The best shows on television...by dfle3 | created - 19 Jul 2012 | updated - 17 Jun 2014 | Public
...as well as shows I've stuck with until the end. List compiled in 2012...hence more recent shows are prominent. The ranking isn't exactly solid...occasionally I may venture to say that a show in this list was the best or one of the best shows of its era.
...and I'm now adding shows that I remember as being great but I was a child when I saw them...you can file them under "Nostalgia" perhaps! Started that extension of my list this week...third week of June, 2013...think my list was about 34 items long at that time.
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1. Shameless (2004–2013)
90 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
The lives and relationships of a group of siblings and their estranged father Frank Gallagher on a rough Manchester estate.
The best show of the past ten years. U.K. Comedy/drama/soap. It's like a novel, in some ways...the way that characters come out of the shadows and get the spotlight. The Maguire family being the best example of this. This process has been more engaging than The Simpsons have managed.
2. Carnivàle (2003–2005)
TV-MA | 55 min | Drama, Fantasy, Mystery
During the Great Depression, an Oklahoma farm boy and a charismatic minister learn that they are key players in a proxy war being fought between Heaven and Hell.
Really engaging fable of good and evil. A great pity that it was axed after two series.
3. Weeds (2005–2012)
TV-MA | 28 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
When a suburban mother turns to dealing marijuana in order to maintain her privileged lifestyle after her husband dies, she finds out just how addicted her entire neighborhood already is.
The best U.S. series of the past ten years. Comedy/drama. Probably the funniest live action series of that time too. I think that Breaking Bad owes a debt to its premise too.
4. House M.D. (2004–2012)
TV-14 | 44 min | Drama, Mystery
An antisocial maverick doctor who specializes in diagnostic medicine does whatever it takes to solve puzzling cases that come his way using his crack team of doctors and his wits.
Up there with Weeds as the best U.S. series of the past ten years. Another comedy/drama with Hugh Laurie doing a splendid impersonation of an American. Combines disease of the week hospital drama with great comedy. A few of the season finales were classics.
5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003)
TV-14 | 44 min | Action, Drama, Fantasy
A young woman is forced to fulfill her destiny of fighting vampires and demons with the help of her friends all the while struggling to live a normal teenage life of heart break and drama.
The best U.S. television show of the previous ten years...and probably the funniest live action show too. The premise sounded lame - high school cheerleader fights supernatural monsters. It took me until the 4th series to watch an episode (the promo for "Hush" reminded me of a movie I love, "Dark City", so I took the plunge). I became hooked from that point on and hired VHS tapes to catch up to the broadcasts!
6. Through My Eyes (2004)
240 min | Drama
The true life story of Lindy Chamderlain and her recount of a dingo taking her baby
Remembered this Australian tv mini-series after I extended my list yesterday (17/06/2013). To my mind this is one of the great forensic analyses of a real life case...the death of baby Azaria Chamberlain at Ayers rock/Uluru. Her mother, Lindy Chamberlain, was tried and convicted of that murder. This mini-series was based on the account of Lindy Chamberlain and is in my view the definitive treatment of that case. My review of it up on this site. A quibble with this mini-series is that the opening scenes to it - whilst necessary - were overly long. Other than that, this is a must see for fans of court room and real life dramas. Easily surpasses the movie starring Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain in "Evil angels" (a.k.a. "A cry in the dark" for the U.S. market). I'm kind of surprised that Wikipedia mentions that Streep's movie was voted #9 in the American Film Institute's poll of the greatest court room dramas. Wait 'til they get a load of "Through my eyes"!
7. The Ascent of Money (2008 TV Movie)
Niall Ferguson takes us on a historical adventure through the ascent of money, applying fact and opinion throughout.
The definitive account of the global financial crisis which almost destroyed capitalism in 2008.
8. Black-Adder II (1986)
TV-PG | 176 min | Comedy
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.
I can't remember if I started watching this sit-com from its inception, but really it only flew once its star, Rowan Atkinson, no longer had writing duties. It was from this 2nd series, with Ben Elton now handling writing duties, that the Blackadder that we know and 'love', was born! From this point, the series was great. I even found the ending to the last series, "Blackadder goes forth" poignant...even though some weren't a fan of that more modern set series.
9. Dexter (2006–2013)
TV-MA | 53 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
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.
The first series was a bit wooden and hammy, but it's really developed into a quality drama with a grisly theme...a serial killer (Dexter)...who works for the police department...helping to find criminals...like serial killers. Can be amusing, as our 'hero' tries to become 'normal'.
10. Desperate Housewives (2004–2012)
TV-14 | 45 min | Comedy, Drama, Mystery
Secrets and truths unfold through the lives of female friends in one suburban neighborhood, after the mysterious suicide of a neighbor.
Wasn't a big fan of the first series of this night time soap...the character of Lynette was particularly unlikeable, but it developed into a very watchable show. whatever the series that people said sucked (2nd? 3rd?), that was probably my favourite. The final series was the best...since I don't remember that earlier series much. Some of the best comedy in the series in that final series and it wraps up the series nicely...with just one annoying loose end.
11. Mad Men (2007–2015)
TV-14 | 47 min | Drama
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.
Like a few of the previous shows I've mentioned, this one started to warm up after the first series. For some inexplicable reason, the network showing it here in Australia (SBS) ran the last series' episodes back to back...which means an even longer wait for the next series! Hopefully there's more advertising related content coming up...I like the insight into advertising and marketing that this show provides..."The Gruen transfer" is a popular fact based show here in Australia which provides similar insight by industry professionals...in an amusing way.
12. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)
TV-MA | 49 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
A high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer turns to manufacturing and selling methamphetamine in order to secure his family's future.
Similar premise to Weeds, but darker. Unfortunately the network here (ABC) was playing silly buggers with scheduling...they played the first series on the main channel and I thought the second series would screen there too...it didn't...so I had to fork out for the Blu-ray...an indication of how much I was enjoying the show. Whilst dark, this is often a funny look at the life of a domestic illegal drug supplier.
