Top 50 TV Shows Of All Time
Updated: Jan 1, 2022
In April I took up the task of ranking what I believe to be the top 100 songs of all time. I enjoyed it so much that I needed to find something else to rank. What did I choose? TV shows of course.
Given how much television shows have played a role in my life I thought it would be the next best subject to rank and also help promote some shows that perhaps don’t get the love they thoroughly deserve. And with that in mind, you can probably guess based on my recent post, that no, Game Of Thrones is not on this list.
As with my list of songs, there was no criteria. No algorithm. No methodology. It’s a list purely made up of personal preference, and a list of 50 shows that to me exist in their own right as amazing shows that somehow forged a strong part of my life. Shows that you can binge on repeat and never get sick of. Shows that to me, are simply the best.
So without further ado I present to you the greatest 50 TV shows of all time…at least according to me.
50. Secret Diary Of A Call Girl (2007-2011)
This is a show that seemingly was popular for about 5 minutes then was swept under the rug of obscurity. I somehow stumbled across watching this late at night and was hooked. Billie Piper does a great job with the main character and really attempting to put a new spin on sex work and the stigmas that come with it. Overall though the series is just fun, and it’s a show that you can easily put on and enjoy over a day or two and be fully caught up. An entertaining little show that does enough to just sneak into my top 50.
49. Californication (2007-2014)
When I put together my candidates for my top 50 shows of all time I was certain Californication would make it higher on the list. I was hooked to David Duchovny as Hank Moody in the early seasons and couldn’t get enough of his drastic turn away from Mulder and seemingly just having fun with a role that probably was closer to his real life than he would ever admit. But the show I think just became a bit same same after a while, and it’s a show I haven’t had a lot of desire to go back and watch since it ended. Having said that though, it’s still a great, fun show and one that I would highly recommend to anybody who wants to watch a show of that nature.
48. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Having Buffy in the lower numbers to me isn’t a reflection on the show itself. It’s more of a case that I have only had the pleasure of watching it through once and that was more than a decade ago. However my fondness for the show is reflected by it making my list. It was a show I avoided for years upon years growing up as it was nothing more than “that annoying vampire show my sister watches”. The problem of course is that I should never had that mentality and should’ve given it a chance because the show is incredible. Sarah Michelle Gellar IS Buffy, and any other attempts to make another version of the show will fail miserably if she isn’t in the role again. The entire cast though has some of the best chemistry I have ever seen on screen, and the weekly storylines are just so engaging in mixing the right balance of fun and seriousness. And of course there is THAT musical episode which is still one of the best hours of television I have ever seen. Very much worth a re-watch soon that’s for sure.
47. The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019)
When The Big Bang Theory first started I thought it looked stupid. I vividly remember watching the first episode and thinking “well this is dumb and it won’t last”. Fast forward 12 years and clearly was not only I wrong, but also wrong in not enjoying it. The weird thing is too is that it apparently is now common knowledge that the show ‘sucks’ and it should be hated for being ‘not funny’. While it is not the greatest sitcom of all time, there is no denying the quality of the show for the first 7 or 8 seasons and delivering some genuinely funny TV which is where I have never understood the criticism labelled against it. Sure, the comedy landscape has shifted well beyond traditional laugh track sitcoms, but they still hold their place in the television landscape. Sheldon is one of the most unique characters ever in TV, and there is no denying the chemistry that the four main characters have and their ability to naturally work off each other to deliver the laughs. There is also the fact that Penny is just a fun character to also enjoy with our main four guys. It may be cool to hate the show, but I for one like to keep being uncool and like it. Bazinga.
46. The Following (2013-2015)
Kevin Bacon on TV is a recipe for amazing television. And while he has been in a couple of shows since The Following (which I sadly haven’t seen), there is just something about this show that was fantastic. The dark, gritty nature of the show alongside some fantastic performances by the cast made it captivating viewing, and the cat and mouse nature of the story really made it feel like a darker more sinister 24 in some of the best moments of the show. James Purefoy was almost as good as Bacon in this show, and definitely made me a huge fan of his with his portrayal of the evil Joe Carroll. Sure it got a bit repetitive towards the end and it probably ended at just the right time, but still a show that deserves more credit than it ultimately received.
45. Episodes (2011-2017)
This show was fantastic and so enjoyable. Seeing a warped version of Matt LeBlanc struggling to recapture his Friends fame was a treat, and overall the entire cast or characters were just so much fun. I always do enjoy a show that manages to poke fun at the television industry and Episodes did it in an extremely clever way. It was seemingly swept under the rug a bit in Australia so it was hard to really keep up to date with it, but it’s one I highly recommend for those who have never seen it. It’s particularly a fun ride for Friends fans with several in-jokes, especially in the early seasons. And of course it’s not all about LeBlanc, with Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan shining as Beverly and Sean. Do yourself a favour and watch it if you haven’t already.
