Psychological series: 20 TV series that every psychologist should watch
If there’s one concept that resonates with every film production company in the world, it’s ”
character psychology “. Creating deep, three-dimensional characters who feel and suffer truthfully is the most difficult task a screenwriter has to face.
Creating complex profiles for characters is increasingly a requirement, and what we might consider
psychological series .
Top 20 Psychological Series No Psychologist Should Miss
In the past, when series were out of fashion and movies were the norm, it was easy to hide the lack of knowledge in character creation, with
Fast-paced plots that left the characters in the background in search of action and the agile development of events.
And in this sense, despite the pace demanded by feature films, the truth is that there are many
exquisite films in terms of the psychological treatment of the characters . You can check it out in this article:
“10 films on psychology and mental disorders”
And, in addition, the knowledge that a good documentary on psychology can bring you is not negligible:
“15 absolutely essential psychology documentaries”
20 series with psychological basis
But now, with the rise of the series, screenwriters must work harder to create complex characters that can endure on screen for more than one season. That puts the television series industry in a
fertile peak for the emergence of ‘psychological series’ or, in other words, series of great interest to those who are dedicated to analysing the behaviour and mental processes of human beings.
Here are ten series we recommend
that every lover of psychology should see with the eyes of a psychologist.
1. Breaking Bad
Walter White (a character masterfully played by Bryan Cranston) has become a reference when it comes to the acceptance of illness and preparation for death. Although many have labeled the series as being somewhat slow, the first season of Breaking Bad is a great psychology class. Chapter by chapter, the writers managed to narrate in actions a transformation that took place inside the character and whose outcome had more audience than the final of the Champions League .
I’m leaving you the trailer of the first season of the show here. Watch out! If you don’t want to get hooked on this great show, you better not watch it.
2. The Sopranos
Considered the best series in history , I personally believe that it should also be catalogued as “the number 1 among the psychological series ever broadcast”. Tom Wolfe said of it that in a hundred years, The Sopranos will be studied in universities as Hamlet is studied. The therapy sessions between Tony Soprano and Dr. Melfi lasted seven seasons. More than 4,300 minutes that served to develop the psychology of dozens of characters who, more than characters, were people.
The trailer of the first season of The Sopranos
3. In therapy
Tell a screenwriter that he has to write twenty-minute chapters with two characters talking in front of each other, without the viewer losing interest, and
you will see a screenwriter sweat . But if you also tell him that these talks will be psychological therapy sessions, you will see him sweating ink and clinging to the chair on the verge of collapse. In Therapy, it’s not just a dialogue master class. It’s a psychology master class. A series capable of entering into the psychology of the characters with the word as the only resource.
A random chapter in the series:
4. Lie to me if you can
Based on the studies of the famous psychologist Paul Ekman,
Lie to me if you can is a lesson in non-verbal language and how it can be used to detect lies. Although the psychology of its characters is not as profound as the other series on psychology that I have been quoting, the writers of this series manage to keep us on tenterhooks until the end of each chapter thanks to their ingenuity and Ekman’s famous book “How to detect lies”. A book that, by the way, became a best-seller thanks to the overwhelming success of the series.
It’s worth stopping to listen to Paul Ekman:
5. Two meters below ground
There are endings to the series that leave you dumbfounded. Others don’t reach their target and disappoint their audience. But tearful endings like A Dos Meters Bajo are hard to come by if you can’t get the viewers to understand the
psychology of the characters and, more than empathizing, sympathize with them. Alan Ball managed to intertwine, within the Fisher family, four very different psychologies that loved, hated and made each other love each other as you would love a good friend.
A small fragment of the series family:
Dexter could not miss . A member of the Miami-Dade Police Forensics Department who in his spare time devotes himself to channeling his homicidal impulses by killing criminals. This is the story of the private lives that inhabit each one of us, and the different morals that govern these areas of life to which no one but us has access. That is: the game between the public face of our person and the private face we have reserved for our best friends… and enemies. Possibly its greatest virtue is that it forces the viewer to take a moral stance with everything that is shown, without him leaving the series out of sheer exhaustion.
To open your mouth…
Possibly the one that most deserves to be on the podium of the psychological series. Not so much for its plot and characters, which are already related to psychology (the main characters are
Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter , that is, a specialist in criminal profiles and a cannibalistic psychiatrist), not because of the quality of the series (which is very high) but because of the parade of symbolism with which the series manages to connect with the viewer. Getting to give meaning to the sequences in which these symbols appear is an art, and much of the narrative weight of what is explained rests on these small appearances.
