James Hibberd
November 14, 2012 AT 12:00 PM EST

AMC’s The Walking Dead shouldn’t be a hit. Neither should ABC’s Dancing With the Stars or Discovery’s Deadliest Catch. In fact, we’ve come up with a list of nine hit TV shows that, when you really think about it, shouldn’t be successful. This isn’t meant to insult these shows or suggest they haven’t earned their popularity. Just the opposite. They deserve props for delivering a big audience despite having some element that conventional TV industry wisdom says should be a deal breaker. Here’s the nine inexplicable hits, starting with… 


Hit proof: The Showtime drama has increased its ratings every season (hitting 2.3 million viewers for its recent premiere telecast) and is the network’s most popular series.

Why it shouldn’t work: We all know Dexter Morgan is a serial killer, but hold on. Take a step back. We’re rooting for somebody whose only joy in life is stabbing people to death. On any other movie or show, that’s your detested villain. Sure, he targets bad guys, but his addiction manages to get innocent people murdered too, such as his loving wife Rita and his former colleague Sgt. Doakes. Yet we still root for him!

Why it does work: Star Michael C. Hall has just the right combination of charm and creepiness. Plus, a little voice-over and dark humor goes a long way. By listening to Dexter’s narration, we become his accomplice. By adding humor, we don’t take his body count too seriously. Imagine a dead-serious version of Dexter without voiceover — just a guy going around killing criminals in Miami. Some of you might like that idea better, but I bet it wouldn’t be a hit.


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