10 Low Budget TV Shows That Are Well Worth Your Time

As any media critic, film fanatic, or casual consumer of television has come to learn, the independent world has been an intriguing and impactful arena for actors, writers, and other creatives. Despite the financial restrictions, a plethora of fantastic series has debuted and lived to see multiple years of greatly appreciated seasons.

With the advent of social media sites like YouTube, Vine, and currently, TikTok, creatives such as Issa Rae and Ziwe have enjoyed mainstream success by using their viral success online to retain viewers and create an online empire of their own, despite the financial restrictions they were met with at the time. Other creatives such as Michaela Coel navigated the British education system, beginning her career as a playwright before taking Chewing Gum Dreams and adapting it into the beloved comedy Chewing Gum.

However, it would be ludicrous to bypass all of the important shows that have contributed to the current entertainment ecosystem. Regardless of their budget or popularity, the selected series are some of the most influential and subversive forms of media to have premiered on television.



10 Noah’s Arc

The lead actors of Noah's Arc, four black, gay men, affectionally leaning on one another.
Logo TV, 2005

Considered a Logo TV staple Noah’s Arc was a comedy-drama that aired from 2005-2006 with a movie released in 2008. The series was conceptualized by creator Patrik Ian-Polk after his experience at a Black gay Pride event in Los Angeles. Wishing to broadcast the lives of gay, black men in LA, Ian-Polk initially released the pilot and the subsequent web series in 2004 online and on DVD.

Logo then picked up the series, and it premiered on October 19, 2005, as a thirty-minute dramedy starring Darryl Stephens as the titular Noah.

The best of shows have a complex, yet lovable protagonist, and those two traits perfectly describe Noah. An aspiring screenwriter, Noah surrounds himself with great friends like Alex (Rodney Chester), Chance (Doug Spearman), and Ricky (Christian Vincent), each with their unique aspirations and storylines. Nevertheless, Noah’s search for love leads him into the arms of Wade (Jensen Atwood). Their bright sparks quickly turn into large swaths of flames that threaten to further complicate their lives, but also enlighten both characters and the surrounding community regarding their true desires.

The show remains a hallmark for black, gay representation on television, with the characterizations and conversations offered of its time while simultaneously remaining timeless.

9 The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl


Long before the seminal Insecure, Issa Rae took to YouTube to premiere her refreshing comedy web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, commonly referred to as Awkward Black Girl. The series stars Rae as “J”, a millennial black woman working in the nonprofit industry.

Common among most workplace comedies, Rae and an ensemble cast of multi-hyphenates comically critique the obliviousness of authority figures, rivaling personas, as well as the complications of life rearing its ugly head during and after work hours. However, it adds the often neglected perspective of black women during an era where diversity in the media paled in comparison to the early 1990s and the late 2010s.

Whether it be her constant spats with the overbearing and spiteful Nina (Tracey Oliver), complications with her best friend CeCe (Sujata Day), or juggling two potential lovers, J’s life feels trapped in a perpetual cycle, bouncing between a dangerously monotonous work schedule, a stimulating yet confusing love life. As draining as that may sound, the cast’s humor and accuracy make for excellent entertainment.

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, the series premiered on YouTube in 2011. The success caught the eyes of mainstream outlets like CNN and icons like Pharrell, who released the second and final season of the series through his I Am Other (stylized as “i am OTHER”). The success of Awkward Black Girl resulted in a fruitful connection between Rae and HBO, leading to the respective releases ofInsecure and Rap Sh!t.

8 Misfits

The Cast of Misfits wearing dark orange jumpsuits, starring ominously into the camera as an unknown figure dressed in black looms in the distance.
BBC, 2009

The E4 series Misfits followed the experiences of young offenders who are sent to complete community service when they experience a life-altering experience that binds them together but further ostracizes them from the greater society. The science fiction dramedy focuses on a diverse set of personalities commonly referred to as the “ASBO five” and their navigation of life with their newfound abilities. Harnessing powers such as invisibility and time manipulation and becoming immortal or irresistible, the core group soon realizes that their already uncomfortable lives have now veered into the unimaginable.

Expenses for the episodes reportedly went up to $400,000, with creatives providing an engaging commentary on mental health and the pitfalls of the Western carceral system. All the while, audiences get to invest in well-written, flawed, and easily commendable protagonists.

7 Being Human (UK)

John Mitchell - Being human (2008 – 2013)
Touchpaper Television

Many television series have tackled the issue of supernatural being co-existing among humans. While shows like The Vampire Diaries and films like Twilight have their supernatural characters shrouded in secrecy from the rest of the world, Being Human envisioned a world where humans, vampires, werewolves, and other paranormal entities existed while addressing the elephant in the room from a refreshingly, different perspective. Instead of centering humans, the BBC Three series sought to place the focus solely on the supernatural.

The series introduces audiences to Annie Sawyer (Lenora Crichlow), George Sands (Russel Tovey), and John Mitchell (Aidan Turner), a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire, respectively. As the title suggests, the dramedy focuses on each person’s ambition to assimilate into greater society, adopting human traits while trying to subdue their innate desires.

Despite a lengthy, successfully run from 2008 to 2013, each episode reportedly cost approximately £500,000 ($786,000) per hour-long episode. The financial constraints understandably prevented the creators to execute their original ideas on screen however it made them all the more conscious about their creative decisions. For example, the use of a door and light to symbolize death onscreen were one of the concessions the crew and creators made in order to progress the narrative without the resources available.

6 Jekyll

A white man in a coat and a fedora, wearing a dark suit, peering down while another white man stands in the distance, ominously looking over his shoulder.
BBC, 2007

Based on the unforgettable Robert Louis Stephenson, the BBC-adapted drama follows Dr. Tom Jackman (James Nesbit) relying on modern technology to subdue his abhorrent alter ego, Mr. Hyde.

