The Old Man became one of the most well-put-together shows of the year when it hit streaming services. FX unearthed another gem from its eclectic selections of offerings. The show is based on the Thomas Perry novel of the same and follows a complex search for Dan Chase, a rogue CIA agent discovered years after remaining off the radar by an old ally, Harold Harper of the FBI. In the midst of this all, FBI Agent Angela Adams accompanies Harper and Chase deals with issues around his personal life and the dark past.
Although season 1 was just seven episodes long, it was paced to perfection and never felt rushed. Each episode unraveled like a chapter from the novel, replete with a steady core and a good amount of story progression.
If you’ve finished this one and are looking for something similar, we’ve combed through the archives and saved you the hassle with our top 10 picks for alternate viewing.
To keep things simple for skim-readers we’ve added what similarities these have.
Of course for all the shows we’ve reviewed, we’ve also added a handy link so you can check out our full thoughts on that series and see if it’s something you want to invest your time with.
So without further ado, we present 10 TV shows that should whet the appetite when you’ve finished streaming The Old Man.
The Blacklist (2013 – present)
Similarities – Drama
The Blacklist is an obvious choice to include in this list, given the overwhelming similarities. The David Spader-led show also sees a collaboration between America’s two premier agencies coming together to hunt down wanton criminals. Along with the overarching central storyline, the show also features a compelling subplot about the personal life of its protagonists, Raymond Reddington and Elizabeth Keen, and their bitter-sweet relationship. The Old Man has both of these elements and the chemistry that Reddington and Keen share is similar to that of Dan and Emily. The Blacklist will complete a decade next season, still going strong from its original run.
Given its longevity, the show does feature a somewhat skewed plotline, spanning various criminals who are covered in Reddington’s list. This gives the showrunners the flexibility to adjust and recalibrate the core plot as and when the space for story progression is adjusted through the episodes.
The Americans (2013 – 2018)
Similarities – Action & Spies
Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys ruled the hearts of viewers with their central ploy as Soviet spies in this compelling espionage drama. The Americans should be one of the most recognizable shows around. Not only did it win major awards during its runtime, but it also was FX’s poster boy for many years. The espionage and personal elements of The Americans and The Old Man are very similar.
One thing that makes this FX drama different is the full-blown element of family. While it certainly complicates the structure of the story, it nonetheless adds emotional depth. Quite strangely, it adds a winning quality to the fight for survival whenever the spies manage to come out on top in tough situations. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys just simply make for the best pairing when it comes to husband and wife trying not to look like a pair but being one.
Similarities – Noir elements
There haven’t been quite meaty noir television shows like Quarry in the recent past. Although the genre is indeed very difficult to adapt for television, it does not mean the task shouldn’t be attempted. Quarry takes the challenge head-on and manages to give us a satisfactory conclusion. This again ran for only one season but the experience is worthy enough to give it a try.
The slow-burn buildup with immense character development and a steely plot reminds one instantly of The Old Man. There is an intriguing sense of isolation in the writing that places the protagonist Lloyd (Logan Marshall-Green) in a treacherous position. It raises the stakes to a breathtaking level from where there is no return point, just like in The Old Man. Lloyd must take the plunge to bring himself out of this difficult moment.
Barry (2018 – present)
Similarities – Action & Unpredictability
Barry isn’t an out-and-out replica of a spy thriller show but has interesting similarities to The Old Man. Bill Hader stars as the titular character, an emotionally challenged and disassociated serial killer with a penchant for acting. When he meets a girl, his life changes for the better. But his unfinished business with the Chechen mob and a certain ally turned foe complicates matters for him. Like The Old Man, Barry’s tone, especially in the third season, is one of introspection and solemn exploration of altruistic ideas. All of this happens against the backdrop of relentless bodies dropping and a cat and mouse game that does not bode to end well for either Barry or Dan.
The third season of Barry indeed was a special one. It marked the series’ foray into a different territory that didn’t feel too unfamiliar for how well the creators managed to pivot. The introduction of this idea of religious penance and existential questions about Barry’s life gave the season a very refined touch. These decisions only started to work well after Hader and Berg decided to re-embrace the old sensibilities of dark comedy that made the show so watchable in the first place. Barry is a daring follow-up to The Old Man, albeit not a pure companion piece.
Lovecraft Country (2016)
Similarities – Story
‘Lovecraft Country’ makes it to this list due to its overbearing similarity with The Old Man in terms of the dynamically moving story and how the story of secrets the film hides come out one by one. Although the HBO series just ran for a single season, it is a treat for Lovecraft fans. Both stylistically and figuratively, makers imbibe the spirit of its literary origin, Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel. The legend of the city where HP Lovecraft based some of his most famous stories is brought to life in the solitary season. Jonathan Majors stars as Atticus (delightfully named after Harper Lee’s stout protagonist), who travels the cross country looking for answers to the disappearance of his father.