13. Arrested Development (2003– )
TV-PG | 489 min | Comedy
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.
ABC over here recently screened this series from the start...I had watched it on commercial tv around the time it was made, I think...but they probably stuffed around the scheduling of this show and I lost touch with it. Also one of the funniest American sit-coms of the time...not the kind of lame US sitcom which Australian sketch shows used to satirise...you know, the ones where a character walks in and the studio audience whoops it up for five minutes...for no discernable reason...
14. Family Guy (1998– )
TV-14 | 22 min | Animation, Comedy
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.
At its best, it's the funniest cartoon on tv. Think I started watching this around the time the tedious 'Stewie as evil genius' story arc was in full swing...which was tedious. It's steadily improved since then. Hopefully it hasn't peaked.
15. South Park (1997– )
TV-MA | 22 min | Animation, Comedy
Follows the misadventures of four irreverent grade-schoolers in the quiet, dysfunctional town of South Park, Colorado.
Really challenging and gobsmacking at times, as far as its adult themes go. Also contends for the title of 'the funniest cartoon on tv'.
16. The IT Crowd (2006–2013)
TV-14 | 25 min | Comedy
The comedic adventures of a rag-tag group of technical support workers at a large corporation.
From memory, this goofy sitcom took a while to warm up, but it's a very often funny look at office life as experienced by two computer geeks. The character of Douglas Reynholm (the office boss) is also wonderfully over the top, in that eccentric British, pantomime kind of way. The last series aired here was down on the quality of the earlier series. The episode with the boys using a disabled toilet in a theatre or something was an absolute scream.
17. The Micallef Program (1998–2001)
30 min | Comedy
A skit-based comedy program, fronted by Australian comedian Shaun Micallef.
I think I came onto this show late, but it was absolutely hilarious at its best...the true spiritual successor to Monty Python's Flying Circus. "Little Britain"'s Matt Lucas mentioned being a fan of this show when he appeared on Shaun Micallef's lesser quality game show "Talkin' 'bout your generation". Title variations throughout the entire series were: The Micallef program/The Micallef programme/The Micallef pogram.
18. Seinfeld (1989–1998)
TV-PG | 22 min | Comedy
The continuing misadventures of neurotic New York stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his equally neurotic New York friends.
I don't think that the first series was particularly good - or polished - but it developed into a classic sitcom. Some varieties of the 'sociological' humour didn't grab me, but others did. Billed as "The show about nothing". Recently I've read newspaper articles over here which said that "Hancock's half hour" was also like that...decades earlier.
19. Cheers (1982–1993)
TV-PG | 22 min | Comedy, Drama
The regulars of the Boston bar Cheers share their experiences and lives with each other while drinking or working at the bar where everybody knows your name.
A classic sitcom. The show didn't skip a beat when Coach passed on and was replaced by Woody.
20. Father Ted (1995–1998)
TV-14 | 25 min | Comedy
Crazy sitcom about 3 priests and their housekeeper who live on Craggy Island, not the peaceful and quiet part of Ireland it seems!
Another new entry for me (25/09/2013). This is another series where I stumbled onto it after it had been going for a while. Definitely a series I would want to catch up on right from the beginning on Blu-ray or something. A terrific comedy about an isolated group of Catholic priests. Especially worthy of praise (geddit?) is Ardal O'Hanlon as Father Dougal McGuire...he's like a more contemporary version of Woody (or coach) in "Cheers" (which also made my list)...in otherwords infinitely dim. His look of surprise when Father Ted reveals (!) some of the tenets of Catholicism to him is priceless!
21. The D Generation (1986–1987)
30 min | Comedy
An Australian skit show based in the 80's
Another Australian sketch comedy where I was a late arrival to its charms...hilarious stuff...I still remember their "Thunderbirds" parody...it was live action...but as wooden as the original!
22. The X-Files (1993– )
TV-14 | 45 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Two FBI agents, Fox Mulder the believer and Dana Scully the skeptic, investigate the strange and unexplained, while hidden forces work to impede their efforts.
As with "Buffy the vampire slayer", it took me a while to check this series out...on account of it just sounding like another stupid American show. It's a bit of a classic. Mulder and Scully, as two F.B.I. agents investigating the paranormal are an intriguing couple. And there's more than one 'classic' episode to this series...not sure what the episode was called, but the one I call "Magic mushrooms" was a philosophical Easter egg for me! A few good 'monster of the week' episodes too. And I'll forever associate the song "Wonderful, wonderful" with something disturbing! Hmm...this song was used to different effect in the finale of Desperate Housewives.
23. Newstopia (2007– )
30 min | Comedy, News
A satirical news program, presented by comedian Shaun Micallef.
Another Shaun Micallef vehicle...a news satire on SBS. The fake ads were a highlight too...typical SBS fare...ads for documentaries such as "Hitler's poodle" and the Bunnings Warehouse ads were great too. Nice to see the fake ads return on Micallef's new news satire "Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell". This time hokey ABC ads are the target...loved the line in that about if you find an ABC product cheaper elsewhere...you'd best buy it from there! As someone who's browsed ABC shops...Roger Wilco!
24. Battlestar Galactica (2004–2009)
TV-14 | 44 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
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.
Had a Teutonic gravitas to it (why so serious?) which I wasn't always a fan of. But the whole story arc concerning the female commander of another battlestar was unmissable tv. Pity about the silly finale which really made no sense.
In any case, it's the definitive post 11/09/2001 tv series...arguably a meditation on those terrorist attacks...I can't imagine it being the series it was without those events having occurred.
25. CNNNN: Chaser Non-Stop News Network (2002–2003)
30 min | Comedy, News
CNNNN (Chaser NoN-stop News Network) is a Logie Award winning Australian television program, satirising American news channels CNN and Fox News. It was produced and hosted by comedy team The Chaser.