44. Canal Road (2008)
Is this the most invisible and underrated show on my list? Perhaps. Canal Road is maybe a show you have never heard of, and probably for a variety of reasons. In the hype train that was the first season of Underbelly in 2008 in Australia, this was the Aussie drama chosen to replace it once it ended. It’s safe to say it didn’t live up to the hype that was Underbelly and never really stood a chance honestly and it’s such a damn shame given how good the show was. It featured a fairly unknown cast of Aussie actors mixed with a few notable ones and centred around an office in Melbourne which featured a variety of different professions ranging from a doctor, lawyer and social worker and how they were all connected and a murder mystery that centred amongst it all. To me it was kind of a Secret Life Of Us but in a weird office environment, and it definitely deserves a lot more credit than it ever received. It’s a show that is probably impossible to find now, but if you manage to see it in the bargain bin at a DVD store, grab it and see why it shouldn’t be forgotten.
43. How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)
Oh the position this should’ve finished. I loved HIMYM and at it’s peak there wasn’t a show on that I loved and laughed at more. But THAT ending. Wow. To this day it has made me so angry and bitter against it that I refuse to re-watch it until I feel enough time has passed. The characters were just so engaging. The whole idea behind it was just so unique. And Barney. Damn. Is he one of the funniest characters in TV history? So much to love, but again…THAT ENDING. I’m sorry HIMYM that I can’t let it go just yet, but you still are so good and funny in my mind that you still are able to make my top 50.
42. The X-Files (1993-2002, 2016-2018)
It certainly wasn’t the first ‘adult’ TV show I was allowed to watch but it was one of the first that I really found myself getting hooked to and falling in love with. While I was nowhere near obsessed with it as much as my sister was, it was still a huge part of my childhood to the fact that I would legitimately pretend to be an FBI agent at school and roleplay the show with my friends at recess and lunch and walk around with a plastic gun and Fox Mulder FBI badge pinned to my chest. Is there a greater duo than Mulder and Scully in TV history? Probably not. But it’s safe to say that we wouldn’t have had an entire decade of quirky male/female pairings in the 2000s if The X-Files never existed. We also wouldn’t have had a new found obsession with aliens and all things paranormal either, which I for one am incredibly thankful for. Sure the reboot wasn’t exactly great (with the exception of the incredible episodes Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster and Rm9sbG93ZXJz), and only 50% of the movies were good, but The X-Files remains such an iconic show and one that I remain very fond of.
41. 30 Rock (2006-2013)
I absolutely adore Tina Fey. She might be one of the smartest and funniest television writers to have ever been a television writer. And while I was late to the 30 Rock bandwagon, I soon fell in love with it’s incredibly witty humour and great cast of characters. Alec Baldwin is another personal favourite actor of mine and the chemistry between him and Fey is just so compelling to watch. And they aren’t the only ones. As I have mentioned on this list previously I love a show that is able to poke fun at the television industry and there might not be a better example of it than 30 Rock. It also remains the only show that I know of that actually makes reference to Third Watch, which automatically makes it an awesome show. Another show that I’ll be putting on the re-watch list soon.
40. We Can Be Heroes (2005)
The first of three Chris Lilley shows to make my list, his original show mocking a variety of everyday Australians remains as one of the greatest ever Australian TV shows. Phil Olivetti remains as the most personally relatable character he has ever done, and I still am holding out hope he’ll bring him back for another series one day. Lilley is just so on the ball when it comes to his style of comedy and being able to replicate a level of humour and satire with some fairly deep and emotional storylines along the way. Let’s be honest, you all cried over the Pat Mullins storyline and rightfully so. It was super sad. But it does come from a genius who is so perfect at creating great television.
39. Spellbinder (1995)
Just because a show is a kids show doesn’t mean it’s exempt from being on this list. I for one have watched Spellbinder multiple times as an adult and still adore every single second of it. The show tells the tale of an everyday Australian teenager who finds himself transported into a parallel universe and the battles he faces with their new lifestyle. When those lifestyles then clash with his own life, it of course creates a level of drama and intrigue which I have struggled to see in any subsequent Australian children’s show since. Such a great show that really does bring the nostalgia. We just won’t talk about the lesser sequel, which I refuse to call a second season and simply separate it from the show. A kids show that needs to be re-visited as an adult.
