Top TV Series (and Mini-Series)

Easier than top 10 movies, but deceptively so. This is an attempt to pick which series I enjoy watching and rewatching. (Be aware that I haven't yet started The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Boardwalk Empire or Deadwood; I'm also not counting talk shows like The Daily Show).
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Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
The original surreal sketch comedy showcase for the Monty Python troupe. (30 mins.)
“ Perhaps the greatest comedy series humans will ever produce. Monty Python is THE great comedy troupe, and their entire series (even the Cleeseless last season), along with their classic films, are on top of all English-language comedy. ” - matsnowie
The Wire (2002 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.3/10 X  
Baltimore drug scene, seen through the eyes of drug dealers and law enforcement. (59 mins.)
“ Five seasons. Five perfect seasons. The crime/cop/criminal genres cannot be looked at in the same way after the gritty realism of the Wire. CSI's infra-red crime scene scanners are rediculous after seing the Baltimore PD using manual typewriters to write reports. Never playing to audience expectation, the show raised the stakes every episode and never lost. ” - matsnowie
Game of Thrones (2011 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.5/10 X  
Nine noble families fight for control over the mythical lands of Westeros, while a forgotten race returns after being dormant for thousands of years. (56 mins.)
“ This has started for Fantasy what Battlestar Galactica started for science fiction. It is potentially that epic series that defines a genre and helps to push television a step closer to the infinite possibility offered by film. ” - matsnowie
The West Wing (1999 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
Inside the lives of staffers in the West Wing of the White House. (44 mins.)
“ The Bartlet administration was - for many liberal people - an emotional antidote to the Bush administration. The series dealt with the fascinating world of the US Government and included terrific moments of acting, writing, and staging. Anyone can find, somewhere in the show's 7 seasons, a debate on a topic that will engage their interest. ” - matsnowie
Person of Interest (2011 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
An ex-assassin and a wealthy programmer save lives via a surveillance AI that sends them the identities of civilians involved in impending crimes. However, the details of the crimes--including the civilians' roles--are left a mystery. (43 mins.)
“ This clearly reveals how much of The Dark Knight was the work of Jonathan Nolan, and in many ways it is the closest we'll get for a long time to a Batman television series. ” - matsnowie
Mad Men (2007 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
A drama about one of New York's most prestigious ad agencies at the beginning of the 1960s, focusing on one of the firm's most mysterious but extremely talented ad executives, Donald Draper. (47 mins.)
“ John Hamm is the head of a great ensemble, which tells the story of a time in American History that is just inside the memory of the baby-boom population. A warts-and-all portrait of the WWII generation, Mad Men is fantastic TV drama. ” - matsnowie
Breaking Bad (2008 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.5/10 X  
A high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer turns to manufacturing and selling methamphetamine in order to secure his family's future. (49 mins.)
“ Bryan Cranston anchors a brilliantly well-written show. As some episodes open in the same scene the previous one ended the entire series feels like a massive, epic film. Brilliant and shocking. ” - matsnowie
Band of Brothers (2001 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.5/10 X  
The story of Easy Company of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division, and their mission in World War II Europe, from Operation Overlord, through V-J Day. (594 mins.)
“ Possibly the greatest American war film ever produced, the 10-episode series follows the amazing true story of Easy Company. When watching it, somewhere during episodes 5 and 6, viewers will realise they ware watching more than just an action story or a drama; Band of Brothers manages to surpass the classic war films of the past to create something entirely new. ” - matsnowie
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-splatter analyst for the Miami police. But at night, he is a serial killer who only targets other murderers. (53 mins.)
“ Few shows manage to challenge the morality of the audience as often as Dexter. Mixing murder, comedy, sadism, drama, suspense, romance, and the philosophy of violence, Dexter is a deeply satisfying thriller. Season 4 is the best, but 2 and 5 were very good. Season 1 was great, and Season 3 has the positive addition of Jimmy Smitts (but the themes of that season were repeated to greater effect in season 5). ” - matsnowie
Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
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. (44 mins.)
“ Starting with a genocide against humanity, the series then gets dark and suspenseful. One of those shows that can't be watched with commercials, and when seen on DVD requires to be watched non-stop, Battlestar Galactica is a good way to remove yourself from society and stop sleeping. ” - matsnowie
Sherlock (2010 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  
A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London. (88 mins.)
