The best shows on Paramount+
From cult favorites like Freaks and Geeks to long-running competition series such as Survivor, here are the streamer’s finest TV offerings.
By James Mercadante and Johnny Loftus September 22, 2023 at 07:44 PM EDT
In March 2021, CBS All Access decided it was high time for a makeover and re-emerged as Paramount , donning the coveted plus sign that’s all the rage in the streaming world. For TV fanatics, the platform houses an expansive media library of originals and content from the Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS) vault, including shows from MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, and more. Whether you’re yearning for a trip down memory lane with classics like I Love Lucy or seeking fresh thrills like 1883, this streaming platform has all of your bases covered.
Read on for EW’s list of the best shows on Paramount .
When Taylor Sheridan sought to expand the universe of his hit contemporary Western drama Yellowstone, he delved into the region’s past and the Dutton family’s first forays into their eventual homeland. 1883 features real-life couple Tim McGraw and Faith Hill as James and Margaret Dutton, who endure an arduous journey alongside their family and immigrant settlers as part of a wagon train run by crusty Civil War veteran Shea Brennan. Crackling with interpersonal drama and hard truths about living off the land, 1883 offers a compelling glimpse into another time. And it doesn’t stop there: Sheridan further expanded the Yellowstone universe with 1923, another Paramount prequel series starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren as Jacob and Cara Dutton. —Johnny Loftus
Related content: LaMonica Garrett on how 1883 depicts his Old West character
Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990–2000)
Beverly Hills, 90210 made a quiet splash in 1990 and soon earned success after embracing a more teen-centric plot — perfectly timed with other networks pausing their programming for Gulf War reporting — which propelled the show into pop culture stardom. Nestled against the lush backdrop of Beverly Hills, the series chronicles a tight-knit friend group’s evolution from adolescence to grown-up realities across 10 seasons, overcoming several cast rotations while mainstays Jennie Garth, Tori Spelling, Brian Austin Green, and Ian Ziering anchored its entirety. But beyond the allure of West Coast glamour and trivial affairs, this show dove headfirst into societal issues such as homophobia, racism, body image, sexual assault, and more, laying the cornerstone for the teen drama genre we know and love today. —James Mercadante
EW grade: B (read the review)
The Challenge (1998–present)
While there are plenty reality competition shows across a multitude of streamers, MTV stands tall with its magnum opus, The Challenge, which Paramount offers starting with 2005’s 10th season. What initially began as a humble spinoff affair for The Real World and Road Rules has since blossomed into the ultimate television crossover event. The Challenge now plays host to a diverse roster of reality stars plucked from a smorgasbord of shows including Survivor, Are You the One?, American Ninja Warrior, Big Brother, Love Island, and more. An ever-evolving competition, contestants are thrown into the gauntlet, playing in teams or flying solo while tackling a myriad of missions in their quest for game supremacy and cash prizes. —J.M.
Looking for “a place where everybody knows your name?” Swing by the iconic Boston bar owned by none other than Sam “Mayday” Malone, a former Red Sox pitcher who serves up drinks alongside a captivating crew of regulars who later take up a lot of screen time. (As EW’s critic wrote, “For a show without a center, Cheers is still awfully funny.”) With sharp dialogue, masterful physical comedy, and characters you can’t help but root for, this show amassed 28 Emmys and four Golden Globes — and had the second-most-watched series finale of all time. Let’s raise a glass to that! —J.M.
EW grade: A– (read the review)
She’s a forensic psychologist who’s visited by demons in her dreams. He’s a proponent of hallucinogenic drugs who’s studying to be a Catholic priest. Together, they explore what’s bogus vs. what’s real about supernatural events and the dark side of faith. Katja Herbers stars alongside Mike Colter on Evil, an inventive, wild, and often sidesplitting take on an X-Files-style setup that migrated from CBS to Paramount around its third season. EW’s critic praised the series for its abundance of “sheer acting talent and narrative trickery built into every episode. Colter remains impossibly charming as a decent person whose spiritual confidence masks profound insecurities,” while “Herbers is a dream of witty toughness and parental anxiety, balancing daily concerns about her children with a curiosity about the bizarre world her cases open up.” —J.L.
EW grade: A (read the review)
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Frasier (1993–2004; 2023)
Psychiatry extraordinaire Frasier Crane can be found on the airwaves through this beloved Cheers spinoff series (which is set for a revival on Paramount in October 2023). After leaving his life and marriage in Boston, the eponymous character relocates to Seattle, where he reunites with his father — a retired detective sidelined by a gunshot wound to the hip — and his younger brother/fellow psychiatrist, Niles. There, he procures a new gig as a radio show host, offering psychiatric advice to occasional surprise callers from famous voices. With an impressive haul of 37 Emmys, including five consecutive Outstanding Comedy Series awards, Frasier‘s true essence lies in its family dynamics between Fraiser and Niles, which EW’s critic described as “the most hilarious and poignant siblings on television” because of their “lofty, melancholy, yet funny exchanges [that] represent the least typical joke-writing.” —J.M.
