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33 Best Modern American TV Series for Learning English

Watching American TV shows is one of the best ways to improve your English vocabulary and to learn how to speak English more fluently.

There’s no better way to learn American slang and how people really talk.

Get ready to get in touch with “real” English–the English you hear on the streets or hear from your friends.

Contents

33 Modern American TV Series for Learning English

1. “How I Met Your Mother”

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Genre: Sitcom

Where to watch: Hulu | Amazon Prime 

Synopsis: The main character is Ted Mosby, and he is retelling the story to his kids of how and when he met his wife (their mom). Ted’s story begins in 2005 when he was 27 years old. He was inspired to get married after his best friend from college got engaged.

However, Ted’s friend Barney, who is a big womanizer (likes women a lot and dates many), is not very happy about Ted’s plan mainly because he will no longer have anyone to go out with and find dates. The story is retold to his kids over the series and there are a number of different stories related to all of Ted’s friends.

Why it’s great for learning English: It’s an entertaining show and uses a lot of humor and everyday language. For example, you’ll hear words such as “high five,” “legendary” and “awesome” being used a lot.

This is also a great series to watch in order to understand American culture regarding dating and romance. Barney, the womanizing friend, is incredibly funny. You’ll fall in love with his character immediately, which will have you wanting to watch the rest of the series.

2. “Sex and the City”

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Genre: Romantic comedy

Where to watch: HBO | Hulu

Synopsis: “Sex and the City” follows a group of middle-aged trendy women, all of whom have different personalities. These women are best friends and you’ll follow their lives and their interesting and somewhat rocky romances.

Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is the leading lady. A columnist and fashion icon, Carrie writes articles related to relationships. Often Carrie’s writing and voice act as the narrator and it shares different perspectives of living in New York and being single.

Why it’s great for learning English: “Sex and the City” is a fun and enjoyable watch. The language is simple and they use many phrasal verbs, which will help you to understand the context of these otherwise tricky phrases.

The show deals with a few interesting storylines which relate to modern everyday social issues in the US, such as safe sex, friendship and romantic relationships which will help you to understand some important cultural differences between your country and the USA.

3. “The Big Bang Theory”

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Genre: Comedy

Where to Watch: Netflix 

Synopsis: “The Big Bang Theory” is about a group of nerdy friends who work together at the university carrying out different kinds of scientific research and experiments.

Sheldon and Leonard are best friends and physicists who are co-workers and also live together as roommates. Their other two colleagues, Rajesh and Howard, are also great friends. The show follows the ups and downs of their relationships as they do experiments, play video games and read comic books.

Why “The Big Bang Theory” is great to learn English: It’s hilarious and you don’t even need to understand everything that’s being said to understand what’s going on because the actions are clear. You’ll be able to hear and understand everyday slang in context such as “What’s up?”

And if you’re particularly interested in science, you can pick up a lot of vocabulary related to the topic. Because it’s set around a university campus, you’ll also get a feel of what it’s like to learn in an American college and some of the language that students use.

4. “Saturday Night Live”

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Genre: Sketch comedy

Where to Watch: NBC | Hulu

Synopsis: “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) is a weekly live sketch comedy show (has lots of different short comedic acts) that lasts about 60 minutes without commercials. Often a famous actor or singer hosts the show, also making appearances in the sketches.

Why it’s great for learning English: Because the sketches are over-the-top and there’s a lot of physical comedy, you’ll be able to understand most of what’s happening just by watching. SNL makes fun of advertisements, music videos, TV shows, movies, politics and more.

You might not like all of their work, but there will be at least numerous (many) skits (acts) that will make you laugh.

A lot of hosts’ speeches and sketches are available on YouTube, so you can choose according to topic or your favorite actors. SNL might not always be the best choice for grammar, but it’s priceless for improving your speaking and listening.

5. “Modern Family”

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Genre: Comedy

Where to Watch: Hulu | Amazon Prime

Synopsis: The hugely popular sitcom show follows three related families who represent the new, unconventional family life of 21st century Americans.

It explores gay marriage, interracial marriage, adoption, sibling rivalry and romance between people who belong to different generations. The show highlights the value of accepting differences.

