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RLLMUK's Top 100 TV Shows - Please Vote!


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So I've started ploughing through The Wire. If I tried to write about its sophistication after watching 4 episodes I'm pretty sure I'd be lynched, so on I go.

Which brings up an issue: I'm not going to get time to watch everything in the top 100 I've missed, so please do add-in a few words - even if just a short paragraph or a sentence - about the shows you've picked so I can quote you. That way I can look all inclusive and magnanimous when the list goes up, rather than writing stuff like, "Farscape is about, um, antipodean sci-fi puppets and...etcetera"

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Currently editing my nominations, been re-watching episodes and clips from my list - and those I forgot - to try and come up with a way of ordering.

Can Buffy and Angel be included as one? Having trouble separating them at the moment.

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Hmm... I fear my taste, or perhaps "vocabulary" of television is pretty poor and that I'm about to show myself up. There's so much I haven't seen (or started to but didn't think much of and quit). Give it a go though.

1. The Sopranos

2. The West Wing

3. Band of Brothers

4. The Simpsons

5. Seinfeld

Ok, rest of my list, or at least to a point...

6. South Park

Just brilliant satire, and I think the show has generally got better as it's gone on.

7. Futurama

I've not seen beyond season 5 to be fair, but those first 4 seasons were wonderfully funny and geeky with some lovely, touching moments (Jurassic Bark of course, but even stuff like the ending to Time Keeps on Slipping were very sweet.)

8. Planet Earth

Difficult to pick one Attenborough documentary, but the breadth of this one, all in stunning HD, gets the nod from me.

9. Phoenix Nights

I've not really enjoyed much of Peter Kay's stuff since this (although his recent BBC series was quite good) but Phoenix Nights was and still is fantastic.

10. Better Call Saul

This is the newest thing on my list and given it's only had one series I am kind of reluctant to put it this high up. Having said that, I really, really, really loved it. It grabbed me in a way that Breaking Bad did not (it did eventually) and so despite it having just one season, and despite enjoying comparatively more seasons of Breaking Bad, Saul gets in ahead of it for me.

11. The Colbert Report

I absolutely love the Colbert Report. It's a shame it's a running series (or was) and not something you can buy a season of on DVD, because I most certainly would. It's the fake-Republican alternative to The Daily Show, which lampoons conservative and Republican views on current events in stunning fashion. Whenever I was in the USA, it was this I did my best to make time for on an evening when I could, rather than the Daily Show, and that says something given how brilliant the Daily Show itself is.

12. Spaced

Ahh, Spaced. I don't know how many times I've watched this, but it's still a thing of joy to this day.

13. Tom and Jerry

Wonderful slapstick cartoon comedy, even as an adult I find it incredibly inventive. I think it's the best of some brilliant cartoons of that era.

14. Father Ted

I still love catching this on Channel 4 late at night. Poor Ted, rage often slowly building while Dougal innocently gets on his tits, and all Mrs Doyle can do is offer a cup of tea. Such a shame this came to an end the way it did.

15. Breaking Bad

Ok, this didn't grab me to begin with. I enjoyed parts of it but other parts left me cold, and it was only my girlfriend forcing me through the first couple of seasons that I came to truly enjoy this. It drops down a bit as a result, but probably from around the time Gus comes on the scene through to the end, I really was hooked. An incredible performance from Bryan Cranston right through, I'm glad I stuck with it.

16. Game of Thrones

I only got into this just before season 5 started, and binged my way through in what must have been a month. T'was one hell of a month.

17. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

A weekly show which looks back on the news and events of the past week, it is in a similar vein to the Daily Show but often focuses its attention on just one subject, and just as often on issues that are largely otherwise ignored, and it does so in a wonderfully entertaining and enlightening way. It's delightfully subversive too at times - John Oliver recently set up his own religion and accepted donations from viewers to highlight the fraud televangelists perpetuate on the public and how that attracts tax-exempt status.

18. Frasier

I must admit I've never sat down and watched this episode to episode and couldn't necessarily tell you what happens season to season (other than the overall arc of Daphne and Niles). It's intelligent high-class farce which somehow never seems to get old.

19. The Adam and Joe Show

I've been re-watching this a bit lately on 4oD, and it's every bit as good as I remember. The toy movies/shows don't always hit their mark, but the overall silliness of the show hides some very clever stuff in my opinion.

20. I'm Alan Partridge

I've only recently got into this, but it's truly brilliant and I can't believe I didn't watch it first time round.

Honourable mentions: Blackadder, Extras, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

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This was incredibly difficult but interesting exercise. In the end I just figured the rankings within each genre had to be solid rather than worry too much about the comparisons between them.

The principal criterion for all selections is to stand the test of time, which I believe to be the case, and thus likely to have both survived multiple viewings (typically watching earlier seasons when a later one comes out) and be eminently re-watchable now. Secondly for those shows which accumulate hundreds of episodes there is a need to maintain pacing and quality whilst dealing with the annual threat of cancellation and / or the departure of early writers and cast members. Then there is the highly important ending where a story arc is in place*. Lastly, one highly unsympathetic character can sink an entire show for me**.

So, here goes.

