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Best shows on FX

Lakeith Stanfield, Donald Glover, and Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta
(Image credit: Guy D’Alema/FX)

Starting in the early 2000s, FX began building its reputation as a major player in prestige TV with the debut of The Shield. But it wasn’t until the 2010s that the network truly hit its groove, delivering several of the best shows of that decade across drama and comedy. FX’s commitment to quality over quantity means that the network’s hit rate is one of the best in the business. And today, FX, along with its sister channel FXX, remain premiere destinations for groundbreaking, idiosyncratic shows that are hard to imagine airing anywhere else.

But which FX shows are truly the best of the best? We rounded up the network’s 15 greatest series, including those that originated on FX before moving FXX. And before you ask, no, this isn’t ranked, because we all know The Americans would be number one anyways, and where’s the fun in that?

American Crime Story

It’s been three years since this Emmy-winning anthology series last aired, and the expectations are understandably high for the upcoming season, Impeachment. The debut outing, The People v. O.J. Simpson, provided a riveting take on an infamous crime and the role of mass media in our society, while the sophomore season, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, dove deep into the mind of a sociopathic killer. Besides the classic Ryan Murphy blend of soap and style, the core appeal in American Crime Story lies in show’s ability to elicit career-defining performances from its all-star ensembles. Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, and Darren Criss deliver some of their best work in the anthology, and we can’t wait to see what the star-studded cast of Impeachment has in store.

The Americans

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell star as two deep-cover KGB agents posing as an American couple during the Cold War in this impeccable spy thriller. A modern masterpiece, everything aspect of The Americans is expertly crafted, from the astounding performances to the wrenching explorations of love and loyalty to the wigs. Truly, this whole blurb could be about the wigs; they really are that good. Meticulously plotted and superbly gripping, The Americans is show that demands patience of its viewers, but that rewards this close attention tenfold. The fact that it never won Best Drama at the Emmys will forever remain as one of the most egregious awards snubs.

Archer

Unlike FX’s other long-running comedy series, It’s Always Sunny, which finds success by staying faithful to its original formula, Archer has never stopped evolving. Originally a workplace spy series, Archer has reimagined itself several times over its 11-season run, giving us unique and self-contained seasons like Vice, Dreamland, Danger Island, and 1999. And after over a decade of following Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) and the squad through secret service missions, noir mysteries, and even a send-up of 1930s adventure serials, the series has proven that thanks to its nimble writing, irreverent sense of humor, and ensemble of distinct and dysfunctional character, there really is nothing it can’t do.

Atlanta

Atlanta stars creator Donald Glover as Earn, a broke Princeton dropout who begins managing his rapper cousin Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) in the hopes of making a mark in Atlanta's thriving music scene. But while that may be Atlanta’s premise, the show has always been about so much more. The storytelling in Atlanta is astoundingly ambitious, and the series has delivered several of the best and most subversive episodes of the past decade. But while episodes like “B.A.N.,” “Teddy Perkins,” and “Woods” are pieces of art in their own right, the collective effect of watching each season of Atlanta is a powerfully transcendent experience. A truly singular series, you’ll find nothing like it anywhere else on television.

Better Things

Pamela Adlon’s Better Things is a breathtaking examination of motherhood and modern life. Adlon stars as Sam, a single mother raising three daughters while dealing with her own kooky mother and her Hollywood career. The show artfully weaves between stinging observations, caustic comedy, and poignant silences as Adlon explores Sam’s relationships with her daughters in resonant specificity. It’s a beautiful and often bittersweet look at the highs and lows of daily life that uses small moments to speak to much larger truths.

Damages

Glenn Close may still be waiting for her Oscar, but her starring role in Damages did nab her two Emmys and a Golden Globe. In the legal thriller, she plays Patty Hewes, an unscrupulous lawyer mentoring the (initially) naïve law school grad Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne). Unlike most legal dramas, which cover one case per episode, Damages covers a single case across each season, wringing every possible bit of melodrama out of the heightened legal proceedings. However, it’s the show’s layered depiction of the relationship between Patty and Ellen that truly makes Damages soar, with both actresses delivering arresting performances well worth revisiting.