Why it’s great for learning English: The cast is a mixture of people from diverse backgrounds and ages. Each character represents a unique way of speaking. For instance, Cam and Mitchell speak in a way that is typical of the gay community in city areas. Gloria speaks English with a Colombian accent. Haley, a teenager, uses a lot of internet slang (informal vocabulary used on the internet).

6. “Rick and Morty” 

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Genre: Comedy/science fiction

Where to watch: Netflix | Hulu

Synopsis: Rick Sanchez returns to his daughter’s family after 20 years and starts taking his grandson, Morty, to dangerous adventures with him to outer space.

The series is filled with adult humor and crazy science fiction themes.

Why it’s great for learning English: The show is really great to understand today’s American humor.

The various scientific terms you will encounter in the show are mostly made up. But they can make things confusing, so this show is best for intermediate level English learners.

The internet community is crazy about this show and there are thousands of “Rick and Morty” memes (a funny image with text) floating around online.

7. “Ugly Betty”

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Genre: Comedy/drama

Where to watch: Hulu | Amazon Prime | Apple TV

Synopsis:  Betty Suarez  is a kind and sweet Latino girl from Queens, NYC, but she’s lacking in basic social skills, confidence and a sense of fashion. She goes from just being a typical unpopular girl to a personal assistant at Mode magazine, based in the coolest part of NYC: Manhattan.

The magazine is run by the very wealthy Bradford Meade, who doesn’t welcome Betty at first. Over time they both begin trust each other and even become friends, and Betty becomes determined to do everything to fulfill her dream.

Why it’s great for learning English: “Ugly Betty” is easy to follow, especially since a lot of the focus is on Betty’s family—whose first language is not English. It’s also a great way to learn specific vocabulary related to fashion, magazines and publishing.

8. “Friends”

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Genre: Comedy

Where to Watch: NetflixAmazon Prime

Synopsis: “Friends” is set in Manhattan, NYC and follows six young friends: Ross, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler and Joey. Their lives are connected by being blood related, roommates, neighbors and old high school friends and they all find themselves living in the same apartment block. It shows their daily lives, their ups and downs and their daily struggles.

While this sitcom is no longer being produced, it was and still is so popular that you can always find re-runs (repeat episodes) on TV no matter where you live in the world.

Why it’s great for learning English: This is a funny show and the jokes are very obvious which means you don’t have to understand English perfectly to get what is being said. The characters of the show are all very different and you can learn some excellent English to help you communicate with your friends.

The language is conversational and you’ll also learn how to understand basic humor through the dialogue. The speed of the dialogue also appears to be much slower and clearer than most other sitcoms, which makes it easier for all of you trying to learn English understand more.

9. “American Horror Story”

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Genre: Horror

Where to Watch: Hulu | Disney Plus

Synopsis: Each season (a set of episodes within a certain timeframe) of this show has a different plot. But you can always expect murder, blood and betrayals.

Previous seasons have been set in mental hospitals, a traveling circus, a haunted house, a glamorous hotel and a secret society of witchcraft. Interestingly, many incidents in the show are based on real life incidents.

Why it’s great for learning English: The different plot lines always have a historical aspect to them. For instance, Season 4 is set in 1952 when the circus was dying in the U.S. Season 5 is set in present day Los Angeles, but the story starts from the 1920s.

Naturally all the characters belong to different times and regions and the actors do an impressive job of speaking English that is appropriate to the context. This show is great for learning how American English has changed and how different regions of America speak differently.

10. “Desperate Housewives”

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Genre: Drama

Where to Watch: Hulu | Amazon Prime

Synopsis: This cleverly written drama follows the everyday lives of a group of very different women across 13 years. The viewers are able to become part of the ladies’ lives and watch their everyday domestic struggles in the home with their families. 

On the surface these ladies seem like they have it all love, family, money and nice homes, however, as you get to know the characters more, you’ll see that these women aren’t so innocent as they first appear. Desperate Housewives is full of drama and there are many secrets such as crimes and love affairs all throughout.

Why it’s great for learning English: “Desperate Housewives” switches between formal and informal contexts and therefore, you’ll be able to improve your listening skills in a number of different situations.

The language used is colorful and it can improve all levels of English and you’ll be able to hear popular sayings such as “it serves him right” and “I want to take a rain check.” (I want to miss this time because I have something to do).