Here you can see one of the trailers of the series:
8. Les Revenants
Successful French series that mixes the genre of drama with a plot about mystery and natural forces, in the line of
Twin Peaks and Lost . The story begins when, in a small village in the French Alps, people who died years ago begin to appear in life, looking and wearing the clothes they were wearing just before they died and not being able to remember anything about their absence. Les Revenants can be considered a psychological series because of the importance it gives to the way in which families and neighbours try to adapt to this new situation , despite not knowing what is happening to them and the difficulties of having to manage their feelings of attachment and irrational fear towards these “appearances”.
Here you can see a preview in Spanish:
9. Masters of Sex
Audiovisual fiction based on a book by Thomas Maier entitled
Masters of Sex: The life and work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the couple who taught America how to love . It focuses on the lives and careers of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, two researchers of human sexuality who during the 1950s and 1960s changed the way the West understood sex and relationships .
This is one of his promotional videos:
10. My Mad Fat Diary
British series focusing on the life of
Rae , a young woman struggling to lead a normal life after being released from a psychiatric hospital where she was hospitalized because of her depression and eating disorders. When she gets back in touch with her friend Chloe, she hides the fact that she has been hospitalized and tries to show her best side to get along with others and start a new life. A highly recommended series not so much for its plot as for the honesty with which the facts are narrated and the verisimilitude of its characters .
This is their trailer in English:
11. Real Humans
In the Sweden of the future depicted in this series, human-looking robots (hubots) have become almost as common a commodity as refrigerators and washing machines. They can be designed and programmed to fulfil different functions: from domestic workers or drivers to friends or even lovers.
In view of the popularity of hubots, a political movement called Real Humans claims the need to eliminate the use of robots, which puts jobs at risk and threatens to destroy the social fabric of the country , disuniting families and making humans more isolated. On the other hand, a group of robots that have been reprogrammed to be free fight for the liberation of their loved ones from what they consider slavery.
12. Eve’s fish tank
This Spanish series talks about the relationship between
a high school psychologist and the teenage students she deals with as part of her work. From this television fiction, subjects such as social isolation, school failure, bad behaviour or self-esteem problems so frequent in adolescence are dealt with.
13. The group
Another Spanish psychological series, although this one only has one season. It talks about a very diverse group of people who, in order to deal with different personal problems,
attend together the consultation of an experienced psychologist , under the condition of not relating to each other after these sessions.
One of the most recent psychological series made for HBO is Westworld, based on the film of the same name made in 1973. It takes place in a theme park that recreates life in the Old West, populated by fully human-looking androids who do not know they are human and who interact with human visitors in a specific role.However, some of them begin to discover signs that they live in a lie that is reproduced over and over again, after successive
deleted from memory .
15. Bates Motel
TV series conceived as the prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film Psycho. It is a journey into the innermost recesses of Norman Bates’ mind, and through its episodes you can see how his ease of
manipulating people , her ability to eat acts of raw violence without mercy and the way in which she develops her relationship with her mother Norma Bates .
In this television series, the federal government uses the famous
neuroscientist Daniel Pierce so that, with his help, it is possible to solve cases where a crime has been committed . The protagonist understands human behaviour as a direct product of the biochemical relationships between neurons and hormones.
17. Friday Night Lights
This series focuses on the lives of members of a football team and the surrounding community of family and neighbors. In it, both the coach and his wife play an important role as guides and
personal development facilitators . Here we talk about coping skills in the face of defeat, insecurities, managing personal strengths, etc.
18. Criminal Minds
A series as popular as it is criticized for giving an image of omnipotence by the investigation teams linked to the FBI. However, by narrating the experiences of a group of criminal profilers, it serves to reveal many of the
behavioral patterns of killers , which may be related to diagnostic labels of mental disorders.
Dr. Frasier Crane, played by Kelsey Grammer, is
a psychiatrist who moves to Seattle after a divorce and a period of his life spent in Boston. Besides being one of the most famous sitcoms, it is a successful spin-off of the series Cheers, and has 11 seasons.
20. Mr. Robot
A television fiction about the life of Eliot Alderson, a computer security technician and hacker who suffers
depression and delusions , which makes him feel socially isolated and alienated in his work. His life, marked by drugs, takes a turn when he comes into contact with a secret group of hackers who want to bring down the oligarchies that control the world.
So far the selection of the best psychological series . Remember that they are all there, but not all there are, and there will always be a margin to discover new audiovisual fictions that are fascinating from the point of view of psychology. If you think we have missed a good series that deserves to appear in this list, do not hesitate to write us a comment.