#1 – Breaking Bad
Sometimes while watching this show you want to cringe. Sometimes while you watch this show you want to laugh. The one thing that you don’t want to do is to turn away. Even though you don’t want to admit it, there is a little bit of Walter White in each of us, and because of this fact, you have to watch this story all the way to its tragic ending. Some people will get mad at me for giving away the ending of this story, but there wasn’t any other way that it could end. Just the premise alone lets the viewer know that this will not have a happy ending. But it is great that television gave us a true tragedy. This is something that the world has been begging for. We watch it for that tragic flaw so we can see something about our true nature. Or we watch it because a train speeding away to inevitable destruction is something that is engaging and we just can’t turn away from it.
#2 – Fringe
Even though the science behind some of its episodes is a little hard to swallow, and the fourth season is a bit of a struggle to get through, this is the one show that got right with everything that Lost tried to do. It told an amazing story complete with some of the best actors ever, taking on some of the most complicated roles. It was pure fun. There was the Where Waldo experience of trying to find the walker in every episode. There was the character of Walter Bishop who might have been one of the best characters ever created in all of literature. The story also kept you guessing all the way through as you wondered what was really going on. It also gave us one of the few satisfying endings of a story on television. In the end, we weren’t left wondering about some of the unanswered questions, and it even added a little bit of tragedy with a feel-good vibe. If you have not taken the journey through this story yet, I really suggest that this is placed on your viewing list as the next show you need to binge watch, but make sure you pay extra close attention because even the smallest detail becomes extremely important later on in this show.
#3 – M.A.S.H.
This was one of the first comedies on television to take on the issues of the day while making us laugh. For eleven years we were entertained by Hawkeye, B.J. Hunnicutt, Radar, “Hot Lips” Houlihan, and Frank Burns. It followed the exploits of a M.A.S.H. unit during the Korean War and even though it made us laugh many times, it also showed us the true horrors of war. It probably could have continued on longer if it wasn’t for the fact that somebody figured out that the amount of time that the show took was actually longer than the U.S.’s involvement in Korea. It is still playing today though and will probably always be able to be viewed on some channel somewhere in the world.
#4 – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Yes, there have been three different official hosts of The Daily Show now that Trevor Noah has started his run. The verdict is still out if he will be able to fill the spot left behind by the most iconic host the show has seen, Jon Stewart, but so far things are looking up. It will still be a hard act to follow. Jon Stewart not only took over an original show, but developed it into the intelligent piece of programing it is today. He took on the major issues over the last sixteen years, and instead of bringing on big movie stars as guests, he promoted books and people who have taken an integral part in changing the world. At one time, it was the one show that most people got their news in the United States. He did have a left slant with his commentary, but that did not mean that he shied away from the other side of the issues. If someone disagreed with his position, he would invite him or her onto his show so both sides of the issue could get their fair share. Add to this mix some of the best satirists alive today who acted as the show’s reporters, and you have one of the most intelligent, entertaining shows that anybody has ever seen.
#5 – South Park
Of course, the guy from Colorado will pick this show as one he believes as one of the best ever created. It tells the story of a group of four boys from a small po-dunk town in the Rocky Mountains. But in reality, it really tells us about us. Just as a tragedy is a reflection of our true nature, a great comedy points out our flaws and makes us laugh at how ridiculous we really are. Trey Parker and Matt Stone don’t hold back any punches in their biting satire. Also, nobody is safe from their commentary. It is because of this that South Park could be considered one of the most intelligent shows on television right now. It is also because of this that South Park earns a prominent spot on this list.
#6 – Game of Thrones
Back around the turn of the century, I was talking to a co-worker about the importance of J.R.R. Tolkien and how every fantasy series after his was just a retelling of his story. He told me that there was another series that was worth my time, and I picked up the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire series. I was instantly blown away by the story telling and the fact that what I though was going to happen always turned out to be the complete opposite of what did. It became the perfect example of medieval politics and I couldn’t wait for the next book to come out. I was also amazed about how well it would translate into a television show, and I wondered if it would ever make that leap on to the small screen. Well, six years ago, I saw signs about its development and how it would air on the one station, HBO, that wouldn’t hold back on the gruesome and sexual content that needed to be there to tell the story properly. I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw, and I have continued to watch this show on a regular basis. It is the perfect companion piece to the books, and because it tells the story of an age long gone, it will always maintain its importance as one of the greatest television shows ever created.
