Sea Hunt is Not on the List
June 3, 2013 3:26 PM   Subscribe

The Writers Guild of America has posted a list of the top 100 best written TV shows of all time. "Mendelsohn admits he's disappointed that there aren't more shows created by women or people of color on the list. "That speaks to a broader problem in the industry than to the list itself," he says. But as barriers continue to be broken in the industry, future lists will hopefully begin to rectify that."
posted by Xurando (211 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Louie at 98? That's rubbish.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:29 PM on June 3, 2013


Keep in mind this is nostalgia: the list.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:30 PM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


These are all very good shows, and very different shows, and difficult to compare shows, but c'mon, The Wire at #1 or GTFO.
posted by Artw at 3:31 PM on June 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


I like that they at least polled the WGA, so it's not just some random blogger stirring shit up. But Seinfeld ahead of both Cheers and The Simpsons?
posted by dry white toast at 3:33 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Take my love. Take my land.
It'll take me a while to understand
Why in the world I can't see
That show about Serenity.
posted by phoebus at 3:33 PM on June 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


Deadwood should be number 1, 2 and 3.
posted by Falconetti at 3:33 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


And M*A*S*H!
posted by dry white toast at 3:34 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


List fight!
posted by Artw at 3:34 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's right I, Claudius, you were almost but not quite as good as Murphy Brown.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:34 PM on June 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


My Little Pony: Freindship is Magic sadly snubbed.
posted by Artw at 3:36 PM on June 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm convinced that lists like these should automatically exclude anything done withing the previous ten or so years. The bloom is still too fresh on recent shows to be objective.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:36 PM on June 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


This is ridiculous. Where is Highlander? Where is Teen Wolf?
posted by asperity at 3:37 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Where is Sex Hospital?
posted by Artw at 3:38 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


ctrl+f "Quark"

Buillshit.
posted by bondcliff at 3:41 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Where is The O'Reilly Factor?
posted by ogooglebar at 3:43 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


And M*A*S*H!

M*A*S*H definitely belongs on the list. No idea why Friends or Family Ties are on the list though.

As for The Sopranos, I'm beginning to think its overrated, it isn't aging well for me. While I loved Serenity, I definitely understand why it didn't make the list: Good writing wrapped up in a weak premise that was poorly executed.

No idea what the allure of Mad Men is.

What, no Fringe?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:43 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sex House?
posted by fieldtrip at 3:44 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


These are all very good shows, and very different shows, and difficult to compare shows, but c'mon, The Wire at #1 or GTFO.

Thank you! Better than the Sopranos, that's for sure.
posted by zipadee at 3:44 PM on June 3, 2013


No Muppet Show or Sesame Street? No Electric Company? No Mr. Rogers?

At least Soap made the list.
posted by brookeb at 3:45 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love how Fawlty Towers tied with The Rockford Files. Now please excuse me while I daydream for the rest of the afternoon about James Garner paying a visit to a certain hotelier in Torquay.
posted by scody at 3:45 PM on June 3, 2013 [15 favorites]


Oh, and also: Freaks & Geeks should be at least in the Top 20.
posted by scody at 3:46 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


No Firefly I understand even though I don't agree. But no Parks and Recreation? Wtf
posted by kmz at 3:47 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


the top 100 best written TV shows of all time

I don't know if the list makes any more sense with this focus, but I think an argument could be made that a show like Friends had more effective writing, for what it was trying to achieve, than Fringe.
posted by muddgirl at 3:47 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


One piece of evidence for a theoretical argument that I'm not going to make - an AVClub analysis of "The One With The Embryos" aka The Quiz Show episode.
posted by muddgirl at 3:49 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Look guys, these lists are objective. List and TV scientists go through a very complex rubric to assign each of these shows their numeric value.

If you don't see your favorite show on here it is because it objectively sucks and if you disagree you are anti-science.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:50 PM on June 3, 2013 [26 favorites]


Oh c'mon. This is bullshit. There's nothing on that list I can argue with.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:51 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sea Hunt is Not on the List

This reminds me of the first porn movie I ever watched.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:51 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess it's a decent attempt at mixing stuff within the last decade with classic TV, even though I doubt the utility of a top 100 anything list. A show that I've finished earlier this month and fell in love with is the tense, atmospheric murder mystery Top of the Lake.
posted by codacorolla at 3:52 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Considering the sorts of places that James Rockford ends up at normally, I'm not sure he'd find Faulty Towers notably worse.
posted by ckape at 3:54 PM on June 3, 2013


I Love Lucy over Dick van Dyke, for writing? Maybe overall, that's clearly debatable, but not for writing.
posted by darksasami at 3:54 PM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


OK, I love Star Trek, but unless this was something where they were actually ranking individual episodes, and then picked the top 100 shows appearing on that ranking, there is no way on earth it deserves to be on this list. And good golly, it outanks Buffy and Downton Abbey and My So-Called Life and Northern Exposure? No flipping way.
posted by SMPA at 3:55 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Best written shows I watched last night:
1. Venture Bros
2-3 (tie) Game of Thrones / Mad Men
4. Random episode of DS9

A golden age!
posted by Artw at 3:56 PM on June 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'd rate The Pacific over Band of Brothers on... pretty much all metrics actually. They were both good series but the second is a definite improvement.
posted by furiousthought at 3:57 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I loved Faulty Towers as a kid but watched a few episodes on Netflix recently and really couldn't enjoy them. Maybe I've gone soft but I just found them way too mean spirited to be funny.
posted by octothorpe at 3:59 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The position of Golden Girls on this list is obviously an easter egg intended for Blanche Devereaux.
...
And then where's Maude?
posted by mean square error at 3:59 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not “of all time.” Just “so far”!
posted by theredpen at 4:00 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saw an episode of MASH recently and it seems very dated to me.
posted by scratch at 4:01 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not “of all time.” Just “so far”!

Pedant win!
posted by scratch at 4:01 PM on June 3, 2013


OK, I love Star Trek, but unless this was something where they were actually ranking individual episodes, and then picked the top 100 shows appearing on that ranking, there is no way on earth it deserves to be on this list. And good golly, it outanks Buffy and Downton Abbey and My So-Called Life and Northern Exposure? No flipping way.

That's basically everything I came here to say but better. Though I have no particular love for Downtown Abbey. And almost all I remember about Northern Exposure was that I had a really big crush on some girl on that show.

