What are your top 10 TV shows of all time? (any genre)

My top 10 TV Shows of all time:

  1. Doctor Who

Since 2006 I was hooked onto this show. It was haunting and mysterious; discovering just "who"
the doctor was and how he traveled through time in his tiny blue box, that is bigger on the inside! What drew me into the show was the wonderfully orchestrated music and imaginative set designs. Some episodes can be hit or miss depending on your tastes, but for the most part, the overall season arcs were interesting and kept my attention. Also, how could you not take notice with a show that keeps renewing itself with each new actor, playing the Doctor? Regeneration!

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation
    When Gene Roddenberry stopped writing for the show and writers like Ronald D. Moore started writing and creating character exposition and weaknesses to help the characters grow; the show gathered weight and began to mean something more. For example: who couldn’t help but not feel for Data on his journey to become more human?

  2. Star Trek: DS9
    I really like the whole dynamic between Quark and Odo! Also, what I also like was how Sisko ultimately became an emissary for non-linear beings inside the wormhole. He had a very long
    story arc lasting 7 seasons!

  3. Farscape
    This show was just pure crazy! The Jim Henson company provided so much creative direction here with beautiful alien architecture and alien designs. Everything just felt organic! John Crichton’s interactions with a purely alien crew were just zany and chaotic, eventually became a dysfunctional family! Constantly moving throughout the galaxy, overcoming danger after danger, trying to keep his wormhole knowledge a secret.

  4. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
    This was just a fun lighthearted show for me. I enjoyed watching Kevin Sorbo go on his many adventures. It was a fun corny 90’s show that had a lot of charm!

  5. Merlin

This show just happened to grab my attention. It was an alternate retelling of the story of King Arthur. While not perfect, it felt fresh. It had that warm feeling that is missing from a lot of shows today. The dynamic between Merlin and King Arther as Merlin is constantly trying to hide the fact that he has magic, all the while using it to save his life, was endearing.

  1. Red Dwarf

This show is a ridiculous comedy in space. It’s hard to describe…You just have to watch it…I’ll say this: a vending machine repair man gets frozen in stasis for what seemed like millions of years. The descendants of his pet cat evolve into a more human form and his best friend is reactivated as a hologram…confused? When you watch it you’ll be laughing, I guarantee that!

  1. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
    This was a very imaginative show that aired in the 80’s. It had a run of 2 seasons. Although, it never had a concrete conclusion. It was full of adventure in season 1 but later in season 2 they went more towards exploration like Star Trek. It had a likable hero, a robot sidekick who made constant jokes, and many save the day moments in space.

  2. Lexx

What do you think of an assassin who can’t die, is being kept alive with proto blood, flies inside an organic ship which looks like a giant insect, with a girl who is part cluster lizard, with a talking robot head and a guy who is so pathetic I’ m surprised he doesn’t get the entire crew killed? This would be Lexx. Either you thought the show was the most original sci-fi show you had ever seen, or you were just grossed out by it’s (at times) crude, dark, humor! The show could be highly imaginative at times going back and forth between planets called Fire and Water. Although its last season hit a low mark taking place on earth, subsequently getting cancelled… I can’t help but admire everything that was done though, except the last season. A must watch for any serious sci-fi fan!

  1. Firefly
    It was sort of like the wild west in space with Asian undertones. The show had a great cast of realistic and likable characters as well as intelligent episodes. Nothing felt contrived, out-of-place or forced. I guess it felt pretty organic ( I think I’m starting to use that word too much)!

Honorable mentions:

2. Gene Roddenberrie’s Andromeda
3. Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes

Alternate list/Insert Anime for spots 1 and 2:

  1. Vision of Escaflowne
  2. Last Exile

Contrary to what you might expect on a forum like this, the shows that pull me in tend not to be anime or hard science fiction. Although I have enjoyed some series of that nature (I particularly liked the Death Note anime series), stories that resonate with me tend to be grounded in reality (or a believable alternative reality), with the abnormal being something special within that fictional world. They tend to have strong characters and philosophical/moral themes. Good stories also have a clear beginning, middle, and end (or an expected end) - sorry Doctor Who!

