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

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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654 Comments
  1. Tyler Reid says:

    I think friends and lost should have been in the top ten instead of twilight zone and mary tyler moore

  2. Steve says:

    Agree with Buffy being higher. This might be just nostalgia speaking but I’d put boy meets world on the list. And community should be on the list for sure. This is all just my opinion obviously. It’s fun to debate the list but there really isn’t a right or wrong, some people are getting carried away.

  3. Breaking bad at 13. You’ll have to remove the three.

  4. wizarddrummer says:

    I’m baffled as how 24 is in a tie with Rosanne. Seriously? For me 24 is near the top of the pack because it is so unique.

  5. N.J says:

    Black Adder
    Monty Python’s Flying Circus
    Seinfeld
    Fawlty Towers
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    The Wire
    Boys From The Blackstuff
    Doctor Who
    Farscape
    Homicide: Life On The Street

    Agree with comments that Buffy’s too low- much too low. Should objective be top 20 at the very, very least. Farscape is the best sci-fi show I’ve ever seen. Sopranos massively overrated (I loved the Godfather and Goodfellas- The Sopranos just seemed like a parody).

  6. Fred says:

    Where is Two and a half men? are you serious?

  7. Shopgirl says:

    The list is a little hit and miss in my opinion, but as others have said, everyone’s taste is different. I tend to be a fan of shows whose writing is unique with a concept or style that you haven’t seen before. Seinfield, a show about nothing that never ended an episode with a resolution. Breaking Bad, with a main character who started out as likeable and got increasingly worse.Dexter a serial killer that you not only like, but rooted for. Soap who had an openly gay character in the 1970s. And All in the Family would not even make it on the air in our overly PC world these days.

    Even though I am a fan of some SciFi, I never have gotten the appeal of Buffy and Friends would not be in my top list because it is way too traditional of a format to me. I want to be surprised at what the writers will come up with next. And as soon as a comedy had a “very special episode,” was the moment it “jumped the shark” for me.

    A few comedies that didn’t make the list or have the mass appeal of those listed, but were/are creative and different in my opinion were The Comeback, Raising Hope, and Shameless (unfortunately the strong British accents makes the original UK version sometimes hard for me understand).

    And I think Sex and the City does have a place on this list. At least the first three seasons when Candace Bushnell was still part of the series. Those first three seasons were hilarious and showed women who had sex and never apologized for it. That was a new an unique concept. From season 4 and on, it felt like they were trying to make the characters more girly and appealing to the masses and it lost that unapologetic edge that made it unique.

    I think that is true of a lot of series and why the writing is so important. As many comments have pointed out certain seasons of shows were better than others. You can very obviously tell when the writing staff changes on a show. And too often I think a show starts having some success and decides the acting or actors are more important than the writers or script.

  8. Beth says:

    Obviously, much of what we like is subjective, but I think this is a great list.

  9. chriss1519 says:

    No Too Close For Comfort?

    No Hart to Hart?

  10. Jim H says:

    IMHO, in order to be considered a “series”, it should average more than one new show per month. Anything less should be labeled “recurring special.”

  11. Tom says:

    Dexter is my personal favorite show of all time and while I’m not saying it should be 1st but it should a lot higher than 66 and I also agree that I understand Breaking Bad being there but I watched the 1st two seasons and just couldn’t get into it.

  12. Jeff says:

    The Prisoner should be WAAAAYYYY higher on this list, it should at the very least be above LOST, which is basically a re-imagining of The Prisoner… it’s ridiculous…. like ranking Battle Royale below The Hunger Games, or ranking the US version of The Office above the British version of The Office. That would just be totally silly.

  13. Martin Arrowsmith says:

    What a fantastic read. Mary Tyler Moore will always top my personal list. So pleased that Upstairs, Downstairs got a mention. To the whiners: Entourage? Really, folks? Buffy? Hardly in the same caliber.

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  15. Wiley says:

    Why is dexter 66? Where did your head go when you wrote this

  16. Any list that does not contain Star Trek: the Next Generation is not valid.

  17. Ian Oosthuizen says:

    Where is Smallville????????? Best series ever!!!!!!! It went on ten seasons how could anyone forget it.

  18. LeoBasy says:

    Gunsmoke, hello?? The second longest TV series in history behind The Simpsons deserves a mention!

  19. Micky says:

    1.LOST 2.Breaking Bad 3.The Wire 4.The X-Files 5.OZ 6.The Shield

    • Troy Stone says:

      Love your list but I would make a few changes:

      4. I would change The X-Files for The Shield
      5. I would change Oz for Sons of Anarchy
      6 I would change The Shield for 24

  20. Evan says:

    Where is Entourage on this list.

  21. Troy Stone says:

    Where is SONS OF ANARCHY and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE? Both should at least be in the top 30.