1 The Great War (1964)

Even I’m not old enough to have caught this on TV at the 50th anniversary but I bought the DVD set at the first opportunity. The 26 episodes were narrated by Michael Redgrave and comprise pretty much only contemporary footage interspersed with interviews with participants (fuller version of these interviews were recently released on iplayer I think). As such it’s a vital piece of social and military history and still extremely moving.

2 Fawlty Towers (1975-79)

“Don’t mention the war”. This programme still cracks me up. Filmed when poor hotel / restaurant service was the norm, when British cars were utterly crap compared to the European competition, it is audio-visual comedy gold, aided by the total of only 12 episodes and the brilliant core cast. I suppose some of it wouldn’t be pc these days but *shrugs*. Airplane! is the nearest film equivalent.

3 The West Wing (1999-2006)

I love this drama series now but it was a slow burner. There is some very dry content at the beginning with the appointment of a supreme court judge (IIRC) and after season one I confess I put it down. But I came back, and the core team of Jed, Leo, Josh, CJ and Toby start to worm their way into your life to such an extent you just storm through seasons 2-5 or so. Inevitably with such a long show it falls away a bit later on but the momentum is there to push you through.

4 Twin Peaks

Watched this again recently and it still stands up really well. So influential, and a perfect match of director and material.

5 The Prisoner (1967)

Where did this come from? Utterly psychedelic, man. Seriously, when I discovered this show on VHS I was WTF???? every 5 minutes. Patrick McGoohan plays an unnamed agent kidnapped and taken to “the village” - Portmeirion - and interrogated / manipulated by a rotating cast of Number Twos. Nothing else quite like it.

6 Yes Minister (1980-84)

Proves that effective satire never ages.

7 Life on Earth (1979)

It’s easy to take his work for granted now but at the time this was ground breaking revolutionary TV. We watched gob-smacked every week, went out and bought the book (still have it!), the works. Probably watched most of the subsequent series.

8 The Shield (2002-2008)

This is my favourite contemporary action show. Aided by an incredibly strong cast of supporting characters, the main action follows the activities of a 4 man Strike team within the LAPD as they gradually fall into a deep dark crevice of their own making. The twists and turns of the plot, the noose tightening and occasionally loosening, the matrix of obligations and payoffs, the shades of grey encountered within all concerned; its an exceptional show.

9 Babylon 5 (except for the last season) (1994-8)

Favourite space opera by a long shot. Also has the distinction of being the first show ever binge watched (Forbidden Planet had a sale of the VHS). The arc plot then was a real novelty, the characters of the alien ambassadors, the special effects, the complexity at certain points. Brilliant.

10 The X Files (1993-2002)

This had to be in the top 10 despite arguably failing the consistency, staff leaving and conclusion tests. There were simply too many stand out episodes along the way, for every mediocre monster of the week there was something more interesting just round the corner. For example, imagine Orphan Black without “Eve”, or eating your dinner in front of the fat eating monster episode. I just loved it and still do, just hope the revival doesn’t disappoint too much.

11 Doctor Who - Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker era (1970 - 1981)

This also is a must have. Sure, there are loads of cheap episodes shot in a gravel pit near Slough, but this was regular Saturday viewing and the core team with Sarah Jane or Jo, plus the Master and the Brigadier in support rarely disappointed. Daleks, Autons and Cybermen were a bonus.

12 The Body in Question (1978)

I had some friends who were planning to go into medicine and this was a must watch show in sixth form. Watched a bit of it on Youtube last night and I reckon it still stands up for anyone keen to know more about the workings and content of the human body. A bit of a one-off but it came out at a time when there were a number of high-brow BBC documentary series (the Ascent of Man was also around this time but it’s perhaps a bit too ponderous now). Squelch!

13 Morecombe and Wise Christmas Specials

And yet another oldie but goodie. The 1970 show is available on Youtube and it is pretty representative although it doesn't include later trademarks such as “bring me sunshine” at the end of the show. By 1970 the duo had been together for 25 years so all the routines are tried and tested, the ad-libbing and interactions with the TV star guests (including Peter Cushing here) utterly predictable, but somehow it’s still very funny, in a gentle non-risque sort of way. If you do check it out, be sure to Google the guests beforehand to appreciate some of the references.

14 Breaking Bad

So from the comfortable to the anything but….. Initially, I wasn’t a fan at all but something Walter did in season 2 got me hooked. I wonder if they focus tested the title anywhere outside the US though…

15 Damages

Makes a bit of a pair with BB because, again, there is a point in this show which hits you like a hammer punch to the solar plexus and doesn’t let up thereafter (the clever title says it all). We follow the fortunes of Glenn Close and Emma Byrne as the uber-successful and new-hire lawyer respectively in a separate class action type case each season, but with an ongoing arc as well. I’m not a big fan of the flash back / forward presentation each time but that aside this is gripping and emotionally charged stuff. And …. dem shirts.

16 Madmen

I include this even though I haven't seen the final season yet, and despite not always entirely enjoying it (the moral here, folks, repeated ad-infinitum, seems to be that drinking and shagging to excess doesn’t make you happy, plus Don becomes tedious of speech and action), the exquisite presentation and character development of the women in particular over the years merit it.

