The 100 greatest TV shows of all time according to Rolling Stone

We are in a golden era of TV shows.  Online streaming sites have changed the way we consume television, offering more practical alternatives and a different level of quality that  attract an increasingly wider audience.

TV shows have become the main cultural reference of the 21st century, breaking barriers to reach everyone with the same force.  The 2016 Emmys have shown the sheer amount of contemporary programmes capable of rivalling the greatest productions in TV history.

But are these award shows a true sign that we are living in a golden age of TV,  or just an illusion that make us think of the programmes of today as better than those that came before?

To resolve this doubt, Rolling Stone Magazine has reviewed the history of American television, compiling a list of the 100 greatest programmes of all time.  They achieved this with the opinions of various critics, show runners and other big names in the industry.  And, surprise surprise, the majority of the latest Emmy winners made the cut.


  1. The Sopranos

Naturally, first place goes to The Sopranos, a six season series (1999-2007) that revolves the New Jersey mafia.  Referencing classic gangster films like The Godfather, the result is a brilliant and reflective drama about crime and the desire for power.


  1. The Wire

Coming in close second is The Wire, another HBO production that portrays drug trafficking on the streets of Baltimore.  Based on true stories from within the city, the series delves into all aspects of drug trafficking in order to create an in-depth portrayal of the subject.

It’s no surprise that The Wire makes second place: its Filmaffinity rating is one of the highest in history.  Considering the period in which it was aired (from 2002 to 2008), you could say that these were the best years in television history.


  1. Breaking Bad

Shortly after The Wire came Breaking Bad. The revelation that brought Brian Cranston’s career to new heights while distancing him from the image of ‘Malcom’s dad’, also showed that the theme of drug trafficking left much to be explored.

AMC’s masterpiece aired for five seasons (2008-2013) and was one of the great precursors which changed our way of consuming TV and transformed a television show into a social phenomenon.  Despite losing to The Wire and The Sopranos, there’s no doubt that the first three positions could be easily interchanged.


  1. Mad Men

The most recent series in the Top Five is Mad Men, produced by AMC, a close competitor with HBO in the ranking.  It follows the life of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), one of the top publicists in New York of the 1960s.  Through American ad agencies, the series heavily critiques the American way of life of the period, something which helped to win an array of awards during its seven seasons (2007-2015).



  1. Seinfeld

Before “the great age of TV” of the 21st century was a comedy which paved the way for what would follow.  Seinfeld, an NBC production which boasts a dizzying total of 180 episodes (9 seasons from 1989 until 1998), took the sitcom model to the new a new level.  With a multitude of storylines that seamlessly intertwine, its everyday humour entertained all manner of audiences.

  1. The Simpsons

In a conversation between millennials, it’s likely that a reference to the Simpsons will appear in every ten to twelve sentences.  The FOX show, due to its twenty seven seasons, has become a cultural point of intersection for various generations. Its unique style, characteristic humour and ability to entertain all ages has earned it the title of sixth best TV series in history.

  1. The Twilight Zone

Between 1959 and 1964, one TV series paved the way for what would happen later on in general culture all over the world.  The Twilight Zone brought science fiction and horror to every corner of the globe, using fantastical storylines to explore social problems that were seriously affecting the United States at the time.



  1. Saturday Night Live

NBC has had a date with millions of viewers from around the world every Saturday night since 1975.  Saturday Night live forever changed the way entertainment programmes were created.  With its roguish style, talented comedians and a structure which has been shown to work in any period, the programme,  currently narrated by Darrell Hammond, doesn’t look like it will go out of style any time soon.


  1. All in the Family

Another sitcom which managed to secure a place in the top ten is All in the Family.  During a period that was extremely controversial in the United States (1971-1979), the series dared to explore serious themes with an outlandish style of humour that has served as comedy inspiration ever since.

  1. The Daily Show

Another programme which arrived at the end of the 90s (1999) and continues to air today is The Daily Show, a parody of news programmes that satirize US current events with the use of cameos and the biggest names in Hollywood.  In 2015, after 16 years as the show’s presenter the show, Jon stewart left and was replaced by Trevor Noah.  The programme’s unique spirit has, however, remained intact.


Is there any doubt that we’re in a golden age of TV?

The rest of the list includes some of the most popular contemporary TV series, like Game of Thrones (12) or Fargo (51).  And although many of the programmes listed are icons of the 20th century, contemporary series have managed to carve out a great space of their own.

Here’s the complete list:

100- Eastbound and Down

99- Oz

98- The Golden Girls

97- Portlandia

96- Gunsmoke

95- Key and Peele

94- Jeopardy

93- Mystery Science Theatre 3000

92- American Idol

91- Broad City

90- The Dick Van Dyke Show

89- Homeland

88- Party Down

87- Doctor Who

86- Good Times

85- The Real World

84- Real Time With Bill Maher

83- House of Cards

82- The Jeffersons

81- Dallas

80- The Fugitive

79- In Living Color

78- Thirtysomething

77- The Walking Dead

76- Late Night With Conan O’Brien

75- American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson

74- The Ren & Stimpty Show

73- Transparent

72- Girls

71- Mr Show

70- Roseanne

69- The Ed Sullivan Show

68- The State

67- The Odd Couple

66- Dowton Abbey

65- Happy Days

64- Chappelle’s Show

63- The Wonder Years

62- Sex and the City

61- Your Show of Shows

60- Beavis and Butt-Head

59- Hill Street Blues

58- Roots

57- Fawlty Towers

56- 24

55- Six Feet Under

54- The Muppet Show

53- The Bob Newhart Show

52- The Colbert Report

51- Fargo

50- ER

49- Taxi

48- The Office (USA)

47- The Rockford Files

46- The Mary Tyler Moore Show

45- Battlestar Galactica

44- Columbo

43- The Americans

42- NYPD Blue

41- The Honeymooners

40- The Shield

39- Lost

38- Buffy the Vampire Slayer

37- Orange Is the New Black

36- Law & Order

35- My So-Called Life

34- 30 Rock

33- South Park

32- I Love Lucy

31- Sesame Street

30- The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson

29- Monty Python’s Flying Circus

28- The X-Files

27- Arrested Development

26- Friends

25- Veep

24- Friday Night Lights

23- Deadwood

22- Louie

21- The Office (UK)

20- Cheers

19- Curb Your Enthusiasm

18- Star Trek

17- Twin Peaks

16- M.A.S.H.

15- The West Wing

14- The Larry Sanders Show

13- Late Night with David Letterman

12- Game of Thrones

11- Freaks and Geeks

10- The Daily Show

9- All in the Family

8- Saturday Night Live

7- The Twilight Zone

6- The Simpsons

5- Seinfeld

4- Mad Men

3- Breaking Bad

2- The Wire

1- The Sopranos

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