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Inside TV’s Best 50 Dramas

posted by Douglas Howe

keifersutherland24.jpgAOL’s Inside TV has announced its choices for the “50 Best TV Dramas Ever.” Which would you choose?
From “House” at #50 to “The Sopranos” at #1, the popular blog scoured the decades and actually accomplished a rare task, in that they included many great shows from way back. Most lists are tilted towards the present.
They missed a few, though, recognizing “Star Trek: The Next Generation” but omitting the original, and lauding “Columbo” but not its Mystery Movie partner “Banacek.” They also left out ABC’s Friday Night Line-up that so many of us grew up on (“The Brady Bunch,” “Nanny and the Professor,” “The Partridge Family,” “Room 222,” “The Odd Couple,” and “Love American Style”) but perhaps these were classified as comedies.
You may or may not agree with me on the five most overrated and underrated from the list, but you’ll be inspired by remembering the years of great drama that made it into our homes through the small screen.
The ones they got right:
“The Fugitive” at #18. Back in the time when good guys wore white, bad guys wore black and the world was simple, this original drama tread new ground and signified the move away from the age of reason. It’s still one of the most original concepts ever on TV, though most of today’s crowd only saw the movie.


“The West Wing” at #8. Our nation became more D.C.-literate, nationally aware and potentially involved as Aaron Sorkin brought the culture of White House behind-the-scenes work into everyday lingo. Like a Disney flick, there was drama and humor for all age groups, and we all wanted to be a little more purposeful and ethical the next day because of the show.
“Hill Street Blues” at #9. Yes that’s a high ranking, but never before had a soap opera been cool for guys! This wasn’t actually a soap, of course, but the good guys had hang-ups, the bad guys were compelling, the endings weren’t contrived and we learned to root for our neighborhood policeman, hoping they’d “be careful out there.”
Most underrated:
“24 at #42.” There is no way “24” should be that low on the list, especially coming in after such neo-classics as “Cagney and Lacey,” “Six Feet Under” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” It’s a genre all its own and has audiences purchasing the prior seasons as they get turned onto the show, so thick with detail it’s like a novel being poured out on TV.
“Little House on the Prairie” at #49. Long, long a go in a place far, far away, families would gather around the television without iPods, laptops, Facebook, and their PDAs. They’d actually watch the same show together, and talk about it. By putting family themes in the country, “Little House” helped everyone take a closer look at themselves without feeling belittled or politicized.
Most overrated:
“The Sopranos” at #1. It was good, but not the best, and anything on pay cable should be disqualified from the Top Ten anyway!
“Friday Night Lights” at #10. This obviously got the teen vote, but 20 years from now it won’t be remembered as the other high ones on the list.
“Mad Men” at #25. It’s had a nice run, but it’s too young and new to be here. Remember when Ken Griffey made the list of the greatest ballplayers of all time as a young player. He wasn’t even one of the best in the league within a few years.
“Battlestar Galactica” at #12. Twelfth of all-time? Are you kidding? The gal who wrote the story must have grown up on it, or her dad worked on it. Can’t figure why else it’s there…
Let me know what your favorites are in the comments section below.
24 at LocateTV.com



  • Your Name

    The reason 24 is where it is is because it is a live cartoon. The reason BSG is where it is is because it was the best darn show on TV.
    In other words in the former you had humans acting like robots and in the latter you had robots acting like humans.

  • Charm

    How could they put in L.A. Law, and leave out Boston Legal, which was WAY better? And I think House should have been higher. Lost was way too high on this list. Interesting, though.

  • shawn

    Where is MATLOC. He ruled the courtroom and the tv screen back in the day. Monk also deserves a place at the dinner table.

  • Mary

    How can you say that FNL won’t be remembered? And to say it got the teen vote means that you probably haven’t watched the show. If you’re thinking it’s just another One Tree Hill, you couldn’t be farther from the truth.
    One reason FNL has remained on the air despite low ratings is because the audience skews in the high income bracket, that’s hardly teens.

  • Rand

    Battlestar Galactica at #12? How is it not HIGHER? In case you didn’t know, they’re talking about the re-imagined BSG, (not the cheesefest from the 70s). You know, the one that’s been called “the best show on television” by Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Newsday, National Enquirer, Time and virtually every other critic at least once in its 4-year run. The Peabody-award winning and Emmy winning series. The show that’s been called the bleakest and most depressing show on television. The only show to have a discussion panel at the UN (even if it was just a press stunt).
    Are YOU kidding?

  • Alicia

    With all due respect, Rand, the Best Show on Television is “Lost.”
    Seriously, even though this list pleases me because it includes personal favorites such as “Lost,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” I think of the drama genre as being a lot narrower. Even if there are only so many basic plots, I’m not sure that science fiction, horror-fantasy or fantasy-sci fi-mysteries qualify as “dramas” in my book.
    Also I think it is highly unfair to include HBO in the mix, since HBO does not have the same audience or strictures that are put on network television.
    That said, the list was fun.

  • Alicia

    Of course, to be fair, I’ve never seen “Battlestar Galactica” or a number of the HBO shows. Now that I have Netflix, I can remedy that.

  • Rand

    I like Lost as well.
    But shows like BSG and Lost transcend the sci-fi genre. There was a reason why people called it “Battlestar Iraqtica” and it had nothing to do with the sci-fi elements.
    And I need to correct myself. I meant to say National Review, not National Enquirer. Not sure what was on my mind there.

  • Dave

    Best drama in history of genre likely not on the list. HBO’s “The Wire” blows the Sopranos out of the water. Today this remains one of the best DVD rentals out there for a reason. Frankly, “The Wire” rewards its viewers with depth, humor and highly artistic story telling.

  • Warren

    I found the list interesting… and all my favorites that I can remember are in there. I may have placed the order differently. I never saw most of the HBO shows… like the Sopranos and The Wire, but I think they did a good job remembering classics from the past. I was glad to see Hill St. Blues and The Waltons on the list and my current favorites that I think are the best acted shows on TV right now: Lost and Friday Night Lights. The comedy list was interesting, too. Not sure they were always going with the best acted, but also considered popularity and longevity.

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