Lights, camera, action! Join us as we unveil the top 50 HBO shows of all time, celebrating the brilliance that has solidified the network’s reputation as a powerhouse in premium television.
From gripping dramas to side-splitting comedies, this carefully curated list will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, laughter, and sheer astonishment. Explore the captivating narratives, memorable characters, and groundbreaking storytelling techniques that make these shows exceptional.
Whether you’re a die-hard fan or new to HBO’s world, this article promises a captivating exploration of the finest television experiences ever created. So grab your popcorn, settle in, and let the binge-watching begin as we unveil the top 50 HBO shows.
50. The Flight Attendant
The Flight Attendant is a thrilling and darkly comedic series that follows the chaotic life of flight attendant Cassie Bowden, played by Kaley Cuoco, after she wakes up next to a dead body in a hotel room. The show combines elements of mystery, suspense, and psychological drama as Cassie embarks on a desperate journey to unravel the truth and clear her name.
With its fast-paced storytelling, unpredictable twists, and Cuoco’s captivating performance, The Flight Attendant delivers a gripping and entertaining ride. It skillfully balances moments of humor with intense moments of suspense, keeping viewers engaged and eager to uncover the secrets hidden within the skies.
49. The Comeback
The Comeback is a brilliant mockumentary-style comedy series that stars Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish, a faded sitcom actress attempting to reclaim her fame with a reality TV show. The series offers a biting and self-aware commentary on the entertainment industry, celebrity culture, and the sacrifices individuals make for their careers.
Kudrow’s nuanced performance as Valerie Cherish, a character simultaneously vulnerable and deluded, is a testament to her comedic talent and ability to embody complex characters. The Comeback skillfully skewers the artifice of reality television and presents a sharp and often uncomfortable reflection on the nature of fame and the lengths some are willing to go to stay in the spotlight.
48. The Outsider
The Outsider, based on the Stephen King novel, blends elements of crime, horror, and supernatural suspense. The series follows a group of investigators as they delve into a perplexing murder case that defies rational explanation. With its eerie atmosphere, intense performances, and intricate plot twists, The Outsider keeps viewers guessing and on the edge of their seats.
The show skillfully explores themes of grief, guilt, and the struggle to reconcile the inexplicable. It seamlessly blends the realms of the real and the supernatural, creating a chilling and captivating viewing experience that highlights the depths of human darkness and the power of collective belief.
47. Mare of Easttown
Mare of Easttown is a gripping crime drama that unfolds in a small Pennsylvania town, where detective Mare Sheehan, played by Kate Winslet, investigates a murder while grappling with personal demons and the weight of her community’s expectations. The series deftly combines elements of a murder mystery with a profound exploration of grief, trauma, and the complexities of small-town life.
With its stellar ensemble cast, gritty atmosphere, and nuanced character development, Mare of Easttown keeps viewers on the edge of their seats while delivering a powerful and emotionally resonant story. Winslet’s transformative performance and the show’s masterful storytelling make it a standout entry in HBO’s impressive lineup.
46. John Adams
John Adams is a meticulously crafted historical drama that brings to life the extraordinary journey of one of America’s Founding Fathers. Starring Paul Giamatti as the titular character, the miniseries explores Adams’ role in the American Revolution, his presidency, and his complex personal relationships.
With its stunning period detail, superb performances, and rich storytelling, John Adams offers an intimate and humanizing portrayal of a key figure in American history. The series delves into the challenges faced by Adams and the ideals he fought for, shedding light on the personal sacrifices and political struggles that shaped the birth of a nation.
45. Da Ali G Show
Da Ali G Show introduced the world to the outrageous and politically incorrect character of Ali G, created and portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen. This mockumentary-style comedy series follows Ali G as he conducts interviews with unsuspecting guests, satirizing various aspects of society, culture, and politics. With his hilariously absurd and often controversial questions, Ali G challenges societal norms, exposes hypocrisy, and sparks uncomfortable but necessary conversations.
Da Ali G Show showcases Baron Cohen’s genius for improvisation and his ability to push boundaries, making it a groundbreaking and highly influential comedy series that revels in its irreverence and absurdity.
44. Eastbound & Down
Eastbound & Down is a raucous and irreverent comedy series that follows the tumultuous life of Kenny Powers, a former major league baseball pitcher whose career has hit rock bottom. Starring Danny McBride as the brash and self-destructive Kenny, the show serves up a mix of cringe-inducing humor, outrageous antics, and unexpected moments of vulnerability.
Eastbound & Down explores themes of redemption, hubris, and the pursuit of glory, all while delivering gut-busting laughs. McBride’s fearless performance and the show’s boundary-pushing humor create a memorable and unapologetically audacious viewing experience that pushes the boundaries of comedic storytelling.
43. Hard Knocks
Hard Knocks provides an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the intense world of professional football training camps. This acclaimed documentary series offers a captivating and immersive experience, capturing the triumphs, setbacks, and personal journeys of players as they strive to make their dreams of playing in the NFL a reality.
Hard Knocks combines the drama of the sport with compelling human stories, showcasing the determination, camaraderie, and sacrifices that go into the pursuit of professional football. Through its immersive access and emotional narratives, the series offers an unparalleled glimpse into the lives of athletes and the grueling realities of professional sports.
Girls serves as a candid and often uncomfortable exploration of the lives and friendships of four young women living in New York City. Created by and starring Lena Dunham, the series offers a raw and unfiltered portrayal of the challenges, insecurities, and self-discovery that accompany early adulthood. Girls fearlessly tackles themes of love, sex, career aspirations, and the complexities of female friendship.
With its bold and sometimes controversial storytelling, the show invites viewers to confront the messy realities of life, unapologetically diving into the flaws, hopes, and dreams of its characters. Girls serves as a bold and authentic reflection of a generation navigating the tumultuous path to adulthood.
Arli$$ is a sports-themed comedy series that follows the life of Arliss Michaels, a sports agent navigating the high-stakes world of professional athletics. Starring Robert Wuhl as the titular character, the show offers a satirical and irreverent take on the business side of sports.
Arli$$ tackles issues such as contract negotiations, endorsements, and the ethics of representation, all while providing a humorous glimpse into the eccentricities of athletes and the wheeling and dealing of the sports industry. With its sharp writing, witty banter, and a colorful cast of characters, Arli$$ offers a lighthearted and entertaining look at the behind-the-scenes machinations of the sports world.