Terrific news parody by the Chaser crew. They come out with new series every other year, I think, with different titles. This was perhaps their best incarnation. I found the American woman vox popped by them (in America) about countries which start with "U" beautiful...she was surprised to be told that "United States of America" was one such place...the Americans often came up with odd answers...like "Utopia"...which isn't actually a country...or exists.
26. Nighty Night (2004–2005)
30 min | Comedy
While telling her husband he's dying, Jill sets her sights on the next door neighbour, Don. And torments his wife, who suffers from MS.
I can't say that I really remember the first series, but boy, oh boy, was it a killer second (and final) series! A really twisted comedy which was like a live action version of South Park at times, due to its really edgy material. Definitely not for the faint of heart!
27. Lost (2004–2010)
TV-14 | 44 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
The survivors of a plane crash are forced to work together in order to survive on a seemingly deserted tropical island.
I have no idea what happened either. Never really took up the network's offer to go online and find out more about the lore...which may or may not have helped to work out what the Hell was happening!
28. Media Watch (1989– )
15 min | News
Media Watch is Australia's leading forum for media analysis and comment, screening on ABC TV.
Weekly, 15 minute critique of the media...especially the news varieties. It's probably because I watched this that a parody of 'current affairs' like "Frontline" didn't really grab me...Media Watch was there first and it was funny with it. Since Stuart Littlemore left there's fortunately been no more coverage of newspaper headlines in which only a theoretical linguist could tell you why it was imgrammatical.
29. The Glass House (2001–2006)
Very funny topical comedy panel show. Will Anderson hasn't been funnier (the shows he is in currently, with "Gruen" in the title, often have him going for the easy laugh and getting a big response from the audience). Dave Hughes was very funny too...especially when he didn't have anything funny to say! From memory, there was some kind of story about the show being axed for political reasons...just looked at the Wikipedia entry for this show and it mentions these conspiracy theories. Sorely missed.
30. Q5 (1969–1980)
30 min | Comedy
A series about the teenagers growing up in London and the troubles they get into while living there.
I did think that IMDB didn't have a link to the original series, but it seems that ol' Spike was up to his usual funny tricks, by starting his series at "Q5"! Each series was followed by the next number up, I think. Until, you got to "Kuwait" (geddit!!).
Not sure if this was shown in its original form in Australia...I remember there being short episodes when they aired on ABC TV over her. IMDB has episodes running at just over 32 minutes long. Perhaps I saw them in repeat, and cut down to size?
In any case, I suspect that the "Q" series would have dated better than Monty Python's Flying Circus...I might actually try and track down DVDs of it, in fact. It was surreal, absurdist humour...as you'd expect. Think Spike eventually moved to Australia to live.
31. The 4400 (2004–2007)
TV-14 | 43 min | Sci-Fi, Drama, Mystery
As the reappearance of 4,400 missing persons on a single day confounds the global community, federal agents on the case slowly discover the ways in which the victims have been changed.
I was enjoying this lo-fi sci-fi series about people with extraordinary abilities and was looking forward to its next series. It never came. I think that may have been due to the copycat "Heroes"...which was inferior to it, despite being much more polished than it. It's homely, low key style was appealing.
32. Fast Forward (1989–1992)
46 min | Comedy
Withdrawing the bill moments before a planned vote signals a major setback for the President.
Excellent Australian sketch comedy parodying local television programmes and ads and...other stuff...that "Galaxy of dance" ad always cracks me up...funnier than Elaine's dancing 'style' in Seinfeld!
33. Yes Minister (1980–1984)
TV-PG | 60 min | Comedy
The Right Honorable James Hacker has landed the plum job of Cabinet Minister to the Department of Administration. At last he is in a position of power and can carry out some long-needed reforms - or so he thinks.
I'd include the follow up series "Yes, Prime Minister" in this spot too. I'm guessing that this was a startingly close to the bone satire on the Westminster system of government (as in it would also work as satire in countries other than the UK). Not all the elements worked for me...Woolley's wooly puns, some of Sir Humphrey Appleby's more prolix moments (...um...actually, he had heaps of those!). However, there was no more cutting comedy than at moments like when Sir Humphrey walks Hacker (probably in the series where he was the PM) through how the results of vox pops by the media can be skewed one way or another...searched for that episode, apparently it's the one called "The ministerial broadcast"...an example of "leading questions".
34. Fawlty Towers (1975–1979)
TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy
Hotel owner Basil Fawlty's incompetence, short fuse, and arrogance form a combination that ensures accidents and trouble are never far away.
Forgot to include this in my initial list. Has many classic episodes and moments. Watching a repeat, I was struck how funny the episode with the Australian woman in it was. Loved Basil Fawlty's "frog walk" in that too! What else? Sybil's laugh...love to see her in the same room with Eddie Murphy sharing a joke! Oh, and DON'T MENTION THE WAR! Basil mentioned it once...but he think he got away with it!
The show is also notable for it's opening credit gag concerning the sign for the hotel.
Lastly, you'd often read how the US was 'adapting' the original for the US version...these rip-offs always bombed...hmm...can't imagine why! Apparently Basil isn't very likeable (NSS!)...hence the need to have a 'nice' hotel manager in the US versions. FFS!
35. Roseanne (1988–1997)
TV-PG | 22 min | Comedy, Drama, Family
The story of a working class family struggling with life's essential problems: Marriage, Children, Money and Parents in Law.
I was reminded of this story reading Michael Idato's own list of the 20 best-written tv shows of all time in The Age's Green Guide lift-out of 13/06/2013). Even before I read that, I'm sure that I had been meaning to include this show in any case.
Since time is an issue here, this show could quite possibly have been much higher up in my list had it been fresher in my memory. When I was watching it, it was probably the funniest sitcom on tv. As with many of the entries on my list, I missed seeing this series from the start and I doubt that I ever got to catch up on those 'lost' episodes on network tv. On the other hand, I didn't get to catch the final episodes of this series either, which were apparently quite bad. Perhaps the network here had stopped showing the series by then? So, this show may be 'lucky' to make my list in that case.