But I'll add: Buffy should be higher.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 4:02 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be fair, scratch, MASH is about the Vietnam war. That whole thing didn't age well.
posted by dlg at 4:02 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll never understand the love for Seinfeld.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:04 PM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Actually, MASH is about WWII.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:04 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Korea, guys. MASH was set in Korea.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:05 PM on June 3, 2013 [23 favorites]


I wouldnt rank Downton Abbey anywhere on any list of great British TV writing.
posted by Artw at 4:05 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


What these best-of lists fail to recognize is that everything is bad
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:05 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


20. The Larry Sanders Show

No.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 4:06 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Korea, guys. MASH was set in Korea.

Yes, but it was about WWII.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:07 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


M*A*S*H was allegorically about the Vietnam War. At least the movie was.
posted by ogooglebar at 4:07 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


To be fair, scratch, MASH is about the Vietnam war.

it was an expression of the vietnam war, certainly - but it took place in the korean war

i can't believe hogan's heroes missed this list

"i hear nothing, i see nothing, i know nothing" isn't just a catchphrase, it is a mantra that will lead you to the road of enlightenment
posted by pyramid termite at 4:07 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


M*A*S*H was about the war on drugs. At least it was in my house.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:10 PM on June 3, 2013


I'm OK with most of this, even though (like everyone else here) I would have done it differently. There's only a few here that IMO have no business on a 100-best of all time list. Will & Grace? Everybody Loves Raymond? Seriously?

Also, as Dexter continues its run there is simply no way it belongs on this list. It should have ended in the third season at the absolute latest, and Dexter should have been caught or killed a hundred times over by now. I can't believe it's still going.
posted by Hoopo at 4:10 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


alright, i'll be serious

why isn't the tonight show with johnny carson on this list?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:11 PM on June 3, 2013


M*A*S*H was about the war on drugs. At least it was in my house.

At my house, it was about the war for the remote.
posted by ogooglebar at 4:11 PM on June 3, 2013


i can't believe hogan's heroes missed this list

I can't decide if Nazi prison camps would offend or amuse contemporary sensibilities.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:12 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


M*A*S*H was about the war on drugs.

"quit bogarting that joint - you wanna end up like hot-lips houlihan?"
posted by pyramid termite at 4:12 PM on June 3, 2013


M*A*S*H is set in Korea but is about the Vietnam War. Happy?
posted by absalom at 4:14 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


These are all very good shows, and very different shows, and difficult to compare shows, but c'mon, The Wire at #1 or GTFO.

Omar: The cheese stands alone.
posted by arcticseal at 4:14 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only show that I love that didn't make this list was Foyle's War. Pretty much every other show that I liked that didn't make the list is more of a guilty pleasure type thing that I know is pretty bad but I like it anyway.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:16 PM on June 3, 2013


No Futurama on a list about best writing? I guess we know where the brain slugs aren't.
posted by cthuljew at 4:17 PM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


no animaniacs, either - and that was an often brilliantly written show
posted by pyramid termite at 4:17 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


You guys are so high. M.A.S.K. was about this awesome team of crimefighters with transforming combat vehicles and superpowered masks who...oh M*A*S*H? Nevermind

I had mixed feelings about seeing Dexter on the list too, I like the show but my impression watching several seasons of it was always that Michael C. Hall was doing a tremendous amount of heavy lifting actingwise to save the show from its own writing.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:17 PM on June 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's so satisfying that Golden Girls is Number 69.
posted by four panels at 4:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


No Gilmore Girls which was created by a woman.
posted by AnnElk at 4:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


No Muppet Show or Sesame Street?

Muppet Show is in at #91, tied with Ab Fab.

Sesame Street is in at #56 wedged between LA Law and Columbo.

Seriously though, Fawlty Towers is the best sitcom ever and it's tied with the Rockford Files? At 58?

Major credit for Twilight Zone in at #3 though, an awesome show that has aged much better that it's contemporaries.
posted by davros42 at 4:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, feck off, you arse; none of them show the imagination of writing that a certain ecumenical matter does...
posted by Wordshore at 4:19 PM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


No writing has ever beaten or will ever beat the exchange that begins around :33 seconds into this video with the phrase "You killed us... I told you not to do it and you did it... anyways."
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:19 PM on June 3, 2013


I like Father Ted but it's not even Graham Linehan's best work.

Ok, ok, his best work is IT Crowd but I don't where to legitimately link to that for non-UK viewers.
posted by davros42 at 4:20 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


M*A*S*H was allegorically about the Vietnam War. At least the movie was.

Yes, but this is a list about FreeV programs, not the 3DVEE.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:21 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm baffled that the WGA was not sufficiently impressed by the witty repartee of The Avengers.
posted by ogooglebar at 4:22 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where is Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp? Speciesist bastards!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:24 PM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Whoever compiled this list does not know how you score ties in a list of the N best whatever. Hint: The final list including tied entries should only contain N items total.
posted by localroger at 4:26 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


No Slings and Arrows. No LEXX. No Dead Like Me. No Trailer Park Boys. Oh, well - to each his own.
posted by AnnElk at 4:28 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Trailer Park Boys has perhaps the most authentic swearing in the history of television.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:29 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


No Veronica Mars? No Gilmore Girls? No CHiPs?
posted by Chuffy at 4:29 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


and a hearty "booooooo!" to Six Feet Under, from the only guy in the world who could not stand it. A show about this family of jerks where nothing but bad stuff happens to them. Like Arrested Development, but depressing and manipulative instead of funny.
posted by Hoopo at 4:30 PM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Still don't get universal love for The Wire.
posted by octothorpe at 4:33 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Boris!...Loook, moose and squirrel not make it into top 100!
We have succeeded dahling!
posted by quazichimp at 4:34 PM on June 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


I love that My So Called life made the list. Also happy abot Friday Night Lights. But Cheers in teh top 10? I liked it, but really, top 10?
posted by cccorlew at 4:35 PM on June 3, 2013


"Still don't get universal love for The Wire."

It was only the BEST SHOW EVER.
posted by cccorlew at 4:36 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, really.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:36 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Still don't get universal love for The Wire.
posted by octothorpe 2 minutes ago [+]


I've always steadfastly felt that MeFi shouldn't have downvotes.

However.
posted by MoonOrb at 4:36 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


That was re: cccorlew's "Cheers in the top 10?"
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:37 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Still don't get universal love for The Wire.

*sputters out mouth full of beer; looks suspiciously for hidden cameras that indicate deliberate trolling*
posted by Kitteh at 4:38 PM on June 3, 2013


Not trolling, really. I only watched the first season but it just didn't do much for me. I didn't hate it but was sort of bored by it. Maybe it gets better in later seasons?
posted by octothorpe at 4:42 PM on June 3, 2013


I quite like the Sopranos.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:44 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Too high for me. I prefer the Altos.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:44 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ctrl-F "The Highwayman." Whatever, Hollywood. You just didn't understand it. It flew too close to the sun!
posted by drezdn at 4:46 PM on June 3, 2013


Do you see what you get, WGA?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:47 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Sopranos were great when it was good. But, when it was bad.... Well, it could be pretty bad. Of course - the same is true for any long running show. MASH was pretty bad at times, too.