38. American Horror Story (2011-Current)
If there is an overall winner of this list it is Ryan Murphy. The guy is the greatest writer in the history of television in my eyes, and the fact that every show he creates is incredible television just shows how amazing he is. American Horror Story is a prime example of this, and through every unique and individual season is able to captivate you in a unique way that is so vastly different to any other show that exists currently on television. The beauty of AHS is that you can literally pick up an season and watch it and not feel like you’ve missed anything in previous seasons. Sure there are connections in later seasons to past seasons, but they aren’t required viewing. And through the incredibly casting that Murphy is able to replicate across all his shows, it brings an addictive form of storytelling that is able to be enjoyed on its own or as an entire anthology. Special props of course to the amazing Jessica Lange, as well as a certain Lady Gaga, who showcased just how great of an actor she is well before she ever did A Star Is Born. Don’t think this is the last you’ll hear from Ryan Murphy in the coming entries either…
37. True Blood (2008-2014)
Now this is a show I shouldn’t like. Vampires? Meh. Not something I particularly fawn over. Particularly when it comes to a vampire love story. This was the late 2000s remember, when a little thing called Twilight was all the rage. But for some reason I caved and watched it, and for some reason I fell in love with it. There was just something about the style in which the show was made that drew me to it. Perhaps it was the dark tone, the graphic nature of the gore and sex, or just the great characters the show had. Or perhaps just a combination of everything I just mentioned. Whatever it was, True Blood just worked. By the end it was a little tired but that is generally how it works with television. But there is no denying that early on True Blood had some incredibly addictive episodes and was one addictive TV show to watch.
36. Flight Of The Conchords (2007-2009)
Given I now live in New Zealand it seems appropriate to include a show from this beautiful country. However this would be on my list no matter where I lived. Flight Of The Conchords is just so damn funny. It’s that unique style where you are cheering for two guys who really are losers trying to make it big with some incredibly useless people around them attempting to make it happen. Murray is perhaps one of my favourite characters in the history of television, and whenever I need cheering up I’m quick to jump on YouTube and watch a variety of ‘best of Murray’ clips to promptly put a smile on my face. Then there is the music. Songs that you can simply put on your iPod, listen, laugh and dance along to all at the same time. It’s such a shame that there were only two seasons made. A great show to just put on and laugh at on a casual Sunday afternoon.
35. The Young Ones (1982-1984)
Another show that only lasted two seasons. The Young Ones was introduced to me by my dad when he randomly got a VHS of it from a garage sale. As any kid would of a certain age I groaned about it and thought it looked stupid and didn’t want to watch it. But boy was I glad I did. It is a show that is ultimately so random and so weird that it just makes it hilarious. Hearing what your peas and carrots say to each other before they are about to be eaten. Having Goldilocks and the three bears decide to go to McDonald’s instead of eating porridge. Discovering Buddy Holly alive in your new bedroom and attempting to make profits off him before he dies. How does any of this make it on to TV and actually make you laugh? Somehow it all just works and to this day can make you laugh your head off at any given moment. One of the greatest things to have ever come from Britain.
34. South Park (1997-Current)
We all have those things growing up that we become so obsessed with it seems like our whole life revolves around it. For a short period of my childhood, South Park was exactly that, despite the fact that I actually wasn’t allowed to watch it. There was just something so funny and unique about watching such an overly adult show as a 12-year-old. My friends all joined me in that fact too, and we would collect magazines, newspaper clippings and pretty much anything we could about South Park. The fact it can remain so incredibly clever and funny 20 years later is a testament to how clever and funny Matt Stone and Trey Parker are as writers, and I’m sure it will remain that way for many more years to come. That’s a lot more than can be said about a certain other long standing prime time cartoon, but we’ll learn a little bit more about that one soon…
33. Glee (2009-2015)
If you had of said to me when Glee came out that one day it’ll appear on your list of top 50 TV shows of all time, I would’ve laughed in your face. I was so adamant to avoid it when it first came out that I just didn’t want to give it a chance. But eventually I did, and boy am I glad I did. I should’ve never really doubted the chances of falling in love with the show given it is of course a Ryan Murphy show (that’s 2 so far on this list). But musicals? No thanks. Especially when it came to making a musical out of current songs. Sure they didn’t always get it right (their version of Hung Up is a travesty), but for the most part the covers were just fun, energetic and made you want to listen to them. There was also a great balance of comedy and drama mixed in with the songs which just somehow all came together perfectly. I know this is one of the entries that people will no doubt berate me for, but I’m prepared to own it, embrace it and then sing along to the soundtrack to accept it. Gleeks assemble!
32. Micallef Tonight (2003)
Shaun Micallef is probably the funniest man in the history of Australian television. His sense of sarcastic, witty humour is just so on point it’s hard not to be captivated by him. For a short period in 2003 he was given the reigns of a primetime talk show on a commercial network in Australia and for that very short period he produced some of the funniest television I have ever seen. Micallef’s style was just so perfect for the genre, and his ability to completely not give two hoots about the guests on the show and treat them like crap was just utterly hilarious. It’s just such a shame that the public didn’t respond to the genius of the show and it only lasted a couple of months. A highlights DVD was released a few years later and I highly recommend getting a copy of it to see just how great the show truly was.
