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Friday, June 07, 2013

The 101 best written TV series of all time

Anyone looking for a TV show to marathon-watch this summer? As Kottke wrote, the Writers Guild of America just published their list of the 101 best written TV series, and it's a great reminder of some oldies but goodies. Here are the first thirty:

1. The Sopranos
2. Seinfeld
3. The Twilight Zone
4. All in the Family
5. M*A*S*H
6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
7. Mad Men
8. Cheers
9. The Wire
10. The West Wing
11. The Simpsons
12. I Love Lucy
13. Breaking Bad
14. The Dick Van Dyke Show
15. Hill Street Blues
16. Arrested Development
17. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
18. Six Feet Under
19. Taxi
20. The Larry Sanders Show
21. 30 Rock
22. Friday Night Lights
23. Frasier
24. Friends
25. Saturday Night Live
26. The X-Files
27. Lost
28. ER
29. The Cosby Show
30. Curb Your Enthusiasm

Do you agree or disagree with any of these? And don't you suddenly want to watch old Mary Tyler Moore episodes? My mom would let me stay up late so we could watch it together when I was in junior high. Also, randomly: My sister, who is a doctor, said that of all the hospital TV series, funnily enough, Scrubs is the most accurate reflection of working in hospitals with its wacky residents and nutty hierarchy.
P.S. Seinfeld posters and funny clips.

(Via Kottke)

138 comments:

Becky said...

I'm a nurse and have always said that Scrubs is the medical show most like how hospitals really are! I'm glad someone agrees!! Hahaha!!

Seinfeld should be #1!

To ELLE and Back said...

I never watched the Soprano's the first time around but ever since I lived in Newport, Jersey City this last year I've been obsessed! Some of my fave shows on this list, especially the Cosby Show, Frasier, Cheers and Friends.

sacredmonkeysofthevatican said...

What about Gilmore Girls?

Bethanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

Even though it's such a cheesy show, I thought My So-Called Life was brilliantly written. It so perfectly depicted the inner monologue of a teenage girl.

Bethanne said...

Northern Exposure, anyone?

Joanna Goddard said...

that's so funny, becky! i'm going to tell my sister :)

Denene said...

My faves made the list: I Love Lucy, Golden Girls, Roseanne, Downton Abbey and Frasier! I'm kind of old school, with the exception of Downton.

Michelle Panting said...

There are definitely some classics on this list! Great picture of Jerry. That guy doesn't age.

http://www.fullbellywornsoles.com/

Ethaney said...

where is breaking bad??!?! or mad men maybe? but seriously, where is breaking bad?!

Angela said...

Golden Girls!

Meredith said...

Friday Night Lights was really under appreciated in it's time- I'm so glad to see it made the list! The book is also fantastic.

Holly Hardy said...

I'm only just beginning to understand the humour of Seinfeld, I think it's quite different to typical English comedy but some of the eps I've watched recently have been hilarious. Frasier's on here every single morning though and it's definitely one of the best! - Holly (www.holhar.blogspot.com)

pancakesandpoodles said...

Have you seen the "Seinfeld today" twitter? HILARIOUS.

a snippet: "Elaine hates Arrested Development. Everyone judges her like she killed someone. J:"There are some things you're just not allowed to say.""

-- Emma

Jess said...

#13 & 7.

jm said...

These are some of my favorite shows and I love TV marathons. Did one watching the whole 1st series of Homeland.

Bri Towne said...

yes! the west wing! fantastic. and of course, seinfeld is the best.

fae ehsan said...

we weren't allowed to watch much TV, but my mom always let my sisters and i watch "i love lucy"! i loved that show--even as a working adult, i have a lucy coffee mug from the vitameatavegamin episode (my favorite one!).

Lauren Ashley said...

I totally do want to go watch Marry Tyler Moore , and Dick Van Dyke too!

The Slow Pace said...

I totally recommend you Miranda, a hilarious British comedy by Miranda Hart. You'll love it, I'm sure!

Have a nice weekend!

xx,
E.
www.theslowpace.com

katie said...

I love Homeland. I've also been watching The Killing on Netflix - it's not good enough to make a "Best of" list but it's entertaining with lots of twists. It's dark & if you like crime drama/mystery, you'll like it.

Ashley Cassandra Ford said...

The Wire is number 9?! No way. It's at LEAST in the top 5. And definitely above Mad Men.

Betsy said...

Whither the Doctor Who? There's a reason it's run over 60 years...

msfashionplates said...

Friday Night Lights is the best show ever.. miss watching it!!

Liron said...

