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Best TV Series of All Time

56 Shows | by TV Guide

So many golden ages, so much brilliance from which to choose.
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Columbo

Columbo

Crime, Drama

Columbo is a friendly, verbose, disheveled-looking police detective who is consistently underestimated by his suspects. Despite his unprepossessing appearance and apparent absentmindedness, he shrewdly solves all of his cases and secures all evidence needed for indictment. His formidable eye for detail and meticulously dedicated approach often become clear to the killer only late in the storyline.
I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy

Comedy

I Love Lucy is an American television sitcom starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley. The black-and-white series originally ran from October 15, 1951, to May 6, 1957, on the Columbia Broadcasting System. After the series ended in 1957, however, a modified version continued for three more seasons with 13 one-hour specials, running from 1957 to 1960, known first as The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show and later in reruns as The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour. I Love Lucy was the most watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and was the first to end its run at the top of the Nielsen ratings. I Love Lucy is still syndicated in dozens of languages across the world. The show was the first scripted television program to be shot on 35 mm film in front of a studio audience, and won five Emmy Awards and received numerous nominations. In 2002, it ranked second on TV Guide's list of television's greatest shows, behind Seinfeld and ahead of The Honeymooners. In 2007, it was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME." I Love Lucy remains popular, with an American audience of 40 million each year.
The Wire

The Wire

Drama, Crime

Told from the points of view of both the Baltimore homicide and narcotics detectives and their targets, the series captures a universe in which the national war on drugs has become a permanent, self-sustaining bureaucracy, and distinctions between good and evil are routinely obliterated.
M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H

War & Politics, Drama

The 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital is stuck in the middle of the Korean war. With little help from the circumstances they find themselves in, they are forced to make their own fun. Fond of practical jokes and revenge, the doctors, nurses, administrators, and soldiers often find ways of making wartime life bearable.
The Simpsons

The Simpsons

Animation, Comedy

Set in Springfield, the average American town, the show focuses on the antics and everyday adventures of the Simpson family; Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie, as well as a virtual cast of thousands. Since the beginning, the series has been a pop culture icon, attracting hundreds of celebrities to guest star. The show has also made name for itself in its fearless satirical take on politics, media and American life in general.
The Honeymooners

The Honeymooners

Comedy

A bus driver and his sewer worker friend struggle to strike it rich while their wives look on with weary patience. One of the most influential situation comedy television series in American history.
The Andy Griffith Show

The Andy Griffith Show

Comedy

The Andy Griffith Show is an American sitcom first televised on CBS between October 3, 1960 and April 1, 1968. Andy Griffith portrays the widowed sheriff of the fictional small community of Mayberry, North Carolina. His life is complicated by an inept, but well-meaning deputy, Barney Fife, a spinster aunt and housekeeper, Aunt Bee, and a precocious young son, Opie. Local ne'er-do-wells, bumbling pals, and temperamental girlfriends further complicate his life. Andy Griffith stated in a Today Show interview, with respect to the time period of the show: "Well, though we never said it, and though it was shot in the '60s, it had a feeling of the '30s. It was when we were doing it, of a time gone by." The series never placed lower than seventh in the Nielsen ratings and ended its final season at number one. It has been ranked by TV Guide as the 9th-best show in American television history. Though neither Griffith nor the show won awards during its eight-season run, series co-stars Knotts and Bavier accumulated a combined total of six Emmy Awards. The show, a semi-spin-off from an episode of The Danny Thomas Show titled "Danny Meets Andy Griffith", spawned its own spin-off series, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., a sequel series, Mayberry R.F.D., and a reunion telemovie, Return to Mayberry. The show's enduring popularity has generated a good deal of show-related merchandise. Reruns currently air on TV Land, and the complete series is available on DVD. All eight seasons are also now available by streaming video services such as Netflix.
The Carol Burnett Show

The Carol Burnett Show

Comedy, Family

The Carol Burnett Show is an American variety/sketch comedy television show starring Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner, and Tim Conway. It originally ran on CBS from September 11, 1967, to March 29, 1978, for 278 episodes and originated from CBS Television City's Studio 33. The series won 25 prime time Emmy Awards, was ranked No. 16 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2002 and in 2007 was listed as one of Time magazine's "100 Best TV Shows of All Time."
Mad Men

Mad Men

Drama

Mad Men is set in the 1960s, initially at the fictional Sterling Cooper advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City, and later at the newly created firm, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, located nearby in the Time-Life Building, at 1271 Avenue of the Americas. According to the show's pilot, the phrase "mad men" was a slang term coined in the 1950s by advertisers working on Madison Avenue to refer to themselves. The focal point of the series is Don Draper, creative director at Sterling Cooper and a founding partner at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and the people in his life, both in and out of the office. The plot focuses on the business of the agencies as well as the personal lives of the characters, regularly depicting the changing moods and social mores of the United States in the 1960s.
The Oprah Winfrey Show

