Top 100 TV Shows Of All Time 2-5 (Or Nick C Has No Taste)

The top 5 shows of all time are….

5.  TILL DEATH DO US PART  (1965-1975 BBC1)

First lets talk about ALL IN THE FAMILY (this will all make sense later)

This show is most remembered as The King of Sitcoms back when sitcoms dominated television.  In the 70s the top shows weren’t procedurals they were sitcoms.  During this time, ALL IN THE FAMILY ruled above them all, airing pretty much the entire decade.  I’ve already mentioned the power of the spin offs.  The impact this show had in the 70s was undeniable.  It had an extremely humble start (34th top rated show) and almost was canceled.  However over the summer the lead character of Archie Bunker was receiving a lot of press and that changed well… everything.

You see, Archie was a biggot.  They like to say a lovable bigot.  I suppose bigots could be lovable.  He did have many endearing qualities, but the fact is the man was a biggot.  Was he funny?  Yes.  Bigotry can be funny, Mel Brooks proved that without a doubt in BLAZING SADDLES.   However he was also incredibly stupid.  This was their answer to his bigotry.  He’d lose just about any argument he got in, and they tried to use the humor to show just how stupid the hatred was.  CBS even issues a warning before early episodes, that basically said “this show will offend you, but we hope you see through the humor just how stupid racism is,” of course that is paraphrased.  I can’t find the actual statement on the internet, because everytime I find it, it says something entirely different, but like mine with the same gist.

This lead to ALL IN THE FAMILY having 5 straight number 1 seasons.  However, ALL IN THE FAMILY was a remake.  Norman Lear who provided the top 2 sitcoms of the 70s:  SANFORD AND SON and ALL IN THE FAMILY got all his ideas from the UK.  TILL DEATH DO US PART was not just the inspiration of ALL IN THE FAMILY it was basically the same show, only done better.

First lets talk about why it was done better:  The Brits don’t seem to care as much as Americans about subjects matters and language.  So the show just flat out went all out.  Alf Garnett (the British version of Archie Bunker) however wasn’t exactly lovable, and his hatred was taken to a more extreme level. Garnett was portrayed by Johnny Speight a man with undeniable charm.  The problem was that Garnett ended up having some of Speight’s charm show.  Speight would always state that was extremely disappointing, he believed that Garnett just shouldn’t have been likable.

The show (and its American remake) would tackle many controversial but important topics to society at the time from racism, homosexuality, politics, etc.  The primary form of entertainment of both shows was the interaction between the conservative father and the left wing liberal son-in-law.

4.  SEINFELD (1989-1998 NBC)

The show about nothing.  Well we all know it wasn’t really a show about nothing.  It was a show about a group of 4 friends and their personality disorders!  It is perhaps the most nihilistic comedy ever made.  We all know the characters, etc.  So lets discuss just how this show came to be.

Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld pitched it as a show about nothing.  NBC picked it up.  It flopped.  It was even shopped to Fox who turned it down.  Finally Rick Ludwin who was the Late Night VP at NBC took some of his budget to pay for ordering 4 episodes.  The lowest number of episodes ever ordered for a pickup.  Part of Ludwin’s argument was to demand the show air after CHEERS.  This would of course give it a great lead in.  The ratings were strong enough for the show to be picked up.  However, it was further derailed by the Persian Gulf War, which kept the new (after the 4 ordered) episodes off the air for a while.

When the show came back it was placed after NIGHT COURT which had lost its audience by that time and was on its last legs.  SEINFELD was still able to squeek out 3 seasons and multiple times barely avoided the axe usually due to Ludwin.  When it became obvious that NIGHT COURT was dead, the shows flipped time slots and the ratings improved for both shows.  That fact kept SEINFELD around for a 4th season.

For the first time SEINFELD broke the top 30 and after CHEERS was announced to be ending, the show was moved to again be behind CHEERS.  The SEINFELD reruns surpassed the CHEERS reruns that Spring.  The 4th season was also the first to incorporate a season long story arc (pitching the fictional Jerry sitcom).

Then it happened.  SEINFELD beat out HOME IMPROVEMENT for the Emmy of Best Comedy Series.  The hype around Seinfeld was fierce after.  Season 5 would be the first season to break the top 3 (at 3rd).  It would never drop below being ranked 2nd for the rest of its run.

The interesting thing about SEINFELD is that it got picked up in the first place.  Then that it survived for 3 seasons of abysmal ratings.  The 4th season when it finally broke the top 30 (and finished 25th overall for the season) justified the early moves to keep it around, but the fact that virtually overnight it went from doing ok finally, to full on big hit is … unheard of.  I can’t think of another comedy that has done that.  Someone mentioned NCIS to me, and I had to tell them that every season of that show was top 30, and it slowly climbed from 26 to 5 over six seasons.

