98 Best TV Shows Of All Time Ranked – Looper

Once upon a time, television was considered the poor man’s cinema. Conventional wisdom held that if an actor’s career was doing well, they went from TV to film, and if it was doing poorly, they went from film to TV. The small screen wasn’t denigrated, exactly, but it wasn’t really seen as a place where real art could happen. Truly thoughtful, complex, boundary-pushing storytelling was film’s domain, while TV was home to mere entertainment.
Then the 2000s dawned, and everything changed. There’s more traffic between film and TV than ever before, as some of the most creative work around is being done on the small screen. Superb actors are putting in career-best performances on incredible shows, while trailblazing writers are churning out jaw-droppingly brilliant stories. TV has finally come out from under the shadow of film, and is respected in its own right. This wealth of excellence has also highlighted some of the form’s earlier successes: It’s clear that modern prestige shows stand on the shoulders of giants like “The Twilight Zone” and “I Love Lucy.” With so much quality TV available, we have the luxury of getting choosy — and that’s precisely what we’re going to do. From gripping dramas to gut-busting comedies, these are the 98 best TV shows of all time, ranked.
Updated on September 23, 2022: As the Golden Age of TV marches on, new classics keep emerging. We’ll be regularly updating this list to reflect the absolute best TV shows around. Be sure to check back often to keep up on the very best of the small screen.

The opening credits of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” are enough to earn the Nickelodeon late-night show a spot on this list. A horror primer for kids, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” revolves around a group of teens who gather in the woods at midnight to take turns telling scary stories. These stories have pretty much everything you could ask for: ghosts, monsters, alternate universes, aliens, time travel, and of course, eccentric magic shop owners. Although it’s certainly kid-friendly, there are also plenty of legitimate scares to be found — the image of a rotting corpse rising from a school swimming pool in “The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float” is one that’s definitely going to stick with you.
Starring: Ross Hull, Daniel DeSanto, JoAnna Garcia Swisher
Creator: D.J. MacHale, Ned Kandel
Years: 1990-2000
Runtime: 91 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.2

A sumptuous period drama that captures the glamour and tragedy of Weimar Germany, “Babylon Berlin” begins about 10 years after the end of World War I. Trauma lingers, especially for police inspector Gereon Rath, who grapples with his survivor’s guilt even as he attempts to move forward with his life. Newly transferred to Berlin, Rath becomes embroiled in a secret investigation of a crime ring. He is aided by Charlotte Ritter, who works as a clerk in the police department but dreams of becoming a fully-fledged detective. As they work together on cases, the unlikely duo grows closer, their chemistry serving to enhance the already addictive narrative.
Starring: Volker Bruch, Liv Lisa Fries, Leonie Benesch
Creator: Henk Handloegten, Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries
Year: 2017-present
Runtime: 28 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.4

The Roy family is a rogues gallery of monsters held together by trauma, ambition, and pure spite more than anything resembling affection. Logan Roy is the cruel, egotistical patriarch and owner of the family’s multi-billion dollar media conglomerate, who eats the weak for breakfast and likes nothing better than pitting his children against each other. As his health fails, the question of regime change casts a shadow over the company, with each Roy child angling for a piece of the pie and a kernel of Daddy’s respect. “Succession” features career best performances from pretty much every member of the cast, each of whom finds something captivating in the broken humans they bring to life.
Starring: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Matthew Macfadyen
Creators: Jesse Armstrong
Year: 2018-present
Runtime: 29 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.8

We know what you’re thinking: A cooking show? Really? But while the typical Food Network fare is far from the best that television has to offer, we have to reserve a special place for the incomparable Julia Child and “The French Chef.” Begun in the 1960s, “The French Chef” was made on a shoestring budget, and it shows. But that’s part of the charm — that, and Child’s way of soothingly walking us through whatever she’s cooking. Sometimes mistakes happen, and that’s okay. She recovers smoothly, reinforcing the fact that we shouldn’t let a fear of things going wrong in the kitchen keep us from cooking. Through this approach, Child introduced Americans to a new world of cuisine at a time when frozen dinners and gelatin-inspired monstrosities dominated the landscape. For that, and so much more, we owe her a debt of gratitude.
Starring: Julia Child
Creator: Julia Child
Year: 1963-1973
Runtime: 201 episodes
Rating: TV-G
IMDb Score: 8.8

Vampires and werewolves don’t, historically, get along. But in “Being Human,” they’re not just buddies — they’re roommates. This British horror-comedy revolves around a centuries-old vampire haunted by guilt, a werewolf who is struggling with the lifestyle changes forced by his new condition, and a determinedly cheerful ghost who tries to keep the peace while dealing with the unresolved trauma of being murdered. It’s not exactly a conventional flat-sharing situation, but there you are. “Being Human” imbues its supernatural storytelling with elements of dark comedy, which keeps the proceedings light yet never detracts from their spooky charm.
Starring: Lenora Crichlow, Russell Tovey, Aidan Turner
Creator: Toby Whithouse
Year: 2008-2013
Runtime: 37 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 7.8

Raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community located in New York City, Esther knows her role: Get married, have babies. But upon learning that she is pregnant with her first child, Esther flees to Germany in an effort to track down her estranged mother and begin a new life. As she learns how to exist outside the boundaries that have defined her world, she blossoms. What results is a moving depiction of what it truly means to abandon everything you know and live on your own terms.
Starring: Shira Haas, Amit Rahav, Jeff Wilbusch
Creator: Anna Winger, Alexa Karolinski
Year: 2020
Runtime: 4 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.0

“Good Times” is a milestone in television history. It’s the first spin-off of a spin-off, having come to the small screen by way of “Maude,” which came by way of “All in the Family.” It also offers a thoughtful and warm-hearted portrayal of a Black family, which was still a rarity when it premiered. Even with this significance on its shoulders, “Good Times” stands on its own two feet from the very first episode. Florida and James Evans are raising their three children in inner-city Chicago. They face serious issues, ranging from death to urban development to the constant grind of discrimination, but “Good Times” always lives up to its title with its vivid comedy and forward-thinking attitude.
Starring: Esther Rolle, John Amos, Jimmie Walker
Creator: Mike Evans, Norman Lear, Eric Monte
Year: 1974-1979
Runtime: 133 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 7.4

If you were a kid growing up in the 1990s who didn’t quite fit in, Daria was your role model. A cynical teenager with enough Gen X angst to sink a battleship, Daria (alongside her best friend Jane) uses her unique brand of weaponized apathy to make her way through high school. Emerging after a generation of teen girl characters desperate to fit in and be part of the popular crowd, Daria’s outright refusal to buy into the social mores of her community made her revolutionary. That nonconformist ethos still shines brightly today.
Starring: Tracy Grandstaff, Wendy Hoopes, Julian Rebolledo
Creator: Glenn Eichler, Susie Lewis
Year: 1997-2002
Runtime: 65 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.1

Created in the depths of the Cold War, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” follows an unlikely duo: An American spy and a Russian spy who are forced to work together. The chemistry between Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin is impeccable, especially as the show leaves its earlier episodes behind. They’re also both intensely charismatic — a key ingredient for any spy story. This clever series bounds through inventive storylines featuring tons of gadgetry, and, perhaps most importantly, never falls into the trap of taking itself too seriously.
Starring: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Leo G. Carroll
Creator: Sam Rolfe, Norman Felton
Year: 1964-1968
Runtime: 105 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 7.7

There may be better TV shows from the 1980s in terms of story or character, but you can’t deny that “MacGyver” was a phenomenon. How many shows turn their lead character’s name into a verb? The titular MacGyver is a secret agent whose main skill is building exactly what the situation calls for out of whatever he happens to have in his pocket at the time. You need a bomb? MacGyver’s got you covered — after all, he’s armed with four paper clips, a stick of gum, and a cigarette. It might not be the most nuanced idea for a show, but it’s definitely satisfying to watch.
Starring: Richard Dean Anderson, Dana Elcar, Bruce McGill
Creator: Lee David Zlotoff
Year: 1985-1992
Runtime: 139 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 7.7

