40 Favorite TV Shows

My 40 favorite television programs of all time. Difficult to properly rank as each show differs greatly from every other show, either in genre, format, or length of run. Comparing a show that ran for 10 years versus one that was canceled during its first season isn't really fair to either show, so I have ordered them as best as I can based on the quality of the show during its entire run, short or long. This probably isn't a comprehensive list, as I'm sure I have forgotten about a show or two, but it is pretty close.
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1.
M*A*S*H (1972 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The staff of an army hospital in the Korean war find that laughter is the best way to deal with their situation. (25 mins.)
“ A long running show that certainly had a quality difference from the early episodes to the later ones, I still think the first five seasons are so strong as to outweigh the flaws of the last six to put it at the top of my list of favorite shows. I probably had an unhealthy relationship with M*A*S*H during my childhood as we had virtually every episode from the first five seasons (The Frank Burns Years, as we called them) recorded on VHS and I watched them over and over and over. I can safely say I have seen every episode from those seasons at least 10 times each, and most I'm sure are over 20. ” - Tim Taylor
 
2.
The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The misadventures of a TV writer both at work and at home. (30 mins.)
“ Somehow I didn't discover The Dick Van Dyke Show until about five years ago, but once I did I immediately bought all five seasons on DVD and watched them in rapid succession. Strong writing throughout, and the entire cast works so well together (and you can't go wrong with Richard Deacon in a recurring role on your show!). ” - Tim Taylor
 
3.
Lost (2004 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The survivors of a plane crash are forced to work together in order to survive on a seemingly deserted tropical island. (44 mins.)
“ Here is the first of my "you love it or you hate it" shows. In fact, I come across people who seem to be on both sides of the fence, if that's possible. Possibly too clever for its own good, and certainly above the intellectual level of most people who watch a lot of TV, it is understandable that the people who did watch it regularly were virtually addicted to it as it consistently rewarded you for being loyal to the show. I really liked the way that the series wrapped up and have absolutely no complaints about the finale; I think the people that didn't like it misunderstood and misinterpreted the last 15 minutes. ” - Tim Taylor
 
4.
Dexter (2006 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
By day, mild-mannered Dexter is a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police. But at night, he is a serial killer who only targets other murderers. (53 mins.)
“ It seems each season is better than the last; let's hope it keeps going that way. ” - Tim Taylor
 
5.
King of the Hill (1997 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A straight laced propane salesman in Arlen, Texas tries to deal with the wacky antics of his family and friends, while also trying to keep his son in line. (30 mins.)
“ Steadily moved up this list over the past few years as I have been routinely watching it in syndication. Really well developed characters and absolutely the most realistic of all animated shows. ” - Tim Taylor
 
6.
Arrested Development (2003 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
Level-headed son Michael Bluth takes over family affairs after his father is imprisoned. But the rest of his spoiled, dysfunctional family are making his job unbearable. (489 mins.)
“ A show gone before its time. However, we are left with a truly great show with some of the best television writing ever and just a spectacular cast. The audience was truly rewarded for watching every week with payoffs for setups that may have happened six episodes earlier. ” - Tim Taylor
 
7.
Growing Pains (1985 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
The misadventures of a family with a home business father and a journalist mother. (30 mins.)
“ Shut up, I like it, OK? Seriously, I think it actually has not gotten fair treatment and it actually holds up really well 20+ years later. Often dealt with serious issues in a fair way and was only moderately damaged by Kirk Cameron's Christian values (sorry, Julie McCullough; you deserved better). Jumped the shark the same way that Family Ties did, by aging an infant five years during one hiatus to try to inject some life into a dying show. Even Leonardo DiCaprio couldn't keep this one afloat, pun intended. ” - Tim Taylor
 
8.
The Simpsons (1989 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
The satiric adventures of a working-class family in the misfit city of Springfield. (22 mins.)
“ Would have been higher on the list even just a few years ago, but I'm afraid it has hung on a little too long. Seasons 3-10 are still truly great. ” - Tim Taylor
 
9.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
In the not-too-distant future, a man and his robots are trapped aboard the Satellite of Love, where mad scientists force them to sit through the worst movies ever made. (92 mins.)
Director: Joel Hodgson
“ Preferred the Mike, Bill, and Kevin shows to the Joel, Trace, and Josh shows, but it was always good no matter who was on. A couple of my personal favorites are "Time Chasers" and "Riding With Death," but there are so many good ones I won't start naming them here. Even though the show ended many years ago, the guys are still going strong with their current project, Rifftrax. ” - Tim Taylor
 