As with many US shows in this list of mine (i.e. "Buffy" and "X files"), my perceptions of this series stopped me from jumping on board at take off. I suppose that my prejudice would be that a show starring two fat people would be horribly unfunny...would have expected a lot of fart and belching jokes with maybe one of the two leads being offered a whole roast chicken on a biscuit by the other and the recipient saying something like "Ooh! Hors d'oeuvre!". Of course, the show was never this crass having a grounding in working class smarts. The two fat parents' teenage daughter, Darlene was my darling! So cynical!
36. NYPD Blue (1993–2005)
TV-14 | 45 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Detectives from NYPD's 15th squad investigate homicides within their precinct. An Emmy award winning series.
Not exactly sure when I started watching this show...probably not right from the beginning. In any case, when the network here wanted to burn through the final series by showing epioses back to back, it was a mark of the quality of the series that this was by no means an imposition on me (it's the really mediocre - but watchable - series where showing episodes back to back can call into question your desire to watch the series).
37. Countdown (1974–1987)
Countdown was a long-running popular weekly Australian music television show broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from 8 November 1974 until 19 July 1987.
Old episodes of this Sunday night at 6:00 pm institution still get played on the music video programme "Rage"...usually during the summer holidays, I think. This was THE music programme in its day and now with the fragmentation of the music market I doubt its like will ever be seen again. I think that this Australian music show gave international artists like Blondie and John(ny Cougar) Mellencamp their first hits anywhere in the world...and also helped get that ABBA snowball rolling down Mt. Everest.
This was a programme that kept you in touch with what was happening musically around the world. I don't know whether they played any punk music...hmm...apart from the Ramones, but maybe watching Rage I've seen episodes where "Molly" Meldrum interviewed members of The Sex Pistols etc. So, they played a little punk music, a little heavy metal (like Iron Maiden) as well as some quirky as well as horribly kitsch stuff.
Another reason that this show was culturally significant is because it provided a national platform for local acts...I don't think that there was really any other source for band to get the kind of recognition that they could on this programme. E.g. I have heard that Daddy Cool's pre-Countdown album "Daddy who? Daddy Cool" was the biggest selling Australian album of all time to that point...with something like Gold status...i.e. 70,000 sales. With Countdown, the new wave of bands could smash those kinds of sales. E.g. Skyhook's "Living in the 70's" went on to sell over a quarter of a million albums with the kind of exposure that they got on Countdown. Perhaps with radio stations forming networks in the decades afterwards, as well as Countdown still being a force, acts like John Farnham could sell a million copies of his album "Whispering Jack".
I'd be surprised if any music programme nowadays could command the audiences that this once did (I believe about a million people a show...back in the days when Australia wasn't that populated either)...or play the diversity of music that it did...music formats are too pigeon holed today.
38. Queer as Folk (2000–2005)
TV-MA | 47 min | Drama, Romance
The lives and loves of a group of gay friends living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
A gay soap. I only watched it because a review of it in a tv guide expressed disgust at a particular scene. Can't say that I noticed what was meant to be so disgusting by it. This soap pulled me in from the start, in any case. It was based on a U.K. series of the same name, but apparently the original is too 'hot' for network television...so, maybe I might watch that 'one of these days'? This remake has an attractive cast and could be funny. I still remember lines in this series like "Do you rim?" (uttered by a handsome - in a Harry Hamlin kind of way - older male to a barely (?) legal male...presumably the young male in the original was definitely not legal?) and "Bareback"...amusing for the way that the characters had misinterpreted some acronymn and got more than they bargained for. Not sure if you have to be gay to like this show. It might help, maybe? A good show for those who like adult soaps.
39. 24 (2001–2010)
TV-14 | 44 min | Action, Crime, Drama
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.
I liked the smart-arse critic who said something to the effect that the hero of this series would torture himself to give up information like...where he did leave his keys? Who knows how many of his own fingers Jack Bauer would have broken before he gave up that information?
40. 30 Rock (2006–2013)
TV-14 | 22 min | Comedy
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 television show without losing her mind.
Possibly the only sitcom where I consistently have to jot down the punchline so I can look it up and thus get the joke...not that I do that much though...now I have loads of meaningless pop cultural references to look up on my "to do" list. In other words, as an Australian, I often have to file the punchlines to these jokes under the category "Famous Americans I've never heard of".
The character of "Toofer" was conceptually an exciting character type, but like the vast majority of the cast he has very little material to deal with. I would love to have his job on the show...just turn up for work...no lines to memorise...get paid. How good is that?
41. Californication (2007–2014)
TV-MA | 28 min | Comedy, Drama
A writer tries to juggle his career, his relationship with his daughter and his ex-girlfriend, as well as his appetite for beautiful women.
Am enjoying this tale of debauchery. Absolutely hilarious at times (like the episode where a monkey throws...stuff...around). Pity that the network (10) is now playing silly buggers with its scheduling. It's disappeared from the schedule...after only being on for a short while into its new series.
42. Life's Too Short (2011–2013)
TV-MA | 30 min | Comedy
The show centers on Warwick Davis in his day-to-day life, complete with the frustrations he faces.
Another variation on the humour/characters found in "The office". Since Ricky Gervais' original "The office" isn't fresh in my mind, I'll say that this series is the best of his self-created genre. Basically, it's about Ricky Gervais as a young boy (played by Warwick Davis). Ricky Gervais also plays himself as an older man in the same scenes as his younger self, at times, so there is obviously some sort of time paradox aspect to this story. If there are more series of "Life's too short" I may have to re-evaluate its place in my list here...short and sweet (like Chris Lilley's mockumentaries) might be the best format for a show like this. In any case, the episode concerning young Ricky's party was perhaps the most humiliating for that character...it was literally painful to watch and I felt that the story went too far in humiliating him. However, it may also have been the funniest episode...if that's also the episode where young Ricky has his dishwasher replaced...I loved the slapstick concerning that.
