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Top 10 TV Shows of All Time

Written by: Catalogs.com Editorial Staff

July 6, 2010
Filed Under TV 

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Contributed by John Allen Wallace, Catalogs.com Info Guru

Any top ten list is bound to be subjective, but this one has criteria: to make this list, a show must have longevity (Sports Night was great, but didn’t last), staying power (Three’s Company was funny, but hopelessly dated), strong writing (hopefully self-explanatory) and memorable moments (there’s a good reason that the final episode of M.A.S.H. was until very recently the most watched show in television history). Here are my choices, and let the debate begin.

10. All in the Family



Certainly dated to some extent, and it loses points for that. However, product of its time or not, this was groundbreaking television, and remains funny today. It brought open discussions of racism, homosexuality, sexism, and other topics once considered taboo into prime time, and still managed to be entertaining, not uncomfortable. Archie Bunker is no hero, but he is one of television’s great male roles.

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer



You might not expect to find a show that’s a mix of teen angst and vampire fantasy here, but this show was far different than the current Twilight obsession. Joss Whedon’s creation knew when to poke fun at itself (frequently, but with the memorable musical episode in particular), but also gave us powerful television. The scripts were intricate and well-written, and the characters drew us in, from Buffy and Angel to those in smaller roles. It gave us laughs, chills, and even tears (if your eyes didn’t well up at times, you’re made of stone). What more could a viewer ask?

8. The Simpsons



Few shows in television history have more staying power, with Homer and the rest still going strong after more than two decades. Just a check of the list of guest voices points to the show’s place in American pop culture: Tony Bennett, James Earl Jones, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Jackson, Leonard Nimoy, Bono, Stephen Hawking, and many, many others. If you were not skewered in Springfield, you were likely not that memorable.

7. The Dick Van Dyke Show



Perhaps not as familiar to younger viewers (Oh, the horror of watching black and white!), but just as watchable today as in its own time. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore have to be on any list of the most talented leading pairs in the history of television or movies. Their chemistry is magical. Either was more than capable of carrying a show alone. The two together gave us one for the ages.

6. Lost



Too soon to tell for this one? Not at all. Ask the ever-growing legions of fans who watch, rewatch, and dissect every episode. It combines sci-fi and soap opera seamlessly, managing to appeal to a wide swath of viewers, and boasts writing to match any show ever produced. The planned six-year run also allows viewers to catch up and provides a clear beginning and end rarely seen on television. Here too, the characters have become part of our lives: who could watch without taking Jack’s side or Sawyer’s in the fight for Kate? What show has provided such intellectual depth as well as pure guilty pleasure? What show has provided better cliffhangers and unexpected twists? Hardly an episode passes without an audible gasp (if not a scream) from those watching with me. If you aren’t watching, you should be.

5. Saturday Night Live



The only show in the top ten without a plot, and the only one to surpass The Simpsons for staying power. Generation after generation stays up late for SNL, and even as one great cast after another comes and goes, the show keeps going strong. Its alumni reads like a who’s who of comedy in the last 35 years: Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Phil Hartman, Mike Myers, Dana Carvery, Chris Rock, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, and many more. The show has given us social conscience, memorable music, and most of all, laughter.

4. Cheers



A blueprint for sexual tension in comedy, with Sam Malone (Ted Danson) paired with first Diane Chambers (Shelley Long) and then Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley), but also much more. The constant banter of Norm and Cliff, the pompous but lovable Frasier, the trashy but also lovable Carla, and of course Coach and Woody, all became part of our culture and our lives.

3. M.A.S.H.



A comedy about surgeons in the midst of war? It sounds far-fetched, but it worked. No show has mixed comedy with drama so successfully. We laughed and cried, and loved every moment. It’s hard not to tear up even as I write this, remembering Radar delivering the news of Henry’s death, or Hawkeye’s suffering on the final episode. However, it’s equally difficult not to laugh remembering B.J. greeting Frank for the first time with “What’s up, ferret face?” and countless other moments. Some shows seem to be sent off an assembly line, but it seems safe to say that there will never be another quite like M.A.S.H.

2. The West Wing



A political show, yes, but if one can set politics aside, its greatness shines to both sides of the aisle. Nearly every time I walk into a voting booth, I wish a man like Josiah Bartlet was on the ballot. This produced more chills than anything I’ve ever seen on television. There are far too many to list, but two that stand out are Bartlet’s using Bible verses to dismantle “religious” leaders objecting to his policies, and the moment when he risks political capital by sending American soldiers to a third world African country, with no oil to defend, just humanity. His explanation: “They’ve got mothers standing in front of tanks. We’re going to go get their backs.” He can be my President any time. Agree or not, it is well worth watching. The scripts, particularly in the Aaron Sorkin years, are also incredibly witty and funny, from the pilot’s opening scene, when Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) wakes up to find he accidentally (yes, really) slept with a hooker. Just watch. You won’t be disappointed.

