The 100 Best TV Shows on Hulu, Ranked (February 2020)

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The 100 Best TV Shows on Hulu, Ranked (February 2020)

Don’t be discouraged by the not-always-intuitive interface and many instances of commercial breaks even in the paid tiers—Hulu boasts some of the best programming of any streaming service. A joint venture among Disney/ABC, FOX, NBCUniversal, and Time Warner, Hulu benefits in particular from a rich back catalogue of titles, including a terrific array of current and classic network series as well as must-sees from Britain (Peep Show, Prime Suspect) and Australia (Please Like Me). Recently, Hulu added two aces in the hole—beloved NBC sitcoms 30 Rock (moving from Netflix) and Will & Grace, streaming in full for the first time—and continues to devote admirable attention to bringing modern classics to audiences.

Hulu’s comedy slate is once again the highlight of its original programming, with the recently critically acclaimed trio of PEN15, Shrill, and Ramy, and on the drama side, it became the first streaming service to win the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in 2017, for The Handmaid’s Tale.

Below are our ranked picks for 100 of the best series you can find on Hulu (some of which are part of the Showtime add-on), which should keep you bingeing happily for many months to come. And of note, we’re starting with #1!

1. Seinfeld

Creators:   Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David
Stars: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Michael Richards
Original Network: NBC

On any given weekday, the likelihood is high that I watch a Seinfeld rerun that I’ve seen at least 20 times before, and I’m not alone in that habit. The fact that the show has been in continual reruns and syndication since its 76-million viewer finale proves how beloved it remains to this day: Seinfeld is still making money for networks two decades after it ended. Its grasp on pop culture minutia was on another level entirely, as was its distaste for typical sitcom conventions. Long-term relationships and love triangles were practically non-existent on Seinfeld. Never did characters offer sappy apologies to each other. Never did they even learn from their mistakes! Larry David and company were instead committed to telling stories of everyday, casual misanthropy from people who viewed themselves as generally decent or average, but were in reality pretty terrible individuals. Without even going into depth about the show’s transformative effect on the cultural lexicon, known as “Seinlanguage” it’s easy to see how Seinfeld uniquely stood out from every one of its peers. —Jim Vorel


2. I Love Lucy

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Creators: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz
Stars: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William Frawley, Richard Keith
Original Network: CBS

I Love Lucy is one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time. It’s a show so well-structured, and so beloved, it continues to air on television even though the last new episode premiered in 1957. It was the first show inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, and multiple publications, including TV Guide and TIME, have named it one of the best television shows of all-time. Many series have clearly been (and still are) influenced by the wacky adventures of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, but I Love Lucy also played a major role in what would become a staple of the sitcom genre—reruns and syndication, born out of necessity after Ball became pregnant while filming. Ball and Arnaz were consistently determined to bring their unique vision to television, which ultimately resulted in a reinvention of the modern sitcom. Even if the generations to come don’t get to experience the magic in the same way that some of us have, the legacy of Ball and Arnaz, and how they made and re-made television, will always be apparent. —Chris Morgan


3. The Twilight Zone

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Creator: Rod Serling
Stars: Rod Serling
Original Network: CBS

It is, in the estimation of any sane person, one of the greatest science fiction series of all time without a doubt, with its myriad episodes about technology, aliens, space travel, etc. But The Twilight Zone also plumbed the depths of the human psyche, madness and damnation with great regularity, in the same spirit as creator Rod Serling’s later series, Night Gallery. Ultimately, The Twilight Zone is indispensable to both sci-fi and horror. Its moralistic playlets so often have the tone of dark, Grimm Brothers fables for the rocket age of the ‘50s and ‘60s, urban legends that have left an indelible mark on the macabre side of our pop culture consciousness. What else can one call an episode such as “Living Doll,” wherein a confounded, asshole Telly Savalas is threatened, stalked and ultimately killed by his abused daughter’s vindictive doll, Talky Tina? Or “The Invaders,” about a lonely woman in a farmhouse who is menaced by invaders from outer space in an episode almost entirely without dialog? Taken on its own, a piece of television such as “The Invaders” almost shares more in common with “old dark house” horror films or the slashers that would arrive 20 years later than an entry in a sci-fi anthology. —Jim Vorel


4. The Office (U.K.)

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Creators: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant 
Stars: Ricky Gervais, Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crook, Lucy Davis, Oliver Chris, Patrick Baladi, Stacey Roca, Ralph Ineson, Stirling Gallacher
Original Network: BBC