17 The Ghost in the Shell - 1st Gig

I’m by no means an anime fan but I love this - Major Kusanagi is such a strong character and the whole thing is just weird in a good way.

18 The Wire

I’ll include this as much for the skill in which the struggling characters are presented, the gut wrenching horror and disappointment when things invariably go wrong for those trying to keep their heads afloat, as for the police team portrayal. Always a slightly uncomfortable, as in voyeuristic, watch though.

19 The Killing (original, first season)

Time for a classic who-done-it to sneak in. Tightly plotted, it really seemed to open the foreign crime drama floodgates. To my surprise I found Danish sounds nothing like German, much more like English in places - “shop for milk and eggs” for example.

20 The World at War (1973-4)

For symmetry with my first pick, I’ll include this one here which I do remember watching. Jaw-dropping basically; I think it’s the first time I really grasped the sheer scale of the conflict (having been very familiar with the impact in London from my parents’ experiences). Significant also for starting my enduring interest in 20th century history (school was useless in this regard needless to say.).

Honourable mentions go to Star Trek the Original series and also DS9, Buffy, Dad’s Army (much more clever than it appears), Not the Nine O’clock News, Porridge, Heimat, Gomorrah, The Bridge season 1, Hinterlands, Alan Garner adaptations, Ace of Wands (!), I Claudius, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Jury remains out on Game of Thrones which faces an interesting challenge as it overtakes the events in the books.

* goodbye - Lost, BSG

** farewell - Sopranos, Six Feet Under

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Much like my top 100 games list I'm just spaffing some stuff here with no real order or description off the top of my head.

Batman (Adam West)

Still Game


Gervais vs Anthea Turner's Hubby Charity Boxing - The best thing ever shown on TV

The Power of Nightmares

The Young Ones

Flight of the Conchords

Top Gear

Battlestar Galactica (New)

Curb Your Enthusiasm

The Wire

The Thick of It

Breaking Bad

Game of Thrones

Grange Hill


The Sopranos

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03 Consolevania

VideoGaiden is listed as a TV show in the IMDB, so I think we can go with that without ruffling feathers (or letting the back door open to let fuckers like PewDiePie in). So i'll stick that down for you, and we'll all just know you mean Consolevania on the QT.

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VideoGaiden is listed as a TV show in the IMDB, so I think we can go with that without ruffling feathers (or letting the back door open to let fuckers like PewDiePie in). So i'll stick that down for you, and we'll all just know you mean Consolevania on the QT.

Awesome :) . VideoGaiden's pretty cool too, I mean they did use a line I wrote in one of the episodes (still a wee bit proud of that!)

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You might want to disregard my votes listed on page one. I've put more than ten minutes thought into it since and started to come up with a new list that's already looking drastically different.

Ok man, and apologies I missed your post about Hillsborough until now. And yes, it's entirely eligible, you'll be pleased to hear.

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Awesome :) . VideoGaiden's pretty cool too, I mean they did use a line I wrote in one of the episodes (still a wee bit proud of that!)

Pause on the whiteboard on the fame episode and it says mentazm at the bottom. I was on their forum and still go to concon each year.
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Pause on the whiteboard on the fame episode and it says mentazm at the bottom. I was on their forum and still go to concon each year.

Seems like a lovely little community from what I know of the CV forums - I stopped by there while there were cryptic messages in Rab's boardgame reviews and I held out hope that the episode in the bins would get uploaded. Showed the Resi special successfully to a new friend last weekend (a game dev), I'm still spreading the love...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Finally settled on a top 20. Been working on it for the last couple of weeks:

1. Prison Break

Welcome to Prisneyland, Fish

I feel I need to justify this inclusion as my top choice. Yes it's stupid and gets more stupid as it goes on but it was always gripping and I just fucking loved it. Pretty much every episode ended on a cliffhanger which made the week long wait between episodes torturous. Whilst the later seasons never reached the near perfection of the first season it always remained hugely enjoyable.

2. Arrested Development

Daddy horny, Michael

Hilarious, clever and incredibly rewatchable. GOB is one of the finest TV characters ever, C'mon!

3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Dat's me favourite shirt... Dat's me only shirt!

A favourite when growing up that I still enjoy re-watching. It was funny, scary (Hush still freaks me out) and at times upsetting. Angel is up there with it, like them just as much but only room for one on this list of votes.

4. Game of Thrones

You know nothing, Jon Snow.

I didn't really start watching this until after S4 had finished. But when I properly started I was hooked and watched it all over a couple of days. Epic, thrilling, shocking, great characters, people you can hate, dragons and tits.

5. The Wire

Where's Wallace at?

Firstly I need to admit i've still not seen S5. Shameful I know. But the seasons I've seen is enough to make it in my top 5. Captivating and just incredible. Will need to set some time aside to finish this.

6. Firefly

Dear Diary, Today I was pompous and my sister was crazy.

Criminally cancelled before it even got properly going. What was there was just brilliant. Much like Buffy I loved the style, characters, writing and feel to the show. Kaylee <3

7. Breaking Bad

Gatorade me bitch!

Gripping from start to finish. Could have you laughing one moment then shouting holy fucking shitballs the next.

8. Father Ted

Don't call me Len, you little prick. I'm a bishop

One of the finest sitcoms ever made. Brilliant characters and jokes I'll never stop laughing at. A Christmassy Ted has become vital Christmas viewing in this household.