31. The Newsroom (2012-2014)
As a journalist it’s often rare to see a positive portrayal of my profession in pop culture. More often than not we’re nothing but evil, obsessed demons who only care about the story and not about people. And while The Newsroom doesn’t exactly say otherwise, it does show a pretty accurate depiction of journalism and just what it takes to break a story and everything that comes with it. This was one of the first times I think I ever saw Jeff Daniels play a serious role and man does he deliver. Mixed with some other outstanding cast members and The Newsroom was addictive television at its finest. Aaron Sorkin does fast talking, conversational television better than anyone and his style was so well suited to this show that it’s a shame it never quite reached the heights or longevity that his baby The West Wing did. A great show well worth re-visiting.
30. Homeland (2011-Current)
Homeland is a show that is nowhere near as good as it once was but that still doesn’t stop me from watching it. Part of that for sure can be put down to the fact that I hate giving up on a show, even when it turns bad. But the other part comes down to the fact that it is still for the most part great television. Sure the early days of Carrie and Brody have never been matched, but Claire Danes brings out her absolute best each week and never fails to amaze me at just how incredible of an actress she is. Homeland is able to successfully blend a strong mixture of action, drama and intrigue across every season and definitely deserves all the plaudits it has received over the years. Have to give special props to Mandy Patinkin while I write this, who I have to say has perhaps the greatest beard on television right now.
29. Better Call Saul (2015-Current)
I was sceptical as to how a Breaking Bad prequel would really work but I think alongside many I was promptly proven wrong with any negative thoughts that might’ve existed. Better Call Saul does far more than simply provide fan service to Breaking Bad fans and expands on the stories told in that show to a level I’ve never seen done before on a spin-off show. Bob Odenkirk deserved his own show no matter what the project, and rightfully so it turned out to be his crowning glory with his crowning character. The beauty of the show too is that it can be enjoyed without having ever seen Breaking Bad, as there are strong enough characters and stories to really hook in a viewer. How long will the show last until it eventually catches us up on everything we need to know? Who knows. All I do know is that I’ll be tuning in to every hour until it reaches that inevitable day.
28. Late Show With David Letterman (1993-2015)
Growing up one of my dream jobs was to be a late night talk show host. Somehow I still hold onto that dream but I can owe that dream to growing up watching the genius that is David Letterman. Despite my mother constantly telling me how terrible he was, I stuck to my guns and tuned in on any night I could stay up late enough to enjoy it. It was compulsorily viewing during my summer school holidays, and I was even lucky enough to be in the audience for a taping back in 2010 during my first ever visit to New York. And while Stephen Colbert has kept the show and some of Letterman’s legacy alive, nothing can ever compare to just how great of a host he was and how much fun he could have with pretty much anything he could think of. One of my biggest influences in my media career, that is for sure. Thanks Dave.
27. Angry Boys (2011)
The second Chris Lilley show to appear on this list, I feel that Angry Boys is very much underappreciated. Lilley went all out on the production with this series given his deal with HBO and it definitely showed what he was capable of when given the budget. Some of his best characters are easily from Angry Boys, with S.Mouse and Gran two of my personal favourites. Sure there was controversy, but when does a Lilley show not attract that? It’s the genius within Lilley to accurately portray satire with his characters and connect them all with a level of intrigue and emotion that allows every one of his series to have an epic pay off. The one show of his that should get more credit than it ever has.
26. The Complete Adventures Of Lano & Woodley (1997-1999)
Lano & Woodley might possibly be my favourite comedic duo and the fact that they had their very own TV show for a period of time in the 90s makes me incredibly happy. Especially when it was just so damn good and so damn funny. Their style of comedy was made for TV, and the situations they found themselves in while living together in an apartment brought tears of laughter week after week. Frank Woodley would of course go on to star in a somewhat similar yet more grounded show a decade later that didn’t quite live up to the heights of this show, but given how talented both he and Colin Lane are I’m surprise this concept has never been re-visited. Bring them back to my screen already!
25. Desperate Housewives (2004-2012)
I feel as though this might get me the most judgement on this list but I stand by this entry. Desperate Housewives was great television, and one of the few shows on this list that really maintained a similar level of quality across all seasons. There was no doubting the impact it had on TV when it came along in 2004 with fellow ABC network darling Lost, and it was hard to avoid seeing it and not getting hooked on it. All four of the main cast were just incredible to watch, each bringing their own quirks and intricacies to some very well rounded storylines. Somehow the over the top soap opera style just worked and hooked me in each week, and it’s one of the few shows I have seen that took a huge leap with a twist (the five year fast forward) and it paid off spectacularly. I’ve had this on top my re-watch list for a long time and I think it’s time I finally made my way back to Wisteria Lane and make it happen.
24. The Chaser’s War On Everything (2006-2009)
I first discovered The Chaser a few years before War On Everything became a huge hit with their news satire CNNNN and was instantly hooked on their level of sarcasm and satire blended with news coverage. So it was only natural that I would get hooked on this show. I aspired to be like them and could only dream of being able to pull of stunts and tricks the way they did and provide the type of social commentary on society that made people laugh so hard it hurt. It was just that good. It also made politics fun, with their election specials always a highlight of any federal election. I had the pleasure of seeing them live a few times as well as interviewing a couple of them over the years, and that only adds to my overall fandom of the group as well as this show in general. Easily one of the funniest Australian TV shows ever made.