Spin-off shows rarely reach their source material’s heights, but “Better Call Saul” is one of the few that manages to do so. It takes a fan-favorite supporting character from “Breaking Bad” — Saul Goodman, shady lawyer extraordinaire — and delves into his past. Once upon a time, his name was Jimmy McGill, and he had a totally different life. Watching that life unravel is a thrilling experience. The show succeeds largely on the charms of Bob Odenkirk, who is completely in his element, walking a tightrope between affable comedy and heart-wrenching drama. “Better Call Saul” is a testament to letting new people breathe life into old characters and seeing what happens.
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks
Creator: Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould
Year: 2015-2022
Runtime: 63 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.9

Korean television has a monopoly on the modern-day fairy tale, and “Boys Over Flowers” serves as proof. Geum Jan-di is a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, but when she saves the life of a bullied boy from the elite Shinhwa High School, the institution offers her a scholarship. Suddenly, she’s surrounded by the ultra-wealthy and entitled upper class, and both her working-class background and her utter contempt for them makes her an easy target. But opposites attract, and she soon finds one or two Prince Charmings. Sweet and compulsively watchable, “Boys Over Flowers” is a stand-out K-drama.
Starring: Ku Hye-sun, Lee Min-ho, Kim Hyun-joong
Creator: Jeon Ki-sang
Year: 2009
Runtime: 25 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.0

Selina Meyer is the titular vice president of the United States who is always looking for ways to inch closer to the top job. Her ambitious ruthlessness is matched only by the sheer incompetence that surrounds her. Most comedic performers are lucky if they get one iconic role in their career — this is Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ second. The rest of the cast plays off her beautifully, creating a funhouse mirror version of the idealistic efficiency of “The West Wing.” How good is this show? Let’s put it this way: “Veep” still manages to dazzle and surprise, even against the absurd clown show real-world politics has become.
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, Anna Chlumsky
Creator: Armando Iannucci
Year: 2012-2019
Runtime: 65 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.3

Nowadays, you can barely swing a cat in premium cable without hitting a steamy historical drama about one royal or another. But “The Tudors” launched that lascivious trend with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as famous debaucher and wife murderer extraordinaire King Henry VIII. His version of the ruler is a far cry from traditional depictions: This Henry is young, energetic, and virile, bedding his way through the English court in a desperate bid to father a dynasty of male heirs. Through this torrid and intrigue-heavy interpretation of royal history, “The Tudors” created an entirely new subgenre of historical drama.
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Henry Cavill, Natalie Dormer
Creator: Michael Hirst
Year: 2007-2010
Runtime: 38 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.1

The more time you spend around kids, the more you realize what a strange and offbeat sense of humor they have. “The Adventures of Pete and Pete” succeeds by getting as weird and surreal as it wants to be, and trusting that its young audience will go along for the ride. The show revolves around two brothers, both named Pete. Why? It doesn’t matter. It’s never questioned and never explained. Their world is a mix of the mundane — the older Pete struggles with feelings for his best friend Ellen — and the extraordinary — little Pete makes friends with neighborhood superhero Artie, the strongest man in the world. What ensues is delightful.
Starring: Michael C. Maronna, Danny Tamberelli, Alison Fanelli
Creator: Will McRobb, Chris Viscardi
Year: 1991-1996
Runtime: 34 episodes
Rating: TV-Y
IMDb Score: 8.4

Watching “Bob’s Burgers” is like sinking into a warm bath at the end of a rough day. Revolving around the day-to-day lives of the endearingly eccentric Belcher clan, “Bob’s Burgers” is unique among adult cartoons in that it portrays a family whose members actually like each other. The characters pause to laugh at each other’s jokes, rather than just steamrolling ahead to the next punchline, and help each other out with the daily stresses of life (when they’re not causing them, that is). This creates a warm and pleasant atmosphere that keeps audiences watching as much as the comedic storylines.
Starring: H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Kristen Schaal
Creator: Loren Bouchard, Jim Dauterive
Year: 2011-present
Runtime: 238 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.2

Some would call “Coupling” the British version of “Friends,” but as it isn’t held to the standards of an American network, it pushes the envelope in all kinds of fascinating ways. Bound together by friendship, romance, and coincidence, the six main characters of “Coupling” make their way through their 30s. There’s Susan and Steve, the couple whose relationship provides some sense of stability amidst comedic mishaps; Patrick and Sally, the playboy and the narcissist; and, finally, Jane and Jeff, the wildly unhinged oddballs. Spending time with them is as funny as it is heart-warming.
Starring: Jack Davenport, Sarah Alexander, Ben Miles
Creator: Steven Moffat
Year: 2000-2004
Runtime: 28 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.6

“The Prisoner” is thoroughly steeped in 1960s counterculture, especially its profound distrust of authoritarian elements. A British spy wakes up one day in a quaint but bizarre coastal village. The man, who is known only as Number Six, quickly learns that he is being watched everywhere he goes, and that attempts to escape are punishable by death. Still, he perseveres in trying to solve the mystery of where he is, why he’s been brought here, and how he can get away. It’s as surreal as it is fascinating.
Starring: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat, Peter Swanwick
Creator: Patrick McGoohan
Year: 1967-1968
Runtime: 17 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.5

“The Jeffersons” might have begun as a spin-off of “All in the Family,” but it’s very much its own success. George and Louise Jefferson, former neighbors of the Bunkers, are doing so well, they move from Queens to Manhattan. “The Jeffersons” broke boundaries as a long-running show about a loving and prosperous Black family, but it didn’t stop there: The series tackles everything from interracial marriage to addiction. It’s also reliably and brilliantly hilarious — and it makes it look easy. Though “The Jeffersons” was abruptly canceled by CBS, utterly blindsiding the cast, it got the last laugh by becoming an absolute classic.
Starring: Isabel Sanford, Sherman Hemsley, Roxie Roker
Creator: Norman Lear, Don Nicholl, Michael Ross
Year: 1975-1985
Runtime: 253 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 7.5

Take a widower, a divorcee (we think — the show is never clear on what happened to Carol Brady’s first husband), and their combined six children, and voila, you’ve got one big, happy, blended family. “The Brady Bunch” is a sunshiny story, thanks to its troupe of young characters: Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby, and Cindy are, in a word, irrepressible. Their antics proved so popular, a series of spin-off shows and television movies was launched. Eventually, two 1990s film parodies, “The Brady Bunch Movie” and “A Very Brady Sequel,” were made. This might make “The Brady Bunch” seem like nothing but a big joke, but if you can let your cynicism rest, there’s still immense fun to be had alongside this bright and smiling clan.
Starring: Florence Henderson, Robert Reed, Ann B. Davis
Creator: Sherwood Schwartz
Year: 1969-1974
Runtime: 117 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 6.8

Ghosts, family trauma, spooky manor houses — what more could you ask for? “The Haunting of Hill House” follows the five Crane children, who are haunted by the mansion they briefly lived in as children. Their mother died in that house under mysterious circumstances, and their lives were never quite the same. When youngest daughter Nell leaves her siblings a strange message, they’re all pulled back into the terror of their childhoods, whether they like it or not. “The Haunting of Hill House” delivers on spooky moments (the Bent-Neck Lady, anyone?), but there’s also an undercurrent of deep melancholy here, which makes the show so much more than the sum of its jump scares.
Starring: Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas
Creator: Mike Flanagan
Year: 2018
Runtime: 10 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.6

“The IT Crowd” begins with a job interviewee lying through her teeth about her skill set. Jen does manage to get hired to supervise the IT department, but there’s just one problem: She can’t be relied upon to know how to turn a computer on in the first place. To keep her secret, she must learn to work with the socially awkward members of her team. Their complete and utter contempt for the office drones they’re paid to support rings true to anyone who’s ever worked in IT or customer service: It will only take one exasperated, “Have you tried turning it on and off again?” to know that these are your people.
Starring: Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Katherine Parkinson
Creator: Graham Linehan
Year: 2006-2013
Runtime: 25 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.5

Based on the most devastating nuclear accident in history, “Chernobyl” is a gripping and gruesome drama about the lies we tell ourselves and each other. When there’s an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, containment is foremost on everyone’s mind — both the physical containment of nuclear material, and the containment of information about what has occurred. Soviet authorities decide that the disaster must be downplayed to the foreign press, but their efforts to control the message quickly begin to impede their ability to actually manage the situation. With powerful performances from Jared Harris and Emily Watson as scientists brought in to investigate the accident, “Chernobyl” is a claustrophobic drama that is viscerally uncomfortable and unputdownable.
Starring: Jared Harris, Jessie Buckley, Emily Watson
Creator: Craig Mazin
Year: 2019
Runtime: 5 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 9.4

