The Top 101 Best Written TV Progammes

Top 101 Television Shows

They say that while film is a director’s medium, TV is the writers medium.

Today the Writers Guild of America revealed their list of the Top 101 best written TV programmes ever.

“At their core, all of these wonderful series began with the words of the writers who created them and were sustained by the writers who joined their staffs or worked on individual episodes,” said WGAW President Chris Keyser and WGAE President Michael Winship in a joint statement. “This list is not only a tribute to great TV, it is a dedication to all writers who devote their hearts and minds to advancing their craft.”

I would ask why current and fantastically scripted gems like Parks & Recreation and Community are missing but on the whole apart from leaning a touch too far in the populist side; this is a pretty comprehensive list that on the whole I agree with. If you had never seen any TV before in your life this list is a pretty good start!

Glad to see that my favourite 3 sitcoms (Seinfeld, classic Simpsons and Arrested Development) all make the top 20. Other personal faves like Lost (27) and Game of Thrones show that genre shows are pretty well represented. Also very pleased Columbo made the list!

So do you agree? What do you think is the best written TV show ever? Let me know below!

1. The Sopranos – HBO – Created by David Chase
2. Seinfeld – NBC – Created by Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld
3. The Twilight Zone (1959) – CBS – Season One writers: Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Robert Presnell, Jr., Rod Serling
4. All in the Family – CBS – Developed for Television by Norman Lear, Based on Till Death Do Us Part, Created by Johnny Speight
5. M*A*S*H – CBS – Developed for Television by Larry Gelbart
6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show – CBS – Created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns
7. Mad Men – AMC – Created by Matthew Weiner
8. Cheers – NBC – Created by Glen Charles & Les Charles and James Burrows
9. The Wire – HBO – Created by David Simon
10. The West Wing – NBC – Created by Aaron Sorkin
11. The Simpsons – FOX – Created by Matt Groening, Developed by James L. Brooks and Matt Groening and Sam Simon
12. I Love Lucy – CBS – “Pilot,” Written by Jess Oppenheimer & Madelyn Pugh & Bob Carroll, Jr.
13. Breaking Bad – AMC – Created by Vince Gilligan
14. The Dick Van Dyke Show – CBS – Created by Carl Reiner
15. Hill Street Blues – NBC – Created by Michael Kozoll and Steven Bochco
16. Arrested Development – FOX – Created by Mitchell Hurwitz
17. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – COMEDY CENTRAL – Created by Madeleine Smithberg, Lizz Winstead; Season One – Head Writer: Chris Kreski; Writers: Jim Earl, Daniel J. Goor, Charles Grandy, J.R. Havlan, Tom Johnson, Kent Jones, Paul Mercurio, Guy Nicolucci, Steve Rosenfield, Jon Stewart
18. Six Feet Under – HBO – Created by Alan Ball
19. Taxi – ABC – Created by James L. Brooks and Stan Daniels and David Davis and Ed Weinberger
20. The Larry Sanders Show – HBO – Created by Garry Shandling & Dennis Klein
21. 30 Rock – NBC – Created by Tina Fey
22. Friday Night Lights – NBC – Developed for Television by Peter Berg, Inspired by the Book by H.G. Bissinger
23. Frasier – NBC – Created by David Angell & Peter Casey & David Lee, Based on the Character “Frasier Crane” Created by Glen Charles & Les Charles
24. Friends – NBC – Created by Marta Kauffman & David Crane
25. Saturday Night Live – NBC – Season One: Writing Supervised by Walter Kempley, Harry Shearer; Written by: Ann Beatts, Chevy Chase, Tom Davis, Al Franken, Rosie Michaels, Garrett Morris, Michael O’Donoghue, Herb Sargent, Tom Schiller, Alan Zweibel
26. The X-Files – FOX – Created by Chris Carter
27. Lost – ABC – Created by Jeffrey Lieber and J.J. Abrams & Damon Lindelof
28. ER – NBC – Created Michael Crichton
29. The Cosby Show – NBC – Created by Ed Weinberger & Michael Leeson and William Cosby, Jr., Ed. D.
30. Curb Your Enthusiasm – HBO – Created by Larry David
31. The Honeymooners – CBS – Season One writers: Herbert Finn, Marvin Marx, A.J. Russell, Leonard Stern, Walter Stone, Sydney Zelinka
32. Deadwood – HBO – Created by David Milch