  1. Game of Thrones
  2. Firefly
  3. Six Feet Under
  4. Breaking Bad
  5. Lost
  6. Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV series)
  7. The Borrowers (1992 Mini Series) and The Return of the Borrowers (1993 Mini Series)
  8. Doll House
  9. Prison Break (Seasons 1 and 2)
  10. Deadwood

I’ll explain my choices:

  1. I was a big fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire novel series before it became a popular TV show. Game of Thrones is number #1 not because it’s a perfect series or ideal adaption of the books (indeed, the quality declined in season 5), but the because the subject matter is so rich in scope and themes. It’s a dark, mature story set in an unjust world (that should sound familiar to people here). What I thought would be an unfilmable book series has been adapted surprisingly well. It’s possible that the series will drop further down the list as the show diverges further from the books (and will continue to, as the show has now passed where the book series is up to), but for now I’m happy to place Game of Thrones in the top spot.
  2. This one shouldn’t need explanation. The writing, characters, lighthearted charm, feeling of freedom, put together form an extremely watchable show than was unfortunately cut short after just one season. What happens when you put a diverse set of characters together on a spaceship and they’re required to work and live together? The follow up film, Serenity, is worth watching too, but the story of these characters works best in the format of an episodic series.
  3. It’s a show thats all about death and how people respond to it in different ways. Deep and exploratory, Six Feet Under concludes the story at just the right length (five seasons) with one of the best endings to a TV series ever.
  4. The recently concluded Breaking Bad also stops at the right length (five seasons). Following the evolution of high school science teacher Walter White who starts leading a double life selling meth to pay for his cancer treatment, he’s soon faced with variety of difficult circumstances which begin the transform who he is.
  5. The sense of mystery, themes of science vs faith, use of out-of-order flashbacks to tell the story, and a large cast of diverse characters put on an island together are some of the reasons why Lost stood out from other shows. It’s too bad that the quality declined in later seasons (particularly at the end), but I’d still recommend it. It borrows elements from other stories, but weaved together there’s nothing else quite like it.
  6. As with Lost, Battlestar Galactica’s story got a bit unbelievable towards the end, but the journey is definitely worth going on. The story follows the last surviving humans travelling through space to find Earth, which may or may not exist, as they’re pursued by a race of cyborgs, some of whom pose as humans amongst the fleet. Good characters, political and moral themes, and a sense of mystery.
  7. The best adaption of Mary Norton’s childrens stories about tiny people who live under the floorboards, but certainly watchable by adults, the two mini series tell the story found in the first four books. It feels almost post-apocalyptic in a sense, as the protagonists (who are some of the last of their kind) deal with living in the constant danger of the human world while also being dependent on it.
  8. Another one from Joss Whedon, this science fiction deals with themes surrounding artificial consciousness being downloaded into the minds of ‘doll’ humans on demand. Doll House starts off slow as it introduces viewers to a character whose personality changes in every episode, yet we’re slowly told the story of a character who literally emerges from a blank slate.
  9. The story of a mastermind who deliberately gets put in prison in order to break his brother free. What I like about this story is that the protagonist uses his mind, rather than the usual action hero of other stories. Unfortunately the series was dragged on unnecessarily, which is why I only put seasons 1 and 2 on this list - these two seasons basically tell a nicely concluded, complete story, if you skip the last ten minutes of season 2.
  10. The best western TV series, in particular due to the antagonist, Al Swearengen. Based on real events and people, Deadwood was unfortunately cancelled after three seasons with no proper ending, which is why it’s last on my list. But a film has been greenlit to conclude the story.

If I had to defend Doctor Who though I’d say the new series since 2005/2006 all the way up to now, starting with series 1, had complete story arcs with clear beginning, middle, and ends; within each season. If the arc wasn’t complete it was ultimately resolved at the end of the Doctor/companions run. I know the show isn’t for everyone though with it’s sci-fi/fantasy themes…

I knew I forgot something! Firefly’s run feels so short and unappreciated, it completely slipped my mind!

I had to switch my #10 out. I also thoroughly enjoyed Firefly. It felt so fresh and natural. I really liked the Asian undertones. It also sort of felt a little bit like Mad Max in space! It had believable characters, great chemistry between them, and interesting themes. I really enjoyed the episode where River was making all of those corrections to Derrial’s/Shepard’s Bible!

