A Best of Television: 1980 - Present

With the advent of DVDs and Netflix streaming, you can finally enjoy the best television has ever had to offer without commercial interruption and at your own pace. Obviously, there are plenty of omissions (but you are already aware of your own personal favorites) and not every episode of any series deserves your time and attention. There are late bloomers like Miami Vice and Rockford Files where you can skip the first few seasons with minimum loss. Other shows peak early and hang around far too long. Saturday Night Live, West Wing and Gilmore Girls continued after the creative force behind them (that is the principal performers or writers ) had departed. Then there are brilliant shows which rarely miss like Homicide and The Wire.
If movies are coming up dry for you or you'd enjoy a change of pace, try one of these TV series. And don't be afraid to dip into the black & white 30 minute shows of the 50s. Sadly, there are fine shows that have still not surfaced either on DVD or streaming: 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, Lou Grant and Shannon's Deal are good examples. Happy hunting!
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1.
Miami Vice (1984 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Resplendent with authentic 1980's music, fashion and vibe, "Miami Vice" follows two undercover detectives and their extended team through the mean streets of Miami. (48 mins.)
 
2.
Moonlighting (1985 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
The quirky cases of a former model and a smart aleck detective who manage a private detective agency. (60 mins.)
 
3.
Wiseguy (1987 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Vinnie Terranova does time in a New Jersey penitentiary to set up his undercover role as an agent for... (60 mins.)
 
4.
The Wonder Years (1988 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Kevin Arnold recalls growing up during the late 60s and early 70s; the turbulent social times make the transition from child to adult unusually interesting. (22 mins.)
 
5.
Shannon's Deal (1990 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
Once a successful corporate lawyer at a prestigious Philadelphia law firm, Jack Shannon lost his marriage and his job... (60 mins.)
 
6.
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.)
 
7.
Prime Suspect (1991 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
A female police detective investigates a series of serial murders while dealing with sexist hostility from her male comrades. (207 mins.)
 
8.
Mad About You (1992 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Light television comedy featuring Paul and Jaime Buchman as a recently married couple in New York City. They point out the gentle humor of domesticity and in the everyday situations of life. (22 mins.)
 
9.
Homicide: Life on the Street (1993 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
A police homicide investigation unit investigates violent crimes in the city of Baltimore. (60 mins.)
 
10.
The Newsroom (1996 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
In a Toronto TV station, the newsroom is headed by a ratings freak. There is nothing George won't do... (47 mins.)
 
11.
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.)
 
12.
The Sopranos (1999 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.2/10 X  
New Jersey mob boss, Tony Soprano, deals with personal and professional issues in his home and business life, which affects his metal state and ends up seeking professional psychiatric counseling. (55 mins.)
 
13.
Gilmore Girls (2000 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A drama centering around the relationship between a thirtysomething single mother and her teen daughter living in Stars Hollow, Connecticut. (44 mins.)
 
14.
The Wire (2002 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.4/10 X  
Baltimore drug scene, seen through the eyes of drug dealers and law enforcement. (59 mins.)
 
15.
Slings and Arrows (2003 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
In the fictional town of New Burbage, legendary theatrical madman Geoffrey Tennant returns to the New Burbage Theatre Festival... (60 mins.)
 
16.
The Good Wife (2009 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Alicia has been a good wife to her husband, a former state's attorney. After a very humiliating sex and corruption scandal, he is behind bars. She must now provide for her family and returns to work as a litigator in a law firm. (43 mins.)
 
17.
Downton Abbey (2010 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
A chronicle of the lives of the British aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the early 20th Century. (58 mins.)
 
18.
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.)
 
19.
Justified (2010 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
Old-school U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is reassigned from Miami to his childhood home in the poor, rural coal-mining towns in Eastern Kentucky. (44 mins.)
 
20.
The Hour (2011 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A behind-the-scenes drama and espionage thriller in Cold War-era England that centers on a journalist, a producer, and an anchorman for an investigative news programme. (60 mins.)
 
21.
The Killing (2011 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A police investigation, the saga of a grieving family, and a Seattle mayoral campaign all interlock after the body of 17-year-old Rosie Larsen is found in the trunk of a submerged car. (45 mins.)
 
22.
True Detective (2014 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.1/10 X  
An anthology series in which police investigations unearth the personal and professional secrets of those involved, both within and outside the law. (55 mins.)
 
23.
Fargo (2014 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.0/10 X  
Various chronicles of deception, intrigue and murder in and around frozen Minnesota. Yet all of these tales mysteriously lead back one way or another to Fargo, ND. (53 mins.)
 
24.
Borgen (2010 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
A political drama about a prime minister's rise to power, and how power changes a prime minister. (58 mins.)
 
25.
The Bridge (2011 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
When a body is found on the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, right on the border, Danish inspector Martin Rohde and Swedish Saga Norén have to share jurisdiction and work together to find the killer. (60 mins.)
 
26.
Secret State (2012 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Secret State explores the relationship between a democratically elected government, big business and the banks.
 
27.
The Young Montalbano (2012 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
The young "Commissario" detective Salvo Montalbano, based in the fictitious village of Vigata, solves mysterious crimes in Sicilia. (120 mins.)
 
28.
Foyle's War (2002 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
As WW2 rages around the world, DCS Foyle fights his own war on the home-front as he investigates crimes on the south coast of England. Later series sees the retired detective working as an MI5 agent operating in the aftermath of the war. (90 mins.)
 
29.
Elementary (2012 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A modern take on the cases of Sherlock Holmes, with the detective now living in New York City. (60 mins.)
 
30.
Lou Grant (1977 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
The trials of the former TV station manager, turned newspaper city editor, and his journalist staff. (60 mins.)