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100 best TV shows of all time

  • #60. Deadwood

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Years on the air: 2004–2006

    Series creator David Milch initially tried to pitch HBO a show set during the Roman period. But when it turned out the network already had such a show in the works (“Rome”), Milch reworked the concept to a western frontier town setting. The show features poetic, almost Shakespearean dialogue, and standout performances from Timothy Olyphant as Deadwood’s sheriff and Ian McShane as a brothel owner. Its relatively short run left fans clamoring for more, and finally, they received a long-discussed "Deadwood" movie in May 2019. 

  • #59. Star Trek: The Next Generation

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Years on the air: 1987–1994

    A 50,000-vote poll by StarTrek.com found that Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) beat out James T. Kirk as fans’ favorite “Star Trek” captain of all time. That says a lot for this series, set 99 years after the original show, whose popularity peaked with a series finale that drew a whopping 31 million viewers. This Enterprise crew also went on to star in four feature films, the first of which combined the original series and TNG casts through a time travel plot.

  • #58. The Newsroom

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Years on the air: 2012–2014

    Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “The Social Network”) co-created this HBO news drama alongside producer Denis Biggs. Jeff Daniels stars as a principled but unpredictable cable news anchor. Critics found the first season smug and preachy but warmed to the show over subsequent seasons.

  • #57. Archer

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Years on the air: 2009–present

    This FX animated hit milks workplace comedy from an unlikely source: a spy agency. H. Jon Benjamin lends his distinctive voice to the main character, an arrogant and juvenile superspy, while Jessica Walter of “Arrested Development” plays his overbearing mother who also happens to run the agency. Reviews of the early seasons praised the show’s original voice and sharp jokes, though critics’ takes on the more recent season suggests creative burnout may be setting in among the writing team.

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  • #56. Mindhunter

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Years on the air: 2017–present

    This Netflix crime drama follows two FBI agents who essentially write the book on criminal profiling in the late 1970s by interviewing serial killers. Leads Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany have great chemistry in the leading roles, the former playing a meticulous idealist and the latter a gruff cynic. Critics praised the first season for its cerebral plotting and creepy interview scenes with some of history’s most famous murderers. The second season began streaming on Netflix on Aug. 16, 2019. While the show has not yet officially been renewed for a third season, if it is, the air date might be a couple of years out.

  • #55. Shameless

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Years on the air: 2011–present

    A remake of a British series, this Showtime dramedy takes on the struggles of a Chicago family headed by a deadbeat patriarch (William H. Macy) whose only concerns are what his next scheme will be and where his next beer will come from. Although some critics initially thought Macy was miscast, he has racked up three Screen Actors Guild awards for his performance in the role. The show's ninth season made it the longest-running Showtime show in the network's history. The 10th season aired on Nov. 10, 2019; Emmy Rossum, who plays Macy's eldest daughter Fiona, did not return as a regular. The show is set to conclude this summer.

  • #54. The X-Files

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Years on the air: 1993–2002, January 2016–February 2016, January 2018–March 2018

    Mulder and Scully form the iconic duo portrayed by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, respectively, in “The X-Files.” The pair of FBI agents investigated cases involving the paranormal, with Mulder believing in the existence of aliens and Scully remaining the skeptic. The series was a pop culture phenomenon, spawning two feature films and two seasons for a revival.

  • #53. Parks and Recreation

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Years on the air: 2009–2015

    The brainchild of the creator and the head writer of the U.S. version of “The Office,” this workplace comedy employed that show’s same mockumentary style to depict the workings of a quirky parks and recreation department in Pawnee, Ind. Critics initially found the show lacking compared with its predecessor, but warmed to the charms of the ensemble cast (headed up by Amy Poehler). After a shaky start, the show found its groove and became a hit for NBC.

  • #52. Mad Men

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Years on the air: 2007–2015

    When HBO famously rejected his series pitch, creator Matthew Weiner took the show over to AMC, where it redefined the network as a viable destination for prestige television. Set in the halls of a New York advertising agency in the 1960s, the acclaimed show was praised for its period authenticity, social commentary, and strong performances. Standout actors among the cast included Jon Hamm, who played the smooth-but-tortured leading man Don Draper, and Elisabeth Moss, who played a secretary who manages to rise up the ranks in the agency despite rampant misogyny in the workforce.

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  • #51. Sons of Anarchy

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Years on the air: 2008–2014

    This FX crime drama revolved around a motorcycle gang based out of Central California. Critics appreciated the uncompromising grittiness of the show and the strength of the ensemble cast, which included Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, and Katey Sagal. For the sake of authenticity, the producers even cast Oakland Hell’s Angel David Labrava to play one of the biker gang members, in addition to his role as a consultant for the show.