The Greatest TV Shows of All Time (Kinda): The Top 10


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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Also it got showed once on a full moon. Totally against the rules.

Yeah, classifying things into weirdo categories like “drama” or “comedy” is so edgy and abnormal!

I totally earned my hipster exclusionary cred with that.


Getting rid of the Canadians is just a bonus, eh?
 

Bardic Dave

Adventurer
Yeah, classifying things into weirdo categories like “drama” or “comedy” is so edgy and abnormal!

I totally earned my hipster exclusionary cred with that.


Getting rid of the Canadians is just a bonus, eh?
It’s true, Canadian culture is a global scourge! Maple syrup, frigid cold and saying sorry? As a Canadian, I feel compelled to apologize.

In all seriousness, you’d probably have been better off restricting this to English language TV. You’d have gotten much less pushback.

Excluding British TV feels particularly problematic, given how much incredible British television there is. Not including it makes the discussion much less interesting.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
It’s true, Canadian culture is a global scourge! Maple syrup, frigid cold and saying sorry? As a Canadian, I feel compelled to apologize.

In all seriousness, you’d probably have been better off restricting this to English language TV. You’g have gotten much less pushback.

Excluding British shows feels particularly problematic, given how much incredible British television there is. Not including it makes the discussion much less interesting.

i mean, this is why I bother writing explanations … that no one reads.

“2. It must be American. Or American-y (productions that are shot abroad that are mainly for American audiences and in English count as well). There is so very much good television from so many parts of the word, that the inclusion of some shows would lead to endless chaos. Call this the Borgen/BBC Rule, with the “Look kids, it’s Vancouver” exception.”

This shouldn’t be problematic because there is TOO MUCH good tv from around the world. I am not so pretentious that I think I could creditably list the WORLD’S best tv - even assuming I knew all the best tv from all the countries.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
i mean, this is why I bother writing explanations … that no one reads.

“2. It must be American. Or American-y (productions that are shot abroad that are mainly for American audiences and in English count as well). There is so very much good television from so many parts of the word, that the inclusion of some shows would lead to endless chaos. Call this the Borgen/BBC Rule, with the “Look kids, it’s Vancouver” exception.”

This shouldn’t be problematic because there is TOO MUCH good tv from around the world. I am not so pretentious that I think I could creditably list the WORLD’S best tv - even assuming I knew all the best tv from all the countries.
You definitely need that hug!

But do you really not get why “only American or made for Americans” in a thread about the greatest TV shows of all time rubs non-Americans the wrong way? I mean, as an American I assume you don’t run up against this brick wall of a mindset multiple times a day, so maybe you genuinely don’t get it? I dunno.

Don’t fret it though. I’m not claiming it’s a real hardship or anything. The pushback you’re getting is genuinely mild and good-natured. ‘Fraid you’ll just have to weather it! It’s all just a bit of fun.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
But do you really not get why “only American or made for Americans” in a thread about the greatest TV shows of all time rubs non-Americans the wrong way? I mean, as an American I assume you don’t run up against this brick wall of a mindset multiple times a day, so maybe you genuinely don’t get it? I dunno.

...and do you not get why I wrote that? I mean, sure, as an American and an English-speaking person, I could write a top 10 list without any criteria that would have been heavily slanted toward American shows (and to a lesser extent, British shows). But that would have been, IMO, much more obnoxious than explicitly excluding them. A lack of self-knowledge is what leads people to say that they are listing the best of something, and then only putting in their own culture's examples. "I'm an American, and English is my first language. so let's just assume that all those shows with the pesky subtitles... or that haven't even been subtitled ... don't exist."

But to be explicit- I think it is usually much worse for someone to implicitly claim that they are evaluating all the world's TV when they have limited experience with the best programs from other countries.

And yes- the whole point of that explanation (explicitly referencing British programs with the BBC and foreign language programs with Borgen) was to avoid this kind of unthinking pushback. Again, why bother?
 

DrunkonDuty

he/him
But to be explicit- I think it is usually much worse for someone to implicitly claim that they are evaluating all the world's TV when they have limited experience with the best programs from other countries.