9. Dexter

Surprise mutha-fucka!

Not actually seen the last season but everything up to that I've loved. Highlights being the Trinity Killer season. And of course Doakes.

10. 24

Damn it, Chloe!

Not seen the latest season yet but a big fan of the rest. Always captivating and tense viewing. Maybe started adding too many twists in the later seasons.

11. Still Game


An absolute favourite. Funny, somewhat strangely relatable and sometimes oddly poignant.

12. Flight of the Conchords

Go fuck yourself, Bret!

Without the songs this is just one of the finest and funniest comedies made. With the songs it's one of the finest and funniest comedies made featuring some of the funniest, catchiest and well made songs.

13. Banshee

Shoo, go get pregnant

Over the top high octane fun. Silly plots, punchy fights, graphic violence and sexy ladies. The Yorkie bar of TV shows.

14. Impractical Jokers

Hey moustache!

Possibly the funniest show currently being made. Great chemistry between the four stars and always has my brother and I in fits of laughter.

15. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia


Started as a decent comedy that wasn't afraid to take on darker or controversial themes - racism, cancer, abortion, gun control and child molestation are all topics in the first season. Soon it developed into a whole new monster. Unlike other shows the flanderizing of Sunny's characters has improved the show and worked in its favour.

16. Arrow

You have failed this city!

Was a toss up between this, The Flash and DareDevil for this spot. The quality of the other 2 are better but Arrow came first and has had more seasons to judge it on. Unlike some I enjoyed the early episodes and even the majority of S3. Plus Manu Bennett's Slade Wilson was an outstanding villain so for he alone this deserves a vote.

17. Friends


This gets some stick but I'm definitely a fan. I really can watch it over and over without getting bored and it still makes me laugh a lot. Early seasons give me a warm nostalgic feeling and the brilliance of Ross in the later seasons make up for any low points (like the stupid Rachel/Joey storyline)

18. Limmy's Show

Ahm warning yae, jump the chasm

A bit hit and miss. But even the parts others consider miss I think are brilliant. The format and setup works so well, there's great characters and just really funny.

19. Neighbours

Yes the Australian soap Neighbours. This has been a constant in my life. As a baby my parents would play the theme song to settle me. As a child dinner time would coincide with this being on (and if it didn't I'd tell my mates it did as an excuse to go in from playing to watch it). As a student it was acceptable to watch. I don't watch it frequently these days. Instead I record each episode and then binge on it every few weeks. It's a show that makes me feel happy. The stories are always daft and illogical but it's comforting to view. Plus has been great for TV crushes over the years; Margot Robbie, Kym Valentine, Holly Valance, Madeleine West, Natalie Imbruglia, Pippa Black, Gemma Pranita, Nicky Whelan, Natalie Blair..

20. The Simpsons (pre-S10)

Bake em away toys

I wasn't going to vote for this because there's far more bad episodes than good now. But I ended up watching a couple of episodes while writing this from the good days. When this was good it was the best. Funny, moving and so quotable. I reckon I must naturally quote or reference the show on a daily basis without noticing. It's depressing to see what this became.

And some that were on my list at some point in other drafts:

Lost - A phenomenon. Great premise full of mysteries and wonder. A show fans could discuss and debate over. Ultimately though it was a victim of poor/no planning and couldn't resolve everything to a satisfying degree before ending. It certainly tarnished the series, but then I think about those great moments like Walkabout or the Desmond episodes and remember how amazing it could be.

Life on Mars - One of Britain's finest shows. A great cast, intriguing story and an ending that didn't disappoint.

Hillsborough - Only seen this once when I was a lot younger and while I can't remember it exactly a lot of it stayed with me. I was only partially aware of the incident prior to seeing this but never understood the full extent of it. Watching this changed that and seeing it at such a young age really got to me and was a big factor in why I became a Liverpool supporter.

The Walking Dead - It's had its duff episodes and can often frustrate, but at the same time I've always enjoyed it.

And for anyone that's interested here's the list of everything else I thought of or considered

US Comedy

Malcolm in the Middle

Freaks and Geeks



Modern Family

The Office

My Name is Earl

Curb Your Enthusiasm

3rd Rock from the Sun


Bored to Death


US Drama/Dramedy




The Flash

Heroes - Season 1



Generation Kill


True Detective - Season 1

Harper's Island



Diagnosis Murder

The OC



American Horror Story - Season 1

UK Comedy

I'm Alan Partridge

IT Crowd

Phoenix Nights

Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere

House of Fools

Mr Bean


The Office

Peep show

Trigger Happy TV

Harry Hill's TV Burp

Only Fools and Horses

One Foot in the Grave


UK Drama/Dramedy


Mad Dogs

Jonathan Creek

A Touch of Frost


Good Cop

The Second Coming

Shameless - early seasons

Dead Set



South Park

Bojack Horseman

Sealab 2021

Robot Chicken

King of the Hill


Bob's Burgers

Regular Show

Adventure Time

Spongebob Squarepants

Rocko's Modern Life

American Dad

Aqua Teen Hunger Force


George Clarks Amazing Spaces

Grand Designs

Restoration Man

How it's made

Blue Planet

Planet Earth

Deadly 60

Top Gear - Clarkson/May/Hammond years

The Apprentice

Summer Heights High

Underbelly - season one




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Just a few days left until voting closes, people - 31st October. Still frantically trying to watch at least one episode of each thing mentioned, but it's going to be tight so if you've picked something obscure, do me a solid and add a paragraph about why you love it yeah? That way your pick will get the recognition it deserves.