Ricky Gervais’ immortal Britcom deserves full marks for establishing this comedy franchise that killed the laugh track and introduced us to a hilarious bunch of paper-pushing mopes. Defying expectations that it would pale in comparison, NBC’s The Office became an institution unto itself. Before there was Steve Carell’s Michael Scott and endless “that’s what she said” jokes, there was Ricky Gervais’ equally clueless David Brent and his fantastical dancing. Before there were John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer’s adorable Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly, there were Martin Freeman and Lucy Davis’ star-crossed Tim Canterbury and Dawn Tinsley. And, of course, before there was Rainn Wilson’s assistant [to the] regional manager, Dwight Schrute, there was Gareth Keenan—Mackenzie Crook’s retired Territorial Army member, who is both obsessed with his slightly senior workplace status and his one-sided friendship with his boss. The series synonymous with the use of the mockumentary format on TV (see also: Modern Family, Reno 911!) is the tightly compacted, original version of the long-running, Emmy-winning American spinoff (This is the U.K., after all, so there’s only two six-episode seasons, a Christmas special and a reunion episode). But its short run was truly pitch-perfect. —Nick Marino and Whitney Friedlander


5. Cowboy Bebop

Creator: Hajime Yatate
Original Network: TV Tokyo

Every debate over whether or not Cowboy Bebop—Shinichir? Watanabe’s science-fiction masterpiece—is the pinnacle of anime is a semantic one. It is, full stop. Its particular blend of cyberpunk intrigue, Western atmosphere, martial arts action, and noir cool in seinen form is unmatched and widely appealing. Its existential and traumatic themes are universally relatable. Its characters are complex and flawed, yet still ooze cool. The future it presents is ethnically diverse and eerily prescient. Its English dub, boasting some of America’s greatest full-time voiceover talents, somehow equals the subtitled Japanese-language original. Its 26-episode run was near-perfect, and episodes that might have been filler in another series are tight, taut, and serve the show’s thesis even as they do not distract from its overarching plot, which is compelling but not overbearing. It’s accessible to new hands and still rewards old-timers with every repeated watch. Yoko Kanno’s magnificent, jazz-heavy soundtrack and score stand on their own. Its opening credits are immaculate. It’s an original property, not an adaptation. It feels like a magnum opus produced at the pinnacle of a long career despite being, almost unbelievably, Watanabe’s first series as a director. It is a masterwork that should justly rank among the best works of television of all time, let alone anime. We eagerly await a rival. We’re not holding our breath. —John Maher


6. Pride and Prejudice

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Creator: Simon Langton
Stars: Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Susannah Harker,Julia Sawalha
Original Networks: BBC, A&E

Horse riders make their way through a 16mm-colored countryside, Colin Firth makes his way into a lake, and Austen makes her way onto TV in what remains the definitive adaptation of Austen’s work for the screen (the breathtaking opening three minutes of Joe Wright’s 2005 film adaptation aside). The music bounces from scene to scene with curlicue youthfulness. The acting prods the lines around it with sly good cheer. Through it all, the spirit of the adaptation by Andrew Davies can be found in his describing it so: “Let’s have Elizabeth on a hillside seeing these two tasty blokes galloping along, and something about them makes her skip down the hill.” And, for the implicit back and forth that inspires (let alone what follows), we follow, too. —Evan Fleischer


7. Frasier

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Creators: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee
Stars: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, Moose
Original Network: NBC

Many classic sitcoms are paeans to blue-collar family life, but Frasier was the odd show that made cultural elites and eggheads somehow seem like lovable characters to a mass audience. Both Frasier and his brother Niles can be infuriatingly snobbish, but audiences soon found that when their petty jealousies were directed at each other, they could also be hilarious. The show quickly became an off-hand representation of the idea of “smart comedy” on TV, but it was also still a sitcom full of relationship humor. Viewers waited a hell of a long time in particular for the long-teased relationship between Niles and Daphne to finally come to fruition (seven full seasons). Frasier, on the other hand, is never really lucky in love, but he was always better as a semi-depressed single, turning his probing mind on himself. —Jim Vorel


8. Cheers

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Creator: James Burrows, Glen Charles, Les Charles
Stars: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman, Nicholas Colasanto, John Ratzenberger, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, George Wendt
Original Network: NBC