23. Dexter (2006-2013)
Dexter was definitely a show I discovered through working at Sanity and one that I finally caved in when continuously being told to watch it. And for very valid reasons. The show at its peak was must watch TV and beyond addicting. Michael C Hall simply owned the character in a way I’ve seen done only a few times and it just always found a way to make itself bigger and better. The first two seasons and the amazing season 4 are easily some of the greatest seasons of television ever made, and I will say that season 3 and 5 aren’t as bad as many people say they are. For sure there was a quality drop in the final few seasons and of course there was THAT finale, but there was still plenty of good before it ultimately went bad. One of the few shows I would gladly see a reboot of if the rumours end up coming true.
22. Damages (2007-2012)
Oh how I loved this show. I remember vividly the promos that sold it so damn well and I’m glad I gave it a chance because it was so addicting and so well acted. Most of that came from the incredible Glenn Close who was so damn sinister and captivating as Patty Hewes, but also from the very underrated Rose Byrne who shines across all five seasons. I’m not usually one for legal dramas but there was just something about the mixture of the legal with the criminal that gave a perfect balance of intrigue. I also will say it had one of the best ever theme songs I’ve ever heard, and the final scene of the final episode is one of the greatest ever filmed. Watch this show if you haven’t already. It’s worth every minute of it.
21. Will & Grace (1998-2006, 2017-Current)
Few shows have made me laugh as much as Will & Grace did. When it was good, it was really good. But as the recent reboot has shown, it can also be quite bad. I’ll talk about that separately in just a moment because I feel as though both periods of the show need to be looked at differently. There was just so much to appreciate about the style of comedy Will & Grace gave us. The four main characters were just so well connected that they could work off each other without barely raising a sweat. There was also the small fact that the two ‘supporting’ characters in Jack and Karen constantly stole the show from the main duo of Will and Grace. Overall it all was just a perfect blend of chemistry, comedy and everything else in between, with some of the best (and worst) use of guest stars in a television show. But of course, they brought it back. And at first it was great. It felt like the show never left us and we were right back with our beloved four like no time had passed. But recent episodes have done nothing but preach an agenda and lose the comedy that made the show so funny in the first place. I’ll still watch it as long as it exists, but I just hope it can return to the glory days when comedy was first and an agenda was second.
20. Summer Heights High (2007)
The greatest Chris Lilley show by far. Summer Heights High was an absolute perfect satire of life at an Australian high school. It legitimately felt like I was back at school watching this show, and Lilley masterfully re-created every aspect of how high school works. Jonah in particular was close to home, as I had a very very similar friend during my high school days. Sure the two spin-offs weren’t as great as the highs of SHH, but they still did have their moments. It also had a great song to come from it, which if you ask me is just an added bonus in making it great. This was absolute peak Lilley, and he appropriately received all the plaudits that came with it. And the great thing is it still holds up perfectly to this day. Watch it if you haven’t, you won’t be disappointed.
19. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014-Current)
I mentioned earlier my long standing dream to be a late night TV host, and if I was to choose one style of show perhaps that would be the ultimate dream it would be Last Week Tonight. The style in which this show is presented is exactly the type of humour I would want to present, and John Oliver is perfect as the host to deliver it to the audiences. The great thing about LWT is that is also so damn educational, and I have found myself learning so much about a variety of issues across the years. And it is done in a way that even the most boring of subjects become entertaining. Sure it can get a tad preachy sometimes, but even the most preachy of subjects are done in such a way that I won’t tune out. Oliver is perhaps one of my favourite humans on the planet, and this show rapidly rises up my ranks as one of my favourite of all time. So damn good.
18. American Crime Story (2016-Current)
Another entry, another Ryan Murphy show. American Crime Story may have only had two seasons but both are almost so damn perfect that I had to put it this high on my list. The People v. O. J. Simpson hooks you right away, and for a story that pretty much everyone knows, it is done so well that you feel like you have no clue what is happening at any given point. And the actors that defy all logic to be good in roles they shouldn’t be. David Schwimmer, John Travolta, Cuba Gooding Jr. Incredible. And the same can be said for The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Darren Criss delivers perhaps the greatest transitional performance I have ever seen, going from a mild mannered school kid in Glee to an absolute psychopath in ACS. There is also the likes of Ricky Martin and Penelope Cruz, who are incredible in their own right. Some of the most addictive and captivating television I have ever watched. Bring on the next season already.
