The 101 Best Written TV Shows

New Logo-working fileIf you are a regular reader to this site, then you should be familiar with The T Dog Media TV Hall Of Shame, which generally celebrates the medium’s worst shows ever, from Hello Larry to Animal Practice.

For a change, let’s talk about the best TV has to offer – that’s right, the best.

On Sunday, the Writers Guild of America (West), released a list of the 101 best written television shows of all time during a special event in Los Angeles, featuring many well-known producers and writers, including James L. Brooks, Carl Reiner, Norman Lear, and Steven Bochco, along with new school writers Ronald Moore (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Battlestar Galactica), Matthew Weiner (Mad Men), and Chicago native Steven Levitan (Modern Family).

When one of these “best” or “worst” lists come out, it usually features shows from the past 25 years or so, put together by some Gen-Y pop culture “expert” who basically looked up these shows in a few books and slapped something together. You know something is wrong when you come across these inferior pieces (usually found on some obscure website) and lists The Cleveland Show or Heroes as the best show of all time. But what makes this list different is it comes directly from those who manufacture the sausage: WGA members with decades of experience and behind many of these shows.

The WGA honored both old school shows and new classics. While the bulk of the list contains scripted sitcoms and dramas, non-traditional programs were also well represented: both The Daily Show (#17) and Colbert Report (tie, #50th) each made the list, as did Sesame Street (#56). Great Britain was also well-repped, with classic series (Faulty Towers, tie #58, Monty Python, tie #79, Upstairs Downstairs, also a tie at #79) and newer favorites (Downton Abbey, tie #43, The Office, tie #50)

The list also yield a few surprises: Mad Men ranking high as it did (#7); South Park ranking rather low (#63); The Simpsons failing to make the top ten (#11); and Family Guy, Sanford and Son, and Ally McBeal missing the cut.

Of course, you can’t please everybody: one columnist from Deadline decried the lack of 1950’s and 1960’s shows (hopefully, he didn’t mean The Beverly Hillbillies and Gilligan’s Island). Personally speaking, yours truly thought The Odd Couple ranked too low (#76), while Roc, Maude, and Leave It To Beaver were left off altogether. And there many shows I couldn’t care less about but deserve their props (i.e. Friends, #24 and The Sopranos, #1.)

While not perfect (these lists never are), the WGA’s list should be used as a good measuring stick on how the best shows in television history stack up.

Highlights of The WGA’s 101 Best Written TV Shows:

Top drama: The Sopranos (#1)
Top sitcom: Seinfeld (#2)
Top program currently on the air: Mad Men (#7)
Top animated program: The Simpsons (#11)
Top late-night program: The Daily Show (#17)
Top 1970’s series: All in the Family (#4)
Top 1980’s series: Cheers (#8)
Top 1990’s series: Seinfeld (#2)
Top 2000’s series: The Sopranos (#1)

To download or read the entire list, click here.

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