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6 Stimulating Shows To Watch Outside Of Your Usual Ratchet Reality TV

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We all have guilty pleasures. But one that we see makes it on the list over and over is first name, Love, last name, Hip-Hop. If you too suffer from an addiction to pointless lunches, shaken tables and drummed up storylines, you’re in the right place because we do too. More inside...

In the age of love, light and good mental health - watching season after season of "Love & Hip Hop" can’t be good for the soul. "Black Ink Crew" might be 1/4 of a step up, but we can still add in something else to the mix.  So, we compiled a list of alternatives. Ya know - shows that are cerebral but not boring, clever but not cliche, practical yet far from predictable.  Basically, #tvgoals.

Here are 6 stimulating shows to binge outside of your ratchet TV selections:

Westworld

If there ever was a smart show Johnathan Nolan’s Westworld is it. But get all your snacks beforehand, go  while you can because ain’t no getting up during this sci-fi, psychotic thriller. You. Will. Miss. Some. Thing. And we know, we’re millennials - our attention span is short yadda, yadda, yadda but this show is so worth it.

Don’t let the horse and cattle fool you. While primarily set in the Old West, Westworld centers around a state of the art amusement park built primarily for people with coins to come and play out their fantasy. In short, have the urge to do something immoral in the real world, but not the nerve? Go to Westworld. But once there, be prepared to second guess everything, including the very world we live in today.

Made even better by its all-star cast of Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, and Anthony Hopkins, this show is violent, suspenseful, thought provoking and steamier than watching Ray J and Princess Love practice bondage. (Shudders). Catherine Gee of the Daily Telegraph put it best when she said, “Like the onscreen robots, it’s pieces are meticulously put together, it’s capacity to unleash hell brimming beneath the surface. And it’s beautiful to watch”.

The cast is gearing up for its third season scheduled to air in 2020 but there’s no better time to catch up than now for when the Emmy Award-winning show returns they’ll be bringing our faves back with’em as Kid Cudi and Lena Waithe are said to be joining the cast.

Succession

Two seasons in and we still can’t tell if Succession is a comedy, drama, soap opera or a sitcom minus the laugh track. Seeing funny guy Will Ferrell’s name up there on the list of executive producers will make you err on the side of slapstick but 30 seconds into the Emmy Award-nominated title sequence (yes they give awards for that) and you’ll wonder, what in the Ronald Reagan have I gotten myself into?

The story follows The Roys - a rich, highly dysfunctional family whose motives are marred by impassiveness, insecurity, immaturity, and insensitivity. And no this is not some poor attempt to utilize alliteration, we’ve literally just described all four of the Roy children.

Succession looks sophisticated, but is quirky af because as rich and powerful as this family is, the scenarios they navigate are funny and relatable -- a self conscious son seeking his father’s approval, a daughter that has it together on the outside, but is falling apart on the inside, an elusive stepmom the sisters and brothers are skeptical of, and a wacky cousin who keeps us cackling at him not with him. Succession is essentially reality TV just with a bigger budget and a "West Wing" gone wild vibe.

Euphoria

Outside of Grandma’nem, we can’t think of anyone not watching this show right now. So this post is for the literal only two people that have yet to get intoxicated on the raw reality that is "Euphoria." Give us season 2, NOW. 

Speaking of Grandma, it’s hard not to watch the teen drama starring child star Zendaya without letting out a whew chile every few minutes. It's...deep.  And damn near depressing.  But we still binged it in a weekend. And although the premise of young adults trying to figure out life is not necessarily “cerebral”, the fact that these are the young adults born into epidemics like September 11th, the Bush administration, the housing crisis and the height of the recession is enough to get you to thinkin' about the current state and future of our country. It's interesting to see their coming-of-age and how our mid 2000 politics and social constructs have completely affected their lives.

But that’s not the only feature you’ll get drunk on. The use of storytelling in this Aubrey Graham produced screenplay (that explains the bomb soundtrck) is untouchable as each episode takes you on a thrilling ride into the mind of seven separate highschoolers who are just begging for Tommie Lee to hem them up against a locker. The racial and size inclusivity, and the legendary number of male full frontal scenes, don't hurt either.

Pose

Missin Masika's quick-witted comebacks and Joseline's quotable one-liners? Fear not, "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy has you covered with the same kind of catty behavior that keeps you comin' back to Mona.

Except this show is real. Real authentic, real eye-opening, real informative. Inspired by the 1990 documentary, "Paris is Burning," this FX nostalgic drama stylishly tackles transgender identity, AIDS, race, politics, and loss. Prepare to be educated. But also prepare to see some legendary reads, outrageous fashion, strippers and prostitutes, some old school music and of course some "sess" as Joseline Hernandez so eloquently says. If you're looking for your reality show fix, "Pose" is as close as you're gonna get without running the risk of losing any brain cells.

Hard Knocks: Training Camp

You don't have to like or even understand football to get into HBO's "Hard Knocks." How do we know this? Because we don't even like or understand football and we love HBO's Hard Knocks. It's for the nosey folks who love an in-depth, and completely surprising, peek behind the curtain of a billion dollar organization - the NFL.  This hour-long docu show takes us behind the scenes of the most controversial league in the country where each season delves into a different team’s dynamics.

This 13th season follows the Oakland Raiders, a team more known for being outsiders than victors. We get to know their families, which WAGS are ACTUALLY living with these ballers (we swear a WAG or 2 likely found out she was actually a side chick after watching this show), their interactions with their families, and the mental torture you'd be surprsied they put themselves through to make the roster. But never mind what they do on the field, it’s the family life, friendships and all things frostbite that make this show stand out.

In one of the grossest scenes since Pooh flung her $750 feces sheets on the Trinidadian table, wide receiver Antonio Brown asks the cameraman “Are you sure you wanna see it?” He then proceeds to slowly take his sock off to reveal what he himself can only describe as a foot circumcision, for the amount of skin that has pulled back from his ashy feet. Brown, who was their number one recruit before all the trade drama received the injury after neglecting to wear suitable shoewear during a cryotherapy session in France.

Less stinky situations on the show include a training camp rendition of T-Pain’s “Buy You a Drink”, pitiless and dmn near scary "pep talks" from coaches and poetry. Yes, episode 1 opens with “Autumn Wind” a classic piece written about the Raiders and voiced by the late sports announcer, John Facenda. We told you. You don’t have to like or even understand football to love HBO's "Hard Knocks." But, proper shoe and headgear are recommended.

Photo: HBO

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