EW grade: B (read the review)
Freaks and Geeks (1999–2000)
It’s unforgivable that the show that launched the careers of James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and more fell victim to NBC‘s premature cancellation during its first season. (“Is it just me, or does the whole world suck?“) In a mere 18 episodes, this sleeper hit gem left a lasting imprint on viewers across generations and earned cult status over the years. Created by Paul Feig and executive produced by Judd Apatow — who went on to harness the talents of this ensemble in subsequent projects — Freaks and Geeks is the coming-of-age tale of a high school mathlete who joins a clique of music-loving, pot-smoking burnouts, while her nerdy younger brother steers through the perils of freshman year. As EW’s critic wrote, the series’ authentically nuanced portrayal of teen life “embodies all of its contradictions, craziness, hopes, and fears,” and is one of those rare sitcoms that “sustains funniness for its full 60 minutes.” —J.M.
EW grade: A (read the review)
The Good Fight (2017–2022)
Brilliantly acted, often satirical, and furiously contemporary, The Good Fight follows in the footsteps of the hit CBS legal drama The Good Wife (see below). This spinoff tracks the rise and fall of the whip-smart, fabulously dressed attorney Diane Lockhart, who joins the across-town firm of Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad alongside Good Wife veteran Lucca Quinn. Also starring Rose Leslie and featuring a strong ensemble cast, the series debuted its first four seasons on CBS All Access and its remaining two on Paramount . With frequent animated musical asides, its final season’s “civil war” concept, and powerhouse talent additions like John Slattery and Andre Braugher, The Good Fight always keeps things interesting. —J.L.
EW grade: A (read the review)
The Good Wife (2009–2016)
Art truly mirrors life on The Good Wife, where married showrunners Robert and Michelle King drew inspiration from a weirdly specific yet all-too-familiar pattern of political scandals involving prominent male politicians cheating on their lawyer wives. After years of embracing the role of the self-sacrificing mother and spouse, Georgetown graduate Alicia Florrick is forced to resurrect her legal career as a junior litigator after her high-profile husband is sentenced to jail for misusing state funds for prostitutes. Boldly shattering the television mold, The Good Wife introduced audiences to a remarkably complex and unapologetically flawed female protagonist, and was hailed by EW’s critic as “a non-genre series that drops Easter eggs and rewards careful viewing; a program that led the conversation on issues like cybersecurity and political graft; and a show that explored the romantic lives of 40- and 50-year-olds, but not for laughs.” —J.M.
EW grade: A (read the review)
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Bringing the vast landscape of the smash hit Halo video games to the screen was a challenge accepted by executive producer Steven Spielberg. Pablo Schreiber stars as resolute supersoldier Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, who becomes involved in humanity’s 26th-century struggle against an aggressive bunch of aliens known as the Covenant. Joining Schieber’s Master Chief in the United Nations Space Command are Olive Gray’s Commander Miranda Keyes and Natascha McElhone‘s brilliant scientist Dr. Elizabeth Halsey. If you want world-building, Halo‘s got you covered. And if you want sci-fi action, that’s here, too. But what might surprise you most about the series is the level of humanity Schreiber brings to his Master Chief. —J.L.
Cast: Pablo Schreiber, Olive Gray, Shabana Azmi, Natascha McElhone, Bokeem Woodbine
The Hills (2006–2010)
Ah, the iconic moment etched into every millennial’s memory: Lauren Conrad confronting Heidi Montag with a resounding “You know what you did!” at Les Deux nightclub. Conrad’s fame began with her gig on Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, but what really catapulted her to reality TV royalty was her very own spinoff series, which perfectly captured the era of velour tracksuits and side-swept bangs. From Conrad’s internship at Teen Vogue to all of the nights spent at the hottest spots, The Hills not only offered a glimpse into the world of Y2K fashion but also the entertaining escapades of twentysomethings navigating Los Angeles’ glittering playground. While you’re at it, extend your nostalgic time travel trip with The Hills‘ 2019 spinoff, New Beginnings. (Even if it did end up hitting the brakes after two seasons, remember: “The rest is still unwritten.”) —J.M.
Related content: The Hills cast: Where are they now?
Key & Peele (2012–2015)
While Jordan Peele continues to churn out acclaimed psychological horror movies (including Get Out, Us, and Nope), and Keegan-Michael Key takes the lead on whimsical series like Apple TV ‘s Schmigadoon, it’s absolutely essential to rewind to their roots on their Emmy-winning sketch variety show. Following in the footsteps of iconic comedy duos, this dynamic pair possesses an electric synergy that’s fit for endless material, including “Meegan, come back!” and the substitute teacher who creatively butchers every student’s name. Although Key & Peele wrapped in 2015, the comedy counterparts’ friendship continues to conjure onscreen magic, with projects like Keanu (2016), Toy Story 4 (2019), and Wendell & Wild (2022), and an ever-growing list of joint ventures. —J.M.
