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Top 10 TV Shows with Great Special Effects

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
Written by Garrett Alden These are some especially effective shows. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 TV Shows with great special effects. For this list, we’ll be going over television series whose visual and practical special effects are a cut above the rest.

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These are some especially effective shows. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 TV Shows with great special effects.

For this list, we’ll be going over television series whose visual and practical special effects are a cut above the rest.

#10: “Lost in Space” (2018-)

A reboot of the classic ‘60s sci-fi show of the same name, which was itself based on “Swiss Family Robinson,” “Lost in Space” follows the Robinson family as they become separated from their colony ship and stranded on an alien planet. As this reboot proudly shows, visual effects on television have seen a marked increase in quality during the last half century. Aside from the stunning portions set in space, effects are also used to create breathtaking alien scenery that blends together with the on-location filming. The famed Robinson family robot is brought to life via a mixture of CGI and special effects, resulting in a being that is truly mesmerizing to behold.

#9: “Band of Brothers” (2001)

This miniseries set during World War II follows a company of soldiers throughout the duration of the conflict, with episodes often highlighting the experiences of one character at a time. Befitting its setting, “Band of Brothers” features a plethora of harrowing, visceral, and large-scale battles, with vehicles, soldiers, and explosions that all look and feel authentic, thanks to the stellar effects. And given that “Band of Brothers” was the most expensive TV show ever produced at the time of its airing, we’re glad we got their money’s worth.

#8: “Battlestar Galactica” (2004-09)

Another rebooted sci-fi series, “Battlestar Galactica” is a gritty reimagining of the late ‘70s series, depicting the last survivors of humanity fleeing the destruction of their colonial worlds and the robotic assailants of their own creation, the Cylons. While some Cylons appear human and are often used as infiltrators, their foot soldiers are hulking machines, convincingly created with CGI. In addition, there are tons of space battles, space travel, and stellar phenomena that are expertly shown using visual effects. The show’s overall aesthetic manages to show a more grounded form of space travel - one that looks both fantastic and realistic.

#7: “Star Trek: Discovery” (2017-)

The latest chapter of the long running “Star Trek” franchise, “Star Trek: Discovery” may be a prequel to the original 1960s TV series, but its effects are anything but antiquated. This ain’t your dad’s “Star Trek,” and we mean that both in terms of content and production values. Following the adventures of the crew of the experimental ship, the Discovery, the show’s effects are quite simply breathtaking, with the franchise’s ships, phasers, transporters, warping, and other signature content rendered in lavish detail that, in quality, easily competes with the recent film reboots.

#6: “Altered Carbon” (2018-)

Set in a future where bodies have become exchangeable vessels for human consciousness, “Altered Carbon” follows Takeshi Kovacs, a special operative-turned-rebel who has been brought back after 250 years to solve a murder. The world of “Altered Carbon” has a neon-heavy cyberpunk atmosphere heavily inspired by “Blade Runner” and is set against awe-inspiring, computer-generated cityscapes. Fantastic futuristic tech is everywhere as well, and the incredible effects work used to bring them to life may just “alter” your preconceptions about the future of mankind and technology.

#5: “Black Sails” (2014-17)

You wouldn’t think a show about pirates would be heavy on special effects, but “Black Sails” has plenty of them. The show is a prequel to “Treasure Island” and follows the struggle for power and gold. Parts of the town of Nassau and other locales are rendered with special effects, particularly when seen from afar - though you’re hard-pressed to tell the difference. In addition, the epic battles, both on ships and elsewhere, though practical in part, would not be nearly as amazing without the impressive work done in post-production. Oftentimes, the best effects are the subtle ones that make what already looks good... even better.

#4: “Westworld” (2016-)

There is beauty in “Westworld” – whether you choose to see it or not. Depicting the gradual awakening of the robotic “hosts” of the titular western-themed park and their revolt against the human guests and management, “Westworld” features more effects that you can shake a six-shooter at. The hosts themselves are often the focus of these visual augmentations, either using them to enhance their robotic nature or when they’re depicted in various levels of construction. The impressive vistas and locations are also somewhat modified. All in all, “Westworld”’s effects, along with its story, will have you questioning what’s real and what’s artificial in every frame.

#3: “The Expanse” (2015-)

Set several hundred years in the future, “The Expanse” details the struggle for power between Earth, Mars, and the rest of the solar system, while the crew of a single ship and a detective uncover evidence of vast conspiracy involving an alien molecule. Much of the show is set in space, and “The Expanse” does a superb job of helping us believe that it’s all truly happening. The ship to ship combat is believable and realistic, while the alien element of the show frequently alternates between disturbing and beautiful. Overall, “The Expanse” is a remarkable visual experience - one that gives movie special effects a run for their money.

#2: “The Walking Dead” (2010-)

Following the survivors of a zombie apocalypse and their conflicts with each other, as well as hostile hordes of both humans and the undead, “The Walking Dead” features destruction galore - all created via a hybrid of digital and practical effects. Likewise, the endless undead denizens of the world may be created partially through makeup, but the more gruesome walkers are touched up by special effects. Though the show’s spin-off series, “Fear the Walking Dead,” also boasts some similarly impressive technical achievements, “The Walking Dead” has both seniority and quantity over its younger sibling.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Vikings” (2013-)

“The Flash” (2014-)

“Firefly” (2002-03)

#1: “Game of Thrones” (2011-)

The massive, epic fantasy series about the struggle over power in the land of Westeros and beyond boasts a bevy of effects for a wide range of settings and characters. There are supernatural creatures, from dragons and direwolves to giants and White Walkers. Then of course there are its immersive and awesome settings, from King’s Landing to the massive, icy Wall. Add to that all the magic, battles, and bloodshed and you’ve got one seriously FX-laden series. Game of Thrones is one of the biggest names in television history, and thankfully, it’s got the special effects to match.


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