  22. Rick says:

    The West (left) Wing???? You’ve got to be kidding!!??? Shouldn’t even be on this list!

  23. Ralph says:

    SO happy Freaks and Geeks is on there! Wire should be no1

  24. yougottobekiddingme says:

    Smallville is the best series ever made, I miss Alias, Prison Break, Two and a Half Men and X-Files in top 10 and I didn’t catch Californication, Entourage, Supernatural and O.C. in the list !

  25. irish555 says:

    Missing – Gilmore Girls – wittiest mother/daughter(including grandmother) dialogue in history of TV – don’t believe me? watch almost any episode in the first 4 seasons
    – Johnny Carson -The Tonight Show created Late night television and had far more cultural influence than most of the shows on the list – there would be no David Letterman or possibly SNL without Carson proving late night shows could draw high ratings
    – Fringe superior in depth and theme to X Files though sometimes wandered off its main story arcs too much due to sophistication of story lines though no FBI agent was ever hotter than Scully!
    – Jackie Gleason and especially “Carol Burnett Show” who paved the way for female comedians to star in their own shows like Mary Tyler Moore Show – SNL copied many of the comedic techniques from Burnett’s hilarious cast
    -“Dallas” – hang on haters (lol) JR Ewing was the ultimate manipulative evil character in tv and few season ending plot twists in television history created more conversation and controversy than the season long “dream sequence” of the Bobby character
    , – Survivor which spawned a whole decade of “reality” shows as it could be argued that much of the program’s content was influenced by the producers’ agendas and editing which is a form of writing
    and last but not least “Spin City”, “Family Ties”, “Married with Children”,”I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched” in the sitcom category snubbed over “Arrested Development” and “Raymond”??? Really?? Why not just include “King of Queens” and “Joey”!!! Terrible sexist and narrow minded list in my opinion.
    PS Firefly was excellent but one season is not enough to be included IMO because a truly great series maintains a high standard of writing over several seasons – that’s why so many promising shows are cancelled early in their development as the plot lines and character development often hit dead ends and/or stagnate after brilliant initial episodes.
    -

  26. douglas says:

    1 seinfeld 2 the wire also the shield isn’t even mentioned and its a top 20 for sure

  27. Jim says:

    I just finished watching Six Feet Under and think it was one of the best shows I have ever watched. Fantastic acting and directing.

  28. Kevin Capaldi says:

    * Cough * Cough * DOCTOR WHO !!!!!!

  29. Xo O says:

    I was somewhat disappointed when I didn’t see Supernatural on here,Oldie but goodie. Glad to see Breaking Bad was on this list though, by far The BEST show!

  30. John Smith says:

    How can you not include the Walking dead its probbably the best tv show out of all of them

  31. jetrod says:

    Where is the Drew Carey show? It should be on the list

  32. Josh Oliver says:

    I truly feel The Walking Dead is good enough to make this list. Who else agrees?

  33. nick certa says:

    Um. No. The Wire is #1. Maybe Seinfeld or the Simpsons. Sopranos?!?! PSSSHHH!

    THE WIRE.

  34. Jim says:

    Why is the Andy Griffith Show not number one?

  35. Sam says:

    how is band of brothers and 24 so far down? they should be near if not , on the top!

  36. Forget best of 2013…. BREAKING BAD is the best TV show EVER….the acting and the writing are simply beyond anything else ever done.. Never in my life have I seen an ensemble of characters that I cared more about. Every single episode left you wanting more. It was the best time I’ve ever spent in front of a screen. I laughed, I cried and caught myself saying “wow” more than once.

  37. charmingman says:

    What they really forgot: 1. Sherlock 2. Psych 3. Eureka 4. Big Bang Theory 5. Firefly – there’s ur top 5 people!

  38. StephenR says:

    There are two eras in television drama: the pre-Buffy era, and the post-Buffy era.

    Buffy raised the bar beyond anything we could have imagined before, with brilliant dialogue, high-brow humor, and the best character writing that television had ever seen.

    That said, here are my favorite television dramas of all-time, roughly in order:

    1. Buffy
    2. Firefly
    3. Angel
    4. Veronica Mars
    5. Battlestar Galactica
    6. Millennium – Chris Carter’s best work
    7. The L Word – extremely underrated, great writing, fantastic characters
    8. Northern Exposure
    9. The Wire
    10. LEXX

    And the most overrated shows ever:

    1. Mad Men – these AMC shows are plagued with clumsy writing, weak dialogue, and hopelessly boring characters… all style and no substance. They rely on gimmickry to establish their fan base.
    2. Breaking Bad – see above
    3. The Walking Dead – see above
    4. LOST – season 1 was fantastic, but after that it became truly awful
    5. House M.D. – it started off great, but then it turned into a soap opera all about their petty relationship problems, losing sight of the original style of the show.