17. The Simpsons (1989-Current)
Was there any show better than The Simpsons when it was at its peak? Maybe not, but the sad thing of course is that it’s been so long since there was a peak that it’s almost hard to remember those days. There really is no denying however how much of an impact this show had on the television landscape and it still remains perhaps the most quotable TV show of all time. And we all have our favourite episodes that we know off by heart right? Name a TV show that can have that much of an impact after all these years. The Simpsons is just that iconic and good. It’s actually quite funny to think that as a child I wasn’t allowed to watch the show, but those days where my sister and I used to sneak into the rumpus room to watch it definitely helped me grow my fondness for the show and make it apart of my life.
16. Popular (1999-2001)
Oh how great this show was. The very first show to come from Ryan Murphy, it showed all the trademarks of his writing style and was just incredible to watch. I often like to liken it to Glee but without the music which I still feel holds true. But the beauty of Popular that it was actually quite dark in places, and the level of just random weirdness also made it even better than it should’ve been. The characters in this show too are among my all time favourites in TV history, with Nicole and Mary Cherry very high up on that list. It’s also great to see many of the actors in this show go on to appear in many of Murphy’s later series and see that he clearly still is fond of the people he started with to start his TV career. I re-watched both seasons a couple of years ago and it holds up quite well, and it’s still a huge shame that we never got a third series to wrap up the big cliffhanger the show ended on. Can we have a long awaited reboot please Mr Murphy?
15. The Dream with Roy and HG (2000-2004)
Anybody who knows me knows I love the Olympics. Anybody who also knows me knows I love comedy. So what happens when you mix the two together? You get the incredible show that was The Dream. Roy & HG are incredibly smart and witty and their sense of comedy was an absolute perfect fit to cover an event like the Olympics. Every night during Sydney 2000 I was hooked to their interviews with athletes at the games, and as a 13 year old I was absolutely influenced by their overall style moving forward into my own career. And who could forget their commentary? Perhaps the greatest comedic sports commentary ever done. Their subsequent versions during the Salt Lake City and Athens Olympics were just as good, and it’s a shame they haven’t fully come back to do an Olympics since. Perhaps the greatest sports entertainment show ever made.
14. Kath & Kim (2002-2007)
Perhaps the most quotable Australian show of all time, Kath & Kim remains one of my most re-watched shows in my entire life. It’s a show that I legitimately can never get sick of, and the fact that every single Australian knows at least one person who is completely the same as the characters on the show makes it even greater. There is just so much to love about Kath & Kim. So so much. And it never ages. I swear this show will still seem fresh, funny and new in 30 years times. Gina Riley and Jane Turner are genius writers, and they are also genius actors in getting the most out of both of the titular characters. We’ll of course ignore the pretty bad movie that was made, as well as the god awful American version too. Because we’re really getting into the perfect shows now, and Kath & Kim is pretty much perfect.
13. Always Greener (2001-2003)
Always Greener is perhaps the most underrated of all shows on this list for the pure fact that barely anybody remembers it. And that is such a damn shame. Packed To The Rafters turned into a huge hit in Australia in the late 2000s and I never understood how a show which was basically Always Greener but slightly tamer could reach the success that Always Greener deserved to. The casting was perfect. Every single member of both the families were incredibly captivating to watch and you just wanted to know more and more every week. There was a level of quirk about the show that was great and the high level of drama and undertones of comedy just fit like a very comfy glove. It was one of the saddest moments in my TV watching life when this show was unceremoniously cancelled, and it baffles me that nobody even seemed to care when it happened. If there is one show on this list I want re-booted the most, it would be Always Greener. So come on TV gods, make it happen.
12. House Of Cards (2013-2018)
I was late to the House Of Cards bandwagon but boy was I glad I joined it. The show is absolutely addicting, and it has some of the best twists I have ever seen on TV. Especially one certain one involving a train, which I would argue is perhaps the greatest twist in the history of television. It’s an unpopular thing to say now but I’m going to say it anyway: Kevin Spacey is one of my favourite actors. And if there was anyone else in this show besides him then there is every chance I wouldn’t have watched. But of course I’m glad I did because it made me appreciate just how incredible Robin Wright is and that she is far more than Jenny from Forrest Gump. The last season was absolutely terrible, and it’s a shame that it had to end that way. But for the rest of the series run this show barely moved out of perfect territory, and is one of the most binge worthy shows I have ever watched.
11. Fawlty Towers (1975-1979)
Often regarded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, Fawlty Towers still holds up to this day as simply one of the funniest things ever recorded. It just has the absolute perfect mix of comedy and timing, and it never gets old and never stops being able to make me laugh. John Cleese is a genius, and his talents are on full display on every episode of the show. A lot of people complain that it was too short, but I for one think it is absolutely perfect how long it ran for as it’s hard to fathom just how much more could’ve been made from the already perfect show. At the time of writing this it is my go to show when I just want to put something on to relax and unwind, and it has really been that way for most of my life. A true legend in the TV show stakes.