But shows like "Good Times" aren't on the list. That's sort of a big miss for a top 100 - it was a landmark show in it's time - frankly, I think the writing was better than the Cosby show even if the production values weren't as high.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:50 PM on June 3, 2013


Maybe it gets better in later seasons?

Later seasons expand the scope but the format is basically the same.

I kind of wish Mefites wouldn't mock-shame people for their media preferences. I don't like a lot of "canon" shit. It's OK. We can have healthy conversation about what we don't like about well-loved shows.
posted by muddgirl at 4:51 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


No Nova, Nature, or Frontline?

List fails.
posted by Renoroc at 4:54 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, no Hillbilly Handfishin'. This is class warfare.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:57 PM on June 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


The Shield at 71?

Heresy!

This list is wrong.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:01 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


No Bugs Bunny Daffy Duck looneytunes?
posted by bukvich at 5:05 PM on June 3, 2013


Why is ER on this list? Why not Days Of Our Lives?
posted by GuyZero at 5:07 PM on June 3, 2013


>"Still don't get universal love for The Wire."

It was only the BEST SHOW EVER.


If you have to consider the entire run, Season 5 moves The Wire's average pretty far down. Of course, by this logic, Friends should not even be considered a TV show.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:13 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


No Bugs Bunny Daffy Duck looneytunes?

alas, those were movies

Why not Days Of Our Lives?

because stefano kidnapped the writer's guild president and make him take it off
posted by pyramid termite at 5:15 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kind of weird how Spongebob isn't on the list. It's the only television I let my kids watch. None of that Dora shit.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:15 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


No Bugs Bunny Daffy Duck looneytunes?

Looney Tunes were originally shown in movie theaters as shorts, so they're not technically tv.
posted by dortmunder at 5:16 PM on June 3, 2013


These are the right shows in the wrong order.
posted by cazoo at 5:16 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Wire is a deliberately slow, methodical attempt by the writers to circle in on its central premise in a way that leaves the viewer with little choice but to accept that premise. It moves like a very patient strategist, now offering this route of escape, now that, only to cut its adversary off at every turn. It's intended to be a slow and exhaustive look at the drug war in a way that doesn't even necessarily feel like narrative: there are no heroes, no great victories, no closure. The system works, and by that I mean the system is thoroughly corrupt and inhuman and self-perpetuating; it robs the characters of their choice, their integrity, and eventually their lives in a series of meaningless sacrifices that nevertheless seem meaningful to characters and to the viewer in the moment.

It is a poem to helplessness in the face of institutional power, and as such it is often narratively difficult to follow, I think because it is attempting to tell kind of an anti-story, not about people directly but about institutions and compromise and incentives.

It might not be your thing, but that's why I think it's amazing.
posted by gauche at 5:17 PM on June 3, 2013 [21 favorites]


If you have to consider the entire run, Season 5 moves The Wire's average pretty far down.

Yeah, but Season 4 is probably the best written season of television ever, so it all evens out.
posted by dortmunder at 5:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Kind of weird how Spongebob isn't on the list. It's the only television I let my kids watch. None of that Dora shit.

Or Adventure Time. First time my grandson put that on I was sure I was having a flashback. Best 70s documentary series evar!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


And yes, I agree that season five was kind of a cop-out. The newsroom plot aside, I feel like that was where traditional narrative re-asserted its ugly head and forced an ending the story didn't deserve.
posted by gauche at 5:19 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or Adventure Time. First time my grandson put that on I was sure I was having a flashback. Best 70s documentary series evar!

I will have to check that out. This is a very compelling discussion topic for me, because as a family we were watching a remake of a popular cartoon from when my wife was a kid in Japan (Doraemon, FWIW), and the damn things these days end now with an anodyne, positive message ("you can do it if you try" etc etc) instead of with vaguely dark and very clever endings of 30 years ago.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:24 PM on June 3, 2013


I recommend it. Very odd, very creative. Kind of like Yellow Submarine (stylistically), but less precious, if that makes any sense. Definitely has a dark side, but still great for kids. Send me a MeMail and tell me what you think. I'll be curious.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:28 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Homicide :Life on The Streets needs to be much higher.
posted by jonmc at 5:32 PM on June 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I keep hearing good things about The Good Wife (tied at #50 with Colbert and The Office UK) but I have a mental block about it for some reason. I should just add it to my queue already.

I'm glad to see Justified (#86) on the list and the position is probably around right. They missed Andy Richter Controls The Universe but then again, so does everyone else.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:37 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of these days I'm gonna have to watch The Sopranos.
posted by double bubble at 5:40 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who even cares about the actual contents of this list, the point is that THEY PUT EVERY ITEM ON ONE PAGE.

this is the best list
posted by elizardbits at 5:41 PM on June 3, 2013 [39 favorites]


I think the Dick van Dyke show should be on the chart for the "Walnuts" episode alone. Caught that at 1 am during a marathon, insomnia, using the t.v. as background noise. Spent the whole next day worried about my thumbs.


A Barney Miller / I, Claudius would be awesome!

Det. Wojciehowicz: Lemme see if I get this straight, your mom got you a job and you asked this guy to help you and your brother and then your son married your grandmother, and he seduced her and got her to try to poison you to take over...I mean, uh, didn't you see that comin'?

Tiberius (to Sejanus) Boni pastoris officium est ad tondendas oves, quibus non eu!

Sejanus (from the holding tank): Nemo liber est qui se, non in Domino!

Det.Dietrich (to both): Saepe paeniteret sermonem meum, sed nunquam meo silentium!

Capt. Miller: Dietrich...you speak Roman Latin?

Det. Dietrich: Sure. Don't you?
posted by Smedleyman at 5:44 PM on June 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


also where is adventure time. and gravity falls.
posted by elizardbits at 5:45 PM on June 3, 2013


This list of the 100 best written TV shows of all time proves that English is the only language suitable for writing television shows. And even with that handicap, British shows can barely scrape the Top 100. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
posted by layceepee at 5:46 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Glad to see Get Smart snuck in on the strength of the young Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, though they missed the top 10 by that much...
posted by jonmc at 5:47 PM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


SCTV isn't on the list. Will and Grace is. Somebody, please explain.
posted by davebush at 5:50 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm angry at the people who write the shows I like!
posted by Brocktoon at 5:55 PM on June 3, 2013


The great thing about The Wire is that they managed to do the season-long story arcs with great precision without sacrificing enjoyment of individual episodes, where the lesser plots were front-up and resolved or shelved with a satisfactory revelation every episode, and you never had the sense of BUT THE BIG ARC WHAT ABOUT THAT, until the final episode or two when the shit started to really home in on the fan.
posted by localroger at 6:00 PM on June 3, 2013


No Futurama on a list about best writing? I guess we know where the brain slugs aren't.