33. Star Trek – NBC – Created by Gene Roddenberry
34. Modern Family – ABC – Created by Steven Levitan & Christopher Lloyd
35. Twin Peaks – ABC – “Pilot,” Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch
36. NYPD Blue – ABC – created by David Milch & Steven Bochco
37. The Carol Burnett Show – CBS – Season One: Written by Bill Angelos, Stan Burns, Don Hinkley, Buz Kohan, Mike Marmer, Gail Parent, Kenny Solms, Saul Turtletaub; Writing Supervised by Arnie Rosen
38. Battlestar Galactica (2005) – SYFY – Developed by Ronald D. Moore, Based on the Series Battlestar Galactica Created by Glen A. Larson
39.  Sex & the City – HBO – Created by Darren Star, Based on the Book by Candace Bushnell
40. Game of Thrones – HBO – Created by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, Based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
41. The Bob Newhart Show *TIE – CBS – Created by David Davis and Lorenzo Music
41. Your Show of Shows *TIE – NBC – Season One: Written by Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, Max Liebman
43. Downton Abbey *TIE – PBS – Created by Julian Fellowes
43. Law & Order *TIE – NBC – Created by Dick Wolf
43. thirtysomething *TIE – ABC – Created by Marshall Herskovitz & Edward Zwick
46. Homicide: Life on the Street *TIE – NBC – Created by Paul Attanasio, Based on the Book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
46. St. Elsewhere *TIE – CBS – Created by Joshua Brand & John Falsey, Developed by Mark Tinker / John Masius
48. Homeland – SHOWTIME – Developed by Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, Based on the Original Israeli Series Prisoners of War by Gideon Raff
49. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – WB – Created by Joss Whedon
50. The Colbert Report *TIE – COMEDY CENTRAL – Season One writers: Stephen Colbert, Rich Dahm, Eric Drysdale, Peter Gwinn, Jay Katsir, Laura Krafft, Allison Silverman
50. The Good Wife *TIE – CBS – Created by Robert King & Michelle King
50. The Office (UK) *TIE – BBC – Created by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant
53. Northern Exposure – CBS – Created by Joshua Brand & John Falsey
54. The Wonder Years – ABC – Created by Neal Marlens & Carol Black

55. L.A. Law – NBC – Created by Steven Bochco & Terry Louise Fisher
56. Sesame Street – PBS – Created by Joan Ganz Cooney57. Columbo – NBC – Created by Richard Levinson & William Link

58. Fawlty Towers *TIE – BBC – Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth
58. The Rockford Files *TIE – NBC – Created by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell
60. Freaks and Geeks *TIE – NBC – Created by Paul Feig
60. Moonlighting *TIE – ABC – Created by Glenn Gordon Caron
62. Roots – ABC – Written by William Blinn, M. Charles Cohen, Ernest Kinoy, James Lee; Based on the Book by Alex Haley
63. Everybody Loves Raymond *TIE – CBS – Created by Philip Rosenthal
63. South Park *TIE – COMEDY CENTRAL  – Created by Matt Stone & Trey Parker

65. Playhouse 90 – CBS – Season One writers: Edna Anhalt, Edmund Beloin, Harold Jack Bloom, Marc Brandel, George Bruce, James P. Cavanagh, Whitfiled Cook, Helen Doss, Scott Fitzgerald, Devery Freeman, Frank D. Gilroy, Helen Howe, Speed Lamkin, Ernest Lehman, Herbert Little, Jr., Don Mankiewicz, Elick Moll, Paul Monash, Dean Reisner, Norman Retchin, Selma Robinson, William Sackheim, Rod Serling, Leonard Spigelgass, Leslie Stevens, Brandon Thomas, David Victor, Charles M. Warren, Hagar Wilde, Cornell Woolrich

66. Dexter *TIE – SHOWTIME – Developed for Television by James Manos, Jr., Based on the Novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

66. The Office (US) *TIE – NBC – Created by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant, Developed by Greg Daniels, Based on the BBC Series The Office

68. My So-Called Life – ABC – Created by Winnie Holzman

69. The Golden Girls – NBC – Created by Susan Harris

70. The Andy Griffith Show – CBS – Episode 1, “The New Housekeeper,” Written by Jack Elinson and Charles Stewart

71. 24 *TIE – FOX – Created by Joel Surnow & Robert Cochran

71. Roseanne *TIE – ABC – Created by Matt Williams, Based on a Character Created by Roseanne Barr

72. The Shield *TIE – FX – Created by Shawn Ryan

74. House *TIE – FOX – Created by David Shore

74. Murphy Brown *TIE – CBS – Created by Diane English

76. Barney Miller *TIE – ABC – Created by Danny Arnold & Theodore J. Flicker

77. I, Claudius *TIE – PBS – Written by Rupert Graves and Jack Pulman

78. The Odd Couple – ABC – Episode 1, “The Fight of the Felix,” Written by Peggy Elliott & Ed Scharlach

79. Alfred Hitchcock Presents *TIE – CBS – Season One writers – Gwen Bagni, Samuel Blas, Robert Blees, Ray Bradbury, Richard Carr, James Cavanagh, Eustace Cockrell, Francis Cockrell, Marian Cockrell, John Collier, Robert C. Dennis, Mel Dinelli, Stanley Ellin, Fred Freiberger, Irwin Gielgud, Gina Kaus, Terence Maples, Richard Pedicini, Louis Pollock, Joseph Ruscoll, A.J. Russell, Stirling Silliphant, Andrew Solt, Harold Swanton, Victor Wolfson, Cornell Woolrich

