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The Real Greatest TV Shows of All Time

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
No, this isn't a list of just Swedish shows you watched on a Tuesday which feature nobody wearing glasses and star three people whose names begin with K! In this list you can list the actual greatest TV shows of all time and why!

These are in no particular order. I've tried to pick 10, but there are dozens which I could have picked. It's tough, but somebody had to do it. Plus, obviously, I haven't seen all the TV shows.

Game of Thrones. Despite criticism of its final season, this is one of the best shows ever made. Kept me hooked every single week.

Blackadder. Ignoring season 1 (hey we're ignoring Got's s8, right?) this is one of the best two comedy shows ever made. Pure genius.

Fawlty Towers. This is the other in the best two comedy shows. Nothing has ever made me laugh harder. Note there's no Python in this list; Python has some of the worlds best sketches, but they were hit and miss.

Star Trek. We can't be without Trek in this list. Question is, which one? TOS is the one which started it all. TNG is better quality (after the first couple of seasons are out of the way). Lots of people love DS9. There are others. I think I'm going to go with TNG, but it's a tough call.

The West Wing. I loved this show. Sure, it's idealistic, a bit preachy, and look pretty silly given the insights we've gotten into how things really work, but the characters are so engaging, and the storylines are gripping.

BBC's Rome. A show made by the BBC in Italy (I am given to understand it was shown on a channel called HBO in America), the first season of this was superb. I felt it meandered a bit in the second season. Rome only just squeezes into this list.

The Thick of It. Malcolm Tucker before he came Doctor Who. That is all.

Prime Suspect. Helen Mirren in a gritty cop procedural. It's old, but it's so good.

The Sopranos. I'm not sure if it was this or West Wing which started our current age of TV-better-than-movies.

Line of Duty. I care about one thing, and one thing only, and that's nicking bent coppers!

Parks And Recreation. This spot had to go to one of those types of shows. The Office was a contender, but I find P&R more fun.

Honourable mentions: I'm Alan Partridge, The Good Place, Doctor Who, Cheers, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Only Fools and Horses, The Office (both), The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica (reboot), Buffy, Friends.
 
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Hatmatter

Laws of Mordenkainen, Elminster, & Fistandantilus
Game of Thrones. Despite criticism of its final season, this is one of the best shows ever made. Kept me hooked every single week.
This show is so unbelievably good. I just finished a rewatch a couple months ago and, every time I do that, I am stunned at how good it is. I am one of those people who love the final season. "The Bells" in season 8 works better and better for me each time I watch the build-up through the previous seasons when I do a complete watch through. Some times I read a book or see a film and I simply do not know how people made it as good as it is. GoT is like that for me. And, given that the readership here is mostly a bunch of D&D players, I have never seen a better dramatization of a typical D&D one-shot adventure than "Beyond the Wall" in season 7....I think that is probably my favorite episode of them all. So good. :)

No Breaking Bad on your list, Morrus? Breaking Bad is so good. I think it is even better than GoT.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
I don't watch a ton of shows because they're too time consuming. And I tend to be more critical than the average watcher I'd say. Most shows that people qualify as amazing I find good, and most shows that people quality as good I quality as barely mediocre. So, there's not many shows that comes to mind when I think about what the greatest shows are.

However, there's one exception. It's my favorite show and I consider it almost perfect in most ways; Mad Men. It cannot be stated enough how brilliant the writing is. It's a profound work that does not leans on eye-catching and surprising cheap drama to interest you, almost all its characters (primary, secondary or even tertiary) are well-developed, it manages to make most episodes have an arc and work on their own while also having season-wide (and show-wide) arcs for its characters and the general plot.

I haven't watched the Sopranos yet, but it's on my list!

BBC's Rome. A show made by the BBC in Italy (I am given to understand it was shown on a channel called HBO in America), the first season of this was superb. I felt it meandered a bit in the second season. Rome only just squeezes into this list.
Isn't it a full co-production between HBO and BBC? I'm pretty sure it was initially pitched to HBO and they seeked a production partner, ending up financing like 80% of the production of the first season.

Game of Thrones. Despite criticism of its final season, this is one of the best shows ever made. Kept me hooked every single week.
Even though I lived and breathed ASOIAF for years, I can't in good conscience count Game of Thrones as one of the best shows. A few of its seasons are among the best TV seasons I've watched and are highly respectful of the source material. But it really went downhill. Music, sets, costumes, acting and all that have been spectacular until the very end. But it can't be emphasized how bad the last two or three seasons were. They can still be enjoyed, tons of people did. But for me, it can't be a spectacular flight if your plane doesn't land.
 


Ryujin

Hero
No, this isn't a list of just Swedish shows you watched on a Tuesday which feature nobody wearing glasses and star three people whose names begin with K! In this list you can list the actual greatest TV shows of all time and why!

These are in no particular order. I've tried to ick 10, but there are dozens which I could have picked. It's tough, but somebody had to do it. Plus, obviously, I haven't seen all the TV shows.

Game of Thrones. Despite criticism of its final season, this is one of the best shows ever made. Kept me hooked every single week.

