TV Shows Most People Won't Admit They Actually Like

Certain TV shows keep on chugging along, year after year, despite little media or fan buzz. They don't get the press attention that HBO's low-rated Girls gets because of media darling Lena Dunham, or even the buzz that CBS's top-rated The Big Bang Theory has, thanks to Jim Parsons's portrayal of goofy scientist Sheldon Cooper. Instead, these other shows simply get very good ratings and have been on TV for a long time, but they aren't what most people proclaim are their favorite programs. In fact, we might even be embarrassed to admit we watch some of them.


"You are not the father!" The sexy decoy in the green room enticing the accused cheater. "The lie detector test determined that was a lie!" The waitress who was afraid of pickles. The female guest who was the spitting image of Ted Cruz. Those are just some of the many memorable moments on Maury, although not many people want to publicly admit that they watch it. The lie detector test always referenced on the show would, in Maury parlance, determine that was a lie, given how most people easily understand the jokes about the show.

Maury Povich started as a serious journalist and used to be best known as news name Connie Chung's husband. But he has been hosting his own national daytime talk show for over 25 years—longer than even Oprah Winfrey did. Maury has been on the air since 1991 (It changed names from The Maury Povich Show in 1998 when it switched studios). The show is best known for the gazillion paternity tests it has given, complete with the gyrating reactions of men who are ecstatic to find out that they are "not the father," and the "runs of shame" when the embarrassed women run off stage. Maury also still does shows featuring sassy teenagers, something once parodied on South Park.

Even though Maury was born in 1939, he said in a 2015 Reddit Ask Me Anything event that he has daytime TV's youngest audience, and his ratings are still high. And he's in on the jokes about the show. He explained to Reddit readers that to be successful, "you've got to have some kind of signature ... And fortunately, we've had it." He continued: "I've been on the air longer than anybody out there. I am older than anyone out there. And I have the youngest audience of anybody out there. I mean, that's an inverse equation. Nobody can figure it out. And quite frankly—I don't want to figure it out."

​Blue Bloods

When many people think of Tom Selleck, they picture him with a Hawaiian shirt exposing his chest hair on Magnum, P.I. Donnie Wahlberg is associated with his New Kids on the Block days. Bridget Moynahan is known as Tom Brady's first baby mama. Len Cariou is most famous for his Broadway performances in hits like Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. But the four actors have also starred on the top-rated CBS crime drama Blue Bloods for 150 episodes and counting. The show was renewed in early 2017 for its eighth season. It also airs in syndication.

Blue Bloods is about New York City Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Selleck), who comes from a long line of police officers, and his family, who all work in aspects of law enforcement. One son is a cop, one a detective, and the daughter is an assistant district attorney. His father on the show (Cariou) was also once the police commissioner. (Fun fact: Cariou, born on September 30, 1939, is less than 5.5 years older than his "son" Selleck, born on January 29, 1945.)

The program covers everything from 9/11 to police brutality to the reputation of cops. But it is also a relentlessly old-fashioned show, too. Each week, four generations sit down at the Sunday family dinner, where the family members gather together and talk about their problems.

Whether it's the off-the-radar timeslot, or the subject matter, Blue Bloods is a bona fide hit show that gets forgotten when it comes to talking about top TV.

NBC's four 'Chicago' shows

Television producer Dick Wolf is best known for the many versions of his Law & Order creation, with cast members and shows coming and going, but that infamous "dun dun" sound effect staying the same.

While the franchise is still ubiquitous on TV, especially due to syndication and the continued existence of Law & Order: SVU (or SUV, as people joke), Wolf now has an incredible four hit TV shows on NBC about Chicago: Chicago Justice on Sundays, Chicago Fire on Tuesdays, Chicago P.D. on Wednesdays, and Chicago Med on Thursdays. No word on when Chicago Animal Shelter or Chicago Sanitation debuts.

Not only do these shows have crossover episodes, but most end with cast members enjoying a cold one at the same bar, Molly's. That's Wolf's idea. He also described the real-life Chicago as being "a cleaner, politer city than New York—with slightly heavier people." Yikes!