Cast: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele
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SpongeBob SquarePants (1999–present)
Let’s go back to 1999, when a certain absorbent, yellow, and porous fellow made his debut in a pineapple under the sea. And more than (cue the time card) two decades later, SpongeBob SquarePants is still riding the Nickelodeon waves, earning its place as one of the longest-running animated series alongside the likes of The Simpsons and South Park. Our ever-optimistic fry cook continues to radiate his “Best Day Ever” energy in the whimsical Bikini Bottom, where he embarks on hilarious escapades alongside his eclectic crew — including a slightly clueless starfish, a penny-pinching crustacean, a grouchy squid, and a science-savvy squirrel. With its effervescent humor and never-ending supply of underwater adventures, SpongeBob is a timeless delight that has kept generations entertained, and even led them to adopt nautical catchphrases like “Barnacles” or “Oh, tartar sauce” into their swear vocabulary. —J.M.
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Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–1994)
For those yearning to “live long and prosper,” the third voyage of the Star Trek TV franchise beckons. While behind-the-scenes turbulence initially threatened the journey — artistic conflicts between Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and writers and producers almost deprived us of Patrick Stewart’s legendary Captain Picard — Star Trek: The Next Generation transports viewers into a new era of interstellar exploration aboard the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D). Here, a novel crew of Starfleet officers embarks on exhilarating missions through unexplored territories. As noted by EW’s critic, “There is a whole galaxy of explanations for why people respond to Next Generation. The thrills and chills of space travel, the vivid depictions of brave new alien worlds and civilizations, the sheer drama of blasting into the unknown — these are also powerful reasons to tune in.” —J.M.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (2022–present)
Among a bright cast of new helmspeople, medical officers, and engineers, Anson Mount spearheads this Star Trek: Discovery spinoff series as Christopher Pike, captain of the USS Enterprise during the years before the events of the original show. And yes, Spock is here, too. Strange New Worlds has received high marks for its production design, with its kicky riffs on 1960s aesthetics as well as its further development of characters that have been around for more than half a century. —J.L.
EW grade: B (read the review)
Cast: Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, Jess Bush, Christina Chong, Rebecca Romijn, Celia Rose Gooding, Melissa Navia, Babs Olusanmokun, Bruce Horak
The EW tribe has spoken: You should watch Survivor. Hosted by Jeff Probst, the gripping reality competition series plucks contestants from their comfort zones, dumping them at remote locations where they must unleash their inner warriors. As they navigate an intense blend of physical and mental challenges for rewards and immunity, their strategic skills are tested through calculated votes for eliminations, ultimately leaving one “sole survivor” standing with a million-dollar prize. From Sue Hawk’s unforgettable “rat and snake” speech in season 1 to the blindsiding of Erik Reichenbach in season 16 to the scheming antics of supervillain Russell Hantz in season 19, the show has been generating iconic moments since its 2000 debut. Don’t be daunted by the number of seasons; you can leap in at any point, but why not start from the beginning? If it somehow doesn’t click, you can bring us your torch. —J.M.
Cast: Jeff Probst
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The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
Your next stop: the Twilight Zone! Courtesy of the Emmy– and Golden Globe-winning mind of Rod Serling, this sci-fi/horror anthology series is arguably one of the greatest TV shows to ever exist. Each half-hour episode unpacks a self-contained saga where characters grapple with phantasmagorical forces, ultimately culminating in unforeseeable twists that typically reveal profound moral truths. While it bears the hallmarks of its era, its evergreen appeal and visionary ingenuity continue to delight viewers and inspire auteurs — as evidenced by the numerous attempts to resurrect its magic, most recently Jordan Peele‘s 2019 reboot. —J.M.
Cast: Rod Serling
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Twin Peaks (1990–1991; 2017)
In an era of formulaic network television, oddball director David Lynch (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet) emerged as the perfect visionary to reshape the medium with this genre-bending series co-created by Mark Frost. With its pioneering introduction of season-long murder mysteries, innovative camerawork, music by Angelo Badalamenti, and surreal aesthetics, this tour de force — a part-neo-noir, part-supernatural horror, part-comedy — marked an unprecedented achievement in small-screen storytelling, as its unfading influence pops up on shows like Riverdale, Stranger Things, and more. Twin Peaks engrosses its viewers in the titular town, where, amidst its eccentric citizens, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper investigates the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer. For more twisted mysteries, Paramount also offers the 2017 revival series, Twin Peaks: The Return, a cinematic experience that pushes the boundaries of TV even further. —J.M.
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, Warren Frost, Peggy Lipton, Joan Chen, Everett McGill, Kimmy Robertson, Ray Wise, Piper Laurie
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YO! MTV Raps (2022)
Paramount has really leaned into society’s collective need for nostalgia, offering a suite of updated, MTV-derived programming. YO! MTV Raps is one of the latest legacy titles to resurface, joining Behind the Music, which appeared on the streamer in 2021. Back in the ’80s, Fab 5 Freddy and André “Doctor Dré” Brown were the ringleaders for the show’s rambunctious mix of live segments, interviews, and rap video programming, but while the content remains the same, this YO! MTV Raps reboot features DJs Conceited and Diamond Kuts as hosts, who welcome guests like singer Freddie Gibbs and rapper Latto. —J.L.
Cast: DJ Conceited, DJ Diamond Kuts
- By James Mercadante and Johnny Loftus
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.