I love to watch a good TV show and there have been plenty great ones in the last 60 years.However, it will be hard to narrow it down to a top 10 list, but I will try. Here are 10 shows that have made me laugh, cry, be scared or made me think the most. I am using a actual scale to do this, but at the end of the day, it is my taste too. I have a diverse and eclectic taste, I do love the art of television and how it can tell a story over a longer time frame then movies. You get to know the characters more and the stories can have more depth. It is time for me to reveal the 10 best shows of all-time. This will be a fun list for me to do.
My list is based on this criteria.
Favorites (yes, I have to like it).
Longevity (does the show hold up)?
Groundbreaking (what did it do for television)?
Quality (it does have to be well produced, written, acted and edited you know)?
Influence (how many shows try to imitate this show).
Critical praise (yes, they matter).
And finally, did the show have a consistent (or at least most of the time) or close to consistent line of quality episodes. That is a reason why the Sopranos is not in here, too much inconsistency.
So, let’s get to cracking with the first entry.
10: The Dick Van Dyke Show (5 Seasons)
The reason why this show is on my list is easy. Mary Tyler Moore. She is in my opinion, the greatest female TV actress of all-time (yes, even over Lucille Ball). The show was original because of the fact that Rob and Laura didn’t have all the answers for a young couple, usually dad and mom had it all together, (especially dad), it was refreshing that they were a modern young couple trying to figure things out just like the rest of us. Laura did not wear big dresses and high heels all the time (although she did occasionally) she mostly wore slacks (which became a phenomenon) and flat shoes. However, the show was brilliant in it’s writing and the performances were all universally praised.
Morey Amsterdam was a classic as Buddy Sorrell, who made life miserable for Mel Cooly, the ultimate straight man for Buddy’s zinging one liners which fire off like an AK-47. Rose Marie is so delightful as Sally Rodgers who wants to give it all up for the right guy. This might be considered sexist by today’s standards, but it is hilarious and Rose shows such energy and enthusiasm for the character it is hard to really dislike her, stereotype. be danged Dick Van Dyke himself is a wonder as the bumbling and funny Rob Petrie who thinks he knows it all, but he actually is kind of clueless/ However, but the real star of this show is Mary whose crying became famous for this show, and the situations she was put in, made her all the more lovable as a loyal and caring housewife who is still modern by today’s standards.
The stories were pretty safe, so they did not revolutionize storytelling, however, they did however tell some fresh stories about how a young married couple tried to find their way in the world. The show did also deal with how women were treated, (in this show, the old view of housewife won usually), and it did deal with
Best Season: Season 4.
Best episode: “The Curious Thing About Women” Mary has never been more spot-on with her physical humor and her timing.
9: Scrubs (Eight official seasons)
I loathe Dr shows, so you can tell one is an incredible show when you actually get me to like it. Scrubs was a ground-breaking show. It was a single-camera comedy with no laugh track and tackled serious topics that a lot of dramas did not tackle. The star of the show was Zach Braff, but the real scene stealer was veteran actor John C. Mcginly who revolutionized the way doctors were portrayed on TV (House anyone)? JD also had a “bromance” with his best buddy Turk who provided some of the biggest laughs. Sometimes the show went a little too cold, but it always redeemed itself with a lot of tender and loving moments. The show also had one of the best ensembles ever. Mcginley stood out, but the whole cast added something to this show and everyone got a chance to shine. It is also a testament to a show when you have a horrible person (Bob Kelso) but the show humanized him and by the end of the show, you do not hate him nor look at him as a villain anymore, now that takes great writing and Bill Lawrence and his staff did a great job on developing each character to make sure they did not stagnate.
What really set the show apart from other comedies was the fact that the show had no laugh track. That is right folks, Scrubs dared to do something that most comedies did not even think of doing and that was taking the laugh track out, instead, the show let the audience members pick out what was funny, the audience did not need to have an audio track tell them what was funny. However, the show could as hilarious and it could also be as heart breaking as any drama. When Scrubs wanted you to feel an emotions, they drove it home how even the best doctors could make a mistakes and that even though some doctors may seem aloof, but they are just trying to deal with death the best way they can. This show broke a lot of boundries, especially on how men can have just as close of relationships as women and how even a character who seems cold and mean can turn out to be good. This show was so well written and it really made me glad I got into it.
