7 Minute Miles

The best TV shows of all time

The Sopranos 25th anniversary story I linked to this week made me think, what are my favorite TV shows of all time? I asked Colleen this question and she had no difficulty coming up with her top 7: The Wire, The Sopranos, Charlies Angels, The Carol Burnett Show, Looney Tunes, Sesame Street and RuPaul’s Drag Race (with an honorable mention to The Flip Wilson Show). Me? I have trouble narrowing down my top 7 shows on HBO, let alone of all time.

Let’s start with HBO. I *loved* all of these shows: The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, Deadwood, Treme, Entourage, Big Little Lies, True Blood, The White Lotus, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Barry, The Larry Sanders Show, Six Feet Under, The Last of Us, The Righteous Gemstones and Westworld. More than one needs to come out of this group, for sure.

When I look back at the shows that were popular while growing up in the 70s and 80s, there are some personal favorites that jump out to me: M*A*S*H, WKRP in Cincinnati, The Muppet Show, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Brady Bunch, Welcome Back, Kotter, The Love Boat, Hawaii Five-O, Hogan’s Heroes and Gilligan’s Island. Animated favorites included The Scooby-Doo Show, The Flintstones, Tom and Jerry, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Looney Tunes and The Jetsons.

Shows my mom liked that I watched a lot include The Rockford Files, The Carol Burnett Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Quincy, M.E., The Streets of San Francisco and Magnum, P.I. Of course there were the channel two PBS shows she let my brother and I watch: Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, The Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact. Also loved staying up late until she got home from work, so Johnny Carson and David Letterman were both huge influences.

Launched in late 1989, The Simpsons started a string of “modern” animated series that influenced a ton of shows I’ve watched since: Futurama, Disenchantment, South Park, Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill, The Critic, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy and Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist (tried to like BoJack Horseman, but that one just never clicked with me).

I’ve had a long love of British television, starting with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and continuing with shows like Red Dwarf, Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Father Ted, The Vicar of Dibley, The Benny Hill Show, The IT Crowd, The Office, Ballykissangel, The Young Ones, Da Ali G Show, Coupling, Absolutely Fabulous, Derek and Black Mirror. The last few years, I’ve watched Downton Abbey, Poldark, All Creatures Great and Small and Annika – loved them all.

Before the rise of the streaming services, there were a string of very solid network shows we watched regularly: In Living Color, the original CSI, Twin Peaks, The X-Files, The Wonder Years, Modern Family, The Office, Community, Scrubs, Arrested Development, Survivor and Saturday Night Live (the last two we still watch regularly). There are a bunch of shows that I believe were produced by various cable networks that were also stellar: Mad Men, Portlandia, Letterkenny, Kids in the Hall, Schitt’s Creek, Kim’s Convenience, The Killing and Bosch.

Showtime produced Dexter, Weeds and Yellowjackets. FX did Fargo, Sons of Anarchy, Nip/Tuck, Justified, Dave and What We Do in the Shadows. Hulu has Only Murders in the Building, Reservation Dogs, The Bear and The Patient. Disney Plus has the great Star Wars spin-offs: The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett and Andor. Apple TV has Ted Lasso, Slow Horses and The Morning Show.

Lastly, there is the original king of the streamers, Netflix. Looking at this list, their history is nearly on par with HBO: Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Beef, Lupin, The Queen’s Gambit, I Think You Should Leave, Peaky Blinders, Stranger Things, Ozark, The Crown, Wednesday, Squid Game, Orange is the New Black, Narcos, The Politician, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Bloodline, Emily in Paris and Lilyhammer.

If I’ve learned anything from this little exercise, it’s that I’ve watched *a lot* of television during my lifetime. Thanks to all the talented creators for many, many hours of entertainment – bravo!

P.S. – I will continue to ponder a top 7 list, but wow is that hard…

Originally published by DK on January 7, 2024 at 4:29 pm in Longform, Personal, Television

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