Eun-chan is a fairly androgynous young woman who spends her days supporting her family with a variety of odd jobs. Han-kyul is the handsome scion of a wealthy family, exhausted by his parents’ efforts to find him a wife. When he meets Eun-chan, he mistakes her for a boy, and promptly hires her to be his pretend boyfriend, so that he can get out of a series of prospective dates relatively quickly. Inevitably, the two catch feelings for each other. A sweet and charming romantic comedy, “Coffee Prince” wins audiences over with the chemistry of its lead couple.
Starring: Gong Yoo, Yoon Eun-hye, Lee Sun-kyun
Creator: Lee Yoon-jung
Year: 2007
Runtime: 17 episodes
Rating: NR
IMDb Score: 8.2

Hank Hill is a meat-and-potatoes propane salesman from Texas. Alongside his wife Peggy, he’s raising the endearingly odd Bobby. While Hank is eager to teach Bobby everything he knows about being a man, his values end up getting questioned every step of the way. But the thing is, Hank is willing to adapt his worldview when it matters to the people he loves. This is what sets “King of the Hill” apart: A surprisingly empathetic heart that never coddles its dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist main character.
Starring: Mike Judge, Kathy Najimy, Pamela Adlon
Creator: Greg Daniels, Mike Judge
Year: 1997-2009
Runtime: 259 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 7.5

Based on the British show of the same name by Russell T Davies (the same showrunner responsible for bringing back “Doctor Who” in 2005), “Queer As Folk” was one of the first shows in the United States to feature a cast of predominantly LGBTQ characters. It principally follows a group of gay men in Philadelphia and their two lesbian friends as they deal with dating, career struggles, and the reality of living in a society that is only just beginning to accept the LGBTQ community. As the show went on and social attitudes started to change, it became more confident in its ability to have a political voice, advocating for gay marriage and speaking out against discrimination. 
Starring: Gale Harold, Hal Sparks, Randy Harrison
Creator: Ron Cowen, Daniel Lipman
Year: 2000-2005
Runtime: 83 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.4

Mary Tyler Moore was relatively unique on network television back in the 1970s. She’s the protagonist of a show that revolves entirely around her and an unmarried career woman who’s doing just fine on her own. The triumphant independence of the opening credits, which see her gleefully walk through the city and throw her hat up in the air, speaks to the new sense of agency she brought to the fore. Contrasted with the era’s many family-oriented sitcoms, which often felt like relics of the 1950s, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” has a sophisticated sense of humor that was, refreshingly, aimed at adults. Even today, that wit and charm still sparkles.
Starring: Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper
Creator: James L. Brooks, Allan Burns
Year: 1970-1977
Runtime: 168 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.2

An astronaut crash-lands on a deserted island, where he discovers a mysterious bottle containing the gorgeous Jeannie, a genie who is only too eager to grant his every wish. Since he’s freed her from her bottle, she decides to come home with him to Cape Kennedy, Florida, where she poses as his wife and causes no end of comic misadventures. “I Dream of Jeannie” is a frothy and intensely likable sitcom from the 1960s that thrives almost entirely on the charm of Barbara Eden and her chemistry with co-star Larry Hagman. It ran for five seasons, wooing audiences with its endless deconstruction of the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Starring: Barbara Eden, Larry Hagman, Bill Daily
Creator: Sidney Sheldon
Year: 1965-1970
Runtime: 139 episodes
Rating: TV-G
IMDb Score: 7.4

It’s not easy to make a 30-minute sitcom about the tenets of moral philosophy and have it, you know, actually be funny — but somehow, “The Good Place” pulls it off. Eleanor Shellstrop is a self-described Arizona trash bag who wakes up to discover that she has died and been admitted to some version of Heaven. The only problem? She 1000% does not belong there. But, with the reluctant help of resident ethics professor Chidi Anagonye, she might have a chance of avoiding detection. Effervescent, surprising, and genuinely moving, “The Good Place” is never afraid to upend everything audiences think they know about its universe and start fresh with an entirely new approach.
Starring: Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper
Creator: Michael Schur
Year: 2016-2020
Runtime: 53 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.2

“The Muppet Show” is wonderfully and purposefully shabby. There’s just something incredibly endearing about watching a ragtag group of Muppets put on a variety show with contemporary actors stepping in every week to add a bit of flavor. Each of the various Muppets is given their moment to shine over the course of any given episode, their personalities distinct and well-serviced by the skits they appear in. And when it has a guest host who’s game to go with the absurdity of it all, “The Muppet Show” really hits a sweet spot — no matter what Statler and Waldorf say!
Starring: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz
Creator: Jim Henson
Year: 1976-1981
Runtime: 120 episodes
Rating: TV-G
IMDb Score: 8.4

You have to hand it to “Shameless”: It’s bold to make a show about someone as utterly contemptible as Frank Gallagher. He’s the patriarch of a giant Chicago family, but the only consistent thing he provides is a complete lack of stability. It’s up to the family’s eldest daughter Fiona to essentially raise her younger siblings, a task that wears her down in a dozen different ways. Still, you can’t help but like all of the gloriously screwed up characters of “Shameless”: Their flaws just make them all the more imperfectly human.
Starring: William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum, Cameron Monaghan
Creator: Paul Abbott, John Wells
Year: 2011-2021
Runtime: 134 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.6

Death, death, death. We’re just getting it out of the way: This show is all about death. “Six Feet Under” begins as the patriarch of the Fisher family passes away, leaving control of the family funeral home to his two sons, Nate and David. We follow them, and the other Fishers, as they grieve their loss and begin to make their way through the rest of their lives. But death always hovers over the proceedings, thanks to their work as funeral directors. Despite this, “Six Feet Under” is often surprisingly funny, although it’s also never afraid to wax philosophical — and is all the better for it.
Starring: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Lauren Ambrose
Creator: Alan Ball
Year: 2001-2005
Runtime: 63 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.7

There are a lot of “Batman” TV shows out there. Surely there can’t be that much variation in quality, right? Wrong. If you’re looking for the sort of classic Batman that makes you feel like a kid again, you can’t do better than “Batman: The Animated Series.” Despite the fact that it’s a cartoon mostly aimed at kids, it preserves a lot of the film noir elements that separate Batman from other contemporary superhero characters, and it’s never afraid to get dark. It also boasts some of the most interesting interpretations of Batman’s villains ever imagined, and adds a few creations of its own — most notably, Harley Quinn.
Starring: Kevin Conroy, Loren Lester, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Creator: Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Mitch Brian
Year: 1992-1995
Runtime: 85 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 9.0

Pure, weapons-grade nostalgia powers “The Wonder Years,” which wields its ever-so-slightly melancholic voiceover narration with force. Kevin is a boy coming of age in the American suburbia of the rapidly changing 1960s. Over the years (“The Wonder Years” spans six seasons), we watch him grow up. His relationships with his family, friends, and childhood sweetheart Winnie gradually evolve into something more complex. For audiences in the 1980s, “The Wonder Years” served two functions: It was both a compelling show about the trials and tribulations of adolescence, and a hearkening back to an often-romanticized era of Americana. For modern viewers, it’s pure charm.
Starring: Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Danica McKellar
Creator: Carol Black, Neal Marlens
Year: 1988-1993
Runtime: 115 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.4

When you’ve got David Cross and Bob Odenkirk working on a show together, you kind of just let them do their thing. “Mr. Show” follows in the grand tradition of sketch comedy shows that came before it, but it has a certain surrealism and absurdity that helps it stand out. Cross and Odenkirk bounce off each other incredibly well, and are joined by top-tier actors and writers who would come to define the alternative comedy scene of the mid-to-late ’90s and beyond. “Mr. Show” only ran for a few seasons on HBO before everyone had premium cable, so its viewership was never massive. But in the years since, it’s developed a strong fanbase. And, thanks to Odenkirk and Cross’ success on other projects, new audiences are discovering it all the time. 
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, John Ennis
Creator: David Cross, Bob Odenkirk
Year: 1995-1998
Runtime: 30 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.4