Love MAD MEN! And I was obsessed with the X-Files in high school, LOL :)

Emily said...

Arrested Development--the first three seasons, as opposed to the atrocity that's on Netflix now :( It's a totally different, not-nearly-as-awesome show.

Kim said...

There was actually a study done on the "accuracy" of hospital TV and Scrubs came out the winner. I read an article that said the head writer on the show (I think?) is friends with a doctor and he acts as a consultant for story ideas, etc. Definitely makes more sense than the crap they put on Grey's Anatomy!

Erin said...

Bless your heart. YES.

blahblahbirds said...

Golden Girls really should be higher that #69. it is a classic, well written show with great comedic timing. its been on constant syndication for the past 20 yrs. that should account for higher than #69. Can you tell I'm a fan and still watch it daily, HA!

Dyan

Erin said...

I'm surprised that 'The Wire' isn't in the top five. 'Mad Men' too, actually. I loved 'The Sopranos,' 'Friday Night Lights,' and remain deeply committed to '30 Rock' as the greatest show ever. :)

MC said...

loved that show

CarmenB. said...

I was so obsessed with The X-Files when I was a teenager. Seriously, I scheduled my weekends around that show. lol

Debbie said...

I LOVE the west wing! Glad to see it made the top ten. But, I agree, where is Gilmore Girls?! I also really like the Big Bang Theory and wish it was added to the list. As a scientist, I love how they make jokes that can be understood on multiple levels! Also, my husband is a general surgery resident and agrees that scrubs is the most accurate!

libellula's said...

what about "Dr.House" "the Closer" "Grace anathomy " id love them

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, The West Wing.
How I do miss that show.
Brilliant.

heykay said...

Joanna you have totally made me wish it was the middle of winter so I could use "snowed-in" as an excuse to binge watch some of these series! Maybe all the rain we get this weekend here in PA will be a good enough excuse... ;)

Back Row Girl said...

I don't know about "best written" - all of these shows seem to be picked from the mainstream pool.
Firefly and Farscape were incredibly well written sci-fi shows that boggled the mind and dealt with tough issues while keeping the humor in, but obviously, they are not going to pick a sci-fi show, because OMG sci-fi is not a "real" genre. (X Files and Twilight Zone were awesome, but they are "paranormal" genre, in case anyone wondered).
Also, like so many people said, Scrubs should have made the list, because it was very clever and funny while staying accurate to the subject matter.

Carrie said...

I saw this and felt so validated in my television watching. M*A*S*H, West Wing and Battlestar Galactica (ignore the fact it takes place in space - there are no aliens, it's pure brilliance) are epic television programs and everyone should watch them.

dissolvedintosomething said...

Six Feet Under should be closer to the top of the list! It's my favorite series and has the best series finale ever!

gustatori.com said...

I recently came across the actualy diner, located in Bloomfield, NJ, where the last scene of The Sopranos was shot! Due to the fact that I absolutely loved this show/thought that the writing was brilliant, I was beyond thrilled to find out about this little piece of TV history. Please check out my blog my these pics/commentary: www.gustatori.com.

Luminous said...

The West Wing deserved to be higher up in that list. In my opinion, it's unimaginable to place it below Mas Men, for example. Studio 60 on the Sunset strip, despite only lasting for a season, was brilliantly written, too.

I just noticed Lost is in there too! Oh, those years! Also, Gilmore Girls should be there! It's light and girly — which somehow prevents everyone from taking it seriously — but is so absolutely amazing when it comes to writing. So, so brilliant.

Schenck catherine said...

I strongly agree with Gilmore Girls (ah, Lorelei and Rory.. and Luke) It's brilliantly written!
i also love Breaking Bad, amazingly well directed and photographed, and the cast is phenomenal (ok, it's violent and raw, but still, awesome-right next to the Sopranos)
One missing is Justified, (4 seasons so far) and season 2 particularly is spectacular. Check it out! (it doesn't hurt that Timothy Olyphant is soooo good-looking!)
House is fantastic (at least the 5 first seasons) and I love Nurse Jackie, (with Edie di Falco, formerly Tony Soprano's wife) check her out!!!
Scrubs is hilarious, it's scary to hear that it's kind of accurate!
Love Tv series, often more than movies-oops!

Schenck catherine said...

