Mork And Mindy
Probably the greatest science fiction comedy of all, this show introduced us to Robin Williams and gave us a fresh spin on the "lovable alien stranded on Earth" cliche — Mork may have learned an important lesson every week, but he also taught us a little bit about the absurdity of our existence along the way.
A worthy epilogue to Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond was set in 2019, when an elderly Bruce Wayne takes on a new protege, high schooler Terry McGinnis. The new Batman must protect a hi-tech version of Gotham, on where low-level criminals worship the Joker and supervillains use technology that rival Bruce Wayne's.
It takes real love to come up with the on-target cynical parodies that populate Adult Swim's greatest contribution to television, and it's that knowing mix of self-loathing and unending affection that's made this one of the funniest, most intelligent, most self-aware shows on television in years.
This short-lived ABC Family series about a superhero's apprentice didn't just serve up wry, self-aware genre silliness — it actually showed us how genre could be a philosophy to live by. The distinction between good guys and bad guys remains always meaningful, as does the show's constant insistence that anything can be turned into art — especially weird science fiction.
In its early episodes, Angel explored the trials and tribulations of young adulthood in much the way its parent show Buffy dealt with high school trauma. But the series soon developed its own rich mythology, bolstered by characters like street-wise vampire hunter Charles Gunn and lounge-singing, aura-reading demon Lorne and the over-the-top machinations of otherworldly law firm Wolfram and Hart.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Creating a TV show based on a couple of old movies about killer robots from the future didn't seem like such a great idea — until the Chronicles showed us just how rich the story of humanity's future savior growing up in a doomed world could be. Everything is colored by the knowledge that the apocalypse is probably inevitable and imminent, and yet you may not even live to see it. Over time, the show also gave us uniquely memorable artificial intelligences, including the super-computer John Henry, grappling with what it means to be alive.
Patrick McGoohan's paranoid spy series about individuality and society was smart, funny, creepy and the kind of thing that people are still trying to catch up to decades later (See: AMC's upcoming revival). It's enough to make us forgive him for the subsequent years of shitty movies and Columbo guest-appearances.
This gritty, fun anime series about bounty hunters in the 22nd century probably helped inspire Firefly, and it definitely gave us one of the most memorable characters in science fiction — the super-fighter with a dark past, Spike Spiegel.
It's probably best if you don't think too much about this show's premise — the Moon being flung out of orbit fast enough that it swings past a new planet every week, without killing everyone in the Moonbase. The main thing is that this show picks up Star Trek's baton and goes to a slightly darker place with it — the show is full of scarily mysterious aliens, massive explosions, claustrophobic spaceships and spooky planets. Space is suddenly not quite such a benign place to roam around in.
The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
Sure, Hitchhiker's was a radio show first, and it was also a book series, a movie, a computer game and probably a brand of sentient hand-lotion. But the TV show is worth celebrating in its own right, for bringing an extra layer of sillness and slapstick to the oft-told story. Worth it just for the Hitchhiker's Guide graphic segments.