The Writers Guild of America put out a list of the 101 best-written TV Series in history. Lists are made to generation discussion. Memphis Paul, co-creator this blog, and I discussed the list for several hours Tuesday evening. I believe “The Wire” is the best-written show of all time, though the Guild places it No. 9. I would rate much higher “Mad Men” (No. 7) and “Breaking Bad” (No. 13). I’m impressed with the selection of the “Twilight Zone” as No. 3. “The Sopranos,” a show that held little appeal for me but was well-written, is No. 1. I quibble, of course, with shows I loathe, but were popular. I found “Seinfeld” grating and annoying, but it comes it at No. 2. I despise everything about “Friends,” rated No. 23. I lack any objectivity about “Friends.” If I could go back in time and prevent one thing from happening, it would be “Friends.” I hate the show that much. But a lot of people wanted to watch it. Other shows, such as “All In The Family,” I’m able to maintain some detachment. I found it shrill, unpleasant and irritating. I respect what was done with in the context of it’s time.
Then there are the omissions, some glaring to my way of thinking and others more of a slight to my particular sensibilities. Here are five shows, then, that I believe should have made the list:
- “Doctor Who:” I’m tempted to consider the entire body of the show that spans nearly 50 years, but since the tales of a time traveling do-gooder reached near perfection since the series’ 2005 revival. I know I dote on the Doctor, but it is a very good television show, particularly because of its optimism. As actor, comedian and fellow Whovian Craig Ferguson said in a song, “Doctor Who” is about “the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism.”
- “The Walking Dead:” Many tune in for the juicy squish of smashed zombie heads, but this post-apocalyptic tale is a gripping morality play that challenges its viewers to think about the fate of humanity when faced with certain death. Writers masterfully ask the hardest question of all: At what cost comes survival and what do we become when all hope is lost?
- “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson:” I was impressed the list included “Late Night with David Letterman,” a show which challenged the conventions of late night television. But Carson was a cultural force. If he made a joke about something, it became accepted as fact. People still tall the one about how there’s only one fruit cake in the world just continually being regifted. Because of Carson’s ribbing, people believe New Coke was a failure. It wasn’t. Coke gained market share when the beverage was on the shelves. But Carson’s humor was reality for millions.
- “King of the Hill:” Mike Judge’s most successful work never had the ratings of “The Simpsons,” but it was consistently the better series. The show produces some of the most authentic family moments since “Rosanne” and writers render Hank Hill (voiced by Judge) as a believable, bright, compassionate and thoughtful man in a world filled with meanness, stupidity and snark. TV, and the world, need more Hank Hill.
- “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood:” The exclusion of this show is a sin. Fred Rogers showed that adults could talk with children about anything, be kind, understanding and warm without noisy antics and silly schtick. Mister Rogers was one of the finest Americans who ever lived and the example he set on his show was so powerful in its quiet grace that it defies explanation how it couldn’t make the list. Like Hank Hill, the world needs a lot more Fred Rogers.