TNT’s “Animal Kingdom,” based on the Australian film of the same name, is a delightfully twisted guilty pleasure of the network’s. After his mother’s overdose, Josh “J” Cody, 17, moves in with his grandmother in “Animal Kingdom.” Even so, granny isn’t busy knitting, baking cookies, or chit-chatting with the neighborhood ladies while she waits for her social security check to arrive in the mail. Instead, J learns that his grandmother is the head of a drug trafficking and robbery ring in Southern California. Who are the members of the gang? Of course, it’s made up of J’s uncles.
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With a title like “Animal Kingdom,” it’s easy to see why it’s a hit with listeners. A perfect blend of criminal activity, dysfunctional family dynamics and a fetishized California lifestyle, only seen on television, combine in this show. There is a lot of sharp writing in the script as well as unpredictable developments throughout the show. There are a lot of great shows for “Animal Kingdom” fans to choose from, and we’ve put together a list of the top fifteen.
1. Sons of Anarchy
It has everything that “Animal Kingdom” fans will enjoy in “Sons of Anarchy,” Kurt Sutter’s Shakespearan storyline about the titular Northern California biker gang. There are also motorcycles, a genuine approach to emotional drama, and Ron Perlman in it. As described by some critics, this tale follows Jackson “Jax” Teller as he battles his deceased father’s former gang leader for control over his stepfather. The story has been compared to “Hamlet in black leather.” There are many other threads in the show, such as runs with the IRA, white supremacists and the cartel. But that’s the core conflict. The show has many other threads.
What makes this show stand out from others in the genre is how much emphasis it places on the tumultuous personal relationships of its protagonists. There are many different types of betrayal committed by characters throughout the course of the show, including murder, cheating, lying, and the most heinous of them all, ratting. In this show, the audience feels every knife between brothers, club members, sons, mothers, and lovers as if they were right there in the room with them during the entire production. The Sons’ “Road Trip” is the perfect follow-up to “Animal Kingdom” for anyone looking for another great binge.
2. The Sopranos
One of the most popular types of shows on television right now is a drama about a crime family. “The Sopranos” is a must-see for anyone who enjoys family dysfunction with a side of homicide. In addition to being an early example of the genre, “The Sopranos” is the best example. New Jersey mafia boss Tony Soprano and the consequences of his mafia life on his family are the focus of “The Sopranos,” an HBO series. It’s a simple concept now, but when it first came out, it was completely different from anything you’d see on television.
Not only did the show have top-notch writing, acting, and cinematography, but it was also not afraid to pose difficult questions to both its viewers and its characters. Is it safe to assume that the people in the audience will get along with Tony? Should Carmela (Tony’s wife) stay married to the mob boss Tony? Is it possible for people to change, and have the best days of our lives passed us by? These were the types of issues that were discussed on the show on a regular basis. Due to the show’s ability to deal with such difficult and sometimes existential themes while still maintaining a light and entertaining tone, it is a masterpiece. Passing on this show, for goodness sake!
3. The Shield
The Strike Team adventures on “The Shield” are a must-see for fans of the dark take on Southern California in “Animal Kingdom.” “The Shield” follows Officer Vic Mackey and the special team he leads in the fictional Los Angeles neighborhood of Farmington, which is loosely based on allegations of corruption in the LAPD’s gangland CRASH Unit. Then there are the dishonest police officers, and then there is Vic. The pilot concludes with Vic assassinating the cop who was planted in his special unit as a mole — a minor spoiler alert.
Afterwards, the show keeps ratcheting up the tension and portraying corrupt cops in a highly fictionalized manner season after season. Aside from some viewers being turned off by the show’s grim subject matter and handheld shooting style, others will be captivated by Michael Chiklis and Walter Goggins’ compelling performances. Anyone who buys a ticket will be rewarded with one of the best series finales of all time if they do take the ride.
Cinemax’s “Banshee” is a must-see for “Animal Kingdom” fans who enjoy a pulpy take on crime. An absurd set-up occurs when the sheriff is killed in the course of the story: A newly released robber shows up in a small Pennsylvania town on the same day as a brand-new sheriff and assumes his identity. As a result of the shower’s B-movie crime theme, it’s easy to imagine its creators taking inspiration from the “Sin City” comics by Frank Miller.
When it came time to make a decision, the show’s creators went with Anthony Starr and hired veteran stuntman Marcus Young to choreograph some of the best fight scenes ever seen on television. They also cast Anthony Starr as the series’ main character. Lucas Hood, a convicted robber-turned-sheriff played by Starr, is a masterclass in playing a role against type. Years of specialized training and PTSD have reduced him to a skeleton of reflexes and instincts. Some episodes are so well-done that the audience wants Hood to be blunt in the hopes that he can save himself from his own heinous actions. Watch the show if you want to see the fights in action.