40. The Deuce
The Deuce transports viewers to the gritty streets of 1970s and 1980s New York City, exploring the rise of the porn industry and the interconnected lives of its denizens. Created by David Simon and George Pelecanos, the series offers a compelling blend of social commentary, complex characters, and gripping storytelling. With its meticulous period detail and a remarkable ensemble cast led by James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Deuce explores themes of power, exploitation, and the collision of capitalism and desire.
The show fearlessly confronts the seedy underbelly of an era marked by urban decay, sexual revolution, and the pursuit of the American Dream. The Deuce serves as a compelling and unflinching exploration of the human condition in an era defined by vice and reinvention.
39. In Treatment
In Treatment is a unique and introspective drama that delves into the world of psychotherapy, following the sessions of therapist Dr. Paul Weston and his diverse roster of patients. The series offers a deeply intimate and insightful exploration of human psychology, personal struggles, and the complexities of the therapeutic relationship. With its minimalist approach, exceptional performances, and nuanced writing, In Treatment examines the depths of human emotions and the process of self-discovery.
It is a testament to the power of dialogue and the profound impact that therapy can have on individuals’ lives. Through its raw and authentic portrayals of therapy sessions, In Treatment provides a thought-provoking and empathetic lens into the human mind.
OZ takes viewers inside the fictional Oswald State Correctional Facility, diving deep into the gritty and brutal realities of prison life. This groundbreaking drama, created by Tom Fontana, explores the intricate power dynamics, racial tensions, and moral dilemmas that unfold within the walls of the maximum-security prison. With its unflinching portrayal of violence, complex characters, and raw storytelling, OZ delves into themes of redemption, survival, and the blurred lines between good and evil.
The show’s uncompromising realism and fearless examination of the human condition challenge viewers to confront their own preconceptions about the justice system and the nature of humanity itself.
37. Big Love
Big Love ventures into the complex and often secretive world of polygamy, following the lives of a fundamentalist Mormon family led by Bill Henrickson, played by Bill Paxton. The series explores the challenges, conflicts, and emotional dynamics that arise from navigating multiple marriages and a web of complex relationships. Big Love shines a light on the intricacies of faith, family, and personal freedom.
With its exceptional performances, compelling storytelling, and nuanced exploration of identity and belief systems, the show delves into the nuances of love, commitment, and the search for fulfillment in an unconventional setting. It offers a compelling and empathetic portrayal of a community that exists on the fringes of society.
36. Real Time with Bill Maher
Real Time with Bill Maher is a long-running and politically charged talk show that brings a fresh and irreverent perspective to current events and social issues. Hosted by the unapologetically outspoken Bill Maher, the show combines insightful interviews, sharp monologues, and lively panel discussions to dissect the week’s news and provide thought-provoking commentary.
Maher’s no-holds-barred approach challenges the status quo and sparks conversations on topics ranging from politics and religion to culture and climate change. Real Time with Bill Maher is a platform for robust and often controversial discussions, offering viewers a window into the ever-evolving landscape of American politics and the power of free speech in the public sphere.
35. Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley offers a hilarious and satirical take on the cutthroat world of the tech industry in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. Created by Mike Judge, the series follows a group of young and ambitious programmers as they navigate the challenges of launching their startup amidst fierce competition and eccentric personalities.
With its sharp writing, spot-on parody, and memorable ensemble cast, Silicon Valley skewers the absurdities and excesses of the tech world while exploring themes of innovation, ethics, and the elusive pursuit of success. The show’s witty humor, endearing characters, and insightful commentary on the intersection of technology and society make it a must-watch for both tech enthusiasts and comedy aficionados.
34. True Detective
True Detective revolutionized the crime anthology genre, offering an anthology format where each season explores a different gripping mystery. With its atmospheric storytelling, complex characters, and philosophical undertones, the series takes viewers on a dark and introspective journey.
From the atmospheric Louisiana bayou of the first season to the tangled web of corruption in the third, True Detective showcases the talents of its cast, including Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, and Mahershala Ali. The show delves into the depths of human depravity and examines the inner demons that haunt both the detectives and the criminals they pursue.
With its immersive storytelling and richly drawn narratives, True Detective stands as a testament to the power of atmospheric crime dramas that captivate and unsettle audiences.
33. Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty chronicles the captivating journey of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team during the 1980s. This upcoming HBO series, starring John C. Reilly as legendary Lakers owner Jerry Buss, promises to capture the glitz, glamour, and on-court brilliance of one of the most dominant teams in sports history.
With a focus on the charismatic personalities of players like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Winning Time explores the triumphs, rivalries, and larger-than-life personalities that defined an era. The series offers a thrilling blend of sports drama, cultural nostalgia, and compelling storytelling.
Through its exploration of teamwork, ambition, and the pursuit of greatness, Winning Time aims to capture the spirit and magic of a storied basketball dynasty.
32. Big Little Lies
Big Little Lies serves up a delicious blend of drama, mystery, and dark comedy, as it peels back the seemingly perfect façade of a group of affluent mothers in Monterey, California. With an ensemble cast led by powerhouse actresses such as Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Laura Dern, the series delves into the complexities of motherhood, marriage, and secrets that unravel with devastating consequences.
Big Little Lies deftly explores themes of domestic violence, class divide, and the masks we wear to maintain appearances. Its gripping storytelling, nuanced characterizations, and stunning cinematography create a riveting and emotionally charged experience. The show’s ability to tackle important social issues while delivering addictive and compelling television is a testament to its brilliance.
Westworld ventures into the realm of science fiction, exploring a theme park populated by advanced humanoid robots known as hosts. This mind-bending series, inspired by Michael Crichton’s original film, delves into existential questions of identity, consciousness, and the ethical implications of artificial intelligence. With its intricate narrative structure, philosophical undertones, and stunning visuals, Westworld immerses viewers in a world where morality and reality become increasingly blurred.
The show challenges us to ponder the nature of free will and the consequences of playing god. Through its exceptional performances, thought-provoking storytelling, and intricate plot twists, Westworld invites us to question the boundaries of humanity and the potential dangers of technological advancement.
Starstruck is a delightful romantic comedy series that follows the life of Jessie, a millennial living in London, whose life takes an unexpected turn when she has a one-night stand with a famous movie star. Created by and starring Rose Matafeo, the show effortlessly combines witty banter, charming chemistry, and a refreshing dose of realism.
Starstruck explores the complexities of modern relationships, the challenges of pursuing dreams, and the blurred boundaries between fame and everyday life. Matafeo’s infectious energy and comedic timing, along with the show’s sharp writing, create a winning formula that keeps audiences hooked. With its relatable characters and genuine charm, Starstruck offers a heartfelt and hilarious exploration of love and self-discovery in the digital age.
