The 10 Greatest TV Shows Of All Time, According To Hollywood Insiders

You already know what your favorite TV shows are, and you probably know what your friends’ favorite shows are, particularly if they’re outspoken on social media. But have you ever wondered how the people making those series feel about all the projects populating TV history?

Over 2,800 industry professionals in Hollywood – including 779 actors, 365 producers and 286 directors, among others – were asked by THR to (mostly) anonymously name their all-time favorite series, and their answers are fairly surprising for a number of reasons. While you can read the 11-100 entries at THR’s website, here are the top 10, and we’re starting off with the most resilient animated family that’s ever existed.

the simpsons

10. The Simpsons

The Simpsons has been making people laugh – and making other people debate when the show’s Golden Age ended – for decades, and it’s on the way to Season 27 with all of its cast intact, even though it looked like Harry Shearer was going to back out over money issues earlier this year. No one could have predicted this Tracy Ullman Show spinoff would have lasted for more than 570 episodes, but this dysfunctional family has definitely earned its place on this list. We can all thank Poochie for that, right?

mad men

9. Mad Men

Few shows have seen the kind of mass critical acclaim that Matthew Weiner’s period drama Mad Men earned during its seven seasons on AMC. Through exquisite attention to detail and a cast of characters with consistently complicated motivations, this series made Dom Draper a household name and reminded the world just how much alcohol and cigarettes were abused during the 1960s. As well, it put AMC on the map as a network to be reckoned with for top-quality original series.

I love lucy

8. I Love Lucy

The only entry on this list to air before the 1960s, I Love Lucy was one of the first truly classic sitcoms, anchored by the sometimes manic and always hilarious stylings of Lucille Ball. And yeah, the supporting cast of Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley were pretty good, too. Several other series were spunoff of this flagship show, but none were better than I Love Lucy, and few episodes of any comedy will ever be funnier than “Lucy Does a TV Commercial.”

Saturday night live

7. Saturday Night Live

If you thought The Simpsons would be the longest lasting show on this list, you’d be wrong, as that distinction goes to Saturday Night Live, the much-beloved and much-maligned sketch show that birthed the careers of dozens of comedians. Due to its live nature and topical approach, which doesn’t allow for too much planning ahead of time, almost no season of SNL is perfect, but every year produces a handful of unforgettable moments that make everything else seem more tolerable in retrospect.

the sopranos

6. The Sopranos

HBO had been producing original series for many years before David Chase’s The Sopranos came around in 1999, but it was that heady mob drama that put the cable network in the upper echelon. With dependably excellent performances from James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and a stellar ensemble, The Sopranos was one of the series that ushered in a new era of serialized television, and its finale remains one of the most memorable episodes of any TV show ever. Whether it’s a good one or a bad one is up to you.


5. Seinfeld

The Show About Nothing is a lot of things to a lot of people, and one of those things is “an amazingly funny observation on how weird people can be.” Seinfeld notably took seemingly benign subject matter, such as a soup kitchen cook or a ruffled shirt, and turned them into pop culture icons. The central foursome was pitch-perfect throughout the show’s run, which Jerry Seinfeld decided to end before the show went past its prime. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

game of thrones

4. Game of Thrones

While The Sopranos made HBO a heavy contender in the drama race, Game of Thrones has turned the network into a ratings monster. Based on the massively successful novel series from author George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones enraptures viewers with a huge cast of characters, a ton of conflicts and violence, a smattering of sex and a winning mixture of fantasy and regal politics. And the constant surprise deaths haven’t hurt.

the x-files

3. The X-Files

In its nine seasons (and hopefully in the upcoming limited series), The X-Files managed to incorporate almost every core aspect that makes a show successful. It had an engaging overarching storyline that its central characters were involved in, it mixed in procedural elements with its monster-of-the-week approach, it successfully carried its “will they/won’t they” for Mulder and Scully for the entire run, and it featured a host of memorable side characters that added both fun and mystery. Even though things got less perfect in the later years, The X-Files truly had something for everyone. Assuming “everyone” likes alien conspiracies.

breaking bad

2. Breaking Bad

It’s hard to count the number of things that Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad did successfully, but turning Bryan Cranston from sitcom star to dramatic antihero was definitely one of the biggest. A series that never lost its black humor while laying out one dismally dark turn of events after another, Breaking Bad will probably remain one of TV’s best series for decades to come, and will hopefully serve as a warning for any high school teachers who want to enter the meth game.


1. Friends

So no one told you life was gonna be this way, or that the world was going to remain so firmly attached to six New York City buddies years after the hit series left the airwaves. Friends was one of the main reasons that NBC was known for comedy throughout the 1990s, and the show rocketed its ensemble cast to stardom (for better or worse, in some cases). The show was able to mix silliness with seriousness at times, and the palette of characters gave almost everyone someone to relate to, even if it was Ugly Naked Guy. While it’s difficult for me to grasp this, apparently Friends is Hollywood’s favorite TV show of all time.

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Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.