It's very close up at the top of the voting, too - exciting times. Your vote may well swing things, so if you haven't committed to a list yet, now's the time!

EDIT: a prelim check, and - like the battle of Endor - there are a huge number of ties. That means I have to talk about, at current values, over 170 shows :-o

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  1. The Wire

The Sopranos

The Office (UK)

The Thick Of It

I'm Alan Partridge

The Power of Nightmares

Arrested Development

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace

The Trap


The Storyteller

The Trip

Wolf Hall

Black Mirror

The Twilight Zone

Peep Show

Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe

Breaking Bad

Ways of Seeing

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I've started adding descriptions to my original post, mostly starting with the obscure stuff so if I don't find time to finish chances are someone else will have it covered. I'll add them below too for convenience. I don't want to add a wall of youtube videos, so I'll just add some search suggestions for harder to find things:

1. Monty Python's Flying Circus

I love surreal humour and daftness, and nothing for me beats Monty Python. Yes, it's patchy across its four seasons, but when it's good it's so very good. Obviously there are the big names sketches that everyone knows - lumberjack, dead parrot, nudge nudge etc, but there's an awful lot of other stuff that never fails to make me laugh - it's just so gloriously silly. Super-innovative too. So much so that any surreal comedy that came after was often called Pythonesque. Are there any other programs with an entry in the dictionary? (Or a programming language named after them for that matter.) Search youtube for "Monty Python Travel Agent" for a sublime Eric Idle rant, or perhaps "Mouse Organ" for a determined Terry Jones being very cruel to animals.

8. Only Connect

It's a willfully obscure quiz show requiring knowledge ranging from the first games that Mario, Wario etc.appeared in, to the Greek words that form the basis of the names of chemical elements. This means that whilst you may find yourself utterly clueless some of the time, it also gives you the chance to be an absolute star, and spot that the connection is songs that share the name of both the artist and the album after hearing 3 seconds of the song Iron Maiden, by Iron Maiden, from the album Iron Maiden. It also features Victoria Coren Mitchell which almost merits inclusion in my list on its own.

16. Max Headroom (the cyberpunk thing, not the music video show)

A late eighties sci-fi show set in a dystopian future controlled by all-powerful television companies. The show follows a journalist called Edison Carter investigating stories such as people being abducted for organ-harvesting, lethal TV adverts, and deadly future sports. He is aided by a virtual representation of himself (Max) and a controller called Theora Jones (the lovely Amanda Pays). It was dystopian sci-fi, had lots of hacking, and featured gladiatorial combat on motorised skateboards - it ticked a lot of boxes for me at the time. The first few episodes at least are on Youtube (the rest probably are - I just haven't checked to make sure).

17: Absolutely

I was thinking of going for the Fast Show, but I think this resonates a little more due to it being weird and daft at me at the right time in my life. It's a sketch show featuring the likes of Jack Docherty and Morwenna Banks, and features an array of recurring characters, most of them a tad on the grotesque side. 25 years on and I still can't hear the word "video" spoken without thinking "it's a vid-ay-oh", and it's probably partly responsible for my love of the word "Quim". It's all available for free on the Channel 4 website (although using that is a pretty awful experience, sadly). Unfortunately that means most of it has been removed from Youtube though. Searching for "Calum Gilhooley Flight" will get you one of my favourites, whereas "Frank Hovis Taxi" will get you a gloriously funny bit of toilet humour (not usually my thing, but when it's done this well I can't help myself laughing).

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1. Frasier

2. The Simpsons

3. The Sopranos
4. Cheers

5. Malcolm in the Middle

6. I'm Alan Partridge

7. The Leftovers

8. Father Ted
9. The Office (US)
10. True Detective

11. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

12. State of Play

13. Lost

14. Black Mirror

15. The Shield

16. Hill Street Blues
17. Shameless (UK)

18. Spaced
19. Angel
20. The Twilight Zone

A lot of these are down to their earlier seasons- Lost, True Detective, The Office, The Simpsons (especially The Simpsons- for those first nine or ten seasons it was the best written show on TV, but it's decline has been painful and the quality so bad that sometimes it's hard to remember what made it good in the first place).

I'm surprised that Frasier made my top spot. But it's hard to think of a show that is consistently that well written and acted, that makes me laugh so often... for some reason comedies feature more than drama, it might just be that when going over the list a lot of times I was thinking about what I wouldn't mind watching again. But Frasier and Cheers for me are just as close to sitcom perfection as you can get- great characters, great writing, great comedy.

Drama wise I think The Leftovers is the most fascinating thing going on at the moment in American TV, it's a show about grief and loss (and really about depression) where there are no easy answers or even easy questions, but it's brilliantly done.

