March 23, 2009 Jill

Nominations are open.

John Callaghan suggested The Shield, Deadwood, MASH, Fawlty Towers and Freaks and Geeks on my Facebook wall.

I’m currently on a Freaks and Geeks binge and am pretty taken with the series, but my Top Five list would have to include The Wire, Shameless and Larry Sanders.  I’m not sure yet what else would round out my top five.

How about you?  What’s on your list of the five greatest shows ever on television?

Comments (52)

  1. My list of greatest (which shall certainly turn into my list of favorites)…

    – Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel (I just keep the whole Buffyverse together, but Angel is my favorite.)

    – Arrested Development (I was watching a couple of episodes with friends yesterday — one who’d seen the series, and one that had never — and we were all just cracking up. Still, to this day, one the funniest show ever.)

    – Veronica Mars (I don’t care what nobody says — I Season 2 is awesome. So is Season 1, but people don’t tend to refute that.)

    – Freaks & Geeks

    – Probably another cancelled before its time program…or a (pop) culturally relevant program. I’ll think of something.

  2. admin

    Arrested Development, yes! Veronica Mars, yes! I still haven’t seen too much of Buffy but if she makes the finals I’ll definitely invest the time.

  3. Michael

    This is hard. And I’m sure as soon as I submit this I’ll want to amend my answer, but…

    1.) MASH
    2.) Arrested Development
    3.) Fraiser
    4.) Seinfeld
    5.) 30 Rock

    Hmmm. Kinda comedy heavy. But that’s where my brain is today.

  4. Ted

    Yes, you must include Arrested Development.

    1. The Sopranos
    2. Arrested Development
    3. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
    4. Six Feet Under
    5. Larry Sanders

    5b. Curb Your Enthusiasm

  5. admin

    Monty Python! Seinfeld! Keep ’em coming. I think we’ll eventually have to put this to a vote.

  6. Terence Kenneth

    My list would include:

    1. 24. (For sheer pace)
    2. Hill Street Blues.
    3. St. Elsewhere.
    4. The Professionals (80’s – UK).
    5. The Shield.

  7. Shelley Eriksen

    Five Greatest Shows Ever On Television is so intimidating. I’m going to wimp out and call mine the Five Shows I Keep Referring to when I’m pitching, thinking about shows, or recommending shows to other writers as examples of how to do things brilliantly:

    Not in order of greatness:

    1. Once and Again
    2. The Wire
    3. Rescue Me
    4. Trial and Retribution (technically a mini-series I guess but hard and brilliant and showed 24 how to edit)
    5. Arrested Development

  8. Adam in Whitby

    Hard as well because some shows were great once, then later… not so much (see #3). Still:

    1) The Sopranos
    2) Larry Sanders
    3) The Simpsons (the Conan years)
    4) MTM Show
    5) Twin Peaks (season one)

  9. Five shows I would pay money to see more of:

    The West Wing (Sorkin years)
    Band of Brothers.
    Gilmore Girls – the last year before Amy Sherman-Palladino left.

    Buffy and ST: TNG and ST: DS9 were great in their time but I’ve grown out of them, alas.

  10. admin

    We’re getting quite a good list here and more on my Facebook wall!

  11. Lex

    In alphabetical order:

    – Angel
    – Arrested Development
    – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    – Futurama
    – Six Feet Under

  12. Josh

    Freaks and Geeks

    The Wonder Years

    Arrested Development

    Veronica Mars

    The Sarah Silverman Program

  13. Josh

    I’d also like to give runner up status to the Brilliant Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

  14. Ben S.

    1) The Wire.
    2) Mad Men.
    3) Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.
    4) Mr. Show.
    5) Six Feet Under.

  15. Ben S.

    Changed my Mind. Scratch “Six Feet Under” and add “The Sandbaggers”.

  16. killertv

    1) THE WIRE – Indisputable to any who have watched.
    2) FRASIER – the greatest multi-cam.
    3) SEINFELD – the show about nothing.
    4) LAW & ORDER – the purest incarnation of a procedural.
    5) ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT – the single-cam to which all others will forever be judged.

  17. What everyone else said, not forgetting also:

    Doctor Who
    My So-Called Life
    The BBC Shakespeare (1980s)

    and, having spent the past two months watching all ten series and realising its semi-consistent brilliance:


    It might not be cool to admit it, but you love it too.

