Revised Version of Greatest TV Shows Ever…

Everyone, In 2007 I documented a “Revised” version of my list of the Greatest TV Shows Ever.  Over the course of five years, so much has changed.  Many of the shows I listed have been forgotten, some ranked high based on potential fell flat, and some shows never heard of have now become list worthy. 

Below I have reproduced my original list with some added thoughts with the power of hindsight in italics.

 At the bottom I have included an Addendum with fresh commentary on current rankings and recent shows.  It’s a lengthy document, but enjoy.  There are some real gems here.

Forward – For years lists have been circulating with valuable insight into my compendium of television shows and their ranking in the pantheon of great tv.  For the first time here is the Authorized Version, revised, of my rankings.  I think this list is a great baseline for any discussion on tv today or future challenges from interlopers longing to enter into it’s canon.

20) Jack and Jill – The only “known” tv show on the WB to be given 4 stars by C.T. Joyner.  The brilliance was in the freshness of Simon Rex’s character.  Can we ever forget Don Rojas?  Apparently we can, as no one remembers this show, but I challenge everyone to view the cast list; all-star for sure.

19) Felicity – This roster of stars included Scott Foley, Scott Speedman, Greg Grunberg, Simon Rex, Aimee Smart and Jennifer Garner.  And let’s not forget Kerri Russell who will be back on the big screen soon!  It sucked you in and told beautiful stories.  I have no doubt that today I would overlook Dawson’s cultural impact and swap their places in the rankings.

18) The Practice –  Interestingly enough this show was winning its Emmy for Best Drama Series in 1998 and 1999, the same years an old Cuban refugee known as ‘El Duque’ was helping the Yankees win World Series Championships.  Coincidence, I think so.

17) The Incredible Hulk – The “Lonely Man” theme still brings me to tears as it poetically brings to mind and heart the tortured pain of David Bruce Banner.  Also who can forget the quote, “Don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”  You’re getting chills right now, I know.

16) 7th Heaven – The cornerstone of the WB television network and it’s longest running show finally brought into our homes a “family” centered drama in the vein of ‘Leave it to Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best.’  Oddly enough, with such a large cast, it’s only bankable young star has been Jessica Biel.  Our next hope is the dude that starred in the short lived series ‘What About Brian.’

15) 24 – Jack Bauer.  I can’t really say anymore. I should though. My biggest frustration is that Tony Almeida didn’t get his own spin-off.

14) Saved By The Bell – This is the only show on this list that lived on Saturday’s and does not fall into the hour long television drama category.  But, for most of us, its characters will live in our memories forever.  Zack, Kelly, Screech, AC, Jessie….thank you all.

13) Everwood – (I never watched an episode of this show where I didn’t cry).  Too angry at times, but a very thoughtful show in tune with the realness of human relationships.  Ephraim and Amy’s romance was complicated and beautiful.

12) My So Called Life – I tell this story every time, but the scene rages in my head with its brilliance;  Angela leaned back against a chain linked fence and Jordan leaned in real close and said, “Why are you like this?” “Like what?” “Like how you are?”  Then he coolly walked away.  Someone give the director an Emmy.

11) Roswell – I cannot say enough about this show.  It lasted only 3 Seasons, and at times it was campy and disappointing, but it sucked you in and wouldn’t let you go.

10) Heroes – When the presses heat up for next year’s Revised Version look for this to be the biggest winner.  Sitting at #10 for now, it has the potential to enter top 5 territory.  The only thing this show has against it is the abundance of subtitles that drive me crazy.  The stories are tight though, and it continually leaves you wanting more.  If this show hits a seventh season we can talk about it being #1.  Potential is a terrible thing to live up to.  Unfortunately, this show completely lost the mission and was cancelled without any true closure.  The case for a #10 ranking has been voided, and I can only expect to drop this completely off the list.

9) Smallville – From a previous email dated July 12, 2007 “The single greatest retelling done on any significant mythical character EVER.”  From the mouth of Lex Luthor, “Trust me Clark, our friendship will be the stuff of legend.”  This show is one I would sit down and watch with my children.  It is that good.

8) Dawson’s Creek – In retrospect it was controversial for controversy sake and often bogged down in dense language, one was forced to muddle through, but brilliant.  The WB needed this show, and so did America.  But, America does not need its teachers sleeping with its underage students.

7) American Dreams – NBC got it right with this television show.  It was Friday Night Light’s before FNL came to tv.  The only show C.T. Joyner has a published commentary on, and we contributed over 20 emails to its evaluation as a series. Four out of four stars. It breaks my heart but this is one of 3 shows on the list that will completely be removed with this revision.