The Oprah Winfrey Show

Talk

The Oprah Winfrey Show, often referred to simply as Oprah, is an American syndicated talk show that aired nationally for 25 seasons from 1986 to 2011. Produced and hosted by its namesake, Oprah Winfrey, it remains the highest-rated talk show in American television history. The show was highly influential, and many of its topics penetrated into the American pop-cultural consciousness. Winfrey used the show as a platform to teach and inspire, providing viewers with a positive, spiritually uplifting experience by featuring book clubs, compelling interviews, self-improvement segments, and philanthropic forays into world events. The show gained credibility by not trying to profit off the products it endorsed; it had no licensing agreement with retailers when products were promoted, nor did the show make any money from endorsing books for its book club. Oprah is one of the longest-running daytime television talk shows in history. The show received 47 Daytime Emmy Awards before Winfrey decided to stop submitting it for consideration in 2000.
Hill Street Blues

Hill Street Blues

Drama

Hill Street Blues is an American serial police drama that was first aired on NBC in 1981 and ran for 146 episodes on primetime into 1987. Chronicling the lives of the staff of a single police precinct in an unnamed American city, the show received critical acclaim and its production innovations influenced many subsequent dramatic television series produced in North America.
The X-Files

The X-Files

Drama, Mystery

The exploits of FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully who investigate X-Files: marginalized, unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena. Mulder believes in the existence of aliens and the paranormal while Scully, a skeptic, is assigned to make scientific analyses of Mulder's discoveries that debunk Mulder's work and thus return him to mainstream cases.
Friends

Friends

Comedy

Friends is an American sitcom revolving around a group of friends in the New York City borough of Manhattan. Episodes typically depict the friends' comedic and romantic adventures and career issues, such as Joey auditioning for roles or Rachel seeking jobs in the fashion industry. The six characters each have many dates and serious relationships, such as Monica with Richard Burke and Ross with Emily Waltham. Other frequently recurring characters include Ross and Monica's parents in Long Island, Ross's ex-wife and their son, Central Perk barista Gunther, Chandler's ex-girlfriend Janice, and Phoebe's twin sister Ursula.
ER

ER

Drama

Explores the inner workings of an urban teaching hospital and the critical issues faced by the dedicated physicians and staff of its overburdened emergency room.
Seinfeld

Seinfeld

Comedy

Seinfeld is an American television sitcom that originally aired on NBC from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998. It lasted nine seasons, and is now in syndication. It was created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the latter starring as a fictionalized version of himself. Set predominantly in an apartment block in Manhattan's Upper West Side in New York City, the show features a handful of Jerry's friends and acquaintances, particularly best friend George Costanza, former girlfriend Elaine Benes, and neighbor across the hall Cosmo Kramer.
Taxi

Taxi

Comedy

Louie De Palma is a cantankerous, acerbic taxi dispatcher in New York City. He tries to maintain order over a collection of varied and strange characters who drive for him. As he bullies and insults them from the safety of his “cage,” they form a special bond among themselves, becoming friends and supporting each other through the inevitable trials and tribulations of life.
Your Show of Shows

Your Show of Shows

Comedy

Your Show of Shows was a live 90-minute variety show that was broadcast weekly in the United States on NBC, from February 25, 1950, until June 5, 1954, featuring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. Other featured performers were Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, Bill Hayes, Judy Johnson, The Hamilton Trio and the soprano Marguerite Piazza. José Ferrer made several guest appearances on the series. The series was telecast from the now-demolished International Theatre at 5 Columbus Circle and the Century Theater, now demolished, in New York. During 2002, Your Show of Shows was ranked #30 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
Survivor

Survivor

Reality

A reality show contest where sixteen or more castaways split between two or more “Tribes” are taken to a remote isolated location and are forced to live off the land with meager supplies for roughly 39 days. Frequent physical challenges are used to pit the tribes against each other for rewards, such as food or luxuries, or for “Immunity”, forcing the other tribe to attend “Tribal Council”, where they must vote off one of their players.
Late Night with David Letterman

Late Night with David Letterman

Comedy, Talk

Late Night with David Letterman is a nightly hour-long comedy talk show on NBC that was created and hosted by David Letterman. It premiered in 1982 as the first incarnation of the Late Night franchise and went off the air in 1993, after Letterman left NBC and moved to Late Show on CBS. Late Night with Conan O'Brien then filled the time slot. As of March 2, 2009, the slot has been filled by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It will be filled by Seth Meyers in the spring of 2014, after Fallon becomes host of The Tonight Show.
Modern Family

