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RLLMUK's Top 100 TV Shows - Please Vote!


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Who's going to be the first to mention that West Wing actually went on for a couple of more years to 7 seasons...

Of course you probably meant to type 7 seasons and therefore meant that 7 seasons is the perfect length. And so some extent I agree but these days I think a really good five year run is something to aim for. There are not many shows that continued to be as strong past season 5 so perhaps that is just a natural end point for stories you can ring out of the same basic formula.

Looking at my list, Buffy, 24, Scrubs, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Red Dwarf, Futurama are all shows to a certain extent which faltered immediately or soon after their fifth season.

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Last month I started my list:

1. The Simpsons - Yeah, it's been poor now for a lot longer than it was good. But for an astonishingly long period (I'd say seasons 2 through to 8...ish), it was pretty near perfect (and the seasons either side of that weren't far off either). It was the programme I grew up with more than any other, and the one that had the biggest impact on my sense of humour and my understanding of pop culture (and of US history and society in general, to be honest).

Time to finish it!

01. The Simpsons

02. Frasier

Comfort viewing that, at its best, is also farcical perfection.

03. Spaced

A few years ago Kieron Gillen, formerly of this parish, wrote about one of the volumes of the Scott Pilgrim comic. In the comments section was a neat defence against the accusation that Spaced was just a set of pop culture references no less lazy than those of Family Guy, jazzed up with a few flashy directorial gimmicks:

It's exactly the same reason (well, one of the reasons) why Spaced was so good; and indeed, the myopic criticism that you mention gets applied by many to Spaced in a similar fashion, as well.

References to shared artistic and pop cultural experiences are, simply, an innate part of certain people's shared vernacular. It's clearly something that you only "get" if you're one of those people, and that's why it's so joyous when something like Scott Pilgrim (or, in a slightly more abstract fashion, Phonogram) features people who do it as well. Its not about going "Hey I've seen all these films, so I'm going to quote and/or visually reference them and you'll laugh if you've seen them as well". It's "The most effective manner in which I can express the way that our friendship group has been splintered is to draw a parallel with the ending of The Empire Strikes Back". You don't have to necessarily get the specific references to be able to appreciate it (hell, I'm not a Star Wars fan) it's enough for it to resonate if you're just someone who does the same thing.

Well, there's that, and also it has Mark Heap demonstrating anger, pain, fear, aggression, and watercolours.

04. Father Ted

It's easy to take it for granted a bit these days, with the endless repeats of moments like Ted gesturing through a window with a perfectly square patch of dirt, explaining the difference between "small" and "far away", and getting stuck in the lingerie department. These things must have surely overtaken Del Boy Falling Through The Bar by now. But remember how you reacted the very first time you saw them?

05. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I watched most of it out of order, and had loads of its major events spoiled in advance. But in the end, the show was good enough that that didn't matter. The flagship episodes - "Hush", "The Body", "Once More With Feeling", "The Zeppo", "Becoming", "Doppelgangland" - were as great as advertised, but the one-off monster-of-the-week episodes were consistently appealing too (well, except a few places in season 7). The season five finale, "The Gift", which juggled comedy and action between a large cast of characters, gave me full confidence that Joss Whedon was the perfect person to handle the Avengers. Also: SEASON THREE IS CLEARLY THE BEST SEASON.

06. The Wire

The only one of the really big prestige US dramas of the last decade or so (The West Wing, Mad Men, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad) that I've watched all through. I admit I couldn't quite keep up at times (especially early in the first season), so I definitely didn't catch all the intricacies of the plot. But over five seasons, I grew attached to pretty much all of the characters, so that the finale was a wonderfully emotional viewing experience.

07. Red Dwarf

Not the funniest sitcom, nor the most in-depth work of speculative fiction. But put that cast and writers together with those characters and scripts, and it's magical. (It also helps if you're introduced to it at the right age.) Series VIII is probably the most disappointing thing I've ever seen on TV, but fortunately Back to Earth and Series X, while far from perfect, were a very welcome return, which had a few moments worthy of the show's best. Looking forward to the next two series - the logo for which was revealed today:


08. Fawlty Towers

Like Father Ted, easy to take for granted now. Like The Beatles, it's something that we all know is great, but it almost seems too predictable to call it your favourite. Well, watch any of those twelve episodes again, and remind yourself: they really are that good.

09. Futurama

The appeal is less universal than The Simpsons due to its setting, and it's also far more unashamedly nerdy. But the quality and consistency aren't very far off its parent show all.

10. Peep Show

I'm not the biggest fan of cringe comedy, but fortunately the bits where the characters dig themselves deeper and deeper holes are only part of the reason I love Peep Show. What I really love about it are the characters' thoughts, which sometimes - only sometimes!!!! - are uncomfortably close to things that have occasionally crossed my mind, unbidden...

11. Doctor Who

Whisper it... I've hardly seen any episodes made prior to its 2005 revival. (Sorry!) As variable in quality between episodes as it is between settings, but every new episode feels like a major TV event.

