A Best of Television: 1985 - Present

by AltonMann | created - 01 Dec 2011 | updated - 1 month ago | Public

With the advent of DVDs, Netflix and Amazon streaming, you can finally enjoy the best television has ever had to offer without commercial interruption and at your own pace. Obviously, there are plenty of omissions (but you are already aware of your own personal favorites) and not every episode of any series deserves your time and attention. There are late bloomers like Miami Vice and Rockford Files where you can skip the first few seasons with minimum loss. Other shows peak early and hang around far too long. Saturday Night Live, West Wing and Gilmore Girls continued after the creative force behind them (that is the principal performers or writers ) had departed. Then there are brilliant shows which rarely miss like Homicide and The Wire. If movies are coming up dry for you or you'd enjoy a change of pace, try one of these TV series. And don't be afraid to dip into the black & white 30 minute shows of the 50s. Sadly, there are fine shows that have still not surfaced either on DVD or streaming: 77 Sunset Strip, Maverick, Lou Grant and Shannon's Deal are good examples. Happy hunting!

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1. Moonlighting (1985–1989)

TV-PG | 60 min | Comedy, Drama, Mystery

The quirky cases of a former model and a smart aleck detective who manage a private detective agency.

Stars: Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley, Curtis Armstrong

Votes: 16,511

2. Wiseguy (1987–2009)

TV-14 | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Vinnie Terranova does time in a New Jersey penitentiary to set up his undercover role as an agent for the OCB (Organized Crime Bureau) of the United States. His roots in a traditional ... See full summary »

Stars: Jonathan Banks, Jim Byrnes, Ken Wahl, Dwight Koss

Votes: 1,828

3. The Wonder Years (1988–1993)

TV-PG | 22 min | Comedy, Drama, Family

Kevin Arnold recalls growing up during the late 60s and early 70s; the turbulent social times make the transition from child to adult unusually interesting.

Stars: Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern, Alley Mills

Votes: 31,958

4. Shannon's Deal (1990–1991)

60 min | Drama

Once a successful corporate lawyer at a prestigious Philadelphia law firm, Jack Shannon lost his marriage and his job, due in part to a compulsive gambling habit. While Shannon maintains a ... See full summary »

Stars: Jamey Sheridan, Elizabeth Peña, Jenny Lewis, Richard Edson

Votes: 81

5. Twin Peaks (1990–1991)

TV-MA | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.

Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook

Votes: 156,110

6. Prime Suspect (1991)

207 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A female police detective investigates a series of serial murders while dealing with sexist hostility from her male comrades.

Stars: Helen Mirren, John Benfield, Tom Bell, Jack Ellis

Votes: 5,919

7. Mad About You (1992–1999)

TV-PG | 22 min | Comedy, Romance

Paul and Jamie Buchman are a recently-married New York City couple. They point out the gentle humor in domesticity and life's everyday situations.

Stars: Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt, John Pankow, Leila Kenzle

Votes: 18,893

8. Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999)

TV-14 | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A police homicide investigation unit investigates violent crimes in the city of Baltimore.

Stars: Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto, Kyle Secor

Votes: 10,639

9. The Newsroom (1996–2005)

22 min | Comedy, Drama

Resuscitation of the acclaimed 1996-97 series that picks up nearly a decade later. We again follow the exploits of George Findlay in this biting satire of the day-to-day operations of the mainstream news media.

Stars: Ken Finkleman, Peter Keleghan, Karen Hines, Matt Watts

Votes: 455

10. The West Wing (1999–2006)

TV-14 | 44 min | Drama

Inside the lives of staffers in the West Wing of the White House.

Stars: Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, John Spencer

Votes: 56,562

11. The Sopranos (1999–2007)

TV-MA | 55 min | Crime, Drama

New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano deals with personal and professional issues in his home and business life that affect his mental state, leading him to seek professional psychiatric counseling.

Stars: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli

Votes: 256,883

12. Gilmore Girls (2000–2007)

TV-PG | 44 min | Comedy, Drama

A dramedy centering around the relationship between a thirtysomething single mother and her teen daughter living in Stars Hollow, Connecticut.

Stars: Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Keiko Agena, Scott Patterson

Votes: 87,539

13. The Wire (2002–2008)

TV-MA | 59 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

Baltimore drug scene, seen through the eyes of drug dealers and law enforcement.

