Writers Guild Names 101 Best-Written Shows Ever: What Made the List? What Got Snubbed?

sopranos best show of all timeThe Writers Guild of America unveiled its picks for the 101 best-written TV series of all time over the weekend, and The Sopranos whacked the competition.

HBO’s seminal mob drama snagged the top spot on the highly subjective and sure-to-be-picked-apart list (Sex and the City ahead of Game of Thrones? Dexter ahead of The Shield? Bupkis for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson?)

PHOTOS | 30 Actors on Cancelled TV Series We Want Back on TV Now

Review the selections below and then hit the comments with your snappy judgements.

1. The Sopranos
2. Seinfeld
3. The Twilight Zone
4. All in the Family
5. M*A*S*H
6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
7. Mad Men
8. Cheers
9. The Wire
10. The West Wing
11. The Simpsons
12. I Love Lucy
13. Breaking Bad
14. The Dick Van Dyke Show
15. Hill Street Blues
16. Arrested Development
17. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
18. Six Feet Under
19. Taxi
20. The Larry Sanders Show
21. 30 Rock
22. Friday Night Lights
23. Frasier
24. Friends
25. Saturday Night Live
26. The X-Files
27. Lost
28. ER
29. The Cosby Show
30. Curb Your Enthusiasm
31. The Honeymooners
32. Deadwood
33. Star Trek
34. Modern Family
35. Twin Peaks
36. NYPD Blue
37. The Carol Burnett Show
38. Battlestar Galactica (2005)
39. Sex & The City
40. Game of Thrones
41. The Bob Newhart Show and Your Show of Shows (tie)
43. Downton Abbey, Law & Order and Thirtysomething (tie)
46. Homicide: Life on the Street and St. Elsewhere (tie)
48. Homeland
49. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
50. The Colbert Report, The Good Wife and the UK Office (tie)
53. Northern Exposure
54. The Wonder Years
55. L.A. Law
56. Sesame Street
57. Columbo
58. Fawlty Towers and The Rockford Files (tie)
60. Freaks and Geeks and Moonlighting (tie)
62. Roots
63. Everybody Loves Raymond and South Park (tie)
65. Playhouse 90
66. Dexter and the US Office (tie)
68. My So-Called Life
69. Golden Girls
70. The Andy Griffith Show
71. 24, Roseanne and The Shield 
74. House and Murphy Brown (tie)
76. Barney Miller and I, Claudius (tie)
78. The Odd Couple
79. Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Upstairs, Downstairs (tie)
83. Get Smart
84. The Defenders and Gunsmoke (tie)
86. Justified, Sgt. Bilko/The Phil Silvers Show (tie)
88. Band of Brothers
89. Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
90. The Prisoner
91. Absolutely Fabulous and The Muppet Show (tie)
93. Boardwalk Empire
94. Will & Grace
95. Family Ties
96. Lonesome Dove and Soap
98. The Fugitive, Late Night with David Letterman and Louie
101. Oz

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651 Comments
  1. Bill says:

    My two cents … the CONSISTENCY of good writing clearly wasn’t considered here. While I love no other show more than the original “Star Trek,” its third season offerings should preclude it from inclusion here. I loved “Taxi” as well, but “Barney Miller” was FAR more consistent in its writing, yet ranks almost at the bottom.

    Where is “I Spy?” Consistently well-written, solid action-adventure series, and a proven Emmy-winner. I also echo the folks who mourn the exclusion of “Veronica Mars,” “The Waltons” and “Firefly.”

    And then there’s “Banacek.” No series EVER did a better job with the “locked room” mystery format than that one.

  2. Brian Medved says:

    I never understood all the adulation for The Sopranos, and never will. IMO, it is the most overrated show in the history of TV. Why are people so fascinated with mobsters?? There are so many shows on that list and not on that list that are better, IMHO.

  3. mark says:

    I cannot believe Dallas and Knots Landing were left off this list. Especially Knots Landing it was very well written from start to finish (minus beginning of the 13th season).

  4. Toney says:

    I cant believe The Practice or The Killing didnt make the list!

  5. Raghav says:

    Modern Family on 34 but Blackadder and Sherlock not on the list? Head scratching.

  6. Renee says:

    Friends #24 ??!! This guy clearly doesn’t have a sense of humour !!!

  7. J Slice says:

    Any ‘Best of’ Tv list that does not have ‘The Wire’ at the top is invalid

  8. gtc1961 says:

    No Waltons, Little House, Johnny Carson, Bonanza??? Come on… I think the more recent shows are fresh in the minds of the people who made this list. Many of which weren’t old enough to watch some of the more classic shows.

  9. Mikeyj says:

    No entourage??? This list sucks and no weeds! This list sucks and no nip tuck this list sucks

  10. Where are Doctor Who and Sherlock!!!???

  11. tony says:

    big bang theory????

  12. Charles says:

    Seems to have forgotten the classic westerns, such as the long running Gunsmoke, Palladin, Rawhide.then again, in today’s market westerns have been forgotten. Yet, many of the scripts were very good for their time.