The show was really about family and how a hospital needs mean humor just so the doctors will not go nuts. The characters developed over the years, but they did not lose their center and the show kept telling original stories until the end. Every year, Scrubs loved to take chances and do new things that comedies had not tried before. (Think the Wizard of Oz episode and the Musical episode). The rapid fire fantasies that JD had has influenced comedies even today (Hello Jane the Virgin) and the style of blunt and touching humor is still felt (New Girl and 30 Rock). Scrubs is still considered a classic and that last so-called season is not enough to diminish the impact and quality of a great comedy.
Best Season: 5
Best Episode: My Way Home I still laugh and cry.
8: The X-Files (10 Seasons)
The show that made edgy TV and upped the ante when it came to production on TV. The sad part is the last two seasons were not up to par, but it does not diminish how good of a show the X-Files was, nor does it diminish the influence this show has had. Anderson and Duchovny are magic on screen as Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. Scully being a skeptic really drove some people mad, but it also gave the show it’s chemistry and appeal. We sympathize with Mulder and his quest for the truth. He is an every man who wants to expose the secrets of the government and it is a personal matter as well. Trying to find out what happened to his sister makes it more human.The X-files would push all types of buttons, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, etc. A lot of shows did not come close to telling the gritty stories like the X-Files did.
Chris Carter mad min-movies every week. His use of higher budgets and more complex camera work set the bar for future television shows to come. The X-Files was also not afraid to make people jump in horror and think about tough subjects at the same time. There are a lot of shows that do not do that well. Carter poured his heart out into the stories and it showed.
The X-files broke new ground with darker and more violent episodes (the episode home comes to mind) and it pushed new boundaries on what could be shown on television which influenced everything from Buffy to the Sopranos. The X-files also had a great cast of villains as well, William B. Davis turned in one of the greatest performances of all time as the cigarette smoking man. He was Fox’s arch nemesis and he made the perfect villain for the show. He was a shadow, an enigma, and he was always around to keep the truth out of Fox’s hands. The show sometimes went a bit over board with it’s already over the top mythology, but the home-runs way out numbered the minor missteps. The X-files ended it’s ninth season on a whimper, but thankfully, the show came back and gave the fans some really great new episodes. I hope to see more of these and the X-Files still remains one of the best examples of how to do great TV.
Best Season: 4
Best Episode: Home, you will get creeped out by this one.
7: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Yes, this was made by George Lucas to address a lot of the concerns that fans had over the prequels, however, this show stands the test of time and has become one of the greatest shows of all time. The show ran for six seasons and was cancelled which caused an uproar among the Star Wars faithful (and people who liked good TV), TCW was in a lot of ways, better than the movies (yes, including the original ones) because of the Television format, you could get more time to spend on the character development (especially on the wonderful Ahsoka Tano, who was one of the best new SW characters in years) and Anakin who really seemed to be fleshed out because of the six seasons. We see in detail and a more subtle approach to how Anakin started to lose his way. He was always reckless and disobeyed orders, but it is during some of the bigger events of the show, that we get to see the darker Anakin come out and start to see that turn to the dark side. Other characters were used to great effect, Obi-Wan, Yoda, and even Jar-Jar were used very effectively.
The stories were more in a anthology format which was good, and the show did not concentrate on one arc, and the stories all made sense, so that is the mark of good writing and storytelling. The real hero of the show was Dave Feloni who really shaped the shows tone and style of story telling. TCW had a distinct look and it used camera angles and film making techniques that had not been used before in TV animation. The use of wide angles, multiple camera views really gave the show a cinematic feel. However, it was the close relationships, strong character development, good stories and warm human moments that made the Clone Wars stand above other animated (and non-animated shows), people can talk about George Lucas, but he sure did create the best animated show ever.