While all of these shows get big ratings, and there may indeed be a fifth iteration of the franchise coming soon, there's next to no buzz on the Chicago franchise. Maybe they need their own "dun dun" sound effect.

​The Middle

Patricia Heaton, one of Hollywood's few political conservatives, made noise in 2011, claiming to PopEater (via Newsbusters) that she has lost out on acting roles due to her beliefs. Yet the former Everybody Loves Raymond star has been the mom on the hit ABC show The Middle since 2009, a lifetime in Hollywood.

But her current show is really a forgotten one, which has nothing to do with a blacklist, and a lot to do with a certain other family comedy on the same network. The Middle, a sitcom set in the middle of the country (Indiana, to be exact) about a lower-middle-class family with three children, has been on the air for the same amount of time as Modern Family. While both shows have been ratings hits, Modern Family is the one that swallows up all the attention.

As Bob Sassone of Esquire noted in 2016, Modern Family has won five Emmys in a row "for Outstanding Comedy Series" and "it has won 21 Emmys in all" as well as being "the darling of most critics since it debuted." Meanwhile, The Middle was "nominated for exactly one Emmy, for Outstanding Make-Up For A Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic) in 2012," the article notes, pointing out that Game of Thrones, another buzzworthy show, won the award instead.

Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline, the people who created The Middle, once worked on Roseanne, another ABC working-class comedy, but their current show just hasn't had that same sort of cachet as that groundbreaking sitcom.


When you think of TV news magazine shows, CBS's 60 Minutes comes to mind, with good reason. It has been on the air since 1968 and helped made Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Harry Reasoner, Lesley Stahl, Ed Bradley, and Andy Rooney household names.

But 20/20, ABC's own news magazine program created by legendary TV producer Roone Arledge, has been on the air since 1978. Yet it still doesn't get the attention or respect that 60 Minutes does. Maybe it's their respective time slots—early Sunday evenings versus Friday nights. Or perhaps it's just that 60 Minutes did it first. But most of the time, 20/20 is not a show people talk or think much about, even though big names on the show like Hugh Downs, Barbara Walters, Charles Gibson, Sam Donaldson, Connie Chung, and John Stossel were arguably just as famous as CBS's stellar names. These days, the program does a lot of true-crime shows, and other investigative topics, but it takes something like Diane Sawyer interviewing Bruce Jenner about his then-upcoming gender transition to get attention for 20/20. Otherwise, the show just keeps on drawing viewers, but not buzz.

​Bob's Burgers

FOX is known for its numerous animated shows. The Simpsons has been making pop culture jokes since 1989 and was once so controversial even President George H.W. Bush made a disparaging reference about it (and the show responded in an episode). Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy and American Dad! are popular with millennials. But Bob's Burgers is the animated show without a big name behind it and without any of the attention the other FOX cartoons receive.

As per the title, Bob's Burgers is about a family running a burger joint. It has been on the air since 2011 and is also currently airing in syndication. But even though it is part of FOX's famous Sunday night lineup, it's hard for those who don't watch it to conjure up even one memorable line or character from the show, the way everyone can with FOX's other animated shows. But people are sure watching Bob's Burgers, considering how long it's been on the air.

​Last Man Standing

Most people identify actor Tim Allen with his ABC sitcom Home Improvement, which ran from 1991 to 1999, or with his voicing of Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear. But the Tool Time host with the unseen neighbor starred in ABC's sitcom Last Man Standing from 2011 all the way into 2017. Allen's character worked for the fictional Outdoor Man store, but the character was surrounded by women at home, with his wife and three daughters. And then hilarity ensued (or at least old-school sitcom laugh-track hilarity ensued).

Maybe it was the Friday time slot or Allen's (and his character's) right-wing politics (Allen describes Mike Baxter, the person he portrays, as an "educated Archie Bunker") that kept the show from being talked about very much. But while the show had passable ratings, it didn't get much attention. Allen also got in hot water in 2017 for comparing Hollywood to 1930s Germany when he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel's late-night show. Whatever the reason, this show isn't one that most people wanted to admit to watching.


