Someday, we will look back on the last couple of decades or so and definitively say that we lived through a modern golden age of television. In the realms of science fiction and fantasy specifically, the industry has been very blessed and used the advantages afforded it to provide contemporary audiences with high-quality shows that everyone could barely shut up about, such as Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, and, of course, all the superhero and comic book stuff that has flooded our screens.
However, it behooves us to also acknowledge the contributions of the preceding 2000s to the genres of fancy in TV. Though many of them may not have had the money, star power, or streaming services of the 2010s and beyond, they nevertheless deserve our respect, perhaps even because of those reasons. A few, like Avatar: The Last Airbender, will undoubtedly stand the test of time, but there are also several gems that we should give attention to before they fade into obscurity.
Five young delinquents are caught in a freak electrical ice storm and inexplicably develop paranormal abilities that reflect their individual characters. They subsequently have to deal with how these powers affect their lives as well as encounters with other people who have been similarly changed.
Not your typical sci-fi/superhero show, Misfits focuses on character-driven drama and wonderfully irreverent humor. The superpower element serves to facilitate the storytelling rather than draw attention to itself. Some abilities are quite basic while others are downright odd, but the majority of them are utilized and explored very creatively. Check it out for yourself on Hulu.
Essentially The X-Files for the new generation, Fringe centers on a specialized U.S. task force called Fringe Division, led by FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), as they investigate cases concerning pseudo-scientific experimentation and phenomena, which range from bizarre biological terrorist attacks to the discovery of parallel universes.
Initially following a “mystery-of-the-week” formula, the show steadily transcends its procedural conventions to deliver a spellbinding mythology enhanced by stellar performances from Torv and the rest of the cast, particularly John Noble, the series’ secret weapon, who created one of the most memorable and under-appreciated personalities of 21st century television in the brilliant and chaotic Walter Bishop. The fact that Noble never received Emmy recognition for his work is absolutely criminal. Dive headlong into the madness now on HBO Max.
Pushing Daisies (2007-09)
Ned (Lee Pace), a pie chef, has the power to revive the dead, but it comes with certain conditions. A private investigator convinces Ned to use his ability to help him solve crimes, which he does with the further assistance of a co-worker with unrequited feelings for him and his childhood sweetheart whom he resurrects.
The key word that has been used to describe this show is “quirky”. Its approach, visuals, and writing are all made to be exceedingly eccentric. And at a time when everyone has seemingly seen everything, quirkiness is all the more important in our entertainment. Help keep the spirit of it alive by streaming Pushing Daisies on HBO Max.
Former U.S. Marshall Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson) is the reluctant sheriff of a secluded town called Eureka, where the world’s greatest minds are free to experiment and innovate to their hearts’ content. But scientific advancement can be messy, leading to unfortunate and catastrophic mishaps. Although Carter is not a genius, he has the street smarts and practicality often needed to resolve Eureka’s many problems.
Eureka is a show that proves science is not just for intellectuals and can be loads of fun for everybody. Amidst all the jargon about parabolic calculus, quantum physics, and whatnot, are intriguing and funny misadventures involving a likable cast of characters. Get swept up in all the insanity on Amazon Prime Video.
All over the planet, ordinary people discover that they possess incredible superhuman abilities. As they struggle to cope with having these powers in their everyday lives, they will soon realize that they also share a destiny to avert apocalyptic disaster.
Strictly speaking, this is more of an endorsement for the first season of Heroes, since its later seasons are a very mixed bag at best. Regardless, this show maintains a legacy of being a loving tribute to old-school superhero/comic book stories, with a distinctive style and remarkable special effects for its time, while also keeping things grounded in relatable human drama. Experience the fight to save the world on Peacock.
American Dragon: Jake Long (2005-07)
Chinese-American teenager Jake Long has more to worry about for a kid than just homework and girls. He is the sworn guardian of a secret community of magical creatures living in North America with the power to transform into a fire-breathing dragon.
Urban fantasy is a bit of an under-explored sub-genre of fantasy with respect to film and television. American Dragon takes great advantage of its animated format to really showcase a fully-integrated world of traditional folklore meets modern New York City, with a pleasant sprinkling of teen superhero tropes. Jump into a realm of sassy talking animals, gorgon cheerleaders, and a main protagonist handling dragon puberty on Disney+.
Megas XLR (2004-05)
A gluttonous and video game-obsessed young mechanic named Coop discovers a robotic war machine from the future and modifies it into a personal battle mech complete with hot rod and muscle car touches. Together with his women-crazy coward of a best friend and a time-travelling freedom fighter, Coop defends Earth from aliens and other threats using his massive fighting robot.
There are few Western animated programs that truly revel in their chosen anime influences the way Megas XLR does. Pretty much nothing about this show is subtle, making for a hilarious and adrenaline-pumping joyride that you can buy in its entirety from Apple TV.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003-09)
You know the story: Four mutated turtle teenagers trained in ninjutsu by their rodent mentor/father figure and who reside in the sewers of New York have to battle supervillains that menace their home on a regular basis.
When you think of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV, you probably imagine the goofy nostalgic classic from the ’80s-’90s or the cartoons that came out of Nickelodeon in the 2010s, but the animated series from 2003 is equally worth remembering for presenting a more serious yet still entertaining take on the Turtles. The show pays glorious homage to the franchise’s origins and, at the same time, is its own thing, full of excitement, flair, and scope that you can stream on Paramount+.
Xiaolin Showdown (2003-06)
A quartet of junior monks is entrusted with the duty of collecting ancient relics of unimaginable power from all across the globe and safeguarding them as well as the rest of humanity from malevolent forces.
People today constantly complain about the lack of originality in what we are given to watch. All the more reason to be grateful for shows like Xiaolin Showdown, an explosive extravaganza of martial arts action, Eastern mysticism, and a delightfully oddball style contained in a story universe all its own. Seek it out now on Amazon Video.
Jackie Chan Adventures (2000-05)
This must have been every kid’s dream back in the day: A Saturday morning cartoon about martial arts superstar Jackie Chan. To be more precise, Jackie Chan Adventures centers on a fictionalized version of Chan that is, instead of an actor, an archeologist and secret agent who combats various supernatural threats worldwide with his family and other allies.
Aside from being as action-packed and amusing as the best of Jackie Chan‘s live-action filmography, this show offers the opportunity to take an interest in the myths, legends, and fables of Asia and other cultures, which inspired many narrative elements in the series. Purchase it today on Apple TV.
NEXT:Under-Appreciated Fantasy Movies Worth A Second Look
‘Thor 4’: Release Date, Cast, MCU Connections & Everything We Know So Far About ‘Love and Thunder’
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