Fargo

A television series inspired by the beloved Coen brothers film of the same name felt like it was set up to fail; how could any show meet a bar set that high? However, Noah Hawley defied all expectations by creating an anthology series as atmospheric, stylized, and eccentric as the source material. Anchored by incredible performances from the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Patrick Wilson, and Kirsten Dunst, Fargo’s first two seasons established the series as an artistic force. Unfortunately, the show’s next two outings saw diminishing returns, despite dynamic turns from Ewan McGregor and Jessie Buckley. But we couldn’t celebrate the best shows of FX without acknowledging the incredible wit and artistry of Fargo. The first two seasons are just that good.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

14 seasons in, and It’s Always Sunny remains one of the sharpest, surrealist, and most shameless comedies on TV. While it's decidedly juvenile and crass, it can also be the vehicle for unexpected moments of pathos. Of course, these breakthroughs of poignant vulnerability only make the show’s quick switch back to the pointlessly grotesque that much more uproarious. But the Gang’s impressive ability to continuously surprise viewers proves that there are always more limits to push and boundaries to cross, which means there’s still plenty of life in this long-running series. And for those who love its sardonic sense of humor and the beloved monsters at its center, Sunny is truly a tough one to beat.

Justified

This modern western stars Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins as Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder, respectively. While Raylan is a Deputy U.S. Marshal who prefers shooting to talking, Boyd is an enterprising outlaw with the natural gifts of quick thinking and an even quicker tongue. Having dug coal together long ago, the pair’s complex bond remains when they reenter each other’s lives in present day — though they now find themselves on opposite sides of the law. But while the show’s exploration of Raylan and Boyd’s relationship is what's behind many of the series’ best moments, Justified wouldn’t be such a gratifying drama without its stellar supporting cast, including Margo Martindale, Damon Herriman, and Jere Burns.

Pose

This revolutionary series examines the New York City ball scene in late ‘80s and early ‘90s through the lives of members of the House of Evangelista and House of Ferocity, including Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), Elektra (Dominique Jackson), Angel (Indya Moore), and Candy (Angelica Ross). Energetic, artistic, and as glamorous as it is gritty, Pose raises the bar each season throughout its far-too-short run. And though the series tells heartfelt and urgent stories about the AIDs crisis, violence against trans women, and other hardships faced in the ball community, more than anything Pose is a celebration of its characters — their joys, their talents, their love for one another, and every moment, both little and large, that comes to define their vibrant lives.

The Shield

We wouldn’t have the FX that exists today were it not for The Shield. Michael Chiklis stars in this crime drama as Vic Mackey, the leader of L.A.’s corrupt Strike Team, which doesn’t just bend the law, but breaks it in order to get intel, frame suspects, and get their cut from whatever busts they execute. One of the best series to come out of the golden age of antiheroes, this award-winning drama is gritty, graphic, and utterly gripping through all seven seasons.

Sons of Anarchy

Yes, Sons of Anarchy may have lost some of its luster over time, but this drama about a California motorcycle gang is another major defining series for the network. (It’s spin-off, Mayans M.C., was recently renewed for a fourth season.) With its wrenching character work, audacious wit, and heart-pounding action, Sons of Anarchy is thrill ride that never holds anything back, yet is often criminally underrated. The series has its share of stumbles and is definitely not for the faint of heart, but when Sons of Anarchy is operating on all cylinders, it's something truly exceptional to behold.

Terriers

Often one of the first series mentioned whenever the topic of shows gone before their time arises, Terriers inarguably earned a spot among FX’s best ever offerings despite only airing for a meager 13 episodes. The dramedy stars Donal Logue as Hank Dolworth, an ex-cop who teams up with a former criminal Britt Pollack (Michael Raymond-James) to run an unlicensed P.I. agency. Effortlessly able to careen between a wide variety of tones and driven by lively dialogue, clever writing, and strong performances, Terriers puts its unique stamp on the well-worn territory of buddy investigator shows, and its winning formula hasn’t been replicated since.

What We Do In the Shadows

FX may have played a crucial role in popularizing the sad-com genre, but the genius of Shadows lies in how absolutely silly it is. The series follows a trio of out-of-touch vampires, Laszlo (Matt Berry), Nadja (Natasia Demetriou), and Nandor (Kayvan Novak); who live on Staten Island with Nandor’s human familiar, Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), and their roommate Colin (Mark Proksch), an energy vampire who drains others by boring them. Gloriously absurd and laugh-out-loud funny, whether or not you’re a fan of the 2014 film of the same name, What We Do in the Shadows is an absolute delight.

You’re the Worst

You’re the Worst begins as the anti-rom-com rom-con, documenting the non-traditional love story between narcissists Jimmy (Chris Geere) and Gretchen (Aya Cash). However, in the show’s second season, the series elevates the already spiky humor and layered performances by showcasing Gretchen’s struggle with depression with devastating authenticity. Throughout the rest of its run, You’re the Worst continues to tackle heavy themes in tandem with delivering sharp laughs, gleeful cringe, and some fearless storytelling that always cherishes how perfectly imperfect its protagonists are.