Like many long-running sitcoms, the Cheers of the 1990s was really a fundamentally different show than it was in the 1980s, less about the dating life of Ted Danson’s Sam and much more of an ensemble device, full of characters who were by this point beloved by all. The final years of Cheers were when all these characters got to shine, especially Rhea Perlman as Carla and Kelsey Grammer, who joined the cast full-time before spinning off into Frasier. The finale episode received mixed reactions at the time, but nostalgia has pushed it into favorable territory, especially given the happy endings that most characters receive. The fact that Sam decides to “stay with the bar” makes perfect sense—it is of course his one true love. —Jim Vorel


9. Atlanta

Created by:   Donald Glover  
Stars:   Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz
Original Network: FX, 2016-present

Though it had traces of an anarchic streak (most notably in the memorable departure “B.A.N.”) Atlanta’s first season read mainly as a laconic slice of life, rendering the experiences of Earn (series creator Donald Glover), Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius (Lakeith Stanfield), and Van (Zazie Beetz) in all their hilarious particulars. Its second (or robbin’) season, by contrast, comes as close to understanding the uncanny as any series on television: As directed by Glover, Amy Seimetz, and Hiro Murai, the germ of Darius’ “Florida Man” parable—an “alt-right Johnny Appleseed” forcing his chaotic, angry, even violent fantasies on an innocent populace—bears its strange fruit across 11 arresting, often unsettling episodes, woven from the same materials as fairy tales, folklore, fables, and myths. From the laughing wolf of “Helen” and the night-dark “Woods” to the terrifying title character of “Teddy Perkins” (played, in whiteface, by Glover himself), Atlanta becomes a wickedly funny, unspeakably beautiful anthology of American horror stories, one that reckons with the definition of both “blackness” and “whiteness,” and treats the latter, rightly, as a malevolent force. Ultimately, the series’ tremendous sophomore effort grabs hold of the genre’s brass ring, confronting its audience with a simple, startling, profound proposition: If Atlanta doesn’t scare the fuck out of you, you might be the monster. —Matt Brennan


10. Arrested Development

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Created by:   Mitch Hurwitz  
Stars: Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi, Tony Hale, David Cross, Michael Cera, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Alia Shawkat, Ron Howard
Original Networks: Fox, Netflix 

Mitch Hurwitz’ sitcom about a “wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together” packed a whole lot of awesome into three short seasons. How much awesome? Well, there was the chicken dance, for starters. And Franklin’s “It’s Not Easy Being White.” There was Ron Howard’s spot-on narration, and Tobias Funke’s Blue Man ambitions. There was Mrs. Featherbottom and Charlize Theron as Rita, Michael Bluth’s mentally challenged love interest. Not since Seinfeld has a comic storyline been so perfectly constructed, with every loose thread tying so perfectly into the next act. Arrested Development took self-referencing postmodernism to an absurdist extreme, jumping shark after shark, but that was the point. They even brought on the original shark-jumper—Henry Winkler—as the family lawyer. And when he was replaced, naturally, it was by Scott Baio. Each of the Bluth family members was among the best characters on television, and Jason Bateman played a brilliant straight man to them all. The series’ return to Netflix for fourth and fifth seasons has not been nearly as auspicious, so ending your watch with that original run may, in fact, be best. —Josh Jackson


11. Twin Peaks

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Creators:   David Lynch, Mark Frost
Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joan Chen, Eric Da Re, Sherilyn Fenn
Original Network: ABC

At its heart, Twin Peaks was a detective story, with Dale Cooper (Kyle Maclachan), a stalwart, by-the-book FBI agent, descending upon the small logging town of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of a young woman. But since this was a TV series conceived using the weird and wonderful visions of David Lynch, it wound up being so much more. Like its nearest antecedent, Blue Velvet, it explores the strangeness that lies beneath the surface of Anytown, U.S.A., including a lot of soap opera-like psychosexual drama and assorted oddball characters like The Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) and agoraphobic Harold Smith (Lenny Von Dohlen). The horror of the show came in with the supernatural underpinnings of this storyline, with the killer of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) potentially being an otherworldly force that goes by the name of Bob. Through Lynch’s lens and through the guise of actor Frank Silva, that spirit permeated every last scene in the show, no matter how outlandish and far-reaching it got. With the help of Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score and the atmosphere created by the set designers, you spent the entirety of the two seasons waiting for something terrible to happen to everyone on screen. And it only made those moments—when things did go sour—feel that much worse. Twin Peaks: The Return, continues with wild surrealism and resistance to narrative confirm the visionary nature of Lynch’s original, including one of the most visually stunning episodes of all time. —Robert Ham


12. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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Creator:   Joss Whedon  
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, Marc Blucas, Emma Caulfield, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, James Marsters, Anthony Stewart Head
Original Networks: The WB, UPN

Buffy the Vampire Slayer had it all: Romance, drama, tragedy, suspense. The show took the teen-soap formula and elevated it to an art. It was a unique combination of tragic romance, apocalyptic fantasy and the clincher: emotional realism. It also featured the most serious and realistic depiction of human loss ever witnessed on the small screen (in “The Body” dealing with the death of Buffy’s mom by natural causes). Humor? The writers understood the campy sheen that must accompany any show named Buffy. They also knew how to use snappy dialogue and uncomfortable situations to full effect. Complex characters? You’d be hard pressed to find another program that had the same range and consistency of character development. Everyone matured (or devolved) at his or her own realistic rate. As some feminist writers have argued, TV had never before seen the complexity of relationships among women that you saw with the likes of Buffy, Willow, Joyce, and Dawn. Plot? The writers employed elaborate multi-episode, multi-season story arcs. People and events of the past always had a way of popping back up, the way they do in real life. Philosophy? Series creator Joss Whedon was all about the meta, the ideas and story behind the story. He succeeded, creating a WB/UPN show that bears closer resemblance to the works of Dostoevsky and Kafka than 90210 or Dawson’s Creek. —Tim Regan-Porter


13. Friday Night Lights

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Creator: Peter Berg
Stars: Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons, Aimee Teegarden, Michael B. Jordan, Jurnee Smollett
Original Network: NBC

Who ever thought football, a sport infamous for its meatheads and brute force, could be the cornerstone of one of television’s most delicate, affecting dramas? Heart-rending, infuriating, and rife with shattering setbacks and grand triumphs—Friday Night Lights is all of these, and in those ways it resembles the game around which the tiny town of Dillon, Texas, revolves. “Tender” and “nuanced” aren’t words usually applicable to the gridiron, but they fit the bill here, too. Full of heart but hardly saccharine, shot beautifully but hyper-realistically, and featuring a talented cast among which the teenagers and parents are—blessedly—clearly defined, the show manages to convince episode after episode that, yes, football somehow really is life. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. —Rachael Maddux


14. Detectorists

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Creator: Mackenzie Crook
Stars: Mackenzie Crook, Toby Jones
Original Network: BBC Four

One of the gentlest series on television, the wry and warm Detectorists follows two regular blokes (Crook and Jones, wonderfully atypical leading men) who find joy and meaning in their sleepy English village by metal detecting. It’s a cutthroat business, turns out, and Crook does a magnificent job of making the smallest details and triumphs and skirmishes feel extraordinary. Detectorists is an unhurried series, one that revels in the rolling hills the men traverse in the hope of finding ancient treasure (before giving up and heading to the pub). Not much happens over the course of three seasons objectively speaking, and yet, the show is wildly compelling and devastatingly lovely. Perhaps Johnny Flynn’s haunting theme song says it best: “Will you search through the lonely earth for me? Climb through the briar and bramble. I will be your treasure … I’m waiting for you.” With only six episodes over three seasons, it’s a gem well worth seeking out. —Allison Keene


15. 30 Rock

Created by:   Tina Fey  
Stars: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit, Judah Friedlander
Original Network: NBC, 2006-2013

The spiritual successor to Arrested Development, 30 Rock succeeded where its competition failed by largely ignoring the actual process of creating a TV show and instead focusing on the life of one individual in charge of the process, played by show creator Tina Fey. 30 Rock never loses track of its focus, and creates a surprisingly deep character for its circus to spin around. But Fey’s not the only one who makes the series so outstanding. Consistently spot-on performances by Tracy Morgan—whether frequenting strip clubs or a werewolf bar mitzvah—and Alec Baldwin’s evil plans for microwave-television programming create a perfect level of chaos for the show’s writers to unravel every week. 30 Rock doesn’t have complex themes or a deep message, but that stuff would get in the way of its goal: having one of the most consistently funny shows ever on TV. Suffice to say, it succeeded. —Sean Gandert


16. The Shield

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Creator: Shawn Ryan
Stars:Michael Chiklis, Michael Jace, Walton Goggins, CCH Pounder, Benito Martinez, Forrest Whitaker, Glenn Close
Original Network: FX

