Fox Turns 30: We Rank the Network's 30 Greatest TV Shows of All Time

Thirty years ago this week, the Fox network began broadcasting… and TV was never the same.

Joining ABC, CBS and NBC on the broadcast dial on Oct. 9, 1986 (back when we actually used a dial to change the channel), Fox was the brash upstart, attracting a young audience with groundbreaking shows that pushed the boundaries of acceptable content. Three decades later, Fox is an elder statesman — and has given us some of the best and most beloved shows in TV history.

So to celebrate Fox’s 30th birthday, we’re ranking the 30 greatest shows in the network’s history. Our criteria: 50 percent quality/awards, 25 percent popularity/longevity, and 25 percent influence/cultural impact. So our list is a mix of Nielsen-topping mega hits, oddball cult favorites, and those rare shows that managed to be both. But if we had two shows closely ranked, quality was the ultimate tiebreaker.

Click on the gallery to the right to see which Fox shows made our best-of list — and be sure to hit the comments to let us know which shows should’ve been ranked higher, ranked lower, or ranked at all, if we left them off entirely.

Happy birthday, Fox. May you live long enough to give us another 30 shows as great as these.

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. Kia says:

    Bones would be #1 on my list. I’m so proud of the show.

    • digitalred93 says:

      Bones definitely is #1 for me, too. I’m missing the series so much that I’m watching it all over again on Netflix. I’d forgotten how excellent the writers could be at getting us to care about the cases, and how poignant the main characters’ individual stories could be as well. I still loved the series and am having a hard time believing that this next season will be the last of Bones, Booth, and the Squints.

  2. I Keep it 100 says:

    How can you mention Ally McBeal and not give a favorable mention to Boston Public that launched the careers of Loretta DeVine and introduced us to Rashida Jones?

  3. Infinite says:

    No Breaking Bad? Bye!

  4. Lisa says:

    No Buffy? Not cool :(

  5. JScout says:

    I was about to rage that The X-Files was not number one, but then I saw The Simpsons, and yes, I agree. I didn’t watch Simpsons consistently, but I understand the pick. The X-Files was just a phenomenon at the time – made the cover of all the magazines, etc. And the shipping . . . Kind of sorry they got that stuff started because I’m tired of hearing about it for practically every show now. The X-Files should really be number 2.

    But, FIREFLY. Really should be much higher, my favorite of ALL TIME.

    Also loved Fringe and 24 (the first five years or so).

  6. Ingmar says:

    I would have ranked Bones a lot higher. It’s the longest running drama on FOX iirc and that’s worth something, since it maintained its quality over the years. The show changed, but the quality remained. Other personal favorites: Glee, House MD, The OC amd Ally McBeal.

    • Kia says:

      Exactly. But part of me is glad they even included Bones. Seems like TV Line has forgotten about Bones lately. I know it’s on hiatus, but the production keeps going, they could give a tiny spoiler or two.

    • suzi says:

      I agree, Bones should have been much higher.

  7. Hazel says:

    Interesting list, but Bones should have been in the top 15.Maybe the list should have been of the top shows that “defined” Fox and not the “best” shows.

  8. CGS says:

    I’d definitely add Freakylinks, Wonderfalls, and The Inside to this list.

  9. RedReddington says:

    I can’t believe Bones is so low, that’s crazy to me. (Especially below SYTYCD) To each their own. *shrugs*

  10. Shiela says:

    My favorite FOX shows as a kid was Brisco County Jr. I wish it had been on the list.

    • Jason says:

      Me, too! Before I began reading through the list, I hoped to see Brisco on it. I realize it only lasted 1 season, but it was an amazing show and deserved to make the cut for this list. I’d certainly take it over a few of the shows that did make the list. Never understood why it got the axe when it had better ratings than the X-Files, which went onto become the phenomenon that it is.

      • Matthew B Lawler says:

        Originally they premier together on Friday nights X-Files and Brisco County Junior and everybody thought Brisco County Junior would be the hit show and it got canceled and X-Files went on to become a crown jewel in the Fox lined up another underrated show that had a connection to the X-Files but got canceled after only one season was strange luck at one point the main character has that series mentioned knowing Fox Mulder

  11. mollie says:

    No 21 Jump Street? The first show to talking about things like rape and AIDS?!!! And no Living Single? A show about 4 successful black women? Wow! Fail.

  12. KLS says:

    The start of Fox being the 4th network began with a lot of brash & savvy moves that have changed the way that we watch TV today. The big three were pretty set in their ways when Fox came along and upset things. It aired new, original shows in July (90210 S2&S3). It tackled the monster of Monday Night Football with counter programming of Ally McBeal (and the rise of David E. Kelly). It gave us revolutionary shows like In Living Color and The Tracy Ullman Show (the start of The Simpsoms). I also I must point out, regrettably, that it started “shout TV” for its sports broadcasting and analysis that infects every channel to this day. Good & Bad, Fox has made a difference.

