Thursday, September 6, 2007

100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME

TIME Magazine has just released their list of 100 best TV shows of all-time.

The list includes 24, The Cosby Show, American Idol, Arrested Development, The Simpsons, Friends, Deadwood, Felicity, Freaks and Geeks, I Love Lucy, M*A*S*H, The Office, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Roots, Saturday Night Live, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

According to TIME Magazine's TV critic, James Poniewozik, he "polled friends and colleagues, read other lists and spent days watching DVDs and going to the Paley Center for Media to re-evaluate shows I hadn't seen in decades." He also set some guidelines:

It's My List... which means that it's unavoidably subjective, indefensible and shaped by my experience. I included British shows, for instance, but not many, and generally those that got wide exposure on American TV. Because I'm American, and we're like that.

... But It's Not All About Me. This list is not just about what I like or have fond memories of, or it would include Man vs. Beast and Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp. Like any critic, I relied not just on my gut but on aesthetic priorities. (Important: voice, originality, ideas, character and influence. Not so important: social conscience, moral values, educational content. I sincerely hope that no one over 5 watches TV to improve him or herself.)

No Grading on A Curve. There are shows that have been handicapped because they had to deal with restrictive broadcast standards, because the medium was new, because they had to get a bigger audience than boutique cable shows, and so on. This is not fair. It is also not my problem. I aimed to make a list of the 100 best TV shows, not the 100 best shows "considering what they had to put up with," "for their time" or "if you like that sort of thing."

Spread It Around. Is
The Price Is Right objectively equal to The Sopranos? Of course not. But TV would not be TV without game shows�and talk shows, and sports, and soaps, and videos and even commercials. TV should be smart, but TV should also be dumb. So while I judged each show on its merits, I also stepped back, looked at the list, and tried to give an overview of what TV is and has been: fiction and non, daytime and primetime, highbrow and low, broadcast and cable.

It's Not a Popularity Contest. This list features huge hits and commercial disasters. Some great shows have big universal themes and wide appeal; others have small audiences, not because people are stupid, but because they have themes (say, inside-show-business satire) that only so many people care about. I don't believe that the people are always wrong (or I'd never have picked
American Idol), but if I put shows on the list simply because a lot of other people would, I might just as well have thrown together Nielsen's top 100 and gotten the whole thing done in an hour.

Two Shows, One Slot. Where two shows with the same creators or talent had similar themes, milieus, characters or narrative styles, I generally picked one. So:
Monty Python but no Fawlty Towers; Cheers but no Frasier; Seinfeld but no Curb Your Enthusiasm; The Bob Newhart Show but no Newhart; My So-Called Life but no thirtysomething. I did include both versions of The Office because they were different achievements (the American is the better series, Ricky Gervais' the better performance), but also because—all together now!—it's my list.

The One-Year Rule: I considered only shows that debuted before 2006, to see if they held up beyond one season or (if they lasted a year or less) if they have held up over time. Sorry, Friday Night Lights.

There is one other show in this list of 100 best TV shows of all-time that shocked and delighted me...

The article for this TV show includes this very nice statement: "[I]t's a fine show on the level of character and writing, but what makes it a classic is that it's the finest interactive game ever to appear in your living room once a week."

Very nice, ain't it?

It also says this about this particular show: "[This show] proves that millions of people will support a difficult, intelligent, even frustrating story—as long as you blow the right kind of smoke at them."

Get it? Get it? Get it?


There's no ranking whatsoever. But I was so, so happy when I saw The Tailsection headline about this TIME Magazine list.

On behalf of the creators, executive producers, cast and crew of LOST, I thank you, James Poniewozik, for choosing our beloved show as one of the best TV shows of all time. To me, LOST is the best TV show ever, and I thank you for recognising that.

Congrats to all of us who love LOST!

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