“Blackadder” has a unique premise. Each season follows a different blundering member of the Blackadder family (invariably played by the spectacular Rowan Atkinson) as he makes his way through his historical period. The original iteration is set in the late 1400s, during the reign of the fictional Richard IV: Edmund, aka the Black Adder, schemes to take the throne for himself. Things culminate in World War I, where Captain Edmund Blackadder is stuck in the trenches. Every season is hilarious and bursting with now-legendary actors of the British screen and stage, including Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Robbie Coltrane, and Stephen Fry.
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Brian Blessed, Elspet Gray
Creator: Richard Curtis, Rowan Atkinson
Year: 1983-1999
Runtime: 24 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.0

“Party Down” tells the story of a dysfunctional group of Los Angeles caterers, many of whom have dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Together, they work some of the most hilariously bizarre events that Tinseltown has to offer, each of which is threatened with ruin by either demanding guests or their own ineptitude. The large and talented ensemble cast is what makes “Party Down” such a hit, with Martin Starr, Adam Scott, and Lizzy Caplan serving as particular highlights. Though it was canceled after just two seasons, it has since become a cult favorite and earned itself a revival season, with much of the cast reprising their roles.
Starring: Adam Scott, Martin Starr, Lizzy Caplan
Creator: John Enbom, Dan Etheridge, Paul Rudd
Year: 2009-2010
Runtime: 20 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.2

If you grew up in the 1990s, you probably remember “Boy Meets World” as an institution. Cory Matthews is a kid in suburban Philadelphia just trying to make his way through life. While the first seasons capture the fairly simplistic and innocent issues facing middle-schoolers, later seasons follow the central gang of Cory, Topanga, and Shawn all the way through high school and into college. Watching these earnest kids grow up is a true joy: Their trials are relatable, but also specific to their personalities, and their growth is extremely well-earned.
Starring: Ben Savage, Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel
Creator: Michael Jacobs, April Kelly
Year: 1993-2000
Runtime: 158 episodes
Rating: TV-G
IMDb Score: 8.2

Who says that witches have to be green-faced hags with broomsticks and pointy black hats? Not “Bewitched.” The popular 1960s sitcom stars beautiful blonde witch Samantha, whose marriage to non-magical Darrin causes no end of chaos. Every episode sees the dutiful housewife try to keep her magic a secret from her suburban neighbors and family friends, with more than a few close calls. It’s easy to get frustrated — you might find yourself yelling, “Samantha, don’t hide your light under a bushel just for boring old Darrin’s sake!” But then, “Bewitched” also created Endora, Samantha’s mother, who heartily agrees with that sentiment. What results is pure ’60s fun.
Starring: Elizabeth Montgomery, Dick York, Agnes Moorehead
Creator: Sol Saks
Year: 1964-1972
Runtime: 254 episodes
Rating: TV-G
IMDb Score: 7.6

Why was “Cheers” on the air for over a decade? Well, as the theme song goes, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. More than anything else, “Cheers” was an incredibly comforting presence on network television, with a stalwart cast of characters audiences became deeply attached to. At the forefront is Sam Malone, a baseball player-turned-barkeep whose Boston-based bar Cheers is home to a troupe of employees and loyal customers who turn into an ersatz family. The show is so charming, it made the careers of half the cast, and created one of the most successful spin-offs in television history in “Frasier.”
Starring: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Rhea Perlman
Creator: James Burrows, Glen Charles, Les Charles
Year: 1982-1993
Runtime: 275 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 7.9

Based on the New Yorker comics of Charles Addams, “The Addams Family” remains a creepy classic. The titular family is a cheerfully macabre bunch who are utterly at ease with all things undead, gloomy, and just plain spooky. But in a weird way, they’re one of the most healthy and loving families to come out of the world of 1960s sitcoms — which also makes them a pointed foil to those more conventional suburbanites. Gomez and Morticia, patriarch and matriarch of the family, are deeply in love with each other, and strive to raise their kids in the most supportive environment possible. So what if that environment hosts a few zombies? Zombies need love too.
Starring: John Astin, Carolyn Jones, Lisa Loring
Creator: David Levy
Year: 1964-1966
Runtime: 64 episodes
Rating: TV-G
IMDb Score: 8.0

Larry David co-created “Seinfeld,” one of the most famous sitcoms of all time. But in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” he turns the camera on himself, playing a slightly exaggerated version of the curmudgeonly Larry David we’ve come to know and … well, not love, but enjoy watching, at any rate. He lives in Los Angeles, surrounded by his friends and acquaintances who are all middle-aged comedians playing a version of themselves. Larry spends his days floating from petty grievance to petty grievance, furious when people break the social code only he is keeping track of. Cringe-y but undeniably funny, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is an unforgettably vivid self-portrait.
Starring: Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines
Creator: Larry David
Year: 2000-present
Runtime: 110 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.8

For the microgeneration of teenagers who came of age during the early 2000s, “The O.C.” was landmark television. It tells the soapy, sun-kissed story of Ryan Atwood, a smart kid from the wrong side of the tracks who is given a second chance when he’s taken in by the Cohens, a wealthy family living in Orange County, California. (In case you forget it takes place in California, the Phantom Planet theme song is there to remind you.) What begins as a fish-out-of-water narrative quickly shifts into more traditional high school soap opera fare as Ryan bonds with his adoptive brother and finds love with girl-next-door Marissa. Outlandish but utterly addictive, “The O.C.” is a teen classic.
Starring: Ben McKenzie, Adam Brody, Rachel Bilson
Creator: Josh Schwartz
Year: 2003-2007
Runtime: 92 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 7.5

A classic boy- and girl-next-door story, “Dawson’s Creek” centers around the perpetual love triangle between Dawson and Joey, who have been best friends since childhood, and Joey and Pacey, who is Dawson’s best male friend. The back-and-forth between these characters is the beating heart of “Dawson’s Creek,” even as others enter and exit the picture. Dawson is your classic teen film buff, convinced of the superiority of his own taste and counting the days until he can head off to film school in California. He circles a relationship with Joey constantly, unsure if he wants to be with her, but definitely sure that he doesn’t want anyone else to end up in her arms. The warmth and charm of the three lead actors made “Dawson’s Creek” an immediate hit, catapulting them all into superstardom.
Starring: James Van Der Beek, Joshua Jackson, Katie Holmes
Creator: Kevin Williamson
Year: 1998-2003
Runtime: 128 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 6.8

“Orphan Black” is about a lot of things, but above all, it’s about Tatiana Maslany’s incomparable talent. Sarah Manning is minding her own business when she happens across someone who looks exactly like her — only to see them immediately jump off a train. She takes over their identity, but quickly learns, to her astonishment, that there are more doppelgangers. She’s part of a strange cloning experiment, and has “sisters” all over the world. Maslany, we hasten to remind you, plays all of them, and she does it so well, you eventually forget it’s all the work of one actress. If that isn’t a testament to Maslany’s skill, we don’t know what is.
Starring: Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Ari Millen
Creator: Graeme Manson, John Fawcett
Year: 2013-2017
Runtime: 50 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.3

You know those small, independent bookstores run by curmudgeonly loners that have borderline hostile hours? They’re what “Black Books” is about. Bernard Black is a bookstore owner who hates nothing more than the people who want to buy books from him. His perpetual exasperation with every single aspect of his chosen livelihood is a great source of amusement. We watch him reluctantly interact with customers, and, horror of horrors, file his taxes, an activity he avoids to such an extent that he willingly invites a pair of door-to-door proselytizers in for a chat about God. Delightfully mundane, “Black Books” holds up an antisocial mirror to our everyday lives. 
Starring: Dylan Moran, Tamsin Greig, Bill Bailey
Creator: Dylan Moran, Graham Linehan
Year: 2000-2004
Runtime: 18 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.5

“Atlanta” is a frequently surreal comedy-drama about a man named Earn who’s trying to keep his life together and help his cousin make it in the Atlanta rap scene. Although the show features recurring characters and has some semblance of an arc, it also operates as something between an anthology series and a more traditional sitcom. “Atlanta” has more stand-alone episodes than anyone is used to seeing from live-action television, and storylines rarely carry over from episode to episode. What results is a razor-sharp, brilliantly absurd, and fascinatingly melancholy exploration of race, the music industry, and the sheer strangeness of life.
Starring: Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, LaKeith Stanfield
Creator: Donald Glover
Year: 2016-2022
Runtime: 41 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.6

