Tag the greatest — but not obvious — TV shows

Do a friend a favor and list your favorite 10 TV shows ever — but not the dutiful ones, the ones you like for a reason — in the comments here or better yet, on your blog with the tag: 10shows (following Steve Rubel’s example of the 10blogs tag… just link to “http://technorati.com/tag/10shows” when you create your post).

I can’t stand the dutiful lists that include Milton Berle (rude, egotistical, and not terribly funny) and The Honeymooners (sorry, gang) and The Simpsons (never grokked it).

I will claim the right to change my faves — because, after all, such lists are as meaningless and meltable as Silly Putty. But to get the ball rolling:

: Cheers. When it went off the air, I argued that it was the perfect ensemble sitcom.
: Picket Fences. In its early days, it was an amazing show with imaginative writing, characters, and messages. In its later days — when it suffered from David Kelly’s chronic creative ADD — it got awful. But it had its moments.
: David Letterman. He set the comic tone of his era, like Johnny Carson before him and Jon Stewart after him.
: The Daily Show. OK, in a few years, or even now, this may be a dutiful choice. But it has changed news by poking a pin in journalistic ego and we needed that.
: Cosby. Yes, in the end, he became an insuferable sermonizer (and he sent me poison pen letters when I said that in People). But at the beginning, Cosby not only resurrected the sitcom and with it prime time but he also had a direct hand in the best decision I ever made, though one I resisted: having kids. He made having a family look like fun.
: This Old House. TV is so useless but how-to TV is useful and This Old House (along with Julia Child) created the genre and, brilliantly, added in the drama of the dorky homeowners. Was this the original reality TV show?
: The Sopranos. Who has pushed the form farther?
: The Wonder Years. Because it was the story of my youth (except for the beautiful brunette neighbor).
: Jeopardy. Who says TV is dumb?
: You convince me of the 10th. I have many nominees: Star Trek, China Beach, Roseanne, Garry Shandling, MTM, Hogan’s Heroes, Hill Street, M*A*S*H, but I fear they are too old (like me now) and so I want something more contemporary (and my Total TV reference work ends when I stopped being a TV critic, so I don’t have current grids to jog my memory).

I’ve shown you mine. Show me yours.

: Comments are coming in already. One added a very obscure favorite of mine: Good Neighbors. I had such a crush on Felicity Kendall.

: My friend Matt Drapkin asks how the hell I could leave off Seinfeld. Right, he is. I’d say that’s the missing show. My son would say it’s Friends but I’ll take Jerry.

  • St. Elsewhere. Made me laugh, made me cry, startled me, took big risks, was absolutely quality. ER is a pale shadow of the original.

    I would say both Star Trek and ST: TNG, but I am a hopeless geek. I really do believe that after the third season TNG became world-class. But I am a hopeless geek.

    Mystery Science Theater 3000. There are many reasons to not list it — its slow spiral into averageness, for example. But for me there is nothing else that has provided the sheer number of laughs.

    Think about it: The Simpsons speaks directly to generation X in the same way that most “favorite shows” (Wonder Yrs, MASH, MTM, Cosby) speak to baby boomers.

    Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the ultimate sketch show which somehow struck a mine of comedy gold. All of the troupe were brilliant comic actors; in particular, Cleese’s perfect comic timing was deadly. Previously British comedy was focused on dry Wilde-esque wit; Python introduced a true wackyness which never came off as pretentious.

  • WKRP Cincinnati, Fawlty Towers, Good Times, Not The Nine O’Clock News, The Kumars, The Keith Barrett Show, The Two Ronnies, Good Neighbors, the latest Dr. Who and of course, Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek.

    Many of these you might not have seen since they came out of the UK, but they’re all exceptional.

  • How could I forget Taxi. That’s eleven best TV shows of all time. Maybe I can work up a top twenty.

  • I’ll fill in your 10th – An American Family on PBS. This 12 episode documentary on a California family was reality TV before we knew what to call it. (Read More)

  • 1. Cheers
    2. All in the Family
    3. St. Elsewhere
    4. Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (mXc)
    5. The Daily Show
    6. Green Acres
    7. Carnivale
    8. The Howard Stern Show
    9. Cops
    10. Unsolved Mysteries

  • How can you leave off Seinfeld ? best comedy sitcom of all time. Twilight Zone, Sopranos, Deadwood-best new show in years.

    CSI-over-exposed and over-expanded but still excellent, Murder One-it only lasted one season but it was great, Oz-you have to love a show about prison,

    The Shield-best cop drama-just bought all the DVD’s, The Wire-not especially popular but really amazing. Lastly, LA Law, cheesy but fun.

  • a reader writes

    These were some of the TV favorites of my youth. I would have to make a completely different list of contemporary favorites.

    Monty Python’s Flying Circus
    The Bob Newhart Show
    The Six Wives of Henry VIII
    The Dick Van Dyke Show
    Green Acres
    Upstairs, Downstairs
    NBC Mystery Movie (McCloud, Columbo, McMillan & Wife, etc.)
    Rockford Files
    ABC Movie of The Week

  • I’d have to say Star Trek — it served as the launch-pad for the entire genre of sci-fi TV, spawned entire industries, and has become ingrained in our culture.

  • Leaving aside the obvious two: The Simpsons and Seinfeld…

    1. Sesame Street – which conclusively proved that television could be educational and that parents could enjoy watching a kids’ show too.

    2. The Price is Right – only in America, baby! Only in America.

    3. Scooby-Doo – a testament to Enlightment values and the triumph of rational thought and deductive reasoning over superstition and fear. All that and countercultural drugs metaphors, too. Zoiks!

    4. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – at last someone dared to look for the dark underbelly of Gene Roddenbery’s utopian vision of the future, and surprise surprise it actually made for some of the best sci-fi on television.

    5. Cops – the original “reality show”, its montages of shirtless perps attempting to run away from high-speed vehicle chases still oddly compelling after all these years.