29. Flight of the Conchords
Flight of the Conchords showcases the comedic brilliance of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement as they navigate the absurdities of trying to make it as a folk-rock duo in New York City. The series, based on the real-life musical comedy duo, combines hilarious original songs, deadpan humor, and offbeat charm. With its unique blend of music and comedy, Flight of the Conchords delivers infectious tunes and sharp wit.
The show’s whimsical storytelling and endearing characters make for a delightful and quirky viewing experience. It’s a testament to the duo’s talent and their ability to find humor in even the most mundane aspects of everyday life, creating a truly original and memorable comedy series.
Euphoria offers a raw and unflinching exploration of the tumultuous lives of a group of high school students as they navigate love, identity, addiction, and the challenges of growing up in a digital age. Led by Zendaya’s tour-de-force performance as Rue Bennett, the series tackles hard-hitting themes with honesty and authenticity. Euphoria fearlessly depicts the complexities of teenagehood, highlighting the struggles, pressures, and vulnerabilities that young people face.
With its striking visuals, evocative storytelling, and a superb ensemble cast, the show captivates viewers with its raw emotions and poignant character journeys. It pushes boundaries, sparks conversations, and offers a stark and unfiltered reflection of the realities that many young people confront today.
Treme takes viewers to post-Katrina New Orleans, where the city and its vibrant culture struggle to rebuild and recover. Created by David Simon and Eric Overmyer, the series paints a vivid and authentic portrait of a community’s resilience, music, and spirit. Through its diverse ensemble cast and a meticulously crafted narrative, Treme captures the struggles, joys, and complexities of life in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster.
The show’s profound sense of place, heartfelt storytelling, and soulful music serve as a celebration of New Orleans’ unique cultural heritage. With its raw emotions and nuanced character arcs, Treme pays tribute to the strength of a community that refuses to be silenced and finds hope amidst adversity.
26. Boardwalk Empire
Boardwalk Empire transports viewers to the Prohibition era, immersing them in the seedy underworld of Atlantic City and the rise of organized crime. With its sprawling narrative and impeccable period detail, the series delves into the complex power dynamics and moral ambiguity of the time. Led by Steve Buscemi’s magnetic performance as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, Boardwalk Empire weaves a tapestry of politics, greed, and violence.
The show’s exceptional production values, intricate storytelling, and a rich ensemble cast create a gripping and immersive experience. It skillfully explores themes of corruption, ambition, and the blurred lines between morality and survival. Boardwalk Empire stands as a testament to the artistry of television, offering a vivid and compelling portrayal of a tumultuous era in American history.
25. The White Lotus
The White Lotus is a darkly comedic and suspenseful limited series that examines the privileged lives of guests at a luxurious Hawaiian resort. Created by Mike White, the show unravels a web of secrets, tensions, and power dynamics as the guests’ idyllic vacation takes unexpected and sinister turns. With its sharp writing, stellar ensemble cast, and stunning cinematography, The White Lotus explores themes of wealth disparity, entitlement, and the dark underbelly of paradise.
The series skillfully navigates between comedy and drama, keeping viewers on edge while providing incisive social commentary. It’s a captivating exploration of human nature and the inherent conflicts that arise when individuals from different walks of life collide in a confined space.
24. Last Week With John Oliver
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver revolutionized the landscape of late-night television with its satirical take on current events, politics, and societal issues. Hosted by the irreverent and insightful John Oliver, the show offers a unique blend of humor, investigative journalism, and in-depth analysis. With his signature wit and sharp commentary, Oliver fearlessly tackles topics ranging from government corruption to social injustices.
The show’s deep dives into complex issues, combined with Oliver’s ability to distill information and make it accessible, empower viewers to become more informed citizens. Beyond the laughs, Last Week Tonight serves as a powerful platform for change, advocating for accountability and shining a light on the absurdities and injustices of the world.
23. Six Feet Under
Six Feet Under dares to tackle the topic of death head-on, taking viewers on an emotional and introspective journey through the lives of the Fisher family, who run a funeral home. This groundbreaking drama explores the complexities of mortality, grief, and the intricacies of human relationships. With its blend of dark humor, poignant storytelling, and exceptional ensemble cast, Six Feet Under delves into the existential questions that accompany life and death.
The show’s willingness to explore the messy and often uncomfortable aspects of the human experience, coupled with its memorable characters and superb writing, creates a profound and immersive viewing experience. Six Feet Under offers a meditation on life’s fleeting nature and the importance of embracing every moment.
Entourage invites viewers into the glamorous and often chaotic world of Hollywood through the eyes of Vincent Chase, a rising movie star, and his close-knit group of friends. With its witty writing, celebrity cameos, and an infectious sense of camaraderie, the series provides a tantalizing glimpse into the behind-the-scenes lifestyle of the entertainment industry. Entourage offers an entertaining mix of comedy and drama, exploring themes of friendship, loyalty, and the pursuit of success.
The show’s ability to blend the glitz and glamour of Hollywood with relatable human stories creates a captivating and addictive viewing experience. Through its portrayal of the highs and lows of fame, Entourage captures the allure and pitfalls of the industry, while also delivering a sense of escapism and entertainment.
Watchmen takes Alan Moore’s iconic graphic novel and transforms it into a groundbreaking and thought-provoking television series. This bold and ambitious adaptation explores themes of vigilantism, racism, and the complexities of power in a parallel universe where superheroes exist. With its intricate storytelling, rich character development, and stunning visual style, Watchmen immerses viewers in a world that grapples with social injustice and moral ambiguity.
The series pushes the boundaries of conventional superhero narratives, challenging viewers to confront uncomfortable truths about society and the flawed nature of heroes. Through its masterful blend of social commentary and compelling storytelling, Watchmen not only pays homage to its source material but also serves as a timely and relevant examination of power, identity, and the struggle for justice.
20. The Larry Sanders Show
The Larry Sanders Show is a trailblazing and influential sitcom that takes a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional late-night talk show hosted by Larry Sanders, brilliantly portrayed by Garry Shandling. Blurring the lines between reality and fiction, the show offers a satirical and biting commentary on the entertainment industry, celebrity culture, and the intricate dynamics of a late-night television show.
With its innovative mockumentary format and a stellar ensemble cast, including Jeffrey Tambor and Rip Torn, The Larry Sanders Show presents a sharp and incisive exploration of ego, insecurity, and the relentless pursuit of fame. Shandling’s self-deprecating humor and the show’s willingness to skewer the conventions of the talk show genre make it a groundbreaking and subversive comedy that continues to influence television to this day.