#7 – Orphan Black
If you have not experienced Orphan Black yet, you have not yet experienced the greatest actress on television. Tatiana Maslany might not just be the best actress on television, but the best actress ever. She doesn’t just embody a role; she embodies every role that is asked of her in a way that makes each character that she portrays a unique individual even though they may look the same. Add into this mix one of the most profound science fiction stories ever told and you get a show that everybody should be talking about the next morning at the water cooler. I know you asking yourself, then why am I not talking about this show at the water cooler on Monday morning. It is all because it airs on a little known network on Saturday night when its main audience is out having fun, but I guarantee that this will be the next binge-watched extravaganza that people will be talking about for the next ten years. It is that good of an idea, and it is that well done that it transcends generations and will make an impact on what happens next on televisions across the world.
#8 – Lost
The iconic image of J.J. Abrams’s short opening sequence changed the face of television forever. The concept was brilliant. It was more about the story and less about the star power and the money making potential. It even survived a terrible season during a writer’s strike. Even with this terrible fate befalling it, the ones who were addicted to the concept had to turn in every week to see what would happen next. With the creation of DVDs and the ability to watch a show at our leisure, it changed what television could do. It was the first show that people binge watched. No longer did characters have to be static. They could develop as the story was being told. Also, a fan favorite wasn’t guaranteed to survive the harshness of the island. At any moment, what we thought what was happening could change into something completely different. It kept us guessing and asking what was really going on, and in doing so it created a literary masterpiece that allowed other television shows that followed to be able to do the same thing. For this reason, besides the fact that it told one of the best stories ever witnessed, it deserves a prominent place on this list.
#9 – The Walking Dead
This is not one of those television shows for your children. It is dark, and it is gruesome. There are many times during the show where I want to turn my head away in disgust but I can’t because I am at the same time so enthralled. Many people would think that a story about the zombie apocalypse would get old and repetitive after a while, but at the heart of this story is a human drama that makes it worth the time to sit down and watch every week. It shows us the darker side of our nature, and makes us wonder if we would still be able to maintain our civilized society when the moral compass that guides us keeps getting taken away from us. This show just keeps on getting better with every season and you wonder how long it can go on before we decide that it is no longer relevant, but with the introduction of some of the best villains ever created, I don’t think it ever will.
#10 – Sherlock
Set in modern-day London, but with the same puzzling cases that have haunted Sherlock Holmes in the pages of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the BBC has created the best version of the Sherlock Holme’s mysteries ever produced. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is the pompous deranged sociopath that you have always hoped to see, and Martin Freeman’s Dr. Watson is the perfect sidekick. Even though each season is short, airing only three episodes, the hour and a half long adventures will have you guessing, laughing, and on the edge of your seat. The longer story arch also creates a lot of fun for the viewer, and even though they have only put out three seasons so far, the anticipation for the next season is high among the fans of the show, including me, who can’t wait to see what happens next.
#11 – The Simpsons
Being one of the lucky individuals that had a newspaper, Westword, willing to publish the little known comic, Life in Hell, I had always been a fan of Matt Groening. I was really excited when a show based upon characters he created was developed by the man I admired, I became avid viewer soon afterwards. There was a time when I would have thought that this show was the best show ever on television. On many occasions, I made the claim that it was the most intelligent show on television, and with its satirical wit and incredible cast of diverse characters, I would have had a pretty strong argument behind me. But like any show that has been on the air for a long time, The Simpsons have run its course. It was along the tenth season when it started to make satirical remarks about itself that I started to wonder if this show would be better off being cancelled and just letting the episodes that had already been developed just stand on its own as a completed work. Even though I quit watching the show many years ago, it is the strength of those first seasons that make this one of the best television shows ever.