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From classics, to cartoons, to comedies, there's a little something for everyone on Paramount+.
The streamer, which essentially is an expansion and rebranding of CBS All Access, officially launched at the beginning of last year and, like similar services HBO Max, Peacock and Disney+, it hopes to woo viewers with its deep vault of programming. Its library is culled from pop-culture brands under the ViacomCBS corporate umbrella, including CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Smithsonian Channel and Paramount Pictures, although some titles are also available on competing streaming services. It's also the home of old and new "Star Trek" content, including the latest spin-off, "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," premiering May 5.
On the TV side, there are quite a few gems worth mining on the Paramount+ mountain, from classic TV like "I Love Lucy" to former CBS All Access originals like "The Good Fight." We picked the 40 best TV series available on Paramount+ as of May 2022 (listed in alphabetical order).
1. “All That”
Before Kenan Thompson became the longest-running “Saturday Night Live” player, he cut his comedy chops at Nickelodeon’s peewee version of a sketch show. The sweetly funny series, a favorite among millennials, featured Thompson as well as Amanda Bynes, Kel Mitchell, Nick Cannon and Jamie Lynn Spears among its cast members.
2. “The Amazing Race”
A scavenger hunt writ large, with teams racing around the globe for a cash prize, CBS’ stalwart competition series' tried and true formula has sustained it for over 30 seasons and garnered 15 Emmys.
3. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “The Legend of Korra”
A Nickelodeon animated series with a devoted adult following, “Airbender” is a fantasy epic in kids clothing, with drama to rival “Game of Thrones.” The gorgeously drawn series takes place in a world torn apart by war and genocide, where a pint-sized chosen one might be able to save lives, if he can train hard enough and face his greatest fears. A follow-up series set a generation in the future and aimed at an older audience, "Korra" surpasses its source material in maturity and complexity, becoming a modern classic.
4. “Beverly Hills: 90210”
With big drama and even bigger hair, the 1990s high school staple, which ran for 10 seasons on Fox, has inspired many copycats, but nothing beats the original (or Luke Perry's sideburns).
5. “The Brady Bunch”
There’s an undeniable appeal to ABC's family sitcom about a lovely lady and a man named Brady (that’s the way they all became the Brady bunch!) that extends far beyond its 1969-74 run. From movies to memes to references on Disney+’s “WandaVision” to HGTV buying the iconic Brady house, the series has endured as a pop-culture institution because of its relatable family and adorable hijinks.
6. “Big Brother”
The drama on CBS’ “Brother” comes from putting a group of people in a house, cut off from the outside world, who are constantly monitored and competing to stay there to win a cash prize. The long-running series is not without controversy (especially in recent seasons), but when it works, it's a guilty pleasure worth binge-watching.
7. “Chappelle’s Show”
Although it only aired on Comedy Central for two seasons from 2003-04, Dave Chappelle’s landmark sketch-comedy show had a deep impact on the comedy scene of the 2000s. From Chappelle as Rick James to the WacArnold’s sketch, the series was biting and daring in a way few others were at the time.
Sometimes you just want to go where everybody knows your name. With a superb cast (Ted Danson forever!), smart humor and a nostalgic setting, NBC's classic sitcom set in a Boston bar still holds up after all these years.
Comedy Central’s satire of modern corporate culture and office life feels almost nostalgic when so many office workers are still logging on from home. But even amid the pandemic, buzzwords and presentations about synergy still ring hilariously true for anyone who has ever worked for a big company.
Deadpan, eye-rolling teen Daria (voiced by Tracy Grandstaff) was a stand-in for the disaffected youth of the late 1990s. The MTV series was populated by broad high school caricatures that were routinely eviscerated by its protagonist, who honed sarcasm into a weapon against her cookie-cutter suburb of Lawndale.
11. “Everybody Hates Chris”
Based loosely on Chris Rock’s young life in the 1980s, this UPN (and later CW) series toyed with the tropes of the family sitcom. The great performances, including Tyler James Williams ("Abbott Elementary") as Chris and Terry Crews and Tichina Arnold as his aggrieved parents, help sell the irreverent humor.
"The Good Wife" and "The Good Fight" creators Robert and Michelle King bring their cutting dialogue and timely stories to this superb series. "Evil" follows a psychologist (Katja Herbers), a priest in training (Mike Colter) and a tech specialist (Aasif Mandvi) as they investigate alleged demon possessions, miracles and other phenomena. How much evil is really out there? New episodes of the drama, formerly on CBS, are streaming Sundays.