“Power” tells the story of James St. Patrick aka “Ghost,” a high-profile drug dealer who decides to go clean. In the meantime, his aspirations of becoming a legitimate business owner and running New York’s hottest nightclub are at odds with the people who helped him create his drug empire. Many crime dramas explore the idea of duality: is it possible for one person to be two people at the same time? However, none of these other shows do it as well as “Power,” which is understandable given that Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson served as executive producer.
The show has a lot more than just good looks going for it. Among the cast, Omari Hardwick as Ghost, who radiates charisma off-screen, stands out. As a result of its success, it’s now in its fourth season and has attracted the largest premium cable audience of the summer of 2019. The show’s devoted audience keeps praising it and spreading the word about it. A spin-off series, “Power Book 2: Ghost,” was created in response to popular demand for more stories from the “Powerverse” of the 1950s.
It’s not just crime family dramas that feature dysfunction; in “Bloodline,” the Rayburns, Florida’s fictional first family, suffer from it as well. One of the first attempts by Netflix to produce an original first-rate drama. In addition to being visually stunning, it is also exceptionally well-written, managing to strike the perfect balance between the seedy and the realistic without devolving into parody. The show’s most valuable feature is the impressive ensemble cast. Among the cast members are Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Sissy Spacek, and Sam Shephard, all of whom have appeared on television before.
As siblings and parents with a mountain of secrets hanging over their heads, the show is made all the more watchable by its stellar ensemble cast. For those who believe that crime shows are just a little bit better when family is involved, “Bloodline” is a must-see. However, giving away too much of the plot spoils the fun of speculating about where the show will go.
Networks have been known to drastically reduce the scope of a beloved film or book in order to fit it into a 30-minute time slot. There are times when a unique and talented voice can transform a Coen Brothers masterpiece into one of the best television anthology series ever made. Fargo, an original series on FX, is a good example of this. Noah Hawley is the man behind the show’s success. This series brilliantly transports everything that makes “Fargo” (the movie) so darkly wonderful — the shocking violence and over-polite criminals who are ironic and ask existential questions — into four completely original stories set in different time periods, all set in separate locations.
Certainly, there are some recurring tropes in each film: a brave small-town sheriff who is just a little bit smarter than the bad guys (but not nearly as dangerous), an innocent, a heavy, and a tragic fool whose get-rich-quick plan ends with many dead bodies. As a result of seeing how these elements are reworked from season to season, each “true crime” story becomes a new adventure each time you watch. The performance of Billy Bob Thorton as Lorne Malvo, the show’s main antagonist, alone is well worth the price of admission. Forewarning to readers: After the first season concludes, the second will feel like a must-see.
8. Breaking Bad
Many best TV show lists include “Breaking Bad,” and it’s easy to see why based on the pilot alone. It’s one of those rare shows, like Vince Gilligan’s Odyssey of a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin, that’s hard to leave. In addition to Bryan Cranston’s outstanding acting, the show’s plotting is tight, its characters are well-developed, and it revels in consequences. There are consequences to every choice, no matter how small, in the A and B plots, character arcs, and sometimes even seasons.
Despite this, the pace of the show is never particularly sluggish. Episodes flow into one another like a 1950s serial, and viewers will find it difficult to stop watching once the action starts. For a brief period of time, “Breaking Bad” was the only show that seemed to capture the zeitgeist, and looking back, it’s easy to see why. Please devote a weekend or two to binge-watching “Animal Kingdom” for anyone who hasn’t seen protagonist Walter White’s descent into the New Mexico equivalent of Hades.
9. Peaky Blinders
Looking for gang stories that aren’t set in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles, or Miami? Check out “Peaky Blinders” instead. ‘Peaky Blinders,’ set in the slums of Birmingham after World War I, follows the exploits of the titular gang as they engage in criminal activities such as rigging horse races, drinking and plotting, all while dodging the relentless pursuit of Sam Neil’s Major Chester Campbell. The cunning and ambitious Thomas Shelby leads the Peaky Blinders, who are named after the razor blades kept in the rims of their hats (Cillian Murphy).
Slow burn Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds music plays in the show’s title credits as Shelby rides his horse through Birmingham territory. This song’s title, “Red Right Hand,” should tell you everything you need to know about what’s to come. A dark, dangerous, gripping thriller in the early 21st century style, “Blinders” is enthralling. As the series progresses, so does Steven Knight’s vision of the criminal underworld in post-WWII England. Expanding the world also means bringing in new characters, like Tom Hardy’s smug mug in Alfie Solomons, the rival gangster.
“Family man wrapped up in the drug business” may sound familiar after reading the previous entries. In terms of plot and lead actors, “Ozark” and “Breaking Bad” share some similarities. However, when it comes to execution, the two shows couldn’t be more different. Instead of focusing on the effects of change, as in “Breaking Bad,” “Ozark” begins with the story having already taken place. As Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) goes bad, we find him broken and ready to get even more involved with the criminals who pay him to launder their money.