10. The OC (2003-2007)
I remember the hype train around The OC when it first started and I remember just how hooked me and my friends were on the show. Everyday after it aired it was the topic of conversation for hours upon hours, and there was just no escaping how great this show was. It was an odd thing too for me to get into, as I had never been one to like the style of show The OC was. But there was just something so dynamic about the way the show was put together. Not only was it about the drama around pretty rich teenagers, there was the whole element to the adults as well which somehow made it so much more entertaining. And then there was the music. Man, what great music. Everything just fit perfectly together in so many ways. It was a great time to be a teenager watching The OC and it still holds up pretty well over a decade later. Now just try getting the theme song out of your head…
9. Frontline (1994-1997)
Given we’re now into the top ten you know these shows are all basically perfect. Frontline is definitely in that category. The greatest Australian TV show ever made by a long shot, Frontline was clever, funny and engaging on all levels. I still remember actually having to study episodes of the show at university when studying journalism, it was that spot on with the satire. Rob Sitch is an icon of Australian comedy, and his portrayal of Mike Moore might be one of my top ten characters in the history of television. And it’s of course not all about Mike. Brooke and Marty were equally as good, and the myriad of other characters on the show were perfect. This is a show that if I put on an episode to watch, I have to just keep watching it till it’s done. And even then I’m tempted to just start all over and watch it again. If you’ve never seen it, go and watch it. And if you have seen it, go and watch it again. You’ll thank me later for that advice.
8. Lost (2004-2010)
One of the many things that baffles me over all the love for Game of Thrones is that the fans seem to think this is the first time a show has captivated the world in the way it has. Seemingly forgotten in all of that is a little show called Lost, which ended barely a year or two before GOT even started. Lost was absolute must watch TV, and the water cooler nature of it made it impossible to avoid. It seemingly gets so much negativity around it nowadays, with people claiming it never answered anything and became so convoluted it wasn’t worth it anymore. But Lost is a show which warrants a second viewing. Hell, a third and fourth viewing. Because the answers are there, and not only are they there, they are explained and setup in ways that were just so damn ahead of their time it needs to get more credit than it ultimately ever got. And all of this from a network show. Crazy. In the current television landscape this would never happen anymore, and that just goes to show how damn ground-breaking Lost was. A show that will never ever get old.
7. Friends (1994-2004)
Speaking of shows that will never get old, Friends is easily in that basket. It is a show that I have lost count at how many times I’ve re-watched it but somehow I never ever get sick of it. Even flicking channels, if I see it is on TV I will watch it. Oh, that episode where they pee on each other is on? Who cares, I’ll watch it again. The one with the prom tape? Seen it a million times…but I’ll watch it! It’s so good. There really is little to say that hasn’t been said about the show in general, especially over just how great the entire cast work together. Is it perhaps the best chemistry ever on a TV show? One could argue that for sure. Some of the best comedic writing of all time? Definite case for that as well. One thing however that there isn’t a case for is the fact that many of the jokes are now offensive in the eyes of millennials. If that is something people want to take up time with trying to debate, then they do need a special kind of help. Times change, for the better usually, and what is funny and not offensive today will no doubt be not funny and very offensive in ten years time. Does that mean it’s not worth valuing? Absolutely not. Does it mean it’s not funny anymore? Hell no. The show is genius and brilliant and incredible and nothing anybody can say will stop that from being true. Period. Go back to your avocado lattés millennials, because my Friends will always be there for me.
6. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
I’ll admit it. I never watched Breaking Bad when it was at the peak of its popularity. It’s not like I wanted to avoid it, it just never became a show I felt the need to watch. But I caved, I cracked and boy oh boy was I glad I did. The show is every bit as incredible as everyone told me it would be, and there is no denying just how addictive the show is or how great pretty much every minute of it is. Bryan Cranston was only known to me from Malcolm In The Middle, so that definitely did make it a bit odd to see him go from playing a comedic role to such a dramatic one. But damn, he is just so damn good at it that you can see why he was cast. Everyone though in this show fits that basket and pretty much every episode does too. Gus Fring might be one of the greatest villains to have ever appeared on television, and his death is also one of the greatest moments I’ve ever seen on the small screen. So. Damn. Good.
5. Survivor (2000-Current)
It’s funny to think that most people assume Survivor is my favourite show. And while I do absolutely adore it, you will see that there are a few shows I do adore even more. With that said, there is no denying of all the shows on this list that Survivor has actually played a real part in my life. I have been very lucky to have the experiences I have had through the show, with Survivor Oz really opening many many doors for me to connect to the show in more ways than I could’ve ever imagined. And there is the small fact that 13 year old Ben in the year 2000 would’ve only ever dreamed of exactly what I have been able to experience because of it. I may not be the biggest reality TV fan, but Survivor to me extends beyond the genre. It IS the genre. And that is why I feel so critical of other reality shows that have followed. The simple aspect of having a group of strangers stranded on an island somewhere and battling it out for a million dollars is a weird thing to have an obsession with as much as I have for close to 20 years, but I for one am glad to have witnessed every moment of this show since the very beginning and continue to do so until it eventually has its torched snuffed for good.