What SEINFELD accomplished was amazing.  It is also another reason it does so huge in syndication.  The vast majority of American TV viewers didn’t see the first 4 seasons.  So when it became a hit in season 5 and was finally sold into syndication it was considered a gold mine.  It sold so much, because it was worth a lot.  Here was a show no one watched, and was all of a sudden a top 3 show.  Now they’re selling it into syndication.  Everyone knew that these shows would be watched because people hadn’t seen the majority of them before.  Ludwin basically made everyone involved filthy rich.

3.  BLACKADDER (1983-1989 BBC1)

Each season of this show is entirely different and set in a different era.  What holds all the seasons together as a whole is that each one follows the excursions of Edmund Blackadder.  The character is always of the same bloodline and one of the most interesting aspects of the show has been the status of the character.  In the first season he’s basically an idiot and a Prince.  In each subsequent season his social status drops, but his character’s intelligence grows.  So by the 4th season his social status is much lower, but he’s brilliant.  I don’t know what Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson are trying to say about people with high social status!  😉

The smarter Edmund Blackadder gets, the funnier the series got.  However there is always one major point in the series, the character is a cynical opportunist.  Throw in the fact that we get to see him in different parts of history and you have a fascinating show.  The cast of the series was top notch.  Tony Robinson portrays his servant Baldrick in ever season and does a brilliant job of it.  Tim McInnern, Miranda Richardson, Hugh Laurie (yes, that Hugh Laurie), and Stephen Fry all have extremely memorable roles over the different seasons.

A very unique, and very engaging sitcom.  One of the greatest ever.

2.  THE SIMPSONS (1989-???? FOX)

Do I have to describe this show to anyone?  Do I have to even mention its cultural impact?  Is anyone not aware of what it did for TV?  Anyone?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  20 seasons, likely 5 more before they hang it up.  Amazing.

1.  GET A LIFE (1990-1992 FOX)*

From 1990 to 1992 Chris Elliott was in the funniest TV program ever made, and likely will ever be made.  He played a 30 year old paper boy living with his parents (with his famous comedian father Bob Elliott playing his dad).  The show was so brilliant and ahead of its time… In something like half the episodes Elliott would die at the end in bizzarre and horrible accidents (something stolen by SOUTHPARK with Kenny).  Simply the greatest TV show of all time!

Update:  Ok, yes the number 1 was a joke.  I’ll have the real greatest show of all time written up tomorrow.  It will be epic because…

It’s more than one show.  I can’t decide if a drama is more important than a comedy, if a police drama is more important than a normal drama, etc.  So the top show is really shows.  Yes, yes, it’s another cop out.  It just manifested itself when the list was made and made total sense.

Also my apologies to the fan of GET A LIFE, & Chris Elliott.


31 responses to “Top 100 TV Shows Of All Time 2-5 (Or Nick C Has No Taste)

  1. Thank you very much for the list. Very entertaining and some strange choices. 🙂 I was just wondering why you didn’t pick Fawlty Towers – one of the best TV series ever made. Blackadder shows imo that you are interested in UK TV.

  2. Did The X-Files not make the list?

    Others: Sesame Street, LOST, Dragnet, Cheers, Peewee’s Playhouse, The Daily Show, Dick Van Dyke Show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, House, The Office (US)

  3. With all the sci-fi shows that made your list, I was sure that X-Files or Lost would be somewhere in the top five, but no. How can you leave them completely off this list?

    When are you going to reveal the real #1 show of all time, because certainly “Get a Life” isn’t what we’ve been waiting for the past few weeks.

  4. I was expecting this to be drawn out a little longer. Maybe now Nick do an honerable mentions list.

  5. Is it me or are The Sopranos nowhere to be found on this list? If so, thank you. I was expecting it to be number one, and for the life of me I can´t remember other tv show being more overrated than this one. I had to stop watching halfway season 2.

    About the list. It´s certainly not the one I´d made but it´s one I can respect and live with. Good job.

  6. Well, that ending was a surprise, to say the least. Can’t knock you for originality, that’s for sure…

  7. As a Brit nice to see Blackadder make your list. The 4th season paticularly was great. Not easy making WWI funny and getting the right tone but they managed it. Its also the reasons I can’t watch House and take it seriously.

    Slightly suprised Till Death Do Us Part is so highly rated. Not that I disagree with your view on how important it was, just that even on this side of the pond its largely forgotten. I’ve not seen it reshown in years, except for occasional clips to remind us all what bigots we all were back then.

  8. Wow, now that’s an ending. I was rooting for the Simpsons to be number 1, but I can’t say much about the number 1 pick as I’ve never seen it. Glad to see The Simpsons and Seinfeld in the Top 5 though.

    Very cool list, Nick. I’d be curious to hear about a runner up list as well. There are lots of shows I expected to see that never even made it.

