Before we get to the top 10 TV Dramas of All Time, I thought I should take a moment and explain some of the TV shows that are NOT making an appearance on this list.
Lists like this can always be controversial, not only because of what you put on, but what you leave off. So in attempt to mollify any bad feelings if your personal favorites are not on this list, here are some of the shows with the rationale as to why they were excluded.
I watch a lot of TV. Perhaps too much.
But even with this in mind, there are WAY too many TV shows for me to catch up on. And there are many critically acclaimed shows that I have yet to encounter. Among them are:
Friday Night Lights
Pretty Little Liars
Person in Interest
With the advent of streaming services, I am sure that I will get around to some of these eventually. But since I have no experience with them, I could not put them on my Sunday Best list.
As I said, I watch a lot of TV. But I don't have them all straight in my head.
Essentially, this reason is here to explain the absence of one show: The Twilight Zone.
I will not argue with anyone who says that this show was groundbreaking and excellent and deserves a place of honor on any TV list.
But the problem on my part is that when I remember an episode of the series, I can never be certain if it was from Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. All of those series are pushed together in my mind and I cannot keep them all straight. And once too often I have mistakenly taken one episode for another in a different series.
The flaw here is on my part and I accept any legitimate criticism here. Perhaps in the future when I have time, I shall revisit the show on Netflix and revise this list to include it. But as of now, I do not have time.
There are some shows that could eventually make the list, but they have not fully realized themselves yet. And while there are some on this list that earned their place after only a single season, others need more time develop their tone or style or mythology.
Better Call Saul
Agents of SHIELD
House of Cards
All of these have great potential and I will keeping my eye on them, but it will depend on how they develop
Every show has flaws, even the best of them. But sometimes the flaws overwhelm. There are some shows that were just edged out of being on this list. And there are some that have excluded themselves because their flaws are too great for any excellence to cover them.
So what are some of the major flaws:
There is a line that you can dance between comedy and drama, but sometimes this can devolve into downright silliness.
For example, I love Smallville. There is a great affection for that show in my heart. And there are some episodes that are truly excellent. But when you set this show against Arrow, The Flash, or Daredevil, you can see how silly some of the elements were. I'm thinking particularly of an episode where Lois Lane became a masked superhero named "Stiletto." Lois and Clark fell victim to the same problem that Smallville had, but much, much worse, as did the original Flash TV show.
Storytelling is a great way to convey important moral truths. But it can only be effective if it doesn't devolve into preaching. This is the problem with most Christian-based shows. We want stories, not lectures.
This is also the main reason that The West Wing is not on the list. That show has incredible acting and directing. But the writers could not help themselves from lecturing us (the stupid audience) as to what they (the wise writers) wanted us to think and feel. That is a horrible shame, because the quality of what is good on the show deserves to be lauded. But the context of the goodness keeps it from being on this list.
3. General Immorality
There are some shows that could not make this list because of the morals they represent.
Now, I would agree that much of this could be arguable. I have had many debates about the movie The Devil's Advocate, where one side says that it condemns the ways of Satan and the other saying that it promotes it. I can see both sides most of the time.
But there are some shows that go too far, even though they may have other critically acclaimed qualities. These include
-Game of Thrones: the show is way too nihilistic and pornographic to be on this list
-ER: the morality of the show slowly declined to the point where it pushed a culture of death, especially abortion and euthanasia (I could also see the same argument used against The West Wing).
-The Sopranos: people I respect compare it to The Godfather and how that film condemns the evil of the mob by showing it. I disagree and think that the show indulges way too much in a glamorous portrayal of those things.
-True Detective: some great performances and fantastic direction cannot overcome the general moral ugliness of the series. Yes, there is a bit of redemption at the end, but that's like eating rotten garbage and then popping a tic-tac.
Shows usually degrade in quality over time. It happens.
But sometimes a show betrays the sense of trust that you have placed in it. Sometimes it is when they go in a new direction or when they decide to do something for pure shock factor to get the audience's attention. I'm thinking of how they kill off characters in Grey's Anatomy.
Downton Abbey fits this category. As I have written before, the whole show worked because you cared as much about the lives of the nobility upstairs as you did about the servants downstairs. If you upset the balance too much, you would lose half of your entire show. And that is what happened when one of the maids was raped. After that point, nothing that happened upstairs mattered at all.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the short-lived drama, betrayed in a different way. The characters played by Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford where hired to save a comedy sketch show because of their genius comedic talents. But when we finally got to see the results of the greatness.... it sucked. There was nothing funny about their writing. That is an inherent betrayal of concept.
So if I left out one of your favorite shows, chances are it found itself in one of these 4 categories.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below and take guesses as to the top 10 shows on this list.