I'm confused - is someone evaluating the lists people are putting here? I thought individuals were putting up lists their own favourite shows.
 

Bardic Dave

Adventurer
i mean, this is why I bother writing explanations … that no one reads.

Or, maybe people read your explanation and still didn’t like it? Just because you tried to anticipate a particular reaction and forestall it doesn’t mean people didn’t read your post if they nonetheless have that reaction.

And yes- the whole point of that explanation (explicitly referencing British programs with the BBC and foreign language programs with Borgen) was to avoid this kind of unthinking pushback. Again, why bother?
It’s not unthinking just cause you don’t like it!
 

Marc Radle

Legend
So, here is the list. This Hall of Fame/Top 10 list is the product of maths, and therefore cannot be argued with, although you are welcome to make a case for other shows in the comments. Also? This is not an ordinal list; the rankings are not in order.

1. The Leftovers. Perhaps the best finale ever, and the best show no one watched. Very few shows are as ambitious, well-written, and well-acted as this show. Simply put, a tour de force.

2. Rectify. Rectify looked at the Leftovers’ terrible ratings, and said “Hold my beer.” Their tagline should have been, “Just as depressing as that other great show you don’t watch, but with less magical realism!”

3. The Americans. The show that consistently delighted in denying viewers the show that they wanted, and instead giving them the show they deserved. In addition, the show contained some of the best musical moments of any TV show, ever. From the beginning, with the use of Tusk immediately dropping you into this world, to the end (the obvious, yet perfect, use of With or Without You), to everything in between (Yellow Brick Road, We Do What We're Told), few series have paired music as perfectly with the visuals as the Americans.

4. The Sopranos. The all-time classic, and the show that started the good TV revolution. And the ending was perfect- fight me.

5. The Wire. The great American television show. Some might say the greatEST American TV show. The Sopranos might have started the quality TV revolution, but the Wire is the show that proved that television could be the new Great American Novel.

6. Halt and Catch Fire. A first season that was uneven quickly re-focused its attention in season 2, and told one of the most moving stories of our time.

7. Mad Men. Mad Men is to television what Chekhov is to plays.

8. Breaking Bad. Perhaps the most exciting show on this list; it is one of the few shows that not only maintained a propulsive sense of forward momentum, but the velocity continued to increase with each season and episode until by the end, you could feel yourself hurtling past the point of no return.

9. Buffy/Angel. Cheating and putting this in as a twofer. The shows still hold up, and codified many of the concepts (from "Big Bad" to the season-long arcs) that became such a feature in TV.

10. The Shield. The most vulnerable show on this list, and it isn’t aging as well. That said, I wanted to have one procedural, the last few episodes remain perfection, and the acting remains top-notch. It's probably the most overlooked "great TV" show.

Honorable Mentions:
Banshee: perfect genre TV.
Mr. Robot: the closest to Kubrick we have gotten on the small screen.
The Deuce: Shockingly good, but not as good as the Wire.
Hannibal: Stylish. Makes me hungrier than anything on the Cooking Channel.
Justified: Timothy Olyphant, barely missing out.
Deadwood: And barely missing out again.
Legion: Maybe my favorite show in terms of watching it, but the style sometimes wrote checks that the substance could not cash.
Oz: Shocking, and shockingly good at the time, but has not aged as well as some of the others.
Game of Thrones: Tough omission; a better last season (or last two seasons) would easily have put it in the top 10.
X-Files. Too dated.

And there it is. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect, IMO, is that there is a strong prevalence of anti-heroes on the list. Arguably, starting with The Sopranos (which kicked off our current craze), the Wire, Breaking Bad, the Americans, and the Shield are explicitly about anti-heroes. Mad Men, Rectify, Halt and Catch Fire, and the Leftovers are, at best, ambiguous. Of course, the Twilight Zone Corollary keeps me from going too far back and comparing shows (how important was Hill Street Blues?) which is why there is a strong bias to more modern shows- then again, in fairness, the vast majority of TV was really bad for a very long time.

So ... thoughts? Novelties? Party tricks? What show did I absolutely whiff on? And which of the top 10 shows is you cannoli?

Interestingly, with the exception of Game of Thrones, I haven’t seen any of these ...
 

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