13. “For Heaven’s Sake”
From the producers of Netflix’s superb mockumentary “American Vandal,” this Paramount+ original is a real documentary with a comedic twist. Canadian Mike Mildon and his best friend Jackson Rowe try to solve an 85-year-old cold case of the disappearance of Mike’s great-great uncle, Harold Heaven. Their quest is sincere but undeniably silly (among their investigative techniques is walking miles while drunk to see if suspects would still be drunk at the end of a long walk).
If “Cheers” isn’t enough for you, try this slightly more cynical and mature NBC sitcom, led by Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer), one of the most successful spin-offs of all time. And Paramount+ wants more: It’s plotting a revival of the series with Grammer.
15. "Freaks and Geeks"
This canceled-too-soon gem from the 1990s was an incubator for some of the biggest modern stars. Created by Paul Feig and executive produced by Judd Apataow, the series starred Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Busy Philipps. As the title suggests, it follows the "freaks" and "geeks" of a Michigan high school in 1980, including Lindsay Weir (Cardellini), a star student who tries to rebrand herself as a rebellious slacker.
16. “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight”
Whether your lead character is Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) in CBS’ "Wife” or Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) in “Fight,” these dramas about Chicago lawyers are enthralling, electrifying and full of ripped-from-the-headlines drama.
17. “Hey Arnold!”
The 1990s and 2000s were a golden age of bold, irreverent and funny Nickelodeon series that stood in stark contrast to the candy-colored and sanitized fare available on Disney Channel. No kids’ series leaned into the warts-and-all approach to dramatizing children’s lives quite like “Hey Arnold!” which followed a group of prepubescent kids living in a poor, run-down city neighborhood. Football-headed Arnold (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) and his friends dealt with the reality of life in a city that looked eerily like New York, from the fantastical (evil ice cream men) to the mundane (paying rent).
18. “I Love Lucy”
Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, were the pinnacle of one of TV’s great formats in this iconic CBS sitcom that ran from 1951-57. The episodes are pockets of history that still offer plenty of laughs in 2022, “Vitameatavegamin” among them.
Before “The Walking Dead” made the post-apocalypse cool, CBS’ short-lived 2006-08 drama "Jericho” hypothesized what the U.S. might look like after a devastating nuclear attack hits major cities. Set in the relatively isolated town of Jericho, Kansas, the surviving characters must figure out how to live in a new world while clinging to the vestiges of the old one.
20. “Key and Peele”
If you're more interested in morsels of laughter than long narratives, this Comedy Central sketch show, which jumpstarted the careers of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, is perfect and requires very little commitment to get big laughs.
Rather than reveling in the failures and drama of others like many reality series, this mid-2000s MTV cult favorite delighted in making dreams come true. Never boring or easy, the series “made” its subjects into what they wanted to be, whether that was a basketball player, cheerleader or professional artist.
22. “Mission: Impossible”
Before Tom Cruise climbed the sides of skyscrapers or rappelled into secret government vaults, “Mission: Impossible” brought the Impossible Mission Force to CBS from 1966-73. The series starred Steven Hill, Martin Landau, Peter Graves, Leonard Nimoy and Lesley Ann Warren, and while sometimes cheesy, it was an always delightful spy drama.
Anna Faris and Allison Janney delivered smart comedy about family and addiction in producer Chuck Lorre's ("The Big Bang Theory") best (but most underrated) CBS sitcom. Although Faris left for the series’ final season, it has never lost its wit.
24. “Nathan for You”
Comedian Nathan Fielder plays a heightened version of himself in this Comedy Central reality/prank series, offering struggling business owners outlandish advice. The series is hilarious, cringeworthy and sometimes brilliant.
25. “The Odd Couple”
From Broadway play to successful film to hit ABC sitcom, “The Odd Couple” was a phenomenon. Tony Randall played fastidious Felix Unger and Jack Klugman was disheveled sportswriter Oscar Madison, two divorced men sharing a Manhattan apartment with vastly different lifestyles.
26. “One Day at a Time”
Like Norman Lear's original series, which premiered in 1975, this family sitcom reboot about a Cuban American family in Los Angeles expertly combines frank discussion of social issues with hilarity. The first three seasons are available on Netflix, but a shortened Season 4 streams on Paramount+.