And ranking at #1 -- THE HYPNOTOAD
posted by brain_drain at 6:16 PM on June 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Deadwood should be number 1, 2 and 3.

I'd settle for any one of those.

32. Deadwood

Cocksuckers.
posted by homunculus at 6:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Mendelsohn admits he's disappointed that there aren't more shows created by women or people of color on the list

And yet there is no Frank's Place.

(I still haven't forgiven CBS)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:21 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Police Squad deserves to be on this list purely because of this perfect exchange:

"Who are you, and how did you get in here?"
"I'm a locksmith. And, I'm a locksmith."
posted by Paragon at 6:32 PM on June 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


So Perry Mason was snubbed because it bonded us to the rule of law during the cold war and didn't have a laugh track.
posted by Brian B. at 6:36 PM on June 3, 2013


I don't know if the list makes any more sense with this focus, but I think an argument could be made that a show like Friends had more effective writing, for what it was trying to achieve, than Fringe.

I've never actually seen Fringe and can't weigh in there, but you'd think that a Best Written TV Shows as decided on by actual TV writers would't be so clogged with 90s sitcom glurge. I mean, Friends is pretty good for what it is, but I think if you have too many of those types of sitcoms on the list, maybe 100 is too big a number for a list.

It's like when sometimes nobody wins a Pulitzer for playwriting because nobody thought any plays that year were worthy of a Pulitzer. You don't have to have a list of 100. Just have a list of 50 and leave some of the crappier shows off. It's perfectly OK.
posted by Sara C. at 6:39 PM on June 3, 2013


I love Star Trek, but...

Star Trek practically invented dramatic sci fi for grownups on television. You can argue that it's not the best science fiction ever, but it deserves a place in the pantheon for paving the way for a lot of other things.

Also, to be perfectly honest, it's a lot more consistently well written than a lot of other shows. There aren't that many truly great episodes, but any given episode (in the first two seasons, at least) is probably going to be solid in a way that you can't say for a lot of television.
posted by Sara C. at 6:43 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whoa, whoa, whoa. Rockford Files at #58?

What. Ever.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:50 PM on June 3, 2013


but you'd think that a Best Written TV Shows as decided on by actual TV writers would't be so clogged with 90s sitcom glurge

Who do you think was writing that 90s sitcom glurge? Or aspiring to write that glurge? Or writing the predecesors that inspired that glurge?
posted by muddgirl at 6:54 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite thing about Rockford Files is that every episode without fail someone jumps in out of nowhere and slugs Rockford in the gut. That guy took more punches to the stomach than I've had meals.
posted by neuromodulator at 6:54 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Downton flipping Abbey?

Sure, it's a fun show, but it's not because of the (terrible) writing!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:04 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't get including talk shows in with the others. It's a completely different kind of writing. Granted, drama and comedy are different, but share more the same elements of writing (plot, character development, etc.)
posted by double bubble at 7:14 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


at least top 50- WKRP in Cincinnati
posted by TDIpod at 7:18 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just did a search of this thread and found no hits for either "Mystery Science" or "MST3K."

I'll get over it, I'm sure. With time....
posted by JHarris at 7:19 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm as big a fan of "The Wire" as anyone, but in the past several months I've slowly but surely making it all the way through "The Shield", which I've been convinced since late in season 1, is the better of the two shows. While "The Shield" doesn't try for the grand scope of "The Wire", it is far better at making fully realizing it's characters, and the moral ambiguity of world they inhabit. While in "The Wire" the story feels real, in "The Shield", the characters feel real, and to me, that's a greater achievement.

Given that I'm probably in the minority about this, I can accept "The Wire" placing higher, but the gap is unforgivable. "The Shirld" should be in the top 20 at minimum.
posted by hwestiii at 7:26 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


What about Wild Wild West?
Gunsmoke, Bonanza.
posted by quazichimp at 7:26 PM on June 3, 2013


At first I thought this was going to be the typical US-only list. Then I started seeing the odd British show creep in. Great. That meant I would soon see Black Adder, which really deserves to be on a list devoted to writing. Nope. No love for Edmund and pals.
posted by sardonyx at 7:27 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


No Scooby Doo: Mysterys Inc or Peep Show? Or Adventure time?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:47 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


ctrl+f "Quark"

Buillshit.


Mank you.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:57 PM on June 3, 2013


The Shield, hells yeah, I feel like it's one of the best evah, not least because of the way it ends, it's just breathtakingly narratively satisfying.

I'd personally put it behind Deadwood and The Wire, but that's about it. I wish more people would see it so they could agree w/ me :)

Parenthetically, Sons of Anarchy has the same series creator as The Shield, and so far it's satisfying similar itches for me, I particularly like how all the 'good' (or maybe 'good-ish') characters inevitably turn bad and/or get dead, but somehow you never stop somehow empathizing with whoever's left. Hard to tell if it'll end as well, but here's hopin'.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:04 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Bob Newhart Show should have beat Game of Thrones. Newhart was funny, funny, funny.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:05 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Get modern family off this list, the network schedule and the collective memory of the human race and replace it with Herman's Head Seasons 3-12 NOW.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:10 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cheers at #8? Should most definitely be higher than Seinfeld.
posted by zardoz at 8:17 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sea Hunt is Not on the List

By this time, my lungs were aching for air.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:19 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dead Like Me.

Otherwise, excellent list that includes all my favorites. Including the one people always seem to forget on lists like this: the Muppet Show. Yay!
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:27 PM on June 3, 2013


I see they included The Prisoner but its prequel, Danger Man aka Secret Agent ought to be there too, if the list is meant to be serious and actually about the writing.

Also, Parade's End may be short but it's much better than Downton Abbey, The IT Crowd should definitely be on this list, and Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is deserving as well.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:33 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The entire list was validated for me by the inclusion of Battlestar Galactica (2005).
posted by aclevername at 8:44 PM on June 3, 2013


Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is deserving as well.

They're going to have to answer to Won Ton.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:51 PM on June 3, 2013


Wot, no Inbetweeners? For shame.
posted by arcticseal at 8:56 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


By this time, my lungs were aching for air.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:19 PM on June 3 [+] [!]