I strongly agree with Gilmore Girls (ah, Lorelei and Rory.. and Luke) It's brilliantly written!
i also love Breaking Bad, amazingly well directed and photographed, and the cast is phenomenal (ok, it's violent and raw, but still, awesome-right next to the Sopranos)
One missing is Justified, (4 seasons so far) and season 2 particularly is spectacular. Check it out! (it doesn't hurt that Timothy Olyphant is soooo good-looking!)
House is fantastic (at least the 5 first seasons) and I love Nurse Jackie, (with Edie di Falco, formerly Tony Soprano's wife) check her out!!!
Scrubs is hilarious, it's scary to hear that it's kind of accurate!
Love Tv series, often more than movies-oops!

Schenck catherine said...

Forgot Ab Fab and the Office (both UK and US) which should be higher on the list. Love those shows!

Jana Miller said...

ahhh Seinfeld. Will always love it.
Jana @ 333 Days of Hand Lettering

Mia Stizzo said...

aaah! my so-called life! so, so great.

lindsay said...

I agree! I watched the whole series of Friday Night Lights this past year and thought it was so good. Even when I watch Nashville now, I still see what's her name as Tami Taylor :)

Mia Stizzo said...

so glad to see six feet under on the list. that's my number one show of ever.

JulYEAH said...

LOL, I totally agree with your sister about Scrubs! (I am a nurse at a children's hospital.) While some of the crazy surreal things that happen on that show wouldn't actually happen, they evoke EXACTLY the kind of feelings you feel while on the floors/units. You can tell the person who wrote it had a medical background. I think the most dead on is the sassy front desk lady. :)

Karelys Beltran Davis said...

My husband is OBSESSED with West Wing!

Also, I just want to point out that although not super cool it's become acceptable (and in some instances cool) to live with parents!

And the baldness. It caught on when VIn Diesel and the like shaved their heads!

Stephanie said...

Totally agree with #1 - The Sopranos was amazing!

Mindy said...

We've been watching Seinfeld with our son who is almost two. It seems to be the right pace for him. And every time he sees George on screen he says "oh george" in a really cute way. I have been trying to get it on video. Watching it reminds me what a great and funny show it was.

Hanna Lee said...

YAY! For I Love Lucy at #12

www.speakstyleandrock.blogspot.com

Sarah Carlson said...

What a great, and very accurate list! I am a little disappointed to not see Gilmore Girls on the list, as I always thought there was very insightful beat to the writing, and it really portrayed a relationship that for so long was pretty ignored by popular shows. I've not been incredibly impressed with Amy Sherman-Palladino's newest show Bunheads, but Gilmore Girls was in a league of its own! However, I'm thrilled to see Frasier (obviously!) and also Buffy on there!

Siouxzy said...

Gilmore Girls!

Andreya Taylor said...

Love so many of these!

Meg - [Life of Meg] said...

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. So insanely good!

Leah Clark said...

I love so many of these shows! Mad men, Arrested Development... I need to start watching TV again. Though that would just completely murder any productivity. I also agree with the girls ahead of me that Gilmore Girls should have been on there!
Leah Faye
http://e-plus-l.blogspot.com/2013/06/decorating-on-budget.html

Kirsten said...

I'm very surprised Numb3rs did not make the list, especially considering some of the shows that did.

KAT said...

YESSSS.

lucy said...

I totally agree, I would probably put The Wire at the very top of the list.

Molly said...

It's official. I need to watch Arrested Development. Thank goodness it's the weekend!

http://mollycurley.blogspot.com

xo Molly

Melanie said...

Agreed. No Gilmore Girls? Also Veronica Mars. Nice to My So Called Life included though.

AV said...

Homeland should definitely replace Lost in the top 30!!!

AJeter said...

Friday Night Lights!!!

Allison said...

The West Wing is the top of my list. Incredible show. Friday Night Lights also has a special place in my heart.

Sophi said...

The Wire is so much better written than Mad Men! And so is the West Wing. I love Mad Men, but there are some truly cringeworthy writing moments.

Sara said...

Friends!

My favorite show growing up though (still is)...The Dick Van Dyke Show! I remember as a little girl having such a crush on him...haha even though he's not exactly in my general age bracket...

Champagne Sunday said...

I think Frasier is a flawless show. I love Mad Men, but agree, sometimes the writing is a bit kooky.

~ K
Cheers!
www.mychampagnesunday.com

Laura Connelly said...

I'm happy to see the X Files on there! What a great show.

Amanda Perry said...

Great list of shows, I love curb your enthusiasm, scrubs, and friends :)


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ZADIN said...

Ally McBeal, Prison Break, SATC, Beverly Hills 90210... love them all.

Whitney said...

Ahhh, I LOVE Frasier. Glad to see someone mention it. I started watching it on Netflix as I was a kid when it was on. I couldn't believe how awesome it was!