12. Malcolm in the Middle

I've never seen Breaking Bad. But when everyone started praising Bryan Cranston's performance in that, I couldn't help but be skeptical: "Yeah, but is it as good as his performance in Malcolm in the Middle?" A pioneer of the modern single-camera sitcom, and one of the rare live action works where the child actors (mostly) give very good performances. A bit shouty at times, and it's a shame Francis' antics in later seasons never lived up to his time at the military academy. But at its best, the structure of its farces and interlocking storylines was up there with Frasier - and any episode which pits Malcolm against his teacher Mr Herkabe is pure gold.

I also love the pre-title sketches:

13. Shooting Stars

As much as I love Bang! Bang! It's Reeves and Mortimer and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), it's this, their most mainstream success, that's my favourite thing they've ever done. Eranu, indeed.

14. Cracker

I've probably only seen about half of this programme's episodes, most of which I caught in ITV4's repeats of a few years ago. But one of the episodes I have seen is "To Be A Somebody". You know the one, the Hillsborough episode with Robert Carlyle. That three-part episode really is as brilliant as you've heard. (Other episodes are rather good too.)

15. Avatar: The Last Airbender

Honestly, when I saw the first season of this, I wasn't really that impressed. I was amused, and each episode tended to have one specific shot of lavish character animation that stuck out from the rest, but it wasn't living up to the hype. It wasn't until midway through the second season (around the time of the episodes "Zuko Alone" and Toph's introduction) that it really began to impress me. And then we got that incredible second season finale, by which time the show had really hooked me. Appealing characters, fun superpowers, and some of the most exciting and spectacular action scenes in live action or animation. And surely "The Ember Island Players" must be one of the cleverest twists on a clip show any series has produced? (But even after watching all 61 episodes of this and three quarters of Korra... I still smirk childishly at the word "bender".)

16. Parks and Recreation

I've only been watching this at BBC4/Dave pace, but it's already earned a place in my heart. It gave the world Chris Pratt, and DJ Roomba.

17. Inside No. 9

League of Gentlemen was very good, and Psychoville was superb. But this is magnificent.

18. Being Human

"A vampire, a wereworlf and a ghost sharing a flat." Most articles and blog posts about Being Human begin by describing the premise like that. Then they always, without fail, follow that up with a comment like "... sounds terrible, doesn't it?" Well, I disagree - no, it doesn't sound stupid! It sounds a great concept for a show! And it lived up to it.

19. The Armando Iannucci Shows

In 2001 I happened to catch a couple of episodes of this. They had Armando saying "Hello Hugh!", and the Knife Attack Reunion. It was amazing. But I never caught any of the other episodes, and I never met anyone else who'd seen them, and for a long time it was one of the TV programmes I most wanted to get a DVD release. Thankfully, eventually it did.

20. Fargo

I haven't started watching the second season yet, but the first set a very high standard for it to live up to.

Aaand the runners-up:

Blackadder II/III/Goes Forth

Life on Mars




South Park

King of the Hill

Rex the Runt

Samurai Jack

The Harry Hill Show



Black Mirror

Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe

Yes Minister

I'm Alan Partridge

Black Books


Jonathan Creek


Legend of Korra

Bang! Bang! It's Reeves and Mortimer

Only Fools and Horses

Band of Brothers

Look Around You

Batman: The Animated Series



Battlestar Galactica

Flight of the Conchords

The Fast Show

The Venture Brothers

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I'm gonna restrict myself to a top-ten:

1) Breaking Bad

2) Twin Peaks

3) True Detective Season 1

4) Game of Thrones

5) Mad Men

6) Firefly

7) Star Trek The Next Generation

8) Louie

9) Fargo

10) The Fall

Shows I've sadly not yet seen:

Band of Brothers

The Wire



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01 Malcolm in the Middle

02 Red Dwarf

03 The Simpsons

04 The Wire

05 Lost

06 24

07 Mad Men

08 Bottom

09 Game of Thrones

10 Breaking Bad

11 Six Feet Under

12 Band of Brothers

13 Boardwalk Empire

14 House of Cards (US)

15 Father Ted

16 The Shield

17 Fawlty Towers

18 Prison Break

19 Family Guy

20 Friends

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Sticking to 10 to make things easier. Will add in some explanations.

1. Twin Peaks

2. Frasier

3. Breaking Bad

4. The Simpsons

5. The Century of the Self

6. Malcolm in the Middle

7. House of Cards

8. Freaks and Geeks

9. The Thick of It

10. The X-Files

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1. Anne of Green Gables
2. Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel
3. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
4. Mad Men
5. Game of Thrones
6. The Wire
7. X-Files
8. Veronica Mars
9. My So Called Life
10. Firefly
11. ER
12. Banshee
13. Wonderfalls
14. Six Feet Under
15. Daredevil
16. Community
17. Breaking Bad
18. Spaced
19. True Detective
20. Doctor Who

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Haha, great. I'll add my thoughts later.

1. The West Wing

2. The Wire

3. The Sopranos

4. Firefly

5. Game of Thrones

6. Rome

7. Deadwood

8. Friday Night Lights

9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

10. House of Cards (USA)

11. True Detective

12. Spartacus (US)

13. 24

14. Boardwalk Empire

15. Attack on Titan

16. The Killing (Danish)

17. Freaks and Geeks

18. The O.C.

19. Banshee

20. Cowboy Bebop

I wish people had put more anime in their lists. Can't wait to see the results!

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  • 2 weeks later...

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