Left of the Dial: 10 Great TV Shows You've Never Heard Of - Rolling Stone
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Left of the Dial: 10 Great TV Shows You’ve Never Heard Of

From Amish tough guys to naked reality TV, these are the shows deep in the basic-cable-and-beyond jungle that you need to be watching

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Amish Mafia and Swamp Murders

Jason Elias/Discover; Investigation Discovery

With the recent plethora of great prestige television, even the most obsessive viewer could be forgiven for not tuning into everything. There are noted corners of the televerse where brilliant, well-written and expertly-acted shows go unwatched, despite universal acknowledgment that we all should be watching neglected gems like The Americans and Masters of Sex.

But for every great series that launches a thousand pleading think pieces, there are five like it that don't get weekly wrap-ups and clever ad campaigns. Whether it's because they're on at odd hours, they're mid-season replacements, they've just been overshadowed on their respective networks by splashier shows, or they're simply too wacky or avant-garde for primetime, the nuggets in this mixed bag surely must appeal to someone – they just haven't found their legion of fans yet. We've compiled 10 examples of weird, under-the-radar and awesome-in-their-own-way series that you've almost assuredly never heard of but should definitely be tuning into.

And if you've already discovered and dug deep into these demented-to-deliriously-good treasures nestled way down the cable dial (and in one case, via an online streaming service), congratulations: we salute your pioneering spirit.

(Disclaimer: All shows listed had a 2014 season, either earlier this year or currently airing, and have been renewed or left open-ended regarding subsequent future seasons. None of them have been cancelled at the time of writing.)

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‘Shark Girl’ (Smithsonian Channel)

Because "Shark Week" has become an embarrassment, the Smithsonian Channel steeped up to fill the void with this documentary series about 20-year-old Madison Stewart, an Australian who has dedicated herself to the preservation of sharks ever since she was a youngster. She sits in the middle of feeding frenzies, she removes fish hooks from their mouths and she challenges the perception of sharks as vicious killers – a goal that "Shark Week" seems to have given up on in lieu of mockumentaries on Megashark. Stewart is a brilliant and brave host, and maybe even a little batshit; her constant proximity to death easily makes this one of the most riveting educational series on TV.

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‘Swamp Murders’ (Investigation Discovery)

If you share any similarities with the demographic known as "practically everyone," you enjoyed True Detective. And if you particularly liked that show's grisly murders and mise-en-scene, you'll want to kiss the geniuses at Investigation Discovery on the mouth for this nugget of market-research gold. Swamp Murders has the basic narrative of all the channel's true-crime shows, but with more brackish water and the knowledge that there's something primally terrifying about a swamp's bottomless murk. The show is so setting-specific that it can't help but occasionally wink at viewers with a "you know you love it" self-awareness – which is fine, because we do.

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‘The Wrong Mans’ (BBC/Hulu)

Beloved British cult actor James Corden (soon to be taking over Craig Ferguson's spot on The Late, Late Show and known by a separate group of fans as Craig from Doctor Who) teamed up with Matthew Baynton to write and star in this BBC/Hulu joint production. The duo star as Phil Bourne and Sam Pinkett, respectively – a couple of complacent bros who toil away in cubicles at the Berkshire County Council. Then Pinkett picks up a ringing phone at the scene of a car accident, and suddenly, the gents turn into the action heroes they never thought they could be (because they probably aren't). Corden could create charming chemistry with a shoebox, much less a partner like Baynton, and the show is surprisingly action-packed without taking the characters too seriously or belittling them. The first season only had six episodes, but earlier this year Corden announced that they were at work on a commissioned second series to be released at a later date.

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