  13. rahul rao says:

    what happened to prison break……………….it should be no. 1

  14. Pete says:

    I thought this list would actually include the shows that were well written. It is just another compilation based on popularity. What is most popular is not always what is best; another disappointment in rankings. Do the “experts” with the college degrees actually believe shows like South Park are “well written”? No wonder tv is repeatedly cancelling some of the best shows.

    • Chris Padwick says:

      As a US tv loving Brit, I have to agree about the seemingly arbitrary cancellation of perfectly good tv shows by execs who can’t see the meritorious woods for the viewing figure trees. Why didn’t Stargate Universe get a 3rd season? Look what the morons did with Futurama! In the UK, our most popular sitcom ever was on its third season before it took off and Mr Bean and Blackadder both had dodgy starts. New stuff sometimes needs to be given time to bed down..

      • Pete says:

        Agree completely! Did you ever see “Firefly” (1 season) “Life” (2 seasons) “Lie to me” (1 season) “Awake” (1 season)? Just a few examples of great shows that got cancelled. Everybody talks about Buffy being such a great show (and it was) but the guy who wrote Buffy also wrote Firefly, one of the most well written shows of all time! A very intellectually complex and well written show. Who are these guys that say what’s best!?

        • scooby says:

          I miss Lie to Me. What might’ve been, right? I wish they could’ve gotten things to click sooner so that it built more of an audience. They were still trying to feel out the characters and stories. Lie to Me wasn’t 1 season, though, it was 3–only the 2nd was a full 22 ep order. The others were 13. Might’ve been better served to have it be a sort of miniseries, cable-style where there were 10 episodes or so and there was one overarching conspiracy or something that took the whole season and Cal and his team had to solve it. It seemed like a good idea to make it a procedural, but suspense and intrigue could’ve drawn people in. They could’ve had B stories that were part of one episode at a time so it would be more palatable to a network.

          • Pete says:

            You are right. It was such a good show 3 seasons went by way too quickly. Tim Roth is an incredibly talented actor and the chemistry he had with Kelli Williams was amazing. The rating list did say well written right? Because it was very well written.

    • Shopgirl says:

      I have to disagree with you on South Park. At first, I, like others, thought this show was just another shock value animation series full of canned jokes and 12 yr old boy humor like Family Guy. And I am definitely not the demographic for that type of show. But if you can get past the poop jokes, you start to realize that South Park is a very intelligently written social commentary.

  15. Pete says:

    After reading through all 4 pages of comments I realized something. Less than 5% of the posts express agreement with this list. To me, that just truly questions the credibility of the “writers guild.” How is it possible that this is a top 101 list if the great majority disagree I ask you?

  16. Josh says:

    The wire being 9th means there is no reason to continue looking at this list.

  17. mary says:

    The Wire should be number 1. After this season, Mad Men shouldn’t be in the top 10. BSG and Buffy should be higher.

  18. Hattie says:

    Warmed my heart to see The West Wing so high. Also loved the nods to My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks. Buffy should be much, much higher. One big omission – where or where is Dr. Who??????

  19. DAN KINSLEY says:

    WHERE IS BONES??? IT’S ENTERING IT’S 9TH SEASON. THE HONEYMOONERS DIDN’T EVEN MAKE THE 2ND SEASON !!

  20. Stephen says:

    1. Game of Thrones (its not even close)
    2. Rome (how did this not make the list??)
    3. The Wire
    4. Louie
    5. Arrested Development
    6. The sopranos
    7. Deadwood
    8. Breaking Bad
    9. The Office (uk)
    10. Boardwalk Empire

  21. JAMES says:

    #1) PRISON BREAK – Best written show ever, Unbelievably Great!
    #2) 24 – Needed something to fill the hole of missing Prison Break and this did it.
    #3 – BREAKING BAD – Got interested quick and still hooked.

  22. guy says:

    Sex & the City, Will & Grace, Absolutely Fabulous should have listed higher. Where is Desperate housewives btw?

    • joney says:

      I agree with you on Sex & the City. Good, funny and witty writing. Desperate Housewives should have been on the list.

  23. Damon says:

    Where’s “Waking The Dead” and “Wire In The Blood”, they are two awesome shows. Putting “The Simpsons” in over those two, you’ve got to be joking.

  24. James says:

    No Heroes have to be kidding me

  25. Camak says:

    You have made a mistake by leaving “Prison Break” off of this list.

  26. Scottie says:

    Often the list feels like some of the most groundbreaking shows rather than the best written. These should not be seen as synonomous. Doing something new, edgy, or taking on controversial topics doesn’t make something well written. Lots of favorites on the list still and makes me want to start my Christmas list.

  27. Alex says:

    I didn’t see The Big Bang theory anywhere on that list. Why isn’t it on there?

  28. Danno81 says:

    I know any list of the top whatever best entertainment will always be subjective so there’s no real right or wrong, however; Buffy at 49?! Screw you that should be somewhere right up the top!

  29. Ryan says:

    The fact that House is so low on this list disappoints me. I mean, really? They put South Park ahead of House? That is a discredit to the show….and besides, if South Park is up there, why no Family Guy? What about Fresh Prince and all the issues they tackled? Or Family Matters? I demand a recount!

