10 Best Showtime Original Series, Ranked By IMDb

Showtime posters for Dexter and Shameless are seen side by side

Showtime is an American pay cable network producing original TV content since 1982. In the past 40 years, the channel has steadily built its brand and positioned itself as one of the most consistently entertaining networks whose original TV series continue to rival the quality of HBO and other premium outlets.

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According to IMDb, Showtime hit its creative stride in the past 20 years, with the majority of its highest-rated original series produced in the 21st century. With an eclectic roster that includes horror, sci-fi, comedy, drama, politics, mystery, and more, it’s time to celebrate Showtime’s absolute best original series.



10 Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)

IMDb Rating – 8.2

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Created by John Logan, Penny Dreadful is an atmospherically frightening period piece set in Victorian-era London. The imaginative horror show with a high body count brings together several literary characters of the past who join forces to take on the paranormal, from Victor Frankenstein and Dorian Gray to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Among the raving plaudits for the show, IMDb users note how visually striking and immersive the Gothic production values are from beginning to end. While some feel that show jumped the shark by Season 3, the overwhelming majority of users note how superbly the show subverts classic horror tropes and challenges the conventions of the famed characters by pushing them into unpredictable new directions.

9 Ray Donovan (2013-2020)

IMDb Rating – 8.3

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Ray talks on the phone in a recliner in Ray Donovan

Created by Ann Biderman, Ray Donovan is a masterclass in TV acting. Liev Schriber headlines a stellar ensemble to tell the story of the titular fixer, a cipher of a man known for solving the worst problems of the most sordid criminals in L.A.

A morally complicated character study that becomes a truly fascinating and tragic family story, Ray Donovan is consistently hailed on IMDb as a brilliantly written and acted series that may be the best crime family drama since The Sopranos. Even those who detest the direction of Season 5 admit that the show rebounded to deliver a solid finale with a closure that felt earned and satisfying.

8 Californication (2007-20014)

IMDb Rating – 8.3

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Hanks and a woman smile on the couch in Californication

The only comedy to make the grade includes Californication, an original series created by Tom Kapinos. David Duchovny gives a terrific turn as Hank Moody, a sex-addicted writer leading a debauched hedonistic lifestyle in L.A. while trying to properly raise his teenage daughter.

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Beyond the amusing revelation of Duchovny’s comedic timing that provides much of the appeal, the half-hour adult comedy is praised repeatedly on IMDb for its witty dialogue, and pitch-perfect tone that straddles the line between comedy and drama. An addictive show that highlights the seductive sway of L.A. that can hinder the creative process, Californication proves that Showtime can do comedy with the best of them.

7 Homeland (2011-2020)

IMDb Rating – 8.3

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Carrie puts her hands up in Homeland

Created by Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, Homeland is a riveting political thriller that concerns Carrie Mathison, a manically-depressed CIA op who works tirelessly to thwart a terrorist plot on American soil. Timely and topical, the show won 8 Primetime Emmy Awards for its excellence in writing and acting.

Despite Homeland’s high rating, there is a love-it or hate-it polarization among IMDb users. Part of the show’s specialty is depicting the ethical bind that politicians find themselves in to keep their country safe. For instance, the show drew criticism for its depiction of torture, underscoring the moral complexity of the characters. Regardless of its divisiveness, most IMDb users agree that Homeland is an intelligent TV show for mature adults that does not provide easy answers.

6 Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007)

IMDb Rating – 8.4

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The cast of Stargate-SG1 looks up into the camera

Adapted from the 1994 Roland Emmerich movie Stargate, Stargate SG-1 aired on Showtime for the first five seasons before moving to the Sci-Fi Channel in 2002. The series concerns a clandestine military unit traveling through an interdimensional stargate to explore alien planets.

Although it boasts a superb rating, many IMDb users still note how criminally underrated the show is and much replay value it continues to have. A faithful continuation of where the movie left off, several fans of the show note how it differs from other stolid sci-fi series thanks to its campy sense of humor and fun adventures that make space travel feel just as exhilarating as the best Star Trekspinoffs.