43. The Sopranos (1999–2007)
TV-MA | 55 min | Crime, Drama
New Jersey mob boss, Tony Soprano, deals with personal and professional issues in his home and business life, which affects his mental state and ends up seeking professional psychiatric counseling.
I was under the impression that this was to be a short run series (as in one season long), so I suppose I felt a little gypped when it just kept going. But I stuck with the show and it was a good ride. Still not sure what the ducks were all about though!
44. Vietnam (1987– )
45 min | Drama, War
This 10 part series follows a family affected by the Vietnam war, Nicole Kidman plays a young woman who becomes an anti war activist, when she sees what is happening in Veitnam after the ... See full summary »
The Australian mini-series, which has an incorrect graphic at this site for some reason. The first time I watched this, I thought that the two leads - Nicole Kidman and Nicholas Eadie - were outstanding. The next time I watched it, Nicole Kidman remained the standout performer. Definite repeat viewing value here in any case.
The story concerns the effect of the Vietnam war on an Australian family where one member - played by Nicholas Eadie - is drafted to serve in the army. Nicole Kidman, playing the man's sister, gives a very moving performance in the scene when she is a guest on a radio programme. Probably her greatest performance, in my view.
45. L.A. Law (1986–1994)
46 min | Drama
The lives and work of the staff of a major Los Angeles law firm.
Terrific legal drama and actors Harry Hamlin and Susan Dey must have played the most attractive lawyers ever...in the history of everything! Actually, this series is so ancient in my memory I'm wondering if nostalgia has kicked in here...having seen some snippets of this show in recent times, the intellectually disabled character's scenes did seem a bit naff.
46. Seven Little Australians (1973– )
294 min | Drama, Family
Captain Wolcott is a widower with seven children. He marries again and his new wife takes on all the trials of bringing up seven spirited children. They have many adventures, especially one... See full summary »
This could possibly be a nostalgia pick, but the ABC TV network here in Australia regularly showed this mini-series over the years decades ago. Our family would watch it every time it was on...a family viewing event in other words. No reason to think it doesn't stand the test of time...or at least would be an excellent series for children.
47. I Know My First Name Is Steven (1989– )
180 min | Crime, Drama
The harrowing true account of Steven Stayner, who was kidnapped by a perverted pseudo-priest and his lackey during the 1970s. As he gets older, he realizes that he needs to try to make an escape and get back home.
I seem to remember this being a mini-series in Australia or something...a two parter, though maybe I misremembered. Anyway, I mentioned this when I updated my list yesterday (01/10/2013) for Great Foreign Films...in my entry for "The vanishing". This was quite an affecting story in any case.
48. The Walking Dead (2010– )
TV-MA | 44 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller
Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma to learn the world is in ruins, and must lead a group of survivors to stay alive.
I've finished watching the second series on SBS TV recently (14/06/2014). Have to say that I'm on board with the programme now, after considering bailing on this series when the first series was showing here in Australia. First impressions was that it was a "B" kind of series...rough around the edges and struggling to maintain my interest. What got me through that first series was the narrative hooks it brought up...would what would happen when the main character, Rick Grimes (a cop), finally met up with his family, who had thought him dead and were now part of a new family with Rick's best buddy and also a cop Shane Walsh?
The second series has continued with those narrative hooks. Perhaps one could liken to it those old Saturday arvo matinee serials at the cinema? By the looks of it, you just have no idea which of the characters in the show are safe from death...or a fate worse than that. Have read that the tv series departs from the comic book series it is based on, and based on one very long story arc in the second series, it seems to me that perhaps the tv series is more pragmatic and perhaps more realistic compared to the comic book series (which I have not read).
Even though I have huge issues with the plausability of the notion of "zombies", I am suspending my disbelief and enjoying the depiction of humanity in extremis which this series provides.
49. The Goodies (1970–1982)
30 min | Comedy
Long running British situation comedy with the vaguest of situations. The Goodies are a three man agency whose brief is to do 'anything, anytime'. This gave the series carte blanche to do ... See full summary »
Okay, since I began updating this list today (16/06/2013), adding to my original(ish) list of 34 titles, I see that I am delving into nostalgia now. Endlessly repeated back in the day on ABC TV here in Australia, this was an engaging children's television show which stood the test of endless repeats. Terrific incidental music and the episode devoted to a live musical performance included my favourite version of The Troggs' "Wild thing"!
If this isn't a classic, I'm sure it would still hold up well as an excellent show for children...hmm...the odd thing was that this was prime time in the UK and in the 6 pm slot on ABC TV! Apparently the Australian version did get edited to keep it suitable for the time slot though!
Do have fond memories of their satire on Apartheit in South Africa...I won't spoil the tremendous running joke they do on that notion in that episode. One of the stars of that show, Bill Oddie, appeared on Adam Hills Tonight on 19/06/2013 (ABC TV) and mentioned that the BBC executives (or whatever) felt that the stars were being too harsh on the South African police in that episode! Perhaps they were pressured to self-censor? Hmm.
50. The Kenny Everett Video Show (1978–1981)
30 min | Comedy, Music
This show featured music set to imagery, just prior to MTV. Most of it was concert footage though some had effects and a theme. It had a choreography segment featuring dancers known as "Hot Gossip".
Possibly another nostalgia pick. Can't say exactly what the ABC TV network here in Australia started airing first...the show has had identity changes...it did become "The Kenny Everett video cassette" series later. No doubt this was endlessly repeated on the network here. I remember watching this in high school, I believe, for the first time. At first I thought it was just really stupid. Then it got its hooks into me! Definitely anarchic and perhaps an acquired taste too. Can still remember some characters who I think would resonate today, like Quentin Pose as well as some funny jokes...e.g. from the Captain Kremmen cartoon:
Captain Kremmen: Carla, why are your feet swathed in bandages? Carla: The stuff I was cooking said to "Stand in boiling water for 2 minutes"
(sorry if I misquoted there!)