This CBS show about the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (with the real-life NCIS as advisers) has sprinkled humor into an otherwise serious procedural drama since it began in 2003. NCIS is one of the longest-running dramas of all time, starting as a spinoff from JAG. It's also one of the longest-running spinoffs on the air, with two spinoffs of its own: NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans. Fewer than 20 shows in prime-time history have ever had 300 episodes or more, and NCIS is one of them.

According to a 2016 New York Times look at the show, it was a slow starter that got decent but not great ratings. As Mark Harmon once put it: "We were not good enough to be paid attention to and not bad enough to be canceled." Then NCIS became popular overseas and in United States syndication. Around season six, it became the top drama on TV, and it has only gotten better ratings over time.

But despite its high ratings, both critics and fans seem to forget about it—so much so that the program has become shorthand for an ignored hit show. As James Hibbard of Entertainment Weekly puts it, "Girls is the quintessential media bubble show—hugely loud in pop culture chatter compared to its actual viewership. (Basically, the anti-NCIS)."

Maybe that's because, according to the New York Times, NCIS is most popular in rural areas, parts of the country not known for their media power. Or because it's a simple criminal justice procedural drama and not a flashy show (the most noteworthy thing is Pauley Perette's Goth character). But NCIS really is overlooked when it comes to talking about TV dramas, despite its longevity.

​Big Brother

There's a groundbreaking CBS reality series that has been on the air since 2000, with contestants kept away from the rest of the world while they vie for a monetary prize. It was based on a hit show from another country. It was very controversial when it started out but keeps on going despite little attention these days. Survivor? No. Big Brother. The voyeuristic show has been on CBS as long as Survivor, with over 600 episodes as of this writing, and had a similar history to its rival's origins, but it gets no respect.

The name of the show comes from 1984, the classic George Orwell book. But unlike the involuntary nature of Big Brother spying on people in the book, this Big Brother is something some people truly are happy to be a part of.

But the program, while it still gets ratings each summer, is mostly forgotten these days. It's known more for racist contestants than for being a long-running show. Those comments, and the peeping Tom nature of the show, have made the show not something people want to admit watching. The most attention Big Brother has received in recent years was not even for the CBS broadcast version of the show. That was the video of host Julie Chen informing cast members of the online CBS All Access version of Big Brother: Over the Top that Donald Trump was elected president, with the cast being just as surprised as much of the rest of America.

​Keeping Up With the Kardashians

Mocking the Kardashian family has become as much of a comedian's cliché as making fun of airline food. But the family members are "crying all the way to the bank," as Liberace, another outrageous celebrity, used to say. Since Keeping Up With the Kardashians debuted in 2007, shortly after Kim's infamous sex tape with singer Ray J made headlines, the show—and the family—have made a lot of money being themselves. Or at least an enhanced, edited, glossy version of themselves.

The shelf life of a reality show can be very short, especially one involving a family. The Osbournes, a hit show, lasted four seasons, and they seemed to be running out of things to talk about after the first one. Yet not only have the Kardashians been able to market themselves in Keeping Up With the Kardashians for over a dozen seasons, but they've made multiple spinoffs and other iterations, including Kourtney & Kim Take New York, Kourtney & Kim Take Miami, Kourtney & Khloe Take the Hamptons, Khloe & Lamar, Rob & Chyna, I Am Cait, Kris, Kocktails With Khloe, and Revenge Body With Khloe Kardashian, with more sure to come.

Although most people don't want to admit to keeping up with those Kardashians, somebody has to be—make that lots of people have to be—to explain all those shows. The family has exploited interest in their lives and accumulated a net worth of at least $300 million, a figure that's sure to grow, as their popularity shows no signs of fading. Just in 2016, the Kardashians as a whole earned $122.5 million. Kim alone made $51 million that year, according to Forbes, between her TV show, fashions, and hit apps.

Sure, it's easy to rip them as people famous for being famous. But these entrepreneurs managed to make an empire out of their personal lives. That's nothing to laugh at.