5 Billions (2016-Present)

IMDb Rating – 8.4

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Chuck points at Bobby in the Billions pilot

With the same rating and exact number of votes as Stargate SG-1 (97K), Billions is a cutthroat finance drama currently running on Showtime. The series follows Axe Capital, a hedge fund run by Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), and his unscrupulous attempts to expand his influence across the business and political sectors in New York.

Thanks to the juicy antagonism of Chuck Rhodes (Paul Giamatti), a U.S. attorney with his own craven ambitions, Billions has been lauded by IMDb users as a great American sociopolitical drama. The last two seasons have taken a critical drubbing for losing momentum and introducing a lackluster villain in Mike Prince, but otherwise, Billions remains a Top 5 Showtime Original in the eyes of IMDb.

4 Queer As Folk (1999-2005)

IMDb Rating – 8.5

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The cast of Queer As Folk lies in bed in looks to the ceiling

Far ahead of its time, Queer as Folk chronicles the daily personal and professional lives of a group of gay friends living in greater Pittsburgh. Extolled for its raw honesty, progressiveness, and much-needed representation of a marginalized demographic, the show broke new ground while exploring an important subject.

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Beyond the charming characters and heart-warming humor that makes for an addicting watch, many IMDb users actually credit Showtime itself for having the courage to tackle such a taboo topic at the time. Even those who favor the original British version admit that the American redo is worth watching because it depicts a lifestyle rarely seen on TV.

3 Twin Peaks (2017)

​​​​​​​IMDb Rating – 8.5

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>A woman touches Dales cheek in Twin Peaks

David Lynch’s original Twin Peaks TV series aired on ABC in 1990-91. For Season 3, Lynch brought his uncompromising vision to Showtime 25 years later to continue the investigative exploits of FBI Agent Dale Cooper, where he must solve the grisly murder of a small-town homecoming queen. It remains one of the greatest mystery shows of the 21st century.

An absolute tour-de-force in small-screen storytelling, Lynch brings his trademark sense of surrealism to the proceedings as only he can. A truly polarizing experience that most will either love or hate, the IMDb rating suggests that far more viewers reside in the former camp. Lynch is a singular talent with bold, unique visions beyond reproach, and Twin Peaks marks the absolute summit of his TV output to date.

2 Shameless (2011-2021)

IMDb Rating – 8.6

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The cast of Shameless stands by a fence for Season 10

Created by Paul Abbott and John Wells, Shameless follows the dysfunctional Gallagher family in the Southside of Chicago and their dogged efforts to survive the daily grind of an impoverished lifestyle. Watching the Gallagher family grow up for 10 years is among the most gratifying and heartbreaking things Shameless fans have ever witnessed.

As such, Shameless is the longest-running scripted drama in Showtime history. Many TV shows drop off in quality in later seasons, yet Shameless remained consistently compelling for a full decade (minus the divisive series finale). The resounding love for the show on IMDb is hard to articulate in words, with many users expressing gratitude for creating a TV family that feels real, relatable, easy to root for, and hard to say goodbye to.

1 Dexter (2006-2013)

​​​​​​​IMDb Rating – 8.7

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Dexter stand by a blood stained wall in Dexter

According to IMDb, Dexter is the best Showtime original series to date. The compelling conceit of an amiable forensic expert by day and a ruthless serial killer by night captured the minds of viewers to no end. Of course, the supremely charming performance by Michael C. Hall in the tile role is among the primary draw.

Dexter is affable yet psychotic, with the middle ground providing unbelievable dramatic conflict on the show. With plaudits ranging from “masterpiece” to “the best TV show ever,” IMDb supporters couldn’t heap more effusive praise on Dexter if they tried. Even those who criticize the controversial final episode agree that the show is original, replayable, highly entertaining, and constantly tests the audience’s expectations and pushes the limits of their complicity.

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