Videos by OutKick
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:
1. Breaking Bad
2. The Wire
4. Game of Thrones
6. Pesky Blinders
* I reserve the right to change if I forgot something. https://t.co/mSExhHmZnN
— Will Cain (@willcain) June 10, 2021
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:
- The Sopranos
- The Leftovers
- Breaking Bad
- The Wire
- Game of Thrones
Tweet us your list, @burackbobby_.