Stars: Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Wendell Pierce

Votes: 249,246

14. Slings and Arrows (2003–2006)

60 min | Comedy

In the fictional town of New Burbage, legendary theatrical madman Geoffrey Tennant returns to the New Burbage Theatre Festival, the site of his greatest triumph and most humiliating failure... See full summary »

Stars: Paul Gross, Martha Burns, Stephen Ouimette, Susan Coyne

Votes: 2,301

15. The Good Wife (2009–2016)

TV-14 | 43 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Alicia has been a good wife to her husband, a former state's attorney. After a very humiliating sex and corruption scandal, he is behind bars. She must now provide for her family and returns to work as a litigator in a law firm.

Stars: Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Josh Charles, Matt Czuchry

Votes: 63,336

16. Downton Abbey (2010–2015)

TV-PG | 58 min | Drama, Romance

A chronicle of the lives of the British aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the early 20th Century.

Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Brendan Coyle

Votes: 143,442

17. Sherlock (2010– )

TV-14 | 88 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London.

Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves

Votes: 716,638

18. Justified (2010–2015)

TV-MA | 44 min | Action, Crime, Drama

Old-school U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is reassigned from Miami to his childhood home in the poor, rural coal mining towns in eastern Kentucky.

Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts

Votes: 77,710

19. The Hour (2011–2012)

60 min | Drama

A behind-the-scenes drama and espionage thriller in Cold War-era England that centers on a journalist, a producer, and an anchorman for an investigative news programme.

Stars: Romola Garai, Ben Whishaw, Dominic West, Anna Chancellor

Votes: 8,924

20. The Killing (2011–2014)

TV-14 | 45 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A police investigation, the saga of a grieving family, and a Seattle mayoral campaign all interlock after the body of 17-year-old Rosie Larsen is found in the trunk of a submerged car.

Stars: Mireille Enos, Joel Kinnaman, Billy Campbell, Liam James

Votes: 90,118

21. True Detective (2014– )

TV-MA | 55 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Seasonal anthology series in which police investigations unearth the personal and professional secrets of those involved, both within and outside the law.

Stars: Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch

Votes: 448,344

22. Fargo (2014– )

TV-MA | 53 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

Various chronicles of deception, intrigue and murder in and around frozen Minnesota. Yet all of these tales mysteriously lead back one way or another to Fargo, North Dakota.

Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks

Votes: 277,495

23. Borgen (2010–2013)

TV-14 | 58 min | Drama

A political drama about a prime minister's rise to power, and how power changes a prime minister.

Stars: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Emil Poulsen, Freja Riemann

Votes: 15,127

24. Bron/Broen (2011–2018)

TV-MA | 60 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller

When a body is found on the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, right on the border, Danish inspector Martin Rohde and Swedish Saga Norén have to share jurisdiction and work together to find the killer.

Stars: Sofia Helin, Rafael Pettersson, Sarah Boberg, Dag Malmberg

Votes: 49,952

25. Secret State (2012)

Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Secret State explores the relationship between a democratically elected government, big business and the banks.

Stars: Gabriel Byrne, Ralph Ineson, Charles Dance, Jamie Sives

Votes: 1,835

26. The Young Montalbano (2012– )

120 min | Crime, Mystery

The young "Commissario" detective Salvo Montalbano, based in the fictitious village of Vigata, solves mysterious crimes in Sicilia.

Stars: Andrea Tidona, Michele Riondino, Fabrizio Pizzuto, Alessio Piazza

Votes: 873

27. Foyle's War (2002–2015)

TV-14 | 90 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

As WWII rages, DCS Foyle fights his own war on the home-front; investigating crime on the south coast of England. Later series, see the retired detective working as an MI5 agent in the aftermath of the war.

Stars: Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks, Anthony Howell, Ellie Haddington

Votes: 11,474

28. Elementary (2012– )

TV-14 | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A modern take on the cases of Sherlock Holmes, with the detective now living in New York City.

Stars: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aidan Quinn, Jon Michael Hill

Votes: 94,454

29. The Night Of (2016)

TV-MA | 525 min | Crime, Drama

After a night of partying with a woman he picked up, a man wakes up to find her stabbed to death and is charged with her murder.

Stars: Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, Bill Camp, Amara Karan

Votes: 100,726

30. Shetland (2013– )

TV-14 | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

DI Jimmy Perez and his team investigate crimes within the close knit island community of Shetland.

Stars: Douglas Henshall, Alison O'Donnell, Steven Robertson, Mark Bonnar

Votes: 8,033

31. Endeavour (2012– )

TV-14 | 89 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Set in the 1960s, the show follows Endeavour Morse in his early years as a police constable. Working alongside his senior partner DI Fred Thursday, Morse engages in a number of investigations around Oxford.

