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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  1. paul says:

    The andy Griffith Show #70? No way!

  2. gary says:

    happy to see Cheers get the respect it deserves
    but no magum pi? the chemistry between the 4 stars was amazing

    and only an imbecile would say Seinfeld is overrated. If anything its underrated here because it should be #1 over the sopranos.

    16 yrs later and Seinfeld is as popular as ever

  3. Mike says:

    Cheers should be higher!

  4. Derek says:

    There are some terrible inconsistencies here, but every list will have them. The fact that Buffy The Vampire Slayer made the list and the Waltons didn’t is insane. They’re still showing Waltons reruns. I’m 26, so I think I have a good idea of what value there is in newer tv series, but I have to admit its down from some of the older ones. People who complain about Seinfeld and All In the Family aren’t giving them a fair chance. I never liked M.A.S.H. mainly because the original movie makes the show look so lame in comparison. I think Taxi was much better and more entertaining as a whole. The Wire deserves all the accolades it gets, but The Sopranos was just a little better to me. It could be because I’m a South Philly kid and I still know who the local mob guys are, so it was more appealing to me personally. I still think the writing and character development was excellent. The person who complained about the daughter arc is an idiot. They never focused enough on her to make it worth following since she was stronger than AJ and less of a focal point for Tony. Sons are always kind of getting more attention by their parents, especially in Italian families. That idea makes it more authentic to me. Anyhow, I also found it peculiar that Happy Days wasn’t mentioned on here. If I missed it on the list let me know, but I find it insulting that a show with one television’s most iconic character is missing. C’mon who doesn’t think “The Fonz” is the coolest man to ever walk the face of this earth. Sure its a lame show at times, but everyone grew up watching it at one time or another. Also, I noticed a few kids shows on here. You can’t have them without Batman: The Animated Series from the early 90’s. I believe IGN selected it as the second best animated series of all time behind The Simpsons, and generally the writing on it is just as good if not better than half the live action adult oriented shows you have on here. I wrote a novel and don’t plan to respond to anyone who leaves a comment, so I got it all out there in one shot.

  5. matthew says:

    Where’s Supernatural on this list, definitely in my top 10.

  6. chad cyr says:

    1. malcolm in the middle
    2. breaking bad
    3. south park
    4. Blue mountain state
    5. ink master
    Please call me names below for my opinion. Thank You.

  7. Austin W says:

    Californication? pick any comedy on this list, cali will make you laugh more per episode and forces you to love every character like family. so what if there are boobs in every episode

  8. Sam says:

    OK I pretty much can say I agree with this list but one big thing you left out is Dallas. I could be wrong but wasn’t it like the number 1 show for like 3 or 4 years straight throughout the 80’s? Definitely one of my favorite shows. I also think friends should be rated a little higher and the twilight zone although a good show should be like 13 not 3.

    • JimH says:

      This is the list of best written shows – not the list of most popular shows. These two qualities are not necessarily synonymous… and frequently are actually opposites. From what I’ve seen lately, the poorly written shows are popular while the well written shows are cancelled halfway through their first season.

  9. Christine Wilson says:

    Heeellllooo? Will & Grace / Friends not in the top 10??!!?? Wth???

  10. Kevin says:

    Lost, The Office U.S.

  11. Tim says:

    1. Breaking Bad
    2. South Park
    3. That ’70s Show
    4. Malcolm in the Middle
    5. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
    6. Scrubs
    7. The Colbert Report
    8. World Wrestling Federation
    9. Futurama
    10. American Dad

  12. martin fennell says:

    If this is off topic, fine. apologies
    What about shows not in the english language. Is there a reason, they are not included.
    My favourite shows
    the x files, poice squad, certain episodes of m.a.s.h, and Bilko. family guy.
    Brass, fawlty towers
    Where is Prime Suspect
    most influential show-hill steet blues.That and Homicide should be higher.
    Anyway, some non english language shows that have impressed me.
    1.Still, Life Goes On (japan), A masterpiece imho
    2. the killing (denmark) . terriffic first season, a bit of a let down in season 2, found it’s feet again in season 3
    3. Borgen (denmark).see The killing
    4.the eagle (denmark). comsistenly excellemt.
    5. the octopus (Italy) terriffic. Although it has about 10 seasons, and i’ve only seen the first 1 or two.
    6. city hall (korea)

  13. Beverly says:

    Agree. Firefly should be listed and Lost is ranked too low. Just my opinion. “I AIM TO MISBEHAVE.” LONG LIVE CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS AND JAYNE! BROWNCOAT FOR LIFE!♥ Good to see Justified and Deadwood on the list.