  9. Ok, everyone you’ll now notice I updated the title, and the end of the post…

    I had to have some fun with it all…

  10. So I´m guessing The Sopranos will be number one. Oh well…

  11. My money for #1 is ‘Til Death

  12. Multiple shows in the top spot…sounds like you’re crafting the Voltron of TV shows, Nick. 😉

  13. Go-Go Power Rangers!

  14. Wow, Get a Life was a surprise. I watched that way back when (when I was like 8….) and I never would have expected it on any top 100 list.

  15. Ha, I just saw your update. Cheater.

  16. Julia, I’ll take that as a compliment!

    I did apologize to the fan of the show though. So hopefully that person won’t be too upset with me.

  17. Wow. Nothing personal, but I’m disappointed. If you’re going to put the original British program upon which All in the Family was based, that’s fine, but All in the family was distinctly “American,” and dealt with issues that were facing America at that time. Racism, Viet Nam, Wategate, etc. No offense to our friends the Birts, but the BIGGER IMPACT belongs to All in the Family, not the show upon which it was based. It’s not always the “original” that has the biggest impact.

    I don’t remember all of the shows that were in the Top 100, but if any shows like SNL made the list, then Monty Python’s Flying Circus should certainly have made it as well – because at least IMHO SNL and the shows like it were in some way influenced by Python.

    Anyway, just one persons musings.

    Can’t say you’re predictable, that’s for sure! 🙂

  18. Biff Slamkovich

    Dude, Get a Life was the best TV show to ever feature REM’s “Stand” as the theme song, and anyone that says different is a liar.

  19. Rick Holy, actually sorry but I’m not biting. The bigger impact was the original. ALL IN THE FAMILY copied and rehashed many of the same topics but in an American way. If it wasn’t such an obvious copy, and didn’t have episodes that weren’t obvious copies of actual episodes then you might have a point.

    The American OFFICE for instance isn’t a direct copy, and didn’t copy any episodes. The same can’t be said for ALL IN THE FAMILY. The show is mentioned with TILL DEATH DO US PART. Sure it impacted America, but it wouldn’t have without the previous show. I mentioned them together for a reason.

  20. Biff, that you’re definitely right about.

  21. Based on my previous comment, you can probably tell that I didn’t have much patience for your “Get a Life is #1” joke. I look forward to seeing the real winner(s) tomorrow. 🙂

    I’ve never had a chance to watch much British tv, so I don’t have an informed opinion on Black Adder or Til Death Do Us Part, but I am thrilled to see Seinfeld in the top five. I’ve recently been watching the show in syndication, and it is still as funny and relevant as it was ten years ago. And while I haven’t always watched The Simpsons, there’s no denying that it is hilarious and has massive appeal.

  22. For bowing out gracefully, Seinfeld should hold a higher position than The Simpsons. For the same reason, I’d have listed The Simpsons as (1989-1998).

  23. Nick,

    One question, with regards to your response to Rick Holy. You brought up the American Office and the fact that it didn’t copy any of the British episodes. Wasn’t the US pilot (and only that episode) essentially a remake of the first British episode. The beats were the same, they just changed some of the script to be a little more Americanized?

    I could be wrong.

    Regardless, thanks for compiling this list and sharing. This is just great.

  24. For me, the fun and the tragedy of Archie Bunker was watching the show after hearing my father say the same things at the dinner table that Archie would say later on the show.

    I’d say, “Hmmm, where have I heard that before?”, to which my father would respond, “Shut up!:”

  25. Where the heck are The X Files and Lost!? Really??

  26. By the way I’m not as angry as my post implied…but a little disappointed in you Nick C!

  27. LOST is in limbo… I didn’t put it on the list because I didn’t know where it belonged because right now it has gone from good to bad to ok to good to better than good. How will it end? What if it ends badly?

    It’s in limbo. In another year I might put it on the list in a place I could feel good about. I know, why didn’t I do that for all of the shows not finished yet? Because I hold LOST to a higher standard 😉

    I’ll write something about shows that just missed the list, shows that I forgot about because I’m an idiot, and a summary tomorrow.

  28. I agree Nick C…but I think despite it’s imperfections Lost is a hugely innovative series that is ambitious in scope and unlike anything I’ve seen on TV in a long time…I think for that, and for the fact that it is popular and has enjoyed critical praise it should have fallen on here SOMEWHERE…even at 100! LOL but I understand your reasoning! Here’s hoping it ends well!!! All in all it’s ok…you DID put Chuck on the list so I’ll forgive you!! 😉

  29. I don’t recall seeing a single J.J. Abrams show on your list. Do you have something against the guy? I think he’s had a huge influence on tv, and is totally in tune with my generation (what are they calling us these days, Gen X?). Felicity, Alias, Lost… (not so much What About Brian and Six Degrees). Any one of those shows was more than deserving of a place on this list, but especially Lost. If you had room for Supernatural at #12, then surely Lost should be somewhere on the list.

  30. Nice!

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