My top 10 tv shows of all time

Here are my top 10 tv shows of all time. If you need a list of definitively good television, this is it.
May 11 2017

I love TV.  It probably stands above all else as my favourite thing to do with my spare time.  Yep #favourite.

1. Game of Thrones

Game Of Thrones

What can I say that you won't already know.  This is literally the biggest thing to happen to television ever.  The story is so strong, the themes are brilliant.  The world that has been created is so layered and so convincing.  Fantasy is my favourite novel genre but usually it falls so flat on television.  The story-telling, taken pretty directly from the wildly successful novels by G.R.R. Martin ensure a cohesive and true story telling, season after season.  

There is no other show I've re-watched more.  I've seen every episode multiple times and I've been through the series from end to end at least 3 times up to the end of season 6.  The last two episodes of the last season so far is some of the best TV ever made.  There are so many episodes that it's hard to name all my favourite moments. One moment that does stick out time and again is S04E06 "The Laws of Gods and Men", when Tyrion is on trial and he lets rip into the court with his "confession".  Peter Dinklage's finest moment to date.


2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer


Buffy holds the honour of being the first show I ever binge watched.  I was late getting into it, coming along in I think 2000.  I bought the first season and watch it in I think a weekend (the first season was only 12 episodes, a "half" season).   Then there was the wait until I could afford the $80 or so for season 2.  Once purchased, I devoured in pretty much the same time.  At some point, I had to wait for the seasons to be released to DVD, but always binge watching.

Buffy, a TV version of the much worse movie of the same name, was universally loved in its target demographic and provided comic relief around superb character development.  The show was famous for exploring teen and early adult issues of the time.  One episode in particular I think was never aired, as it was about a school slaying and was scheduled to air around the time of the Columbine massacre. 

Another highlight was the musical episode, once more with feeling.  Buffy even picked up an Emmy award, for I think "Hush".  For me, a stand out episode was the episode where Buffy's mum died, "The Body".  It was so eerie, with no music, which only magnified the sadness.  Another standout was "Restless", the final episode of season 4.  This episode so perfectly captured the confusion that happens inside a dream.

Standout Character: Faith, just beating out Anya.


3. X-Files

The XFiles

X-Files was THE show of my teenage years.  So out there, and it's not the truth I'm talking about.  So very many episodes that it's hard to pick standouts (I will pick a memorable one though).  Moulder and Scully are my two favourite TV characters of All Time.  Their chemistry is off the chart.  Even their short season return many years after the series wrapped showed they still have that magic.

One episode I'll never forget is where they find a victim who had died from a cerebral haemorrhage while on the toilet.  Scully figured he'd squeezed too hard and killed himself.  To this day, I remember this whenever I'm going number two and it's not as compliant as I'd like.


4. E.R.


I've cried at a lot of TV episodes but the death of Dr Mark Green had me bawling uncontrollably.  Heck, I'm getting sad thinking about it now!  His eventual death from brain cancer ripped the soul out of series, even if Noah Whyle did manage to carry it for a few more good years.

Some of the biggest stars of Hollywood and television have been through E.R., either as permanent fixtures or guests, and the issues they covered and trauma (e.g. Dr Romano's arm by helicopter blade) were riveting TV.


5. Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy

I can't think of another show I found straight up as confronting as SoA.  This is a show based on seedy people doing illegal things, and frankly was not a world I was comfortable with, even only watching on my television.  It had claws though.  The characters are so visceral.  Some you want to root for despite their shortcomings, like Jax, and especially his childhood sweetheart and later, wife, Tara.  Some you want to see die ASAP, like Jax's step dad, owner of the world’s biggest jaw, Clay Morrow.  By the end of the series I was screaming for the death of Jemma and really wanted to see Jax's ex, and reformed junkie, Wendy, get her shit together, once and for all.

If I wasn't clear before, hopefully I am now: This show has so many troubled characters and through excellent story-telling you soon empathise with their problems and struggles to make the best of the shitty hands they get dealt.


6. Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad

I know Breaking Bad is super popular and I loved the show and that famous line "I am the one that knocks". It was an intense moment in pop-culture history and one of the top moments of my TV life.  The downward spiral of Walter White, as he broke bad, was riveting T.V.  Was it the lung cancer that changed him or his acceptance of death and his finality.  

Similar to SoA (although not as intense), I struggled to sympathise with Jesse and his poor life choices, but I was tuned in every week all the same.  


7. Friday  Night Lights

Friday Night Lights

Epic binge time.  I got into Friday Night Lights when I took a couple of weeks off work for illness a year or two ago.  I'd tried to watch it for a year or two prior, getting only a couple of episodes in.  Once the binge kick into gear though, I was hooked.  I spent literally entire days in bed watching episodes.  I'm pretty sure in less than two weeks I had watched the entire series.  