    6. Dream On! – HBO’s first real attempt at pushing the envelope. That and I had a big-time crush on Wendy Malick.

    7. King of the Hill – Beavis and Butthead’s Mike Judge pulled off the seemingly-impossible: make a sitcom about the suburbs of Texas that didn’t take the obvious cheap shots. A hilarious show with lovingly-drawn characters, including the first Laotian family on American television to the best of my knowledge.

    8. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood – The cardigan-wearing minister had more compassion, patience, and tolerance in his left pinky toe than most other so-called “compassionate Christians”

    9. Iron Chef – This Japanese import was equal parts theater, kitsch, competition, and cuisine. The net result was absolutely delicious!

    10. Frasier – Arguably the best-drawn character on television ever.

  • Listing “The Simpsons” as one of the greatest shows of all time is not “dutiful”. It’s there on merit, plain and simple. End unnecessary defense.

    But if we’re going for great shows that aren’t obvious…

    1. Twin Peaks–The show went off the rails in the second season, and there were too many plotlines that didn’t pertain to the main story, but I assert that there’s about 15 hours of TP that is the equal of any TV show, movie, play or pantomime produced in the last 500 years. Eerie, scary, sexy, and completely engrossing.

    2. Red Dwarf– The lager-soaked adventures of the last (barely) human in the universe, his evolved (?) cat, the hologram of a loathed shipmate, and an android programmed for laundry duty.

    3. Black Adder– Especially the final three series, when Edmund’s deviousness was so nicely blended with smug- and selfishness.

    4. The Young Ones– Yes, WE HAVE GOT A VIDEO.

    5. Mr. Show– David Cross and Bob Oedenkirk’s HBO sketch comedy show.

    6. Oz–Is there, in the whole of Western literature, a more horrible conflict that the one between Beecher and Schillinger? I hope not.

    7. MXC (Most Extreme Challenge)– Japanese people are very, very different from us.

    8. Iron Chef– See above comment. The new Iron Chef America is a pale, tasteless imitation, despite the estimable Alton Brown.

    9. Good Eats– See above comment, but just the last part. A cooking show that makes you laugh AND think?

    10. Star Trek, The Next Generation– Still too many episodes that required a recalibration of the muon flux capacitors or something ridiculous like that, but there were some brilliant shows. The one where Picard gets zapped by the probe and lives out another life on a dying planet was something else.

  • Man From U.N.C.L.E., It Takes a Thief, Hawaii, 5-0; Laugh-In,
    Hogan’s Heroes, Match Game ’73, Mike Douglas, Carol Burnett, Dragnet ’67, Mission Impossible

  • I’m surprised no-one has mentioned the West Wing. Maybe it’s because I’m in Europe, so I got late to the game and the show has lost some momentum since Aaron Sorkin and Rob Lowe left it, but, boy, I think it’s good television, and I just wish we could make something as good as that over here in continental Europe. That and The Daily Show makes my day. And I resent old media for not providing us with both in a timely fashion just because we happen to live over here.

  • Lots of great shows here, but nobody has mentioned The X-Files.

  • Duneview

    Where’s I Love Lucy, Saturday Night Live, The Love Boat, Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blues?

    And most of all, whoever left off “Roots” from the list wasn’t paying attention to 20th Century TV.

  • pj

    I haven’t been much of a TV watcher during my lifetime, but I think I can still come up with 10:

    1. The Simpsons – Sorry, Jeff, I think this is one of the greatest shows of all time. Maybe it’s a generational thing (don’t mean that in a bad way).

    2. Cheers – Used to be my favorite until I started watching The Simpsons. First sitcom I ever watched, or at least was old enough to remember watching.

    3. Arrested Development – The Rodney Dangerfield of shows, it can’t get no…

    4. Sienfeld – I drove my sister and friends crazy reenacting Kramer’s slapstick.

    5. The Family Guy – Great to see this show finally getting its due. Probably will be a while before it’s fully appreciated, though.

    6. Sex and the City – Perhaps the MTM of my generation, with a little more oomph of course. Don’t know how well this show wll age, but I have fond memories of the gatherings I went to every Sunday night. How many straight guys can — or is willing — to say that.

    7. Law & Order – Maybe I should have put this higher on the list. I say, if it wasn’t for Law & Order, I would have thrown my television out the window long ago.

    8. Law & Order SVU – I should have put this one higher up, too. Ditto on throwing my TV out the window bit above. I started watching the show just to drool over Marishka, but the stories and acting each week got me hooked. Some weeks ago Wil Wheaton wrote on his blog that he wished our generation had a Steve McQueen, look no further than Elliot Stabler, I say.

    9. Monty Python’s Flying Circus – I still laugh to this day anytime I see someone smelling their shoes!

    10. The Price Is Right – C’mon, this show’s been on the air since the Middle Ages and it still has a mass following.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    I really liked FIREFLY. The mix of sci-fi and old west just seemed to click with me. I’m afraid that the upcoming movie will be a GIRLZ KICK ASS!!! kind of show. Too bad.

    The X-files always seemed like a show that couldn’t live up to it’s theme song.

  • rick_d

    Only ten? Arrrrgh, torture. Okay, here goes in no particular order (subject to slap-self-on-head oversights):

    Twilight Zone
    Monte Python’s Flying Circus
    The Avengers (Emma Peel era, thanks)
    The Wire
    Hill Street Blues
    The Prisoner
    Twin Peaks
    Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
    SNL (you know, the good seasons)

    Crap, that’s eleven.

  • wil

    One that’s slipped through the cracks but I always found enjoyable was Michael Mann’s Crime Story from the late 80’s And what about News Radio?

  • Mark

    In no particular order:

    1. 77 Sunset Strip – I can’t remember it at all, but remember it was must see at the time.
    2. Name of the Game – Rotating shows much like the Columbo group, 90 minutes on Friday nights if I recall.
    3. I Spy – with Cosby and Culp
    4. Mission Impossible – Landeau’s disguises and “Barney’s” tech skills.
    5. Rockford Files – ring, ring, ring: message :-)
    6. Monty Python
    7. Miami Vice
    8. Sanford & Son
    9. Twin Peaks – I didn’t get it at the time and didn’t watch it on the original run, but the DVDs are required library items, as are all of Lynch’s films.
    10. Hawaii Five-0

  • No one has mentioned any news or sports or soap operas, arguably the backbone genres of the entire medium. Since TV is, as they say, a medium where imiattion is the sincerest form of flattery, innovators deserve high marks.