Insecure is a refreshing and authentic comedy-drama that offers a nuanced exploration of the Black female experience. Created by and starring Issa Rae, the series follows the life of Issa Dee, a young woman navigating career challenges, romantic entanglements, and friendships in Los Angeles. Through its smart writing, relatable characters, and honest portrayal of contemporary issues, Insecure addresses topics like race, identity, and the complexities of modern relationships with humor and depth.
The show’s ability to balance moments of hilarity with poignant introspection is a testament to Rae’s talent as a writer and performer. With its infectious energy, vibrant soundtrack, and unapologetic celebration of Black culture, Insecure has become a cultural touchstone, resonating with audiences who appreciate its refreshing and authentic voice.
18. The Newsroom
The Newsroom is Aaron Sorkin at his finest, delivering rapid-fire dialogue, intelligent writing, and thought-provoking social commentary. Set in a fictional cable newsroom, the series follows news anchor Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, as he grapples with personal and professional challenges while striving to restore integrity and quality journalism. Through its incisive portrayal of the media landscape, The Newsroom tackles pressing issues, such as political polarization, corporate influence, and the blurred lines between news and entertainment.
Sorkin’s signature storytelling style creates a compelling and engaging narrative that keeps viewers hooked, while also inviting them to reflect on the role of the media in shaping public discourse. With its stellar performances, sharp writing, and Sorkin’s unmistakable wit, The Newsroom is a gripping and intellectually stimulating series that resonates long after the final credits roll.
17. The Righteous Gemstones
The Righteous Gemstones is a riotously funny and satirical exploration of the corrupt and often hypocritical world of televangelism. Created by Danny McBride, the show follows the Gemstone family, a wealthy and influential dynasty of pastors who navigate personal and professional scandals while juggling their insatiable thirst for power and wealth. With its sharp writing, outrageous comedic situations, and memorable characters, The Righteous Gemstones cleverly dissects the intersection of faith, greed, and the human tendency for moral failings.
McBride’s irreverent humor and the stellar performances from the ensemble cast, including John Goodman and Walton Goggins, make this dark comedy a delightfully wicked and thoroughly entertaining series. Beneath its comedic exterior, the show also poses thought-provoking questions about faith, spirituality, and the dangers of unchecked religious authority.
Chernobyl is a gripping and haunting miniseries that chronicles the catastrophic nuclear disaster that occurred in the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl in 1986. This meticulously crafted production delves into the events leading up to the explosion and the subsequent efforts to contain the disaster. Through its meticulous attention to detail, the show provides a chilling and harrowing portrayal of the human cost and the systemic failures that led to the catastrophe.
Chernobyl is a testament to the power of storytelling, shedding light on the devastating consequences of human error and the bravery of those who risked their lives to mitigate the disaster. The series is an unflinching examination of the nature of truth, the dangers of secrecy, and the profound impact of our actions.
With its exceptional performances, stunning cinematography, and gripping narrative, Chernobyl stands as a sobering reminder of the potential consequences of unchecked technological advancements.
15. Band of Brothers
Band of Brothers is a testament to the bravery, sacrifice, and camaraderie of the soldiers who fought in World War II. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, this landmark miniseries follows Easy Company, part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, from their training days to the harrowing battles they faced on the front lines.
Band of Brothers expertly combines powerful storytelling with historical accuracy, bringing to life the experiences of these remarkable soldiers. Through its immersive storytelling and compelling characters, the series captures the horrors and heroism of war, while also exploring the profound impact it has on the individuals involved.
The show’s meticulous attention to detail, breathtaking cinematography, and superb ensemble cast create an immersive and emotionally resonant experience. Band of Brothers pays tribute to the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation, reminding us of the resilience and strength of the human spirit even in the face of unimaginable adversity.
14. Station Eleven
Station Eleven is a captivating adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel that weaves together multiple timelines to explore the resilience of humanity in the face of catastrophe. Set in a world devastated by a pandemic, the series follows a group of interconnected characters as they navigate the complexities of survival, memory, and hope.
With its rich character development and poignant storytelling, Station Eleven explores themes of art, culture, and the enduring power of human connection. The series skillfully juxtaposes the fragility of life with the enduring legacy of art, reminding us of the transformative role that creativity plays in our existence.
With its thought-provoking narrative and exceptional performances, Station Eleven serves as a testament to the indomitable spirit of humanity even in the darkest of times.
13. I May Destroy You
I May Destroy You is an uncompromising and groundbreaking exploration of consent, trauma, and the complexity of modern relationships. Created, written, and starring Michaela Coel, the series follows Arabella, a young writer navigating the aftermath of a sexual assault. Through its fearless and nuanced storytelling, I May Destroy You examines themes of identity, race, and the blurred lines of consent with extraordinary sensitivity and rawness.
Coel’s writing is both sharp and compassionate, crafting a narrative that challenges societal norms and invites introspection. The show’s unflinching portrayal of trauma and its impact on survivors is a testament to Coel’s artistry and courage. I May Destroy You serves as a powerful and necessary catalyst for conversations about consent, accountability, and healing, cementing its status as a truly brilliant and important television series.
12. The Leftovers
The Leftovers stands as a masterclass in introspection and existential storytelling. Adapted from Tom Perrotta’s novel, the series explores the aftermath of a global event called the Departure, where 2% of the world’s population mysteriously disappears. Rather than focusing on the cause or explanation, the show delves into the emotional and psychological effects on the leftover individuals and communities.
Led by an exceptional ensemble cast, including Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon, The Leftovers tackles profound themes of grief, loss, faith, and the search for meaning in an uncertain world. Its haunting atmosphere, nuanced character arcs, and thought-provoking narrative challenge viewers to contemplate the mysteries of existence.
With its bold and ambitious storytelling, The Leftovers pushes the boundaries of what television can achieve, leaving an indelible impact on those who experience its haunting beauty.
11. Sex and the City
Sex and the City shattered conventions and revolutionized television with its candid exploration of female friendships, romance, and the realities of modern love. Through the eyes of Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, the series delves into the vibrant and sometimes tumultuous lives of four women navigating the bustling streets of New York City.
With its frank discussions about sex, relationships, and societal expectations, Sex and the City offered a refreshing and honest portrayal of women’s experiences. The show’s witty writing, memorable characters, and stylish aesthetic became cultural touchstones, influencing fashion trends and sparking countless discussions about feminism, sexuality, and the pursuit of happiness.