Georgia Christakis said...

SO TRUE! Medical student over here- those shows are like a more entertaining version of our medical ethics courses!

Ladies in Navy said...

friday night lights needs to move up the list
kw ladies in navy

Sandy Maryn said...

Six Feet Under changed my life! Only series I've bought from start to finish..except for Sex and the City of course :)

Happily CF said...

I would say that's fairly in line the best-written American TV shows of all time... Netflix is introducing me to some AMAZING foreign shows which blow even some of the best American shows out of the water... Prime Suspect, Cracker, Wire in the Blood, the original House of Cards trilogy, Swedish version of Wallander, etc.... oh, then there's Doc Martin (which is played on PBS here) and some others which also have made their way to PBS.

Happily CF said...

And we are just finishing up with the available Breaking Bad episodes, and I agree it is phenomenal.

deannagabriel said...

As someone in the medical field as well, I must say that your sister is correct when it comes to Scrubs being th most accurate medical television show. It's not about the actual medical details, but the personalities. One of my favorite shoes, and a medical show I can watch without screaming at the tv and correcting all of their stupid mistakes!

Amanda said...

Friday Night Lights was so wonderful and good for the soul. I wish more people had given it a chance.

Julia C. said...

Breaking Bad should most definitely be above Mad Men...I love both but the writing (and everything) on Breaking Bad makes me feel like a non-mortal is in charge on that show. So remarkable.

kelly zellers said...

I absolutely love The Killing, and hoped to see it make the list. I thought perhaps it wasn't because it's a remake of a Scandinavian show, but The Office made the cut. Friday Night Lights is also amazing and Connie Britton will forever be Tami Taylor.

Rose said...

I'm kind of shocked that Community didn't make this list!

Stefanie said...

Gilmore Girls is my #1, they're good for the soul!

Katie + Courtney said...

Yes, Gilmore Girls needs to be in the top 30!

Heather said...

What about the The Office!?! Omg I'm in love with that show!!

The Mrs. Doctor said...

Starting with the first episode, I watched all of 30 Rock on my maternity leave while nursing. I returned to my job saying "shut it down" and laughing hysterically. Additional note, my physician husband has always said the same about Scrubs and won't watch any of the other doctor shows!

La Dolce Moda said...

I am such a huge tv fan!
Great post and great blog!!

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Unknown said...

What is their criteria? I'm no writer so I have no clue about technicalities or anything like that...but there are some shows that are on the bottom of the list that I would expect to just as likely be at the top, e.g. why is modern family way higher than The Office, Everybody Loves Raymond, Goldon Girls, etc. etc?

kharini said...

I agree!!! LOVED Six Feet Under!

Siobhan said...

Family Ties at #95? I am outraged.

Vicky said...

Scrubs is the best!! That's coming from a lawyer, though :-)

Charli said...

Actually this year ist the 50th birthday of Doctor Who and I also wanted to say: what about him? The show has everything: action, drama, costumes, humor, love and friendship! I think it's the best show showing friendship and solidarity and it brings tears to my eyes almost every episode =)

kelseywilliams said...

I am kind of surprised to not see Parenthood on there (only because Modern Family is). I completely agree with MASH and Friday Night Lights. And Lost.

Have you seen MASH? My husband and I have watched the entire series (251 episodes) twice through. It's seriously great.

I wish Seinfeld was on Netflix! I've never seen a full episode of that but think I would love it.

chirpyhummingbird said...

100% agree re:

Mad Men - what you call 'love' was invented by guys like me to sell nylons

Breaking Bad - science, bitch!

Arrested Development - there is the woman I am sexually attracted to

Frasier - All my life I have dreamed of one thing: the day I could go into a library, go to the card catalogue and see my name under "Mental Illness.

Friends - too many to quote!!!

Though I haven't seen The Sopranos and have a feeling I would love that too.

I loved Lost but not for the writing - it didn't move me either way. The plot was everything.

Where is Game of Thrones???

Great post!

https://chirpyhummingbird.wordpress.com/

Marty24 said...

What about Dexter?? And Suits (with the hottest man ever - Harvey Spector)??

Barbara said...

And Fringe! Really good sci-fi. And I secretly hated Star Trek. I even got my two teenaged girls hooked!

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Lynn @ TheActorsDiet.com said...

Am currently watching binge-watching Sopranos on HBO Go w Curb Your Enthusiasm as a "brain cleanser" before bed.

Wine Glasses and Baby Bottles said...

My fiancé and I got HOOKED on Lost shortly after our son was born. We watched the entire series within a couple months.