“The Kids in the Hall” began as sort of a punk rock version of “Saturday Night Live.” It features a significantly pared down cast, with mostly just the five members of the Kids in the Hall improv troupe, who began performing together in Toronto before making the leap to television. They have relatively unprecedented creative control over the show, which is made obvious by the kinds of surreal sketches they perform, especially during the first few seasons. “The Kids in the Hall” has had a lasting impact on modern comedy, yet it somehow remains a bizarre breath of fresh air. No wonder it’s been the subject of modern-day revivals.
Starring: Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch
Creator: Lorne Michaels
Year: 1988-2021
Runtime: 109 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.4

“Quantum Leap” is pretty much the definition of a high-concept television show. Sam Beckett is a scientist doomed to jump into the bodies and lives of people from throughout human history. He never knows who he’ll be or how long he’ll be them — he just hopes that the next jump will be the one that takes him back to his own life and time. This incredibly creative concept gives the show the opportunity to experiment with a variety of locations and time periods, bringing on an entirely new story in almost every single episode. Thankfully, although everyone else sees the person Sam is inhabiting, the audience just sees Scott Bakula, giving us someone familiar to latch onto during each adventure.
Starring: Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, Deborah Pratt
Creator: Donald P. Bellisario
Year: 1989-1993
Runtime: 97 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.2

Arabella is a writer living in the shadow of her next deadline. Looking to blow off steam, she heads out for a night on the town. But the next day, she wakes up with fractured memories of a sexual assault. “I May Destroy You” follows her as she deals with the aftermath and attempts to figure out what to do next. Creator and star Michaela Coel won an Emmy for outstanding writing for this limited series, becoming the first Black woman in history to do so. It’s not hard to see why: “I May Destroy You” is a thorny work of genius, thrumming with rage, beauty, and unvarnished human struggle. 
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
Starring: Michaela Coel, Weruche Opia, Paapa Essiedu
Creator: Michaela Coel
Year: 2020
Runtime: 12 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.1

You already know that Bill Hader is funny. But you probably aren’t prepared for his turn in “Barry,” where he lets the little glimmer of chaos that has always informed his comedy take center stage. Barry is an emotionally numb hitman who is basically content to follow the orders of his handler — until he attends a class taught by over-the-hill Hollywood legend Gene Cousineau and catches the acting bug. Sometimes darkly humorous but more often than not just dark, “Barry” features top-notch performances from all involved. And, if nothing else, it introduces the world to NoHo Hank, the breakout star of the show.
Starring: Bill Hader, Henry Winkler, Sarah Goldberg
Creator: Alec Berg, Bill Hader
Year: 2018-present
Runtime: 24 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.4

An institution in the world of sketch comedy, “Saturday Night Live” has been on the air for decades. The show has launched the careers of dozens of comedians, from Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd back in the 1970s to Kate McKinnon and Pete Davidson in more recent years. Although people love to talk about how much “Saturday Night Live” has gone downhill during any given era, the truth is that “Saturday Night Live” possesses the rare ability to perpetually reinvent itself. With a revolving door of comedians and staff writers, the show isn’t beholden to any particular style of humor. Home to a number of now-classic recurring sketches, “Saturday Night Live” has more than cemented its status as one of the most significant shows in television history.
Starring: Ego Nwodim, Kenan Thompson, Seth Meyers
Creator: Lorne Michaels
Year: 1975-present
Runtime: 930 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.0

“Doctor Who” has been on the air since the early 1960s (albeit with a fairly extensive hiatus throughout the 1990s and early 2000s), delightedly detailing the adventures of a mysterious alien with the power to travel through time and space in the trusty T.A.R.D.I.S. “Doctor Who” is limited only by the imagination of its writers: They can tell stories about literally any point in time, set in real or imaginary worlds, tackling everything from simple romance to intergalactic espionage. And, with the helpful little trick of regeneration, they can continually replace the actor who plays the Doctor, since it’s well established that they can change form. This freshness is a key component of how “Doctor Who” has managed to stay relevant for so many decades.
Starring: David Tennant, William Hartnell, Tom Baker
Creator: Donald Wilson, Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber
Year: 1963-present
Runtime: 870 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.4

“The Office” might be one of the only American remakes of a British show that fully exists as its own entity, and arguably surpasses the original. Michael Scott is the manager of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company’s Scranton branch. He’s truly confident in his abilities as a leader, and remains cheerfully oblivious to the fact that his employees find him ridiculous at best and obnoxious at worst. Jim and Dwight are the breakout stars here as two office drones who are vivid foils to each other, but the entire ensemble cast gets the chance to shine over the course of the long-running series.
Starring: Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson
Creator: Greg Daniels
Year: 2005-2013
Runtime: 201 episodes
Rating: TV-14 
IMDb Score: 9.0

Captain Mal Reynolds leads the ragtag crew of the spaceship Serenity with grit, humor, and the slightest hint of melancholy. He gets way more than he bargains for when a pair of fugitive stowaways hop on board. Well-heeled doctor Simon and his unstable sister River are hiding many secrets, but the biggest one of all might just bring down the Alliance that rules the galaxy. Despite this show’s early cancelation, its world-building is immaculate, and the easy chemistry between characters makes them feel deeply bonded. It’s no wonder, really, that “Firefly” earned such a devoted fandom, which endures to this day.
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Alan Tudyk
Creator: Joss Whedon
Year: 2002
Runtime: 14 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 9.0

“Happy Days” played no small part in stoking the 1970s and 1980s’ explosion of nostalgia for the 1950s. Richie Cunningham is a typical ’50s teen making his way through middle American suburbia. He has a colorful group of friends that includes the less-than-hip Potsie and Ralph, but the breakout star of the show is undoubtedly the iconic Fonzie. He’s a greaser so cool, even mechanical items like the jukebox at the local diner are under his sway. It’s hard not to love him, and the sweet-natured show he’s part of — even if he is responsible for the concept of “jumping the shark.”
Starring: Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Marion Ross
Creator: Garry Marshall
Year: 1974-1984
Runtime: 255 episodes
Rating: TV-G
IMDb Score: 7.4

Now that Jordan Peele has an Oscar to his name and all anyone wants to talk about is his career as a horror director, it’s easy to overlook “Key & Peele.” But that would be a grave mistake. Together, the titular two comedians created a sketch show of unique verve and hilarity, which often highlights their experiences as Black men in America. “Key & Peele” puts out hit after hit, with shockingly few duds in between. Some of them take aim at Civil War reenactors. Some offer President Barack Obama an outlet for his inner rage. Some give a platform to substitute teachers who mispronounce their students’ names. All are utterly hilarious.
Starring: Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key
Creator: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele
Year: 2012-2015
Runtime: 53 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.3

“M*A*S*H” centers around a group of army doctors and nurses making their way through the Korean War. The series stands out against other shows from its era for two main reasons. Firstly, the length of time this show was on the air is incredibly impressive: It ran for 11 years. Secondly, “M*A*S*H” was huge. The finale was watched by an astonishing 106 million people. How did it become such a phenomenon? Through the dark humor it brings to bear on the absurdity of war, which is as effective today as it was then.
Starring: Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swit
Creator: Larry Gelbart
Year: 1972-1983
Runtime: 256 episodes
Rating: TV-PG 
IMDb Score: 8.4

In the years following World War I, the clever but traumatized Tommy Shelby returns to Birmingham with fresh ambition. Under his leadership, and with the help of his brothers, the Peaky Blinders gang will take control of the city. Thus begins this epic crime drama. Family dynamics and local politics threaten to tear apart everything the Shelbys strive to build. Even as they engage in objectively reprehensible activities, audiences can’t help but be fascinated by them, especially Tommy, whose stoic demeanor belies a fierce intelligence.
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Paul Anderson, Sophie Rundle
Creator: Steven Knight
Year: 2013-2022
Runtime: 36 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.8