There probably should be a lot more British TV drama in there- State of Play I still think it's an incredible piece of writing even if the ending doesn't quite satisfy, and Shameless was unlike anything else on TV at the time (again the early seasons are the best- I actually wrote quite a few episodes in the later seasons, including the final ever episode, but those first two seasons had a sense of anarchy and brilliance about them that was near-impossible to match).

True Detective is a tough one- I loved the first series, I felt it did something really odd and strange in it's fusing together of insidious horror and police procedural, but the second season was genuinely awful, a sprawling unfocused mess that was so bad that it was actually kind of amazing.

Buffy and Angel- I never really watched Buffy when it was on until someone forced me to watch the first episode and I was hooked- what I thought was a stupid teen vampire show turned out to be a very clever teen vampire show. So many good episodes- The Body, Once More With Feeling, that one where the evil that finally manifests itself turns out to be tiny and they make fun of it...

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Buffy and Angel- I never really watched Buffy when it was on until someone forced me to watch the first episode and I was hooked- what I thought was a stupid teen vampire show turned out to be a very clever teen vampire show. So many good episodes- The Body, Once More With Feeling, that one where the evil that finally manifests itself turns out to be tiny and they make fun of it...

Fear Itself. And yes, i'm geeky enough to not have to Google the episode name.

There probably should be a lot more British TV drama in there- State of Play I still think it's an incredible piece of writing even if the ending doesn't quite satisfy, and Shameless was unlike anything else on TV at the time (again the early seasons are the best- I actually wrote quite a few episodes in the later seasons, including the final ever episode, but those first two seasons had a sense of anarchy and brilliance about them that was near-impossible to match).

Wait...what?! You're a screenwriter? Cool. As for UK drama representation, I personally feel the US shows are trumping the UK ones in the poll simply because, no matter how dark the subject matter, US shows retain a slickness and level of glossy entertainment the UK drama writers feel is contrary to the genre*

Not that I'm arguing that's a bad thing, but the US dramas definitely give you that pulse-pounding excitement the more sophisticated UK shows often don't.

*Although how much of that is determined by budget (I guess you can't have massive shootouts on most BBC drama budgets) or whether it's cultural, I don't know.

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This was tougher than I expected:

1 - Twin Peaks

This changed the way I thought about TV. We are blessed today with some incredible US TV shows but in 1990 there really was nothing like it. I was obsessed, rushing home from college on a Tuesday night to watch it on VHS. In between episodes I was theorising on what was going on and looking at pictures of Sherilyn Fenn in tight sweaters. Sure season 2 didn't match the quality of the first six episodes but what could? It was perfectly cast, beautifully shot and has the best soundtrack of any programme ever. Without it, there wouldn't have been X-Files and all the shows that followed it.


2 - The West Wing

Yes, it's idealistic but sometimes it's comforting to think that the people running the US are smart, funny, vulnerable, witty and compassionate. The writing is second to none and it's a programme I never tire of watching.

3 - The Wire

I feel bad putting this at number 3. It many ways it deserves number 1 as it delivers from S1E1 to the final episode of season 5. I don't think I've ever seen a series that seemed to have such a clear path and theme for each season. It really is near perfect.

4 - Lost

Kind of the opposite of The Wire in that it was obvious they were making it up as they went along but what a ride. It was very much of its time with podcasts, web tie-ins etc. I looked forward to the weekly podcast with Cuse and Lindelof almost as much as the show itself. The ending was disappointing but it was always going to be and I feel a little for Lindelof as he still seems to be getting grief about it and unfortunately that means some people are missing out on the excellent (and couldn't be more different from Lost) The Leftovers.

5 - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Would have probably been number one if they had ended it at the end of season 3 although I guess that would have meant no Hush or Once More With Feeling. Great writing but more than anything it is the chemistry of the cast that elevates it above the usual monster of the week type programme.


6 - Arrested Development

I hate it when people say you should watch x number of episodes of something before making a decision. Usually life is too short to sit through something you are not enjoying but this is an exception. I must have watched the first episode three or four times before persevering and I am so glad I did. A series that benefits from longevity and repeat viewings. I still pick up on things now.


7 - Breaking Bad

Like The Wire, it delivers from start to finish and Bryan Cranston is outstanding. The change in Walter is huge but it is all done so slowly you never really notice.

8 - Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

What can I say, I am a sucker for Sorkin's writing and I think this was very under-rated. Great to see Matthew Perry doing something other than Chandler although his character's relationship with Harriet is a little annoying. Unfortunately didn't completely hit its stride until the latter episodes by which point it had been canned.

