Some fandoms are large, nearly gigantic: your MCU’s, your Star Wars’s, even your Harry Potter’s to some extent, still. Being a gigantic fandom comes with its pitfalls: escalating drama, bad press, a lack of centralized community. But there are some shows that deserve bigger fandoms but don’t generate the same level of following. Here are five underrated gems which could do with a great deal more attention.
- Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Even in its heyday, I feel like Boardwalk Empire got overshadowed by its bigger HBO cousins, despite its high budget and the Martin Scorsese connection. Although to be fair, he only directed the pilot and served as an executive producer, which really doesn’t mean too much. The flashier HBO shows, like True Blood and Game of Thrones took up all the oxygen. Still, this stylish take on Atlantic City in the 1920s bootlegger era starred cult favorite Steve Buscemi, in one of his finest performances, and that alone should’ve earned it more attention. It also had multiple relationships rife for shipping, and even shipping wars. But my searches of past Boardwalk content show a relatively tiny, peaceful fandom, as well as one that’s virtually faded away. All this is to say, it could use a revival.
- Person of Interest (CBS)
Person of Interest got a pretty hefty surge in interest when Shaw and Root’s relationship was introduced, and a pretty steep drop in interest when one of them ‘died’ just before the show ended. Of course, she didn’t really die; she ascended into near-technological Godhood. But still, Person of Interest, despite its deep intellectualism in regard to artificial intelligence, along with just being fun, faded away, mostly because people believed it fell into the “Kill Your Gays” trope. Maybe it did, but the death wasn’t done for a shock twist; they were nearing the end of a show that already had plenty of casualties.
It feels like Person of Interest could use a reappraisal these days, especially in light of its descendent Westworld, which does engage in ill-advised shock twists (which I love) but it has driven away fans and critics alike. Yes, it was a CBS show, but it was one of their most underrated gems for the entirety of its run.
- Slings and Arrows (Acorn TV)
Slings and Arrows is arguably the example of international shows which deserve a large fandom but never really got one. Oh, the Canadian dramedy about the goings-on of a theatre festival is a critical darling, but the fandom is irritatingly small for such a funny show which boasts a ton of heart. Maybe it’s because it’s from Canada; maybe it’s because it was inaccessible for a while unless you knew where to look — although there were DVD sets and it is now streaming on Acorn TV. If you’re a fan of theatre, Shakespeare, or just general shenanigans, Slings and Arrows is one of those early 2000s underrated gems you need to check out.
- Babylon 5 (WB/TNT)
With Babylon 5’s possibly pending reboot on The CW, which looks less and less likely seeing as the CW can’t turn a profit, perhaps the little sci-fi show that could will gain a larger fandom than the tiny, albeit active one it currently possesses. It’s Lord of the Rings in space, no matter what some pesky pundits on my Tumblr insist, and it deserves at least as much attention as that franchise, even if it’ll probably never get it. It’s an underrated gem that looks beautiful now with its remaster on HBO Max, and its epic take on serialized science fiction really is unparalleled even today, in the era of Battlestar Galactica’s and The Expanse’s. Actually, our number 1 might match it…
- For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
“Why aren’t you watching this show?” I plead with the Internet on a regular basis. It’s got everything: a truly optimistic alternate history, NASA, outer space, queer representation, cool space action, the inherent romance of exploration, Molly Cobb…look, I’ve done my part trying to expand the fandom. I’ve made gifs, I wrote weekly recaps for season 2 here at The Beat, I’ve even wrote a bit of fic. Now it’s up to everyone else to latch onto this underrated gem, and it really is a diamond in the rough among Apple TV+’s genre offerings…in fact, everyone’s genre offerings. Go forth and watch it and proliferate the fandom before its third season launches, hopefully sometime this year.
Editor’s Note: Yes, please watch For All Mankind, it is actually one of the best shows of 2021.
So, there you have it. Some underrated gems from the past and the present that deserve larger fandoms and more attention, even from outside of fandom. If you’ve never picked up these shows, I highly recommend them, and even if you did in the past, and drifted away, you could always come back…