How do you make a show about death funny? You embrace the inherent absurdity of life. “Dead Like Me” follows George, a sullen teenager whose life is cut brutally and embarrassingly short when she’s crushed to death by a flaming toilet seat that crashes to Earth from an orbiting space station. She’s surprised to learn that the afterlife is real, but she won’t be going there quite yet — first, she will join the ranks of the Reapers, who are tasked with removing the souls of the departed just before they actually die. In this strange non-life, she finds herself with a group of new friends and colleagues (led by Mandy Patinkin and Jasmine Guy in stand-out performances) and learns to live for the first time.
Starring: Ellen Muth, Mandy Patinkin, Jasmine Guy
Creator: Bryan Fuller
Year: 2003-2004
Runtime: 29 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.1

What is there to say about “I Love Lucy” that hasn’t already been said? It revolutionized the television industry, both with its depiction of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s cross-cultural marriage and its decision to incorporate Lucille Ball’s pregnancy into the show by making her character pregnant too. The comedy remains remarkably fresh, each of the four main stars gel perfectly, and Ball still shines as one of the 20th century’s greatest comic talents. Add in some then-new production techniques pioneered by Desi Arnaz, and you have an unparalleled classic.
Starring: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance
Creator: Bob Carroll Jr., Madelyn Davis, Jess Oppenheimer
Year: 1951-1957
Runtime: 180 episodes
Rating: TV-G
IMDb Score: 8.5

You’d think, after creating “The Simpsons,” that Matt Groening would be satisfied with creating one paradigm-shifting animation hit. But instead of taking a break, he followed it up with “Futurama,” a show that reaches the heights of his earlier animated classic. The story revolves around Fry, a present-day pizza delivery boy who is accidentally cryogenically frozen and thawed out 1000 years later. Adrift in 2999, he must adapt to an entirely new world. Luckily, he quickly finds a job as a space delivery boy. His on-again-off-again relationship with the one-eyed Leela is charming, as is the merry band of misfits who surround the pair, especially Fry’s new best friend, a belligerent and show-stealing robot named Bender.
Starring: Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal
Creator: Matt Groening
Year: 1999-2023
Runtime: 140 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.5

When a team at the Children’s Television Workshop began developing “Sesame Street,” they sought to reach children growing up in the city. What resulted is a show that hasn’t just entertained generations of kids, but revolutionized early childhood education. “Sesame Street” offers lessons about letters and numbers alongside portrayals of deeper topics like divorce, and even death. It captures the color and magic of life in the city with unique verve and an eternally forward-looking gaze. With its cast of now-iconic Muppet characters, “Sesame Street” blends education and entertainment in a way that still feels entirely new.
Starring: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Caroll Spinney
Creator: Joan Ganz Cooney, Lloyd Morrisett
Year: 1969-present
Runtime: 4,626 episodes
Rating: TV-Y
IMDb Score: 8.1

Irrepressibly weird, “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson” is a sketch comedy show for those who find “Saturday Night Live” too conventional. Here, the laughs come from things like “Corncob TV” — home of the TV show “Coffin Flop,” which is just nonstop footage of bodies falling out of coffins — a special adult ghost tour where the guests can say whatever the heck they want, and a rigged Baby of the Year competition. There’s simply no end to the hilarity and depravity of “I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.”
Starring: Tim Robinson, Sam Richardson, Patti Harrison
Creator: Tim Robinson, Zach Kanin
Year: 2019-present
Runtime: 12 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 7.9

What happens when an ultra-rich family becomes destitute, stranding them in the podunk town they bought as a joke that is their one remaining asset? Some of the most heart-warming television you’ve ever seen. The Roses could not be more out of place in Schitt’s Creek if they tried, and they have obvious contempt for everything there, from the run-down motel to the diner with way too many menu options. But a weird thing happens when they’re stuck there: They bond, and find fulfillment in a less ostentatious lifestyle than they previously enjoyed. With incandescently charming performances and killer writing, “Schitt’s Creek” worms its way into your heart.
Starring: Dan Levy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara
Creator: Eugene Levy, Dan Levy
Year: 2015-2020
Runtime: 80 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.5

Years after “The Golden Girls” went off the air, the show remains revolutionary for centering vibrant, middle-aged women as its protagonists. Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia are four free-wheeling women with their own passions, hobbies, and romantic relationships at a time in their lives when they’re expected to make themselves invisible. Their bond with one another and their irrepressible spirits made them stand out in the 1980s and early 1990s, and is just as enjoyable to watch now.
Starring: Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan
Creator: Susan Harris
Year: 1985-1992
Runtime: 180 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.1

If you don’t read the name of this show and immediately get the theme song stuck in your head, well, we just can’t relate. “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which catapulted Will Smith to superstardom, is a fish-out-of-water story about a teenager from West Philly who moves in with his well-heeled aunt and uncle in Bel-Air. Although the central concept finds humor in his inability to fit in, the show eagerly dives into deeper issues of identity, as Will frequently challenges the Banks family on their perceived elitism and grapples with his own sense of self.
Starring: Will Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro, James Avery
Creator: Andy Borowitz, Susan Borowitz
Year: 1990-1996
Runtime: 148 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 7.9

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is like “Seinfeld,” if you cranked all the petty nitpicks and grievances up to 11. It follows a ragtag crew of irredeemable monsters who run a bar in South Philly, get into depraved hijinks week after week, and learn absolutely zero lessons along the way. The central cast is a delight unto itself, but the show’s real coup is adding Danny DeVito in Season 2: His unique brand of grotesque humor immediately gels with and elevates the dark comedy of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Starring: Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day
Creator: Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney
Year: 2005-present
Runtime: 162 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.8

Aang is just a kid — or at least, that’s what he looks like. But in truth, he’s the last of the airbenders, a civilization of people who can manipulate air currents to do their bidding. He’s also the Avatar, a being who can control not just air, but water, fire, and earth. This role comes with the responsibility of keeping peace among the four nations of his world. That’s a lot to put on a 12-year-old’s shoulders — especially since Aang has been unconscious in a glacier for 100 years. Now the world is at war, and it’s his job to restore peace. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is all-ages entertainment at its finest and a fantasy saga of unique power and meaning.
Starring: Dee Bradley Baker, Zach Tyler Eisen, Mae Whitman
Creator: Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko
Year: 2005-2008
Runtime: 61 episodes
Rating: TV-Y7
IMDb Score: 9.3

Simply put, “Star Trek” revolutionized science fiction. Each episode sees Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and other members of their band of interplanetary peacekeepers land on a different planet, where they inevitably get caught up in deeply allegorical trouble. Although some of the special effects haven’t quite held up, the central conceit is still rock solid, and the show’s messages have only grown more impressive with time. “Star Trek” imagines a brighter future, but it knows we’ll have to work for it. In examining humanity with this sharp-yet-compassionate gaze, it became a phenomenon that has spawned multiple television shows, films, games, and more fan conventions than you could visit in a lifetime.
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols
Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Year: 1966-1969
Runtime: 79 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.4

Sometimes you want superheroes who are squeaky clean, and sometimes it’s fun to watch a bunch of screwed-up teenagers get superpowers they have no idea what to do with. “Misfits,” a raunchy alternative to traditional superhero fare, falls firmly into the latter category. While doing community service for their various petty crimes, the titular misfits are caught up in a freak electrical storm that changes them forever. Some of their powers are more useful than others: Nathan becomes functionally immortal, while poor Alisha is stuck with the curse of having anyone who touches her instantly consumed with lust. There’s even a one-off character who develops bizarre but frighteningly lethal powers over milk. Although the characters eventually grow into their powers, “Misfits” never gets too serious, and is always game for an unexpected laugh.
Starring: Iwan Rheon, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Joe Gilgun
Creator: Howard Overman
Year: 2009-2013
Runtime: 37 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.2

Effervescent and crowd-pleasing, it’s really tough not to like “Downton Abbey.” Stretching from 1912 through World War I and the beginning of the 1920s, this sprawling period drama follows the moneyed Crawley family, as well as the servants who attend to them and the titular estate. The series balances the historical events of the day with the will-they-won’t-they romance between icy Lady Mary and dashing Matthew Crawley with aplomb, and isn’t afraid to throw a curveball or two along the way. It’s incredibly easy to become emotionally invested in each of the characters, and genuinely rewarding to watch them evolve over the course of a decade that saw such dramatic change in England, especially with regards to the role of landed estates.
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Maggie Smith
Creator: Julian Fellowes
Year: 2010-2015
Runtime: 52 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.7