  30. Mike says:

    First of all, I Love Lucy Should AT LEAST be in the top 5, lost should be at least top ten and I ddn’t even see How I Met Your Mother :O

  31. hrvoje says:

    YEAH,and there is no ONLY FOOLS AND HORESES??? Some list

  32. Jack says:

    Seriously,,, Supernatural is not there!!!!! idk to me if that such show is ignored, list is not worth viewing, first thing i did when i came here ( was looking for new show to watch) i hit control F (Ctrl F) and searched supernatural, once i did not find it,, i ignored entire list. Sorry to break it down like this, i am straight forward person.

  33. bloggiechick says:

    Reblogged this on Bloggity and commented:
    “The Twilight Zone” and “All in the Family” were made of pure genius. I have to admit I’ve never watched “The Sopranos.” Better late than never, I guess…

  34. Sam says:

    Um… Why is Friends not #1???????

  35. Will says:

    1. Breaking bad, I hate all you old people who think the older shows were so well written. 2. The Wire and boardwalk should be higher, no problem with the sopranos being in top ten. Shows that should be higher, battlestar, boardwalk, games of thrones, The Office

    • Danno81 says:

      To counter that: I hate all you young guys who think only modern shows can be good.
      Seriously though, no one as far as I know has said only old shows are good. Everyone has their favourites which is why no list will ever get everyone’s, or even most peoples, agreement. But there’s something from many eras in both the list and the comments. Open your mind and look beyond the past 10 years, if it doesn’t come in glorious HD with photo-realistic special effects doesn’t mean it’s not as good.

  36. richard says:

    My personal are
    Breaking Bad
    Arrested Development
    The Walking Dead
    The Wire
    Spartacus

  37. Jonathon says:

    Where is Only fools and Horses??

  38. trixiec67 says:

    I must be old at 46. Many of you are mentioning shows I’ve never bothered to “waste” my personal time to watch as an adult. However, how many of you have noticed that a great number of shows on this list (which by the way have not mentioned the criteria of how it came to be and who did the voting) are shows that go back beyond probably before our youth. Many of us probably watched most of these shows in re-run form or where in our early youth. I do remember the build-up the final episode of M*A*S*H. And yes I was one of those millions who watched and wept.

    However, I never bothered with shows like Buffy, Gilmore Girls, West Wing, St. Eleswhere (by the way, both shows included Mark Harmon). I used to be hooked on the original L & O until Jerry Orbach passed away from cancer. In my mind, no one could replace the character he created.

    Everyone is open to their own interpretation of what they feel is their own top 100. There is no right or wrong! This is a subjective area. You know what you like and no one can or will change your mind. Your opinion is yours. You own it! Others can express theirs. It’s not a crime. It’s not wrong. As long as we allow for open opions. You just don’t have to agree with them.

    Happy TV watching.

  39. justin121 says:

    L O S T

    Seinfeld

    The Good Wife / 30 Rock (tie)

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    Friends

  40. Matt says:

    1-The Sopranos
    2-The Twilight Zone
    3- The Honeymooners
    4- Breaking Bad
    5-All in the Family
    6- I Love Lucy
    7- Boardwalk Empire
    8-Dexter
    9- Saturday Night Live
    10-The Dukes of Hazard

  41. Lauren says:

    1-The Sopranos
    2- Breaking Bad
    3-Numbers
    4-Hill Street Blues
    5-NYPD Blue
    6-The Twilight Zone
    7- Nurse Jackie
    8-Dexter
    9-Saturday Night Live
    10- The Honeymooners

  42. usman says:

    how in world prison break did not make it to d above list.

  43. Krystan says:

    Ok. I have some problems with this list. SATC should not be on there. The writing was not great. “I had to wonder is single the new black….?” (to be fair I made that example up but it pretty much sums up every episode) I own the seasons and I find it entertaining, but it is NOT well written. A show that is did not make the list, that is absolutely one of the most well written shows on television, is Fringe. Seriously. I would agree that VM or GG deserve a spot on the list if shows like SATC made it. I love love friends and I don’t think it qualifies as well written. Hell Daria deserves a spot. That show is smart and well written.

  44. Doctor Who says:

    Where is Doctor Who? It should be #1 on this list! Nothing even comes close to being as good or running as long. Star Trek made the list, but Doctor Who beat it recently as the best sci-fi show of all time, so seriously, it is just insane that Doctor Who is missing, let alone not number one. Also, where is Firefly?!

  45. Schave Fenelon says:

    This list is just OK. Not the best. But the real question is, “why the heck is 24 tied?”. It’s special on its own. But that’s just me!

  46. hanna says:

    What about SHERLOCK?!?! Or the Good Wife? Both awesome shows, especially the former

  47. Sol says:

    It’s meant to be top 100? You can’t just tie stuff. Was breaking bad even on this !!!

  48. bob says:

    Dexter should be higher on the list

  49. Phil B says:

    House should be higher. Sure the last few seasons were so so but the first 3 seasons sucked me in…. And I hate medical dramas.

    And, Game of Thrones should be in the top 20, easily.

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