10.
Blackadder Goes Forth (1989 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
Stuck in the middle of World War I, Captain Edmund Blackadder does his best to escape the banality of the war. (175 mins.)
“ My favorite of the Blackadder series, this is the fourth series and is set during World War I. Rowan Atkinson, as always, is a genius, and he has his usual support from Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson, and Stephen Fry. Tied for the shortest series on my list (with two other Blackadder series) at six episodes, but that is by design, as British television series have pre-determined runs. ” - Tim Taylor
 
11.
Cheap Seats: Without Ron Parker (2004 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
Randy and Jason play fictitious ESPN research assistants who end up hosting comedy as they comment on the game action and announcers. (30 mins.)
Director: Alex Tyner
“ A sort of MST3K for sports, this was a show that aired on ESPN Classic for a couple of years. Randy and Jason Sklar were given access to pretty much anything in the ESPN and ABC vault and commented on the broadcast in their comedic style. Lots of Wide World of Sports, spelling sees, wrestling, roller derby, gymnastics, poker, and all kinds of other fringe sporting events, with the occasional college football game or MLB All-Star Game thrown in. A live audience was briefly attempted, but it didn't work and was discarded quickly. Helobious. ” - Tim Taylor
 
12.
Life on Mars (2008 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A present-day car accident mysteriously sends a detective back to the 1970s. An American remake of the BBC series. (60 mins.)
“ The very short-lived American remake of the British show of the same name. Though there were only 17 episodes, it was great from start to finish, and ABC did the right thing by allowing a final scene to be shot that answers the questions that the series had posed, and it is truly one of the great series endings of all time. This show worked as both a police drama and a time travel mystery, not an easy feat. ” - Tim Taylor
 
13.
Seinfeld (1989 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
The continuing misadventures of neurotic New York stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his equally neurotic New York friends. (22 mins.)
“ If only Larry David had hung around for the whole series.... ” - Tim Taylor
 
14.
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
Ordinary people find themselves in extraordinarily astounding situations, which they each try to solve in a remarkable manner. (51 mins.)
“ As with any anthology show, The Twilight Zone was all over the board quality-wise. The good outweigh the bad, though, with dozens of truly great episodes over the course of five seasons and 156 episodes. A few personal favorites include "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim," "The Hitch-Hiker," "The Last Flight," "A Stop at Willoughby," "The After Hours," "King Nine Will Not Return," "Eye of the Beholder," "A Penny for Your Thoughts," "Shadow Play," "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?," and "Jess-Belle." ” - Tim Taylor
 
15.
Louie (2010 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
The life of Louis CK, a divorced comedian with two kids living in New York. (22 mins.)
“ Really a ground-breaking show, a comedy in which some of the episodes (purposely) had no laughs at all outside of the interstitial stand-up of Louis C.K. (the title was spelled differently presumably to prevent mispronunciation). However, when it was funny it was as funny as anything ever seen on TV. ” - Tim Taylor
 
16.
Family Guy (1998 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
In a wacky Rhode Island town, a dysfunctional family strive to cope with everyday life as they are thrown from one crazy scenario to another. (22 mins.)
“ Looks like this might be going the route of The Simpsons. Still has its moments and is very watchable, but I fear I may be tiring of it more quickly than I imagined. ” - Tim Taylor
 
17.
Parker Lewis Can't Lose (1990 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
For a cool high school kid and his friends, thwarting authority figures and other enemies is not a problem. (30 mins.)
“ An early FOX show (originally titled "Parker Lewis Can't Lose"), this was Ferris Bueller with a weekly series, though, ironically, there was a terrible official adaptation called "Ferris Bueller" on NBC starring Charlie Schlatter (!) that only lasted 13 episodes. This was one of the few shows at the time using the format that we are now accustomed to seeing on some of today's better comedies, i.e. no laugh track or audience, location shooting, etc. ” - Tim Taylor
 
18.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
The life and times of Larry David and the predicaments he gets himself in with his friends and complete strangers. (28 mins.)
“ I don't think any other show has made me more uncomfortable watching it, and I mean that in a good way. If the last few years of Seinfeld had looked like this it might have ended up higher on my list. ” - Tim Taylor
 
19.
The Sarah Silverman Program. (2007 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Sarah Silverman stars as Sarah Silverman, an unemployed single woman who still behaves like a child... (22 mins.)
“ This might be another "love it or hate it" show. If you don't like Sarah Silverman, you might want to stay away, but if you appreciate her humor this is a great show. Plus, it features Brian Posehn and Steve Agee as a gay couple. ” - Tim Taylor
 