11. “Grey’s Anatomy”

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Genre: Medical drama

Where to Watch: Hulu 

Synopsis: “Grey’s Anatomy” follows the main character, Dr. Meredith Grey, as she starts her residency (her in-house training to become a doctor) and goes through further training. The show takes the viewers through to when she eventually graduates and becomes a qualified surgeon.

Together with the other surgeons at Seattle Grace Hospital, they deal with different medical issues in every episode. There’s also a great amount of drama that will keep viewers interested, such as deaths, romantic relationships, personal problems and work issues.

Why “Grey’s Anatomy” is a great sitcom to learn English: “Grey’s Anatomy” has a number of different relationships and there’s a lot of one-on-one dialogue between the different characters which makes it easier to follow as group conversations are often more difficult to understand.

Again, “Grey’s Anatomy” uses a lot of natural dialogue and it’s a great show for learning commonly used English idioms. It’s also a great series to watch if you’re interested in health, medicine or you’re training to become a doctor or other medical professional as it uses a lot of specialized vocabulary. 

12. “Riverdale” 

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Genre: Mystery

Where to Watch: Netflix | Apple TV

Synopsis: This show reimagines the popular Archie comics as a dark murder mystery where the most lovable characters of the comics like Betty, Archie, Jughead and Veronica explore their unappealing sides. Riverdale as a safe town is transformed into something evil.

Why it’s great for learning English: In order to best understand the show, it is recommended that you read some of the comics while watching it. The comics are perfect for beginners and the show is good for both intermediate and advanced learners.

The various twists and turns in the plot and the beautiful visuals will keep you on the edge. The background narration and the simple dialogue makes the show easy to understand for English learners.

13. “Gossip Girl”

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Genre: Teen drama 

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Synopsis: “Gossip Girl” is a popular American teen drama TV series that was originally based on the book series called Gossip Girl written by author, Cecily von Ziegesar. The series has a narrator, who remains unknown to the very end of the series and goes by the name of Gossip Girl. The series focuses on a group of rich high school kids who live in the richest part of Manhattan in the Upper East Side, with a lot of scandals and friends falling out. 

One main character would be the Upper East Side’s most famous popular girl, Serena Van der Woodsen, who had been sent to a boarding school. The story of “Gossip Girl” also focuses on Blair Waldorf, another popular girl who sees herself as the most popular girl in school and even calls herself the Queen Bee.

Why “Gossip Girl” is a great sitcom to learn English: “Gossip Girl” is easy to follow because it has a narrator explaining the beginning and end of each episode which will fill in all learners of English whatever they’ve missed. The language is cool and casual and it’s a great example of how young American people communicate with each other.

14. “Glee”

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Genre: Musical

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime | Disney Plus

Synopsis: “Glee” follows a high school teacher and his desperate efforts to try and transform his school’s Glee Club (a singing choir). It shows him trying to inspire a group of performers who appear to lack talent in the beginning to work hard in an attempt to try and reach the national singing competition.

This musical comedy sitcom follows the lives of teenagers and touches on some of the daily problems and reality that some students face in school. This is a funny show and all people can relate to it, and it’s also different to the others due to its musical influence. 

Why it’s great for learning English: It’s been proved in the past that music lyrics help learners of a language learn better as there’s a lot of repetition and the songs are catchy (easy to remember). “Glee” will help you with your pronunciation as the music teacher is shown taking the students through different lessons of pronunciation to help them with their singing. The songs from this hit show will help you memorize English better and it will even help you with intonation.

15. “The Walking Dead”

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Genre: Horror

Where to Watch: AMC | Disney Plus

Synopsis: Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma and discovers that most of humanity has a disease that turns them into zombies. Zombies are called “Walkers” in this series, and they eat any living thing they find, including humans.

Rick joins a group of survivors and becomes their leader. The show is full of blood and violence and has gained a large following in the English-speaking world.

Why it’s great for learning English: This show is good for learning the Southern accent of American English. The dialogues are simple and the conversations are easy to follow in most parts of the show.

16. “That ’70s Show”

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Genre: Comedy

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Synopsis: As the name of this American sitcom suggests, it is set in the 1970s, when rock music and hippies were popular. One of the main characters is Eric Forman, who is a typical American high school student growing up in the ’70s. It focuses on his life, his friends and his family. They are a typical group of teenagers that experience normal teenage emotions such as happiness and sadness.

