What Shows are on TV’s Mount Rushmore?

Mount Rushmore debates are the peak of all arguments. My favorite, of the many: the Mount Rushmore of television.

Last night, while rewatching Mad Men, I tweeted that it has a strong case for a spot on the mountain. A fun Twitter discussion followed.

In addition to Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Lost, The Leftovers, and Deadwood are candidates. Twitter followers thought I mistakenly left out The Shield — fine, put that in the pool. A few reached out about The Americans — no way.

I don’t buy the case for sitcoms and comedies despite the unrivaled, never-ending love of Seinfeld, Cheers, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The Sopranos is on Mount Rushmore. It’s the George Washington of TV. Without it, the other great shows wouldn’t have been greenlit. David Chase’s masterpiece introduced the world to Tony Soprano, the anti-hero. It created Don Draper and Walter White. The mafia-drama brought a weekly movie to the small screen. The time spent with Tony, Carmela, A.J., Meadow, Christopher, Junior, and Adriana proved not long enough.

On approximately 50% of lists, The Wire ranks first. It’s lower on mine due to an overlooked average fifth and final season. Killing off Stringer Bell in the third was a mistake. The Wire needed him in the end. Though, the show remains an achievement. David Simon set a standard that critics deem untouchable.

The Leftovers is already carved into my Mount Rushmore. It touched and changed its viewers. Grief is the most relatable feeling. A theme Damon Lindelof cruelly explained over three seasons. Viewers found themselves in at least one character. The Leftovers gave perspective on death, hope, love, fear, empathy, and life.

It’s hard to leave Breaking Bad off. Of the great shows, who would’ve thought the one centered around a teacher selling methamphetamine could end most effectively? Breaking Bad ushered in the streaming/Netflix era as an early mainstream binge experience. Vince Gilligan crafted a drug. A show that kept getting better; one impossible to turn away from.

Walter White is to TV what blue ice is to him.

Mad Men is the opposite of Breaking Bad. It’s slow, not easy to watch for days straight, and at times, boring. But it’s great. Aspiring screenwriters should be mandated to read the scripts of Matthew Weiner’s acclaimed seven-seasons. It’s the pinnacle of character development, dialogue, and storytelling. There are 92 episodes; 0 are below very good.

Deadwood and Lost are on the outside looking in. Lost cannot erase its disastrous ending. The Deadwood movie, 13 years after its final episode, reintroduce the magic that lived too short of a life.

And then there is Game of Thrones. It’s been a year, and millions of fans across the world have not forgiven David Benioff and DB Weis for the final season. They never will. In an evident rush to finish, Benioff and Weis crashed the landing. The showrunners slow-cooked a meal then microwaved it to serve.

GoT fans believed every detail, backstory, flashback, power, skill, and species led to a decade-built conclusion. In the end, none of it mattered, not even the ancestry.

The final season of Game of Thrones is going to keep it off most Mount Rushmores. Including mine. However, at its peak, it was a never-before-imagined spectacle. A void TV can never fill.

My Mount Rushmore:

  • The Sopranos
  • Breaking Bad
  • The Leftovers
  • The Wire … just barely over Mad Men.

What’s yours?

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

28 Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. THE WIRE stands alone in its own category for me. As does TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN (2017)

    My FEARSOME FOUR (in alphabetical order)

    * HARVEY BIRDMAN: ATTORNEY-AT-LAW
    * HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET
    * SEALAB 2021
    * TWIN PEAKS (original series, 1990-1991)

    I’ve *never seen* ONE FULL EPISODE of any of the following:
    -MAD MEN // -BREAKING BAD // -OZARK // -GAME OF THRONES

    HONORABLE MENTION:
    * BLOSSOM
    * ALF
    * MURDER, SHE WROTE
    * SAVED BY THE BELL
    (somewhat tongue-in-cheek but ALL QUALITY programs, nonetheless)

  2. Actually ran a extensive pool on this as part of a beta test on a patented product we are developing. Asked 500 people to participate. Here were the results:

    What is the best TV show of all time:

    1. Game of Thrones – 178
    2. Sopranos – 149
    3. Breaking Bad – 62
    4. Ozark – 55
    5. Seinfeld – 33
    6. The Wire – 16
    7. Friends – 4
    8. The Office – 3

    I didn’t include Mad Men in our survey. Recent bias clearly helps as Friends and The Office barely got any votes although Seinfeld did surprisingly well.

  3. HOF

    – The Sopranos (top of anyone’s list, has to be)

    – The Wire (Season 5 was a stinker but season 4 was strong)

    – Peaky Blinders (When you’re good enough to bring in Tom Hardy and Adrian Brody as character actors, you’re obviously winning at life)

    – True Detective (Season 1 is as good as anything ever made, you will not be able to stop watching so make sure you have a full day available for it. Don’t bother with the second season.)

    • I would do a separate Rushmore for Comedy. I love it but it lacks the depth and emotional firestorm of a show like True Detective or the Sopranos.

      Comedy HOF

      – The Simpson’s (just incredible how long that show has been around and the humor is very equal opportunity offensive)

      – Arrested Development (So great to see it back)

      – The Office UK (The spark that lit the flame, Ricky is a true genius)

      – Cheers

  4. I agree with most of the shows mentioned so far. Though I would add The West Wing on there. It romanticized how we wish our politicians were or, better said, should be. In retrospect, the Jed Bartlett administration would be considered right wing in this environment.

    Lost has the best pilot episode(s)

    24 is the best action show. Jack Bauer has already killed you if you’re reading this.

    Doctor Who the best sci-fi, minus the past woke seasons. Tenth Doctor in particular.

    South Park the best animated show, maybe show ever.

  5. Man so many good shows that it is hard to only end up with 4. But here is my best for now.

    First off, I love old movies and old shows. So I will give some love to some old classics:

    I love Lucy
    Cheers
    Frasier
    The original 8 or so seasons of the Simpsons.

    So many great ones to choose from, but if I had to do a list on 7/28/2020. Of course that could change the next time I do such a list.

  6. I am trying not to be a prisoner of now, and not a prisoner of HBO….Also ignoring sports and wrestling.

    1.) Star Trek (TNG was the best cast but the original series spawned everything)
    2.) Looney Toons – Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck et al. Also a great into into classical music and culture!
    3.) Archie Bunker / Caroll O`Connor – Good lord do we need this kind of show now, and the ability to watch it. Also see Caroll O`Conner in Heat of the Night)
    4.) Jeopardy – Game shows have been huge across the history of Game Shows and Trabec is a king of the Genre.

    Honorable Mentions:
    The Shield – For the criminal dramas
    Nova – remember when T.V. did science and got people interesting in math?
    General Hospital – nod to the entire Day time Soap Opera Genre
    In The Heat of the Night – Crime drama set in the South with allot of characters that would be charaictures today, and just were not.
    George Michael Sports Machine
    Howdy Doody in honor of my father, because he’s my dad.

    Other categories are missing I know. I wonder how many I put on this list that most will not know.

  7. Comedy only

    Looney Tunes – Brilliant comedic writing, voices, music, characters, physical comedy, and was the first to weave “clean” adult humor into child entertainment to make it appeal to everyone.

    First 25 years of SNL – It hasn’t been funny since the PC and woke generation took over, because they don’t “get” humor.

    Monty Python’s Flying Circus – If only we had these guys in their prime now to write scathingly cutting satire about modern culture’s stupidity.

    The 3 Stooges

Leave a Reply