20.
Twin Peaks (1990 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks. (47 mins.)
“ Definitely a "love it or hate it" show. Maybe even a "love it AND hate it" show. As innovative and fresh as the first season was, the second was equally frustrating and absurd. The pilot episode may be the single best pilot of any television program ever. ” - Tim Taylor
 
21.
The Brady Bunch (1969 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
The misadventures of a large family united when one widowed and one divorced people married. (30 mins.)
“ OK, here is one that I grew up watching constantly in syndication, so I may be seeing it through rose-colored glasses. The cheesiness of the show doesn't bother me at all, and in many cases enhances it. One of the few (if not only) television shows that has had a decent film adaptation. ” - Tim Taylor
 
22.
Black Adder the Third (1987 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
In the Regency era, Mr E. Blackadder serves as butler to the foppish numskull Prince George amidst the fads and crazes of the time. (180 mins.)
“ This series is set in the time of King George III (circa 1800) and features Hugh Laurie and Tony Robinson to go with Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder. ” - Tim Taylor
 
23.
Greg the Bunny (2002 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Greg the Bunny is one of the 3.2 million fabricated Americans ("puppets") living in the United States... (30 mins.)
Director: Dan Milano
“ Yet another short-lived show (just 13 episodes). FOX kept bouncing it around the schedule and airing the same couple of episodes over and over (while never airing two episodes at all), thus ensuring that it would never find an audience. Any show with Sarah Silverman, Eugene Levy, Bob Gunton, and Warren the Ape has to be good. ” - Tim Taylor
 
24.
Black-Adder II (1986 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
In the Tudor court of Elizabeth I, Lord Edmund Blackadder strives to win Her Majesty's favour while attempting to avoid a grisly fate should he offend her. (176 mins.)
“ This series was set in the Elizabethan era, this time with Tim McInnerny and Tony Robinson supporting Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder. ” - Tim Taylor
 
25.
30 Rock (2006 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Liz Lemon, head writer of the sketch comedy show "TGS with Tracy Jordan", must deal with an arrogant new boss and a crazy new star, all while trying to run a successful TV show without losing her mind. (22 mins.)
“ Still going strong. Hopefully it can maintain its quality for a couple more years and then gracefully bow out. ” - Tim Taylor
 
26.
Family Ties (1982 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Chronicles liberal ex-hippies Steven and Elyse Keaton, their conservative son Alex, daughters Mallory and Jennifer, and later, youngest child Andrew. (30 mins.)
“ Suffered the exact same jump the shark moment as Growing Pains (see above), but was a great show for several seasons. Made Michael J. Fox a star, and was part of the very strong NBC Thursday night lineup that, at one point, included Cheers, The Cosby Show, and Night Court. In typical '80s sitcom fashion dealt with the occasional serious issue to go along with the comedy. ” - Tim Taylor
 
27.
WKRP in Cincinnati (1978 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
The staff of a struggling radio station have a chance at success after the new programming director changes the format to rock music (30 mins.)
“ A very underrated and almost forgotten show, but was very popular during its run and deservedly so. Some of the comedy feels dated, but its strong cast helps smooth out the rough spots. ” - Tim Taylor
 
28.
Perfect Strangers (1986 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A high strung and cynical man's life is never the same when his naive but good-natured cousin comes to America to live with him. (30 mins.)
“ Another show from my adolescence. The final season was not so good, but it was always (and still is) an entertaining way to spend 30 minutes. ” - Tim Taylor
 
29.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A behind-the-scenes look at a fictional sketch-comedy television show. (60 mins.)
“ Geez, how many shows do I like that get canceled during its first season? At least this one made it all the way to the end of the season. A really good Aaron Sorkin show set behind the scenes at a Saturday Night Live style show, but as an hour drama instead of the half hour comedy that is 30 Rock. Very realistic in its portrayal of the sort of work that goes into live television as well as the politics that ultimately decide the direction of the show. ” - Tim Taylor
 
30.
Quantum Leap (1989 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Scientist Sam Beckett finds himself trapped in time, "leaping" into the body of a different person, in a different time period each week. (60 mins.)
Director: John Cullum
“ As close to an anthology show as we have had in recent decades, although there were always two characters holding the series together as Sam traveled through time and space. Another show with a very nice final episode and resolution. ” - Tim Taylor
 
