Texas Living

8 of the Best Texas-Themed TV Shows of All Time

By Peter Simek 6.3.21

Texas is larger than life, and its history has given birth to characters who shaped the legend of the rugged frontier — rogues, outlaws, legends, heroes, larger-than-life politicians, self-made billionaires, and reinvented scoundrels. It is no accident, then, that the state has provided ample fodder for some of the best television ever to hit the small screen. But what bingeworthy Texas TV shows should you dive into this summer? Here’s our guide to the eight best of the best.

Texas TV shows Dallas
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The primetime soap of prime-time soaps, “Dallas” epitomizes a caricature of Texas in the 1980s: big hair, big hats, big oil, and even bigger egos. The show illustrates a land of greed, appetite, and cutthroat ambition that comes across a bit corny at times, but that’s also what lends the series its enduring charm — that and the fact that it introduced audiences to one of the greatest TV villains ever to grace the small screen: Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing.

texas tv shows fixer upper
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“Fixer Upper”

Has a TV show ever transformed a town like “Fixer Upper” has reinvented Waco? Joanna and Chip Gaines’ HGTV phenomenon has become so much more than a television series. Their home renovation and redecoration business has spread the popularity of “farmhouse-chic” and transformed Waco into a pilgrimage site for those seeking to acquire clubfoot bathtubs and unique wainscoting — or to stay in one of the houses renovated by the couple.

texas tv shows
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“Friday Night Lights”

H. G. Bissinger’s classic nonfiction account of the human stakes of small-town football on the West Texas flats was first adapted for film in 2004, but it really took life when the TV series premiered on NBC in 2006. Running five seasons, the show dives into the life surrounding a high-school team in the fictional town of Dillon, intertwining nuanced character portrayals and an interpersonal drama that speaks to broad universal themes of friendship, life, and love. The series has been lauded as one of the best sports-related dramas ever created.

texas tv shows king of the hill
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“King of the Hill”

Life in Texas’ suburban towns has never been so perfectly captured — and lovingly skewered — as it was in “King of the Hill.” The show was created in 1997 by Mike Judge and Greg Daniels, the comedic geniuses behind such classics as “Office Space” and “Parks and Recreation.” The show takes place in the fictional city of Arlen (inspired by an amalgamation of Dallas suburbs), home of Texas-proud everyman Hank Hill, whose relatable struggles with the mundane realities of day-to-day existence make for unparalleled family comedy.

texas tv shows lonesome dove

“Lonesome Dove”

Larry McMurtry’s classic novel is a sprawling, gritty epic that presents an unsanitized portrayal of the American West, dispelling many of the myths that have attached themselves to the historic frontier. It was a shock when a television series based on the book managed to capture many of the elements that make the novel work, creating a Western drama — driven by tremendous performances from Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Lane, and Danny Glover — that was unlike anything before seen on television.

Photo by Chet Garner

“The Daytripper”

There is no more affable, curious guide to Texas’ big country than Chet Garner, the host of the PBS travel series “The Daytripper.” Garner explores all the nooks and crannies of the state, from big cities to small towns, with a particular eye and appreciation for the little cultural quirks that make Texas so special. You can catch more of his unique takes on Texas on our blog.

texas tv shows long ranger
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“The Lone Ranger”

“The Lone Ranger” perhaps did more to broadcast the myth of Texas and its legendary band of frontier lawmen, the Texas Rangers, than any show in history. The series launched on ABC in 1949 and aired until 1957, but reruns were shown on television for decades. For all those years, generations fell for the masked Lone Ranger who hunted down bad guys alongside his Native American companion Tonto, bringing justice to an unlawful frontier.

texas tv shows walker texas ranger
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“Walker, Texas Ranger”

Chuck Norris’ Dallas-set show is an amalgamation of karate, procedural crime, action, and drama — a peculiar outlier in 1990s TV. But the amalgamations don’t end there: It centers around Sergeant Cordell Walker, a Vietnam vet and Texas Ranger who was raised by a Native American. Walker operates like a modern Wild West sheriff — but his buddy-cop sidekick is a former Dallas Cowboys football player. The story arcs are often predictable, and its dialogue often seems canned and corny, but these qualities only helped to solidify the series’ cult status.

If you enjoy these Texas TV shows, queue up these seven essential Texas documentaries.

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