What really made TCW shine was the new use of dynamic camera movements. They actually used a revolving camera with different angels for the show. Most cartoons would use a static camera, but George Lucas wanted to give TCW a real cinema-like feel and experience so he went with real camera movements so it seemed like someone was filming an actual war while it was going on. TCW also added some very important details to the Star Wars mythology. Especially the origins of the force. This is important because it actually fills in the holes that the prequels left wide open. This show is so good, it actually turned some fans (even me) into fans of the prequels. It justifies them and gives so much more lore and stories for the Star Wars universe. TCW was great storytelling at it’s finest and the characters and writing hold up with any live action drama. It won numerous awards and deserved them all and then some. For everyone who says “I don’t care for animated shows” you might change your mind after this one, and if you don’t? Then I feel for you for not giving this gem of a show a chance.
Best Season: 6
Best Episodes: Voices, Destiny and Sacrifice, this three part arc on Yoda’s journey to find out how a Jedi can communicate past death is just thrilling and beyond beautiful.
6: Star Trek (first three shows)
When you think of sci-fi, Star Trek is near the top when it comes to association to sci-fi, things like transporters, com links, and warp speed are closely associated with both the show and what people think of when they think of futuristic sci-fi. The 60s show was a camp trip and a fun ride to watch, but it was the spin offs TNG and DS9 that really perfected the formula. But, the original show did break ground, (the first interracial kiss anyone)? To dealing with the Cold War, the original show had a great cast, (Nemoy was pitch perfect as Spock) and this show laid the foundation for the future shows and for sci-fi in general.
The Next Generation had the same feel of the original, but with better writing and better production values. The characters are legendary now (Picard, Worf, Data, Riker, Troi, Crusher, and yes, even that pain in the neck Q), The Next Generation was the highest rated syndicated show of all-time and ran for seven seasons. The show perfectly mixed the hokey charm of the original, but it also brought a new seriousness and told innovative stories that the original did not. The show could definitely stand on it’s own two feet. There is a lot to admire about the show, the humor (although some of the humor went a little too hokey) and the human moments made TNG a real gem. When it ended after seven great years, it was the highest rated syndicated show of all-time. A record that it still holds to this day.
The darker spin-off DS9 was equally effective for different reasons. If TNG was the friendly cousin who made you feel good, DS9 was the raging alcoholic who came in, told disturbing (yet entertaining stories) and made you think that maybe the future is not so bright. The characters on this show were just as amazing (Sisko, Dax, Worf, Odo, Quark, Bashir, O-Brian and Garak) and the show asked us to go deeper into the darker side of humanity. This turned some long-time fans of Star Trek off of DS9, however; over the years, the show has built a reputation and it is not just as beloved as TNG by a lot of trekkers. Probably the biggest asset DS9 has over the other treks is the best villain ever created for ST. The Dominion was the best villain easily in Trek’s history. Solm Jens tears the screen up as the female villain (I am not saying anymore so I don’t give the big shock away), and Andrew Robinson was absolutely spot on as Garak, a Cadasian who was living on a federation space station who quickly befriends the young doctor Julian Bashir. Everything clicked about DS9, and each season got better, although season 7 hit a few bumps, it still was an incredible show and one that broke a lot of grounds (Dax had one of the first major broadcast lesbian kissing scenes), and how the continuous arc got more complex showed how good it was until the emotional finale. All three shows are gold, but if I had to pick the best, it would be DS9 for its more complex stories and Odo is probably the best character Star Trek has ever had. Rene Auberjonois was perfect, just perfect, and his stories in the show were heartbreaking. But, if DS9 is too dark for your taste, the other two will fill your spirits with hope and joy while still giving you something to think about. Pick any one (or all three) and you will be in for some of the best TV ever produced.
I won’t talk about Voyager and Enterprise, Voyager had some good moments, but Enterprise was almost an embarrassment. I almost lost faith in Trek after the last two shows, but it does not dampen what the first three landmarks shows did. They are essential viewing for anyone who wants to see how Sci-Fi was, is and what Sci-Fi could be. Star Trek at its best, was about ideas and how humanity could push forward. Isn’t that something that we should watch?
Best Season: 2
Best Episode: The Trouble with Tribbles
Star Trek TNG: Best Season: 2
Best Episode: All Good Things parts 1 and 2.
