Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Good television shows come and go, but the genuinely iconic shows are the ones people still remember years, even decades, after leaving the airwaves. They’re the programs that left their mark on TV history and the culture at large. Viewers from an online question-and-answer forum reveal their picks for the preeminent tv programs. The list spans from the first golden age of television through the current time.
1. The Twilight Zone (1959-64)
Rod Serling’s fantasy anthology set the stage for future science-fiction shows. With themes such as morality, isolation, mass hysteria, censorship, and technology, the series served as a sharp commentary on American life and society that resonates even today. The original series ended nearly 60 years ago. However, it remains popular with multiple viewers from the discussion board, who gladly admit to binge-watching The Twilight Zone marathons.
2. MASH (1972-83)
Based on the movie of the same name, this ensemble comedy-drama about a group of Army medical staffers serving during the Korean War aired for more than a decade. With its seamless transition from irreverent to serious themes, MASH successfully navigated controversial topics, including alcoholism and anti-war sentiments. The show was so popular among its viewers that the final episode remains the most-watched scripted primetime program in television history.
3. I Love Lucy (1951-57)
Lucille Ball’s impact on the television production industry continues to this day. I Love Lucy was one of the first shows to feature an interracial marriage and was recorded in front of an audience. Ball integrated her real-life pregnancy into her show. However, the cast couldn’t use variations of the word “pregnant.” In syndication, I Love Lucy continues to be one of the most beloved television programs across several generations of fans.
4. Star Trek (1966-69)
The original series centered on the adventures encountered by the crew of the Starship Enterprise, led by Captain James T. Kirk. Star Trek only ran for three seasons on network television. Its powerful influence in the science fiction genre led to the development of multiple spin-off series, movies, and animated programs. The characters of Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, Bones, and Chekhov live on in pop culture history.
5. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77)
This ensemble comedy broke new ground because of Mary Tyler Moore’s triple roles: playing a lead character who was an independent single woman, as the show’s producer, and as the founder of her own self-named production company. The Mary Tyler Moore Show discussed equal pay for women and infertility. First, Lady Betty Ford made a cameo appearance on the show, a first for a sitting first lady. The chemistry and dialogue between the cast members helped elevate it as one of the best-ever situation comedies.
6. Six Feet Under (2001-05)
The unusual setting of the show, a family-run funeral home, how nearly every episode started with someone’s death, and how the life of the deceased connected with the episode’s theme made this show a standout during its five seasons. Multiple commenters on the thread explain that the changes and growth experienced by the Fisher family made for compelling television.
7. Hill Street Blues (1981-87)
A gritty police drama with a large ensemble cast of unusual characters, elements of dark humor, and soap opera-style continuous storylines, Hill Street Blues was unlike anything previously seen on primetime television. The realism in the filming and themes was the precursor to later procedural cop shows like The Shield and NYPD Blue.
8. Twin Peaks (1990-91)
Several contributors on the thread fondly remember this eerie drama that kicked off the 1990s like no other. The mysterious death of the seemingly perfect homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, the small town with many secrets and bizarre dream sequences created a generation of loyal fans.
9. Taxi (1978-83)
Taxi introduced the country to some of TV’s most memorable characters like mechanic Latka Gravas, portrayed by the late comedian Andy Kaufman, the spaced-out hippie taxi driver Jim Ignatowski, played by Christopher Lloyd, and acid-tongued dispatcher Louie DePalma, played by Danny DeVito. The cast chemistry and sharp writing put this comedy years ahead of its time.
10. Succession (2018-Present)
Based on the high praise it receives from participants in the online thread, combined with the fact that it’s the only program on this list that’s presently on air, it is a testament to its place in the pantheon of best television shows ever. The ongoing saga of an aging patriarchal head of a media conglomerate constantly fighting with his four adult children over who’ll hold the reins of power has captivated watchers from the first episode.
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