51. Joh's Jury (1993 TV Movie)
98 min | Drama
Dramatisation of the 1991 perjury trial of former Queensland state Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Hmm...I was under the impression that this was a mini-series in which I missed the first installment. Seems it was a telemovie (unless, of course, it was packaged differently for an overseas audience or something...see my comments for "Blue murder"). If it wasn't split into two parts, then I still must have missed the start of this movie. What I saw was brilliant though...the true story of the trial of a famous Australian state premier (Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen). Sir Joh, of course, was one politician must satirised by the Australian sketch comedies in this list of mine for his verbal contortions...don't you worry about that! Never count your chickens until they cross the road...and all that. Pumpkin scones anyone?
52. Music Jamboree (2002)
25 min | Comedy, Documentary, Music
John Safran explores the music industry with this hilarious and informative show.
The other week I saw the final episode of "Julia Zemiro's home delivery" where she interviewed John Safran. It was the only episode in that series which I took the time to watch. It reminded me to include at least something by John Safran. I also didn't watch the series where Safran first made his mark...as a contestant on "Race around the world" where his stunts made him a viewer favourite...not my kind of show. In any case, I'm adding "John Safran's music jamboree" even though I'm a little vague on it. I do remember liking it though. Still remember feeling sorry for him as he did his schtick at Flinder St. Station...on a platform...with commuters indifferent to him...they had no idea who he was and probably thought his crazy or something!
Safran's short run tv series have often had excellent 'common man' deconstructions of one of his favourite topics...religion...where he just exposed the paradoxes of the subject. I think it was on his series "John Safran vs God" where he had the hilarious promo for a non-existent movie about Mormon missionaries which he took to the US to gain funding from the actual church! Might also have been on this series where I learned of the Mormon's 'magic' underpants. Great stuff. But that series also had some disturbing scenes from actual religious ceremonies or historical practices which might be a bit 'too much' for someone walking in cold to his programmes.
He's in this list because television needs people doing stuff like he does.
53. Blue Murder (1995– )
198 min | Crime, Drama
Detective Sergeant Roger "The Dodger" Rogerson got fame because he knew how to take care of most dangerous and violent criminals. His success was, however, also due to the sinister alliance... See full summary »
Hmm...again, IMDB lists this as telemovie but I feel that Wikipedia is right in calling it a miniseries...unless there has been differently segmented versions of these (i.e. movie releases for overseas markets?). This also appears in Michael Idato's list of the 20 best written tv shows (The Age's Green Guide lift-out 13/06/2013). Sorry to say that my memory isn't the best...I know that ABC TV made some cracking miniseries decades ago concerning true crime stories. If this is the one where a corrupt policeman holds a loaded revolver to some criminal's crotch, then, yeah, this was one brilliant miniseries. That scene which I mentioned...a truly excruciating dilemma/no win scenario.
54. Doctor Who (1963–1989)
TV-PG | 45 min | Adventure, Drama, Family
The adventures of a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey known only as the Doctor, who travels through time and space fighting monsters and other villainous megalomaniacs with companions.
This could be another nostalgia pick but it also features in Michael Idato's list. Not sure how well the classic series would hold up now but it's probably still a great series for children. I'd nominate the Tom Baker years as "The Doctor" for this entry. He redefined "cool" for me as a young child. Smart, witty and a pacifist (from memory!). A completely atypical sci-fi hero. I believe that Joss Whedon's "Buffy the vampire slayer" continuation in comic book form even referenced this series and perhaps this particular incarnation of The Doctor too (from memory...been a while since I read that comic and I didn't stick with the comics for too long).
A classic series about a time travelling alien with a fondness for our planet.
55. Rush (1974–1976)
50 min | Adventure, Drama, History
This doesn't even count as nostalgia as I only remember the fact that I used to follow this Australian/French co-production and was a fan. The theme tune is an all time classic in my view...banjo pickin' and an orchestra to boot! I would probably have come into this series during its colour episodes, with the actor John Waters' French side-kick (or whatever he was!). If the episodes stack up as well as the theme tune, this would be a classic series!
A historical series set during the...you guessed it...the gold rush in Australia in the 19th century, I believe. Satirical Australian entertainment tv show "The late show" did one of their many re-voicings of scenes from the original...retitled as "The olden days"! It looks like there are You Tubes of this parody. They also re-voiced such Australian shows as "Homicide" and "Bluey"...amusingly retitled "Bargearse"!
56. Homicide (1964–1977)
50 min | Action, Crime, Drama
The show was about crimes and cases actioned by the Victorian (Australia) homicide squad, with many cases based of real cases.
Since I mentioned this show in my comments for "Rush", I thought I'd better add this tv series which I can't say I remember much more than the fact that I religiously watched it as a child. As with "Rush" being given the parody treatment on "The late show", this was also re-voiced to comedic effect by the comedians...hmm...I can't seem to find a name for that...maybe it was on another show featuring some of the same comedians? I do remember the jokes addressing the brown suits worn by the detectives in the original show.
The grand daddy of Australian police/crime shows (I think...shows before this would have been before my time)...actually, Wikipedia mentions this show being the first major television series to be filmed in Australia (our viewing was mostly dominated by British and American series at the time...the more things change!).
57. The Outsiders (1976–1977)
Another nostalgia pick, perhaps, though I think I caught some or all of it in repeat many years ago on ABC TV and it seemed to hold up pretty well. Has a great, atmospheric title song by Doug Parkinson. If I didn't know, or had forgotten, Wikipedia reminds me that this was an Australia-German co-production. Wikipedia also says that the German actor was dubbed for the Australian market but that he dubbed himself for the German version...which was apparently quite popular over there and inspired a wave of tourism to Australia!