  14. Kyle says:

    Friday Night Lights?? Really?
    Where is Sons of Anarchy?
    Where is NCIS?
    Breaking Bad should be top 5

  15. mohd says:

    Breaking bad

  16. mohd says:

    Breaking Bad is No 1. Game of the throne is No 2. Friends is No 3.

  17. Mark Hahn says:

    “Frasier” consistently produced well-written scripts and timely comedic delivery. I would rank it in the top 10 to be sure.

  18. mrmoo says:

    heres the reviewed list. 1. Breaking Bad. 2. Breaking Bad. 3. Breaking Bad. 4. Everything else. why? thrre sre no filler episodes, plotholes, it has a beginnig midle and end. a findamental drive towards drastically changing every character while keepimg them easily idenifiable with theirvoriginal selves. no disappoimting finales and superb acting.

  19. Dennis says:

    I’m sorry, Miami Vice has got to be somewhere on this list. It married music with slick film editing and was a prototype for many of the other shows found on this list, not only in filming, but on dealing with thin line between good and evil, and the compromises that we many times have to make in life.

  20. danny atkins says:

    saved by the bell, corny but good, even though its fun for everyone to make fun of. family matters, fresh prince, married with children, little house on the prairie, Spartacus blood and sand/gods of the arena, the office, full house, boy meets world, rules of engagement, Roseanne-should be way lower, spin city, coach, happy days, taxi, friends-should be lower, cheers, party of five, 90210, wings-was pretty underrated, californication, dream on, home improvement, rob and big black, family ties should be lower, and so should the wonder years

  21. Ramlo says:

    I wonder why didn’t u put victorious tv show in the list i mean i looooooooove this tv show❤️❤️❤️❤️😍😍😍😍😍

  22. Brian says:

    There are obviously issues I have all over the place with the rankings, but the only egregious one to me right off the top of my head is Buffy’s ranking. Just because the show didn’t have the “following” of some of these others shows, should not diminish just how incredible it was. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s top ten all time (although I think an argument can easily be made), but to have it outside of the top twenty is a downright shame.

    I mean, ask almost anyone who has watched the show, and they will sing it’s praises to you. Add in that the show single-handedly spawned some of the single greatest hours of television ever made (Hush, Once More With Feeling, The Body, The Gift, and Becoming 1/2 are all episodes of TV that can stand up with the greatest of all time. And in the case of the first three listed, there might not be better hours of television).

  23. Gregory Vanikiotis says:

    Hitchcock and The Fugitive have been short changed! Wake up and grab a fresh bite of air !!!

  24. olivia says:

    SUPERNATURAL should have made the top 20. It is the longest running supernatu tee all tv show.

  25. Joe says:

    You’re high if That 70’s Show isn’t a top 100 show.

  26. Rick says:

    Where’s TJ Hooker? LOL

  27. Peter says:

    Stargate says hello

  28. Scott says:

    ummm the list seems to be missing shows…where is 80-82 for example? Also where is Bewitched? Brady Bunch? and umm no nod to soaps like Days Of Our Lives that have been on for like 50 years…whether you watch soaps or not..50 years on TV? Even Star Trek and its minions TNG DS9 and Voyager cannot claim they stayed on 50 years.

  29. AD says:

    Great discussion. One glaring omission was the Rockford Files, with the great James Garner. Very cleverly written, and offbeat. Laugh at me , but I believe the Leave it to Beaver holds it own against the comedies of today.

  30. Don't matter says:

    SONS OF ANARCHY!?!?!? Hell ya with Sopranos, but common…..SOA is a serious bit of television! What the bleep??

  31. Matt says:

    “Sons of Anarchy” is a heck of a lot better show than a good chunk of what’s on that list. It tells a brilliant story, even more brilliantly directed. Not to mention, they are going out on top, when the show is still cool……take some notes “24”

  32. John Henry says:

    Sorry but a list that does not include “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” is from people that has no credibility whatsoever. Johnny created the format, was the best host, tucked you into bed each night and made you feel better no matter how crappy your day was. This list is absolute garbage and to think that in every other list I have seen The Tonight Show is in the top 10, here not even in the top 100, WTF? Jon Stewart but no Carson, I am wasting my time typing here and it is only jealousy that kept it off I swear. No Carson equals no late night as we now know it now.

  33. naquan says:

    Threes Company should have been added to the list you frackin wackos

  34. Kelly says:

    Justified at # 84…………???? That means whoever put this together is utterly clueless. Justified should be # 1

  35. frank says:

    The Sopranos ended in the most horrendous way possible.
    I can still remember everyone looking at each other asking if the dish just got zapped.
    Definitely a top ten show but that ending leaves a foul taste in one’s mouth.
    Writers have learned from dexter, the sopranos, and the x-files.
    They’ve learned when to pull the plug on a show and not ruin the masterpiece in progress. Breaking bad is a good example of what I mean.

