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?)

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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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  1. Ski says:

    How is House MD not on this list? Seriously????

  2. Isabella says:

    Ugh…not surprised to see Arrested Development on here. It’s usually an extreme–either people love it or absolutely loathe it. Unfortunately it’s one that can’;t be started mid-season because then you’ll be missing out on a lot of references. Definitely geared towards a certain type of humor (not mine).

  3. Stefanos says:

    The Sopranos is hard to argue against.
    West Wing should be higher.
    Mad Men and Seinfeld well overrated.
    Why isn’t Malcolm in the Middle up near the top?

  4. Iain Kopp says:

    I saw Seinfeld at number 2 and no Breaking Bad or Arrested Development in the top 10 and stopped reading. If this list really did come from the writers guild of america it would explain quite a bit about why most movies and tv shows are complete and utter rubbish.

  5. Kyle says:

    No WKRP in Cincinnati ? Lol

  6. Kyle says:

    No “Married with Children” lol

  7. Dee says:


  8. bubba says:

    No Veronica Mars, no Parks & Recreation, no Ally Mc Beal and … no DARIA !!!!!!

  9. Leonardo Lopez says:

    WHERE THE HELL IS PRISON BREAK? it’s arguably one of the best shows to ever hit the small screen.

  10. Teri says:

    Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a
    few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.

  11. platypus Perry says:

    Snubbed are Alias, Felicity, Nurse Jackie, Angel, Married with Children, The Simpsons, Possibly weeds.

    If You’re going to put David Letterman on a list,which he Shouldn’t be, make sure Johnny Carson is much HIGHER oh wait…. ON THE LIST PERIOD!!!! Everyone knows he is late night king even when he is R.I.P. Still the Best.

  12. Tyler says:

    Anyone who believes that The Sopranos did not deserve the number one spot is simply wrong and must not have been paying attention. The writing on that show is absolutely breathtaking, and nothing compares to it. And there seem to be quite a few people thinking that Entourage should have made the cut… No. Must I remind you all that this is the top 100 in writing. Sure, it was an entertaining and well made show, but it did not deserve to be on this list at all. Same goes for such things as “Gilmore Girls” and others.

    Also, Community is mediocre comedy, and in no way deserved to be even mentioned on the comments of this list.

    All of you seem to be picking your favorite shows and complaining about them not being on here or higher up. I, myself, am partial to Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones, but I know good writing when I see it. The Sopranos earned it’s top spot, and Seinfeld definitely earned number 2.

  13. Matthew says:

    Isn’t Big Bang theory a good show and family guy? They should’ve been on there

    • Shana says:

      Big Bang Theory is more about the actors and less the writing. I love Family Guy, but I think that they think it’s too controversial lol

  14. Ray Penbur says:

    I think M*A*S*H* should have been first because the finale got over 120 million views, more 60% of American households were watching.

  15. brad says:

    they snubbed king of the hill!!

  16. Carl says:

    Anybody who voted in this poll over 35? Many great shows from the 1950s and 1960s are totally overlooked. Westerns get a real short shrift, notably Have Gun Will Travel, Bonanza, Wagon Train and The Rifleman. Where’s Route 66? Perry Mason, for criminy sake?

  17. Jeffrey Maher says:

    The Walking Dead anyone?

  18. HS says:

    where the hell did Prison break go?

  19. hanza'la says:

    wonder why PRISON BREAK is nowhere

  20. Sheikh Yasser Jamil says:

    Some of the selection here is just ridiculous.The simpsons ahead of Breaking Bad?
    Dexter ranked at 66? Which I feel is one of the best shows ever made.

    I think what matters is if the Tv show made in the list,that means it’s the best in it’s own right.
    Because of the selection here cannot be justified,it’s just flimsy.

  21. Lachlan says:

    Buffy should be in top 5, seriously one of the greatest tv shows ever made. It just has an indescribable quality that is unlike anything ive ever seen (and ive seen alot).

  22. David O says:

    If Game of thrones season 4 is as awesome as the other 3 seasons it should make the top 10

  23. Darren Darville says:

    1. Breaking Bad
    2. The Wire
    3. The Sopranos
    4. Game of Thrones
    5. Curb Your Enthusiasm
    6. The Shield
    7. Sienfield

  24. Sliveintoit says:

    Opinion lists are always fun, becuase in the end they really do not matter, but they can stir the pot up =).

    The Sopranos isnt the best show ive ever seen, its more like a top 20 show.

    Fringe should be on this list, it had a singular unique way of delving into a relationship between Father and Son, it was sadly never watched by many and I think too many thought it was a reboot of XFiles (it wasnt).

    BSG reboot, was REALLY really good, sadly as a scifi show , its going to never get the respect it deserves.

    24 IS TIED with Roseanne!!!!! Really? Did everyone forget about badly roseanne ended?

    All in the Family, dealt with sensative material in a Raw, Funny straight on manner, great if there was a list about doing that, it should be #1, but rewatching it now , its kind of painful to bear, its really not all that funny.

    The Cosby show on the other hand is still quite funny after all of these years, with relatable material, I would squeek into a top ten spot.

    Mash for the most part is still pretty watchable and deserves a top ten as well.