What about Rumpole of the Bailey?
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:12 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just curious, but was there some reason COSMOS didn't make the list?
posted by TDavis at 9:51 PM on June 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love how Fawlty Towers tied with The Rockford Files. Now please excuse me while I daydream for the rest of the afternoon about James Garner paying a visit to a certain hotelier in Torquay.

I'm taking the other side of this bet, I'm imagining a caramel colored RWD Camaro spinning out on the left side of a two lane english road, then smash cut to a grey suited John Cleese driving.

After clumsily parking, he levers out his largish frame from the aforementioned Camaro, stands up and delivers the line as only the British can, "What's all this then?"

Cut to a harpsichord version of the Rockford Files theme song.
posted by Sphinx at 10:33 PM on June 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


32. Deadwood

Cocksuckers


I applaud your enthusiasm and especially your fuckin' brevity, homunculus, but these people don't have enough mean in 'em to be cocksuckers. What they are is hoopleheads, through and fuckin' through.
posted by gompa at 10:43 PM on June 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


To be fair, I can see how a writer might be reticent to promote a show where 60% of the dialogue is the word "cocksucker" as an example of the best of their craft.
posted by IAmUnaware at 11:00 PM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


No Slings and Arrows. No LEXX. No Dead Like Me. No Trailer Park Boys. Oh, well - to each his own.

Did Trailer Park Boys or Slings and Arrows air in the US? US airtime is one of the criteria for the list as in English language content. (Which of course is a contradiction with the "of all time" claim, but oh well).
posted by chapps at 11:24 PM on June 3, 2013


And for Canadian shows I like DaVinci's Inquest, Fortier (from Quebec), SCTV, and the Friendly Giant and Mr. Dressup, of course! Also I wish Jinnah on Crime lasted longer!

For classic Canadian nostalgia, King of Kensington and the Beachcombers.


On the question of women writers and directors, Canada suffered a major loss with the end of the Studio D program at the NFB. Does the US have a women's studio? Did it ever?
posted by chapps at 11:45 PM on June 3, 2013


Oh, also, The Sandbaggers was better written than every other spy, cop and action show put together.
posted by cthuljew at 12:11 AM on June 4, 2013


Hack writers like mostly hack stuff but know to claim at least a handfull of recent highbrow touchstones for cred, film at eleven.
posted by klangklangston at 12:14 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Needs more Malcolm in the Middle.
posted by Zed at 12:42 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is no way, in a rational universe, that Fawlty Towers is not somewhere in the writing Top 10 (and Seinfeld isn't), but this obvious flaw in the list is (almost) compensated for by scody's imagination.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:46 AM on June 4, 2013


Downton Abbey the best ever British show?

This list doesn't deserve any more comment than that.

(However... Here's the BFI's 100 best from 2000. Yes, not using the same criteria, but is Downton better written than The Singing Detective, Monty Python, Boys From The Blackstuff, Dad's Army, Blackadder, Porridge, Cracker, Prime Suspect, Only Fools & Horses, or House of Cards? I think not)
posted by DanCall at 2:09 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


But Cheers in teh top 10? I liked it, but really, top 10?

We're watching through Cheers in our household at the moment. I was too young when it was on (it's about six months younger than I am) and always overlooked it in favour of the highbrow farce of Frasier, and I was surprised how excellent the writing is. The episode where a stranger leaves money to the bar in his will and the group argue over what to do with it, in the hands of a lesser writer, would have been a two-hour play.

Needs moar NewsRadio, though. THEY SET AN EPISODE IN SPACE FOR NO GOOD REASON

Wot, no Inbetweeners? For shame.

I'm not sure how well that show would work for a mass US audience, particularly the underage drinking element. There's a film coming out about a college student who turns 21 and can OMG Drink Legally, and I can see its intended audience here thinking 'but we did all this when we were sixteen'.
posted by mippy at 3:41 AM on June 4, 2013


Where's Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman?
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:55 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


also where is adventure time. and gravity falls.

Yeah, and Avatar the Last Airbender, Batman:TAS, Venture Brothers ("Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel" alone should have cemented its place on the list), The Critic, Futurama - it's kind of disappointing that the only animated entry is The Simpsons. And as much as I love Get Smart, its scripts were plodding and fomulaic, and saved only by the lunatic intensity of Don Adams: Police Squad should have been here instead, and Laugh In... just, no. Some funny bits in a sea of tone-deaf schtick. This should have been the entry for either The State or Reno 911.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:09 AM on June 4, 2013


Hahahaah The X-Files? REALLY? And in the top third?
posted by Legomancer at 5:18 AM on June 4, 2013


Actually, yeah - the interweaving between the conspiracy story arc episodes and the MOTW episodes was beautifully done, and the show always maintained a high level of atmospheric tension and a vicious clever streak - "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" alone earned it a spot on the list, but there are also these.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:37 AM on June 4, 2013


LOST!?!?! AT #27?

WHAT.
THE.
FUCK.
WRITER'S GUILD OF AMERICA?
posted by Aizkolari at 5:37 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did Trailer Park Boys or Slings and Arrows air in the US?

Yes to both. And Slings and Arrows could definitely take the place of any of the shows on the bottom half of the list, and quite a few on the top half.
posted by tzikeh at 6:24 AM on June 4, 2013


Did Trailer Park Boys or Slings and Arrows air in the US? US airtime is one of the criteria for the list as in English language content. (Which of course is a contradiction with the "of all time" claim, but oh well).

I don't know if this would count as airing in the US, but BBCAmerica ran Trailer Park Boys and Sundance ran Slings and Arrows which was how I first saw these shows.
posted by AnnElk at 6:28 AM on June 4, 2013


Hahahaah The X-Files? REALLY? And in the top third?

When it was good it was very, very good. When it was bad was more often.

(TBH it was more frequently just average than actually "bad")
posted by Artw at 6:29 AM on June 4, 2013


the interweaving between the conspiracy story arc episodes and the MOTW episodes was beautifully done

Except that the conspiracy story arc was an increasingly hapless pile of thrown-together cack and the MOTW episodes got more dumb as time went on.
posted by Legomancer at 6:31 AM on June 4, 2013


The Shield is underrated. One of the best dramas ever, with an enormously satisfying and haunting ending. The characterization is flawless and multidimensional. The plotting is masterful and maintains suspense at a high level consistently throughout in a natural way as an extension of believable actions by the characters instead of random external events. The only other show I've seen that pulls that off is The Wire and arguably, the Sopranos, although The Sopranos is a little prone to make convenient drama happen because other problems have been solved and uh, reasons. Breaking Bad is especially bad about random stuff to ramp up the drama. Not as satisfying.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:24 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whoever compiled this list does not know how you score ties in a list of the N best whatever. Hint: The final list including tied entries should only contain N items total.