Star Trek DS9
Best Season: 4
Best Episode: By the Pale Moon Light
5: I love Lucy
Yeah, the show was sexist, but it was hilarious and broke a lot of ground. Lucille Ball was the premiere comedian at the time, and this show was a brilliant showcase for her immense talent. Desi Arnaz was pitch perfect in the role of her husband Ricky, and they both had incredible chemistry and the dialogue was crisp and very smart. When Lucy got pregnant, she demanded that they not hide it and it was actually written into the story line. The episode of Lucy working in a chocolate factory is legendary and still gets big laughs from audiences world wide. I Love Lucy was ranked no2 on various greatest TV show list, and even no1 on some of them.
The show centered around Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, but their neighbors Ethel and Fred Mertz were huge scene stealers too. Some of the highlights include Lucy buying lots of kid toys to get Ricky to get Ricky to move into a bigger apartment, that backfired, and Lucy working at the chocolate factory. The show ended on a high note, and it is considered the godfather of sitcoms. It revolutionized TV, how it was filmed, what kind of characters and humor women could do and how much control a woman could have. Lucy really took control over the show and made it her show. Whenever people say junk like “were are the funny women?” Well, there is a lot now, but I always point to Lucille Ball, and people get quiet really quickly.
Best Season: 2, oh so many laughs.
Best Episode: The Courtroom.Oh Lucy, how do you get out of this one?
4: All in the Family
When you think of the legendary characters on TV, Archie Bunker will be at the top of the list. Carol O’ Connor put on one of the great performances of all time as the bigoted loudmouth head of the family. Archie’s acid remarks flew like dung at a Miley Cyrus concert. Norman Lean’s crisp writing for all the characters made sure that the other wonderful characters got just as much great lines and development. Edith, Michael “Meathead” and Gloria. Each actor played each character with such pzazz and charm that even Edith who was so flaky that she made Paris Hilton seem like Noam Chomsky sometimes, Edith ended up being the smartest and having some of the best moments on the show. All in the Family broke the mold for what a TV sitcom could be. Long gone were the days of playing it safe story lines and stories that did not deal with real world problems. AITF dealt with divorce, murder, rape, racism, sexism, and other hot topics from the 70s. Society was starting to become more better at talking about the tough issues that faced people. AITF was the right show for the right generation. It did something that a lot of shows don’t do know. It humanized a bigot.
Archie was a bigot, but he loved his family and he did learn some in some of the episodes. AITF would have a hard-time flying now with people being more sensitive about race and other topics, but maybe we need an Archie now. Maybe we need that character that makes us face our problems. AITF was a one of a kind show and if you get a chance, by all means, check out this wonderful show that makes a lot of comedies look anemic. This show is more edgy than most show are now. I don’t know if that is a testament at how good that show is, or how afraid people are today to tackle tough subjects in a realistic manner? Either way, this is a landmark show you should not miss.
Best Season: 3
Best Episode Lionel Steps Out, dealing with racism in a hilarious and poignant way the only way this show knows how.
3: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
This is my personal favorite show of all-time and there are a lot of reasons why. No show has made me laugh harder, cry more and entertain me more than Buffy has. Joss Whedon the creator of this blitzkrieg of a show, delivers on all fronts in ample spades. Some people complained the show was aimed at teenage girls, oh they were so wrong. BTVS dealt with the problems of teenagers, but it also dealt with mature subject matter like death, rape, betrayal, forgiveness, faith, dysfunctional family, and the all important, how to deal with a singing demon. Oh the horror!
Sarah Michelle Gellar put on one of the greatest performances for a female (or male) in the history of TV. Buffy was so deep and diverse which really gave her character a lot of depth. She was sweet, strong, caring, kind, intelligent, and flawed. The thing that made Buffy so relateable as a character was not how strong or intelligent she was, but it was how goofy, and even dumb Buffy could be (like the rest of us) she did not have all the answers sometimes she was clueless, she got punished by her mom, her kid sister would bug her, and she would make some really dumb decisions, but that only showed how human she was. Buffy would learn from her mistakes and grow, that is how you know when a great character is developing right before your eyes. SMG did it with it with so much ease. She could play so many of Buffy’s emotions and do it without breaking a sweat.