6) La Femme Nikita – Hands down easily a top 5 pick, but landed at #6 because the cost to add it to your DVD collection is too high to seriously recommend anyone going out to buy it, and despite my numerous inquiries, Blockbuster refuses to add it to its rental list.  So, ask for it for Christmas and buckle up.  There would have been no Alias or 24 without this series. The current Nikita on the CW is also strong, but it fell prey to strong competition and is not in my viewing rotation.

5) Party of Five – Every year the network tried to cancel it, and every year its fans came to its rescue.  From commentary made June 18, 2004: Then as they stood in the room, she was wearing overalls, and I think she was painting, but anyway, Bailey looked at her and said “Why are you still with me Sarah?” and without flinching she looked at him and said “It’s no big deal. I mean it’s what it was always, pretty much.  I love you.  That’s all.” Oh, tears flowed down my cheeks, it was so honest and open and it was just this perfect moment that you can’t let go of. She had nailed it. That was genius. That was talent. At this point if you are wondering who “she” was it was the great Jennifer Love Hewitt (JLH).

4) Friday Night Lights – Let me preface this by saying that FNL @ #4 is a lot like people gearing up for A-Rod to break the Home Run record and restore balance back to the force.  This ranking is based in large part on potential.  But here are a few things to consider to validate its ranking: 1) Its humanness 2) Its honesty 3) Its vulnerability.  This show is like a mirror that is reflecting our very existence right back at us.  Take time to watch this show people, once it’s gone, much like Jalen Rose, you can never get it back.

3) Angel – The Vampire with a Soul.  A successful spin-off, which inspired the copy cat televison show airing this fall, ‘Moonlight’.  David Boreanaz is a genius and the supporting cast brilliant.  He does dramatic, comedic, romantic, and heroic without missing a beat.  Never has a camp been so divided over who a character should love forever.  Where do you fall on the Angel/Buffy or Angel/Cordelia debate? This would be #1 if I didn’t have to take into account the impact the next two shows had on our entire culture.

2) Buffy the Vampire Slayer – From the brilliant mind of Joss Whedon comes a character so unique there are university classes that focus on her.  She is strong, brave, and resilient.  She loved greatly, fought bravely, and captured the collective consciousness of a generation.  The story was so good that it survived a failed movie interpretation to be reinvented for tv. At this point I cannot say enough about the great Sarah Michelle Gellar.  She is one of the greatest actresses of ours or any generation.  Had any television producer brought her, Keri Russell and JLH together in a series…instant gold.  Just revisit the big 2 in ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer.’

1) Beverly Hills 90210 – Unmistakable theme song.  Great characters.  Excellent actors.  Dramatic storylines.  Without Brandon, Dylan, Kelly and the others, we as a people may not be watching tv today.  I still remember Dylan clutching his dead wife in the pouring rain as Brandon looked on horrified.  That my friends; is drama.  That is the essence of television.


A) Alias – It is truly amazing how this show ended its run in 2006 and in 2007 I still was unable to accept its brilliance.  Few espionage thrillers on television were as cutting edge, capturing the dual life an agent has to have, along with a forward moving premise based on a consuming quest for power and knowledge.  We must also hold the love affair between Sydney Bristow and Michael Vaughn to be one of the most compelling ever!  Plus, no character was despised, loved and misunderstood like Sydney’s father Jack.  I am pulling ‘The Practice’ out of rotation and placing ‘Alias’ in the #19 spot.

B) Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Two Seasons, the return of BAGs and inconsolable grief upon its cancellation.  No show has captured the core of man’s struggle against machine with its ever present love and reliance on them as TSCC.  The stories were compelling, the music was woven intricately into each episode and the acting was high level.  Despite probable protestations by C.T. Joyner, ‘Jack and Jill’ must fall out and TSCC will take the #20 spot.

C) The Vampire Diaries:  I thought that all the great stories had been told about vampires when Buffy and Angel had their swan song.  I was terribly wrong.  To be perfectly honest, after the Season 3 finale, I would have put this in the #1 spot without hesitation.  But, then I took a breath.  I am not ready to do that just yet.  Instead, I am dropping ‘American Dreams’ from my list and adding ‘The Vampire Diaries’ in with a strong debut at #4 moving La Femme, Pof5, and FNL down one.  I am sure Elena, Damon, Stefan and the Originals will one day hold the top spot, but today is not that day.

*Although I am unable to rank these today, some shows to earmark for induction:

a) The long running but at times disjointed ‘Supernatural’

b) The fresh and visually stunning ‘Grimm’

c) The USA landmark television legal drama ‘Suits’

….like many athletes who don’t make the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, many shows with lengthy runs require significant thought in hindsight.  Grey’s Anatomy, House and Fringe may one day find themselves on the list.  Only time will tell.

…for posterity I would also like to note the strong debuts of ‘Revenge’, ‘Blue Bloods’, ‘Touch’ and ‘The Secret Circle’ as historical markers of the overall television landscape.

~ by jpaulnorton on May 18, 2012.

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