  13. OC,BH90210,Po5,Glee,Scream Queens,first seasons of AI

  14. Kim Brown says:

    Ally McBeal, In Living Color, The X-Files and American Idol were ground breaking shows.

  15. TraciWellz says:

    24 changed television. Still my #1 of any network.

  16. Collette says:

    I am still miffed at Fox for canceling Human Target. My 1 & 2 choices would be American Idol and Bones.

  17. LADY_in_MD says:

    So many shows lots I grew up on (the simpsons, marreid wth children, in living color) lots I watched as an adult (24, idol, sytycd, Glee) but my # 1 will always be 24 (with the wire a close second second but that was on HBO)
    I do agree with putting the simpsons at #1 it has run for so long

  18. Rachel says:

    Fringe should be top 5…definitely higher than Glee :-/

  19. cs gaura says:

    If they hadn’t canceled it too soon, Alien Nation would have made your list.

  20. Cas says:

    I get why the Simpsons are #1 and I use to enjoy it growing up but man I can’teven watch reruns of it without wondering whg I ever liked it. Haha. I prefer Family Guy.

  21. Rachel says:

    Great list… my only comment is that I DON’T want Fox to revive Fringe. It ended perfectly, they should leave well enough alone!!

  22. Gena says:

    Big YAY for Get A Life! Loved that show as a kid, and later got the DVD set.

    (Also yay for Ben Stiller Show, KOTH, MITM, Undeclared and Arrested Development.) :)

  23. Matthew B Lawler says:

    Really no 21 Jump Street no Tracy Allman show no Garry Shandling show no Boston public what about the adventures of Brisco County Junior Herman’s Head

  24. Matthew B Lawler says:

    Another great sitcom you messed off of this list grounded for life

  25. Deion says:

    Where is The Tracey Ullman show? Where THE SIMPSONS began? And while I only reently learned that it was originally an Showtime show, Fox is there I was originally exposed to “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show”.

    • matthew b lawler says:

      Actually the Garry Shandling show was Fox the Larry Sanders show what showtime

      • Deion says:

        Larry Sanders was HBO, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show was originally aired on Showtime, and was edited for language and to add commercials to air on Fox as well.

        • Nero tTVfiddler says:

          One of my favorite shows on Fox (via Showtime)… It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. Such a fun series, full of charm and wit. I miss it.

          The first time I saw that show, it was on a red eye flight from SFO to Cleveland. This was just prior to the Fox run. It was a rough flight, but made so-oo much better by watching It’s Garry Shandling’s Show for the very first time – the three hour flight went by in no time flat!

          Thank you Garry. And thank you United Airlines!

  26. Katie says:

    I’m so glad that House made it into the top ten. “House’s Head, Wilson’s Heart” is one of my favorite episodes of television ever.

  27. Winter says:

    I honestly don’t think this list can be valid without 21 Jumpstreet. That show blazed a path so many shows afterward would follow and also Johnny Depp.

  28. Lore says:

    Bones should be closer to #1

  29. LK says:

    What? No “21 Jump Street”??? The first few seasons of that were a classic.

  30. Kevin K says:

    24 will always be my favorite show on Fox.

  31. midas777 says:

    bones top 10
    24 higher
    oc lower
    xfiles 2 but close i think simpsons 1a/xfiles 1b it changed televison
    family guy lower
    house higher

    pretty good list though

  32. Scullycat says:

    X-Files is one of my all time favorite shows and wish it would have been number 2. (I agree the Simpsons…. if for nothing else but longevity… should be #1). But the one show I think that is missing is “21 Jump Street”. JOHNNY DEPP…. Enough Said!!!

  33. Scullycat says:

    Wasn’t “America’s Most Wanted” originally a FOX show? I would think that should be in the top 30 based on how influential it has been to law enforcement and the true crime genre that has come since.

    • Matthew B Lawler says:

      Yes America’s most wanted and cops for over a decade was Saturday night TV on Fox I would think that they would put America’s most wanted I had of cops if they were only get up at one of the two shows on the list since America’s most wanted actually help solve crime and put people behind bars

  34. Jermey says:

    Melrose Place
    Married With Children

    Those are my favorite Fox shows, and some of my favorites ever.

  35. Melanie m says:

    I know it’s not a popular opinion but always though Arrested Development was overrated and certainly don’t think it should be ranked ahead of AI or the X-Files

  36. matty says:

    A pretty solid list here. And personally I’m glad you thought to include Party of Five, a show that is often overlooked. And I’m very glad you included Glee, Ally McBeal, 90210 and Melrose Place.

    But now I wonder if you might be inclined to make a list of Fox’s worst or most embarrassing shows, and if so please consider putting Models Inc and Life on A Stick on that list.

  37. HAP says:

    I misread the title and thought this was about Fox News. The best show for them is when they went off the air due to a power outage.

  38. Lola says:

    This list fails for me. You put something like Glee but omit Martin? Living Single? NY Undercover? I reject it.

  39. katedfw says:

    24 should be #1 on this list! Best. Show. Ever.