Um, I don't think you and I are reading the same list.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:40 AM on June 4, 2013


I think The Shield is fabulous and underrated as well. I consider Vic Mackey among my favorite all time television characters.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:42 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is ER on this list? Why not Days Of Our Lives?

One of my favorite memories about ER is that there is an episode in (I'm pretty sure) the first season, where the doctors and nurses are watching a medical soap opera in the break room, and there's a bit of dialogue that goes something like this:

"Wait, didn't he have a brain tumor?"

"Yes, but it was cured when he was struck by lightning."

I found that very funny.

And then, some seasons later, when the show was reaching...and reaching...and reaching for plots it hadn't done before, and they were getting more and more outrageous, and Dr. Green gets a brain tumor... Well, I was waiting for the lightning to strike, that's all.
posted by not that girl at 8:01 AM on June 4, 2013


Good: Nice to see The Carol Burnett Show on there.
Disappointing: Kung Fu should have been on there; it had very good writing (except for the last season).
Confusing: Why did Star Trek:TOS get rated as having better writing the ST:TNG?
posted by neutralmojo at 8:05 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I take the piss out of it all the time, but I do wonder why Grey's Anatomy doesn't see more love in this kind of thing given that it actually does the whole medical drama/soap opera thing fairly well.
posted by Artw at 8:12 AM on June 4, 2013


Hahahaah The X-Files? REALLY? And in the top third?

The show did not age well, but it felt like a cultural phenomenon at the time. It was a great update on the old Twilight Zone/Outer Limits sort of woo, with characters and themes that just worked in the 90s. Even the government conspiracy stuff wasn't a cliche yet when the X-Files was running with it. Personally I think Fringe has improved on the X-Files formula in nearly every way, but that's not to say X-Files wasn't great and unlike anything else on TV at the time.

Confusing: Why did Star Trek:TOS get rated as having better writing the ST:TNG?

Because it's better THERE I SAID IT
posted by Hoopo at 8:22 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The entire list was invalidated for me by the inclusion of Battlestar Galactica (2005).
posted by IjonTichy at 8:57 AM on June 4, 2013


I'm glad to see I'm not the one person really enjoying Justified. As you would guess from this list, it's not exactly in the same league as Deadwood, but as "Deadwood 2010" and toned down to meet a PG-13 rating, it's pretty good.
posted by jermsplan at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2013


To be fair, I can see how a writer might be reticent to promote a show where 60% of the dialogue is the word "cocksucker" as an example of the best of their craft.

If any writer watching Deadwood isn't left in slack-jawed awe at the lexical invention and sustained rhythmic genius of the dialogue -- and absolutely fucking floored by the way Wu emerges as a fully drawn character using just a three-English-word vocabulary that leans heavily on "cocksucker" -- then I submit that writer doesn't really understand his or her craft very well. And is a dirt-worshipping heathen hooplehead.
posted by gompa at 9:06 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


The entire list was invalidated for me by the inclusion of Battlestar Galactica (2005).

That show was excellent right up to the finale, which was not. I think it's a fair inclusion.
posted by Hoopo at 9:06 AM on June 4, 2013


Confusing: Why did Star Trek:TOS get rated as having better writing the ST:TNG?

I dunno; in retrospect, it's surprising anyone got past the first season of TNG. On the other hand there was TOS's tendency to have episodes on the studio's surplus movie sets (last week, gangsters; this week, a western; next week, Romans!)

As much as I enjoyed watching various ST series, I wouldn't put a single one of them on any list of "Best Written" TV.

And, LOST should have been amended "LOST, seasons 1-5." Never forgive, never forget.
posted by aught at 9:07 AM on June 4, 2013


If any writer watching Deadwood isn't left in slack-jawed awe at the lexical invention and sustained rhythmic genius of the dialogue -- and absolutely fucking floored by the way Wu emerges as a fully drawn character using just a three-English-word vocabulary that leans heavily on "cocksucker" -- then I submit that writer doesn't really understand his or her craft very well. And is a dirt-worshipping heathen hooplehead.

Again, The Wire - detailed crime scene investigation in ONE word.
posted by Artw at 9:23 AM on June 4, 2013


That show was excellent right up to the finale, which was not. I think it's a fair inclusion.

I respectfully disagree! I found the majority of the last two seasons to be flailing nonsense. Even before that, the primary flaw of the show was that the Cylons made no sense, either scientifically, metaphorically, or in terms of their motivation. That flaw became more problematic as half of the cast were revealed to be cylons.

For the first two years, it was a passable soap opera, but it was always terrible science fiction.
posted by IjonTichy at 9:27 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


BSG peaked early at 33. But it's a strong peak, and it has it's moments after that, then just falls into stumbling incoherence after they wrote themselves into a corner with New Caprica, sort of get themselves out with a couple of cool scenes and then never manage to be remotely good ever again.
posted by Artw at 9:30 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Shield is underrated...The plotting is masterful and maintains suspense at a high level consistently throughout in a natural way as an extension of believable actions by the characters instead of random external events.

posted by the young rope-rider at 9:24 AM on June 4

The second sentence there is precisely what I love so much about "The Shield", and I only wish I'd been as articulate myself in trying to express it. Thanks young rope-rider. I literally couldn't say it better myself.
posted by hwestiii at 9:46 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Confusing: Why did Star Trek:TOS get rated as having better writing the ST:TNG?

Because it's a better written show.

I've been marathonning both series recently. There are a lot of very shitty TNG episodes that just make no fucking sense at all and are borderline unwatchable. (I grew up on TNG and remain a huge fan of the show despite its weaknesses.) There've been a few boring episodes of TOS, and some that are very stylistically different from what TV is doing nowadays, but the baseline is very strong plots with some good character moments and clever dialogue. I haven't seen an episode yet where I'm like "wtf am I even WATCHING????" like I did with, say "The Naked Now" or "Sub Rosa".

I would say, actually, that TOS can sometimes be schlocky despite its strong writing, whereas TNG can sometimes be great despite very poor writing.
posted by Sara C. at 9:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


With a few episodes excepted (boxing, black market) I thought that the first three seasons of BSG was as good as TV sci-fi gets. Once you got to the forth season, you sort of realized that they didn't "have a plan" and had no idea how to wrap things up. I wish that they would ended BSG like Hill Street Blues* ended with no really conclusion at all.