4. Nip/Tuck (2003-2010)
Nip/Tuck makes it five Ryan Murphy shows to make my list. That really goes to show what an incredible television brain the man has. And out of all those shows to have come from his brain (there were many more that made the shortlist for this top 50 too), Nip/Tuck remains his most perfect creation. It is like the most perfectly crafted medical blend with a soap opera to ever be a show. And what bothers me so much about how amazing Nip/Tuck was is that it seemingly has been completely forgotten in the television landscape. This show was huge. It won the Golden Globe for best television drama. And it was just so ground-breaking in every aspect. From its perfect acting, incredible makeup and intense storylines, everything about this show just worked. The tagline for this show was ‘a disturbingly perfect drama’ and that fits it so damn well. The fact that neither Julian McMahon or Dylan Walsh went onto bigger and better things because of this show is a travesty, and the same can be said for many of the cast on Nip/Tuck over the years. I had the pleasure of being able to podcast about every single episode of the show as well as speak to several of the cast, and all that did was make my love for Nip/Tuck grow and grow even more. I know I seem to keep saying this for most of these entries but I’m going to do it again: go and watch this show. You won’t be disappointed.
3. ER (1994-2009)
ER was the very first ‘adult’ show I was allowed to watch as a kid and from the very first moment I saw it I was hooked. There was just something so great about the perfect blend of strong acting and compelling storylines that hooked me in each week. The show was a huge talking point between my mother and I, and I have very fond memories of walking to and from school with her discussing our favourite characters and episodes every week. It’s impossible not to remember just how great the cast were, especially in the early days. Noah Wyle, Anthony Edwards, Eriq La Salle, Julianna Margulies and of course George Clooney. They were just so good. And I of course have to make note that this came from the brain of Michael Crichton, the man who penned the book of what would turn into my favourite movie of all time. So much to love about ER, and it surprisingly remained fairly good for the majority of its 15 season run. And while it may have lost the title of longest serving medical drama to some other stupid show that we won’t even bother to name, to me it remains the best and one that warrants this very high inclusion on my list.
2. 24 (2001-2010, 2014)
If there is one character that makes a show so absolutely perfect then it is clearly Jack Bauer on 24. The show is all about him and rightfully so. Which is the main reason why that stupid recent spin-off was always going to fail. 24 set the bar when it came to bingeworthy television, and every show that proceeded it in the ‘golden age of television’ owes a debt of gratitude to that ticking clock that beeped in your ears each week. This was a show that you HAD to see every episode, and it is also a show that you just had to binge every single episode when it came to a re-watch. Kiefer Sutherland was perfect as Jack Bauer, and I could argue no actor has ever made a character so unique and so much their own as he did with this role. So much is my love for him based on 24 that I will watch an show he appears in to this day. I watch Designated Survivor only because he is in it, and he is somebody who can just make a show go from meh to amazing simply by making an appearance. Outside of Sutherland though 24 was just incredible. The real time format speaks for itself. There was always a bevvy of action ready to happen. And the twists. Man. The twists. I have never been so shocked collectively by just how they were able to up themselves every single season with a new twist. No character was ever safe from being killed off at a moments notice, and I have never seen a show been able to save itself and make itself even better the way 24 did in season 5. It was just that good. Did I say that already? Probably. But I really don’t care because 24 deserves the love and is an easy choice for second best show of all time.
1. Third Watch (1999-2005)
As clear cut choice as there ever was. Third Watch to me remains the greatest TV show of all time. And it probably will do so for the rest of my life. This show is just incredible, and it hurts to think that nobody ever really gave it the credit it thoroughly deserved. The cast was perfect. Every single one of the ensemble cast was able to own any scene they were involved in. The fact too that New York City was essentially a cast member too made it even more perfect, and only solidified my love for the city even more. The acting, the action, the storylines. All so incredible and perfect. And given it was created by the same people who created ER, you know it was automatically going to be good. How did Third Watch never get the love or credit it deserved? How did the likes of Jason Wiles, Michael Beach, Skipp Sudduth and Molly Price get snubbed every year for Emmy and Golden Globe love? It completely baffles me. But what doesn’t baffle me is just how all these actors were able to work so well together and have the most incredible chemistry each week. I could honestly sit here for hours and try and sell how incredible Third Watch is but the fact is you have either heard of it and didn’t bother with it at the time or know it, watched it, loved it and are one of the two listeners to The Oz Network who enjoy the recaps on the podcast. But the one thing I’ll say to close this out is that yes, you should watch this show if you never have. Because it truly is the greatest television show of all time. Period.
What do you think of this list? Do you agree with the shows included? Don’t forget to check out my previous rankings on this site and stay tuned as I post my top 50 movies of all time tomorrow!
You can also check out further discussion around this top 50 in a special podcast episode I did for one of my shows, The Oz Network, here.