Whether you identified with Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, or Miranda, Sex and the City celebrated the complexities of female friendships and the quest for self-discovery, leaving an indelible mark on television history.
Hacks delivers a refreshing take on the classic buddy comedy, pairing Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder as two women from different generations and backgrounds who form an unexpected bond. Smart’s comedic prowess shines as Deborah Vance, a legendary Las Vegas comedian struggling to stay relevant, while Einbinder’s Ava Daniels, a young comedy writer, brings a fresh perspective to the table. The series explores themes of ageism, sexism, and the evolving landscape of comedy with wit and sensitivity.
Through its razor-sharp writing, nuanced character development, and standout performances, Hacks strikes a perfect balance between laugh-out-loud moments and poignant reflections on life and art. It celebrates the power of female voices and the resilience of those who refuse to be silenced, making it a must-watch addition to HBO’s illustrious lineup.
Barry is a unique blend of dark comedy and character study that stands out as one of HBO’s most innovative and compelling shows. Bill Hader, in a career-defining performance, plays Barry Berkman, a hitman grappling with the mundanity and moral ambiguity of his profession. The brilliance of the show lies in its ability to balance laugh-out-loud moments with profound introspection, as Barry finds himself drawn to the world of acting while struggling to leave his violent past behind.
The series expertly navigates themes of identity, redemption, and the search for purpose, all while maintaining a pitch-perfect blend of humor and pathos. With its sharp writing, exceptional performances, and a narrative that constantly surprises, Barry defies expectations, taking viewers on a wild, introspective, and thoroughly entertaining ride.
8. The Last of Us
The Last of Us is not only a gripping and emotionally charged video game but also an upcoming HBO series that promises to captivate audiences with its post-apocalyptic tale of survival and redemption. Set in a world ravaged by a fungal infection, the show follows the journey of Joel and Ellie as they navigate the dangers and moral complexities of a society on the brink of collapse. With its deeply layered characters, rich storytelling, and a profound exploration of the human spirit, The Last of Us transcends the typical video game adaptation.
It tackles themes of love, loss, and the lengths people will go to protect those they care about. The show’s potential lies in its ability to deliver intense action sequences, nuanced character dynamics, and thought-provoking ethical dilemmas that will resonate with viewers long after the credits roll.
Transporting viewers to the lawless town of Deadwood during the Wild West era, Deadwood immerses them in a rich tapestry of grit, violence, and larger-than-life characters. David Milch’s masterful storytelling shines as he crafts a world where morality is murky and survival is paramount. The show delves into the lives of pioneers, outlaws, and entrepreneurs, exploring their motivations, conflicts, and struggles in a town that defies the boundaries of civilization.
With its vivid language, poetic dialogue, and an ensemble cast that brings these historical figures to life, Deadwood is a genre-bending triumph. It seamlessly weaves together elements of Western, drama, and Shakespearean tragedy, creating a visceral and authentic depiction of a bygone era. Through its unflinching portrayal of the human condition, Deadwood captures the essence of the American frontier and leaves an indelible mark on the landscape of television.
6. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Prepare to cringe, laugh, and cringe again with Curb Your Enthusiasm, the brainchild of comedy maestro Larry David. This semi-improvised sitcom takes everyday social interactions and magnifies them to hilariously uncomfortable proportions. Larry David, playing a fictionalized version of himself, fearlessly embraces his penchant for outspokenness and unfiltered honesty, leading to awkward encounters and comedic misunderstandings at every turn.
Curb Your Enthusiasm thrives on its ability to find humor in the minutiae of everyday life, and Larry’s knack for getting himself into absurd situations is both relatable and wildly entertaining. With its sharp writing, witty banter, and a talented ensemble cast, the show brilliantly captures the idiosyncrasies of human behavior, reminding us that sometimes the most mundane moments can be the funniest.
In the cutthroat world of politics, Veep reigns supreme as a satirical tour de force. Julia Louis-Dreyfus delivers a masterful performance as the self-centered Vice President Selina Meyer, leading a stellar ensemble cast in this witty and irreverent comedy. With its rapid-fire dialogue and razor-sharp writing, the show mercilessly skewers the absurdities and egos of modern-day politics.
Veep fearlessly tackles everything from political incompetence to media spin, providing a biting critique of the power dynamics at play. It’s a hilarious examination of ambition, image management, and the lengths people will go to climb the political ladder. With each episode, the show deftly navigates the treacherous waters of politics, leaving viewers simultaneously laughing and reflecting on the state of our world.
4. Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones took the world by storm, captivating audiences with its sprawling epic fantasy and unprecedented scale. Based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, the show weaves a complex tapestry of political intrigue, power struggles, and mythical elements in the land of Westeros. From the shocking twists to the breathtaking battles, Game of Thrones pushed the boundaries of what was possible on television, creating a global phenomenon.
Though its final seasons sparked debate and divided fans, the earlier seasons showcased meticulous world-building, nuanced character development, and intricate storytelling. The show’s ability to subvert expectations, coupled with its richly drawn characters and breathtaking production values, made it an unparalleled television experience that will be remembered for years to come.
Succession enters the upper echelons of HBO’s pantheon with its astute examination of power dynamics, family dysfunction, and the pitfalls of extreme wealth. This critically acclaimed drama immerses viewers in the high-stakes world of the Roy family, media moguls grappling for control over their empire. With razor-sharp writing and a stellar ensemble cast led by Brian Cox, Succession expertly dissects the complex interplay between ambition, loyalty, and the corrosive effects of unchecked privilege.
The show’s ability to blend biting satire with genuine emotional depth creates a viewing experience that is both captivating and thought-provoking. As each character vies for dominance, the series becomes a compelling exploration of human nature and the lengths to which individuals will go to secure their legacies.
2. The Wire
The Wire stands tall as a towering achievement in television history, elevating the medium to new heights of social commentary and storytelling. This seminal series delves into the underbelly of Baltimore, intertwining the lives of cops, drug dealers, politicians, and citizens in a web of stark realism. Through its unflinching exploration of systemic issues such as urban decay, the failed war on drugs, and institutional corruption, The Wire holds a mirror up to society.
Its ensemble cast of flawed and deeply human characters allows for nuanced portrayals of complex social issues. By humanizing all sides of the narrative, the show urges viewers to confront uncomfortable truths about our society, leaving an indelible mark on the cultural landscape.