Tehran (2020 – present)
Similarities – Action & Tension
It has just been two seasons for Tehran now and fans already want it to be double that. Such has been its popularity, the show has spread like wildfire among the masses. Tehran tells the story of a Mossad agent embarking on a vital national mission for Israel. Caught up in the vulnerability of cross-border politics, Tamar (Niv Sultan) must at the same time deal with conflicts in her own life that threaten to derail the fortunes of her country.
Tehran has a constant, dynamically moving plot with topsy-turvy turns set through Tamar’s journey of her mission. We never quite settle in a single space, similar to The Old Man. The sense of anticipation comes from the unknown dangers awaiting the agent, with the added element of uncertainty and mistrust.
The pathogen of the latter really is a common thread that binds these two shows. It also has the singular power to infuse the storylines with such fleeting permanence that the shapes shift and change colors almost every hour. Tehran will most probably be renewed for more seasons, if the creative talents deem their material sufficient to last that long. Good time for you to catch up with the story until that point and pick up from the new seasons.
Deutschland 83 (2015)
Similarities – Action
Unfortunately, Deutschland 83 only ran for one solitary season and didn’t come back for a second. But, follow-up sequels did come out post ’83 with different timelines and the same characters. The German show was the first of its kind to air on an American network and for good reason. The main USP for it was the thoroughly entertaining manner in which the story unfolds in an era that is intriguing enough on its own to get you hooked. The events happen for the Berlin wall fell, tying up many different avenues in the bustling city of Berlin and the German lands. Jonas Ray’s Martin Rauch is extremely comparable with the younger Dan Chase from The Old Man.
The two can collectively be described as two “young adults struggling with being the only glimmer of sanity in a world gone mad”. If you peruse their circumstances closely, you will notice how they are forged as men in those difficult times. The series itself shares common genre elements with The Old Man, making it a worthy watch if you liked The Old Man.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)
Similarities – Cat & Mouse Chase
It is only now that people are discovering the iconic television shows behind some great spy-thriller genre movies that have become popular. First, it was The Man From UNCLE, then 21 Jump Street, and now Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In the great traditions of charming leading men in cross-state espionage, Alec Guinness delivers a resounding performance as George Smiley. His central act holds the story together and adds an immense presence for us to follow.
With all the twists and turns and the unique flavor of looking at the past through the prism of the present, TTSS is a spiritual sequel of sorts to The Old Man. The series just ran for one season before being renewed for Guinness’ character later on. It is even rumored that Le Carre, on whose work the show is based, helped Guinness meet up with a real spy to prepare for his role.
One could even say that because of having almost five and a half hours to adapt the novel, the television version upends the cinematic version released in 2011. Not to slight the wonderful movie, but there is a better grip on the narrative and how it progresses. If you loved the movie, this show will blow your mind.
Similarities – Cat & Mouse Chase
Mr Mercedes is a well crafted, enjoyable thriller from start to finish, even if it is a little slow paced during the halfway point of the series.
With a dual focus on the two excellent lead characters, culprit Brady and ex-Detective Bull Hodges, this character-driven romp is well worth checking out.
A shocking, gut wrenching opening immediately sets the tone and mood, giving Mr Mercedes a no-holds-barred feel.
After this short prologue, the story officially picks up 2 years later. Bill, the lead investigator in the Mercedes case, is now retired from police work with the unresolved case still haunting him. A strange message on Bill’s computer though, reignites the chase for our culprit, setting up a dangerous game of cat and mouse as Bill and Brady attempt to outsmart and out-manoeuvre one another.
The Terminal List
Similarities – Revenge & Action
The Terminal List has all the ingredients to be a sure-fire hit. High-octane action, twists and turns along with enough treachery and intrigue to keep you guessing. Although we weren’t a big fan of this one, fans have undoubtedly rallied around this and it’s easy to see why.
Our protagonist here is a former Navy SEAL officer called James Reece (Chris Pratt). The story opens with a tense, covert mission deep in enemy territory that goes completely awry, leading to his team being slaughtered.
With the plan a bust, the soldiers head back to US soil and are debriefed. Mourning the loss of their brothers, Reece soon finds that the war has followed them home.
When his friends begin to die in mysterious ways, Reece quickly learns that there’s a conspiracy going all the way up the chain of command. Naturally, Reece begins to investigate further, setting up a kill list as he begins going after those responsible.
So there we have it, our 10 TV show alternatives to watch when you’re finished watching The Old Man on FX.
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!