Modern Family

Comedy

Modern Family stars the Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker clan, a wonderfully large and blended family. Together these three families give us an honest and often hilarious look into the sometimes warm, sometimes twisted, embrace of the modern family.
Barney Miller

Barney Miller

Comedy

Barney Miller is an American situation comedy television series set in a New York City police station in Greenwich Village. The series originally was broadcast from January 23, 1975 to May 20, 1982 on ABC. It was created by Danny Arnold and Theodore J. Flicker. Noam Pitlik directed the majority of the episodes.
American Idol

American Idol

Reality

American Idol is an American reality-singing competition program created by Simon Fuller. It began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, as an addition to the Idols format based on the British series Pop Idol and has since become one of the most successful shows in the history of American television. The concept of the series is to find new solo recording artists where the winner is determined by the viewers in America.
The Shield

The Shield

Action & Adventure, Drama

The story of an inner-city Los Angeles police precinct where some of the cops aren't above breaking the rules or working against their associates to both keep the streets safe and their self-interests intact.
The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory

Comedy

The Big Bang Theory is centered on five characters living in Pasadena, California: roommates Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper; Penny, a waitress and aspiring actress who lives across the hall; and Leonard and Sheldon's equally geeky and socially awkward friends and co-workers, mechanical engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Raj Koothrappali. The geekiness and intellect of the four guys is contrasted for comic effect with Penny's social skills and common sense.
Homicide: Life on the Street

Homicide: Life on the Street

Mystery, Drama

Homicide: Life on the Street is an American police procedural television series chronicling the work of a fictional version of the Baltimore Police Department's Homicide Unit. It ran for seven seasons on NBC from 1993 to 1999, and was succeeded by a TV movie, which also acted as the de facto series finale. The series was originally based on David Simon's book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Many of the characters and stories used throughout the show were based on events depicted in the book, which was also part of the basis for Simon's own series, The Wire on HBO. Although Homicide featured an ensemble cast, Andre Braugher emerged as the series' breakout star through his portrayal of Frank Pembleton. The show won Television Critics Association Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Drama in 1996, 1997, and 1998. It also became the first drama ever to win three Peabody Awards for best drama in 1993, 1995, and 1997. In 1997, the episode "Prison Riot" was ranked No. 32 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2007, it was listed as one of Time magazine's "Best TV Shows of All-TIME." In 1996 TV Guide named the series 'The Best Show You're Not Watching'. The show placed #46 on Entertainment Weekly's "New TV Classics" list.
Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica

Action & Adventure, Drama

When an old enemy, the Cylons, resurface and obliterate the 12 colonies, the crew of the aged Galactica protect a small civilian fleet - the last of humanity - as they journey toward the fabled 13th colony, Earth.
The Good Wife

The Good Wife

Drama

The Good Wife is a legal drama starring Emmy Award winner Julianna Margulies as a wife and mother who boldly assumes full responsibility for her family and re-enters the workforce after her husband's very public sex and political corruption scandal lands him in jail.
Cheers

Cheers

Comedy

Cheers is an American sitcom television series that ran for 11 seasons from 1982 to 1993. It was produced by Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions in association with Paramount Network Television for NBC and created by the team of James Burrows, Glen Charles, and Les Charles. The show is set in a bar named Cheers in Boston, Massachusetts, where a group of locals meet to drink, relax, and socialize. The show's theme song, written and performed by Gary Portnoy, and co-written with Judy Hart Angelo, lent its famous refrain, "Where Everybody Knows Your Name", as the show's tagline. After premiering on September 30, 1982, it was nearly canceled during its first season when it ranked last in ratings for its premiere. Cheers, however, eventually became a highly rated television show in the United States, earning a top-ten rating during 8 of its 11 seasons, including one season at #1. The show spent most of its run on NBC's Thursday night "Must See TV" lineup. Its widely watched series finale was broadcast on May 20, 1993, and the show's 275 episodes have been successfully syndicated worldwide. Nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series for all eleven of its seasons on the air, it has earned 28 Emmy Awards from a then-record 117 nominations. The character Frasier Crane was featured in his eponymous spin-off show, which later aired up until 2004 and included guest appearances by virtually all of the major and minor Cheers characters.
The Sopranos

The Sopranos

Drama

The Sopranos is an American television drama created by David Chase. The series revolves around the New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano and the difficulties he faces as he tries to balance the conflicting requirements of his home life and the criminal organization he heads. Those difficulties are often highlighted through his ongoing professional relationship with psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi. The show features Tony's family members and Mafia associates in prominent roles and story arcs, most notably his wife Carmela and his cousin and protégé Christopher Moltisanti.
All in the Family

All in the Family

Comedy