1. The Sopranos
At the pinnacle of the HBO pantheon sits The Sopranos, a show that transcends the confines of television and becomes an immersive, transformative experience. With its captivating portrayal of mob boss Tony Soprano, masterfully brought to life by the late James Gandolfini, the series reinvented the crime drama genre.
The Sopranos explores the duality of Tony’s life as a family man and a ruthless criminal, delving into his psyche with unparalleled depth. With its richly developed characters, complex moral dilemmas, and expert storytelling, the show examines the complexities of human nature, tackling themes of identity, family, and mortality.
Its legacy as a cultural phenomenon and its enduring impact on television storytelling are testaments to its brilliance.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, These are the 35 Best TV Shows Since 2002
Beginning in 1993, Kelsey Grammer was a mainstay on NBC’s airwaves thanks to the hit-show Frasier. A spin-off of the legendary Cheers, Fraiser focused on Grammer’s Fraiser Cane — a psychiatrist who returns to Seattle to host The Dr. Fraiser Cane Show, a radio show focusing on psychiatry. Fraiser made its debut four months after Cheers final episode aired, and Grammer carried the show until 2004 — 11 seasons and 264 episodes in total. Remarkably, the show won 38 Emmy awards (nominated for 108) and 24 Golden Globes.
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34. The Good Wife
Good wife, terrible husband. On this hit CBS show that aired between 2009-2016, a woman named Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) finds herself having to return to work following her husband’s embarrassing arrest. While Florrick returns to a law firm to provide for her family, her husband — a state attorney in Illinois — is jailed following a public sex and political corruption scandal. Margulies’ performance throughout the series received rave reviews and netted the star two Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The Good Wife is one of the best dramas of recent years.
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33. House of Cards
House of Cards went from being Netflix’s top dog to being an untouchable project. Led by two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, House of Cards featured a powerhouse cast, excellent writing, and a strong producer in David Fincher. The Netflix show garnered 56 Emmy nominations and won two Golden Globes — Best Actor (Spacey) and Best Actress (Robin Wright) — Television Series Drama.
However, after Spacey was hit with multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, the show-lead was fired immediately. As a result, the show was essentially finished on the spot. Without Spacey, Netflix produced one final season — consisting of eight episodes — before calling it a day.
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32. Friday Night Lights
Two years before Friday Night Lights debuted as a television series, executive producer Peter Berg had brought the sports drama to the big screen. Following the success of the film, the Dillon Panthers were the center of the (fictional) football world for another five years. Starring Kyle Chandler (head coach Eric Taylor), Connie Britton (Tami Taylor), Jesse Plemons, Taylor Kitsch and Minka Kelly, Friday Night Lights had viewers on the edge of their seats each and every episode. The show made you care about the lives of the main characters more than the results of the football games — although those games didn’t lack intensity. This is certainly a binge-worthy show.
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31. NYPD Blue
Until Grey’s Anatomy became one of the most successful shows of all-time, NYPD Blue held the distinction as being ABC’s longest-running primetime one-hour drama. The police procedural drama debuted in 1993 and remained on air until 2005. Thanks to riveting content and committed acting from its stars, NYPD Blue always felt fresh. Throughout its run, the show starred veteran actors such as David Caruso, Jimmy Smits, Dennis Franz, James McDaniel, Kim Delaney and Sharon Lawrence. Franz, playing the role of Andy Sipowicz, won a record four Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
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30. Orange Is the New Black
When Orange Is the New Black debuted in 2013, nobody could have predicted just how massive of a hit it would become. One of Netflix’s most iconic shows, OITNB brings viewers inside a women’s prison and gives a brutally honest look into the inner-workings of a prison — from the inmates to the administrators. Fans of the show quickly came to love the cast and all of the drama that was taking place inside Litchfield Penitentiary. Uzo Aduba took home two Emmys for her portrayal of Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren — winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. Aduba is the only actress to win drama and comedy Emmy awards for the same role.
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For seven seasons spanning six years, Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope was one of the most recognizable characters on television. Pope, a former White House Communications Director, opens her own crisis management firm — Olivia Pope & Associates. Pope is a top-notch fixer (like Ray Donovan) who has earned a strong reputation within the nation’s capital. Whenever there is a problem, Pope is the woman to call. With a strong supporting cast and intriguing plot lines, it is easy to see why Scandal was a smash-hit. During her run as Pope, Washington was nominated for two Emmys and two Golden Globes.
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28. South Park
Two animated sitcoms rule them all — The Simpsons and South Park. Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park utilizes dark, satirical humor and capitalizes on current events like no other show in television history. Revolving around four boys — Cartman, Kyle, Kenny and Stan — the show debuted in 1997 and quickly won over the audience with its deft humor and unique animated cutout look. Some may find South Park a bit too extreme, but it wouldn’t be the show it is if Parker and Stone weren’t willing to push the boundaries.
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27. Mad Men
Mad Men is one hell of a show. Set in the early 1960s, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is a talented ad executive who is fighting to stay at the top of the mountain as it pertains to his New York ad firm. Hamm plays the role to perfection. Draper is a chain-smoking, alcoholic executive who struggles to come to grips with his shortcomings and his wild past. The great Elisabeth Moss plays the role of Peggy Olson — a woman who goes from being Draper’s secretary to a copywriter. Mad Men is strengthened by its excellent cast, which also includes January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Kiernan Shipka, Jared Harris, and John Slattery.
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26. Modern Family
Right before the turn of the decade, on September 23, 2009, Modern Family premiered on ABC. The hit sitcom revolved around three families — the Dunphys, Pritchetts and Tucker-Pritchetts. Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) and Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen) are parents of three — Haley (Sarah Hyland), Alex and Luke. Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill), Claire’s father, is married to Gloria (Sofia Vergara). The Tucker-Pritchetts consist of Mitchell (Jay’s son), his partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), and their daughter, Lily. The three families are hilarious in their interactions, and just as funny when occupying the screen alone. Modern Family was such a success that it spanned 250 episodes and 11 years — with its finale airing on April 8, 2020.
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25. Arrested Development
Do you recognize any of the four individuals in this image? Originally on air from 2003-2006, Arrested Development featured a star-studded cast. From left to right: Portia de Rossi, Jessica Walter, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera. Narrated and produced by Ron Howard, the show is predictably filled with a ton of gags and hilarious catchphrases. Unlike his character in Ozark, Bateman plays a wholesome family man who is trying to keep his loved ones together. Michael Bluth (Bateman), a widowed father, keeps an eye on his son George Michael (Cera) while simultaneously dealing with his jailed father (Jeffery Tambor) and wild mom (Walter). This show is whacky in all the best ways.
