With this list, Crizic celebrates the 10 greatest TV shows in the history of the medium, those shows that innovated and revolutionized small-screen entertainment, by way of outrageous, ground-breaking concepts, award-winning acting, and ambitious storytelling that toyed with the very idea of exactly what could or couldn’t be talked about and shown on TV.
10. Twin Peaks:
Twin Peaks was an uncommonly compelling show that wrapped itself up in enigma after enigma, to the point that viewers were in sheer agony while waiting to find out the identity of homecoming queen Laura Palmer’s killer.
9. The West wing:
There was never a better platform for Aaron Sorkin’s passionate rhetoric to take flight than President Josiah Bartlet’s bully pulpit.
Yet more proof that Fox is run by some of the most idiotic people in showbiz, they never really gave Joss Whedon’s short-lived but immensely-loved sci-fi western a chance, cancelling it after 11 of its 14 episodes had aired, while inconsistent scheduling and airing episodes out of order naturally never allowed it to amass the fanbase it needed. It’s devastating to think about what the show could have been if Fox just gave it a chance, but the show’s massive cult success is a testament to how brightly it burned for its brief tenure on our screens.
The hilarious spirits of the masters of their domains echo in shows like Veep and cocreator Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, but Seinfeld set the bar for lovable outrageousness with memorable shtick that shocked and awed. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
6. True Detective:
True Detective ticked boxes that no other television show could. The Wire was the closest show
that came close to bringing the same amount of depth, and that was a different kind of depth.
Lots of anger was expressed for the ending, but also large praise.
5. The Simpsons:
Easily the most successful animated TV series of all time, The Simpsons has influenced practically every major animated show that has followed its stead, most notably Family Guy. With its depiction of the average American family, Matt Groening’s greatest creation won its way into our hearts with the hilarious buffoonery of patriarch Homer, alongside dutiful wife Marge, prissy
daughter Lisa, trouble-maker son Bart, and of course, the mostly-mute baby, Maggie.
4. House of Cards:
We went in with high hopes, given that this is a show starring an Oscar (the correct collective noun) of respected film stars with David Fincher behind the camera for the pilot and several episodes thereafter. Happily, House Of Cards lived up to the billing and proved more than just a fresh adaptation of the 1990 BBC drama or its source novel. Relocating the story to the US, with its fractured political system and sloshing piles of political money, paid big dividends, and as the Macbeth and Lady Macbeth at the heart of the piece, Spacey and Wright were flawless.
3. Breaking Bad:
Quite possibly no TV show since the end of The Wire has created as much of a furore as Breaking Bad, the absurdly addictive crime drama series starring Bryan Cranston as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.
2. The Sopranos:
A family saga like no other and a Mafia drama that whacked us repeatedly with its psychological riches and gallows humor, David Chase’s groundbreaking masterpiece asked us to empathize with the most human of mobsters (and monsters): Tony, played by the great James Gandolfini. He, and his gang haunt us still.
1. The Wire:
The Wire is a slice of TV heaven almost completely beyond reproach: it’s a slow-burn for sure and
requires viewers to be patient, but those prepared to do so will be rewarded with one of the most
compelling and thought-provoking sociological studies in the history of the medium. Simply the
greatest show ever made on earth. Period.