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Top 10 Best Cult Shows

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Written by Garrett Alden These series have very devoted followings. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Cult Shows. For this list, we’re looking at some of TV’s best cult hits with highly dedicated fanbases that didn’t necessarily translate into great ratings. Have an idea you want to see made into a WatchMojo video? Check out our suggest page at http://WatchMojo.comsuggest and submit your idea.
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These series have very devoted followings. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Cult Shows.

For this list, we’re looking at some of TV’s best cult hits with highly dedicated fanbases that didn’t necessarily translate into great ratings.

#10: “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (2005-)


Often described as “Seinfeld” on crack, this raucous sitcom follows a group of friends that own a bar, and whose moral codes vary from mercurial to non-existent, as they get into misadventures that are dark, outrageous, occasionally drug-fueled, and always hilarious. “Always Sunny” has a very strong fan following that has kept the show alive as one of the longest running live-action sitcoms ever. However, despite its storied history, the show has remained a relatively niche one that’s never quite broken into the mainstream. It would seem that while the shocking and amoral behavior of its characters is the show’s greatest strength, it might also be its weakness.

#9: “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” (2007-10)


This surreal Adult Swim show is definitely not for everyone. Blending intentionally amateurish acting and public access production values with a mix of big name actors, porn stars, and people literally hired on Craigslist, “Tim and Eric” divides audiences into those who think it’s brilliant and those who think it’s the dumbest thing they’ve ever seen; although the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. While the show has been over since 2010, having struggled to find a larger audience, its style may have influenced other shows on the network, such as “The Eric Andre Show.”

#8: “Pushing Daisies” (2007-09)


Bryan Fuller is one of the kings of cult shows that have struggled to connect with mainstream audiences, and “Pushing Daisies” is arguably his most popular. The show follows Ned, a pie-maker with the ability to bring the dead back to life – with some caveats. This is an ability he uses to help a private investigator solve murders by questioning the deceased while they’re temporarily resurrected. The dichotomy between the show’s whimsical aesthetic and its macabre subject matter is one that many of its ardent supporters find delicious. It is an acquired taste, however, and “Pushing Daisies” was canceled after only two seasons. Its first season being cut short due to the Writers Guild strike probably didn’t help either.

#7: “Community” (2009-15)


A show following a study group at a community college may not seem like the average recipe for a fanatical fanbase, but “Community” defies the odds. It’s a show that relies heavily on parodying various aspects of television, however, which means many audience members just don’t get the humor. It also contains tons of meta-humor, so some of the jokes don’t land for a lot of people - but when they do, hoo boy! The saga of “Community” and its fans’ fight to keep it alive is a long and turbulent one, involving the creator’s firing and re-hiring, a change in network (and even distribution format), and one catchy slogan: six seasons and a movie.

#6: “Twin Peaks” (1990-91)


No list of cult shows would be complete without David Lynch’s surreal small town mystery show. Following FBI Agent Dale Cooper and his investigations into the small town of Twin Peaks and its bizarre residents, the show earned a strong fan and critical response. However, like much of Lynch’s work, the show is quite open to interpretation, which, along with its serialized format, made it a tough sell for viewers in the early 1990s. Fortunately for all “Twin Peaks” fans, the show was revived for a run on Showtime in 2017.

#5: “Futurama” (1999-2003; 2008-13)


Welcome to the world of tomorrow! This animated show from the makers of “The Simpsons” follows Philip J. Fry, a dim-witted young man transplanted to the year 3000, and his friends at Planet Express. The show’s satirical humor, engaging storylines and rich, detail-filled sci-fi world, quickly helped it develop a cult following. However, its meticulous storyline may have turned off casual viewers more familiar with its less continuity-heavy contemporaries. And, as it aired on FOX, the bane of all cult shows, probably ensured that the odds were stacked against it from the start. Thankfully, due to reruns and strong DVD sales, the show got a second chance on Comedy Central.

#4: “Arrested Development” (2003-06; 2013-)


This groundbreaking sitcom centers on the Bluth family, whose outrageously dysfunctional relationships provide much of the action and comedy. The show gradually built up a cult following of hardcore fans that love the series’ endearingly odd characters, as well as its innumerable in-jokes. However, while the series’ serialized format and running gags may be entertaining when watching the episodes back-to-back, audiences found it difficult week-to-week and FOX (them again!) canceled it. Fan passion for “Arrested Development” persisted, though, and Netflix brought it back to life nearly ten years after it first aired.

#3: “Freaks and Geeks” (1999-2000)


A show about social outcasts with a lot more to offer than many give them credit for, “Freaks and Geeks” is a perfect fit for our list. The series focuses on siblings Lindsay and Sam Weir, as well as their respective social cliques, the titular “freaks” and “geeks.” Full of grounded, funny characters and featuring many relatable issues, “Freaks and Geeks” is yet another entry that went underappreciated in its time on-air by mass audiences and only lasted one season. Producer Judd Apatow did manage to carry on some of the themes about growing up that were established in the show in an equally short-lived pseudo-successor series, “Undeclared.”

#2: “Firefly” (2002)


A space western depicting the adventures of the ragtag crew of the ship Serenity, “Firefly” is a cult series treasured by many people. However, in perhaps their most egregious mistreatment of a series, FOX stuck the show on Friday and aired the episodes out of order, naturally leading to poor viewing figures. Browncoats grew in numbers, however, due to word of mouth and the internet, leading many to discover the show’s clever, snappy dialogue, rich mythology, and lovable, timeless characters. Their enthusiasm helped to lead to a concluding movie, “Serenity.” You can’t take the sky from us.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Battlestar Galactica” (2004-09)
- “Mr. Show with Bob and David” (1995-98)
- “Trailer Park Boys” (2001-08; 2014-)

#1: “Star Trek: The Original Series” (1966-69)


That’s right – “Star Trek!” It may seem hard to fathom now, after half a century of the franchise pervading pop culture, but the voyages of Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the starship Enterprise began as a cult hit that struggled with ratings. The show was even canceled after two seasons before a letter-writing campaign brought it back for a third and final one. Syndication helped turn “Star Trek” into a household name, though, ensuring that the sci-fi series would boldly go down in history as one of the greatest cult shows ever.

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