27. “Perry Mason”
Forget the recent HBO remake, which went all in on darkness and grit; CBS’ original drama about defense attorney Mason (the incomparable Raymond Burr) was a source of inspiration and surety. Paramount+ is a fount of classic TV, and “Mason” is among the best.
28. “The Real World”
Many recent reality series have sadistic twists, absurd formats or celebrity gimmicks to make them seem interesting (“Too Hot to Handle”), but like “Big Brother,” this MTV classic just needs strangers living together in a house to make magic happen. Paramount+ also reunited the first “Real World” cast from 1992 for a reunion series.
29. “Reno 911!”
Aviator sunglasses, short shorts and the frigid stare of Niecy Nash are the hallmarks of this improv-driven series that parodies “Cops.” Created by “The State" alumni Ben Garrant, Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney, “Reno” was absurd and outrageous for most of its 2003-2009 run (there was also a short-lived 2020 revival on now-defunct streamer Quibi).
A comedy series that often reads more as a profound tragedy, “Review” is about Forrest MacNeil (Andrew Daly), a professional critic of life itself. “Life: It’s literally all we have. But is it any good?” Forrest asks. Usually, the answer is a resounding no.
31. “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
The biggest, brightest and most sashaying reality series around is almost as good of a binge-watch as it is the first time around on VH1, when tweeting with superfans. Almost.
32. “SpongeBob SquarePants”
The stalwart children’s program that has launched films and a prequel series on Paramount+ remains, more than 20 years later, one of the most reliable ways to keep the kids occupied for half an hour. While shiny new takes on the sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea are fun, nothing beats the original series.
33. Early “Star Trek” series
From the thoughtful adventure of “Next Generation,” to the drama of “Deep Space 9,” to the charm of the original "Star Trek" series, revisiting the TV space saga offers a wondrous journey into the final frontier, full of many more highs than lows.
34. “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Picard” and “Lower Decks”
The new guard of recent “Trek” series are worthy entries in the canon. “Picard” finds something new to say with an old favorite character, and the animated “Lower Decks” is a hilarious look at the characters aboard starships who don’t usually get a leading role. T
35. “The State” (MTV)
Fans of “Wet Hot American Summer” will love this cult sketch-comedy series from the film’s stars Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter (who also directed). The irreverent, absurd and deliriously funny series featured other comedy favorites like Joe Lo Truglio (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) and Ken Marino (“Veronica Mars”).
36. "Teen Wolf"
Sometimes, high school really bites. The MTV supernatural thriller tapped into the paranormal-leaning zeitgeist of the 2010s, chronicling the thrills and misadventures of Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), a teenage boy whose life gets turned upside down after being bit by a werewolf. The show's bloodcurdling tension and jam-packed action brought a darker edge to the genre of teen drama.
37. “The Twilight Zone”
Sometimes it feels like we’re living in a real twilight zone, so it can be comforting to revisit CBS’ iconic anthology series. Its science-fiction stories are still sharp and clever with twists that surprise, delight and horrify. The recent reboot of the series hosted by Jordan Peele (also available) is a gallant effort but can't match the brilliance of the original.
38. “Twin Peaks”
David Lynch’s mystical mystery was a ratings bonanza for ABC for a reason, even if it flickered out in a semi-disappointing Season 2. It’s unlike anything that had been on television before and still stands out among similar series that popped up in its wake.
39. “The Unicorn”
CBS’ sweet comedy is not about the mythical horse but rather Walton Goggins as Wade, a widower reluctantly reentering the dating pool as a rare middle-aged “unicorn” because he’s not divorced or a cheating husband. Goggins and the stellar cast, including Rob Corddry and Michaela Watkins, sell the series.
When a 40-year-old divorcée and stay-at-home mom (Sutton Foster) wants to get back into the workforce, she pretends to be 26 to get an entry-level job at a publishing house. The admittedly absurd premise delivers the wit and sunny disposition of creator Darren Star's more famous show, "Sex and the City," with plenty of millennial jokes and New York satire to go around.
Have a different streaming service? Here are the shows worth checking out:
Contributing: Edward Segarra
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 40 best shows on Paramount+ May 2022: 'Star Trek: Strange New Worlds'