The rest of the cast was equally wonderful. Alyson Hannigan was the queen of cute as Willow, the adorable wall flower turned super witch. Willow grew so much, but never lost that sweetness or innocence that made her so appealing. Nicholas Brendan was spot-on as Xander Harris, the every man who did not have super powers, but he had a big heart and a wicked tongue for humor. Anthony Stewart Head had one of the best roles in Rupert Giles, the meek librarian (and Buffy’s watcher) who could kick butt and be a father to Buffy. Emma Caulfied was wonderful as Anya Jenkins a vengeance demon, Michelle Thrachenberg was so gleefully cute as Dawn, Buffy’s cute and sometimes annoying sister. Even the guest actors and actresses could hit the Bulls eye. Especially the ever illuminating Juliet Landau, who would steal every single scene like a bull stampeding throw a China shop on steroids as Drusilla. One of the greatest characters of all time put to film. Harry Groener as the wonderful Mayor Wilkins the 3 so goofy, yet fatherly-like and evil to boot, Eliza Dushku as the workling-class slayer Faith and James Marsters (who became a regular) as the legendary William the Bloody (Spike) who like Dru (his pet name for Drusilla) would tear scenes apart with no mercy. His comedic timing, smart insight and spot-on dramatic chops made Spike one of the greatest characters of all time.
The show broke a lot of ground with revolutionary episodes. From Hush in season four, to the Body in season five and the wonderful Musical Once More With Feeling for season six. Joss Whedon wanted to challenge his actors and himself. He took chances that few shows today will even attempt and how many Emmys did this show win? Not many at all, and that is really a shame. The show was a cult hit in America when it should have had a bigger audience. Buffy didn’t talk down to the audience and it also rewarded the loyal followers with big pay offs and a consistent mythology that was rich in lore but easy to understand.
When the show ended in 2003 after seven long and wonderful years, Buffy had set a new watermark for genre shows that today a lot of them try to live up to (Walking Dead, Lost, 24, Alias, Dark Angle, and even Game of Thrones) take a lot from Buffy. The epic scope, landscapes and serialized stories are heavily influenced by Buffy. Shows like Supernatural also have been influenced by Buffy, (look at the risk-taking episodes on Supernatural, hello Musical), the reason why this show is so high, is in my review of it here. If you have passed on this show because you think it is only for teenage girls, well, I am not ashamed to say, you are wrong, and you are wrong badly. BTVS has some of the best characters, stories, and writing ever in a TV show, and to this day, it is a show i can watch over and over (over 13 times for each season) and it never gets old, the jokes are still fresh, the human moments are still touching and the funny moments are still funny, and the scary moments still chill me to the bone. This is a must watch show and a show you will thank me for recommending.
Best Season: Season 5.
Best Episode: The Body, probably the most beautiful and touching episode ever put to film.
2: The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Back when being a housewife or a career girl dreaming of finding a man and being a housewife was all the rage, Mary Tyler Moore starred and created this groundbreaking and wonderful show about Mary Richards, a sweet, charming, and average Midwestern girl who was told to find the right man, get married and be a housewife and mom. Well, something happened, Mary wanted her own career and her own life, so off to Minneapolis she went to channel six news to become an associate producer. Her boss, the ever gruff but tender Lou Grant, Murray Slaughter, Rhoda the sweet and tough talking Bronx gal, Phyllis the nosy housewife and the irreplaceable Ted Baxter made up Marry’s wonderful and screwball cohorts who would work with Mary and help her when she needed it. The whole cast worked like a wrist watch that never stopped. Mary was of course, delightful and was so real that you forgot she was playing a character (same could be said for all the actors really), Ted Knight was on fire as the aloof Ted Baxter would was so clueless, he made congress look wise. Murray was the loyal friend who had a crush on Mary and Lou was more like a father-figure to Marry. The cast had magic and that is something that you cannot put in a bottle and sell, because if you could,then there would be no bad shows. Only shows like this.
