March 23, 2009 Jill

More than 50 shows have been named in the hunt for the Five Greatest Shows Ever on Television.  At the moment, there are some clear leaders.

At the top of the list is Arrested Development with The Wire not far behind.Some of the other contenders for spots in the top five list include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Shield, Fawlty Towers, Freaks and Geeks, Larry Sanders, The Simpsons and My So Called Life.  Also on the list are Rome, Band of Brothers, Seinfeld, Six Feet Under, Mary Tyler More, Monty Python and Frasier.

The Sopranos has been named a few times, but not as many as I would have imagined and only one person named Mad Men.

Clearly comedy and shows about the teen years rank high.

Keep your lists coming in.  We’ll tally them later this week and put the top ten up for a vote.

And now for a nice segue, here’s Portia De Rossi’s Prop 8 PSA:


Comments (6)

  1. You can look at a list like this solely from a personal perspective, listing the shows that set you back on you ass, so to speak. Or you could develop a list of shows that were universally acclaimed as popular or great or ground-breaking. I’m picking the personal route.

    1. Farscape – The most purely entertaining yet thought-provoking show I have ever seen on the small screen. This was a show that I would run home to watch, and looked forward to with keen anticipation all week. I never imagined that scifi on television could be this good.

    2. Monty Python’s Flying Circus – a show that redefined comedy for me. It was both silly AND intellectual.

    3. Hill Street Blues – a huge cast of characters ranging from venal to heroic, and during the course of a season they actually CHANGED and GREW — just like real people! This was another show that knocked me for a loop.

    4. WKRP In Cincinnati – I thought this show perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the seventies, and it was the first in my recollection to use genuine rock-n-roll music not merely as a soundtrack, but as a clever commentary on the actions of the characters themselves. Rock-n-roll is so pervasive nowadays that people don’t realize how rare its appearance on television was up to this time.

    5. Max Headroom – I’ve never seen a show before that mocked the television industry so subversively. I like scifi shows, but most of them are dry, humorless, and they substitute exposition for action, and lack any interesting ideas. Max Headroom, with its portrayal of a future society locked in a deathlike trance with their TVs, was simply an extension of the ideas first put forth in Farenheit 451. Plus, it was funny.

    There are other great shows that I could name, but most of them didn’t last very long. One that has slipped into oblivion that also knocked me for a loop was Maximum Bob, which is the only show that I’ve ever seen which exactly captured the Elmore Leonard milieu. My recollection is that only four episodes ever aired, and sadly, I never recorded them.

    Frank’s Place was another short-lived show remarkable in that it revealed to us the real New Orleans. One character’s New Orleans patois was so thick that the producers used sub-titles for his dialog. Many TV shows are set in a specific American city, but few bother to show us what makes those cities unique.

    Both Deadwood, and now Kings, brought a Shakespearean majesty to television dialog and to the characters that spoke those lines. The characters on these two shows are all larger than life. Apart from the fairly regular diet of Shakespeare on PBS, you almost never see anything on the small screen that attempts a Shakespearean scope.

    I recognize that there are a lot of great shows which equally merit the title of “ground breaking”. MASH, All In The Family, The Smothers Brothers Show, Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Twin Peaks, Miami Vice, 24, Mary Tyler Moore, Fernwood 2 Night, SCTV, I Love Lucy, and Sesame Street. Some of these I enjoyed, and some of these I found to be somewhat of a snore. That’s why I chose a list of shows that elicited in me the greatest personal response, rather than a list of shows that other people — whether informed or uninformed — think are great.

    I must add, that now that I look at the list, it is clear that the shows that I enjoy the most are ones that are dense, have a lot of ideas at their core, have smart, fully realized characters (without a single annoying one among them), and for the most part move along smartly.

  2. cal coons

    Star Trek
    The Simpsons
    The Rockford Files
    Twin Peaks
    The Avengers

  3. SimplerDave

    Top five enjoyed and would watch again NOW:

    The Saint
    The Champions
    The Rockford Files
    Fawlty Towers
    Bleak House (most recent BBC version)

  4. A four-way tie, and something just out this week on DVD sneaks into fifth — Bless you, Netflix.

    Curb Your Enthusiasm
    The Wire
    The Newsroom
    In Treatment

    Too much legacy going back to George and Gracie to cover here; more recent tough-to-leave-out roadkill: My So-Called Life, Breaking Bad, Boston Legal, Sports Night, Hustle, Da Vinci’s Inquest, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Max Headroom, Firefly, Stargate SG-1 (S1,Ep7 “Cold Lazarus,” S8,Ep169 “Citizen Joe”), Dead Like Me, Veronica Mars, The Job, Weeds, Entourage, Action, Band of Brothers, Generation Kill, Deadwood, Rome, Californication, The Larry Sanders Show, Seinfeld, Murphy Brown, Homicide, NYPD Blue, Hill Street, Dream On, Star Trek DS9, The Kids in the Hall … Gee whiz — what about the amazing Charlie Jade?


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