The Top 50 TV Shows of All Time, 10-1

A comprehensive ranking of the 50 best tv series ever made, including Barry, What We Do in the Shadows, Better Call Saul, and more

Make sure to read Jason Hess’ exposition and preface to his entire list, as well as selections 50 through 31 here, and 30 through 11 here. Also make sure to subscribe to Cinephile Corner Newsletter to be notified via email when new movie reviews, lists, and other features go live on the website.

10. The Leftovers

The Leftovers Best TV Shows of All Time List
The Leftovers

When you Google The Leftovers, the first question that comes up is “what the heck is The Leftovers about?” That really says it all without saying too much.  This is one of those programs where you will likely be discussing it with someone that is currently watching it or has seen it in the past to compare notes as to what transpired in the last episode.  This was a revolutionary series that started in 2014 and starred Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux.  And Ann Dowd has a role in here too – she is so great at any supporting role thrown her way. 

The Leftovers centers around a global event called “The Sudden Departure” when 2% of the world’s population disappears and the speculation begins as to where they went. The Left Behind series this is NOT, however.  Cults and craziness emerge.  There are some weird things that happen to this community and its characters throughout.  But it is television at its most engaging.  The writing is exceptional throughout.  Heck even the opening credits’ visuals and song gives you the shivers and is quite memorable.  Yes, and as I’ve stated before on this list, Carrie Coon elevates any series.  An absolute must-watch. (HBO Max)

9. Fleabag

Fleabag Best TV Shows of All Time List

Fleabag – 2 seasons, 12 episodes – that’s it.  Talk about leaving you wanting more.  Phoebe Waller-Bridge definitely wanted to accomplish what so many athletes fail to do today – go out on top.  Her second and final season (she was the writer and lead actress) led to Emmy WINS for Best Series, Best Actress, and Best Writing for a Comedy Series.  Yes, it’s that good. 

The maddening things that seem to happen to her provide so many laughs in this (some of it is very self-inflicted).  Her character pulls in a little “looking at the camera The Office style” in zany moments as well – but Jim Halpert she is not.  She is simply telling us the story through her eyes; talking to us.  She has a perfectly-timed potty mouth and a smartass wit that has been an inspiration to me ever since I saw the first episode.  Again, quick and easy watches. If you haven’t seen Fleabag, you are really missing out.   (Amazon Prime)

8. What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows Best TV Shows of All Time List
What We Do in the Shadows

If the writing was this smart on all shows about vampires, I’d have become a groupie of that genre.  Yes, I do own a Colin Robinson t-shirt, and yes, I work around many, many energy vampires at my job.  It was only when I saw What We Do in the Shadows that I realized what they were. Watching this group navigate a City Council meeting in Season 1 is a work of art.  Harvey Guillen as Guillermo is excellent.  (Hulu)

7. Barry

Barry Best TV Shows of All Time List

Barry may be the most difficult series to describe when someone simply asks me to tell them about it.  It’s got a dark edge to its humor (which I enjoy anyways), and Bill Hader is excellent in this role.  Once again, the supporting cast is really strong as well (does Henry Winkler not make any show immensely better regardless of his screen time?).  This series is capable of anything in any episode – if I had to just lay out one episode of “why does Jason like Barry,” it would be “see season 2, episode 5, Ronny/Lily.”  Nothing more needs to be said. (HBO Max)

6. Veep

Veep Best TV Shows of All Time List

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, period.  I don’t think there will ever be wittier, more hammer-like insults done in a 30-minute episode on any TV Series that makes me laugh as loud as I do with Veep.  Selina Meyer is the fictional character I would absolutely love to emulate for a full week in my life.  Obviously, I hope I would still have friends afterwards, but it would be so much fun to go through the process.  Everyone has a few Jonah’s or Gary’s in their life. (HBO Max)

5. The Sopranos

The Sopranos Best TV Shows of All Time List
The Sopranos

I watched The Sopranos much later than the masses.  Meaning, I had the “will this program age well” risk to go with my first viewing.  Needless to say, it has aged just fine.  Tony and his crew provide hours of mob-filled entertainment.  This was the TV equivalent of all the Goodfellas, Casino, and Heat movies wrapped in one.  And Edie Falco MORE than held her own – nobody called her “Tony’s wife” that I can recall.  She was quite good. (HBO Max)

4. Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Best TV Shows of All Time List
Game of Thrones

I am a humble person and although it is embarrassing to admit, when the Game of Thrones phenomenon was well underway, no matter how many people were telling me otherwise, I just continued to say “how good can a dragon show be, I’ll get to it later.”  I finally succumbed to the pressure and the addiction was powerful and immediate.  This was the first show I sometimes would look for ‘episode recaps’ on the ‘net (especially the first few episodes).  The sheer number of characters they were throwing at you early on was dizzying.  There was zero room for multi-tasking during an episode – you needed to stay focused and attentive. 

It was also made clear that Game of Thrones was not afraid to buck traditional TV when it came to character predictability.  If you found someone you liked on the show, there was absolutely no assurance they made it to even the end of your sentence. Attachments to characters would only end in disappointment.  I’m not going to do spoilers here, but there were at least a few episodes where I was still sitting with my mouth open as the credits started rolling. 

This is more than I’ve written on any of the first three shows on my list, so one may be asking, why isn’t it your #1?  The answer would be that maybe it should be, but the second half of the last season lost just enough momentum for me to drop it ever so slightly.  But Game of Thrones was something I’ve also watched a second time.  It’s an experience everyone needs to have.  (HBO Max)

3. Succession

Succession Best TV Shows of All Time List

There are a few on this list that could have easily, very easily, earned the #1 spot.  Succession is absolutely one of them.  This family takes dysfunction to a level not prior achieved (and I’m not talking Shameless dysfunction).  The writing is excellent, and these are really, really smart characters with smart dialogue.  Jeremy Strong was made for this role.  Only in Succession with all this anger and ill-will could you still have a few moments that actually tug on the heart strings.  They still have a few seasons yet to make, although moving past the #1 and #2 on the list will be difficult.  But I can’t wait to see them try.  (HBO Max)

2. Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul Best TV Shows of All Time List
Better Call Saul

Bob Odenkirk finally wins a Best Actor award for Better Call Saul on its last year- could have/should have been one of many.  And Rhea Seehorn is far from a slouch. Watching Kim Wexler evolve the last few seasons was a show onto itself.  The supporting cast of Better Call Saul is arguably better than Breaking Bad (granted there is some character overlap).  The anticipation of new seasons every year showed that no matter how many horrible decisions Jimmy would make, you just couldn’t look away.  (Netflix)

1. Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad Best TV Shows of All Time List
Breaking Bad

There is so much good TV these days that any time you spend on watching something more than once just takes away from your bandwidth on the shows you want to get through (I can count on one hand the number of programs that I let fall into this category).  To simply end your time with these characters after being limited to a measly single show each week (for those of us that watched from the start) is limiting yourself.  It needs to be supplemented by a second viewing of massive binge-watching. 

The physical and emotional transformation of Walter White in Breaking Bad is some of the best writing ever put forth.  Oh, and as far as endings go (a common chink in the armor on so many shows, I’m looking at you GoT), this was one of the best.  Just like everything else about it.  P.S. – Was I the only one out there that considered adding “If you don’t know who I am, then maybe your best course is to tread lightly” as your ringtone? (Netflix)

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