20. Game of Thrones (2011-present) – 276 points
(20 of 59 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Klitmamba)
A medieval fantasy show on HBO based on a popular and critically acclaimed series of novels, starring Sean Bean? I was pretty much sold on this show from the get go. I’m one of the people who haven’t read the series so of course the first few episodes were insanely confusing (there are a TON of characters and the relationships are rarely explained via exposition) but once I got an idea of what was happening I was hooked. I’ve rewatched the entire first season several times now and more and more of the intricate world George R.R. Martin has created makes more sense every time. It’s a gorgeous show to look at and the actors have been more or less spot on with their performances. I can’t wait to see where the story goes (no spoilers, book readers).
I must admit it’s a little funny to read “A Song of Ice and Fire” and then compare it with “Game of Thrones” and realize how HBO-ified it has become, even inspiring a new term ‘sexposiiton’: expository dialogue delivered over a sex scene. But many will agree that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s adaptation may be a better telling of the story, overall. It’s bleaker and told with more brevity than the books, while retaining all of the emotional weight of story. Like many HBO series you really have to plug through for the first little bit. You’re delving into a whole other world with its own gods, heroes, villains, mythology and an almost nightmarish amount of characters, so it does take some patience to get into it. Though as many of my friends have discovered, once you’re there you never want to leave, even when you learn how dark this series can go. There is a horrible, amazing plot point in season one, that at once shocked everyone who saw it, and served as an announcement that this is by no means a fairy tale, the good guys can lose and honour can be a liability. I won’t even mention the actual names of any characters, there are too many with too much going on. Suffice to say, you will love some and hate others with a medieval ferocity you didn’t know you had in you. You better start watching it now, because winter is coming.
19. Firefly (2002) – 282 points
(22 of 59 lists. Highest ranking #3 – Barnsdl)
Joss Whedon’s ill-fated sci-fi/western is perhaps his most personal and most honest work. While Buffy and Angel dealt with supernatural people living in a real world, Firefly deals with real people living in a much larger world than themselves. They’re a small band of thieves working against the Alliance, an Empire-esque ruler of the galaxy that is bent on retrieving precious cargo: the psychic River. What I love about the series is just how damn likeable the whole cast is – flaws and all. It’s really sad it never got a chance to grow into itself in a second season, even though the movie Serenity was a nice capper to the series.
18. The Sopranos (1999-2007) – 285 points
(18 of 59 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Barnsdl)
The Sopranos is the most financially successful series in the history of cable television and is acknowledged as one of the greatest television series of all time. The series is noted for its high level of quality in every aspect of production and is particularly recognized for its writing, its cinematic style, and the performances of its lead actors. The show is credited with bringing a greater level of artistry to the television medium and paving the way for many successful drama series that followed. It also won a multitude of awards, including twenty-one Emmys and five Golden Globes.
17. The Office (2001-2003) – 292 points
(19 of 59 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Red Paratroopa)
UK Office is still one of my favorite comedies ever, but it is definitely the show I have the hardest time watching. I can watch Curb or It’s Always Sunny and never feel uncomfortable, but the Office is almost TOO real in its depiction of the kind of person David Brent is, that it’s hard to watch because I’m sure there are actual people like that out there. It’s funny, but makes me sad. What a weird thing for a sitcom to do. Still, David singing in the seminar or dancing for charity or his music video in the special – it’s all fucking brilliant.
16. 30 Rock (2006-present) – 293 points
(27 of 59 lists. Highest ranking #2 – TraverseTown)
While my affinity for 30 Rock has somewhat diminished after the latest season – the first four remain to be some of my favorite television. Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) atruggles to control a rag-tag band of writers and actors on a live sketch-comedy show all the while trying (and failing) to maintain a social life. 30 Rock is elevated by its willingness to be downright absurd and illogical at moments but also because of its SMART writing. The show houses a dynamic supporting cast, hysterical guest stars (Ahem – Michael Sheen) and endless quotable dialogue. 30 Rock runs at a manic, rapid fire pace and the cast seems perfectly matched for the material. The writers cram a staggering amount of jokes into a given episode – although over the last two seasons some of these jokes have become predictable. That being said, 30 Rock is still one of the slickest comedies around and deserves to be viewed by all.