79. Monty Python’s Flying Circus *TIE – BBC – Conceived and Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Terry Jones, Michael Palin

79. Star Trek: The Next Generation *TIE – SYN – Created by Gene Roddenberry

79. Upstairs, Downstairs *TIE – PBS – Created by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins

83. Get Smart – NBC – “Pilot,” Written by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry

84. The Defenders *TIE – CBS – Created by Reginald Rose

84. Gunsmoke *TIE – CBS – Episode 1, “Matt Gets It,” Written by Charles Marquis Warren & John Meston

86. Justified *TIE – FX –  Developed for Television by Graham Yost, Based on the Short Story “Fire in the Hole” by Elmore Leonard

87. Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) *TIE – CBS – Created by Nat Hiken

88.  Band of Brothers – HBO – Written by Erik Bork, E. Max Frye, Tom Hanks, Erik Jendresen, Bruce C. McKenna, John Orloff, Graham Yost; Based on the Book by Stephan E. Ambrose

89. Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In – NBC – Season One: Written by Chris Beard, Phil Hahn, John Hanrahan, Coslough Johnson, Paul Keyes, Marc London, Allan Manings, David Panich, Hugh Wedlock, Digby Wolfe

90. The Prisoner – CBS – Premiere Episode: Written by George Markstein and David Tomblin

91. Absolutely Fabulous (UK) *TIE – BBC – Episode 1, “Fashion,” Written by Jennifer Saunders, Based on an Original Idea by Jennifer Saunders & Dawn French

The Muppet Show *TIE –  SYN – Season One: Written by Jack Burns, Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, Marc London

93. Boardwalk Empire – HBO – Created by Terence Winter, Based on the Book Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson

94. Will & Grace – NBC – Created by David Kohan & Max Mutchnick

95. Family Ties – NBC –  Created by Gary David Goldberg

96. Lonesome Dove *TIE – CBS – Teleplay by Bill Wittliff, Based on the Novel Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Soap *TIE – ABC – Created by Susan Harris
98. The Fugitive *TIE – ABC – Episode 1, “Where the Action Is,” Written by Harry Kronman
Late Night with David Letterman *TIE – CBS – Season One: Writing Supervised by Merrill Markoe, Writers: Andy Breckman, Tom Gammill, David Letterman, Richard Morris, Gerard Mulligan, Max Pross, Karl Tiedemann, Steve Winer
Louie *TIE – FX – Season One: Written and Directed by Louis C.K.
101. Oz – HBO – Created by Tom Fontana

For additional information about the WGA’s 101 Best Written TV Series and a complete list of credited writers, please visit: http://www.wga.org/101tv.html or http://www.wgaeast.org/tv101.

 Writers Guild members had a broad and dynamic TV programming field to choose from, as eligibility criteria included any series that aired from the early years of television through the present, on broadcast TV and basic or pay cable. All genres of scripted series were eligible for consideration, including animation, children’s, comedy, daytime/serial, drama, scripted anthologies, miniseries with six hours or more of programming, and variety/talk series. Series must have been written in English, have aired in the U.S., and featured onscreen writing credits. (Individual episodes, specials, non-serialized or individual programs including telefilms/movies-of-the-week, and miniseries with less than six hours of programming, were not eligible.)

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2 responses to “The Top 101 Best Written TV Progammes

  1. The fact that the Big Bang Theory (the number one show in the US currently) is not on this list shows how subjective and inaccurate it is. Will and Grace? Seriously? Roseanne needs to be higher as does Murphy Brown–clearly more male dominated.

  2. I really like the Big Bang Theory – its a bit of a mix as some of the writing is quite conventional yetfun but the fact they incorporate so much technical science speak and still keep the pace is pretty remarkable. I was surprised by Will & Grace placing so high too. Good point on Murphy Brown.

    I think compared to film, TV is more female friendly and there are some high profile female writers and show-runners like Shondra Rhimes but yes diversity is still a big issue in the entertainment field.

    Its a strange one tho cos some of the choices are very very mainstream but then they throw in a few cult shows. Still annoyed no Community or Parks & Rec!

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