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100 best TV shows of all time, according to critics

  • #30. The Americans

    - Series Metascore: 89.8
    - Highest-rated season: 4

    “The Americans” series on FX portrayed a seemingly typical couple who were in fact Soviet spies raising their children in a benign D.C. suburb. Secretly, the husband and wife in the KGB-arranged marriage, played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, were donning disguises, stealing U.S. state secrets, and killing enemy agents while eluding discovery, especially by their neighbor, an FBI agent. The show was inspired by the real-life arrests and deportations of several suspected Soviet agents in 2010, including a couple living under false names with their children in a New Jersey suburb.

  • #25. The Vietnam War (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 90

    Award-winning documentary filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick made “The Vietnam War” looking at its history, U.S. and global politics, American public opinion, the anti-war movement, POWS, the lasting impact on survivors and veterans, and views from contemporary Vietnam. The 18-hour, 10-part PBS series took a decade to make, drawing on dozens of interviews and rare footage.

  • #25. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 90

    “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” was the Emmy award-winning first season in 2016 of the series on FX showcasing true crime dramas, and it recreated the historic murder case against the legendary football star. The following season depicts the manhunt for killer Andrew Cunanan, murderer of designer Gianni Versace. The third season, not yet released, is based on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

  • #25. The Night Of (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 90

    “The Night Of” recounts the story of a Pakistani-American college student whose planned evening at a party in Manhattan goes devastatingly awry, and he faces murder charges. His grim and hapless descent into the criminal justice system takes a terrible toll on his family but captures the notice of a down-on-his-luck defense lawyer played by John Turturro. Riz Ahmed, a British-Pakistani actor and rapper who goes by Riz MC, plays the accused killer.

  • #25. The Corner (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 90

    “The Corner” is a chronicle of life in impoverished Baltimore, riddled with dealers and addicts alongside families craving better lives and children tempted by the instant gratification of drug use and crime. It is based on a book of the same name by David Simon, who later wrote “The Wire,” and Edward Burns, a New York police veteran.

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  • #25. Big Mouth (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 90
    - Highest-rated season: 2

    The animated “Big Mouth” features adolescent friends facing puberty, beset by hormones, sexual urges, maturing bodies, and confused emotions. The show’s creators Andrew Goldberg and Nick Kroll have said they hope the show dispels some of the secrecy and shame attached to the process of growing up.

  • #23. Fargo (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 90
    - Highest-rated season: 2

    The dramatic stories of “Fargo” bring together a memorable set of characters, including local gangsters, drifters, police officers, and migrant workers, often causing havoc or plotting crime in the small town. The darkly funny series was inspired by the 1995 film "Fargo" by Joel and Ethan Coen, who were executive producers for the show.

  • #23. Better Things (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 90
    - Highest-rated season: 2

    In the FX raw comedy “Better Things,” Pamela Adlon plays a blunt-talking single mother of three daughters who works as an actress in Los Angeles and takes care of her eccentric mother living across the street. The first two seasons were a writing and creative collaboration of Adlon with comedian Louis C.K. He left the show in 2017 following accusations of sexual misconduct, which he admitted, and Adlon took creative control.

     

  • #22. Rectify

    - Series Metascore: 90.5
    - Highest-rated season: 4

    “Rectify” is a Southern Gothic story of a man returning to his small hometown in Georgia after spending 19 years on death row. Back home but out of place, the haunted and taciturn former inmate played by Aden Young struggles to build a new life surrounded by damaged family members and unforgiving townspeople. He is battered by nightmares and the threat of being sent back to prison.

  • #17. The Last Dance (tie)

    - Series Metascore: 91

    “The Last Dance,” released in 2020 on Netflix, follows the career and ascendancy of basketball star Michael Jordan playing for the Chicago Bulls. With fellow players Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman and coach Phil Jackson, the documentary chronicles the team’s string of six NBC championships in the 1990s.

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