Consider a scene from early in the show’s first season as an example of how different “Ozark” is from any of its contemporaries. Wendy, Marty’s wife, played by Laura Linney, finally tells her children the truth about their family’s current situation after years of questioning. Just a quick, honest discussion in the kitchen, not season after season of bizarre and increasingly unbelievable near misses of discovering the truth. Moments like these highlight the show’s resilience, demonstrating its ability to keep raising the stakes. Ozark is the next must-see for any crime fan looking to get their heart rate up and their palms sweaty.
If you’re a fan of crime dramas and shady family dynamics, but don’t want to be shocked by excessive violence, check out “Greenleaf,” the first scripted show on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Follows the Greenleaf family, who break the law to get rich off of their Memphis megachurch and the ensuing hysteria. Actor Merle Dandridge plays an estranged daughter who returns home 20 years after her sister’s mysterious death to rekindle the family’s relationship with her parents.
As much as the show is focused on the truth-seeking of Gigi, it also explores her fraught relationship with her parents, Bishop James (Keith David) and Daisy Mae (Susan Sarandon) (Lynn Whitfield). While other shows on this list lean toward self-aware high drama, “Greenleaf” finds a wildly entertaining spot in the melodramatic, thanks in large part to the quality of its actors. Lynn Whitfield’s Daisy Mae is the only way to see Lady MacBeth as a diva Memphis megachurch matriarch. While other shows have pushed the boundaries of what it means to be a good soap opera in the past, “Greenleaf” is the only one doing so right now.
12. True Detective
This season’s “True Detective” is unlike anything else you’ve seen before, thanks to writer/producer Nic Pizzolatto’s love of the gothic, especially the Southern kind, and his knack for contemporary hardboiled dialogue. In each season, the show follows a new group of cops as they deal with the case that will make or break their careers. To say any more would be to give away the show’s intriguing premise, which would be punishable by criminal law.
Nevertheless, what we can say about each season is that it features a diverse group of A-list actors, including Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Mahershala Ali, and has its own distinctive aesthetic feel. For the most part, director Cary Joji Fukunga’s portrayal of Louisiana in season one comes across as dystopian without ever going overboard with the surreal or fantastical. In addition, one of the best single-take shots in television history can be found in season one. Tru Detective is a must-see for any Sherlock Holmes fan who wants to see what happens to men and women who cross the blue line.
A TV show about the early Los Angeles crack epidemic, directed by “Boyz in the Hood” director John Singleton, should be enough to convince anyone to watch “Snowfall.” Instead of focusing on “the how,” Singleton is an empathic storyteller who chooses to focus on “the why” of his plots and premises. Consequently, he establishes his stories on a person’s choices, so that when a character makes a decision or doesn’t make a decision, the audience knows why.
The song “Snowfall” is unlike anything else on this list. It’s not a story about a single family, a criminal gang, or a detective team. Instead, the plots diverge to include individuals from various corners of the drug trade. The show’s appearance was also meticulously crafted. ‘Snowfall’ is a must-see for crime movie fans in search of a story told with a truly unique perspective.
14. Ray Donovan
The show’s namesake, Ray Donavan, works as a Hollywood fixer, which is a difficult job to get by with no experience. There isn’t a PR guru in Showtime’s excellent crime drama; instead, the antihero solves problems for a living. ‘Ray Donovan’ works because of the depth of the characters’ motivations. Liev Schreiber’s ability to charm or punch his way out of sticky situations — such as extracting a dead girl from a boxing champion’s hot tub or freeing a producer from a drug-related predicament — makes for compelling television, no doubt. When he’s attempting to balance his demanding job with protecting his father, played to perfection by Jon Voight, the show reaches its pinnacle.
The writing on the show is what sets it apart. Unlike many other shows with large casts, “Donovan” manages to keep everything on an even keel while still keeping the stakes high. The overall quality of the story isn’t diminished if viewers are forced to spend an episode primarily on Ray’s father or brothers. Fans of “Animal Kingdom” won’t want to miss this.
“Kingdom,” a show about a family running an MMA gym in Southern California, completes the list. Frank Grillo plays gym owner and family patriarch Alvey Kulina, who uses his son Nate (Nick Jonas), an MMA rising star, as a way to make money to support his gym. Things become more complicated, however, when Jay (Jonathan Tucker), the other son, starts working in the family business out of jealousy.
The show moves at a fast pace and yet it gets very little attention. A lot of the themes explored in “Kingdom” aren’t found in other kinds of media, like drama or comedy. “Kingdom” is a unique family drama because of its focus on the protagonist’s struggle to come out and his involvement in MMA. The show’s about modern gladiators after all, so there will be plenty of gory fight scenes. Add in a few minor crimes here and there, and genre fans will have a show that should be near the top of their watch lists.