31.
Fawlty Towers (1975 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
Hotel owner Basil Fawlty's incompetence, short fuse, and arrogance form a combination that ensures accidents and trouble are never far away. (30 mins.)
“ John Cleese at his best, with great support from Connie Booth as really the only brains in the place. Just 12 episodes over two series, as is common with British television. ” - Tim Taylor
 
32.
Barney Miller (1974 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
The captain of a city police station and his staff handle the various local troubles and characters that come to the building. (30 mins.)
“ Somehow an almost forgotten show. Most episodes take place entirely on one set, with the strength of the show being the writing and tremendous cast. Originally, there was a live audience, but that was abandoned because of the marathon shooting schedule, as there were constant rewrites during shooting. Because of the single set and the relatively short passage of time it often looks as though you are watching a stage production rather than a television program. ” - Tim Taylor
 
33.
It's Garry Shandling's Show. (1986 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Garry Shandling pokes fun at sitcom conventions. (30 mins.)
“ Another very early FOX program. Actually, it was on Showtime originally, then FOX picked up the reruns in 1988 and put the show on their Sunday night lineup. Constantly broke the fourth wall, with the premise being that Garry Shandling's life is a TV show all the time, so no matter what he is doing there is a studio audience. The audience is frequently shown and is sometimes part of the show itself, and Shandling did opening and closing monologues, plus frequently speaks to the camera during scenes, though the other actors tend not to be in on it. Still very funny decades later. ” - Tim Taylor
 
34.
NewsRadio (1995 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The workplace sitcom "NewsRadio" explores the office politics and interpersonal relationships among the staff of WNYX NewsRadio... (23 mins.)
“ Better, obviously, with Phil Hartman than Jon Lovitz. Career peaks for a lot of the cast, including Andy Dick, Joe Rogan, and Vicki Lewis. ” - Tim Taylor
 
35.
Get a Life (1990 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
The misadventures of a 30-year-old paper-boy (played by Late Night alum Chris Elliot) and his wacky parents... (30 mins.)
“ Chris Elliott's only shot at a starring role on television, and this was a perfect fit for him. I don't think I can adequately describe the absurdity of the show, even though at first glance it seems to be an average sitcom. Chris' character actually dies many times over the course of the series, though maybe it is just in his head as his character is childish, naive, dimwitted, and crazy, usually all at the same time. I'm still holding out hope that the entire series will be released on DVD sometime soon. ” - Tim Taylor
 
36.
The Office (2001 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
The story of an office that faces closure when the company decides to downsize its branches. A documentary film crew follow staff and the manager David Brent as they continue their daily lives. (30 mins.)
“ This is the original BBC version of the show starring Ricky Gervais, not the current NBC version. The American version is fine, or at least it was early on, but really lost its way with the consummation of Jim and Pam's relationship, something that the BBC version did not do with Tim and Dawn; the tension between those two characters was vital to the success of the show, but Americans need their happy endings. ” - Tim Taylor
 
37.
24 (2001 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
Jack Bauer, Director of Field Ops for the Counter-Terrorist Unit of Los Angeles, races against the clock to subvert terrorist plots and save his nation from ultimate disaster. (44 mins.)
“ Better earlier rather than later, when it just got completely absurd. The first season is especially great in its simplicity. Each subsequent season seemed to be trying to outdo the previous one in action and threat level. Also, virtually no one ate, slept, or went to the bathroom after the first season, and the end of the final episode felt like a cop out. ” - Tim Taylor
 
38.
Sledge Hammer! (1986 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
The adventures of a deranged and dumb police detective who always looks for the most violent solution to any problem. (30 mins.)
“ Purposely cheesy and over-the-top, this show wouldn't have worked with anyone but the great David Rasche as detective Sledge Hammer. ” - Tim Taylor
 
39.
Out of This World (1987 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
The series revolves around Evie Ethel Garland, who is the daughter of Troy and Donna Garland. However... (30 mins.)
“ This was a syndicated show that ran for four years that just so happened to coincide with my high school years. Kind of an updated Bewitched with Maureen Flannigan as a girl living a normal life on Earth until she acquires superhuman abilities on her 13th birthday because she was fathered by an alien. ” - Tim Taylor
 
40.
Brooklyn Bridge (1991 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
In 1956, 14-year-old Alan Silver's life revolves around family, the synagogue and the Dodgers. Grandparents Jules and Sophie live in the same brownstone as Alan, his brother Nate, and their parents Phyllis and George. (30 mins.)
“ Another short-lived show (33 episodes over two seasons). Really underrated at the time. It was a nice coming-of-age drama-comedy starring Marion Ross and a great theme song by Art Garfunkel. ” - Tim Taylor