Perhaps due to the repeat, I do remember the absurd headbutting contest scene in one episode but there was an eerie quality to the best episodes, which were filmed in the outback...I have vague memories of a ghost town type story.
An unconventional buddy road trip series.
58. Minder (1979–1994)
60 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime
Arthur Daley, a small-time conman, hires former boxer Terry McCann to be his 'minder', so Terry can protect him (Arthur) from other, small-time, crooks. While Terry is trying his hardest to... See full summary »
Nostalgia's really kicking in for me after extending my list yesterday (17/06/2013). Once again, if the show is half as good as the theme song (sung by the star!) it must be pretty good! About a shifty businessman Called 'Arfur' Daley and his muscle, Terry (played by Dennis Waterman). Waterman sings the theme song "I could be so good for you". Not sure if he has also released another not to shabby song too...kind of like the David Soul of the 80's, perhaps? Didn't see the reboot of this series with Daley's replacement for Terry.
59. The Singing Detective (1986)
415 min | Drama, Musical, Mystery
Tormented and bedridden by a debilitating disease, a mystery writer relives his detective stories through his imagination and hallucinations.
Think I reluctantly watched this - due to not really being interested in a musical - but was really impressed with it.
60. Cash and Company (1975– )
Wanted by the law, likeable bushrangers Sam Cash and cigar smoking accomplice Joe Brady are men with purpose and the know how to stay one sneaky step ahead of the authorities.
Another barely remembered nostalgia pick...not sure if I have this show in mind or "Tandarra" which Wikipedia informs me was a sequel to this. Looking at Wikipedia, both series are mentioned as having been set during the gold rush era, as was "Rush"...perhaps all three were set during the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s? Well, Wikipedia gives a resounding "Yes" to that!
What I remember from this series was the marvellously gravel voiced American accent of Gus Mercurio, whose son makes my list for the greatest Australian movies with "Strictly ballroom".
61. Return to Eden (1983– )
267 min | Drama, Romance, Thriller
Wealthy but plain heiress Stephanie Harper marries handsome tennis player Greg Marsden, and thinks she has found true love. That is, until her husband makes a play for her best friend and ... See full summary »
Another barely remembered nostalgia pick...although I do remember finding this the most brilliant example of trash tv at the time. Don't think that I caught the follow up tv series, made a few years later.
I'm sure that the plot is totally absurd...involving revenge or some such, but that is half the fun!
62. Blake's 7 (1978–1981)
50 min | Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi
A group of convicts and outcasts fight a guerrilla war against the totalitarian Terran Federation from a highly advanced alien spaceship.
Of all my nostalgia picks, perhaps this one could be the most dodgy...I remember being a fan of this British sci-fi series about (from memory!) a gang of criminals on the run who somehow manage to come into possession of an advanced alien spaceship...or something like that! Some of the reasons I suspect it may not have aged very well would be the very lo-fi sets and special effects. I also seem to remember the series sucking towards the end...perhaps. If that's the case, then maybe I'd have this in my list for the same reason I have "The 4400" in my list...it is (or was) engaging television despite its (presumably) limited budget...and you could say that of Doctor Who too, I'd say.
63. Little House on the Prairie (1974–1983)
TV-PG | 60 min | Drama, Family, Romance
The life and adventures of the Ingalls family in the 19th century American Midwest.
As with "Seven little Australians" I do have memories of this being required family viewing in our home. Not sure how well it would have aged. Story concerns a loving family on the American frontiers (I assume) in the horse and cart days. There are certain scenes I still remember to this day (vague memories of one of the daughters, perhaps, having an infected leg due to rusty metal or some such). The theme tune is rather good too...and I can still recall the littlest daughter falling over at the end of that intro.
Obviously had an impact on me as I took to reading the novels by one of the daughters depicted in this series (Laura Ingalls) as a young adult. Can't say that I remember that though now...oh, apart from the fact that the Laura's mother was proud of the fact that her husband could encircle or waist with his hands! Perhaps the books made me think that the tv series wasn't true to the books, or took liberties with the books in any case. From memory, the books were more dry and less emotional than the tv series...but I could be wrong...did actually write a letter to the trust after reading the books...or maybe it was a museum devoted to that family or something.
64. Beavis and Butt-Head (1993–2011)
TV-14 | 15 min | Animation, Comedy, Music
Animated MTV series about two teenage heavy-metal music fans who occasionally do idiotic things because they're bored. For them, everything is "cool" or "sucks."
Only briefly had access to cable tv, but I did enjoy these brief episodes of the adventures of two American idiots. Their commentary on MTV music videos were often funny...plus they had t-shirts for the bands AC/DC and Metallica...the first being my favourite rock band of all time, and the latter being my favourite heavy metal band of all time...so...they can't have been THAT stupid...right?
65. Saiyûki (1978–1980)
Action, Family, Adventure
An adaptation of a Chinese folktale about a pilgrimage to the West undertaken by a monk and his divine guardians.
Another series which was popular when I was in high school. Maybe it had some philosophical wisdom to impart too, every episode...of the Buddhist kind.
66. MythBusters (2003– )
TV-PG | 44 min | Documentary, Mystery, Reality-TV
A weekly documentary in which two Hollywood special effects experts attempt to debunk urban legends by directly testing them.
No doubt that if I was a child now this would probably be #1 on my list! When the cast aren't almost killing innocent civilians with cannonballs they test the veracity of myths seen on the internet or movie and tv etc.
67. Beatboxe (2012)
6 min | Short, Action, Musical
On his way to his regular dancing practice, a boy can't use his boom-box. He calls his friend, who is busy practicing his boxing skills, to help him out.
