The 9 Best Southern TV Shows of All Time
Did your favorite make our list?
There’s just something about a southern TV show—the manners, the accents, the katydids chirping in the background, heck, even the familiar dusty boots the characters wear remind us of home.
Luckily for us, there are plenty of amazing television shows set down here. (Watch your back, Hollywood!) From The Andy Griffith Show, set in the sleepy North Carolina town of Mayberry, to The Walking Dead’s zombie adventures in Georgia, we’ve gathered up the 9 TV shows we consider required viewing for every southerner. What did we miss?
The Golden Girls
They don’t make them more sassy—or iconic—than Rose, Sophia, Dorothy, and Blanche. Over the course of 183 episodes, the beloved sitcom chronicling the adventures of four roommates enjoying their later years in Miami spawned countless memes, and gifted us with the national treasure that is Betty White. Each week, The Golden Girls taught us important lessons on love, family, and aging, and on the restorative power of friendship, humor, and, of course, cheesecake. They showed that there’s no reason our golden years can’t be our best years. Wondering where you can watch? We’re thrilled to report that The Golden Girls comes to Hulu in February.
Dallas isn’t just a southern classic, it’s an American classic as well. The primetime soap opera about the Ewings, a wealthy Texas oil family—based in, you guessed it, Dallas—spanned 357 episodes across a whopping 14 seasons. Despite going off the air in 1991, its 1980 episode “Who Done It” remains the second-highest-rated single television broadcast in U.S. history. Known for its cliffhangers, Dallas was such a cultural phenomenon that even people who haven’t seen a single episode are still familiar with the show’s catchphrase, “Who Killed J.R.?” Spoiler: you do eventually find out who killed J.R. in the show’s 4th season.
The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead may not give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, but there’s something about the hit drama about a fictional zombie apocalypse that just gets under your skin. Literally. The show, which was recently renewed for its 8th season, follows sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes, who wakes from a coma to find that the world has been overrun by “walkers” (zombies). It doesn't take long before Grimes becomes the leader of a small group of people trying to survive in an unrecognizable world taken over by flesh-eating monsters. Sounds like a blast, right? Well, it is! The Walking Dead takes place in and around Atlanta, and later Virginia. But it’s not just the lush, wooded terrain (and obvious humidity) that give this show its southern flavor. It’s also Grimes’ charming sense of chivalry, duty and devotion to his family that make this show a southern fav.
The Andy Griffith Show
Many critics and viewers agree: The Andy Griffith Show is one of the best television shows in U.S. history. From 1960 to 1968, Griffith warmed America’s hearts and television screens as Andy Taylor, the level-headed sheriff of the fictional North Carolina town of Mayberry. Even as the show transitioned from black and white to color, we could always count on it for sound, common-sense advice on everything from parenting and romance to being a good neighbor. Talk about southern values! And long before he stole our hearts as Richie Cunningham in Happy Days, Ron Howard made us smile as Taylor’s mischievous son Opie.
The second supernatural show on our list, HBO’s True Blood has everything required of a masterpiece: a well-mannered gentleman, plenty of small-town gossip, a popular local tavern, a sweet southern belle, and vampires. O.K., so maybe not the last one so much, but we’d be lying if we said that isn’t what we love about the show. True Blood, which is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, follows a telepathic waitress named Sookie Stackhouse as her small Louisiana town learns to co-exist with vampires. Beneath the supernatural aspects, we love that the award-winning show also deals with important societal issues like religion, equality, and the importance of family. And the cast isn't bad looking, either.
Ah, Nashville. How do we love thee? To start, the musical drama set in the country music capital of the world combines almost all of our favorite things: country music, drama, romance, and the city of Nashville, of course. Not to mention, all of the songs on the show are originals, which makes watching each episode feel like listening to a brand new album. The series follows the lives of fictional country music stars Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton) and Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), when Jaymes’s star begins to fade and she is eclipsed by the Barnes. After a four-season run on ABC, Nashville was recently reborn on CMT. In its new home fans can expect a significantly slower pace, the departure of two series regulars, as well as a few fresh faces.
Friday Night Lights
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t miss this one. Friday Night Lights tells the heartwarming, tear-jerking, and totally binge-worthy story of high school football players as they come of age in the fictional small town of Dillon, Texas. Lead by the Coach Taylor, the quintessential father figure played by Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights addresses an array of modern day issues, from family values to race relations and drug abuse. And all against the backdrop of a dusty Texas town. In her second appearance on this list, Connie Britton plays Tami, Taylor’s wife, and together they define #couplegoals. All five seasons are available on Netflix, but fair warning: we recommend clearing your calendar before diving into this one.
The Dukes of Hazzard
How many other television shows have had a decades-long influence on women’s fashion? Daisy Dukes aside, few shows have influenced the cultural landscape like The Dukes of Hazzard. The high-octane series, which ran from 1979 to 1985, follows the adventures of “The Duke Boys,” two impossibly handsome brothers who cruise around Georgia’s fictional Hazzard County in their souped-up orange Dodge Charger they call The General Lee. Because of previous run-ins with the law for distilling moonshine, the Duke brothers are unable to cross county lines. Therefore they spend most of their days racing around town and performing outlandish stunts to evade the crooked county commissioner. Basically, it’s the wild yet light-hearted youth every southern boy dreams of.