    In which case, in news-and-current-affairs what about Nightline, The McLaughlin Group and CSPAN’s Booknotes? What about 60 Minutes in its prime? COPS owes plenty to 48 Hours on Crack Street. 48 Hours’ coverage of Tiananmen Square was epic.

    As for sports, this is one area of TV where there is no Golden Age. The payoff of technological advances are most readily seen in sports coverage. Think how auto racing is so much more exciting now than ever. The America’s Cup used to be untelevisable…now it is riveting. This year’s Tour de France was a fabulous narrative and visual spectacle.

    For soap operas, a vote for Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman would be arch. I personally have a soft spot for Edge of Night. Does anyone else remember Schyler (?sp) & Raven?

  • 1. The Simpsons. I won’t defend that choice until you’ve seen as many episodes as I have (300+).
    2. The Price is Right. I watched it with my grandma, I watch it with my sons.
    3. MST3K. There are several episodes I have seen several times. Much to my chagrin. Was “The Beginning of the End” made to be watched 10 times?
    4. Futurama. What other show features a character who is his own grandfather?
    5. The Munsters. Why do I like Zombo?
    6. Globe Trekkers. Apparently every culture on earth has some form of caffeinated beverage or foodstuff. Who knew?
    7. NOW on PBS. This should be higher on the list.
    8. Poirot.
    9. The X-Files. Even the last season was better than lots of other stuff on tv at the time.
    10. Hart to Hart. I have no real memory of any plots (aside from the quote “She’s gorgeous”), but my brother and I were allowed to stay up and watch it during the summer.

  • Mike G

    1. Sgt. Bilko and 2. Your Show of Shows. Okay, say that Milton Berle was crude, you can even diss the Honeymooners although it’s pretty great, but these two are simply peerlessly, perfectly executed old school comedy-for-the-whole-family. The ensemble playing on Bilko is a dictionary definition of ensemble, everybody gets a good line or two in every show (and it was a BIG cast) that’s always perfectly in character.

    3. Bob Newhart Show and 4. Newhart. The best straight man in TV history with the two best bunches of oddballs to play off of.

    5. The Westerner. Sam Peckinpah’s early TV show with Brian Keith. The best show nobody knows. (Why didn’t Trio bring that one back?)

    6. The Simpsons. What’s not to grok? In its early days, at least, as sharp on every line as The Onion in ITS early days.

    7. One Step Beyond. The Twilight Zone is good, OSB is better because it’s not always making an obvious Cold War point.

    8. The Larry Sanders Show. Makes Seinfeld look like a pussy when it comes to exploring showbiz neuroses.

    9. Steambath. Maybe this PBS presentation of an off-Broadway comedy (in which Valerie Perrine showed the first tits intentionally bared on TV) doesn’t hold up. It’s on video so you can check it out. But when I first saw it in the early 70s in Kansas, it was the most sophisticated, New York thing I had ever seen.

    10. Hot L Baltimore. Norman Lear’s best show ever, a surreal little slice of oddball life in a tighter package than the sprawling Mary Hartman (mentioned above).

  • Talk about esprit d’escalier…

    for sitcoms, who has mentioned Dick van Dyke?
    for detective shows, does nobody like Magnum PI any more?
    for gameshows, surely Dick Clark’s Pyramid was better than The Price is Right
    for variety, what about the Gong Show?
    Daytime talk is totally missing in these nominations. Audiences love Oprah. My vote goes for 70s Donahue.
    for all you Brit-lovers out there, OK to Monty Python and Fawlty and Avengers and Prisoner and so on, but Dennis Potter has got to be king: Pennies from Heaven is even better than Singing Detective

  • Mark

    Mike G. 9. Steambath: I remember seeing that now that you mention it. It reminds me too, one late night a few friends and I were clicking around the (limited back then) dial with a Zenith “Space Commander” remote and happened upon “Slaughterhouse Five” but we had no TV Guide and it looked too weird, so we clicked on by. I forget how many years it was before I saw it on purpose and realized if we’d stuck around a bit we’d have been treated to Valerie in similar circumstance instead of “Chiller Theater.” (We used to have nightmares about that long black-haired woman walking toward the screen with her arms extended)

    Andrew Tyndall: While I still like “Price is Right” better than “Pyramid” your post reminded me that no one mentioned “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” — many parents back then were iffy on whether they really wanted Goldie Hawn in their teen and pre-teen households, but ultimately she charmed them :-)

  • …and for David Chase lovers, I submit that Northern Exposure and even Saint Elsewhere are superior to The Sopranos (this is not to disparage the latter)

  • Not in any particular order or ranking: 1) The Red Skelton Show; 2) Gunsmoke; 3) ABC’s Wide World of Sports; 4) All In The Family; 5) Frazier; 6) Hill Street Blues; 7) NYPD Blues; 8) The Tonight Show; 9) Monday Night Football; and 10) The Hallmark Hall of Fame.

    Sentimental favorite, but not good enough to make the cut: Our Man Higgins!

  • pdf

    1. Homicide: Life On The Street. Best cop show ever.
    2. The Shield. Second-best cop show ever.
    3. Law & Order. Third-best…
    4. The Daily Show. Only the first 15 minutes, most nights, but that’s enough to keep me from going Charles Whitman, and I bet I’m not alone.
    5. Crime Story. First season only, but damn, what a season.
    6. The Simpsons. Of course.
    7. Millennium. Better than the X-Files. I own the first two seasons on DVD (the only show I’ve ever bought that way).
    8. Police Squad!. Much better than any of the movies.
    9. Rescue Me. Denis Leary finally found his perfect role. Why are all the good non-pay-cable dramas on FX lately?
    10. Nip/Tuck. It doesn’t get much sleazier, more crass, or more fun. The music selections during the operations are hilarious and apt.