Shawn Ryan’s cop drama masterpiece premiered on FX a few months before David Simon’s cop drama masterpiece The Wire premiered on HBO. Years later, if you ask anybody which cop drama masterpiece they believe to be the Greatest Of All Time™, they’ll probably say The Wire. That’s fine. The Wire’s laurels are well-earned, but give a little more consideration to The Shield, too, huh? In many ways, The Shield is The Wire’s equal. In some, it is superior; a vivid, graphic entertainment that’s no less profound than Simon’s musings on Baltimorean crime and punishment. The Shield is grimdark stuff from back before grimdark became de rigeur in our pop cultural diet; there are no straight-up good guys or bad guys here, just good guys who occasionally do bad things and bad guys who occasionally do good things. The series is fueled by enough doom to make the Bard himself crack a wry smile, and it’s loaded with dubious morality. We were caught in the thrall of Vic Mackey’s reckless, self-serving corruption long before Game of Thrones made character survivability a guessing game, and Breaking Bad made us root for ethically suspect protagonists. Most of all, though, The Shield put a spotlight on law enforcement malfeasance without irrevocably blurring the line between social critique and theatricalized excitement. —Andy Crump


17. Adventure Time

Creator: Pendleton Ward
Stars: Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio, Hynden Walch, Niki Yang, Tom Kenny
Original Network: Cartoon Network 

There is a world where the Adventure Time creative team is content with rehashing its brand of surreal, candy-infused tomfoolery ad nauseam. Luckily, this is not the world we live in. Indeed, Pendleton Ward and Co. have spent the latter half of this magnificent and groundbreaking series’ run not only stretching the bounds of the show’s weirdass sandbox, but actively working to push the characters forward. More than anything, Adventure Time realizes that to avoid change is to become tired and stagnant. Thus, rather than adhering to the typical “floating timeline” structure of most animated programs, the show has allowed its characters (be it a human child, a stretchy dog, a peppermint butler, or a bubblegum princess) to grow and develop, often in ways that are more heartbreaking and dramatically potent than anything a prestige cable drama could throw out. Never was this sensibility more apparent than in Stakes, the eight-part miniseries that went a long way towards exploring the backstory of vampire Marceline, one of Adventure Time’s most beloved, mysterious and tragic characters. Throughout its run, Adventure Time remains the strange, yet endlessly innovative little gem that fans know and love. —Mark Rozeman and Allison Keene


18. Parks and Recreation

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Created by: Greg Daniels, Michael Schur
Stars: Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones
Original Network: NBC

Parks and Recreation started its run as a fairly typical mirror of The Office, but by its second and third seasons, the student became the master. As it became fleshed out with oddballs and unusual city quirks, Pawnee has become the greatest television town since Springfield. Parks flourished over the years with some of the most unique and interesting characters in modern comedy. And the beloved series accomplished the near-impossible by going out on top in 2015. Comedies, in particular, have a difficult time knowing when it’s time to take a bow. But Leslie Knope and her merry band of friends kept us laughing (and crying) right up until the series finale, which offered a powerfully good farewell to one of the most creative and beloved network series in history. —Ross Bonaime and Amy Amatangelo


19. The Mary Tyler Moore Show

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Creators: James L. Brooks, Allan Burns
Stars: Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight, Betty White, Cloris Leachman
Original Network: CBS

Even if you were born long after the show premiered, you probably are familiar with its most iconic moments—Mary triumphantly tossing her hat in the air, the death of Chuckles the clown, or the traveling group hug that ended the series. Mary Richards (Moore) remains iconic as the first single, career woman to ever be the subject of a television show. She lived by herself! Made her own decisions! And wasn’t worried about getting married! Can you believe it? Set in the newsroom of WJM in Minneapolis, Mary’s co-workers included her irascible boss Lou Grant (Asner), affable news writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod), and goofy anchorman Ted Baxter (Knight). This was an office-based comedy at a time when family comedies were all the rage. The groundbreaking series paved the way for shows as varied as Murphy Brown, 30 Rock and The Mindy Project. Plus Mary had spunk, and we love spunk. —Amy Amatangelo


20. The Good Place

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Creator: Michael Schur
Stars: Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, D’Arcy Carden
Original Network: NBC

Some of the best sitcoms in history are about bad people. M.A.S.H., Seinfeld, Arrested Development: It’d be hard to argue that the majority of their characters aren’t self-involved, intolerant, or downright assholes. It’s still too early to enter The Good Place into any such pantheon, but it’s relevant in pinning down why the latest comedy from Michael Schur (The Office, Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) feels simultaneously so cozy and so adventurous.

