I was thinking of stuff like Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Babylon 5 for TV space opera. Even something like Andromeda.
I actually just finished the first book in the Culture series a couple days ago. I wasn't all that impressed to be honest. Though I suppose I should take it being written in 1987 into consideration. I'll give the second book a try at least.
If you're looking for large spaceship battles, give The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell a go. English teachers won't be assigning the series as a brilliant work of literature or anything, but there are big fleets of ships pew pewing at each other in ways that are internally consistent.
I actually started reading that after reading John Ringo's Troy Rising series which is set in the same universe. The books are fun enough that even John Ringo's politics intruding didn't stop me from reading them. I started Schlock Mercenary at the beginning but the story hasn't really grabbed me so far.