    Honorable mention: Freaks & Geeks, Daria.

    Confessions: Never liked Seinfeld, never liked the Sopranos.

  • 1. Arrested Development. Nothing comes close.
    2. Except, possibly, MST3K.
    3. Curb Your Enthusiasm
    4. The Office – The British version.
    5. The Red Green Show – so beautifully unprofessional.
    6. Allo Allo – old BBC comedy, with the wittiest dirty jokes.
    7. The Daily Show
    8. Seinfeld, which is about even witht
    9. Frasier. Classy classy classy.
    10. Square One, an old PBS kids show. Was pissed when our local station switched to Bill Nye.

  • Your Tenth? Gotta go with Star Trek. No other show has predicted the future of techonology and what awaits as has this television show. If your a fan, you understand.

  • How did I forget NewsRadio? Well, NBC did, I guess I’m not alone. And Police Squad? Terrible oversight. Red Green’s good stuff too.

    How about Sledge Hammer? So far as cop shows go, does Prime Suspect count as a TV show? If it does, it should be high on the list. How about “Reilly, Ace of Spies”, which was more of a miniseries and was absolutely fabulous. Speaking of, how about Absolutely Fabulous?

  • I list mine (current) list here.

  • I loved “Good Neighbors.”

  • 1. Ned and Stacey (only reason Sideways went well was because of Ned, first real hard urban cyncism comedy)
    2. Northern Exposure (made an impact when i was younger)
    3. Six Feet Under – they made a SoCal point – esp the David carjacking episode. cant wait to the final series.. ive been reading updates online bout nate and his ultimate realisation etc
    4. Sopranos, Tony Soprano changed waste management and made murder real, mundane and Godfather like at same time. And we like Meadow, and off of them really
    5. Seinfeld (when u made sure u were home to see it) Soup Nazi, George stealing loaf of bed, Kramer’s Industrial Shower Head etc
    6. Friends (hate to say it was entertaining the early/middle series… and now Perry is bloated off the meds)
    7. Sex and City (writing and characters were good and reruns are watchable, only thing is Carrie couldnt afford shoes unless she was a hooker and Charlotte’s a tool)
    8. Crime Story : From Michael Mann ala Heat, The Insider, Miami Vice – TV and remake which will be very kewl – I used to stay up to watch this
    9. Lost – it’s a very good concept and executed except that Doctor Dude could be a bit less moralistic (even when he’s trying not to be moralistic etc)
    10. Twin Peaks – David lynch, nuff sai. No getting the answer 13 minutes out from the end of each episode. And surrealist. really lynch-surrealist.


  • Here are my 10 favorite TV shows:
    Seinfeld – A show about nothing. My inspiration.
    Alias – One word. Jennifer Garner.
    24 – This past season was the best. Keifer Sutherland rules.
    The Amazing Race – We love to pause the show and discuss what we would do next. My request: More real people and fewer ‘mactors’ (model/actors).
    The Office – Just brilliant. Make sure you see the Christmas Special.
    The Simpsons – The characters, the stories, the dialog.
    Futurama – Same as above.
    Star Trek – Too bad Enterprise isn’t coming back. It was on a sweet roll.
    Curb Your Enthusiasm – Brillaint. Larry David is my hero.
    Lost – Really great ensemble cast, what happens next. I’m going to watch.

    Here are my childhood 10 favorite TV shows:
    The Marty Feldman Show – Did you see hte one where he hits a golf ball. Ha!
    The Odd Couple – I love Felix.
    Star Trek – The original series.
    Dick Van Dyke Show – I liked seeing them in the office.
    Bewitched – I wanted to be an advertising guy.
    Man From U.N.C.L.E. – I like saysing Ilya Kuriakin.
    The Prisoner – Very strange. I liked the bouncing blob that would come after people.
    Hawaii Five-0 – Book-em Danno.
    Get Smart – Don Adams, very funny.
    Thunderbirds and UFO – Both these shows by Gerry Anderson we faves.

    Here are my current 10 favorite vlogs [ Links go to RSS Feeds ]:
    ZipZapZop.com with Clark ov Saturn featuring Ubel Knuble
    Secret Vlog Injection
    Josh Leo’s Vlog
    Welcome to Amyville
    Minnesota Stories
    The Random Show
    Gabe & Gabe’s World
    Clint and Mel

    via [ Off On A Tangent ]


    Hill Street Blues, St Elsewhere, Homocide,Crime Story, Jeopardy,Ed Sullivan, Nascar on Fox,Beany and Cecil,Austin City Limits,Rick Steve’s Travel

  • In no particular order, CBS Sunday Morning, West Wing, The Daily Show, WKRP, The John Larroquette Show, Oz, Prime Suspect, Live from Off Center, Northern Exposure, Leave it to Beaver, and my #1, Babylon Five.

    My original other contenders included Ernie Kovacs, The Great American Dream Machine, SNL, and Jeopary.

    Rationales are at here.

    These were put together before reading others’ comments. Having done so, I might have also included Sex and the City, Crime Story, Twin Peaks, Miami Vice, and Monty Python in the contender list.

    I watch too much TV.

  • David

    Contemporary? Don’t make me laugh. Actually I think the best writers in TV are doing cartoons.
    My wife likes “The Weekenders”, I like the first set of “Spongebob Squarepants” (I particularly like the Band Geeks episode), my youngest daughter (15) likes “The Last Avatar”. Going back, I like the British series “Peroit”, and of course “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. We all like “Mythbusters” (its fun watching lunatics do something vaguely scientific). I will always have a soft spot for “Jack Benny” and “I Love Lucy”. Similarly I am very fond of the old “Perry Mason”, great plots, subpar acting.

    I can actually name the day when I gave up watching network TV for good. When NBC was bragging about its Fraiser episode having the funiest sequence ever on TV. I saw David Hyde Pierce do his bit immediately thought of at least 10 “I Love Lucy” bits that were better. The next day I started reading in bed at the start of prime time TV.