    • Mark Joseph says:

      “The Sopranos ended in the most horrendous way possible.”

      How so? Do you need everything spoon fed to you?

      I really don’t understand all the hate the ending gets. Did people even watch the show? Do they hate all ambiguous endings? I loved The Sopranos because it didn’t dumb things down. Not everything needs to be tied up in a little bow.

  36. greg says:

    You know this list is not right if it do not have 24 on it. Wow this is crazy. Next list please!

  37. greg says:

    1. Mash
    2. Sopranos
    3. Seinfeld
    4. 24
    5. Cosby Show

  38. shadow says:

    why is doctor who not on this list

  39. Backwords says:

    To legitimately argue placement, one needs to have closely watched all of the shows.

  40. neeraj singh says:

    Where the hell is Breathtaking…
    Prison break….
    Are u serious

  41. juan says:

    What about the prison break i thing if one of the best. And it’s not here

  42. How about “A Year In The Life”? It was an Emmy winning, critically acclaimed 1986 mini series and a 1987-88 TV series with 22 episodes which all aired. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after only one season! Either the networks didn’t know what a gem they had or the series was before its time!! It is greatly missed!! Lyn from Cape Cod

  43. Martin Greenspan says:

    Where’s Bonanza? Surely in the top 10!!!

  44. Alan Jody says:

    Top 10 shows for me that I love:
    10. Married With Children (Thought the show was extremely funny when it was on.)
    9. 60 Minutes (They admitted Liberal Bias in recent years, but as a kid I found it educational.)
    8. Happy Days ( Used to see it all the time in reruns. I was born the year it ended.)
    7. Simpsons ( Great cartoon. I could have put a bunch of cartoons here like Looney Tunes.)
    6. Saturday Night Live (The show is well done despite annoying characters after 40 years.)
    5. Red Eye Fox News ( Pretty Funny to me. It is my sleeper hit.)
    4. Twilight Zone/ Alfred Hitchcock Presents ( Similar style of shows among others.)
    3. I Love Lucy / Honeymooners / Burns and Allen ( Those old shows were hilarious.)
    2. Dallas/ Knots Landing ( They were well done and I am sorry TNT killed off newer show.)
    1. Hard to pick a number one show but I chose:Carol Burnett Show in a tie with SCTV and The Tonight Show.

  45. Cole says:

    Where is The Walking Dead,The Big Bang Theory,or Friends?!?

  46. Ed Weaver says:

    No original Hawaii 5-0? Credibility damaged? No Bonanza, no Dean Martin Show? I won’t mention the 20-25 shows that have no business being on this list. Curious (to say the least), the thinking of those who voted? Hell, one-year wonder Stoney Burke (Jack Lord, Bruce Dern) was better than a number of shows on this list.

  47. Rich Carr says:

    I am feeling like I’m in the Twilight Zone, one of my top T.V. shows didn’t even make this list… Magnum P.I.

  48. Mark Joseph says:

    The Sopranos definitely deserves the number one spot. It’s rich in detail and I always gain new insight upon rewatching.

  49. Annie says:

    Reading through the comments, I agree with a lot of others. I think this is an alright list, but definitely a lot is missing and many shows are ranked higher than they should. I see a lot of shows in this list that are full of formulaic writing. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of these shows. Most of them are great!
    One show that gets overlooked quite a bit is Chuck from NBC. The show was written with great comedy, great relationships, great action, basically it managed to blend tons of different themes together into one show. It’s one of the only shows I’ve bought complete on DVD (and I bought it all on Blu Ray too). It might not be considered one of the best shows of all time in official lists, but it’s definitely a show made for it’s fans and it is the number one on my personal list.

  50. George says:

    1. Where is Carnivale? As for the great House of Cards that one wasn’t even out yet I believe at the time of making this list.

    2. Twin Peaks should at least have made the top 5. Even if a few episodes near the end of season 2 were rushed, the first half of season 2 is still the very best TV to date. And the last episode is epic Lynch.

    3. Boardwalk Empire, Band of Brothers and Six Feet Under should have been much higher as well. Though I can live with the fantastic Sopranos at number one, goes to show how subjective this is biased towards goofy American comedies (no offense). Even is some of them are entertaining, to compare them with the likes of the aforementioned is mind boggling.

    Me and my wife never made it through more than a few episodes of the soapy, too painful to watch ‘The West Wing’ always funny to see it applauded.