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24. Sex and the City
Since its debut in 1998, Sex and the City has become one of the most discussed, debated, and quoted shows of the last 20 years. Following the antics of four single women — Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon — living in New York City, Sex and the City became a fan favorite almost immediately upon its premier.
The show used the four women to attack multiple social issues including sexuality, femininity and relationships. During its run, Sex garnered 50 Emmy nominations and seven wins. While the series came to an end in 2004, two films — Sex and the City, Sex and the City 2 — were released in 2008 and 2010.
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23. The Walking Dead
There will always be a place in entertainment for zombies. Whether they appear on television, in theaters, or in video games, zombies will forever be utilized. So, it should come as no surprise that The Walking Dead became one of the biggest shows of the 2010s. Based on a comic book series of the same name, the show follows a group of people who have survived a zombie apocalypse. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is the central figure for much of the series. Some of the people trying to survive alongside Rick are Daryl, Maggie, Carol, Michonne, Carl and Glenn. If you can handle blood and guts, you will have a good time watching this zombie epic.
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All four people in this shot look like they mean business. A spin-off from the series JAG, NCIS stars Mark Harmon as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs — the leader of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Washington, D.C. Major Case Response Team. Before becoming the lead agent, Gibbs spent time in the Marines and also as an investigator. Remarkably, Harmon has starred in the show since its debut in 2003. To date, Harmon has appeared in all 435 episodes of the series. Due to its popularity, CBS has created three spin-offs — NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, and NCIS: Hawaii. Season 20 of the original show is set to premier in September 2022.
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21. Stranger Things
By the time Stranger Things‘ story comes to an end, the show may rank a lot higher on this list. Created by the Duffer Brothers for streaming giant Netflix, Stranger Things is a story about friendship, destruction, and horror. Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the series follows a group of friends — Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin, Caleb, Will, Max, Nancy, Steve, Jonathan, Jim and Joyce (Winona Ryder) — as they deal with a supernatural nightmare. Watching the group try to best a Demogorgon will never get old. With the final part of Season 4 released on July 1, 2022, it may be a while before we see Stranger Things return with a new season.
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20. Battlestar Galactica
Some people may prefer the 1970 edition of Battlestar Galactica, but the 2004 reboot is considered by most to be the better show. The story begins with news of the Cylons — the main villains — returning and destroying the 12 colonies. As a result, it is paramount that the Galactica’s crew protects the remaining humans. Their end goal? Reach Earth aka the 13th colony. The crew is led by Admiral William Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell). Following the crew on their journey to Earth is exhilarating — as are their battles with the dastardly Cylons.
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Throughout the history of television, there may not be a more impactful pilot than LOST‘s September 22, 2004 debut. In the early moments of the pilot, viewers are brought to a seemingly idyllic beach. However, the beach is actually the scene of a horrifying plane crash. That episode set the tone for a series which is often considered one of the best of all-time. The survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 were pushed to the brink by many forces — including some supernatural events. The action was fun, the storytelling was brilliant (and confusing at times), and the cast was spectacular. Locke, Hurley, Kate, Sawyer, Jack, Sayid, Ben…there were so many fantastic characters that kept viewers coming back week after week.
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331 episodes, 15 seasons, 15 years — ER. Following the doctors and nurses of Chicago’s County General Hospital, ER was Grey’s Anatomy before that hit came to exist. The series debuted on NBC in 1994 and originally starred a host of notable actors including George Clooney, Julianna Margulies and Anthony Edwards. The show focused on the happenings inside the emergency room at Chicago’s County General Hospital, but also spent a fair amount of time dealing with the personal lives of the staff. Overall, ER won 23 Primetime Emmys — including Margulies winning Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 1995.
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17. The Office
Based on the British version of the same show, Ricky Gervais brought his highly-inventive mockumentary concept across the pond to the States. As fate would have it, The Office quickly turned into a juggernaut of a show — particularly on streaming services in the aftermath of its original run from 2005-2013. The eclectic personalities on this ensemble cast work brilliantly with one another. Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson, Brian Baumgartner, and Leslie David Baker — to name a few — helped form a legendary show.
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16. The Simpsons
A show that never needs an introduction, The Simpsons has been an American staple dating back to December, 1989. Created by Matt Groening, this hilarious animated sitcom relies upon satire and parodying American life to capture its audiences attention. And for over 30 years, the show has done just that. Who doesn’t love the Simpson family? Watching Bart disobey Homer will never get old. With 32 seasons and nearly 700 episodes to its name — not to mention a film and a ride at Universal Studios — The Simpsons has shown no signs of slowing down.
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Everyone knows the name Jack Bauer. Played by Kiefer Sutherland, Bauer is an elite counter terrorism agent. The format of 24 is very unique — each season covers 24 consecutive hours of Bauer’s life. Bauer is determined to put an end to every serious threat, and knows that his time to do so is limited. Also starring the likes of Dennis Haysbert, Elisha Cuthbert and Carlos Bernard, 24 is action-packed and smart. The plotlines are well thought out and almost every moment has a purpose. The show was a hit with critics, as well. In total, the series won 20 Primetime Emmys during its nine-season run.
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14. The Wire
The Wire was a transcendent program in more ways than one. Created by David Simon, the show itself was the result of a real life police reporter and a homicide detective getting together to craft multiple narratives based upon their experiences in the unforgiving city of Baltimore. Each of the shows five seasons highlighted a different issue within the city’s limits — including failing school systems, political corruption, and the drug trade. Somehow, the show never won an Emmy and only received two nominations. Regardless, the show will stand the test of time due to its storytelling and performances by the likes of Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Wendell Pierce, Domenick Lombardozzi, Idris Elba, and the late Michael K. Williams.
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13. Grey’s Anatomy
When Ellen Pompeo, Patrick Dempsey and Sandra Oh appeared on our screens in 2005, we could never have imagined the historical impact Grey’s Anatomy would have. Following a similar formula to which ER popularized (and thrived), Grey’s made viewers care about not only what was happening within the hospital — but also the personal lives of the doctors we came to know. Though Dempsey and Oh have not appeared on the show for nearly all of its past 10 seasons, Grey’s hasn’t suffered much. It is a true testament to the writers, Pompeo, and the rest of the cast that after 16 years the audience is still immersed in the drama. For ABC, Grey’s is the longest-running scripted primetime show.