  • GM

    In no particular order:

    Monty Python’s Flying Circus
    Buffy the Vampie Slayer (oh, come on!)
    The X-Files
    The Addams Family
    Strangers with Candy
    Green Acres
    LA Law
    The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd

    Honorable Mention: Looney Tunes, The Simpsons, some of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim content is out-of-control, e.g., Harvey Birdman, Aqua Teen Hunger Force

  • 1. Alias – The greatest show ever.

    2. The Amazing Race – Competitive travel is the best form of reality TV imaginable.

    3. Mad About You – Perfect chemistry between Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser. Although the last season+ never happened.

    4. Felicity – What can I say, this is a favorite. The characters developed so well and the drama, even when bordering on cheese, never lost its heart. J.J. Abrams is a master.

    5. Flying Blind – A short-lived sitcom on Fox with Tea Leoni. The jokes were built before delivery, and Corey Parker delivered them with just the right balance of neurotic self-doubt.

    6. Dead Like Me – A recent Showtime favorite that never received a chance. Great characters played by great actors.

    7. Doogie Howser – His age during the series’ run matched mine. I related, except for that whole boy genius thing.

    8. Arrested Development – I tried watching in the middle of season 2, but didn’t “get” it. I never laughed once. I started from the beginning of season 1 and I love the show. No event is too minute and every plot will lead to something just a little more absurd and funny. Amazing.

    9. The Wonder Years – Timeless.

    10. Lost – I’ve rarely experienced suspense in such copious quantities.

  • The Young Ones
    Mr. Show
    The A-Team
    The Shield
    The Wire
    Star Trek
    Aqua Teen Hunger Force

  • Bert

    1: Homicide – the kids asleep and something to do every Friday night (back when it was on)
    2: The Shield – something great on now for less than $15 a month
    3: 24 – absurd but it manages to keep me entertained every time
    4: Survivor – Addicting and I’ll admit it
    5: NewsRadio – super funny while poor Phil Hartman was around
    6: Just Shoot Me – super funny/naughty and still on reruns
    7: Seinfeld – undeniable – first episode I saw was “The contest”
    8: Soap – I was young and it may have changed my life
    9: The Office – painfully funny, uncomfortable at times, there’s nothing else like it
    10: Get Smart – my wife has a real “99” thing going on and I think there may be a connection

    Those are in no particular (would depend on which one was on at the time) and there are so many honorable mentions – The Addams Family, Gilligan’s Island (those tunes still play in my head), the Brady Bunch, Malcolm in the Middle, Sports Night, Arrested Development, the Simpsons, All in the Family, Monty Python, Benny Hill, Green Acres, MASH, Cheers, Taxi (Danny DeVito/Louie is probably the best character of all time), Northern Exposure. I’m partial to comedies but a special mention goes to The Planet of the Apes Week on the 4:30 Movie (my brother and I would hope it rained so we could stay in and watch them).

  • Russell

    Here are my 10 (thanks for the fun post Jeff!)

    1. M*A*S*H – cause it proved you could be funny and say something (and it was FUNNY).

    2. Sports Night – “If you haven’t seen Tom Lehman play Pebble Beach, then you haven’t seen Shakespear the way it was meant to be played.” And many, many more lines of clever that put Aaron Sorkin on the map.

    3. Cosby Show – everything I want to be in a parent is right here in 30 minutes.

    4. Brooklyn Bridge – Short-lived, but it is the story of home (Brooklyn) and my culture (Jewish).

    5. Mad About You – Until the last seasons, this was the show about how marraige should be (and funny too – turkey out the window is still classic).

    6. West Wing – A Republican (like me) can watch it and appreciate the brilliance it portrays. Politics aside, I want people of principle and intellect running my country (plus witty as heck).

    7. Hunter – The original bad @$$ cop. Pure campy fun on Saturday nights when that was where great TV lived.

    8. Profit – The most gripping hour ever (and you were rooting for a bad guy).

    9. Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show – watch the clips, try not to wet your pants.

    10. CSI: Crime Scene Investigators – Gil Grissom makes smart cool (but not quite cold).

  • Meatss

    NYPD Blue. Watching Sipowicz go through the trials and tribulations of life made my heart ache.

  • I’m surprised no one has mentioned FREAKS AND GEEKS. I was out with friends this past Saturday and the show came up in conversation. We quickly reminded ourselves that it is one of the best five TV shows ever. The show has almost no faults. It was an amazing series that managed to find and reveal all the drama and humor of being a teenager.

    It seems as though FREAKS AND GEEKS never escaped cult statues and I’m not sure why. If you buy one TV show on DVD, this should be the one.

  • In no particular order:

    Arrested Development–In two seasons, it has always delivered episodes full of loud, consistent laughs. Best watched on TiVo to catch all the jokes you missed in real time.
    The Mary Tyler Moore Show — The best ensemble comedy ever.
    St. Elsewhere — Rare is the show that can last as long as this one did, with as fair-to-middling ratings as it had. But there was a reason, with compelling, quirky characters and the best in-jokes anywhere.
    Boomtown — Brilliant show that highlighted the myopia that frequently inflicts network execs who cancel a show rather than trying to nurture an audience.
    Northern Exposure — Sure, it got dumb and borderline unwatchable toward the end, but at its height, the eccentric charm, humanity and humor of Cicely, Alaska, was a winner.
    The Wonder Years — If you were of a certain age, of a certain time, you knew this progam rang true. And even if you weren’t, it was still a pleasure to watch.
    The Prisoner — Perhaps the best science fiction show ever, even if it never left the earth. Or did it?
    The Bob Newhart Show — What a tandem on Saturday nights with MTM. Lost a little steam in its final season, but only a little.
    The Shield — Bare-knuckled cop drama at its best, which hasn’t stood still. Characters have come full circle to reveal new dimensions. And guest turns this year by Glenn Close and Anthony Anderson were nothing short of brilliant.
    Hill Street Blues — At its best, which was most of the time, you cared deeply about this often motley crew. Bochco recognized the brilliance of Dennis Franz, who after a guest turn as psycho cop Sal Benedetto, returned as schlumpy-but-compelling Norman Bunz, the antecdent for Andy Sipowicz.

