farscape, the first three seasons of Fringe, Firefly (but not Serenity), Lost, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Buffy (& Angel), Arrested Development, The X-Files and while you don’t get Twin Peaks, Prime members get the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Amazon charges for some their MST3K content but they have a whopping 71 free ones with Prime – far more than Netflix.

Amazon Prime comes up a few shorter than Netflix but they are pretty close. Now if only Amazon shores up their movie selection, they can be a real Netflix competitor.

TV Anthologies – Horror Month

 

Twilight Zone (1959-1963)

Hosted by unflappable creator Rod Serling, each episode of this groundbreaking series stands alone as a complete story, relating humor-tinged tales that touch on supernatural subjects such as alien invasions, xenophobia, time travel and dream logic. This classic show, with its superb writing and haunting music, brought science fiction to the masses and was a forerunner of genre-bending favorites such as “The X Files” and “Lost.”

I’m not sure why but currently seasons 1, 2, 3, and 5 are available on instant Netflix but not season 4. There is a wealth of classic horror and science fiction here – “Monsters are Due on Maple Street” being a particular favorite of mine. The theme music is classic and Rod Serling’s narration is wonderful.

Thriller (1960-1961)

The legendary Boris Karloff serves as host for this vintage television series, which began as an anthology of crime dramas and mysteries but later morphed into chilling tales of the supernatural and gothic horror. With episodes based on novels and short stories, the show features a roster of guests ranging from big-screen veterans such as John Carradine and Mary Astor to soon-to-be-stars such as Cloris Leachman and William Shatner.

If you have run through all of Twilight Zone or the episodes are too familiar then give Thriller a try. Boris Karloff makes almost as good a host as Rod Serling. Thriller is not the classic that Twilight Zone is but has some very good episodes. The early episodes lean more towards Alfred Hitchcock Presents but later ones often have a supernatural element.

Since none of the episodes connect to each other, please start your Thriller viewing with Pigeons from Hell, episode 36.

The X-Files (1993-2001)

Tracing both their personal and professional lives, this award-winning Fox series centers on FBI agents Scully (Gillian Anderson), a skeptic, and Mulder (David Duchovny), a believer, and their efforts to uncover a government conspiracy to hide evidence of extraterrestrial activity. From voodoo curses to bodies found in California that are missing various internal organs, the chilling show also stars Mitch Pileggi and Robert Patrick.

All nine seasons of The X-Files are available on instant Netflix. While the main focus of The X-Files was science fiction, there are a large number of ‘spooky’ episodes. The influence of Kolchak on The X-Files is obvious and is even acknowledged when Darren McGavin guest-stars as an early X-Files investigator.

The quality of the writing began to be uneven after the first four seasons. The last two seasons are monumentally disappointing as Duchovny left to pursue a movie career (how’s that working out for you David?) and Anderson takes on a much reduced role due in part to her pregnancy.

Kolchak The Night Stalker

Ok I have to admit that this may not be a good recommendation. Kolchak is one of my many guilty pleasures from a misspent youth. Darren McGavin starred as Kolchak in two of the most popular made-for-TV movies ever – The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler. These were played seriously with a little bit of lightheartedness from McGavin and are quite good – unfortunately they are not available on instant play. The two movies were so popular that they greenlighted a series based on Kolchak’s character – the entirety of which is available on instant play.

Kolchak the Night Stalker

WATCH: Kolchak, the Night Stalker (1974) – “Independent News Service reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) investigates the supernatural in this 1970s series. Kolchak has his work cut out for him as he tracks down Jack the Ripper, aliens, zombies, werewolves, vengeful spooks, Satanic dogs and a boogeyman from the Louisiana bogs. Guest stars include Richard Kiel, Phil Silvers, Keenan Wynn, Jamie Farr, Bernie Kopell, Tom Skerritt, Scatman Crothers, Dick Van Patten and Erik Estrada.”

Darren McGavin is absolutely fabulous through the whole series. Sadly the series is completely episodic – nothing that happens in any episode affects any of the other episodes except that the villain in The Vampire is someone who had been turned from the villain in the first movie. The show’s quality varies wildly and never reaches the quality of the movies. All of the other characters seem like merely props for Darren to play with. Having said that, this was my absolute favorite TV series as a kid and I still enjoy Darren McGavin’s one-man show as Kolchak. The first two episodes are probably the best, the Ripper and the Zombie and are suspenseful though not to the degree of the movies. After the first two, the humor value is increased and there isn’t really much suspense in the show so the only reason to watch this creature-of-the-week show is for Darren McGavin’s performance.”They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be” plays just like an X-Files episode.

The X-Files, which is a direct descendant of this show, featured Darren McGavin in a homage episode and would have featured him again had he not taken ill (his character was replaced with that of his brother).