15. Dexter (2006-present) – 317 points
(25 of 59 lists. Highest ranking #3 – hhh64)
How did they ever make a serial killer an extremely likable protagonist? The answer is simple: Michael C. Hall (who has two shows on this list by the way). This man is full of charisma, humour and talent. Even when the show as a whole seems to be treading water, unsure of what to do with itself, Hall keeps the whole enterprise afloat with his uncanny performance. The way he can switch from awkward social-retard to maniacal killer is incredible. Best season: 4. In this season Jon Lithgow stars and the battle of wills between his character and dexter is some of the best television ever made.
14. Parks and Recreation (2009-present) – 329 points
(30 of 59 lists. Highest ranking #3 – TraverseTown, Jabbid111, Jen F.)
It’s work like Parks and Recreation that makes me want to be a comedy writer. The show follows the Parks & Rec Department of Pawnee, Indiana as they strive to make their city a better place. The show took a few episodes to find its voice, but by the beginning of Season Two it definitely hit its stride. Parks and Recreation is easily one of the best (if not the very best) comedies on television. The success lies in the excellence of the ensemble, every character an integral piece of its comedy puzzle. The show also manages to score huge laughs from plausibilty, wit and realism – not desparate gags – which some comedies are prone to do. And who can we thank for those big laughs? The writers. The sharp writing staff deliver hysterical and poignant dialogue week after week that is greatly appreciated. “There’s an old saying in show business: “The show must go wrong.” Everything always goes wrong, and you just have to deal with it.” – Andy
I’d like to add that the reason this show works so well is the fact that the characters truly care for one another – in a world where cynicism and shitty characters dominate, it’s incredibly refreshing to have actually nice good-hearted people interact with each other with care and love for one-another.
13. Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) – 332 points
(21 of 59 lists. Highest ranking 1 #1 Vote – Premislaus)
This show not only portrayed high school life in the most honest and realistic ways I’ve ever seen, but it introduced the world to a multitude of fantastic comedic actors (shame Sam Weir grew up to look…exactly like Sam Weir but taller). I think I can attest that most adolescent males such as myself fell in love with Lindsay Weir from this show, but in the process I feel I fell for the ‘freaks’ of the show as well, a group of people I never knew in high school but kind of wish I did now. I was definitely more on the ‘geek’ side.
12. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2000-present) – 334 points
(26 of 59 lists. Highest ranking #3 – dNatural)
Ever see a show which is so incredibly funny, yet the characters are such painfully awful people that you have to stop watching it because, even though you really want to continue, these peoples actions makes you utterly depressed? Well look no further cause that’s what this show is all about. Deliciously funny and painful to watch at times “It’s Always Sunny” is in some ways the ultimate anti-sitcom, there is nothing to like about the characters and their misadventures don’t contribute to an overall story arc at all. By the time this series wraps up none of the characters will have learned a single thing, and that’s kind of refreshing. Faourite Episode: Charlie Goes American on Everyone’s Ass.
11. Mad Men (2007-present) – 340 points
(15 of 59 lists. Highest ranking #2 – Walksofar, Klitmamba, James)
Mad Men may be my favourite show currently on television. I find it unique from other series in how prominently it deals with culture. How culture shapes us and how we shape it (or “what we want versus what’s expected of us”). There’s no better central characters for this than the advertising men of Madison Avenue (get it?). And there’s no better protagonist to embody the large cultural and existential questions of America in the 1960s than Don Draper: a man who does not actually exist. So who is Don Draper? This is first a question we ask and eventually one he asks himself, with the answer always being elusive. With a show as thematically high-brow as Mad Men the cast and crew have done a remarkable job of making all of their characters real and multi-faceted. When I first saw the show, I never imagined myself being so personally invested in these people as I am now, with all their sexism, racism and chain-smoking. I cannot wait until it returns in March.