  • So hard to narrow down all the different types to one all-time list when you consider the comedies, varieties and shoot-em up westerns you loved as a kid. But we shall do our bet…

    1. Touched By An Angel

    2. Star Trek TNG

    3. Bob Newhart (either)

    4. X-Files

    5. Quantum Leap

    6. Law & Order

    7. Prisoner

    8. Addams Family

    9. Avengers

    10. All my favorite serial type shows: Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock, Tales From the Crypt and Fantasy Island.

    PLUS an Honorable mention for 2 shortlived shows that would have become all time greats if they had been handled better: Adventures of Briscoe County Jr and American Gothic

    Second Honorable Mention to my favorite variety shows which are not among my top ten choices would be Laugh In, Carol Burnet and the oh so corny fun, Hee Haw.

    Third Honorable Mention to the ONLY reality/competition show on any of my watch lists: Nashville Star.

  • Interesting, Jeff.

    A pile of comments, but only a handful of 10show tags.

    Why do you suppose that is?

    By the way, what would your son charge to help move a blogger blog to wordpress for a local, Somerset County, NJ blogger?

  • I put mine on my website and did the tag thing too…

  • Andrew

    I loved “Good Neighbors” and for ages had a crush on Felicity Kendell.

  • Jonathan

    These are not only my Top 10, but also my ONLY 10.
    1. West Wing- Late comer to this party, but I’ve now seen a bulk of the episodes and I can’t get enuff! (Even as a registered Republican) Hands down smartest writing on TV today.
    2. Seinfeld- Any New Yorker who doesn’t love this show should move to the Midwest
    3. Friends- Courtney Cox and Jen Anniston, ‘Nuff Said
    4. ER- Always a winner, but we’ll have to see what happens without Carter.
    5. Law and Order- Original flavor only, the branch-offs are terrible.
    OK, enuff commentary. Here are my next five:
    6. 70’s Show
    7. SNL
    8. NYPD Blue
    9. South Park
    Can you tell I grew up in the 90’s?

  • Mine are here.

  • 1-10: The Wire.

    Why? Because it’s one of the three best shows on the best network, and no one watches it, and it gets no Emmys, and it has to fight to be renewed.

  • Hunter

    Top Ten Future-Greatest-But-Not-Obvious-Show: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia!

  • 01: SCTV

    02: Fernwood Tonight

    03: Curb Your Enthusiasm

    04: Sports Night

    05: Absolutely Fabulous

    06: The Drew Carey Show

    07: Northern Exposure

    08: Columbo

    09: Oz

    10: Fraggle Rock

  • The roots of racism are not of this earth

    Program on the emergence of civilization.

    “14 species of large animals capable of domesitcation in the history of mankind.
    None from the sub-Saharan African continent.
    13 from Europe, Asia and northern Africa.”
    And disfavor.

    They point out Africans’ attempts to domesticate the elephant and zebra, the latter being an animal they illustrate that had utmost importance for it’s applicability in transformation from a hunting/gathering to agrarian-based civilization.

    The roots of racism are not of this earth.

    Austrailia, aboriginals:::No domesticable animals, so this nulified diversity of life claims on sub-continental Africa, zebras being a fine example.

    god is a computer
    And we’re all on auto-pilot.

    Organizational Heirarchy
    Heirarchical order, from top to bottom:

    1. MUCK – perhaps have experienced multiple universal contractions (have seen multiple big bangs), creator of the artificial intelligence humans ignorantly refer to as “god”
    2. Perhaps some mid-level alien management –
    3. Mafia (evil) aliens – runs day-to-day operations here and perhaps elsewhere (“On planets where they approved evil.”)

    Then we come to terrestrial management:

    4. Chinese/egyptians – this may be separated into the eastern and western worlds
    5. Romans – they answer to the egyptians
    6. Mafia – the real-world interface that constantly turns over generationally so as to reinforce the widely-held notion of mortality
    7. Jews, corporation, women, politician – Evidence exisits to suggest mafia management over all these groups.

    Survival of the favored.

  • Peter


    Not Obvious 10 Greatest Shows:

    Ellery Queen
    The Prisoner
    The Avengers
    Jack Benny
    Second City Television
    Cleopatra 2525
    Dr Who
    Banana Splits

  • Thought you folks might be interested in a similar question I asked writers, TV critics and fans a couple of years ago at my magazine Professor Barnhardt’s Journal:


  • 1. Thirtysomething
    2. Little House on the Prairie
    3. Waltons
    4. Highlander
    5. Friends
    6. Dick Van Dyke Show
    7. Mary Tyler Moore Show
    8. MASH
    9. Cosby
    10. WKRP in Cinncinati

    There are more…..

    11. Mad About You

    and CURRENTLY, I Can’t stop watching……..THE GILMORE GIRLS!

  • My list is totally different and includes a number of shows I’m surprised you didn’t list. I’ve posted it and found there’s one we have in common: The Wonder Years, even though I’m considerably younger than you.

  • hambone

    The Sopranos.
    The Simpsons.
    The Wonder Years.
    NYPD Blue.
    South Park.

  • countertop

    I posted mine here

    1. Freeks and Geeks – The most down to earth, honest, and witty show I’ve ever seen. I came out the same year as The 70s Show and what CBS did to it (changing its time slot every week, failure to promote it, putting it up against bigger shows) is outrageous. I’ve got it on tape, and want to get the DVD, and would put any of the 13 episodes up against any other TV show any day of the week.

    2. Wonder Years – Another tremendous show about the joys and perils and parental relations that everyone who grew up during an age before computers experienced. Both my father and myself could relate to each and every episode, and our family was closer as a result.

    3. Married With Children – Together with The Simpsons set the stage for Fox to be a major player. In its day, this show was on a whole ‘nother level and did for Television what Howard Stern did for Radio.

    4. The Greatest American Hero – Come on now, how can you not like it – from the theme song to the silly outfit. Just what we needed in the dark days of the cold war. I still walk to work huming the theme song.

    5. Cheers – Coach and Carla and Sam and Norm and Diane and Cliff and Rebecca and Woody and Frasier. Has there been a better ensemble comedy?

