I’m a huge TV fan. Given the choice between staying in and watching a show on Netflix or going to the movies, I’ll pick a TV show nearly every time. It wasn’t always this way though – growing up on a farm without cable, we were limited to whatever the antenna on the roof was able to pick up. TV watching was strictly a weekend activity and our choices were very slim. Saturday nights were spent watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Touched by an Angel, Walker Texas Ranger, and the occasional X-files or Outer Limits episode after dad had gone off to work. Occasionally the WB would come in, often extremely fuzzy, but not too fuzzy to keep me from trying to watch Tia and Tamara in Sister, Sister.
Grandma’s house was TV heaven – it was there I experienced 90s TV at its finest – Clarissa Explains it All, Full House, Saved by the Bell, Home Improvement and TRL. It wasn’t until college though that I really, truly began my love affair with television. Our on-campus apartment had tons of channels to choose from and the library had TV shows on DVD. When I wasn’t doing homework or hanging out with friends, I was binge-watching shows before binge-watching was even a catchy phrase.
And while we’re currently living in what many are saying is the “Golden Age of Television,” most of my favorite shows are from an earlier era. Current favorites like Nashville, Big Bang Theory and Breaking Bad might someday end up on this list, but for now, they don’t come close to these ten shows I call my all-time favorites.
Number 10: Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is a fantasy drama currently on HBO and in my opinion, the best show on TV right now. Based on the book series of the same name, the show follows a cast of characters who live in the fictional continent of Westeros. There are many families and kings and only one rightful heir to the iron throne. It’s everything you could hope for in a epic fantasy, plus dragons! There are a few snoozy characters (also snoozy in the books) but everything else more than makes up for a couple of boring plot lines here and there. Since the show is still being filmed, it remains at #10 on my list but could potentially climb higher depending on the how the final season ends.
Number 9: Veronica Mars
A modern day Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars developed a cult-like following after premiering on the UPN in 2005. It ran two seasons on UPN and then a third and final season after the WB merged with UPN to form The CW. The fans didn’t forget about Veronica though, they funded big screen movie adaptation through Kickstarter and 2014, Veronica Mars opened in theaters everywhere. The show was smartly written, Kristen Bell was wonderful as Veronica and it got high praise from Joss Whedon who called it the “best show ever.” What more could you ask for in a teenage high school crime drama?
Number 8: 24
One of television’s biggest thrill rides, 24 literally had people on the edge of their couch cushions for 8 seasons. Debuting shortly after the September 11th attacks on the United States, 24‘s timing couldn’t have been better – the show followed CTU agent Jack Bauer and his efforts to protect America from terrorism plots. Each episode was 1 hour out of a day and events took place in real time, adding to the suspense of the show. It was gritty, violent and at times, controversial. Sadly, 2014’s mini-series reboot didn’t have the same magic as the original show, but Jack Bauer will always have a place in my top 10. Sometimes I even wish he was real – he could teach those ISIS terrorists a thing or two about messing with America.
Number 7: Supernatural
One part Buffy the Vampire Slayer and one part The X-Files, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester hunt demons, vampires and other things that go bump in the night. Sam and Dean road-trip across America in a vintage Impala, jamming to classic rock and are armed with holy water, salt, crossbows, shotguns and an angel named Castiel to fight the forces of evil. The show started out as a monster of the week mystery adventure but since then has moved on to more complicated story arcs involving the apocalypse, fallen angels and some nasty creatures called Leviathan. Supernatural is now in it’s 10th season on The CW and continues to do well for the network and with fans. I HIGHLY recommend watching if you enjoy a dynamic cast and a show that has a horror movie feel to it.
Number 6: The O.C.
Searching for a good ‘ole soapy teenage drama? Look no further than The O.C. Set in sunny Newport Beach California, the show revolved around Ryan Atwood, a troubled kid from Chino who’s taken in by the ultra wealthy Cohen family. The Cohen’s already have a son of their own – socially awkward Seth who’s been in love with Summer Roberts since the 3rd grade. Ryan eventually falls for the rich girl-next-door, Marissa Cooper and the four teens become inseparable. The parents also play a major role in the series, which is unusual for teenage dramas.
