For many, the appeal of watching shows live as they air allows them to engage in the collective experience, discuss with others and feel  like a part of the rest of the country reacting to and having an opinion on the thrills, laughs and shocking moments that made up last night’s episode. Although still dubbed “the water cooler effect,” referring to the way in which co-workers gathered around the office appliance to discuss the different events in TV and pop culture, the discussion has moved on to friends and family and found a sustainable home online. The most common sites center around episodic reviews, similar to traditional movie reviews but posted directly after each episode airs, giving an “expert” opinion on the themes and events of the episode and providing a space for viewers to comment on, respond to and discuss the episode and the review itself. These sites make up much of the TV critic’s culture and daily reading — typically enriching a viewer’s experience and enjoyment of a show immensely. Personally, I spend an incredible amount of time reading episode reviews (even sometimes for shows I don’t actually watch) and felt obliged to list and briefly review a few of my favorite sites so that you might check them out and gain more insight into and enjoyment of your favorite programs.

The AV Club

Originally the media section for The Onion News Organization, “The AV Club” now serves as the one of the largest collections of episodic reviews by seasoned critics and columnists. Rarely does a show have any following without being “picked up” by the site and given a dedicated critic to write about it each week and even, in some cases, a secondary writer to provide another look.

Beyond episodic reviews and one of the liveliest comment sections in the industry, general news and rumors are covered at a breaking-news pace and with all the sarcasm and comedy one would expect from a subsidiary of The Onion. Although the site has consistently been on top of the industry for TV, music and movie reviews, by absorbing “The Gamelogical Society” website, they have also made their gaming reviews incredibly interesting.

Score: 9.0/10

Warming Glow

One of the most popular blogs under the Uproxx “network,” this review site may not have the same breadth or staunch professionalism as others, but it is probably the best at keeping its finger on the pulse of what’s hot and up-and-coming in the industry.

The episodic reviews tend to center around the most popular and cult shows with the most avid fan bases. If they cover one of your favorite shows, it is definitely worth checking out their reviews and interviews with industry insiders. If all that doesn’t entice you to check it out, their affinity for creating slideshows of the greatest GIFs from around the TV comedy landscape is unmatched anywhere and is often the comedic highlight of my day.

Score: 7.5/10

HitFix

An independent pop culture news site founded by industry insiders, HitFix was designed to fit somewhere between gossip-driven publications like TMZ and trade journals like The Hollywood Reporter.

Although I tend to find the general news more towards the TMZ side and less than gripping, with the full-time employment of Alan Sepinwall — one of the most renowned critics in the industry who is credited with the mass adoption of episodic reviews and many other aspects of the modern critical TV reviews.  Specifically, Sepinwall and the site’s other TV columnist, Daniel Feinberg, produce a weekly podcast called “The Firewall and Iceberg Podcast” covering the industry in general and typically produce some of the most in-depth reviews and discussion available.

Score: 7.0/10