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100 best TV shows of all time

  • #30. The Simpsons

    - IMDb user rating: 8.7
    - Years on the air: 1989–present

    America’s longest-running animated show was originally adapted from a series of shorts sandwiched between sketches on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in the late 1980s. The series has come a long way since then, spawning toys, comic books, albums, video games, a feature film, and even its own theme-park ride at Universal Studios. At the peak of its success, the show’s main cast members earned $400,000 per episode, though they’ve since agreed to multiple rounds of pay cuts in order to keep the show financially feasible for Fox. Season 31 debuted on Fox on Sept. 29, 2019.

  • #29. Westworld

    - IMDb user rating: 8.7
    - Years on the air: 2016–present

    Based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name, “Westworld” is the hit HBO sci-fi series about the fictional, technologically advanced “Old West” amusement park hosted by androids. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, and James Marsden, its debut in 2016 earned the highest ratings for the network for a premiere since “True Detective” (#8 on our list in 2014), and its first season ranked as the most-watched of any HBO original series. 

  • #28. House

    - IMDb user rating: 8.7
    - Years on the air: 2004–2012

    Hugh Laurie played a physician who made up for his poor bedside manner with diagnostic skills that bordered on genius. Each episode presented a new medical mystery for him to solve, and although it strained believability, the formula made for engrossing TV. Critics raved about Laurie’s performance, which earned him back-to-back Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series–Drama in 2006 and 2007.

  • #27. The Queen's Gambit

    - IMDb user rating: 8.8
    - Years on the air: 2020

    "The Queen's Gambit," based on the 1983 Walter Tevis novel of the same name, centers on the character of an orphan and chess prodigy called Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy). Harmon is taught to play chess by a janitor at the orphanage, and by age 20 is headed to Moscow to compete against the world's best Grandmaster. But besides the pressure of training for such a title, Harmon battles demons—from drug and alcohol addiction to emotional problems—all along the way.

  • #26. The West Wing

    - IMDb user rating: 8.8
    - Years on the air: 1999–2006

    Created by Aaron Sorkin, this NBC political drama peered into the workings of a fictional White House under the leadership of a Democratic president played by Martin Sheen. Critics praised the show’s smart writing and brisk walk-and-talk pacing. In terms of viewership, "The West Wing" was especially popular among high-income audiences, making its commercial breaks desirable for advertisers.

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  • #25. Freaks and Geeks

    - IMDb user rating: 8.8
    - Years on the air: 1999–2000

    Before Judd Apatow became a household name through movies, he created this short-lived comedy-drama for NBC. Although it only ran a single season, it has developed a cult following over the years for its unflinching and heartfelt portrayal of teenage awkwardness. The show introduced several actors who would go on to become regulars in Apatow projects, including Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, and James Franco.

  • #24. The Mandalorian

    - IMDb user rating: 8.8
    - Years on the air: 2019–present

    The breakout hit of streaming platform Disney+, “The Mandalorian” is the first live-action “Star Wars” series and set in the timeline between “Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” and “Episode VII – The Force Awakens.” In creator Jon Favreau’s first season, the titular Mandalorian (aka Din Djarin, played by Pedro Pascal) navigates the outer depths of the galaxy as a bounty hunter and, of course, protects The Child (aka Baby Yoda) from capture.

  • #23. Twin Peaks

    - IMDb user rating: 8.8
    - Years on the air: 1990–1991, 2017

    It’s astounding that a show this strange was able to land a network TV time slot in the early 1990s. The show follows the investigation of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper into the murder of a homecoming queen in a Washington logging town. While the premise makes it sound like a run-of-the-mill primetime procedural, the delivery from creators Mark Frost and David Lynch was truly bizarre. Combining surrealism, melodrama, horror, and comedy with movie-quality visuals, “Twin Peaks” stands as one of the most original pieces of American television ever made. The show was resurrected by Showtime in 2017 for a limited-run series featuring many of the original cast members to the delight of fans everywhere.

  • #22. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

    - IMDb user rating: 8.8
    - Years on the air: 2005–present

    Its main characters may work in a bar, but this show is no “Cheers.” Caustic, cynical, crass, and hilarious, “It's Always Sunny” delights in pushing the boundaries of good taste far beyond what would fly in a network show. The first season took a while to find its comedic footing, but since season two, which kicked off with Danny DeVito joining the cast, the show has received universal acclaim from critics. Season 14 aired on Sept. 25, 2019, on FXX.

  • #21. Seinfeld

    - IMDb user rating: 8.8
    - Years on the air: 1989–1998

    Regularly referred to as one of the best TV shows of all time by Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and TV Guide, “Seinfeld’s” iconic characters, storylines, and catchphrases have become an indelible part of popular culture. Created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld in 1989, the show launched the careers of Seinfeld and co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander, while Michael Richards’ Kramer character became unforgettable. It won an Emmy in 1993 for “Outstanding Comedy Series,” and in 2014, Hulu acquired the streaming rights to all nine seasons of the series’ episodes for a reported $130 to $180 million.

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