Tuesday, October 22, 2013

All Shows Ranked - Post-"Breaking Bad" Edition

So, I haven't done this in a while. The last (actually, the only) time was after finishing Deadwood, and that list had only 14 shows on it. Over the past two years I've added 19 more shows and removed one (Arrested Development, due to its revival on Netflix), bringing the current total to 32.

For those who don't know, this is the constantly expanding, ranked list of every single show I have ever watched. Currently airing shows are added after they conclude their runs (so no Mad Men yet), although in some cases I may make an exception for a long-running show that I stopped watching before the end. I quit the U.S. version of The Office midway through season eight, for instance, but I felt like it should be represented here, so I put it on the list as "seasons 1-7" (meaning I didn't consider those largely mediocre season eight episodes when ranking it).

The list is organized into tiers based on the overall grade I'd give each series: tier one being the A's, tier two the A-'s, and so on. Originally the list had only three tiers, but recent shows like Awake and Last Resort have necessitated a fourth tier for B-grade shows. My criteria is of course insanely subjective, but I place a high value on overall episode to episode consistency, as well as on how successful the overall story arc—assuming a given show had one—turned out to be. I would say those are the two biggest factors, with #1 being slightly more important than #2. (Though in some cases #2 wins out. I think Lost was overall the slightly more consistent series than Buffy, but I can't ignore the fact that the former's overall arc ultimately proved to be something of a mess in comparison to the terrific ongoing development of Buffy's characters and themes.)

A couple other observations:

- It should go without saying that every single one of the shows on this list is a good show. An overall B grade is a very solid series, and only a few even landed on that tier. Everything else ranges from very good to brilliant, and with good reason: I don't keep watching lousy shows. (Note: if you want to pay me to write about a lousy show somewhere, I will do so gladly. But otherwise... life's too short.)

- Lots of stuff has changed, of course. Probably the most notable shift as a result of all the new shows I've added is The Wire, which has fallen all the way to #5. The newspaper storyline really cost it, as the four shows ahead of it all have zero significant blemishes, and are each in their own ways just as rich and ambitious (though smaller in scope) as HBO's greatest dramatic achievement.

- Spartacus ends up in tier two. I think that's appropriate. First two seasons had some major flaws early on, and the latter two seasons (while terrific from start to finish) each had their small issues as well. A great show, but not quite as great as, say, Breaking Bad.

- Bumped Ben and Kate up a few spots higher (it was at #26 previously) after seeing the three unaired episodes, which ended the show on a much, much better note than the final few to air on TV. Going to miss it so much.

And here's the full list. As always, happy to answer any questions/complaints about a particular show's placement in the comments.
  1. Freaks and Geeks (Tier 1)
  2. Fawlty Towers
  3. Breaking Bad
  4. Enlightened
  5. The Wire
  6. Deadwood
  7. Party Down
  8. The Shield
  9. Cheers
  10. 30 Rock
  11. Top of the Lake
  12. The Sopranos
  13. Battlestar Galactica
  14. Terriers
  15. Slings and Arrows (Tier 2)
  16. Friday Night Lights
  17. Dollhouse
  18. Spartacus
  19. Happy Endings
  20. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Tier 3)
  21. The Office (U.S.): Seasons 1-7
  22. Ben and Kate
  23. Lost
  24. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  25. Firefly
  26. Veronica Mars
  27. Angel (Tier 4)
  28. The Office (U.K.)
  29. Last Resort
  30. Awake
  31. Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23
  32. Political Animals 


  1. Awake, really?

    Other than that, great list. PS, having seen (and loved) Freaks and Geeks earlier this season, it's number one spot feels so deserved.

    PPS I just started Terriers

    1. There are 2 or 3 episodes of "Awake" that I absolutely love. The rest ranges from pretty good to decidedly average, in my opinion, and I didn't care for the finale at all.

      Glad you loved "Freaks and Geeks". 18 of the most perfect episodes to ever air. Not a single one among them that is anything less than a classic. And hope you enjoy "Terriers". I suspect you will.

    2. I feel as if I should also do a list, so here's my top 5:

      1) King of the Hill - I've yet to see any other show (animated or otherwise) that perfectly captures how extraordinarily ordinarily epic life is.

      2) Southland - Greatest police drama ever? It's definitely up there.

      3) Rosseanne - After 25 years it's still the best sitcom on TV, despite the awful last 2 seasons and the worst series finale of all time.

      4) Breaking Bad - Because duh.

      5) The X-files - First show I ever watched that made me addicted to TV.