Stars: Shaun Evans, Roger Allam, James Bradshaw, Anton Lesser

Votes: 14,610

32. Happy Valley (2014– )

TV-MA | 58 min | Crime, Drama

Catherine Cawood is the sergeant on duty when flustered and nervous accountant Kevin Weatherill comes into her West Yorkshire station to report a crime.

Stars: Sarah Lancashire, Siobhan Finneran, Shane Zaza, Charlie Murphy

Votes: 28,469

33. Longmire (2012–2017)

TV-14 | 60 min | Action, Crime, Drama

Walt Longmire is the dedicated and unflappable sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Widowed only a year, he is a man in psychic repair but buries his pain behind his brave face, unassuming grin and dry wit.

Stars: Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Cassidy Freeman

Votes: 25,997

34. Inspector Montalbano (1999– )

95 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Detective Montalbano solves crimes in Sicily.

Stars: Luca Zingaretti, Peppino Mazzotta, Angelo Russo, Cesare Bocci

Votes: 2,430

35. Weissensee (2010– )

TV-PG | 50 min | Drama

The lives of two families in East Berlin between 1980 and 1990 as the era of communist DDR slowly comes to an end.

Stars: Florian Lukas, Uwe Kockisch, Jörg Hartmann, Ruth Reinecke

Votes: 1,181

36. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017– )

TV-MA | 57 min | Comedy, Drama

A housewife in the 1950s decides to become a stand-up comic.

Stars: Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Tony Shalhoub, Michael Zegen

Votes: 45,543

37. Wallander (2008–2016)

TV-PG | 90 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A television show centered on a soul-searching Swedish cop.

Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Richard McCabe, Jeany Spark, Sarah Smart

Votes: 11,137

38. The Bletchley Circle (2012–2014)

TV-14 | 45 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

In 1952, four women who worked at the wartime code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, reunite to track down a serial killer.

Stars: Rachael Stirling, Julie Graham, Sophie Rundle, Anna Maxwell Martin

Votes: 9,250

39. Godless (2017)

TV-MA | 60 min | Drama, Western

In the 1880s American West murderous outlaw gang leader Frank Griffin hunts for ex-protege Roy Goode. Frank's chase leads him to La Belle, New Mexico - a town inhabited, after a mining disaster, almost entirely by women.

Stars: Jack O'Connell, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Merritt Wever

Votes: 39,523

40. The Night Manager (2016– )

TV-14 | 358 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

The night manager of a Cairo hotel is recruited to infiltrate an arms dealer's inner circle.

Stars: Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Debicki, Olivia Colman

Votes: 60,367

41. Wormwood (2017)

241 min | Documentary, Biography

In 1953, Army scientist Frank Olson takes a fatal plunge from a hotel window. In 1975, a bombshell report ties his death to a top-secret experiment.

Stars: Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker, Christian Camargo, Scott Shepherd

Votes: 2,938

42. The Thick of It (2005–2012)

TV-MA | 29 min | Comedy

Set in the corridors of power and spin, the Minister for Social Affairs, is continually harassed by Number 10's policy enforcer and dependent on his not-so-reliable team of civil servants.

Stars: Chris Addison, James Smith, Peter Capaldi, Joanna Scanlan

Votes: 17,671

43. Stranger (2017– )

TV-14 | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

A prosecutor without empathy and a bold female police are taking a murder case involving unrestrained political corruption.

Stars: Seung-woo Cho, Doona Bae, Jae-woong Choi, Joon-Hyuk Lee

Votes: 2,430

44. Babylon Berlin (2017– )

TV-MA | 45 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

Colognian commissioner Gereon Rath moves to Berlin, the epicenter of political and social changes in the Golden Twenties.

Stars: Volker Bruch, Liv Lisa Fries, Peter Kurth, Matthias Brandt

Votes: 11,672

45. The Kominsky Method (2018– )

TV-MA | 30 min | Comedy

An aging actor, who long ago enjoyed a brush with fame, makes his living as an acting coach.

Stars: Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin, Sarah Baker, Graham Rogers

Votes: 12,121

46. Patriot (II) (2015– )

TV-MA | 58 min | Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Follows the complicated life of intelligence officer John Tavner, whose latest assignment - to prevent Iran from going nuclear - requires him to forgo all safety nets and assume a perilous non-official cover.

Stars: Michael Dorman, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Chernus, Kathleen Munroe

Votes: 8,541

47. The Looming Tower (2018)

TV-MA | 50 min | Drama, History

A look at how the rivalry between the CIA and FBI inadvertently set the stage for the tragedy of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan.

Stars: Jeff Daniels, Tahar Rahim, Wrenn Schmidt, Bill Camp

Votes: 7,648



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