* HSB should have been in the top five of this list.
posted by octothorpe at 9:50 AM on June 4, 2013


there was TOS's tendency to have episodes on the studio's surplus movie sets (last week, gangsters; this week, a western; next week, Romans!)

This doesn't have anything to do with the writing, though.

In fact, I'd say that an episode that can get you invested in one of those alternate-earth studio backlot things is infinitely better than a TNG episode where they had infinite SFX, makeup, and art department budgets but the script is something the Sunday funny pages would be embarrassed to run.
posted by Sara C. at 9:56 AM on June 4, 2013


After spending most of my life indifferent to Star Trek, I just recently started making my way through TOS on Netflix. It's been more fun than I expected. The combination of smart writing + jarringly dated attitudes makes for a really interesting sci fi cocktail.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:01 AM on June 4, 2013


I dunno; in retrospect, it's surprising anyone got past the first season of TNG.

There wasn't a whole lot of Sci-Fi on TV to watch at the time. Plus, you just kept hoping that it would get better since it was Trek after all.
posted by octothorpe at 10:01 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have also been watching a lot of TNG on and off lately. I am currently watching an episode where I'm not really sure if Geordi's kinda putting the nerd moves on Sarah Silverman or not, but I'm pretty sure he's in a supervisory position and it would be really inappropriate. HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
posted by Hoopo at 10:05 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT

Thanks to what went on in TOS I'm pretty sure the Federation's HR department is backlogged through the year 3000.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:10 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Again, The Wire - detailed crime scene investigation in ONE word.

I do love that scene as a set piece, and let me be clear that when we're comparing the writing on The Wire, Deadwood and The Sopranos, I believe we're basically asking which of these indisputable masterpieces we'll hang in the gallery if we simply must hang only one.

That said, I actually think this justly beloved scene is a rare instance of The Wire's writing staff losing their focus. It's one of the only sustained breaks from the near-flawless naturalism of the show's dialogue. It's not way out of character, but Bunk and McNulty wouldn't have goofed on the myriad uses of fuck like this without a knowing look or a grin or something. It's a terrific set piece, but it's a break with the show's broader flow, a gimmick. It's a tiny bit self-indulgent, which would be forgivable and likely undiscernable in any other script but does stick out just a bit on a show where pretty much every other editorial decision was in the service of the greater whole.

Whereas, by comparison, Deadwood establishes quite early on that it exists in its own universe regarding dialogue and deserves very high praise for somehow sustaining it over three seasons, to the point where I spent months with Al Swearengen's singular vocal rhythms in my head after bingeing on the show earlier this year.
posted by gompa at 10:24 AM on June 4, 2013


Thanks to what went on in TOS I'm pretty sure the Federation's HR department is backlogged through the year 3000.

If you ever take the official Federation HR Department Tour, it's worth paying a little extra for the extended tour package. You get to spend 30 minutes browsing the Riker Vault. Just take my word for it: don't open the Riker Drawers.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:31 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gunsmoke is on the list, unfortunately. The show had this going for it: it was on the air forever.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:38 AM on June 4, 2013


I'm glad Frasier made the top 25, one of the most intelligently written (and the inside jokes!) shows ever. Why Northern Exposure didn't come in higher is a real mystery.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:43 AM on June 4, 2013


I didn't find Frasier particularly intelligent, it just had haughty characters and references and tacked them on to fairly run-of-the-mill sitcom stories. Kind of like how Big Bang Theory works.
posted by Hoopo at 10:55 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder how these morans missed out on Get A Life?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:44 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The greatest injustice I spotted on the list was to tie Monty Python's Flying Circus with ST:TNG.
posted by jepler at 11:53 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


“I would say, actually, that TOS can sometimes be schlocky despite its strong writing, whereas TNG can sometimes be great despite very poor writing.”

I get that from non-Star Trek fans. Plenty of disrespect for TOS. So I ask them if they liked the Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.
Yes? Same writers. (Jerome Bixby, Ira Steven Behr, Harlan Ellison, etc. etc. Richard Matheson – although to be fair he wrote everything that’s any good ever, anywhere, for all time)
They have the same kind of funky feel about space. Like it’s actually alien and mysterious and perplexing and scary.
TNG, and in fact almost all science fiction, rarely has that “WTF!? Run like hell!!!” factor to it. Like it’s all figured out now and we can spend most of our time looking smug.
The City On The Edge Of Forever had the exact opposite feel to all that.
There’s that eerie atmospheric sound around the Guardian of Forever. There’s no way of understanding the thing. Kirk is all wrung out. And the thing says “Many such journeys are possible.” And you get that the universe is mysterious and f’ing vicious and there’s no cute wrap up or parting quip or any justification for what just happened, nothing for it but to just “get the hell out of here.”


Frasier too. For all the comedy, and bittersweet life affirmation it really is about loneliness.
It is an intelligent series but that makes it easy to overlook how much heart it has.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:32 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I get that from non-Star Trek fans

FWIW I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Trekkie pretty much from birth. But I cut my teeth on TNG and always assumed TOS was campy hacky space opera. Whereas I'm actually finding it to be the most consistently solid of any Trek series I've seen. They don't ever really take risks, but for a conservative network show, the writing is really great.

I think DS9 has some better episodes, and when they hit their stride with the Dominion War all bets are off, but for solid and strong week-in-week-out writing over the whole run, TOS is where it's at.

(FWIW I think "City on the Edge..." is overrated and don't get why it's always considered the best Trek ever.)
posted by Sara C. at 12:44 PM on June 4, 2013


Just take my word for it: don't open the Riker Drawers.

As much as he keeps asking you too...

(I recently watched an episode of TNG where Riker told Geordi to not involved with a woman. I was shocked. SHOCKED!)
posted by drezdn at 12:59 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think "City on the Edge..." is overrated and don't get why it's always considered the best Trek ever

Yeah, I've got some others I like more. (Although I enjoy Ellison's ranting about it, Joan Collins, and everything else related)

But it seems indicative of that ethereal 'Outer Limits' vibe TOS sometimes had. Delightful horror. Wonder. None of the other series had that. And it seems to have almost vanished entirely in science fiction.

Thrill seems to have replaced it for the most part in SF just generally. You don't get much of the alone in a strange land far from home sense. Everything seems familiar.

Although TNG "Schisms" had that sort of mysterious weirdness going on.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:51 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen Enterprise at all, and from what I understand it's largely awful, but I think that sense of wonder and mystery is what I'd have liked to see, there.
posted by Sara C. at 2:01 PM on June 4, 2013


On the other hand there was TOS's tendency to have episodes on the studio's surplus movie sets (last week, gangsters; this week, a western; next week, Romans!)