It did get pretty odd at Season 2, when the infamous writers strike was on, but other than that, FNL is some of the best TV ever made.  Coach Chandler was a role model coach and surrogate father to the boys on his team.  His story, and that of his wife, as she supported his dream, made it a show that appealed to both teenagers and adults.  It was a show full of characters that you could root for and hate at the same time.  I still don't understand how Tyra and Landry were ever a couple.  The show was set around sport but this was most certainly a show about family, with sport just the vehicle to deliver the story.

A part of me thinks number 7 is too low for this fantastic show I can't wait to watch this one again. Clear Eyes Full Hearts!


8. The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

Well, another currently running behemoth.  I think this is currently the most watched show on cable TV. That's a big achievement for a Zombie apocalypse series.  Along with GoT, TWOD is the champion of the character death. No character is safe, with even the big stars getting killed.

I find TWOD a slow-moving drama.  It takes many episodes to build into a final chaotic last two season cliff-hangers.  I felt in earlier season, maybe season 3, that I must have dozed off because I couldn't really follow what was going on, some of the parts were that boring.

But in the end, it's a novel premise and a well-acted and shot series. Even if the first episode of season 6 were over-the-top gruesome. The characters fight for survival will keep me coming back until this show runs out of puff.  I hope it's one that comes to a designed climax though.


9. Stargate SG-1


Another brilliant TV show I was late to watching.  Without watching an episode I'd already judged it as just a cheap knockoff of a big movie.  I don't know why I took this approach, when the mighty Buffy the Vampire Slayer was also a "knockoff of a movie", and that show sits at #2.

Stargate doesn't really have a many big drama moments, many tear-jerkers, or emotional pulls, but it does deliver high quality easily consumable episodes that are more than just monster-of-the-week.  I love the Asgard and the cross-overs with Atlantis are great fun.

I'm glad my brother-in-law needed $100 more than he needed his entire collection of the Stargate SG-1 series :)


10. Fringe


Another DVD binge for me, after failing to pickup at the start of the series.  For a while I struggled to take Casey from Dawsons Creek seriously, but Peter evetually won me over.  His father, Walter, always the nutty professor was a highlight of the show.  I loved the Sci-Fi too.  Lots of rivetting stories each episode, especially when they started dealing with the other world.  

This show is definitely on my "must watch again" list.


Honourable Mentions

There are so many good TV Shows, shows that were so close to making this that I felt like it should be a top 20. Top 10's are de rigueur, so to get around that here are some honourable mentions, in no particular order.

  • Scrubs - Oh J.D.  Scrubs is a beautiful romance series.  Or should that be bro-mance?  JD & Turk joke and laugh their way through their medical careers as J.D. gets mostly unluckly in love.  Infinitely rewatchable in just random episode form.
  • Parks and Recreation -  This gang were so funny and so great together.  I felt a genuine sense of loss when the show ended.  Will always be one of the best comedies.
  • How I met your mother - I binged watched this significantly when it first came out.  Really enjoyable stuff, with a link back to my favourite show of all time at the time.
  • Dexter - While this is a fantastic show it was never the very first show of the week I'd watch.  It always came a second though.
  • Shameless (US) - Such great comedy/drama.  I really felt for all the characters. Even Frank - but it his case it wasn't good things.  Fiona, well, she kinda brought it on herself.
  • Mad Men - Don.  Such chauvanism.
  • Supernatural - How many times can Sam and Dean die and reborn?  Great show but their deaths got a bit tiring after a while. It's still going but I haven't kept up to date.  I keep meaning to go back.  I walked away not long after Bobby died (please don't tell me he's come back now too - and I'm not talking about his ghost either).
  • Westworld - Only a single season so far, but what has come out is epic.  I can see this show making it into my top 10.  Love the Sci-Fi
  • Lost - The most expensive opening episode of a TV show to date at the time, and it was epic. The mystery of this show kept me hooked episode after episode, even when I didn't know what was going on and it made little sense.  The end was meh and predictable.
  • Battlestar Gallactica (2003) - More sci-fi. It got a little silly toward the end but I was hooked on the characters.  Starbuck, at least, and I did feel for Boomer as she struggled to deal with the realisation she is a cylon.
  • 30 Rock - This could nearly be #10 too.  So very funny.
  • Firefly - I did like the series but I wonder if it's the vocal internet geeks that make it so highly rated.  I've watched it through twice, once by myself and once when I introduced my wife to it.  I rated in 9/10 on IMDB a while back so I obviously liked it a lot at the time. Maybe I need a rewatch :)

Noteable Exclusions

I'm ashamed to admit I haven't watched these series yet:

  • The Wire
  • The Sopranos (I watched about 5 episodes when it was on TV)

You can see my list of favourite TV shows here, updated in realtime (sorted by my rating): My Top Shows listed on IMDB

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