  18. admin

    It’s true, I do love Friends. Always reliable entertainment.

  19. Definitely:

    1. The Wire
    2. Arrested Development
    3. Freaks & Geeks
    4. Battlestar Galactica
    5. The Simpsons

  20. fromama

    In no particular order:

    – Dexter
    – Rome
    – Arrested Development
    – 30 Rock
    – ???

    I haven’t seen The Wire, but I’ve been told that I’ll love it when I do. And there were so many well loved shows will little to no respectability(ex: Friends, Family Matters) that are great in the moment but can’t be in an all-time top 5.

  21. Matthew655321

    My one is boringly HBO heavy, but whatareyougonnado:

    1. The Sopranos
    2. The Wire
    3. Battlestar Galactica
    4. Six Feet Under
    5. Veronica Mars

  22. Shelley Eriksen

    I’ve been thinking about that word “Greatest” and I renounce my previous list and forthwith submit, for all the right reasons (vision, originality, and the creation of a whole world familiar yet different from our own):

    1 The Sopranos
    2 Deadwood
    3 Arrested Development
    4 Twin Peaks
    5 Friday Night Lights

    of course some seasons are better than others, blah blah blah. These babies were serious appointment television for me – or serious DVD binges, with repeats.

  23. Shelley Eriksen

    and The Wire, goddamnit, The Wire!

    curse this number “five.” Who made it FIVE?

  24. Mike McPhaden

    1 Hill Street Blues
    2 The West Wing
    3 MASH
    4 The Sopranos
    5 The Simpsons

  25. Mike McPhaden

    AGH! Retraction! I’m yoinking out the West Wing and replacing it with The Office (UK)!!

  26. Jordan

    Veronica Mars
    Six Feet Under
    M*A*S*H (this one’s from my early youth, but I /still/ remember that last episode…)

  27. Peter Mitchell

    Hill Street Blues
    All in the Family
    The Shield
    Mash (love it and hate it)
    Twilight Zone

  28. Denis McGrath

    You have to go with influence I think:

    The Dick Van Dyke Show
    The Sopranos
    The Simpsons
    Hill Street Blues

  29. admin

    Thank you, Denis. The Simpsons is now right up there with Arrested Development and The Wire.

  30. Ramona

    1. The Wire
    2. Arrested Development
    3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    4. The Shield
    5. The Sopranos

  31. Sacha

    The Sopranos
    The Wire
    Arrested Development
    I’m Alan Partridge

  32. Fake Sacha

    The Simpsons
    All in the Family
    Freaks & Geeks
    Battlestar Galactica

  33. admin

    Sacha, I know that Fake Sacha is you too. If you want to vote twice, that’s okay. It’s not a federal election and narrowing down to 5 is tough. Gotta say, you’re the only one to mention I’m Alan Partridge!

  34. I always get snarky about these ‘greatest’ TV series lists because a huge part of being ‘great’, in my opinion, is not only influence as Denis says, but longevity. So Firefly’ being cancelled after half a season? Not that great. Same for ‘Freaks & Geeks’. And ‘Band of Brothers’ is more of a mini-series, as is ‘Life On Mars’ or ‘Jekyl’ or the UK’s ‘The Office’ for that matter. ‘Arrested Development’ or ‘Veronica Mars’ at 3ish seasons barely qualify, as good as they were.

    That said, for what its worth, I will put forward:

    1) Law And Order
    2) Buffy The Vampire Slayer
    3) The X Files
    4) Seinfeld
    5) South Park

  35. Ben S.

    I’m finding it interesting that among the people who declared that influence and longevity some of the most important factors didn’t pick a late night talk shows.

    I guess this is a writer heavy website, the question didn’t specify scripted shows, but the answers certainly slant that way.

    Personally I couldn’t care less about influnce or longevity for my picks.

  36. Denis McGrath

    I don’t know if that was stated, but I think it would be implied, no?

    Because let’s face it, if you widen it out past, you know, comedies and dramas then you pretty much have to include

    60 Minutes
    Sesame Street
    The Tonight Show w. Steve Allen
    The Tonight Show w. Johnny Carson
    Late Night w. David Letterman


  37. Margie

    What is the matter with you guys?
    Sex in the City
    The Wire
    NYPD Blue
    Friday Night Lights

  38. Ben S.


    Nope, you don’t have to include any of those, unless you’re flying the flag of longevity and influence.