Normally, Russian spies get the Boris-and-Natasha treatment. Not so on “The Americans.” Here, the two lethal KGB agents loyal to the Soviet motherland (most of the time, anyway) are truly nuanced figures. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are electric as this pair of spies, who are placed on a long-term assignment in the United States. It’s sometimes difficult for them to separate their cover as a typical American family from, well … their actual lives as a typical American family. Both characters are fascinatingly complex, and play off each other incredibly well as they grapple with their own feelings and the expectations placed upon them.
Starring: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Keidrich Sellati
Creator: Joe Weisberg
Year: 2013-2018
Runtime: 75 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.4

If you’re a fan of “Grey’s Anatomy,” you owe a debt of gratitude to “ER.” There were medical shows before “ER,” but it was the first to fully tap into the genre’s potential. Here, there isn’t just melodrama related to the cases that the doctors face from week to week — there’s interpersonal drama that involves the doctors’ private lives. The series’ crowning achievement is launching the career of George Clooney who, during his time on the show, quickly became a superstar.
Starring: George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies
Creator: Michael Crichton
Year: 1994-2009
Runtime: 331 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 7.8

Watching “The West Wing” nowadays is a little bit painful, as it seems unlikely that a show this idealistic about government could be made today. But it’s lovely to revisit President Bartlet’s rose-hued Washington, where everyone acts with good intentions, even if they disagree on how to get there. Most movingly of all, they have a baseline competency which can’t be taken for granted today. Even if it’s a little optimistic (maybe even naïve), “The West Wing” is cleverly written and responsible for cementing the “walk and talk” scene so endemic to modern television, where actors burn through rapid-fire dialogue as they make their way from point A to point B.
Starring: Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney
Creator: Aaron Sorkin
Year: 1999-2006
Runtime: 154 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.9

“Parks and Recreation” follows Leslie Knope, a wildly ambitious civil servant living in the supremely apathetic Indiana town of Pawnee. Her exuberance borders on aggression, but there’s no denying that her sheer force of will gets things done. Together with her colleagues at the titular department, she works to make Pawnee a better place, even when it doesn’t want her to. “Parks and Recreation” is the kind of show that takes a little bit of time to warm up to — by most accounts, about a season and a half — but the charm of its idiosyncratic misfits and the bizarre place they call home rewards the viewer willing to give it a chance.
Starring: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza
Creator: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Year: 2009-2015
Runtime: 126 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.6

Modeled partly on “The Twilight Zone,” “Black Mirror” is an anthology series that explores the often disturbing impact of technology. (Tellingly, its name refers to what a cell phone becomes after it’s been turned off.) The show tackles topics that range from the melancholy to the outright off-putting, and it’s pretty much a guarantee that at least a few episodes will linger far longer than you’d like them to. “Black Mirror” also excels at bringing in top-notch British (and, in the later seasons, American) talent, including familiar faces and unknowns who have since gone on to incredible careers.
Starring: Daniel Lapaine, Hannah John-Kamen, Michaela Coel
Creator: Charlie Brooker
Year: 2011-present
Runtime: 22 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.8

When it comes to anarchic comedy, “The Young Ones” is a true trailblazer. This British show centers around four university students living in a squalid little flat in Thatcherite England, as chaos perpetually unfolds around them. Over the course of its two seasons, it shows a defiant refusal to adhere to the bounds of reality, let alone the conventions of television. In one episode, there’s a dramatic zoom towards a matchbox, which opens its mouth and says, “Don’t look at me — I’m irrelevant!” In another, a human version of Bambi regretfully acknowledges his post-Disney foray into adult entertainment. Always bizarre and featuring musical performances from some of the biggest bands of the day, “The Young Ones” had a huge impact on early 1980s alternative television, and was discovered by an international audience when it was broadcast by MTV.
Starring: Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Nigel Planer
Creator: Ben Elton, Rik Mayall, Lise Mayer
Year: 1982-1984
Runtime: 12 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.2

“Monty Python’s Flying Circus” reshaped comedy as we knew it. It’s strange, subversive, and incessantly pokes fun at the establishment, pushing the envelope in ways that inspire laughter, raise eyebrows, and even provoke genuine anger. Although many viewers may be more familiar with their films, which include “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” is where the troupe really honed their craft. It remains a delight, all these years later.
Starring: Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones
Creator: Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones
Year: 1969-1974
Runtime: 45 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.8

Fox Mulder is convinced that extraterrestrials and all things paranormal exist, while Dana Scully only believes in what she can see with her own two eyes. Over the course of several seasons, these FBI agents attempt to explain the unexplainable, as strange cases crop up that attract their attention and draw them into webs of conspiracy. Much of the show’s appeal comes from the chemistry between the two lead actors, which creates a will-they-won’t-they tension too powerful to resist. But “The X-Files” is also just an incredible work of genre storytelling still capable of freaking out modern viewers.
Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi
Creator: Chris Carter
Year: 1993-2018
Runtime: 218 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.6

“Friends” was a television institution throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Rachel Green alone inspired a generation of women to get “the Rachel,” a haircut now inextricably intertwined with the 1990s. For 10 years, fans watched the six titular friends as they developed their careers and romantic relationships in New York City. They stick together through thick and thin, in one of the most aspirational displays of adult friendship in television history. You might already know their catchphrases by heart, even if you haven’t watched the show. But spending some time with these friends is still, somehow, always a good idea.
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow
Creator: David Crane, Marta Kauffman
Year: 1994-2004
Runtime: 236 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.9

“Ted Lasso” is a relentlessly positive charm offensive that will make you smile — by force, if necessary. Ted is a well-intentioned football (as in American football) coach who stuns the world by taking on a coaching position for one of the Premier League’s most underwhelming football (as in soccer) teams. Does it matter that he doesn’t really know the sport? Absolutely not. Ted Lasso knows people, and he knows how to get the best out of them. Although the premise is simple, there’s much more going on underneath the surface than audiences might initially realize. Moreover, “Ted Lasso” puts together a cast of preternaturally likable characters, any one of whom audiences would likely throw themselves in front of a bus to protect.
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt, Brett Goldstein
Creator: Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, Bill Lawrence
Year: 2020-present
Runtime: 22 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.8

Sure, actors have broken the fourth wall before. But Phoebe Waller-Bridge takes it to a whole new level in “Fleabag.” Her unnamed character (known only as Fleabag) is kind of a mess: Traumatized from the recent death of her closest friend, she sabotages pretty much every relationship she has. Season 1 explores this darkness to tremendous effect, but things really come to a boil in Season 2, when she meets and emotionally connects with a priest (dubbed by fans of the show as, simply, “Hot Priest”). Here, the show introduces incredible romantic depth, which manages to make everything that came earlier even more meaningful.
Starring: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Andrew Scott, Olivia Colman
Creator: Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Year: 2016-2019
Runtime: 12 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.7

“Arrested Development” tells the story of the wealthy, maladjusted Bluth family, who are profoundly out of touch with, well, the world in general. But then, the Bluth patriarch is sent to jail for white collar crime, and stick-in-the-mud son Michael steps in to try to get them all on the right track. More than most sitcoms, “Arrested Development” is packed with callbacks to earlier jokes, which makes it extremely rewarding to the repeat viewer. Every actor playing a Bluth family member is firing on all cylinders, from Jessica Walter, who plays icy love-withholder Lucille, to Will Arnett, who plays insecure magician Gob.
Starring: Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Jessica Walter
Creator: Mitchell Hurwitz
Year: 2003-2019
Runtime: 84 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.7

Set in inner-city Baltimore, “The Wire” takes a good, hard look at what goes into crime by devoting every season to a different aspect of the city’s crumbling institutions. Taken together, these stories paint a picture of the profound dysfunction that allows corruption to thrive, and the battered determination that propels the city’s people forward anyway. But this is not some dry, socially-minded documentary — “The Wire” is a gripping drama absolutely bursting with incredible writing and profound performances. You’ll never forget characters like ruthless Stringer Bell, quiet Lester Freamon, and shrewd Tommy Carcetti, or the city they call home.
Starring: Dominic West, Idris Elba, Lance Reddick
Creator: David Simon
Year: 2002-2008
Runtime: 60 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 9.3

