After a long week of brainstorming, meetings, and coding, I always spend my weekends reading books, writing articles, or watching TV shows and movies. This is essential for keeping me sane and for fueling my creative juices as I come up with ideas to work on and, if applicable, add something to my work.
One of my favourite ways to unwind is to watch TV shows in the Sci-Fi or thriller genres, but the icing on the cake is always anything connected to coding, hacking, programming, or entrepreneurship. I am a sucker for these shows. After all, I, like any other programmer, love seeing how my profession is depicted from a different perspective.
Although Hollywood has a bad reputation for stereotyping programmers in movies in the past, now the major studios and over-the-top content platforms have made some of the most realistic TV shows which have been validated and approved by legit programmers and hackers around the world.
Therefore, I have compiled a list of the best TV shows that would you would definitely enjoy. If you’re just getting started with coding, this list will give you an idea, about how cool is our work (from a different perspective).
Full Disclosure: This list is in no particular order of release year, ratings, or critical review.
Director/Creator: Mike Judge
Seasons: 6 (53 episodes)
Original Release: 2014–2019
This is by far one of the most realistic TV shows ever created for programmers, especially those who are working in startups like those in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area (United States), Sydney (Australia) and Bengaluru (India). The story revolves around a group of software engineers who are finding challenges in funding their startup, Pied Piper, even though their ideas are always groundbreaking. This award-winning comedy show has drawn inspiration from several cliches that exist today in the startup culture.
There are so many parallels between the show and real life, such as the main character, Richard Hendriks, is inspired by Mark Zuckerberg. The tech giant who is trying to bring down startups, Hooli, is speculated to be based on Google (or Microsoft). There are scenes in the later seasons of the show where Richard has to testify in front of Congress. This show is a must-watch.
Director/Creator: Sam Esmail
Seasons: 4 (45 episodes)
Original Release: 2015–2019
When Hollywood is churning out movies in which either a cool-looking muscular dude portrays a hacker or the hacker has a strange hairdo with various facial tattoos and piercings. ackers have been stereotyped to such an extent that it annoys programmers. Then there’s Sam Esmail’s award-winning show that made us fall in love with cybersecurity engineers and appreciate the amount of work they do to protect IT systems all over the world.
The main character, Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity engineer works in a company as a day job but is a vigilante hacker at night to help people who can’t defend themselves. He later becomes a part of a hacktivists group called fsociety, which is inspired by the real-life hacktivists group, Anonymous. The hacking scenes in the show are so realistic and plausible that even cybersecurity pundits all over the world have applauded their extensive research.
Director/Creator: Greg Daniels
Genre: Sci-Fi comedy-drama
Seasons: 1* (10 episodes)
Original Release: 2020–present
The show’s premise is a unique one: if a person dies, his/her consciousness can be uploaded to a virtual reality afterlife. The more money you have, the more luxurious afterlife you’ll lead. It also gives the person in the afterlife the ability to make in-app purchases to upgrade the rooms, food, etc., like how we do on a mobile app. The first season of this Amazon Prime original was well-received by the critics and it has been renewed for the second season.
Director/Creator: Charlie Brooker
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopia, Anthology
Seasons: 5 (22 episodes)
Original Release: 2011–2019
This is an anthology series in which each episode focuses on a technology breakthrough and how it might negatively impact human lives. I’d rather watch a horror show (or a movie) than this because the show’s depiction of technology makes the future seem frightening. Because of its story-telling and direction, the show has received critical acclaim.
Director/Creator: Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy
Genre: Sci-Fi, Western, Dystopia
Seasons: 3*(28 episodes)
Original Release: 2016–present
The plot is set in the 2050s, when a corporation runs various theme parks, including the American Old West-themed ‘Westworld,’ where visitors participate in a Wild Wild West-style simulation with firearms and horses. However, all of the characters in the amusement park are androids with sophisticated Artificial Intelligence, which leads to some very intriguing dilemmas that would keep you to the edge of your seats.
Created by Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, who is the brother of renowned director, Christopher Nolan, this show should be on the must-watch list of every programmer.
Director/Creator: Nick Santora
Genre: Action drama
Seasons: 4 (93 episodes)
Original Release: 2014–2018
An interesting show about a mismatched squad of IT experts recruited by the Department of Homeland Security to defend against global high-tech threats. The series is loosely based on the life of computer expert Walter O’ Brian and focuses on how Walter and his team solve complex global issues such as preventing uncontrolled nuclear fission or successfully landing an aircraft whose controls have been hijacked.
The show also depicts these geniuses as having a high IQ (Intelligence Quotient) but a low EQ (Emotional Quotient). The original network (CBS) cancelled the show after four seasons, but it has amassed a large fan base over the years.
Person Of Interest
Director/Creator: Jonathan Nolan
Genre: Sci-fi crime drama
Seasons: 5 (103 episodes)
Original Release: 2011–2016
The plot focuses on a mysterious reclusive wealthy computer programmer who builds a supercomputer which he calls ‘The Machine’ for the US government to collect sources of information to avert terrorist acts and to identify those responsible for them. In addition, the system can identify more offenders and victims of other premeditated acts, accelerating the story’s depth. He teams up with a former Special Forces soldier and ex-CIA operative to stop any threats.
This show is also created by Jonathan Nolan. And here’s a fun fact: I discovered this show by accident on Amazon Prime and quickly became addicted to it. This show influenced one of my undergraduate classmates who works on machine learning projects. He didn’t take ML seriously until after this show.
‘Seasons: n*’ implies that additional seasons are on their way or have already arrived at the time of reading.
These shows are listed based on my personal preferences. My list of favourites would definitely be different than your list (if you have any), However, there are some honourable mentions which I would like to list out: The IT Crowd, Chuck, Devs, Altered Carbon, Lost in Space, Halt and Catch Fire, Rick and Morty and Maniac.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and hopefully, you would check out these whenever you get time.