The music was great, the cast was perfect and even though it was considered a “teen” drama, the show touched on some heavy topics of social class, environmentalism, drug addiction and death. Season 1 was definitely the best, but the entire series has a special place in my heart since it was really, truly the first show I watched and loved during my college years.
Number 5: ER
One of the longest running shows of all time, ER might seem like just another medical drama, but what really made it great was the cast and characters that came and went during its 15 seasons on NBC. My mom and I watched this together in the 90s. I most definitely was not their target audience but I loved it anyway, especially in the early years with Dr. Greene, Nurse Hathaway, Dr. Carter and Dr. Ross. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much over a television character’s death than I did when Dr. Greene died in season 8. This is the only series that I can think of where I truly love every single main character. It was good to the end.
Number 4: Lost
In 2004, Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. For the next six seasons, the survivors of the plane crash would try to figure out a way off the island, battling The Others, a Smoke Monster, and a mysterious keeper of the island named Jacob. The show wasn’t just about survival though – it mixed in philosophical quandaries, good vs. evil, life, love and destiny.
Lost was incredibly smart and complex and many of the characters were named after famous scientists, philosophers and authors. There was a lot of time travel and sci-fi elements involved – it was not a show you could causally watch or you’d miss something important. Falling in love with the characters was unavoidable and more than once your heart would be broken. It’s also a great show to re-watch because you discover something new each time. Although the finale was polarizing for many fans, I actually liked it and thought it was a fitting end for a show filled with so much mystery. There won’t ever be another show like it.
Number 3: The X-Files
For more than 10 years, The X-files was my all time favorite show. What’s not to love about a show that revolves around government conspiracies, extraterrestrials, and things that go bump in the night? Mulder and Scully were a great team – a believer in all things supernatural paired with the ultimate skeptic who thought everything could be explained by science.
Many of the episodes were incredibly creepy, controversial and all of them would leave you thinking “I Want to Believe.” The movies have been disappointing, but I still get excited when rumors fly that a 3rd big screen adaptation could be in the works.
It was a tough show to replace, but two shows came along during my post college years and knocked it down to third, where I firmly believe it will stay permanently.
Number 2: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Hands down, the greatest TV show of the 90s! I didn’t discover this gem until after it had gone off the air, but once I did, I was instantly sucked in (<—– see what I did there?) Buffy Sommers and her Scooby Gang fight vampires and whatever kind of evil Big Bad that’s always rearing its ugly head in Sunnydale, California. Living on a hellmouth isn’t easy, but when you’ve got a witch as a best friend, an awesome librarian as your watcher and a vengeance demon in your court, stopping the apocalypse is a whole lot easier.
BTVS boasted strong female characters who kicked butt, quirky dialog and AWESOME musical episodes. It’s heroine was classically tragic – the burden of saving the world was always on her shoulders and even though she knew her life would be short, she accepted her chosen path. It opened doors for other shows with strong female leads and will always remain a pop culture phenomenon.
In my opinion, it was Joss Whedon’s finest show. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this show (and Joss Whedon). Seriously, if I didn’t believe in having a strict order, it would just tie with my #1 show of all time.
Number 1: Gilmore Girls
The story of a single mom and her teenage daughter who live in the tiny, quirky town of Stars Hollow, CT, Gilmore Girls premiered on the WB in 2000 and ran for seven seasons. It’s full of quick, clever dialog, pop-culture references, and Melissa McCarthy before she was famous. The dynamics between Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel are not only fun to watch but incredibly believable and you’ll forget they’re not actually mother and daughter.
Gilmore Girls is my favorite show for many reasons. I think it’s brilliant, funny and I relate to Rory on so many levels. We were the same age as it was airing, share the same love of books, writing and some people even say we kind of look alike. I applaud many of the values the show paid homage to: close knit communities who help each other out, hard work, friendship, learning from mistakes (and their consequences). Even though Loreli got pregnant and ran away from home at the age of 16, she kept the baby, raised her on her own with no help from her rich parents and eventually became a successful business owner of her own, proving that relying on yourself, a good work ethic and persistence pay off.
The final season is somewhat frustrating due to the creator/showrunner Amy Sherman Palladino’s departure, but the six seasons leading up to the final season are wonderful and worth watching repeatedly. I seriously doubt another show will come along and replace Gilmore Girls as my favorite show of all time…it’s just that good.