  40. Hamish says:

    I only wish Bakersfield P.D. got better ratings and stuck around much long. It was laugh out loud funny. I was sorely disappointed when it was cancelled.

  41. NJ's Mom says:

    Maybe not a stellar show, but I think Star Trek: The Next Generation deserves an honorable mention. It brought a whole new generation into the Star Trek fold, spinning off a multitude of Star Trek shows and contributing to the longevity of Star Trek fandom.

  42. kmw says:

    Bones at number 30 NOT EVEN. This show moved around and for most of its run stayed pretty stable and 30 is the best you could give it. Bones should be at least in the top 15. Some of the ones you had in front of it are laughable. And as far as FOX lasting another 30 years, not the way they are going they aren’t. Bones rocks forever!!!!!!

  43. phredd! says:

    Uhm . . . “Herman’s Head”? Hello? :D

    • TV Gord says:

      I was just coming here to post that, too! It’s a great list, but–as much as I love Chris Elliott–I would have replaced Get A Life with Herman’s Head! (I also loved Bakersfield PD and its predecessor, Arresting Behavior.

  44. tiredofthinkingupnicknames says:

    Living Single was iconic to black teens and 20something in the 90s, it should be on this list.

    • TV Gord says:

      That was a fun show! I don’t know what I’d knock off the list for it (as much as I despised Married With Children), but I’d give it a solid 31.

  45. Benjamin says:

    Hello Dave, Matt, Michael and the team!
    I pretty much agree with the group of 30 shows that you selected, just not necessarily the order. A few additional series that I feel could’ve made the list include:

    -Martin (1992–97) (Martin Lawrence. We talk about diverse casts now like Empire, but Martin was doing it in prime time for 25 years ago! Show still has a lasting cultural impact.)

    -America’s Most Wanted (1988–2011) (Pretty self explanatory, in the same vein as Cops. Long running show with a cultural impact.)

    -Hell’s Kitchen (2005-present) (or Kitchen Nightmares, or Masterchef, but I can’t believe there was not one of those long running Fox Reality staples on the list.)

    -New Girl (2011-present) (Even though it is a current show, I feel it has done enough, been around long enough, hey 4 years longer than Empire, and has such a great fan following for this wondrously funny show that is one of my favorite shows of all-time. I’m hoping this was borderline on the list.)

    -Fox Kids Shows. Maybe this post was focusing on prime-time shows, and for that I understand, but it is hard to forget about the cultural impact that FoxKids shows had in the 90s that spawned today’s cultural revolutions:
    -Batman: The Animated Series (1992-95) (It goes down as one of the best animated shows of all time, not just a kids shows.)
    -Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993-2002) (It’s on a different channel now, but for it’s first decade, this morphenomenal machine was right there on Fox Kids)
    -Spider-Man (1994-98) (Quite the fun show that was ahead of it’s time with it’s multiple six episode arcs of storytelling, like watching a bunch of long graphic novels play out in small issues/segments/half-hours. Great groundbreaking show.)
    -X-Men (1992-97) (Another classic superhero show. This is THE X-Men to so many fans who then grew older and made the X-Men franchise into a box office juggernaut)

    I would love to hear any feedback!

  46. Tatjana says:

    Thank you Dave for this wonderful post and reminding me how old I am. That top 10 , excluding Idol including Malcolm, truly groundbreaking television. Sometimes I say I will quit TV if they ever stop the Simpsons (and South Park). and then all emotions X files, House, Ally McBeal … I could go on and on. And yes, Taraji will move up higher

  47. I don’t get why it had to be a choice between In Living Color and MADtv, as I’d say they both deserved a spot on the list. MADtv was on for almost half of FOX’s life, and it managed to do that while going directly against the SNL juggernaut. It didn’t launch any huge stars, but it had a lot of great cast members who are still working on TV today (including one of the stars the highest rated sitcom on TV right now). Not to mention that it’s the only prominent late night TV presence that FOX has ever had (since a few shows on the list only seemed to get spots based on their genre).

  48. ninergrl6 says:

    I’d put American Idol in the top 3, if not #1, for its TREMENDOUS impact on television (basically spawning the reality competition genre), music (you can’t go anywhere without hearing an Idol alum on the radio — I heard a Kelly Clarkson song at the car wash this afternoon), and social media (Ryan Seacrest taught many of us how to text, not to mention tweet). Its significance is unparalleled IMO.

  49. lululimon says:

    I’m surprised 21 Jump Street, America’s Most Wanted or Martin didn’t make this list. I remember back in the day freaking myself out watching AMW every week as a kid. And that Thursday block of Martin/Living Single/New York Undercover was great. And shout out to Whoops! and Skin which I loved in its 2 or 3 episode run.

    • Jye says:

      Man!!!! I forgot about “Martin”. They left off all of the shows that got urban viewers watching Fox. Now they’re trying to get us back with shows like “Empire” and “Stars”. C’mon guys get it together!

  50. Eli says:

    Honorable Mentions should include Wonderfalls, Tru Calling and Dollhouse.