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100 best TV shows of all time, according to critics

  • #40. The Shield

    - Series Metascore: 88.5
    - Highest-rated season: 1

    For seven seasons on FX, “The Shield” told the story of dangerous gangs and corrupt police waging battle in Los Angeles. The profiteering Strike Team of police is headed by a hard-edged detective played by Michael Chiklis. In 2002, Chiklis was the first lead actor on a cable show to win an Emmy.

  • #35. Visible: Out on Television (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 89

    “Visible: Out on Television,” released in 2020 on Apple TV+, is a documentary series that looks at the LGBTQ+ movement on American television. It addresses stereotypes, the evolution of LGBTQ+ characters and entertainment figures, public acceptance, groundbreaking moments, and backlash.

  • #35. Succession (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 89
    - Highest-rated season: 2

    “Succession,” with two seasons under its belt on HBO, portrays members of a dysfunctional family that controls a global media empire as they jockey for power. They form alliances, plot against one another, stage backroom deals, and commit vicious betrayals, all while hoisting the family business to heights of power or pushing it to the brink of collapse.

  • #35. Olive Kitteridge (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 89

    Frances McDormand stars as the protagonist of “Olive Kitteridge,” a dour and complex retired school teacher in Maine with troubled relationships in her family and her hometown. The four-episode series swept the Primetime Emmys in 2015, winning for Outstanding Limited Series and awards going to McDormand, lead actor Richard Jenkins, supporting actor Bill Murray, director Lisa Cholodenko, and others.

  • #35. Boomtown (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 89
    - Highest-rated season: 1

    Every episode in the innovative series “Boomtown” portrays a crime, set in Los Angeles, from an array of perspectives–the criminals, victims, police, paramedics, reporters, prosecutors, and politicians. The lead detectives are played by Donnie Wahlberg and Mykelti Williamson. Executive producer Graham Yost would go on to successes including “Justified” and “The Americans.”

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  • #35. A Black Lady Sketch Show (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 89

    On “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” featuring Robin Thede, its creator and star, all the show’s writers are Black women, as are its leading cast members. The show first ran in 2019 on HBO, which has renewed it for a second season. Thede has written for Queen Latifah, Kevin Hart, and Chris Rock, and Angela Bassett appeared as a guest star in the first episode.

  • #34. The Leftovers

    - Series Metascore: 89
    - Highest-rated season: 3

    At the start of “The Leftovers,” 2% of the population disappears, leaving the rest of the world broken, mystified, and afraid. The surreal, mystical series follows an array of characters trying to make sense of what happened, rebuilding families, joining cults, drowning in grief, and getting lost in delusions. Appearing in the three-season show on HBO are Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Scott Glenn, Liv Tyler, Regina King, and Ann Dowd.

  • #33. Catastrophe

    - Series Metascore: 89.3
    - Highest-rated season: 3

    The British farce “Catastrophe” revolves around an American businessman and a London school teacher whose one-week fling results in her pregnancy. They try to make the best of it by moving in together, with comical consequences. The show is available in the U.S. on Amazon Prime Video.

  • #32. My Brilliant Friend

    - Series Metascore: 89.5
    - Highest-rated season: 2

    Set in Naples, HBO’s “My Brilliant Friend” is the story of a friendship between two young girls, recounted by one of them as an elderly woman looking back at the paths of their lives. The show is based on the popular Neapolitan quartet of novels by Elena Ferrante.

  • #31. Battlestar Galactica

    - Series Metascore: 89.5
    - Highest-rated season: 3

    Battlestar Galactica” is a science fiction tale of survivors of a war in outer space who travel the universe, being hunted and facing their own possible destruction, as they search for the lost colony of Earth. The futuristic saga ran four seasons on the Syfy Channel.

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