    Any top five list is really subjective, and the term greatest is plenty vague. The way that people tried to quantify greatest as longevity and influence, but cut out non-scripted programming, all without the prompting of our hostess, is interesting.

    After all, once someone picks those two criteria it would possible to make a top five list of “Greatest” shows without having one should the person actually liked on it.

    I appreciate that you came out and stated your criteria, it’s intellectually honest. My criteria are which TV-shows I liked the most, and thought were the best. So, in some way, we’re talking right past each other and not having a discussion at all.

    Since we’re answering different questions it’s not clear that counting both our answers actually gets us anyplace.

    I don’t feel I have the depth of knowledge of the tv world to really judge influence, or I would try to the question using your criteria as well. Sorry.

    But would you do me the favor of also answering using mine?

    And watch “The Sandbaggers” dang it. I can’t be the only fan of that show.

  39. admin

    Good points all. Obviously context is everything. Screenwriting blog brings out screenwriters with a bias for scripted shows. I personally am only thinking about shows that had a personal impact on me and that I want to watch over and over. It’s fascinating to see what comes up for others. I love hearing about new shows. Going to find me some Sandbaggers right now!

  40. Denis McGrath

    In terms of sheer enjoyment my list wouldn’t be much different. But there’s where unfair comparison bias comes in too.

    For instance, I would never put “The Office” UK on my list of most enjoyed—since the medium of “enjoyment” falls down because the whole humor of that show is based in making you feel really uncomfortable. I couldn’t say I enjoyed it.

    And what do you do about shows that were short run and brilliant versus shows that were great, and good, and middling over that long run.

    I’ve got a slot that seems to suggest either The Simpsons or, if I tip to “enjoyment”, Fawlty Towers, by a landslide. But is that fair? 20 years of 22 eps versus 12 total? A show that has influenced — with NEW eps, mind you, 3 generations of comedy writers, versus a tiny perfect classic of two flights of 6 from the 1970’s?

    I think when you suggest “Greatest” you are signing on to take a number of different things into account. Quality, enjoyment, influence and staying power, etc.

    But if the bar is simply which shows you enjoyed the most? My list:

    The Dick Van Dyke Show
    The Sopranos
    The Simpsons
    Hill Street Blues

    would probably become:

    The Wonder Years
    The West Wing
    Fawlty Towers
    and either Hill Street Blues or The Sopranos. I’d have to flip a coin.

  41. My list is

    1. Friday Night Lights
    2. My So-Called Life
    3. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
    4. The West Wing
    5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

  42. admin

    Um… Denis, how many shows have you named now? Never mind, you can vote as often as you like. It is hard to decide. Altho I was pretty sure Friday Night Lights would be at the top of Chloe’s list.

  43. cal coons

    Bugs Bunny
    The Prisoner
    Night Stalker (the original)
    Star Trek

  44. kaycee

    my top five shows

    1) A tie – “The Wire” & “Homicide
    Life On The Street”
    2) “Intelligence”
    3) “Saving Grace”
    4) “Rescue Me”
    5) “DaVinci’s Inquest”

    Honourable Mention: “The West Wing”, “Judging Amy”, “This Is Wonderland”

  45. Elize Morgan

    By far, and in no particular order:
    1 – Veronica Mars
    2 – Supernatural (shush. It’s good clean fun)
    3 – Carnivale
    4 – Firefly
    5 – Being Human

  46. Denis McGrath

    heh, no==i stand by the first list. i was responding to the guy who challenged me to make a “personal” list of enjoyed.

    i think “greatest” reaches for more. I stand by list no. 1 — not the one with Sesame street, not the one with Wonder Years.

    but I also liked Mr. Rogers.

  47. Sarah

    Ooh, fun!

    – Homicide
    – Arrested Development
    – Battlestar Galactica
    – Six Feet Under
    – Veronica Mars

    Honorable Mention: The West Wing, The Sorkin Years

  48. howie wiseman

    mad men
    the wire
    veronica mars
    curb your enthusiasm
    sargeant bilko
    larry sanders
    freaks and geeks whenever i finally get to see it

  49. Amanda

    1. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Ive never gotten so into a show before in my life, it has so much depth to it and its so relate able to everyday life.)
    2. Entourage
    3. Friends
    4. ER
    5. Threes Company (haha just made me laugh all the time)

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