The 20 Best TV Shows of All-Time

1. Breaking Bad – The unrivalled zenith of television drama was the story of Walter White, high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth manufacturer. The tension was gripping from start to finish, and the ending was probably the most satisfying in television history.

2. Seinfeld – The series about nothing Seinfeld made everything into something. Widely considered to be one of the funniest shows ever to grace our TV screens, the irreverent humor made us laugh for nearly a decade and did the thing that no other show was brave enough to do: stop before it got dull.

3. The Simpsons – The longest running animated television show is also one of the best. After twenty years, the writing is still as fresh as it was when it first debuted on the Tracy Ullman Show.

4. Friends – A global phenomenon, it depicted six twenty-somethings living the life many people dreamed of and became a classic.

5. Cheers – A feel-good show that made audiences feel like they were really part of the group. The great will-they or won’t-they question that hovered between Sam and Diane kept audiences tuning in week after week after week.

6. Moonlighting – Fun, sexy, and so very 1980s, Moonlighting was a great show that did sexual tension like no other show to date. Bruce Willis as David Addison and Cybil Shepard as Maddie Hayes reliably made us laugh and ache for them to kiss and do it already.

7. The Sopranos – With the most controversial ending of all time, people are still talking about what happened to Tony Soprano and his family. The fact that people care, even eight years later, speaks to the endurance of the

8. Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Irreverent and surreal, it was a sketch that launched a thousand nerd quotes and became beloved both in its native England and the US. Not bad for low-budget TV.

9. ER – The medical drama was the onscreen debut of a numerous big Hollywood names today (notably George Clooney), the writing was crisp, the feelings were intense, and the mark it left on television is enduring.

10. The Twilight Zone – The classic TV show has been on reruns for 58 years for a reason: the creepiness is eternal.

11. The West Wing – The show that introduced ‘walk-and-talk’ became ‘must-see TV’. Featuring Martin Sheen as an empathetic, smart, and bold President Bartlett, he was a kind of Clinton replacement for the masses who were angry that George W. Bush had become president.

12. Saturday Night Live – The iconic sketch show has had its ups and downs, but man the ups were fantastic. As a Launchpad for comedians, it is unrivalled. For viewers, the nostalgia is rich and the laughs often.

13. House – The medical drama starring Hugh Laurie was so smart and so well written that it transcended the genre.

14. Game of Thrones – This massive-budget television program is complex and visually rich with soaring story arcs. It will go down in history as a new benchmark in high-quality TV.

15. Late Night With David Letterman – Some years were better than others, but David Letterman always managed to be interesting by playing the straight man to his guests. His bizarre life off screen in the later years has been rarely discussed because his on-screen work was so powerful.

16. Roseanne – Like the characters of Cheers, the Roseanne cast was relatable by a huge swath of the country. The problems they faced were problems millions of Americans faced, and for that reason they were beloved. It was a ground-breaking program because it was so honest.

17. True Detective – One of the finest detective series ever produced, True Detective was sleek, beautiful, strange and compelling. The story arcs were stunning and the writing as snappy and bright.

18. The X-Files – Like Twilight Zone for Gen X, the X-Files remains one of the best written and most thought-provoking TV shows created.

19. The Office – It avoided being just another ‘ordinary people’ type of show by the casting of Steve Carrell that made it both sweet and cringey every week. It was the first and best example of ‘fourth wall’ TV.

20. South Park – The loud-mouthed rude little kids of South Park elementary were a fresh politically incorrect take on childhood. The animation is jokey but the writing is deliberately provocative, tackling issues like Scientology, the ‘trend’ of being gay, even the Mohammed cartoons. The bravery alone makes it one of the 20 best TV shows of all time.

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