TBH the entire show was created as a way to make use of the existing Desilu (originally RKO) facilities. And for all that those were some of the best-remembered episodes (esp. "City", "A Piece of the Action", "Bread and Circuses", and arguably "Plato's Stepchildren"), even if a couple ("Catspaw", "The Omega Glory", "Patterns of Force") were pretty awful. But they nearly all played in their own ways to the show's social commentary strengths. Beats TNG's litany of holodeck malfunctions.

The City On The Edge Of Forever had the exact opposite feel to all that.

Indeed. I think it's one of the great episodes because it earns its tagline ("Let's get the hell out of here"). If you look at the original script by Ellison, and the revised, aired script mostly by Roddenberry, both of which won awards, you can see the underlying thought process that made Star Trek itself great and, as we know today, ageless.
Though frankly I am frustrated to this day by its lazy Cold Warrior anti-pacifist politics. In a way that tension with the overall Trek philosophy, pulled taut, is probably another reason it's great, because it dares to challenge the show's own premises and its own heroes are given a dark and haunted edge.

As to the list, of course shows like Cheers belong there. I have great respect for the artistic form of the situation comedy, and Cheers is really that genre in peak form. Friends, even given the callowness of its characters, was a good ensemble comedy for similar reasons. Frasier had great characters, but I felt it was definitely spinning its wheels towards the end.

Bunk and McNulty wouldn't have goofed on the myriad uses of fuck like this without a knowing look or a grin or something.

I don't know. It's played pretty straight for a reason, as if they didn't realize that's what it sounded like. I think it also underlines one of the show's points that individuals in the system are often working hard to be their best, or at least doing their jobs reasonably competently, and how that impacts the larger picture of the war on drugs. A bit of a writerly indulgence, to be sure, but I don't think it was out of place, either.
posted by dhartung at 2:30 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Though frankly I am frustrated to this day by its lazy Cold Warrior anti-pacifist politics.

On the other hand this is sort of fascinating, dramatically, because any time Kirk is trying to convince some far-flung alien king that he should ally with the Federation instead of the Klingons, said alien king is usually like "they're warlike, you're warlike, why should I side with you?" and Kirk usually doesn't have much to say to that aside from "Cause we're the good guys, duhhhh." He'll usually spout off about the rule of law and freedom and justice, but it's obviously hollow. Especially since we know barely anything about the Federation and have no real evidence of the claimed barbarity of the Klingons aside from the fact that anyone wearing that much gold lamé unironically has to be deeply disturbed.

I mean, obviously at the time, it was just a stand in for the cold war and The American Way and I'm sure viewers took it at face value. But in 2013 it reads so much more cynically. And I'm impressed with the way that the vagueness makes it seem less dated rather than moreso.
posted by Sara C. at 2:43 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I haven't seen Enterprise at all, and from what I understand it's largely awful,

I have no idea why people hated Enteprise so much. Maybe it was the terrible theme song that did the show in, but I thought it was pretty cool.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:03 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


mippy: "Needs moar NewsRadio, though."

Seriously. Best sitcom of its era.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:27 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have no idea why people hated Enteprise so much. Maybe it was the terrible theme song that did the show in, but I thought it was pretty cool.

Felt like a retread, with everyone a bit dumber to make it plausibly preceed the other stuff. I'd blame the heavy handed 9/11 stuff as well but I don't think it started with that.
posted by Artw at 8:33 AM on June 6, 2013


For me, it was the "let's slime each other in our underwear while porno music plays!" scene.

Turned it off, didn't go back. This is your debut, for crying out loud. Don't bring that made-for-cable lowbrow bullshit... Lexx is set in a cynical and sarcastic universe, seediness works for them. Star Trek has no business being anywhere near that.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:49 AM on June 7, 2013


Okay, I'm late to this conversation, maybe no one will read this but here are my annotated thoughts (by that I mean: thoughts).

1. The Sopranos.
I was not as freaky a fan for this show as were others of my friends and family. Maybe I need to give it a second chance. To me it seemed like the show that was robbing The Wire of its Emmies.
2. Seinfeld
Very well written. The balancing act of quick cutting between threads of stories and then tying them all together was fantastic.
3. The Twilight Zone (1959)
The standard of all television writing. I wouldn't place it at number one because for every great episode that resonates fifty years later they had me considering George Meek, an ordinary man about to receive extraordinary powers...
4. All in the Family
Brilliantly written but its acting is what sent it over the top. Especially from Edith. Sniff.
5. M*A*S*H
I had a chance to watch this on DVD recently without a laugh track. It is so much better and the writing shines. In my top three.
6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Oh, oh, oh, that MTM rag, it's so elegant, so intelligent.
7. Mad Men
I guess there are several aspects to great writing. One is creating a world. In that sense this is perfect.
8. Cheers
Well-written, but I would place it among the runners up in situation comedies.
9. The Wire
Number one. Absolutely fantastic. Creates an entire world, perfect dialogue, incredible characters. A Murderer's Row of writers.
10. The West Wing
Haven't seen it. But, hey I didn't read Crime and Punishment until last month.
11. The Simpsons
Brilliant if you consider its peak seasons. If you average it out...
12. I Love Lucy
I'll go along with this. Writing set pieces that are iconic is a great talent.
13. Breaking Bad
Needs to be much higher. #4? When Walter delivers his "I am the one who knocks" speech it is as good as "I could have been a contender."
Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think you see? Do you know how much I make a year? I mean, even if I told you, you wouldn't believe it. Do you know what would happen if I suddenly decided to stop going into work? A business big enough that it could be listed on the NASDAQ goes belly up. Disappears! It ceases to exist without me. No, you clearly don't know who you're talking to, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger, Skyler. I AM the danger! A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks!
14. The Dick Van Dyke Show
I remember Dick Van Dyke shake his head about Mary Tyler Moore: she went from Carl Reiner to James Brooks.
15. Hill Street Blues
Absolutely. The quantum leaps in cop drama: Police Story (70s), Hill Street Blues (80s), Homicide (90s), The Wire (00s).
16. Arrested Development
Probably the best planned out sitcom and the one that rewards re-viewing most.
17. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Colbert is better written.

So, my top five:

1. The Wire
2. The Twilight Zone
3. M*A*S*H
4. Breaking Bad
5. Seinfeld
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:20 PM on June 7, 2013


It's going to be interesting to see where Breaking Bad ends up after its done - by accident or design it's shaping up to be a single continuous story in a way most shows aren't.
posted by Artw at 3:24 PM on June 7, 2013


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