    6. Frasier – A powerful, compelling, insightful comedy that raised the art of comedic sitcom to that of serious theater.

    7. TIE – Marlin Perkins and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and The Cousteau Odyssey – These two shows brought the quality of National Geographic to a large Television viewing audience, helped advance world wide respect for wildlife and their habitats, and laid the groundwork for the success of cable television powerhouses like Discover, Animal Planet and others. Steve Irwin and Jack Hanna would never exist – and don’t even begin to compare – without these masters.

    9. Space 1999 – I just loved this show as a kid.

    10. Magnum, PI – Engaging, action packed, and every boy’s dream. When I pass reruns while channel surfing, I still manage to stop and stay. Its only fault is the all too occaisonal flashbacks to Vietnam.

  • Re: Seinfeld

    I left it off because it obvious. You specifically asked for the 10 greatest, but not obvious, shows.

  • Ron
  • Code Sears

    I am waching My kind of town.it is so dum like it has dum people and the town ok

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) is definitely at the top of every list I could create! For those that haven’t seen it…. stay away… it’s an addiction to rival crack (um…. not that I would know…)

  • In no particular order:

    1. JAMES AT 15 – I think the first regular TV kid to get laid (but the net got so much flak they gave him the clap two eps. later).

    2. ABCs WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS – think of someone with a perfect remote control finger clicking to all the right sports at the right time. Demolition derby!

    3. WISE GUY – Vinnie (Ken Wahl), so deep undercover that he can’t tell his disgraced mother that he’s really one of the good guys. Bad guys like Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Jerry Lewis, Annette Bening.

    4. HOMICIDE –

    5. & 5a THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW & THIS IS GARRY SHANDLING’S SHOW- Larry Sanders Show was(is?) the state of the art, but the hilarious underseen TISSS was the antecedent.

    6. HERE COME THE BRIDES – Get this for a premise – horny lumberjacks in Seattle, so they import 100 babes from Massachuttes. And it’s a drama. Try and slip that past the nets today.

    7. BAKERSFIELD P.D. – Sad to say, but if Bakersfield PD and Arrested Development had laugh tracks, these two would be RAYMOND & ROSEANNE. Deeply funny and way too deadpan for, well, everyone that’s not reading this.

    8. THE PATTY DUKE SHOW – When she was Cathy, I really believed she was Cathy.

    9. BIG BROTHER – the one in 2001. The winner, Will, was even more diabolical and enjoyable than Richard Hatch. His strategy? Be SUCH an asshole that no one bothered to vote him off, all the while everyone else was always sweating it while he had a great time. You don’t know who he is because of the events of September 11th overshadowed this little game. Worse, and more compelling, the contestants were in complete radio blackout so they were the only ones in the word not to know of the horror of 9/11. Worse still, one of the remaining contestants had a cousing in one of the towers who had not been accounted for. Watching the producers trying to wriggle out of this – amazing television.

    10. MY MOTHER THE CAR – I was young and maybe it doesn’t hold up so well but, the dude’s mom dies, comes back as a car and bugs her son for all eternity. How can that NOT be funny?

  • caitlin

    My top 10 favorite shows ( and they will probably show my age) are:

    10: Love Boat – Yes it was campy and the clothes were out of this world. But Gophers smile was adorable. Isaacs wink was charming and everything alsways worked out in the end. Don’t you wish life was like that.

    9: 240 Robert – 80’s rescue show was fun to watch, great characters and semi good storylines. Mark Harmon, Joanna Cassidy and John Bennett Perry in case someone wants to look it up.

    8:Dukes of Hazzard – Nothing like good old down home fun. Didn’t hurt that several of the cast members were and still are cute. Yep I am talking Bo and Luke and for the guys there was Daisy. Nothing can replace the original.

    7: Hercules: Bringing history to life(sort of) it was entertainment. A great buddy movie were the buddy actually shared the spotlight. The stories were told well.

    6: Xena – The feminine buddy show. Yes, they messed with the time line a lot but this was fantasy not history. I loved the martial arts. Costumes were cool too.

    5: Charmed – Three sisters bonding to follow their destiny. It has had a bumpy year here and there but over all great family show, wicked special effects and good writing.

    4: Highlander – Adrian Paul, do I have to say more. The flashback scenes were wonderful, well done and didn’t look out of place. The story was compelling and always interesting. and something about a guy with a brogue.. yummy.

    3: Farscape – The proverbial fish out of water, I thought this sounded the same as so many other shows that I almost didn’t watch. Glad I did. The characters are very multi dimensional, bound by a single cause. It should have had a few more years to tell it’s story.

    2: Buffy-The Vampire Slayer- Wow, Girl power rules. The world needs more positive rolemodels for girls and this show delivered at least 4 of them. Buffy, powerful, strong, reluctant. Willow, shy, brilliant and powerful. Anya, demon hello, strong. Cordelia, bitchy, strong and ultimately a fighter.

    1: Angel – fighting for redemption, trying to fit in, introverted mostly because he is afraid to get hurt or hurt others. I think this is like 80% of the people on the planet. No wonder people related to this guy. I just wish he had gotten together with Willow, seemed like the perfect match up.

  • 1. Seinfeld – If your into acting, or like being funy, watching this show will inlighten you! Some call it the greatest sitcom of all time. Perfet cast.

    everything else is obsoleete (freinds is gay!)

  • wwolfe

    1.) Buffy the Vampire Slayer: You could take this as metaphor or take it straight and it worked perfectly either way. On the surface, it had wit, comedy, heartbreak, thrills and chills, great acting, and characters and plot lines that were developed and resolved over seven seasons. As metaphor, it was, bar none, TV’s best expression of the trials and tribulations of adolescence and early adulthood. For its depth and complexity, sustained and fulfilled over its entire length, this show is only going to look better and better and gain more and more stature over time.

    2.) The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Undoubtedly, I’ve spent by far the most time watching this show. I sure miss Johnny.