Why it’s great for learning English: This is a funny show but at the same time it’s very realistic and shows the lives of normal teenagers. It’s full of everyday English that young people use and you’ll also see how people who don’t speak English as their first language can make very funny mistakes if they don’t understand the language properly through the South American foreign exchange student, Fez.

17. “MasterChef”

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Genre: Cooking show

Where to watch: Hulu | Amazon Prime

Synopsis: This is an entertaining cooking show where the rude and strict (but extremely talented) Gordon Ramsay hosts. This version of MasterChef is famous for pushing the contestants to the edge and making them cry. However, the cooking challenges are always interesting and the talent of the participants is unbelievable.

Why it’s great for learning English: Even though Ramsay himself was raised in the U.K., the contestants are from all over the U.S. The conversations are more natural and simple as this is not a fictional story, and you get to hear the diversity of American English.

18. “Orange is the New Black”

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Genre: Drama/comedy

Where to watch: Netflix | Amazon Prime

Synopsis: The main character, Piper Chapman, is sentenced to prison for smuggling drugs. The series explores how she, along with her fellow women inmates, deal with the prison system. It also follows their families and friends outside of jail.

The show often includes flashbacks (views into the past). These flashbacks sometimes explain how the various women ended up in jail.

Why it’s great for learning English: The cast includes women from different communities and all of them speak a different kind of American English. Moreover, it tells us about the problems that the American society faces and how people stuck in the prison system are impacted.

This series is helpful for English learners who want to be engaged in international legal bodies or in the social service sector.

19. “Westworld”

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Genre: Science fiction

Where to watch: HBO | Hulu

Synopsis: Westworld is a theme park where human-like robots have been created for the entertainment of the visitors. However, some of the robots stop behaving by the human’s rules.

This series explores the dangers of technology and what happens to human beings when they are no longer in control.

Why it’s great for learning English: There are actually a lot of different English accents in this show. Most of the robots are meant to have a Southern American accent. The human characters on the other hand usually have British accents or a standard American accent.

It provides a nice way to contrast and understand the different types of English. However, this show is definitely for advanced level English learners, since a lot of quotes from literature and other complex sentences are regularly used.

20. “Stranger Things”

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Genre: Science fiction/horror

Where to watch: Netflix

Synopsis: Will, a 12-year-old boy, goes missing from his house without a trace. His whole town is looking for him but no one can find him.

Meanwhile, a girl who was kept captive in a government facility (named “Eleven”), has escaped. It seems like some supernatural experiments have given her mental powers.

Mike, Lucas and Dustin are Will’s best friends. They are looking for him and protecting Eleven from the authorities. What they uncover is truly terrifying.

“Stranger Things” has been a massive success in the U.S. Audiences love the nostalgia of the show’s small town, 1980s setting. They also love how the show uses the science fiction and horror genres.

Why it’s great for learning English: This show is great to learn about American science fiction and the recent historical past of the U.S. Since several of the main characters are kids, the language is not too complicated to follow. Most importantly, it is an engaging series with superb storytelling.

21. “American Gods”

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Genre: Drama/fantasy

Where to watch: Amazon Prime | Hulu

Synopsis: A war has broken out between the Old Gods of various mythologies and the New Gods of Media, Technology and Money. The protagonist Shadow Moon is stuck between them, trying to understand the supernatural things happening around him. It is based on a book by the famous writer Neil Gaiman.

Why it’s great for learning English: The series basically explores the historical and mythological creation of the U.S. It traces how every god from various world mythologies came into America while the people from that region migrated.

Just like “American Horror Story,” it mixes history with the present context. Many characters speak in foreign accents, making it easier for people not from America to connect with them and understand them.

22. “MTV Cribs” 

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Genre: Documentary

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Synopsis: “MTV Cribs” is a 30-minute MTV program where several famous guests in each episode give tours around their glamorous (fancy) houses. The show displays general information about the house on the screen, like the size and number of rooms.

Cameras follow celebrities as they show off their houses, talking about how they’ve decorated, giving details about the furniture and more.

Why it’s great for learning English: They use informal, everyday language. Different celebrities have different accents and vocabulary. Often you can watch them pointing to the items they’re mentioning (talking about) on-screen.

