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100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time

From time-capsule sitcoms to cutting-edge Peak-TV dramas — the definitive ranking of the game-changing small-screen classics

100 Best TV shows of all time Rolling Stone Sopranos Game of Thrones

Illustration by Ryan Casey

There’s never been a creative boom for TV like the one we are living through right now. Ever since The Sopranos changed the game at the turn of the century, we’ve been in a gold rush that gives no signs of slowing down. What better moment to look back and celebrate the greatest shows in the history of the art form?

So we undertook a major poll – actors, writers, producers, critics, showrunners. Legends like Carl Reiner and Garry Marshall, who sent us his ballot shortly before his death this summer. All shows from all eras were eligible; anybody could vote for whatever they felt passionate about, from the black-and-white rabbit-ears years to the binge-watching peak-TV era. The ratings didn’t matter – only quality. The voters have spoken – and, damn, did they have some fierce opinions. On this list you’ll find vintage classics and new favorites, ambitious psychodramas and stoner comedies, underrated cult gems ripe for rediscovery, cops and cartoons and vampire slayers. You’ll find the groundbreaking creations of yesteryear as well as today’s innovators. (There was nothing like Transparent or Orange Is the New Black or Game of Thrones a few years ago, but who could imagine this list without them?) Our list is guaranteed to start plenty of loud arguments – but the beauty of TV is how it keeps giving us so much to argue about. 

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53

‘The Bob Newhart Show’

1972-78
Newhart was already a comedy legend for his brilliant 1960s stand-up monologues – his albums routinely topped the charts. His button-down mind seemed too dry and cerebral for TV, but he hit the jackpot as a Chicago psychologist seeing one nut case after another – perfect for Newhart's unflappable deadpan. He could get laughs just clearing his throat. (Nobody ever was a throat-clearing virtuoso like this man.) Suzanne Pleshette was his wife – in one of the Seventies' most enduringly hot TV marriages. 

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52

‘The Colbert Report’

2005-14
"Anyone can read the news to you. I promise to feel the news at you." With that mission statement, Daily Show correspondent Stephen Colbert set off on a whole new approach to fake news, playing a character named "Stephen Colbert" who happened to be a conservative twit, dedicated to the principle of "truthiness" and pushing the slogan "Blame America Last." "We want people to be in pain and confused," he told Rolling Stone in 2006. "I have no problem making things up, because I have no credibility to lose." The Colbert Report remains sorely missed, especially in an election year like this one. 

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51

‘Fargo’

2014-Present
Well, this was an obviously terrible idea – turning the Coen brothers' classic true-crime film into an FX series. Anybody could have told FX Fargo would never work. Yet Noah Hawley proved that terrible ideas often hold the seeds of greatness. The first season was a welcome surprise, but the real killer was the next chapter, one of the best seasons any drama has ever had, a small-town gangster tale involving state trooper Patrick Wilson, desperate housewife Kirsten Dunst and Bruce Campbell as the real-life Ronald Reagan. 

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