In the first scene of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” A boy and girl break into a high school. You wait for the girl to die, until it’s revealed she’s a vampire, not a damsel in distress. So begins this ever-subversive landmark series, which follows its titular heroine as she does battle with all things that go bump in the night. Though its fashions are dated and the slang is occasionally clunky, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” holds up on the merits of its strong writing and delightful young cast. Sarah Michelle Gellar is the glue that keeps the production together, giving Buffy charm, humor, and a sense of vulnerability that underlies her inherent strength. 
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Stewart Head
Creator: Joss Whedon
Year: 1997-2003
Runtime: 144 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.3

A show about an anthropomorphic horse who is also a has-been actor most famous for an early ’90s sitcom about a bachelor who adopts a trio of orphaned children? Ridiculous. But in fact, “BoJack Horseman” isn’t just something you take seriously — it’s a work of genuinely harrowing depth. The series has some really interesting things to say about the Hollywood machine, but its depiction of mental illness is its greatest achievement. Through innovative animation and audacious writing, this one-of-a-kind cartoon explores alcoholism, generational trauma, and what it takes to truly heal from abuse. Somehow, it’s also utterly hilarious.
Starring: Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Paul F. Tompkins
Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Year: 2014-2020
Runtime: 77 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.8

“Star Trek” has no shortage of spinoffs — after all, there’s an entire universe of possibility at its fingertips. But “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is arguably the best. It exchanges Captain James T. Kirk for  Captain Jean-Luc Picard, a smoother, tea-drinking sort of man facing very similar issues. This series never misses an opportunity to show off then-new advances in technology that made ambitious storylines a whole lot easier to tell, nor does it slack on its razor-sharp writing. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” made such waves, it reinvigorated the franchise, winning a new generation of fans in the process.
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes
Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Year: 1987-1994
Runtime: 178 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.7

Trust David Lynch to take the traditional murder mystery show and make it 100% weirder. A teen girl is murdered in a small, tight-knight community with plenty of secrets, and an outside investigator who plays by his own rules is brought in to solve the case. Pretty conventional, right? But “Twin Peaks” becomes increasingly dreamlike as it goes on, blurring the line between reality and delusions. Kyle MacLachlan is the perfect straight man to throw into this crucible: His cheerful squareness is a clever and amusing counterpart to the show’s most bizarre qualities.
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick
Creator: David Lynch, Mark Frost
Year: 1990-2017
Runtime: 48 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.8

Set in a medieval fantasy world dreamed up by author George R. R. Martin, “Game of Thrones” revolves around the brutally violent political machinations of several prominent families who simultaneously face each other and the terrifying ice warriors from beyond the northern border. The honorable Stark family exists at the center of the show: Its children are flung far across the land of Westeros (and beyond) by circumstance, and must try to find their way back to one another. Death lurks around every corner in “Game of Thrones,” and the anxiety of not knowing which of your favorites will die next is electric. No wonder it became a phenomenon.
Starring: Kit Harington, Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage
Creator: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
Year: 2011-2019
Runtime: 73 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 9.2

Created at the height of the Cold War, “The Twilight Zone” is an anthology series comprised of standalone science fiction stories that tap into the most profound anxieties of the day. Though it’s very much a product of its time, many episodes that explore intolerance, suspicion, and paranoia remain striking and relevant, while the series’ creepier elements are still utterly chilling. This is the genre at its best, full of intense acting, potent writing, and thoughtful themes. No wonder people keep trying to revive it.
Starring: Rod Serling, Robert McCord, Jay Overholts
Creator: Rod Serling
Year: 1959-1964
Runtime: 156 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 9.1

Who would have thought Bryan Cranston, the goofy dad from “Malcolm in the Middle,” had the potential for Walter White living inside him? In “Breaking Bad,” Cranston stars as that mild-mannered chemistry teacher, who turns to meth production after learning he has terminal cancer. Although he starts out as a fish out of water, learning the tricks of the trade from his former student Jesse, Walter quickly takes to his new career as a drug kingpin. Clever, surprising, and filled with great performances, “Breaking Bad” is perhaps most impressive for how often it forces the audience to question their allegiances.
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn
Creator: Vince Gilligan
Year: 2008-2013
Runtime: 62 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 9.5

Ever since “Deadwood” went off the air, Western shows have been attempting to take its place, but none of them quite match its intelligence and charm. Seth Bullock, a former marshal, moves to Deadwood, South Dakota in the hopes of establishing a business. But Deadwood is still the Wild West in every way that counts, and his life there becomes more complicated than he expected. “Deadwood” is filled with a giant ensemble cast of characters who are all so intelligently written and well-performed, even the smallest roles have the power to captivate. Ian McShane is a particularly larger-than-life presence as Al Swearengen, a saloon owner who holds great sway in Deadwood.
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker
Creator: David Milch
Year: 2004-2006
Runtime: 36 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 8.6

Sure, “The Simpsons” has probably been on for way too long. But here’s a fact: “The Simpsons” also gave us, at the barest minimum, around 10 years of perfect television. How many shows can say that? The titular family is a patchwork of flaws and virtues: There’s boorish Homer, whose selfish instincts are only tempered by occasional moments of love for his family; long-suffering Marge, the emotionally repressed yet relentlessly optimistic housewife; precocious, perpetually misunderstood child prodigy Lisa; trouble-making, wildly insecure Bart; and baby Maggie, still silent and sucking on her pacifier. They’ve been a mainstay on television for over 30 years, influencing the cultural zeitgeist in ways few shows will ever be able to equal.
Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Harry Shearer
Creator: Matt Groening
Year: 1989-present
Runtime: 728 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.7

When “Seinfeld” debuted, its cast of generally contemptible characters and rejection of clearly defined narrative was groundbreaking. “Seinfeld” isn’t formless, but its comedy is rooted in small, everyday annoyances that ultimately take up way more space than they need to. This results in a show that still feels fresh. The quartet of main characters operates like a well-oiled machine, with Jerry Seinfeld frequently acting as the straight man, George Costanza struggling with neuroses, Cosmo Kramer delving into surrealism, and Elaine Benes dispensing brutal sarcasm. Watching them work is a strange, prickly, and eternally hilarious experience.
Starring: Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Creator: Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld
Year: 1989-1998
Runtime: 180 episodes
Rating: TV-PG
IMDb Score: 8.9

Stories about East Coast mobsters are a dime a dozen. What’s unique and innovative about “The Sopranos” is that it features a tough, hyper-masculine Mafia man who is emotionally crumbling. After experiencing a panic attack, big time crime boss Tony Soprano reluctantly begins to go to therapy. In exploring Tony’s struggles with his work, his family, and his inner well-being, “The Sopranos” never neglects an opportunity to really delve into what it means to be a man. Although opinions are still divided over the show’s ambiguous finale, “The Sopranos” has established an incredible legacy we’re still watching unfold.
Starring: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco
Creator: David Chase
Year: 1999-2007
Runtime: 86 episodes
Rating: TV-MA
IMDb Score: 9.2

“Freaks and Geeks” is one of the most famous examples of a great show that got canceled far too early on. But in a weird way, this adds to the “Freaks and Geeks” legacy: It produced one perfect season and never got a chance to decline. Still reeling from her grandmother’s death, teenager Lindsay Weir struggles to find her place in high school. She’s especially torn between her over-achieving, academically-minded former friends, and the beguiling group of juvenile delinquents she has fallen in with. A nostalgic, melancholy look at the confusion of adolescence, “Freaks and Geeks” stands unparalleled among teen-centric TV dramas.
Starring: Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Martin Starr
Creator: Paul Feig
Year: 1999-2000
Runtime: 18 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.8

At its heart, “Mad Men” is a story about change. We can accept it, resist it, or run from it entirely, as the show’s leading man seems to relish doing at every turn — but it will always be there. Set in a chic advertising firm in 1960s New York City, “Mad Men” follows Don Draper, the creative visionary behind some of the era’s most compelling advertising campaigns. But his entire life is built on a foundation of lies, which he must grapple with throughout the series. Featuring an incredible cast, all of whom put in career-best work in every single episode, “Mad Men” is the pinnacle of what television is capable of. It’s funny, clever, and heartbreakingly sad — often at the same time.
Starring: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Year: 2007-2015
Runtime: 92 episodes
Rating: TV-14
IMDb Score: 8.7

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