    • charmingman says:

      The only one I ever watched in ur top 10 was Firefly. Watched 1st ep of Battlestar Galactica – friggin hated it! And I love sci-fi stuff. Guess I’ll have to check out this Wire show everyone seems to be talking about.
      but seriously
      1. Sherlock! (duh, obvious)
      2. Psych
      3. Eureka
      – those are def my top 3!
      I also love Frasier too.

    • MusicSpaceTV says:

      Dramas. I love Veronica Mars and am truly shocked this isn’t on there. Buffy was cool too.

      Mad Men do not see the likeness in this show at all.
      Breaking Bad started out cool and different, in the mid of season 3 started looking stupid.
      Lost first season was amazing, second ok, others…
      House MD basically everything you said.
      Walking Dead while I like it and think its somewhat well written its way to popularized boring and slow.

  39. CB Lunsford says:

    My Personal Top 12

    1. Sopranos
    2. Game of Thrones
    3. Sons of Anarchy
    4. Boardwalk Empire
    5. Breaking Bad
    6. Deadwood
    7. Dexter
    8. Justified
    9. Vikings
    10. Hannibal
    11. Rome
    12. Bates Motel

  40. dlillib says:

    Star Trek: TNG should be much higher. Also missing is Mythbusters, Burn Notice, Law & Order: SVU, Family Guy, and possibly Night Court.

  41. dlillib says:

    Oh, yeah — also Justice League: Unlimited and Futurama.

  42. e says:

    some of these comments crack me up because i’m pretty sure they’re confusing the point of the article/list, which is to recognize great writing, with their own personal soapbox of favorite shows. just because a show is your favorite does not mean the writing is great… i love the OC, possibly my favorite show of all time, but i’d never demand it be put on this list. i also love veronica mars (which many have said was unfairly omitted from said list), as well as friday night lights (which was top 25). i am a tv FANATIC, and i think we all have our (very strong) personal opinions on what makes great tv.

    • Danno81 says:

      So many comments also confuse that fact that the author of this article is not the author of the list. He was just reporting on the list the Writers Guild came up with.

      “Woah, a subjective list of best written shows doesn’t agree with my best ever list of shows. I must tell them they’re wrong!!!”

      • e says:

        it’s the best right!? i very much appreciate those (rare) comments that can contribute interesting conversation without YELLING THAT EVERYONE IS STUPID AND KNOWS NOTHING!

        • charmingman says:

          Wow your so deep and intelligent. You make me question all of my postings. Thank you so much for helping me see that telling others that this list bites and that “yelling” about the shows I think are best is the wrong way to go about it. I’m changing my ways as if this moment!

      • charmingman says:

        They are wrong. Thanks for your comment 😉

    • charmingman says:

      My picks are right. Everyone else is wrong.

  43. Flo says:

    This is a good list. Thank you man

  44. MusicSpaceTV says:

    Shows that probably should be on this list.

    Family Guy (like it or not it is one pf the funniest shows on TV. I’ve never heard anyone talk about The Simpson).

    Nikita (or even Le Femme Nikita). Probably the best action show on TV in a good 10 years. I mean movie style quality.

    Alias. Now I only saw the first season so far and its really good. Wdut.

    South Park should be higher then The Simpson.

    Seinfeld should be lower.

    Modern Family good cast but show itself shouldnt be on this list.

    Veronica Mars?!?!?!? Really should be on her.

    Rizzoli and Isles amazing female cop duo that deserves to be on this list with great cast and storylines.

    Pretty Little Liars well written show that actually keeps you guessing. I might add that to the list.

    The Nanny was one of the funniest shows ever.

    Gilmore Girls also should be here.

  45. MusicSpaceTV says:

    Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Proud Family really should’ve been here. I guess its because there kids shows on Nick and Disney.

  46. Rod says:

    Dr. Who…………..

  47. walking dead, epic fail

    • charmingman says:

      “I know its over, but it never really began. But in my heart, it was so real…”
      Si who’s everybody’s pick to win Roland Garros (French Open)? – Nadal or Djoker??

  48. Ed says:

    Not necessarily best written, but best.

    #1 Star Trek
    #2 Stargate SG-1
    #3 The Wire
    #4 Breaking Bad
    #5 Mash

  49. kopal says:

    breaking bad over friends? wiki it!… and its is not about whos story is better either
    sitcoms always trumps other good story shows, but storywise sitcoms are bottom to middle

  50. andres says:

    This list is really dang good, only a few omissions (one BIG one!)

    1. IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA?!?!?!?!?!? (How did they miss that?)
    2. The Big Bang Theory
    3. Walking Dead (Give it a chance, not a high spot, the writing in the show is hard to pull off since it is all about survival and nothing else, so don’t hate)
    4. Fresh Prince Of Bel Air