“ Only three episodes in series 1, but two of them are the best Sherlock Holmes stories I've ever seen. The leading pair are brilliantly original playing the famous crime-solving duo. The modern additions are seamlessly worked into the original character. I say to Martin Freeman, "Forget the Hobbit, make more Sherlock now." ” - matsnowie
Firefly (2002 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.1/10 X  
Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them. (44 mins.)
“ The godfather of all cancelled television shows, Firefly was continued in comic books and then in the film Serenity. All the extra content just serves to remind fans how much potential was lost. The always-watchable Nathan Fillion centers the great cast, and the story is prime Joss Whedon ensemble sci-fi. Here's hoping for the success of the Avengers leading Whedon to a successful return to TV. ” - matsnowie
Queer as Folk (2000 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
The lives and loves of a group of gay friends living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (47 mins.)
“ The British series was great, but this US remake took all the best bits and made them better. The terrific cast has no weakest link, and it is also a landmark series for the uncensored content and stylish direction. ” - matsnowie
Fringe (2008 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
An FBI agent is forced to work with an institutionalized scientist and his son in order to rationalize a brewing storm of unexplained phenomena. (46 mins.)
“ All the sci-fi of the X-Files, but with the added charm that J.J. Abrams and the Orci/Kurtzman team brought to Star Trek. Good mysteries that bounce between science fiction and science fact are backed up by a multi-season arch-plot that has developed wonderfully. ” - matsnowie
Modern Family (2009 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
Three different, but related families face trials and tribulations in their own uniquely comedic ways. (22 mins.)
“ It seems unfair to the rest of television that this series remains so funny through every episode. It could have been a cliche 90s mash-up of Will & Grace, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Married With Children. Instead it is a brilliant 21st Century revision of Will & Grace, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Married With Children. ” - matsnowie
The Big Bang Theory (2007 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A woman who moves into an apartment across the hall from two brilliant but socially awkward physicists shows them how little they know about life outside of the laboratory. (22 mins.)
“ It may have started as a cliche sitcom, but the Big Bang Theory has evolved into a terrific series. As the characters became more clear, the writing became more complex, and the geek-culture references became more indepth. Targeted for a very loyal core audience of geeks who "get it" this is a sitcom to be enjoyed for its inside jokes. ” - matsnowie
Community (2009 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
A suspended lawyer is forced to enroll in a community college with an eclectic staff and student body. (22 mins.)
“ Hilarious and self-aware in a way even 30 Rock hasn't managed, this is the show that gave me new confidence in the genius that is Chevy Chase. The paintball episodes alone are worthy of mass praise, but the entire series has outdone itself over and over again. ” - matsnowie
Shameless (2011 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
An alcoholic man lives in a perpetual stupor while his six children with whom he lives cope as best they can. (46 mins.)
“ I really enjoyed the British series at first, but the show suffered a slow death after season 4. Characters were suddenly removed and awkwardly explained away and, by season 7, the main character was the second-youngest kid from the first season. Carl was great to watch, but the show just didn't have it. Seeing the American reboot bring the family back to the roots was a relief and the new cast filled the roles perfectly. ” - matsnowie
Oz (1997 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
A series chronicling the daily activities of an unusual prison facility and its criminal inhabitants. (55 mins.)
Director: Gregory Dark
“ As shocking as any series is likely to be, Oz addresses themes that had never been touched before and will likely never be breached in the same way again. Extremely explicit, all 6 seasons were brilliantly done. It ends as good as it began, and that makes Oz one of a very few TV series without a "worst" season. ” - matsnowie
Dead Like Me (2003 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Meet Georgia Lass (who prefers to be called George). She is a young Seattle college dropout who is unhappy with life... (60 mins.)
“ Cut short just when it was expanding to something bigger, Dead Like Me eventually saw a revival in direct-to-DVD movie form. That was a patch on the terrific cast dynamic of the original. All the characters, from Rube and George to Mason, Daisy and Roxy, were relatable and entertaining. The show itself deals with life, death, and grief in brilliantly original ways. ” - matsnowie
Glee (2009 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
A group of ambitious misfits try to escape the harsh realities of high school by joining a glee club, where they find strength, acceptance and, ultimately, their voice, while working to pursue dreams of their own. (44 mins.)
“ The idea of a show where people break out into song didn't appeal to me, so I avoided Glee at first. Then I realised that the singing was done as a part of reality, or rationalized through dreams, instead of the Mamma Mia-style random singing. So I started watching. It has fallen off the rails recently, but there will always be that first terrific season. ” - matsnowie
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
Set decades after Captain Kirk's five-year mission, a new generation of Starfleet officers set off in a new Enterprise on their own mission to go where no one has gone before. (44 mins.)