Fitting into a middle ground of sensibilities between occupational comedies like NewsRadio and the sly navel-gazing of Dead Like Me, The Good Place is the rare show that’s completely upfront about its main character’s flaws, creating a moral playground that tests Eleanor’s worst impulses at every turn. Played by Kristen Bell at her most unbridled, she’s a vain, impish character—the type of person who’ll swipe someone’s coffee without a second thought, then wonder why the universe is plotting against her. She’s a perfect straight woman in an afterlife surrounded by only the purest of heart, but the show doesn’t hold it against her. If anything, following in the grand tradition of sitcoms, the show knows that we’re all bad people at one time or another. —Michael Snydel


21. Star Trek: The Next Generation

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Created by: Gene Roddenberry
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Wil Wheaton
Original Network: Syndicated

The original series was pioneering. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had their moments. But TNG was head-and-shoulders the greatest Star Trek franchise (And one of the best sci-fi series of all time). Jean Luc Picard. Data. Worf. The holodeck. The Borg. Gene Roddenbury must not have had a cynical bone in his body, and watching his characters explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, I didn’t either. —Josh Jackson


22. The X-Files

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Creator: Chris Carter
Stars: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish, Mitch Pileggi
Original Network: FOX

Pairing Scully-the-skeptic and Mulder-the-believer as they investigated the paranormal, The X-Files at its best is one of TV’s most exceptional programs. Some of its greatness waned in the later years, but the early seasons did more than investigate the implausible—it accomplished it, by taking aliens and conspiracy theories to the mainstream. —Josh Jackson


23. The Golden Girls

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Creator: Susan Harris
Stars: Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty
Network: NBC

If you were born in the 1990s, you probably missed out on this gem of a comedy. Now all seven seasons are available finally on a streaming platform. The story of four senior citizens—the sarcastic Dorothy (Bea Arthur), her take-no-prisoners mom Sophia (Estelle Getty), the flirtatious Blanche (Rue McClanahan) and the daffy Rose (Betty White)—resonates to this day because it’s an honest story about friendship and building a family out of your community. And the show was surprisingly progressive, tackling topics including gay marriage, teen pregnancy and the AIDS epidemic. But mostly it was hilarious. Once you’ve watched, you’ll thank these four amazing women for being your friend. —Amy Amatangelo


24. ER

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Creator: Michael Crichton
Stars: Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, Noah Wyle, Sherry Stringfield, Eriq La Salle, Laura Innes, Alex Kingston, Gloria Reuben, Maura Tierney, Goran Visnjic
Original Network: NBC

As one of the longest-running medical drama ever to air on American television, I remember ER as a landmark in my own TV-watching life: It was the first series my mom let me stay up to watch, I think because she loved it so much she needed someone to talk about it with. An era-defining success with critics, audiences, and Emmy voters alike, ER drew on the conventions of the hospital procedural, the primetime soap, and creator Michael Crichton’s real-life experiences to lend Chicago’s fictional County General layers of nuance, depth, energy, and excitement that few TV series before or since can claim to match. At least one episode, Season 1’s “Blizzard”—in which a quiet day erupts with the carnage of a 40-car pileup—remains so thoroughly seared in my memory I’m almost afraid to watch it again, lest I disturb the experience. I could list all of ER’s milestones and accomplishments, from turning George Clooney and Julianna Margulies into major stars to its mountain of awards, but it’s probably easier to put it like this: Though it dipped in quality in its later seasons, ER in the early years was perhaps the defining TV drama of its era. —Matt Brennan


25. Peep Show

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Creators: Andrew O’Connor, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain
Stars: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Matt King, Paterson Joseph, Neil Fitzmaurice, Olivia Colman
Original Network: Channel 4 (U.K.)

Although Peep Show has a similar sense of humor to other British sitcoms that came in the wake of The Office, it uses that awkward comedy for a very different purpose. The show’s title comes from the peek we’re offered into its leads’ brains, as throughout the show we’re offered running monologues of their thoughts in a way that almost no other sitcom has tried. More important than this stylistic quirk, though, is Peep Show’s preference for long arcs, continuity and running gags of the sort Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia would envy. The show has a deep memory and an equally deep sense of morality, so its characters are never let off the hook, even if it takes a few seasons to see how their horrible actions karmically return for their undoing. Peep Show can be difficult to binge-watch, especially early on, but its short seasons make for filler-free writing, and Mitchell and Webb are so good that they lend their characters a strange likability that’s closer to the U.S. Office than the original. —Sean Gandert

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