    Somehow I would add Monk on this list, I do not know what to take off to add it, but I would.

    Buffy is too high, it should be near the bottom. Make the list is still respectful.

    Sometimes its hard to watch older shows now, just becuase of the format difference, darn we have come along way since I was young.

  25. PRATIK says:


  26. Gabriel says:

    How is Lost on this list?

  27. drzogg says:

    “highly subjective” is no excuse for this joke of a list. you can’t mix drama and comedy.

    here y’all go, much less “subjective”, believe it or not:

    1. The Wire
    2. Deadwood
    3. Boardwalk Empire
    4. Homeland
    5. Game of Thrones
    6. Breaking Bad
    7. Battlestar Galactica
    8. The Sopranos
    9. Oz
    10. Girls
    11. Top of the Lake
    12. Rectify
    13. Mad Men
    14. Dexter (Season 1,2)
    15. Treme

    – havent seen “the shield” and “the west wing” yet

    – overrated (among countless others):
    twin peaks, 6 feet under, prison break, true blood, sons of anarchy,
    falling skies, burn notice, warehouse 13, american horror story, justified, enlightened, house of cards, rubicon

    • Joshua says:

      Bro, I think your list is the joke.
      Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and Battlestar Galactica ahead of The Sopranos? Girls in the top 10? Top of the Lake? That was a mini-series and it barely came out. It’s obvious you’ve only watched shows that have only recently come out.

      • Ed says:

        I would absolutely put Game of Thrones and Battlestar Galactica ahead of The Sopranos (which I found passable, but nothing special).

  28. will sullivan says:


  29. will sullivan says:


  30. will sullivan says:

    Oh and I know animated shows get no credit, but what about Batman:The Animated Series?

  31. Jay says:

    Where the hell is Doctor Who?!?!

  32. Ben says:

    Come on man! The Walking Dead didn’t make the top 100?!?! I can’t believe that…

    • Keet says:

      Exactly.. Nothing has been done like Walking Dead.. Most of the other shows on here r just
      re-hashed. Really invalidates the list to me.

  33. Pete says:

    LOST has no place on this list, how dare they put it above Twin Peaks?!?!

  34. Will says:

    West Wing, The Wire, Game of Thrones should be top 3. Mad Men and Sopranos overrated IMO. Watched Sopranos all the way through but felt it didnt go anywhere. Band of Brothers and Fawlty Tower should be way higher. Also where is Firefly?

  35. Will says:

    Oh yeah and House and The Walking Dead should both be on here

  36. Chrissy says:

    Although it’s ranked high, “Cheers” deserves to be higher. The show was freaking genius and I’m surprised nobody has brought that up yet.

  37. Shana says:

    I disagree with everyone who says that Modern Family doesn’t deserve to be on this list. This show was introduced at the perfect time and I believe that the writing, while not as innovative, reflects on how much our society has developed since, let’s say, Ed O’Neill’s youth, which is refreshing to watch and occasionally triggers emotion.
    Also, Saturday Night Live deserves to be top 5. That show is ALL about the writing. It set the way for half the comedy shows on this list.
    30 Rock, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Seinfeld, and the Simpsons are my personal favourites.
    I don’t like Gilmore Girls, but I recognize that the writing on that show was amazing.

  38. Shana says:

    It’s Always Sunny is THE most underrated show on television, but the writing is brilliant. Deserves to be somewhere on this list.

  39. john says:

    Where is THE SHIELD???

  40. nick says:

    Sons of anarchy should be on the list hands down

  41. joe says:

    Freaks and geeks best show ever aired on tv king of queens

  42. Cindy G says:

    Gunsmoke. Mission Impossible. Hawaii Five-O Why no westerns ,which dominated? and where is Star Trek?

    • Ed says:

      Star Trek is on the list – at 33.

      I’d make it #1, as far as “best show ever”.

      However, as far as writing goes, 33 may be about right.

  43. Nick says:

    where is Entourage in all this??

  44. da says:

    Um…… my list.
    1) sopranos
    2) breaking bad
    3)sons of anarchy
    4) boardwalk empire
    Then theres the rest
    Imho of course

  45. Zander says:

    DALLAS!!!!! In my opinion, it is hard to take this list seriously because the only TV character more famous than Tony Soprano is JR and he did not make the list!

  46. Emily says:

    My List is definitely (no order): Mad Men, Six Feet Under, Queer as Folk, Game of Thrones, Gilmore Girls, Spartacus, The Tudors, The Office (US), Modern Family and I know I will get hate for this BUT I gotta say One Tree Hil(the first 4 seasons)l even though it was cheesy at times, the dialogue was well written and I love the quotes they share throughout the seasons.

  47. batman says:

    there are only 78 tv shows listed

  48. Jakez says:

    I think trail or park boys should have a spot towards the end no matter how stupid it is I could be we not watch the next episode !

  49. Aguas says:

    No Chappelle’s Show? “That is absurd!!” It’s hard to imagine why that didn’t make the top 100. Also, how is The Wire not top 5? Or heck, top 3? The vast majority of people who have seen that show would put it at the top.

  50. krang says:

    A list by Americans for Americans….