“ I also really enjoy Voyager, but TNG was the first non-Shatner series. New crew, new missions, and some of the best additions to the Star Trek universe including the Borg. The Picard-led crew also made two of the best pre-Abrams movies: Generations and First Contact. ” - matsnowie
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Set after the events in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah Connor and her son, John, try to stay under-the-radar from the government, as they plot to destroy the computer network, Skynet, in hopes of preventing Armageddon. (60 mins.)
“ Once again a series cut too short. This time with a cliffhanger ending. The series (particularly the second season) is superior to both Terminator 3 and Terminator: Salvation. As an alternate timeline it succeeds in the same way as JJ Abrams' first Star Trek film, by creating a new branch for fans of the original to explore their own ideas without damaging - or being slaves to - the original. ” - matsnowie
Boston Legal (2004 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
Boston Legal is a spin-off of the long-running Kelley series The Practice, following the exploits of former Practice character Alan Shore (James Spader) at the legal firm of Crane, Poole and Schmidt. (44 mins.)
“ Proof that Shatner is the man, the first three seasons (and parts of seasons 4 and 5) are terrific television. The Denny/Allan relationship is hilarious and endearing, and supporting players including Candice Bergan help to make the show massively entertaining. ” - matsnowie
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.)
“ It's as old as I am, so the Simpsons is one of the longest-running shows in existence. Like a math class wave graph, the show has had its highs and lows. Highs like seasons 5-7, and lows like 12-19. There have always been moments of brilliance, but as crazier shows like Family Guy and 30 Rock appeared the Simpsons became old fashioned. Starting with the feature film, the show has seen a revival in its orginality. ” - matsnowie
3rd Rock from the Sun (1996 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A group of aliens are sent to Earth, disguised as a human family, to experience and report life on the 3rd planet from the sun. (60 mins.)
“ Originally a mid-season replacement for a failed show, the basic premise and low budget produced one of the greatest first seasons of any sitcom. Later the show became silly, but it is still the classic piece of television that revealed John Lithgow's comedy brilliance and introduced the boy who would become Joseph Gordon-Levitt. ” - matsnowie
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 left the Flying Circus in its last season and created this show with his then-wife after they had stayed in a country Inn and were witness to the craziness. Cleese is at his uptight best dealing with catastrophe after catastrophe. ” - matsnowie
United States of Tara (2009 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A woman struggles to find a balance between her dissociative identity disorder and raising a dysfunctional family. (30 mins.)
“ Each episode is only a half hour, each season is only 12 episodes, and it has been cancelled after only 3 seasons. The result leaves fans desperate for more about the lives led by Tara. Her family, particularly Kier Gilchrist as her son, are just as interesting. Perhaps extended seasons or longer episodes would be too much of a good thing, but this show (created by Juno writer Diablo Cody) is so good it hurts. ” - matsnowie
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.)
“ Absurdity was given center stage when Tina Fey put together this comedy and added Alec Baldwin to the mix. Several seasons in it is impossible to imagine the show working without him, but at the time Baldwin didn't seem like the comedy type. How wrong I was. ” - matsnowie
Monk (2002 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Adrian Monk is a brilliant San Francisco detective, whose obsessive compulsive disorder just happens to get in the way. (47 mins.)
“ Tony Shaloub took the quirky detective archetype to new levels of crazy, and he was rewarded with multiple Emmys for it. All the praise was deserved, since Monk was centered by a great performance but included tons of original mysteries and a solid supporting performance from Ted Levine. ” - matsnowie
Frasier (1993 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Dr. Frasier Crane moves back to his hometown of Seattle where he lives with his father and works as a radio psychiatrist. (22 mins.)
“ The first show that I can remember not dumbing itself down for a mass audience. Some people just didn't get the jokes, and that was fine with them. The show also includes some of the best physical humour - slapstick and screwball comedy - that has ever appeared on TV. ” - matsnowie
Life (2007 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A former police officer returns to the force after having been wrongly imprisoned for years. (45 mins.)
“ Another series cut short, Life only made 2 seasons. Damian Lewis makes an endlessly entertaining lead detective with quirks to match Monk and detective skills to match Sherlock Holmes. Creative storylines and a good dynamic with supporting characters and recurring villains made this more than just another detective show. ” - matsnowie
The Newsroom (2012 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
A newsroom undergoes some changes in its workings and morals as a new team is brought in, bringing unexpected results for its existing news anchor. (55 mins.)