23. “13 Reasons Why”

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Genre: Drama/mystery

Where to watch: Netflix 

Synopsis: Hannah Baker, a high school student, commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes listing out the reasons why she took her own life. What follows is the uncovering of the ugly reality about her friends, classmates, teachers and the whole society.

This show talks about bullying, sexual assault and how it is silenced. It was an instant sensation when it was released, and inspired lots of conversation among audiences.

Why it’s great for learning English: The story is set in California, and most actors speak a Western American accent (where words like “caught” and “cot” are pronounced the same way). This show is also great for learning the different ways American adolescents speak, and the topics and the group dynamics that are generally seen in their circles (social groups).

24. “The Handmaid’s Tale”

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Genre: Dystopian drama

Where to watch: Hulu | Amazon Prime

Synopsis: The U.S. is under a Christian dictatorship called “Gilead.” Fertility rates have crashed down due to environmental pollution and diseases. All fertile women have been taken prisoner by the government and they are forced to become “Handmaids,” having children for the leaders.

June Osborne is one such handmaid who joins the rebellion against the government.

Why it’s great for learning English: This show is based on a book by the famous writer Margaret Atwood. The story is considered a classic, and this new show renewed its popularity. This series can help you understand and take part in the current social conversations you will hear everywhere in the English-speaking world.

25. “The Get Down”

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Genre: Musical drama

Where to watch: Netflix

Synopsis: The series follows the rise of hip hop from the poverty stricken community of South Bronx, New York.

The protagonist Zeke is a poet who becomes the songwriter of the hip-hop group “The Get Down Brothers.” Filled with good music, a historically accurate plot line and the glamour of the 70s era, this show is short and powerful.

Why it’s great for learning English: Most of the shows above are about Americans who belong to the upper class. This show is all about those people in New York City who are struggling to survive. The Bronx is a community that has numerous communities living together and their English is both dynamic and unique.

Learners will also recognize the English in this show since it is popular in hip-hop.

26. “Last Week Tonight with Johnny Oliver”

Genre: Satire 

Where to watch: HBO

Synopsis: It’s a satirical (making fun sarcastically and critically) news program where hilarious John Oliver presents the most popular news story from the previous week. This can be anything from lost space geckos (a type of lizard) to the enormous student debt in the States, from Scottish independence to the death penalty.

Why it’s great for learning English: The presenter has a clear English accent and he often uses visual aids like pictures and graphs. Episodes cover a wide range of topics, adding to your vocabulary in spades (large quantities). He also uses pieces of recent interviews and news shows which will introduce you to different English accents from all over the world.

His shows are available on YouTube, and episodes last about 15-16 minutes. He sometimes interviews guests from other countries as well.

27. “That’s So Raven”

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Genre: Comedy

Where to watch: Disney Plus | Amazon Prime

Synopsis: Raven is a teenage girl who gets visions of the future at various points in her day. While she tries to make them true, she always gets her family, friends and herself in trouble. This show ended in 2007 but many Americans still fondly remember it.

Why it’s great for learning English: The flashbacks often mean that some conversations are repeated and the language is also very easy to follow since it was made for teenagers.

28. “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”

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Genre: Comedy

Where to watch: Disney Plus | Amazon Prime

Synopsis: Zack and Cody are twins who live in the fictional Tipton Hotel with their mother, who sings there. They often make plans that get them into trouble with Mr. Moseby, who is the manager of the hotel.

Why it’s great for learning English: The show is hilarious and uses language that beginners can understand. It will also help with learning informal American English.

29. “Lie to Me”

Genre: Crime

Where to watch: Amazon Prime | Hulu

Synopsis: “Lie to Me” is an American crime drama that lasted for three seasons. The main character is talented psychiatrist Cal Lightman (partly based on real life psychiatrist Paul Ekman) whose specialty is catching liars (people who lie).

He works with his partner psychologist Gillian Foster. Together, they help different organizations to catch criminals. Of course working with Lightman is frustrating, because it’s impossible to lie to him.

Why it’s great for learning English: Unlike other crime-of-the-week shows, “Lie to Me” doesn’t follow a typical formula (story structure). One episode can be about preventing (stopping from happening) a crime and the next can be about finding out if there was a crime. You never know where or how the next episode is going to start.