I also loved the episode with that bounty hunter who holds everyone captive on the ship, with River having to use mind games to save the day!

What I didn’t like though, was the movie Serenity. I felt these characters deserved better then, what ultimately happened to them…

Interesting thread! I’ve been meaning to get into some more shows. I’ve never been really captured by more than a handful while they were still around. I’ve really got to think about this one because I’m far more of a movie person and I’m not usually ready to commit to start watching a running series. Especially not nowadays when we’re all swamped with an overload of everything being immediately available, so I’ll try to avoid simply listing out the most recent shows I’ve really enjoyed.

In contrast to either of your lists, my choices are probably mostly anime. Possibly because I’m a fan of short (13-25 episode) series with a progressive story rather than plot of the week. There are exceptions, but those are usually what I’d consider most accessible.

In no particular order because I spent an hour trying to think of them, and might spend another one trying to sort them out.

The Simpsons - Particularly some of the early seasons. Might not need an explanation, and might even seem particularly vanilla on a top 10 list. But it’s kind of crazy to watch episodes you haven’t seen since you were 10 and being impressed with a lot of the wit that went flying over your head before.

Breaking Bad - Another one that might not need any elaboration because everyone and their grandma was fixated on this until its conclusion. The highest quality TV show I saw before this was probably Smallville or something because I was blown away by how impressively executed it was.

Daredevil - A new entry to this list, and what convinced me that small screen comic book based series aren’t doomed to be cheesy or suffer low-budget looking effects. I’ve been burned out on Marvel superhero blockbusters for a while and this effectively killed them for me.

Shin Sekai Yori - And this is probably where the anime starts on this list. The scariest thing to me in the world is the concept of nihilism. In a world 1000 years in the future, a small, secluded group of humans with unique abilities start learning the truth about their history and the oppressive measures that had to be taken to prevent them from doing so. I’m not even sure the ending to this one was really anywhere near a high note; I was pretty disturbed by the unnatural artificiality of every aspect of not only the lives of the characters, but their very existence (within the story, not as a result of poor writing).

Neon Genesis Evangelion - Ditto for this one. If anyone had a passing interest in Anime at some point, they’ve probably seen this one. It’s kind of funny going back and hearing misleadingly simplified synopses about how it’s a mecha anime with giant robots fighting giant monsters. Eternally cynical about humanity and involving existential crises on an apocalyptic scale, there’s probably been more head scratching as a result of this more than any other anime, or possibly even show, ever.

The Tatami Galaxy - An adaptation of a novel, it follows the protagonist through multiple parallel universes as he enrolls in different societies on his University’s campus. Narrated at the speed of light and having episodes last less than 10 minutes, it moves at a breakneck pace as it portrays different possible realities for the protagonist as he tries to achieve the perfect campus life.

Paranoia Agent - Satoshi Kon is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time, and this series can stand up against the rest of his work. It revolves around a diverse set of characters who all have been affected in some way by a common assailant. Details are slowly revealed about why they have all been targeted. Things aren’t as concrete as they appear to be, and there is a lot of blending between reality and imagination, in true Kon form.

Serial Experiments Lain - This entire show feels like a quiet trance. Released in the late 90s, it portrays the “Wired” as a sort of divine realm connecting everyone, and how the distinction between reality and the virtual world isn’t so great.

Batman: The Animated Series - Setting new standards for what appears to be a kid’s show, the show is excellently written. Portraying Batman in a noir, pulpy Gotham, it reinvented many of the ways Batman had been seen in the past and permanently affected how Batman and many of the other characters would be portrayed in future works.

Digimon Adventure - It’s probably a childish choice, but I was 6 when this show first aired. It’ll always have a degree of sentimental value for me, especially for being the first cartoon I’ve seen with a progressive storyline, an intense orchestral soundtrack, and surprisingly dramatic themes compared to what else was around at the time. I rewatched it recently for the first time in 15 years just for the sake of having a serious nostalgia trip. It held up better than I expected despite the rose-colored glasses. I’m just as excited as any other fan who grew up with it for the recently released series of movies serving as a sequel to the show.