The series visualizes a frightening situation where the protagonist finds himself overwhelmed with a desperate urgency to keep Hyde at bay. The devious doppelgänger continuously taunts Jackman with threats of harming his loved ones, forcing him to do his bidding to keep his surrounding community out of harm’s way.

Jekyll ran for one season, premiering in 2006 as a serial. Reports have compared the budget to that of the price for the series Heroes’ catering, however, that doesn’t hinder the show’s greatness nor does it take away from the interesting, modern reinterpretation of a classic tale.

5 The Red Green Show

Steve Smith as Red Green, a white, older male, smiling and holding a roll of duct tape while standing in front of green plants and a clear sky.
CBC Television

Considered to be a prolific Canadian series, The Red Green Show raised an entire generation from its original run from 1991 to 2006 and has continued to impress fans of comedy beyond the airing of its series finale.

Steve Smith stars as Red Green, a maintenance man who yearns for a shortcut to help accelerate the completion of his respective projects. He also serves as the president of the fictional Possum Lodge, a men’s club in Possum Lake, the location of the series. Rendered as a man of the people, Green, and his peers would perform a plethora of sketches, ranging from parodying do-it-yourself television to mimicking black-an-white silent films.

The series was filmed on a handheld camera by Red Green’s nephew Harold, compared to the large-scale productions that captured and broadcasted most variety shows. While the filming was likened to a shoestring budget, the longevity of The Red Green Show remains impressive.

4 The Leftovers

The Leftovers
Warner Bros. Television

Despite being picked up and premiered through HBO, The Leftovers had a low budget compared to the channel’s other, popular productions. Nevertheless, the financial complications never prevented the series from earning mass acclaim, widely considered to be one of HBO’s best dramas.

Adapted from the Tom Perrotta novels of the same name, the series stars Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Christopher Eccleston, and Regina King as some of the billions of lives impacted by a cataclysmic event known as the “Sudden Departure”. Throughout the series, former police officer Kevin Garvey Jr. (Theroux) navigates his childhood trauma, deteriorating mental health, and social unrest throughout the world. Meanwhile, Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) attempts to cope with the disappearance of her entire family. Her brother Matt, and fellow Mapleton resident Meg Abbott struggle to remain faithful to their respective institutions. While Matt’s faith in Christianity is constantly questioned by those around him, Meg soon grows disillusioned with marriage, her seemingly normal life, and the status quo.

Related: Here’s Why The Leftovers is HBO’s Most Underrated Show

The pilot alone had an estimated budget of $8,000,000, with filming taking place in upstate New York. As the characters moved from New York to Texas before concluding in Australia, the series managed to provide audiences with breathtaking depictions of nature and profound assertions about life, faith, and community despite its relatively low budget.

3 It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Charlie Work - It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Earning the title of the longest American comedy series ever, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia came a long way from its initial 2005 release. The series sees Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney, Kaitlin Olson, and Danny DeVito combine their comedic talents for a hilarious satire that follows the patrons of Paddy’s Pub in South Philadelphia.

The exceptional comedy highlights the rather undesirable traits of the lead characters, never shying away from their questionable logic or their inflammatory schemes. The absurdity of the characters and the predicaments they create for one another has proven to be a refreshing look inside humanity in mundane sentences.

Much like The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm, the pilot was shot using a digital camcorder rather than relying on elaborate productions. In the coming years, fans would learn that the pilot was shot with little to no money as revealed by Day himself. After appealing to the president of FX, the show received the necessary marketing to enable its rise and current canonization into the comedy and satire genres.

2 Wynonna Earp

Cast of Wynonna Earp
IDW Entertainment
Dynamic Television
Cineflix Rights

Amassing a respectable fandom on and offline, Wynonna Earp is easily one of SyFy’s most cherished series. The series is an engaging amalgamation of Western drama, and fantasy, with storylines revolving around succession that mirror plots of historical dramas.

The series stars Melanie Scrofano as the Purgatory-born, titular character, an outspoken and vulnerable hero destined to carry on the legacy of her ancestors. With her envy-inducing marksmanship, Wynonna is tasked with killing the remaining remnants, a species of demons that were formerly outlaws when they were alive.

The series has been highlighted for its low budget but as Jeva Lange eloquently states, the financial difficulties have allowed the creative minds behind the show to embrace radically progressive values. Even in its growth areas, audiences were able to differentiate the pitfalls of Wynonna Earp compared to its mainstream, and often times, performative counterparts.

1 The Office

Krasinski and Fischer in The Office
NBC Universal Television Distribution

The Office may be one of the most defining series, if not the most defining sitcom of the 21st century. The Dunder Muffin employees have been embedded into the hearts of their loyal audiences and the minds of anyone with access to the Internet. Memes of the series, inside jokes, and overarching plots have been memorized, shared, and achieved viral status.

Moreover, the Steve Carell-led series has also been a platform for talented creatives to break into the mainstream. Mindy Kaling, B.J. Novak, and John Krasinski are some of the many multi-hyphenates that graced the audiences and the set with their presence and talent.

Related: The Office Spent $250,000 On a Single Episode

Despite its inescapable success, the series originated from humble beginnings. The music budget was almost nonexistent due to the reliance on free, low-cost tracks. The most amount of money spent on music was forty thousand dollars for a remarkably enjoyable scene. Furthermore, the most expensive scene had a duration of mere seconds but cost approximately $250,000 for the cast to shoot.

Lindsay Lowe

Lindsay Lowe is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Lindsay Lowe joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: LindsayLowe@worldtimetodays.com.

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