“Lie to Me” offers a very broad range of vocabulary as they deal with miners, firefighters, the police…there’s a lot of variety.

The show also helps with learning different English accents. The main character, Cal Lightman, is British and other characters are American.

30. “Animals”

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Genre: Comedy

Where to watch: Amazon Prime | HBO

Synopsis: Each episode has a different story and focuses on different animals. The series offers a humorous take on humans and the American lifestyle through animals. The most interesting parts happen in the background when the animals observe the humans and comment on their corrupt or stupid behavior.

Why it’s great for learning English: The show is very casual and has relatively short episodes. This is one of the best series if you want to learn informal English spoken in America along with being entertained.

31. “Mr. Robot”

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Genre: Drama/thriller

Where to watch: Amazon Prime 

Synopsis: This is a story about a hacker named Elliot Anderson who joins a group aiming to bring down the biggest and the richest company in the world.

The series explores the social, psychological and political aspects of our current world. This series is for people who love technology and want to use it to bring about change.

Why it’s great for learning English: This series is for advanced learners as there is a lot of technical language and psychological terms. It builds upon the hacker activist culture, which might interest some learners. There are a lot of monologues (speech presented by a single character to the audience) by the main character, which makes it easier to follow the story and learn new words and phrases.

32. “Atypical”

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Genre: Dark comedy

Where to watch: Netflix 

Synopsis: Sam Gardner is a person who has autism (a psychological condition usually involving an inability to understand others people’s perspectives). When he announces that he intends to start dating, everyone around him tries to help. What follows is sometimes humorous and sometimes disturbing.

Why it’s great for learning English: Sam typically does not understand the social rules of having a conversation with other people. So, other characters often have to directly tell him what to do. This gives English learners the golden opportunity to learn what is usually left unsaid in daily interactions in the U.S.

33. “Dear White People”

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Genre: Comedy/drama

Where to watch: Netflix | Amazon Prime

Synopsis: The series is set in a prestigious American university where the protagonist Samantha White hosts a radio show called “Dear White People.” After a racist “blackface party” on the campus, the conflict between students of different races drives the whole university into tense and dangerous situations.

Why it’s great for learning English: This show is excellent for people who are learning English to study in an American university. There is a lot of specialized vocabulary used in the series, which is often picked up from current events.

Words like privilege (unfair social advantage), oppression (cruel or unjust treatment) and more are present in practically every sentence. The accents are diverse in the show but it focuses mostly on the African American community. It many times accurately represents American campus life, especially the political part of it.

Why Learn English with Modern American TV Series?

Here’s why modern American TV series should be a regular part of your English learning diet.

  • American English has a lot of regional accents. The U.S. is a huge country and every region has its own version of English. This video tour of American accents demonstrates how many there are.

As you will see later in this article, popular TV shows take place all over America. So you will be exposed to many of these different regional accents.

  • TV shows reflect American slang and language trends. They will teach you how to use English the way native American speakers do. You will hear slang and other trends—for example, a lot of words used in social media quickly find their way into TV series.

Similarly, you will see how pop culture impacts the English language. Popular TV shows often reference music movements, celebrities and other elements of pop culture from the English-speaking world. We will point to several specific examples in the TV shows discussed later in this post.

  • Big budgets means big learning opportunities. Popular TV shows in the U.S. very often have the largest budgets in the world—sometimes even more than Hollywood movies. This allows them to create special effects, have longer storylines and generally raise the quality of entertainment.

What does this mean for English learners? You become totally absorbed in the story and action, which makes the language, vocabulary and accents much more memorable.

  • You can connect with a global community. Since these shows are so popular, they generally reach beyond the U.S. to a global audience. Watching highly popular shows like the ones below will allow you to connect to fan communities both in the U.S. and all over the world.

Try searching for your favorite shows on Reddit or Twitter for opportunities to chat about them in English!

As you dive into the popular shows below, you will discover how entertaining and effective this learning method is. 

 

If you watch the right shows, TV can be one of the best ways to learn English.

…so now you’ve got a great excuse! Make the most out of your TV and use it to improve all your English skills and get “real-life” connections instead of the scripted unreal scenarios that you often see in the typical English course book.

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