If I had to substitute anime into my top 10 I would most definitely choose:

-Vision of Escaflowne

-Last Exile

Some of the shows that I mentioned have progressive stories that continue between episodes. From my list, this includes basically all of them apart from Firefly which is more about single episode stories, and to a lesser extend Doll House and Lost which contain some (kind of) standalone episodes. However, the shows on my list do tend to be longer, usually covering 2-6 seasons. I find it hard to get into the longer “plot of the week” series as well - I gave up on Arrow, Star Gate, and other shows for this reason.

I should watch more anime, there’s really no reason not to given the shorter lengths of most series.

Have to admin I am not much of a TV watcher. I do have a few favorites though.

  1. Farscape (The most unique and fun show ever on TV.)
  2. Star Trek: TNG (By far the best trek.)
  3. Firefly (Needed years to build up. Great despite its short run.)
  4. Star Trek: DS9 (More of a fun soap opera)
  5. Stargate Atlantis (Damn you again SciFi. Finish your shows!)
  6. Stargate SG1 (Ran a lot to long and got pretty silly as it went.)
  7. BSG (new version, the ending blows goats, but the first two seasons were solid.)

I don’t watch a lot of TV, so for me it was pretty easy to come up with ten shows that stood out from the rest. I’m sure this would be a lot more difficult had I seen some of the more acclaimed shows; like Firefly and Breaking Bad.

  1. Lost (2004-2010)
    Mystery. It’s not the same when you rewatch it on DVD because you don’t have to wait a week to find out what happens next, but that’s what made this show the best in my opinion. It was the speculation and discussion between episodes as much as the content itself.

  2. 24 (2001-2014)
    Action. Sometimes, you just want to watch a bad ass blow things up. 24 provided that in spades, with more twists than you could shake a stick at. It’s longevity also meant it could nurture a set of characters and story lines you could really get into.

  3. Prison Break (2005-2009)
    Escapism. Be it from prisons, or the law, the show is about running away - and the preparation and execution of plans to do so. Yes, the first season was dramatically better than the rest, but its not like there weren’t any good moments in the later episodes.

  4. The Walking Dead (2010-)
    Survival. It’s not the zombies that are the real threat, it’s the other human beings. TWD is unique on this list in that it isn’t really event-driven, but character-driven. You want to see what next they will do to survive.

  5. Dream Team (1997-2007)
    Euphoria. Dream Team followed the trials and tribulations of a fictional football team in the English Premier League. It was pure, over-the-top drama, but having a football slant also made it realistic and topical in most places.

  6. Band of Brothers (2001)
    Camaraderie. Set in WWII, BoB follows the men of E Company, under the US 101st Airbourne Division from the jump into Normandy through to the conclusion of the war. Although featuring a large cast, each episode centres on individuals within that group, creating a personalised account of war.

  7. Desperate Housewives (2004-2012)
    Secrets. I never saw this series as it aired, but my girlfriend convinced me to watch it over the last two years. The way the characters’ stories intertwine with each other is exceptional, and the writing is brilliance. Definiately one of the funniest shows I’ve seen.

  8. Spooks (2002-2011)
    Intelligence. Think of Spooks (aka MI5) as a slicker, cleverer 24. The action is of a different nature; less explosions and more tension. It’s about MI5 agents and the situations they face, but its so well presented you quickly get lost in the drama. Supremely gripping television.

  9. The Big Bang Theory (2007-)
    Friendship. Although TBBT has been going long enough that it’s covered plenty of different angles of life, it still remains funny. As one of the nerd hordes, perhaps this is because I relate to the characters, but the show has a good mix of topical, witty, and inside jokes that never fails to make me laugh.

  10. Top Gear (2002-2015)
    Banter. I only really have a passing interest in cars, but I was a regular viewer of Top Gear every Sunday because the presenters played off of each other so well. The insults, the scheming, the one-up-manship; it all played into devious hour’s entertainment that I’ll sadly miss (Until the new show on Amazon comes out).

Since I’m good at giving you things to do, I’m going to point out that you should really watch those shows. Right after you play through Journey. And Shadow of the Colossus. As recommended by a character from one of your favourite TV shows.

All of those things are on the list… although sadly for Leonard I’ll most likely be playing a remade version of SotC…