The show also broke ground with how it dealt with subject matters, even All in the Family did stay mostly to it’s humorous roots (sometimes it was drama, but not that many times) whereas the MTMS could go full drama and stay there fore more than a few seconds. Everything from adultery, to seeing your ex move on are dealt with in very touching and humorous touches that the tone is perfectly balanced and it never goes too far in one direction, it does not stay too serious, but the show also knows when jokes are not needed. However, that was not the case for Chuckles Bites the Big One, considered by many to be the single greatest comedy episode of all-time, Chuckles Bites the Big One could have easily fell flat on it’s face, however, the gentle writing and good-natured jokes made sure the episode was not mean, but funny (in an inappropriate way). Showing how this show was not afraid to tackle taboo subjects and do it with style and class.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show broke a lot of ground for how women were portrayed on TV, but it also broke ground on the type of humor that we could find acceptable, the type of topics we could talk about and the show also showed how human being could interact with each other. This show has been a land-mark and it still influences shows today. Ally McBeal, Sex in the City, New Girl, etc., all owe it to this show for saying (hey, does the female lead always have to be a housewife)? That simple question launched one of the greatest TV shows of all time. For a comedy Mount Rushmore, you do need Lucille Ball, but it would be foolish to not include Mary Tyler Moore as well.
Best Season: Season 4.
Best Episode: Easy one, Chuckles Bites the Big One. So many laughs (Mary crying is a riot).
1: The Twilight Zone
When I think about landmark TV shows, this has got to be THEE cornerstone show of all shows. Rod Serling broke the mold with this show and even by today’s standards, this shows was and is way ahead of its time. Shows today could learn a lesson from this show on how to tell a gripping story that makes people think. Serling made TV sensors have a heart attack by talking about racism, sexism, agism, homophobia, classism, bigotry against religious people and anti-intellectualism among many other things. Yes, one show dealt with all of that and more. The Twilight Zone outdid a lot of movies when it came to provocative story telling that would push the boundaries of what people would accept and what people didn’t want to admit they did think about and say.
While most television was happy and the dramas always saw the good guys win. The Twilight Zone changed the game forever. Sometimes the good guys did not win, sometimes good people died, and humanity was even killed off in a few episodes. But, the show was trying to teach a lesson in a lot of the episodes and that is why the endings were bleak, Serling did not hold back when he wanted to make a point and he had a lot of points to make. From the brilliant and almost Citizen Kane-like Obsolete Man which was a blistering take on how people viewed books, intellectualism and how people viewed those who did not “contribute” to a modern society, and how a man’s convictions could easily overcome all of those. To Serve Man which is a chilling tale of Aliens who come to Earth seemingly to help humanity, but well, I won’t spoil it for people who have not seen it. The heartbreaking Time Enough At Last stared Twilight Zone regular Burgess Meredith (who better) as Henry Bemis who wanted nothing more than to sit down and read. However, his wife, co-workers and society did not look too foundly on Bemis for that. So when he goes down to the bank vault were he works, Bemis avoided an atomic bomb blast (yep a message about the destructive capabilities of the atomic bomb) after Bemis survives the blast, he is the last person on Earth and is happy to be alone with his books. Then, well again, I will stop there so you gentle viewers can discover for yourself what happens, but it is not a gay old time needless to say. For me, one of the greatest lines ever in the Twilight Zone happened in the unforgettable episode I am the Night, Color Me Black, were a Jagger (the criminal about to be hanged) ask Rev. Anderson “Whatever happened to the minority?” Rev replied “It died on the cross, two thousand years ago.” Moments like that will send chills up your spine. The Twilight Zone set the standard for not only shocking people with twisted endings, but also for what it said about humanity. The show tried to talk about what was deep inside of humanity as dark of souls we could sometimes have. Rod Serling pulled no punches and that is why this legendary show still holds up.
The Twilight Zone was also one of the first anthology shows and it pulled off the format brilliantly. But, more than any other show, the Twilight Zone really examined humanity in ways that shows are not even thinking about today. It is sad really that this show talked about some topics that it took the X-Files and Buffy to catch up to. The Twilight Zone is more than a TV show, it is a reminder what art can achieve when a vision is followed through. The Twilight Zone dared people to look into their souls, think about ideas and how the world treated people. The show was shocking, though provoking, scary, funny, cold, and even mean, but in a good way. The show did not let the viewers off the hook when it wanted to really drive home a message. We all had to look in the mirror and examine what humanity was. Sometimes, that was not a pretty sight, but it was always entertaining.
Best Season: Season 2.
Best Episode: The Obsolete Man, I dare you to watch this episode and not be appalled at how intelligence is treated.