9 - Blake's 7

I know what you are thinking, rose tinted spectacles but I did watch this on DVD very recently and it does hold up. The sets and locations were shit even by BBC standards in the last 70's and they clearly got Doctor Who's cast-offs but it is an amazingly bleak prime-time BBC1 show. In Avon it has one of the best characters ever and how many prime time shows can you think of that end by

killing off all of the "heroes" and not even bother to feature the big bad that had been ever present until that point

10 - Our Friends in the North

Another one I re-watched recently and it was even better than I remember - an outstanding achievement and amazing to think it was a show that gave us Dr Who and James Bond

11 - Game of Thrones

12 - The Office (UK)

13 - Angel

14 - Friends

15 - Ray Donovan

16 - Firefly

17 - The Newsroom

18 - CSI

19 - Strike Back

20 - 24

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Here we go then:

1. The West Wing

2. Due South

3. The Simpsons

4. The Practice

5. Scrubs

6. Star Trek Deep Space Nine

7. Top Gear - Clarkson Era

8. Angel

9. Buffy The Vampire Slayer

10. 24

11. Friends

12. Star Trek The Next Generation

13. How I Met Your Mother

14. Firefly

15. The Thick Of It

16. Ally Mcbeal

17. Red Dwarf

18. Futurama

19. The Inbetweeners

20. ER

Very Honorable Mentions:

Breaking Bad

Sports Night

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):


Veronica Mars

Friday Night Lights


Burn Notice

Person of Interest

Battlestar Galactica (modern version)

Babylon 5

Boston Legal

Some brief thoughts on the list then. I've tried to avoid current series as far as possible, I think to really judge a series you need to look at it as a whole to really appraise it is quality.

Fair or not there are some series which are lower on the list (Buffy, How I Met Your Mother, Red Dwarf, Futurama and ER) which would have been higher had they finished a few years earlier. Buffy was always good but the first 5 seasons certainly stand apart in my view to the final 2 seasons. HIMYM was one of the most invented and creative US comedies at its peak but a few poor last seasons and an ending that didn't work pushes it down the list. Red Dwarf has been well documented but certainly it's greatness declined and ER was great for a very long time but the final 5 or 6 years lost me as a regular viewer. Futurama, against most opinions I thought was great for seasons 1 and 2, declined a bit for season 3 and 4 and then the 'new' seasons were good but rarely made me want to re watch the episodes.

The Simpsons is, of course, the exception. I'm not really bothered with it post season 10 but those first 8 or 9 seasons are just brilliant and remain timeless classics and will always have a place in my collection.

The West Wing then was always going to be no.1. Later years were not as good but also, apart from Season 5, still very good in a different way. But, oh my, those first 4 seasons had perhaps 1 or 2 average episodes and the rest were just amazing, with the start and end of season 2 being up there with the best TV ever made.

Due South I love, it lost something with the new 'Ray' but it has such a charming quality to it, such wonderfully inventive stories and a two parter (Veronica's Secret) which was simply amazing. It is a bit of a cult show in that you either love it or don't know anything about it but it is one of my favorites.

The Practice is a show which has been sadly overlooked by UK broadcasters and mistreated in the DVD age. I think you can buy Seasons 1, 2 and 8 on DVD but not any of the middle seasons. It is a great legal show, which long running plots, cases and recurring guest stars and really high quality drama. I just wish it has been treated better and that we had a complete Series boxset out for it.

Scrubs had a dodgy final few years but the early seasons are fantastic, really inventive and endlessly re watchable. Also props for a cracking soundtrack and the best use of a Joshua Radin song ever. Could also be surprisingly poignant when it wanted to be.

DS9 took a while to get going but once it did there was no stopping it. A series arc which, despite effectively being made up on the fly a lot of the time, hangs together much better than most serialised shows 'with a plan' and quality dialogue that you do not tend to expect from a Trek series. Has got a great sense of humour when it tries and loads of classic episodes.

Top Gear - Clarkson era - Some fantastic episodes, challenges and ideas and very entertainment, Perfect Sunday night fodder. Those people who get annoyed at Clarkson rather miss the point I think since the show tends to be laughing at the presenters as much as with and they clearly play the idiots when required.

Angel and Buffy are both quality Whedon shows with Angel slightly edging Buffy due to a slightly more adult format and a very good series arc which develops the characters in ways you would never expect. Very little between the two shows really and on another day they might swap places.

24 is a fantastic series with some amazing moment. You can't just pick up an episode and enjoy but when you re-watch an entire season it is still excellent.

Friends, TNG speak for themselves. Excellent shows which I continue to enjoy. Firefly is fantastic, cancelled too soon of course but I can't justify it any higher up the list due to the limited amount of episodes. Serenity was a very decent follow up though.

The Thick Of It is endlessly funny and is probably a far more accurate representation of politics than politicians would like to admit. Had some great specials and reinvented itself well over the years. Would love to see more episodes in due course.

Ally Mcbeal is a slightly strange choice probably but a very fun series with some great legal cases. Once you get past the lead character you have a very strong ensemble and some great Robert Downey Jr action in season 4. Sadly his arrest and subsequent firing affected the planned final season and it rather exited with a whimper. Could be crap sometimes but some episodes could also be amazing. Boston Legal is in my honorable mentions because it started out well but sadly veered to far too the whacky in the final years and focused too much on novelty characters. Ally Mcbeal straddled the line between serious and comedy much better in general.

Inbetweeners is an amazing series and very true to life in many ways. Only 18 episodes but really not a duffer in them.

ER is a great series but the last place could really have done to any of my honorable mentions on a different day. I think most people will remember the stabbing episode in Season 6 as the high point of the series.

Breaking Bad really should be in the top 20, perhaps taking ER's place. It didn't click with me as clickly as with some people. I think Season 4 and 5 are some of the best television ever although sometimes it seemed that the first few seasons were harder work than they should have been to get through. I think for emotional impact when I was younger ER deserves the final spot but it is close.