1. Seinfeld



No other show, not even SNL, so completely seeped into American culture. No topic was taboo. What other show could base its most memorable episodes on masturbation and shrinkage and yet not be offensive? “Regifting,” “double-dipping,” “close talker,” and so many other phrases are now part of our lexicon. No other show is as quotable, and as with M.A.S.H., Cheers, and (coming soon) Lost, the final episode was an event to be planned for and shared with friends. The relative failure of the cast members separately only shows that the whole in this case was far greater than the sum of its parts, and very simply the best show in the history of television.



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Comments

22 Responses to “Top 10 TV Shows of All Time”

  1. Carl on July 17th, 2010 9:08 am

    all these shows are american they should be more british shows like monty pythons only fools and horses morcombe and wise ect most of these shows are way funnier than the annoyng american ones. also i think south park should be on the list for bieng the most ballsy show ever

  2. wqe on September 4th, 2010 2:14 pm

    Shut up carl

  3. wqe on September 4th, 2010 2:15 pm

    screw british shows…skip to ma lue..could u share a cup of tea…

  4. maddi on October 13th, 2010 4:36 am

    um hello

    WHERE THE HELL IS NEIGHBOURS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. cro on October 13th, 2010 12:40 pm

    English shows like fools and horses are better then almost every other on this list….simpsons,mash and seinfeld are top…the rest is crap….(american crap)

  6. Pat on October 16th, 2010 5:06 am

    Agree on most of them, but I can think of a lot of shows that belong on the list more than the wildly overrated “Lost.” How about “Roseanne,” the show that brought blue collar reality to the stale sitcom format, or the long-running and brilliant to the end “Frasier,” or “Miami Vice” (a great show that had a huge impact on music and fashion), or the greatest variety show of all time, “The Carol Burnett Show”? You really think “Lost” is going to outshine all of those in TV posterity? Seriously?

  7. bobby on November 4th, 2010 8:52 pm

    Sopranos ?

    One of the greatest shows of all time that revolutionized tv as we know it today.

  8. genesis on November 9th, 2010 11:42 am

    really? seinfeld is number one? be original. i was with you until then. top 3, ok. but 1? fail.

  9. C fost on November 16th, 2010 10:00 am

    Why the heck is married with children not on there

  10. zazen on November 26th, 2010 12:22 am

    Magnum PI, X Files, Dexter, Sopranos, Knots Landing,Golden Girls…

  11. Jeremy on December 5th, 2010 12:25 am

    Buffy should not be on this list, nor should Lost, not even close. Other selections were spot on. Real list should look like this:

    1) The Wire- no question about this one, most intelligent, gritty series ever seen on TV

    2) Seinfeld- best sitcom ever

    3) Sopranos- changed TV, there is simply TV before Sopranos and TV after Sopranos

    4) Simpsons- (first 10 seasons) Singlehandely built an entire network by itself

    5) All in the Family- my Dad’s favorite show ever, still funny on viewings even 40yrs later, Archie Bunker is probably the greatest TV character ever

    6) SNL- no show has ever created more stars

    7) Law & Order- (the original)

    8) Tie – Cheers and M.A.S.H

    9) Chapelle’s Show- my list of favorites will always include this show, first 2 seasons were absolute genius

    10) Jeopardy!- greatest gameshow ever

    Honarable mention: Deadwood(simply for the character of Al Swearingen), I Love Lucy, Twilight Zone, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica (much better and smarter than Buffy) Carol Burnett Show

  12. Justin on December 27th, 2010 10:39 am

    Ok why isn’t “I Love Lucy” on there, it is possibly the best show of ALL TIME!!!!???

  13. nnn on December 29th, 2010 7:31 am

    where is Friends? It’s the best show ever…………..!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. that guy on December 31st, 2010 1:58 am

    Friends? wtf? the greatest TV show ever isnt even on the list?

  15. Alexys on January 14th, 2011 11:18 pm

    … Um hellloooo. The only reason this list is even half good is because it included LOST and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE. Those should definitely be on top 5 of every top tv list ever. Also personally I think Friends, Heroes, and Bones should be on here to but, ehh yours are allright

  16. fauna nix on February 14th, 2011 11:54 pm

    can someone tell me which T.V. shows were the lowest rated ever?

  17. faith on February 17th, 2011 4:45 pm

    where is friends

  18. terry jones on February 20th, 2011 8:08 pm

    where is the fugitive,gunsmoke,lucy,hill street, law&order you must have been

    stoned or just plain blind.

  19. eugene on February 21st, 2011 11:14 am

    and where do you plan on putting star trek, Friends, Xfiles, prison break? these shows have got a huge following even today. and buffy n cheers in the top 10??? get real. i Can think of ten shows better than them.

  20. Greg on March 9th, 2011 10:26 pm

    You missed X-Files. Blasphemy!

  21. black and white diamonds f.k segregation on March 31st, 2011 6:55 am

    You should have put top ten AMERICAN or ALL WHITE shows there are plenty African American shows better then some of these my tops on this list in no order Simpson’s M.A.S.H Seinfeld others were good but some other American shows were better what is Buffy doing on this list LOL

  22. bob loblaw on September 2nd, 2011 5:06 pm

    sopranos= best show ever made you are retarted for not including it in top 10

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