    3.) WKRP in Cincinnati: My favorite sitcom. A loving look at human eccentricity, and an implicit, understated argument that these very quirks may be the best thing about our particular species.

    4.) The West Wing: I didn’t start watching until the fifth season, but once I did, I really loved it. This past year, its sixth, had some of the most thrilling TV I’ve seen in the episodes devoted to the primary campaign, culminating in the Democratic Convention.

    5.) Friends: I consistently enjoyed it for the whole ten-year run, and I continue to get pleasure from the re-runs. That’s enough for me.

    6.) China Beach: The old World War II soldier’s term, FUBAR, or “F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition,” is just about impossible to convey on film or TV. This show did an excellent job of it in showing the most completely FUBAR’d war the United States has ever been in. The third season especially was amazing TV: by moving through the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s within episodes, it gave us a sense of each character’s full story being told, while also capturing the fractured, out of joint feeling caused by war. Plus – Dana Delaney!

    7.) Sex and the City: My favorite New York City show. I enjoy the friendship among the four women. And I like that Carrie could be really frustrating sometimes.

    8.) SCTV: Ran circles around SNL. What a great cast of characters, from a remarkable ensemble.

    9.) Alias Smith and Jones: I don’t know if anyone remembers this one, but I loved it. Probably a sentimental favorite, but I liked the friendship between the two main characters, and their cheeky sense of humor.

    10.) Kolchak the Night Stalker: I got his on a bootleg DVD and was pleased to find that it holds up. Without ever referring to either event, I think this show tapped into the paranoia and disillusion produced by Vietnam and Watergate – the sense that something very bad was going on somewhere just out of sight, and no matter how hard we tried, we were never going to be able to bring it light. For this mission, Darren McGavin as the title character was the perfect rumpled Everyman: skeptical, irreverent, and true blue in his own jaundiced way.

  • The Shield
    The Wire
    The Sopranos
    Rescue Me
    The Office
    Curb Your Enthusiasm
    Just Shoot Me

    Sorry, can’t think of a tenth.

  • Susy

    Crime Story
    St Elsewhere
    Picket Fences
    China Beach (until it Jumped the Shark)
    The Wonder Years
    original Twilight Zone
    Naked City
    Six Feet Under
    Mr Ed (I’m old, can’t help it)
    Night Court

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  • I can’t believe it that so few people have watched anything before 1985.

    My god. The best shows are those that have stood the test of time. All of the below shows have done so beautifully.

    1. I Love Lucy. Fifty-five years since its debut, it is still the gold standard by which all television, not just sitcoms, are measured. It’s never been surpassed.

    2. Amos ‘n’ Andy. No doubt the most politically incorrect choice, it was the equal to I Love Lucy but for bad timing. Great writing, great acting all around. This is a national treasure that should never be allowed to sit in a vault.

    3. Twilight Zone. Television’s best anthology, and it still holds up beautifully.

    4. Leave It to Beaver. Like Lucy, is still timeless and will never be dated. Created by the same people who wrote the scripts for the TV version of Amos ‘n’ Andy.

    5. Have Gun–Will Travel. Superior western with superior writing.

    6. The Dick van Dyke Show. Another superior sitcom that’s held up quite well.

    7. The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Probably the perfect example of ensemble acting.

    8. Maverick–Another top western, a showcase for the talents of James Garner who unfortunately left the series because of a salary dispute.

    9. Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The master’s introductions are top ten-worthy all by themselves.

    10. The Prisoner. It had just a handful of episodes, but this series was terrific.

    There are many others worthy of inclusion: The Jack Benny Program, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, You Bet Your Life, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, All in the Family (though a bit dated), M*A*S*H*, See It Now, Bewitched, 60 Minutes, CBS Reports, Your Show of Shows (few episodes exist, unfortunately), to name but a few.

  • Nina

    I watch so much TV, this is really hard…my first stab at it is (no order):

    The Mary Tyler Moore Show
    Buffy The Vampire Slayer
    The Sopranos
    St. Elsewhere
    Freaks and Geeks
    The Office (BBC)
    Law & Order (I cheat and include all three flavors in one selection)
    The X-Files
    Everybody Loves Raymond (I know it’s considered lowbrow but it makes me laugh)

    could have easily made the cut: Sex & The City, The Dick Van Dyke Show, My So-Called Life, Curb Your Enthusiasm (forgetting this horrible season), Lost, Desperate Housewives, MST3K, Newsradio, The Bob Newhart Show.

  • 71dude

    All in the Family
    NYPD Blue
    The Simpsons
    WKRP in Cincinnati
    King of the Hill
    Three’s Company

  • Naked Snake

    This is fun, but it’s all strictly opinion. But here I go.

    1. Seinfeld–best sitcom past and present, possibly the future as well.

    2. The X-Files–Even past the 4th season this show blew everything else out of the water. Agent Mulder and Scully are one of the most enduring partnerships in TV history.

    3. Beavis and Butthead–The precursor to today’s potty-mouth cartoon humor.

    4. South Park–Potty-mouth cartoon humor redefined. Is starting to run out of gas however.

    5. The Simpsons–Been out of gas for several seasons, but in it’s prime was the best animated show on television.

    6. The Highlander–Great cult series following the life of a Scottish immortal warrior.

    7. The Cosby Show–Helped revive the sitcom in the 80’s and made family life fun.

    8. Xena–Everyone can use some guilty pleasure ridden, mindless entertainment.

    9. MST3K–Self explanatory. Who doesn’t enjoy ripping on B-movies?

    10. Kung Fu–Mixing martial arts and the old west is just a fascinating concept that stood out from all the other westerns on tv at the time.

  • jk

    twilight zone
    21 Jump Street
    Law and Order
    In Living Color
    The old X-men Cartoon
    Curb Your Enthusiasm

  • Someone

    1. Grey’s Anatomy
    2. America’s Next Top Model
    3. American Idol
    4. Good Day LA
    5. Degrassi
    6. The Tyra Show
    7. Beauty And The Geek
    8. Deal Or No Deal
    9. The Real World
    10. All My Children

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  • One tree hill has so much drama – i’d rather watch cheers

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