On that final point, I wonder if anyone else thinks that binge watching affects your appreciation of a show. Not that you do not appreciate a good show just that when I was watching, say, Buffy on a weekly basis you would look forward to the next episode and get something out of the bad ones. When you stream a show like I did with Breaking Bad the experience of watching the show doesn't take the seven years it did with Buffy but just a few months on Netflix. I tend to be able to remember individual episodes might better from shows I watched weekly than shows like Breaking Bad where I simply binged watched over a few weeks/months. Anyone else feel that way? Maybe if I had been watching Breaking Bad one episode at a time it would be much higher up the list?

Edit: Oh dear, just realised I've completely forgotten to include Sports Night which I love. Not sure it can quite crack the top 20 though.... I shall have a ponder.

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I think I've left this a bit late for any comments sadly, but here are my votes;

1. The Wire

2. I'm Alan Partridge

3. The Simpsons

4. Breaking Bad

5. Fawlty Towers

6. Peep Show

7. Flight of the Conchords

8. The Day Today

9. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

10. Six Feet Under

11. The Office (U.K)

12. Spaced

13. Twin Peaks

14. Harry Hill's T.V Burp

15. Arrested Development

16. Neighbours

17. Only Connect

18. Quantum Leap

19. The West Wing

20. The X Files

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I must admit I'm struggling with Breaking Bad. I got the whole thing on blu ray and while I think its excellent its also a world I simply have no interest in (drugs and all that) seeing on the small screen. The acting is fucking amazing though.

Anyhoo, here's my list

1 - The X Files

Some very duff episodes for sure, but I just love Mulder and Scully. I have yet to watch season 9 though and don't really have much incentive to do so. But those first 4 seasons are pretty much perfect tv.

2 - Star Trek The next Generation

I'm a bit thick and struggle to remember the name of characters in tv shows. But with TNG I even recall the names of the more minor characters. Its such a fantastic show (season 1 aside which is so poor it feels like a different show). So many amazing episodes and apart from season 1 there I only one episode I don't like. Hetrosexual males should make time to check out the episode with a young Ashley Judd.

3 - Lost

No show has got me so excited to watch the next episode than Lost has. Yes, the last couple of seasons (like most American shows) are poor compared to the rest but boy, nothing touches this when its in its stride.

4 - Dekalog

Many may not have seen this show. Its an amazing piece of TV based around the ten commandments. Shot before the Iron Curtain came down this offers a fascinating glimpse of a type of living that has mainly been forgotten about in the modern age.

5 - The West Wing

Perfect with pretty much no let up in quality (although it is a shame when Lowe leaves). at 5 seasons its also the perfect length and features perhaps the best ever cast to grace a tv show.

6 - Babylon 5

Its such a shame that they messed JMS around with regards to season 5 and perhaps it would have been best if the show had ended after season 4. Possibly the most ambitious tv show ever created this is a galaxy spawning adventure with big concepts and proper alien races.

7 - Inspector Morse

Does nobody else appreciate this? Even looking at the wikki doesn't seem to indicate just how well received this show was back in the late 80s. With fantastic production and two amazing leads it is one of the best british shows ever made.

8 - Fringe

The X Files - part 2. In some ways, this is the better show but is perhaps not quite as impactful and the leads are simply not as good. Of course, the X files don't have John Noble. Again, a poor ending.

9 - Alias

I love this show and its bonkers plot lines. Its cheesy in places, often its such fun to watch that you simply don't care. This is the show that made JJ a name to watch and features a young Bradley Cooper. Season 2 is probably the best.

10 - Buffy the Vampire Slayer

A bit hit and miss and and too nerdy in places, but often times this was pure brilliance. Very strong throughout its run. I never got into Angel though.

11 - Firefly

I kinda glad this got cancelled as at least it was all brilliant. Space Opera at its finest and the film was also awesome

12 - ER

The first two seasons are some of the best tv ever produced in the USA. In fact, my favourite ever single of tv episode is in season 1. It launched careers and was fascinating to watch.

13 - Sherlock

Not always as clever as it thinks it is and. boy, do I not like that person who plays Moriarty. But the rest is amazing and the wedding episode could well be my second favourite single tv episode

14 - Battle of the Planets

I had a rough childhood and am not sure I would have made it without this excellent piece of animation.

15 - Edge of Darkness

Slow but oh so engaging with that bloke from Jurassic Park as a copper whose daughter is shot in front of him. What ensues after that is often mesmerising to watch

16 - Farscape

Patchy and with some annoying characters, but the central premise and two main leads more than make up for a few shortcomings.

17 - Fawlty Towers

I still watch this whenever its on Gold (which is pretty much all the time) Minute for minutes this is the best quality tv show of all time

18 - Game of Thrones

Not quite as good as the internet would lead you to believe. But, when its good its really really good and a few episodes are brilliant. Far too much swearing though. Not enough female nudity.

19 - Twin Peaks

This would be much higher if it hadn't aged so badly. Absolutely riveting at the time and the only "water cooler" tv show I've really known.

20 - The Flash

This may change, but season one is the perfect superhero tv show.

Honourable Mentions

Friends, Frasier, Lie to Me, The Practice, Voyager

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