IMDB doesn't have a listing for the ABC TV (Australia) youth orientated tv series "Beatbox". Trying to search for information on this show and if Wikipedia did have an entry for it, it's gone now. Seems to have been a 1980s show. I remember it as being Bogan Central...i.e. street kids being interviewed on all manner of edgy topics...think I saw a clip from it recently...maybe on "Shock horror Aunty"? Rose Tattoo frontman and bit player in "Mad Max 3" Angry Anderson admitted to being a big wanker! Literally! Maybe it was this show and not "Blah blah blah" which had the hooker placing a condom on a cucumber?
Anyway, this was an edgy and informative show. The great Midnight Oil's drummer Rob Hirst did the theme music for the intro too.
68. Blah Blah Blah (1988)
Again, this is vague in my memory, but I probably thought that Andrew Denton was at his best in this show...although the work of his that I still remember is his subsequent series "The money or the gun" where each week a well known or obscure group covered Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven"...most famously by Rolf Harris, of course, although I did like Leanard Thiele's one! As well as The Beatles' cover group...and that Elvis impersonator guy...and that Doors cover group. Good stuff.
Anyhoo..."Blah blah blah"...wasn't that the series where it was demonstrated how to put on a condom...using a cucumber in place of an erect penis? Holy moly...wasn't there a delayed release of a prostitute doing that with her mouth...on the cucumber, I think? Gosh.
Andrew Denton later formed the amusingly titled production company "Zapruder's other films".
69. Donahue (1967–1995)
60 min | Talk-Show
The precursor to all the daytime talk shows that arose during the 1980's and 90's. Phil Donahue's show started off similar to other shows of its day, featuring celebrities and musical acts,... See full summary »
Not sure if this was broadcast in Australia as "Donahue". It's not clear in my memory anymore, but I do remember the host being intelligent and thoughtful and I can't say that I remember the show really scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as topics go...which seems to be the go nowadays...even though I don't watch talk shows anymore.
Must say that I have sometimes seen programme wraps by Jerry Springer and...I was really surprised at how thoughtful/intelligent he sounded then...even though he has a reputation as one of those bottom of the barrel scraping talk show hosts.
I should mention the Australian context here as far as audience participation goes...Australian audiences have tended to be reticent to engage in the kind blah you see on US talk shows. Think there was an Australian talk show hosted by Peter Couchman, which was called "Couchman", apparently, and it seems to me getting a word out of that audience was probably like trying to get blook from a stone. That seems to have changed with the current show "Q&A" where hippies recite poetry to the panel and the host says "I'll take that as a comment"...it's a show that I hardly ever watch in any case...damned annoying tweets appearing on the screen all the time too! The Chaser's satires have tweets too...but at least they are amusing!
70. JFK: The Smoking Gun (2013 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 120 min | Documentary, History
Australian detective Colin McLaren investigates the JFK assassination using ballistics expert Howard Donahue's evidence of a second shooter in Dealey Plaza.
For me, this documentary provides the basic groundwork for any explanation or good conspiracy theory on JFK's assassination. It has the basic facts right but steers clear of going beyond those basic facts. In other words, the initial mystery of the assassination is solved here (Secret Service agent George Hickey accidentally killed the president). From this basic fact I ponder whether the Secret Service orchestrated the assassination of the would be assassin Lee Harvey Oswald...as in, if the Secret Service went to such great lengths to cover-up their accidental killing of the president, it would make sense for them to have Oswald killed, as he knew very well that the fatal shot was not his...he knew he was a "patsy"...but he probably didn't know who he was a patsy for.
71. On Trial: Lee Harvey Oswald (1986 TV Movie)
310 min | Documentary
A documentary in which surviving witnesses are recalled to determine the guilt or innocence of the man believed to have murdered President John F. Kennedy.
Would have seen this as a young person. Probably my first exposure to this momentous event dissected. Having watched the two lawyers argue the matter in front of a genuine fake jury, I have to say that I was staggered that they went along with the findings of the original Warren Commission into the assassination of JFK. Perhaps this documentary also featured evidence like "the magic bullet theory"...which in light of the recent "JFK: The smoking gun" seems to have been positively debunked. I.e. althought his documentary now probably has out of date evidence and explanations, it still raises important issues.
72. Micallef Tonight (2003– )
60 min | Comedy, Music, Talk-Show
As with "Carnivale" this is more a case of 'what might have been?". This was Micallef's foray into a real nightly chat show (as opposed to his classic fake one in "The Micallef program/programme/pogram". I do remember watching this and liking it and being disappointed it was axed. It was return to commercial television...a pity...if it was on the government funded ABC TV he might have lasted longer...but it just might have been a different show!
73. Mary Tyler Moore (1970–1977)
TV-PG | 30 min | Comedy
The lives and trials of a young single woman and her friends, both at work and at home.
I'm taking a punt that of all the 1970s sitcoms I enjoyed as a child, this one would still stack up...if I revisited it...which I haven't. It does have in its favour one of the all time great theme songs...see my List here for Themes...where I rate it very highly in its category.
This series did spawn a lot of spin-off shows. Happy Days did that too...but with Happy Days, that doesn't really seem to have aged well...Fast Forward here parodied the mindless audience whooping of shows like that...where the actors didn't have to do anything more than just appear to bring the house down. Well satirised, in any case...I'm looking at you, Fonzie!
74. Redesign My Brain (2013– )
See Australian television personality Todd Sampson put brain training to the test as he undergoes a radical brain makeover in a three-part documentary series on the revolutionary new science of brain plasticity.
This is either a very deserving entry or...not. Just depends on whether there is any substance to the claims made by advertising guru Todd Sampson on the efficacy of certain exercises designed to make your brain, better, faster and smarter. If not, then it's just another marketing gimmick.
Having seen some documentaries covering similar ground from other countries, e.g. "Test your brain", this Australian effort surpassed those by allowing access to the same computer based tests Todd conducted himself and which allowed you to compare your results with his scores. No doubt such features from the host broadcaster (ABC TV Australia) is no longer extant, but you can still visit the outside website which runs similar/identical exercises. In fact, I've linked to it in my profile on this site.