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12. The Sopranos
In our opinion, there are not 11 shows that are better than The Sopranos. Creator David Chase should be thanked on a regular basis for bringing us this masterpiece. Revolving around Tony Soprano (the late James Gandolfini), the series dives into the difficulties Soprano faces while trying to balance his life at home with his responsibilities as a high-ranking mob boss. The fantastic writing and production is topped only by the stellar cast.
In addition to Gandolfini’s epic performance, the show was boosted by the likes of Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano), Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Melfi), Michael Imperioli (Christopher), Steven Van Zandt (Silvio), Tony Sirico (Paulie ‘Walnuts’) and Dominic Chianese (Junior Soprano). Gandolfini and Falco won three Emmys for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively — and the show won 21 overall.
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There have been a number of spin-offs emanating from the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Coyle. However, we don’t think there’s been nearly one as successful or well-done as this version. Sherlock only ran for 13 episodes — yet won three Emmy Awards largely based upon brilliant writing, storytelling and acting. Benedict Cumberbatch really broke out as a megastar from this performance, and it led to him starring as a lead in a number of box office hits (The Imitation Game, Doctor Strange, The Power of the Dog).
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10. The X-Files
Beginning in 1993, The X-Files original run spanned close to nine years. Starring the great David Duchovny (Mulder) and the incredibly talented Gillian Anderson (Scully) as FBI Agents, the show followed the duo as they investigated unsolved cases which involved paranormal activity. The dichotomy between Mulder’s belief in alien life and Scully’s more skeptical approach was impossible to dislike. The two stars possessed a great chemistry that only enhanced the program. It was fun, smart, and always kept you on the edge of your seat. After a 15-year hiatus, the show returned in 2016 for two additional seasons.
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9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Chosen by fate to battle vampires and demons, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers has trouble coming to grips with her destiny — often wishing she could be a normal person and not a Vampire Slayer. As we’ve seen over the course of film history, vampires are a popular topic. So, it wasn’t shocking to see Buffy the Vampire Slayer quickly become a fan-favorite. It would have been easy to dismiss as a corny supernatural show, but strong storylines and powerful performances cemented Buffy‘s place in TV history. In total, Buffy ran for seven seasons between 1997-2003.
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8. Doctor Who
Doctor Who dates back to 1963. The original version of the hit show was on air from 1963 to 1989. However, the version that ranks No. 8 on Rotten Tomatoes‘ list of best shows from the past 20 years is the current one. The new and improved Doctor Who was relaunched by BBC in 2005. In the series, a Time Lord called ‘the Doctor’ explores the universe in a time-travelling space ship.
Over the years, 13 people have played the Doctor. Since the show’s return, familiar names such as David Tennant (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) have taken on the role. In 2018, Whittaker became the first woman to play the role on television. While 13 people playing a lead role may sound a bit strange, the show does an excellent job transitioning from one actor to the next.
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7. The West Wing
People loved The West Wing. An NBC smash-hit from 1999-2006, West Wing was a riveting political drama with a very talented mix of actors and writers. The cast was excellent — with Martin Sheen (six Emmy nominations), Richard Schiff (Emmy for Best Supporting Actor), Allison Janney (four Emmy wins), John Spencer, and Bradley Whitford leading the way.
Generally regarded as one of the finest television series of all-time, West Wing peaked when its creator was on board. The brains behind the operation, Aaron Sorkin (five Emmy wins), left his show after four seasons as he became increasingly frustrated with the network. While the show remained popular and well-regarded following Sorkin’s departure, it was never quite the same.
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6. Law & Order
“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”
When a show has the lasting power to stick around for two decades, it must be good. When a show also has more than a handful of spin-off’s emanate from it, it must really be good. Dick Wolf’s Law & Order debuted in 1990 and captivated everybody that owned a television. For 20 years, Dick Wolf produced a magnificent police procedural — one that has an iconic opening sequence accompanied by an unforgettable score. Also, who hasn’t recited these words 10-to-500 times?
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The show about absolutely nothing is arguably the greatest single sitcom in the history of television. The braintrust of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld crafted weekly episodes centering on idiosyncratic behavior, absurd attention to detail, tomfoolery, and nuanced comedic timing. When smashed together with the core group (Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards), you’re left with an absolutely brilliant show. Though many have attempted to recreate this format, none have — or will ever come close to replicating the success Seinfeld enjoyed (and continues to enjoy through syndication).
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Friends was immensely formulaic in nature. It’s part of what made it both popular and easy to consume. The same jokes often were regurgitated in various packages. The storylines were easy to follow, and the audience generally knew where they were going. While the quality of the show may not have been exceptional, it certainly took the United States by storm as one of the premier sitcoms of the decade. By the show’s final seasons, there were reports that the six main actors from the show (Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry) were making $1 million an episode.
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3. The Big Bang Theory
Who saw this one coming? While The Big Bang Theory is definitely worthy of a spot on this list, the sitcom checking in at No. 3 is a bit of a shocker. In the show, two California-based physicists work and live together. It is evident from the very start that the two men are a bit eccentric. However, Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) — the latter won four Emmys for Best Actor — will come to realize that there is more to life than work. When a woman named Penny (Kaley Cuoco) moves across the hall from the friends, the pair start looking at life in a different way. The dynamic between the three (and two other close friends) resonated with viewers. The Big Bang Theory enjoyed a 12-season run which spanned 12 years and 279 episodes.
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2. Breaking Bad
What could possibly go wrong when a cancer stricken high school science teacher (Bryan Cranston) decides to start cooking crystal meth? Everything. A husband and father, Walter White turns to cooking meth in order to make some extra cash before cancer takes him away from his family. However, WW’s desire to make some money turns into an addiction when he comes to understand the power that comes with his success in the business. With his DEA Agent brother-in-law trying to dismantle the meth ring, WW’s actions become even more precarious. Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito and Bob Odenkirk are outstanding in their roles, as well. This is a show that will keep you on the edge of your seat from Episode 1 until the closing shot of the series.
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1. Game of Thrones
There’s no other way to put it: Game of Thrones was a global phenomenon during its 73-episode run (over the span of eight seasons). Based on the novels penned by George R.R. Martin, this series was arguably the biggest thing to happen to the realm of fantasy since the Harry Potter series (and before that, anything written/evolving from J.R.R. Tolkien content). The depth of this series was virtually unlike any before it — not to mention the stunning visuals, thrilling storylines, and the ‘shock value’ it brought. In the social media age, this show was debated at a level unlike anything else. Over eight seasons, Game of Thrones won a whopping 59 Emmy Awards. As a result of its success, a handful of spinoff series are on the way. First up, House of the Dragon (debuted in 2022).
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