Blackadder. Ignoring season 1 (hey we're ignoring Got's s8, right?) this is one of the best two comedy shows ever made. Pure genius.

Fawlty Towers. This is the other in the best two comedy shows. Nothing has ever made me laugh harder. Note there's no Python in this list; Python has some of the worlds best sketches, but they were hit and miss.

Star Trek. We can't be without Trek in this list. Question is, which one? TOS is the one which started it all. TNG is better quality (after the first couple of seasons are out of the way). Lots of people love DS9. There are others. I think I'm going to go with TNG, but it's a tough call.

The West Wing. I loved this show. Sure, it's idealistic, a bit preachy, and look pretty silly given the insights we've gotten into how things really work, but the characters are so engaging, and the storylines are gripping.

BBC's Rome. A show made by the BBC in Italy (I am given to understand it was shown on a channel called HBO in America), the first season of this was superb. I felt it meandered a bit in the second season. Rome only just squeezes into this list.

The Thick of It. Malcolm Tucker before he came Doctor Who. That is all.

Prime Suspect. Helen Mirren in a gritty cop procedural. It's old, but it's so good.

The Sopranos. I'm not sure if it was this or West Wing which started our current age of TV-better-than-movies.

Line of Duty. I care about one thing, and one thing only, and that's nicking bent coppers!

Parks And Recreation. This spot had to go to one of those types of shows. The Office was a contender, but I find P&R more fun.

Honourable mentions: I'm Alan Partridge, The Good Place, Doctor Who, Cheers, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Only Fools and Horses, The Office (both), The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica (reboot), Buffy, Friends.
There's going to be a certain amount of difference in the list, due to exposure and culture, but my list would look a lot like yours. For example I have no reference for shows like "The Thick of It" or "Prime Suspect", but suspect they'd be up on my list if I did. In their place I might substitute a long lost gem like "Kolchak: The Night Stalker", which some would see as the forerunner of shows like "The X Files." It did "monster of the week" but in that campy, comedic '70s way.

When it comes to Star Trek I would go for TOS, simply because it broke so many cultural barriers in its time and set the DNA of what followed. I agree that it's a tough choice.
 

fnordland

Villager
I second Parks and Recreation and I would like to suggest Taxi a comedy from the late 70s. Both feature ensemble casts who would go on to have extraordinary careers.

My recommendation is Heimat, the story of a German village from 1919-1980. Filmed by a painter with a wonderful soundtrack it is a moving depiction of many lives through multiple families. The cinematography is rich, the acting is superb and the music ties it all together.

These shows have a beginning, middle and end. I think the major fault of many shows is that I have no confidence in the show runner to have that sequence. It becomes one endless twist after the other, the writers behaving like jailors to the audience, janking the chain of their captives. When you have put in effort to convince the audience then pull the rug from under them I'm just going to walk away. Why should I watch your series when you are just going to change everything or give the villain total plot immunity. This is why I did not watch GoT.

Thank you for me reminding me about Rome. An all star cast and so evocative in set design. Thirteenth!
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Isn't it a full co-production between HBO and BBC? I'm pretty sure it was initially pitched to HBO and they seeked a production partner, ending up financing like 80% of the production of the first season.
I mean, sure, they paid for the catering. Somebody paid for the Mona Lisa, but da Vinci painted it.
 

The wire : from my point of view, the best TV show ever. There is two kind of television : the Wire and everything else.

Buffy the vampire slayer (& Angel) : Buffy is the perfect "working class superhero". Some episodes are just fully awsomes (Hush, the Zeppo, the body, etc.)
True detective (season 1) : the season 2 is far from bad (dont' know about the season 3) but cannot stand the comparison with the dark magic of the first one.
Batman (TAS) : was amazed as a child, still am as a grown-up showing it to my little girls.

Honourable mentions: The Good Place, Rome, Friends, Oz, the Queen's gambit, the IT crowd, the Simpsons, Show me a hero.
 




billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Blackadder. Ignoring season 1 (hey we're ignoring Got's s8, right?) this is one of the best two comedy shows ever made. Pure genius.
Why on earth would you ignore season 1? It's a bit different with Blackadder's character not as established, but it's still damn funny.
 


Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Serious list time
  • Duck Tales (2017) - No seriously, though, this is such a great damn show. The humor works, the heartwarming stuff works, the moments of nostalgia work, the triplets have defined personalities, the cast is amazing (including the always under-appreciated Paget Brewster). Sure, it throws a lot of stuff at the wall; it's just that nearly everything sticks.
  • Bluey (AUS) - If you don't have young kids I wouldn't go out of your way to watch it, but if you do have young kids watch this with them immediately. I think it's on Disney+. Genuinely funny, genuinely heartwarming, and it always has a wonderful lesson (for kids and, sometimes, for parents).
  • The Witcher - Yeah it's not all kiddy stuff on this list. The Witcher isn't going to win any awards for deep storytelling, but it's exactly what it needed to be, which is fun.
  • The Good Place - The only sitcom that is consistently excellent all the way through (don't @ me), and it did it while being both hilarious and having actual insight in the human condition.
  • Lost - Say what you will, but Lost changed the face of TV, and it did it with unique storytelling and characters that were always compelling (if not always or even often likeable). People hate on it a lot because it left a lot of mysteries of the island unexplained (and the magic bathplug at the end was a little weak), but that's never what the show was about.
  • Battlestar Galactica - It's become trendy to look back on this show with disdain, and in some ways that's fair (Caprica being awful didn't help, and BSG had some clunker episodes, and the last five minutes of the show were just plain terrible), but this show was as big as it was for as long as it was because it was good. I dare you to find a more compelling hour of TV, from beginning to end, than "33". I'll wait.
  • Haunting of Bly Manor - I was worried about this, because Hill House was also very good, but Bly Manor is better in every conceivable way. Both seasons are very good. There's not a lot of jump scares here; the horror is very slow burn and melancholy.
  • Deadwood - Ended before its time, this is another show with an absolutely phenomenal cast that makes us root for both good guys and the bad guys. Quite possibly the best dialogue on television. There's something almost Shakespearean about the writing, right down to the fool's monologue (warning: language).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer - A show that somehow holds up both better and worse than you'd expect it to. Reckoning with Joss Whedon's legacy makes it difficult to not color perceptions of his presentation of "female empowerment". It's also one of the whitest shows set in Southern California I've ever seen (Deadwood, of all things, has a more diverse cast). Still, this is the only show that can compete with Lost in terms of how much it's contributed to the face of modern TV, and that's for a reason. Nobody was really doing storytelling like this on TV, and more than anything, that's the aspect that holds. (Also, Season 6's allegory for depression works way better than people want to give it credit for).
  • She-ra and the Princesses of Power - Someone asked the right question at the right time: "What if Buffy, but even more gay" and the end result was this very excellent series. It had some missteps (A non-binary character? Yay! They're a shapeshifting con artist who thrives on chaos? Uhh...) but if you ended up missing out on this for whatever reason, it's worth a shot. The animation is a little rough, but the writing and characters more than make up for it.
Not Appearing on This List:
  • Avatar the Last Airbender - Recently re-watched it and... it doesn't hold up as well as I remembered? The Aang/Katara stuff in general was realllly rough. Toph still rules though.
  • Angel - Occasionally better than Buffy; usually worse though, and it had longer (and deeper) rough patches. Gunn still rules though.
  • Breaking Bad - Along with Sopranos and The Wire, these are shows that I can recognize as having quality, but feature stories and characters that I just don't care about at all.
  • Brooklyn 9-9 - At it's best it competes with The Good Place (by the same production company, if I recall correctly), but it has some more distinct downturns and missteps. Rosa still rules though.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So, I'm not a fan of ranking my personal favorite shows.

Greatest of all time, in terms of TV history and impact, most of what's getting mentioned here is still going to be small potatoes compared to the historic greats - the Ed Sullivan Show, 60 Minutes, The Honeymooners, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, I Love Lucy.

Maybe Star Trek fits in there on cultural impact.
 


Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
So, I'm not a fan of ranking my personal favorite shows.

Greatest of all time, in terms of TV history and impact, most of what's getting mentioned here is still going to be small potatoes compared to the historic greats - the Ed Sullivan Show, 60 Minutes, The Honeymooners, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, I Love Lucy.
I’ve seen the Simpsons. No idea what the rest are!
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
As far as British Comedies go, while I am a fan of the older shows (BA, Faulty Towers), I have to rank Season 2 of Cuckoo (Tyler Laughtner was a huge pleasant surprise for me) and all but season 1 of IT Crowd. Those are two my all time favorite comedy shows, regardless of nationality.
 

Season 1 of the Haunting of Hillhouse is fantastic, and some of the best acting I have seen on tv. I'm less of a fan of Blymanor, it didn't really click with me.

Cobra Kai is also fantastic. It manages to be both funny, sincere drama, and nostalgic. A loving tribute to a movie that no one knew they wanted a tv show of. The writing in each episode is stellar.

Better Call Saul is also great, but is it as good or better than Breaking Bad? Personally, I feel the stakes are not as high. But it still is a great show.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has stood the test of time. There are just so many great episodes. My favourite episodes are: Conversations with Dead People, The Wish, Hush, The Zeppo, Bewitched Bothered & Bewildered, Help, Dopplegangland, Passion, Revelations, Innocense, Halloween, Lovers Walk, Crush, The Body, Killed by Death, Earshot, Something Blue, Restless, Fool for Love, The Gift, Forever, Normal Again, Him, Bad Girls, and Once More with Feeling.

If that seem like a lot of episodes to list as favourites... yeah...
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Season 1 of the Haunting of Hillhouse is fantastic, and some of the best acting I have seen on tv. I'm less of a fan of Blymanor, it didn't really click with me.

Cobra Kai is also fantastic. It manages to be both funny, sincere drama, and nostalgic. A loving tribute to a movie that no one knew they wanted a tv show of. The writing in each episode is stellar.
Cobra Kai is really good! Not top 10 for me, but it’s ready good!
 

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