5 Greatest TV Shows of All-Time

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This article contains spoilers for the shows in the running for the best. Meaning, if you haven’t seen Modern Family, you are safe to read on.

On June 10, 2007, TV screens across America abruptly faded to black as “Made In America” raced to a finish. Fourteen years ago, The Sopranos aired its final episode. The anniversary on Thursday had me re-thinking my stance on the great debate: what is the greatest TV show ever made?

It’s The Sopranos.

Fox News’ Will Cain responded with his ranking, causing quite the fire:

Here’s my updated list, 1-5. Let’s take it step-by-step:

Number 1: TV series are about the characters. It’s the characters who we remember, grab onto, love, hate, root for and against. Sopranos’ fans feel they were inside that mansion, at the breakfast counter, spent time at the Bada Bing, and inside Dr. Melfi’s office. Viewers were there, there with Tony’s families.

The show’s final scene aged better than it was born. As time passed and fans dug deeper, the show’s most dedicated viewers went from complaining about an ambiguous ending to convincing themselves it was definitive.

If the final season’s first episode title, “Members Only,” meant something, if Bobby correctly foreshadowed the silence of death, if Tony’s point-of-view shots during the final scene prepared us for the ending — the ending is definitive. And it’s brilliant.

Number 2: The Leftovers is the wild card in this discussion. Those who’ve watched the series — critics and random guys on Twitter — rank The Leftovers at worst 5, at best No. 1. Here, The Leftovers ranks second, slightly behind The Sopranos.

The Leftovers is a demoralizing three-season journey into the devastations of life. Showrunner Damon Lindelof makes clear: once you lose someone, you are never the same. They are gone, as is a part of you.

The show makes you question life’s deepest meaning: without knowing what’s on the other side — via death or disappearance — how do we know who the lucky ones are?

Number 3: Vince Gilligan took an underachieving science teacher and turned him into a meth-making monster. If not for Breaking Bad, the word “binge” wouldn’t mean anything.

For five seasons, Gilligan wrote his characters into impossible corners that signaled the end. Then, somehow, he wrote them out, back into the fold in the most believable ways.

Because Breaking Bad is such an emotional, hold-your-breath ride — it’s not meant to be rewatched over and over again. That said, viewing it for the first time is a must.

Number 4: Though it’s not as settled as five years ago, most argue that The Wire is the consensus top show. I’m not quite there.

Of the shows on this list, I enjoy The Wire the least. But that’s only a knock in comparison to the three series above.

The Wire‘s characters are historic. It’s real. Real to a fault. The lines and quotes matter. They are still used today. Each season told a new story, and told it well.

If you have to spend more time explaining why a show is only No. 4, it must be pretty great.

Number 5: There are three options here: Game of Thrones, Deadwood, and Mad Men.

Mad Men is TV writing at its finest. Deadwood‘s dialogue is unmatched. The town is simple, yet impressive. Meanwhile, Game of Thrones changed TV.

There won’t be another GoT. Its popularity reached heights TV series shouldn’t reach. GoT was an event on the level of Sunday Night Football.

The ending was bad, its final season was weak. As a result, Game of Thrones failed to contend for the title at the top. Had the final season paid off, it could’ve. It didn’t. It’s not the best show ever made — it is fifth.

List every show you’ve ever watched. Which one were you most invested in? Game of Thrones.

My top 5:

  1. The Sopranos
  2. The Leftovers
  3. Breaking Bad
  4. The Wire
  5. Game of Thrones

Tweet us your list, @burackbobby_.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics..

Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.


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    • 1) Game of Thrones
      2) X-Files
      3) Seinfeld
      4) Office
      5) Mad Men
      Honorable mention: Peaky Blinders

      Goodfellas and The Godfather top my list of movies, but I wasn’t a fan of Sopranos. I know I’m in the vast minority there, but i just didn’t like Tony Soprano. I’ve always thought of mob bosses as charismatic family guys that took care of business. He always seemed to be anxious and complaining about everything and seemed like a jerk in general. He also came off kind of creepy. Imperioli’s character came off as a drugged out screwup and I thought his son AJ was insufferable for the most part. I thought the best actor/ actress in the show es Edie Falco. I also thought Paulie and Bobby were spot on, but for me, it was hard to get past Tony. Just my humble take.

    • Big fan of Psych. Happy to see someone put it on their list. Awesome, unique characters and a really good type of humor. The police/detective shows are kind of played out, but that managed to be really original.

  1. 1) The Wire
    2) Breaking Bad
    3) GoT
    4) Sopranos
    5) Lost

    The Leftovers tried so hard to be smart it was unwatchable in season 2. Lost and Game of Thrones were so good throughout that they both make the last whilst being two of the greatest let downs of all time.

  2. Do we lump Better Call Saul in with Breaking Bad or are we leaving out of discussion because it’s not quite done yet? I assume we are only talking shows that have finished, but that’s gonna be up there. I like people naming Lost, great show. Leftovers, ehh. I wish Oz kept going, but not enough there to make this list. And by the way Will Cain, it’s “Peaky Blinders”. My top 5: (1) The Wire; (2) The Sopranos; (3) Breaking Bad (& Better Call Saul); (4) Peaky Blinders; (5) Game of Thrones.

  3. Surely this is some generational thing, certainly “recentnitus”. No comedy. No show from the previous century? Not that I don’t like some of these shows…but good grief…limited scope for one, probably limited knowledge. So your opinion is just that. Anyway.

  4. It’s Peaky Blinders and if folks have not given it their attention, you are missing out. For those who know, top 5 ANY list. How Empire didn’t make anyone’s list is beyond me. Maybe it is just me because I am a freak for period pieces that annex subliminal torture. Mad Men hit me that way as well

    • By that argument, then, Hill Street Blues should have been in there. But I tried rewatching HSB recently – didn’t hold up well, at least for me. I remembered it being much better.

  5. I take these pampered, useless articles with the seriousness they deserve.

    My list:

    1. The Red Skelton Show
    2. Laugh In
    3. Green Acres ( Mr. Haney is a legend)

    Game over, there are only three worth mentioning. Have a nice weekend. Read a book.

  6. It’s been 30 years and all these well-written shows are all just still trying to climb to heights that only Richard Dean Anderson as Macguyver ever ascended to in television greatness. Fighting for silver is still admirable.

  7. Too much recency bias. This is like looking Rotten Tomatoes top 10 movies of ALL time were they have Black Panther #3, Parasite #6, Avengers: Endgame #7, and Knives Out #9 and Us #10. Fucking Knives Out is #7 and the Godfather is #17.

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