So the WGA made the expected waves last week by releasing their list of the 100 Best Written TV shows of all time. These lists always end up being highly subjective regardless of how large the sample. Works of art inherently strike people in different ways just as they strike generations in different ways Contemporary shows are overvalued. Older shows get dismissed by younger generations who cannot see their influence.
A few caveats:
1( When it comes to TV, I prefer comedy shows, mostly because they are more able to break new ground and push the envelope of what is acceptable or not. Also, when I was younger, I watched my share of cop shows, doctor shows, and lawyer shows and, frankly, got my fill of them. Too by the book & too depressing. They hold zero interest for me now.
2) The shows we watch during our formative years (ages 15-25) tend to be the shows that imprint themselves on our minds as “the best ever.” (same for books, movies, and music). I'm sure my list reflects that.
3) I have tried to limit the list to shows that proved most influential.
So with all those caveats aside, here is my list of the best written TV shows of all time. There are 25 because I could not narrow it down to just 10. They are alphabetical because I could not rank one above the other.
All in the Family (1971-1979)
Had its finger on the generational fault line of America in its time. Took on more divisive issues than any other show. Could not get on TV today. Part of CBS’s Hall of Fame Saturday night line up.
The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978)
Quirky and zany and absurd while still making us love their characters. Part of CBS’s Hall of Fame Saturday night line up.
The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978)
Very few shows have had such a small yet versatile cast. There was nothing they couldn’t do. Part of CBS’s Hall of Fame Saturday night line up.
I tend to favor the Diane years over the Rebecca years but grew to love all of these characters. As funny, comfortable, and warm as the bar of your dreams. "Norm!!!"
Favorite episodes: "Coach In Love" & "I Do, Adieu"
The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)
The original home & workplace comedy. Feels as fresh today as 50 years ago. The only anachronism is Rob & Laura’s twin beds.
Green Acres (1965-1971)
Brilliantly absurd with some of the wildest plots & characters ever.
The Honeymooners (1955-1956)
Greatest cast in sitcom history. Its plots became templates for all future sitcoms.
I Love Lucy (1951-1957)
Single-handedly invented the sitcom: the format, the conventions, and how they are shot.
Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983)
The perfect family show full of humanity & warmth while not skimping on the unexpected dangers in the world.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977)
Mary Tyler Moore surrounded by the perfect supporting cast. Part of CBS’s Hall of Fame Saturday night line up.
Made us laugh. Made us feel the horror & insanity of war. Far superior to the original movie. Part of CBS’s Hall of Fame Saturday night line up.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974)
Absurdist perfection. Generated more quoted lines & sketches than any other show.
Outlandish like a dream. “My name’s Larry. This is my brother Darryl. This is my other brother Darryl.” Greatest final episode in sitcom history.
Night Court (1984-1992)
The perfect judge presiding over the perfect cast of come back artists. “50 dollars plus time served.”
Northern Exposure (1990-1995)
A little peace of heaven in Alaska. Each episode made me appreciate the wonder of friendship & of being alive.
The Odd Couple (1970-1975)
Two great actors at the top of their game. Witty and acerbic.
Saturday Night Live (1975- )
It’s had good years & bad years; great casts & bad casts. But when it was on, it was magic. Has produced more stars than any other show.
The Simpsons (1990- )
After 23 years, we are all residents of Springfield. "Duh!!!!!!!"
Started out as a satire of soap operas. Achieved the ultimate satire by turning its characters into human beings that we cared and cried for.
Star Trek (1966-1969)
Had a few bad episodes but the best ones were ground-breaking.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
Gene Roddenberry’s follow up is actually superior to the classic series.
Favorite episode: The Best of Both Worlds
The funniest assortment of loveable losers. “Hey, Nardo!”
Favorite episodes: “Jim Gets a Pet” and “On the Job”
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
More episodes have passed into our pop culture than any other show.
Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
David Lynch made humor & horror go together like cherry pie & a great cup of joe.
“The owls are not what they seem.”
Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-1975)
Forget Downton Abbey. This is the original and most influential.
Miniseries need not apply but the best written ones are:
Band of Brothers (2001)
East of Eden (1981)
I, Claudius (1976)
Lonesome Dove (1989)
Rich Man, Poor Man (1976)
The Awakening Land (1978)
Which do you think are the best IYHO?