Also, my sister and friend (both doctors) said the same thing about Scrubs.

in dreams said...

veronica mars OMG duh! haha. :)

Olithée said...

definetly agree on friday night lights !

Shruti Kapoor said...

Where is House of Cards?? I can't believe it did not make it in the top 30. It's the best!!!

Lobster Meets Peach said...

Agree! House of Cards was unreal!!!

Lobster Meets Peach said...

I have a feeling people will not let me for saying this but here goes....I never liked Seinfeld. Wow I feel better now that I got that off my chest!

Lisa Pappalardo said...

Love it. Seinfeld should definitely be number one!

xo Lisa
Making Life's Lemons

CC said...

I love 6 Feet Under and Arrested Development. I also used to be a big fan of X-Files. However, I think Breaking Bad is highly overrated and shouldn't have made the list. I've been meaning to start watching Mad Men, looks like this is a good reminder.

candidcerebrations.blogspot.com

Linda Z said...

When I saw this was a list for "best written" series, I immediately thought of Gilmore Girls for it's clever and breakneck speed dialog. I can't believe it's not even on the list. Really? Of the top 30, I like 4 or 5. I don't understand how SNL or Jon Stewart qualify as a series. If it's a talk show or variety show, it's not really a series is it? I also think that Parenthood should be on the list. Any writers that can make my friends and I cry with sadness or joy every single episode for an entire season should definitely be on the list!

I'm glad Frasier, I Love Lucy, and The Cosby Show made the top 30! Classics!

Sharon John said...

I have a feeling people will not let me for saying this but here goes....I never liked Seinfeld.


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Barbara said...

Hey girls, how can you not love Sex in the City!

Ashley Ako said...

I call shenanigans. The Wire should be rated higher than Mad Men at least - while Jon Hamm is amazing as Don Draper and I love Elizabeth Moss' Peggy, Omar is one of the best characters ever created on television, "Come at the king, you best not miss." And the way David Simon envisioned the series, it was perfection. Seriously. Usually you start out with a series that starts off as a good premise and then it never surpasses that first season. Not so with this one. Each season it just builds and builds until you have everything wrapped up in the end. Also, probably one of the most brutal depictions of the inefficiency of institutions and the war on drugs. The social aspect of this series alone should make it as one of the top 5.

Haley said...

Gilmore Girls!

Haley said...

Gilmore Girls!

INTRDAYTIPS said...

Nice Girls. Have a nice and beautiful weekend.

delilah.kathryn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
delilah.kathryn said...

Doctor Who and Game of Thrones are missing, as some have stated before. Other than that I don't really like mixing Sitcoms with Drama Series. You really can't compare them on a level that makes sense. I haven't seen a lot of these shows, so I'm not gonna say much about the ranking itself.

I only know what people have told me: The Wire is supposedly one of the best shows ever aired and Battlestar Galactica shouldn't be missing in a Top 30 list like that either.

http://www.seriousaddictions.blogspot.de

Hollie Simmons said...

Gilmore girls should definitely be on the list, cheesy at times but really well written!

city said...

thanks for share........

PIAN said...

Battlestar Galactica!!! is one of the best shows ever, even if you are not into sci-fi.

Nathan said...

Now I want to go back and watch a bunch of these again!

Jessica
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Manyu said...

My so called life is in the list at number 68. this is just the first 30 shows in the list!

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Tory Tedrow said...

I never really thought about it but Scrubs totally is the most accurate hospital show. Whenever I watch other hospital shows I'm always thinking "There's no way that would happen," but with Scrubs I'm always nodding to myself like "Yep, that's about right."

Corinne Trowbridge said...

Great list! I would add Barney Miller, great writing acting and killer comedic timing. Love it!

Corinne Trowbridge said...

Great list! I would add Barney Miller, great writing acting and killer comedic timing. Love it!

Unknown said...

Great list. I was mulling it over and kept thinking of new ones to add----but you had them all!

Cardinham | Killgrew said...

And the list goes on...and seems to get better every year. I think TV is getting better...The Tudors. Black Sails, Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire, Family Guy....

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e said...

Shouldn't this list be called "the best AMERICAN tv shows of all time"?? I love some of these but I feel like when it comes to television the Brits do it best ... any "best ever" list that doesn't mention Dennis Potter or Mark Gatis is just playing. PS - Even if limited to the US, how could they have left off Twin Peaks?

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teaorwine said...

Boston Legal, hands down the best writing for this one. Remember St. Elsewhere? Also an excellent one.


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Thomas Watson said...

We have the same top 3 tv series.

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