Usually when writers make lists of “The 100 Best Movies” or “The 100 Best Albums,” they use arbitrary standards.
This book by Lan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz laid out matters more clearly, judging on Innovation, Influence, Consistency, Performance, Storytelling, and Peak (how good was the show at its best).
I disagreed with some choices but I admire their attempt at objectivity.
1. The Simpsons: Normally if you’ve seen every episode of 20 seasons of a show, you’ve seen the whole run. In this case I’m not even close.
I know people piss and moan about the show not being as good as it used to be but I don’t know what other show could be number one.
2. The Sopranos: Well, okay this one could be. I’ve seen every episode and even compared to The Simpsons, no other show transcended its material like The Sopranos.
3. The Wire: I’m the one weirdo who doesn’t love The Wire. I don’t dislike it but I’ll take a long time to see the whole series.
4. Cheers: At first I didn’t think I’d put Cheers above M*A*S*H. After some thought, I agreed but still wouldn’t put it this far ahead.
Cheers was more consistently funny and didn’t have as many “very special issue” episodes. Cheers also aged much better. Even set in wartime, it’s hard to watch drunk driving being played for laughs.
5. Breaking Bad: Another on my completion list, this had the strongest acting of any show. There were a few goofy turns but it was personally the most compelling program for me.
6. Mad Men: Again, I’m a freak for not liking this more. I guess it’s good to have saved some for later.
7. Seinfeld: I can remember everyone at work watching Home Improvement over Seinfeld. It did get uneven at time but that’s when I knew I was working with morons.
8. I Love Lucy: I’ve only seen a few episodes. As groundbreaking as it was, I grew up when it was regarded as just another re-run. As unfair as that is, it’s hard to change the perspective.
9. Deadwood: Another on my completion list, I love this show. Even more shocking violence and creative cursing than The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, the main character wasn’t compelling to me but everyone else was.
10. All in the Family: Again, it might have been the year of my birth but while I liked All in the Family, it was never one of my favorites. I appreciate the introduction of more social issues to television and the sound of a toilet flushing but many of the episodes seemed corny at the time. For me, some today are unwatchable.