Shows about drug gangs and cartels usually focus on people who are at the top of the chain. Series like ‘Narcos‘, or even ‘Breaking Bad‘ to a certain extent, focus on the stories of drug lords who lead lives of excess, which the foot soldiers of these gangs cannot afford to. Hardly do we get to know about the lives of people who peddle drugs at the street corners, evading the police everyday as they try to bring in some money into their rather poor lives.
If you are interested in such a story, ‘Top Boy‘ is the show you should opt for. The series delves into the social realities of living in the housing estates of East London. Most of the families who live here are extremely poor black families with almost no income. They find it rather difficult to sustain life in a city like London. It is a well-known fact that poverty leads to crime, and this is exactly what happens to the youth in this area. We get to witness this reality through the lives of two teenagers — Dushane, a drug dealer who wants to climb up the ladder and become the leader of the street peddlers in his area; and Ra’Nell, a teenager with a streak of violence who tries to navigate his way through this rough, crime-filled neighborhood.
‘Top Boy’ never glorifies the crime or the criminals, and instead paints a rather grim reality of living in an area rattled by crime and violence. If you love this series and are looking for more such shows, then you have come to the right place. Here’s the list of best shows similar to ‘Top Boy’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these series like ‘Top Boy’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
7. Gomorrah (2014-)
‘Gomorrah’ is an Italian crime drama series which centers around a mafia family known as the Camorras. Based out of Naples, the clan is headed by Pietro Savastano. The central character of the series is Savastano’s right-hand man Ciro Di Marzio. Ciro works tirelessly for his boss, but starts doubting the side he supports after he comes to know that his boss can go to any extent whatsoever in order to get his hands on what he needs. In spite of the feelings he harbors, Ciro loyally carries out his duty of grooming Savastano’s son to take over as the head of the family after the former is incarcerated for an extended period of time. The characterization of the series really stands out, along with the intricate plotting and pacing, which keeps the tension alive throughout the narrative.
6. Skins (2007-2013)
‘Skins’ is a show which portrays the lives of teenage characters in all of their recklessness. The series takes a stern look at British teenagers as they reach their sixth form, a time when they are slowly developing into adult citizens. Teenage sexuality, usage of narcotics, untimely pregnancy, mental health issues, and dysfunctional families – all of these socially relevant topics are put under the microscope in this series. The show changes its cast every single season, thus not letting its “stars” determine the direction the narrative might take. The direction, characters, dialogues, and acting we see in the series are truly impressive and indeed set a benchmark for other shows of the genre to follow.
5. Warrior (2019-)
‘Top Boy’ is a show which focuses on the lives of drug dealers working for a crime organization in the poorer parts of London. ‘Warrior’, on the other hand, gives us a look at how criminal gangs used to operate in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1800s. This was the time when Chinese refugees were coming to America in hordes every day. San Francisco had a pretty thriving Chinatown back then, where there were Chinese gangs called tongs who were bitter rivals trying to control the illegal trades in those particular regions.
The central character of the series is a young Chinese man called Ah Sahm who comes to San Francisco to look for his sister. Due to his impressive fighting skills, he is recruited by a Chinese tong and he quickly becomes one of the most important members of the gang. Soon enough, he becomes aware of the fact that his sister is actually one of the bosses of his rival gang. ‘Warrior‘ has some of the best action sequences you will witness in TV shows in recent times. The cinematography and the set designs are also intricately built to reflect the era in which the story is set.
4. Guerrilla (2017)
Unlike the other shows on this list, ‘Guerrilla’ is not a series about gangs. Instead, this 2017 British miniseries focuses on the black power movements that raged throughout the United Kingdom in the wake of the Immigration Act 1971 which sent shockwaves across the country. Freida Pinto and Babou Ceesay play a couple who are politically active and wish to create a strong underground movement. They even liberate a political prisoner in order to strengthen their movement. The show also focuses on how the romantic relationship between the couple goes through several ups and downs during their political campaign. The series talks about a very important aspect of the black liberation movements in England, most of which have remained out of public consciousness for a long time. The show received criticism from certain corners because it fails to portray the important role black women played in the movement.
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3. Deadly Class (2019)
The 1980s was a time of excesses. From hair metal music to muscular bodied one-man armies killing hundreds in blockbuster movies, this was a time when things were “the bigger, the better”. The story of the series ‘Deadly Class‘ in set in the 80s. The central character of the show is a homeless teenager called Marcus Lopez Arguello who has been admitted to a school called King’s Dominion. This is a place where the wards of all the deadly criminals in the world are sent to study. The school environment here is rather rough, and Marcus has to traverse through a lot of problems and his own teenage insecurities in order to carry on his education. The series does have a spooky nature to it, which is brilliantly complimented by some solid performances. Despite protests from the show’s fans, it has been canceled after a single season.
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2. Peaky Blinders (2013-)
‘Peaky Blinders‘ is one of the most famous crime shows airing on television these days. The series centers around the exploits of a gang called the Peaky Blinders which has been established by a certain Tommy Shelby. He wishes to gain control of Birmingham’s underworld by hook or by crook. The series chronicles Shelby’s rise to power as Chief Inspector Chester Campbell tries to bring him down. The performances in the series really stand out as some of the best in television in recent years.
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1. The Wire (2002-2008)
Baltimore is a place which has had some criminal problems in the past, and this 2002 HBO series takes a look at the condition of the city in a way that is brutally realistic. Each season of the series focuses on a different sector of the city and depicts how crime and corruption have spread there in abundance. Here we want to focus on the first season which deals with the drug problems in the city. We are made aware of several poor children who are constantly made to peddle drugs for the gangs in their locality, and it is these boys and their families who face the brunt during police raids. The series is noted for its realistic tone and thematic ambitions.
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