Welcome to the 25 Best TV Shows of All Time

Ready your Netflix queue...

Getty ImagesNBC

Before DVR allowed us to watch a beloved sitcom or dramedy whenever we damn well pleased, people used to plan their schedules around being home to watch their favorite shows. In other words, television has always been one of America's favorite pastimes. But some shows (Game of Thrones) are just unquestionably better than others (Keeping Up with the Kardashians), so you ought to be selective if you're going to spend hours of your life staring at a screen. From the earliest days of network television to the must-binge streaming that awaits you online, here are 25 of the best TV shows of all time.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'I Love Lucy'

Original run: October 15, 1951 — May 6, 1957

Starring: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William Frawley, and Richard Keith

Premise: We all know this one. Ricky Ricardo is the band leader at the Copacabana. His wife Lucy is an aspiring and usually overzealous wannabe entertainer. Cue mishaps. Cue Lucy crying. Cue laughter.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'The Twilight Zone'

Original run: October 2, 1959 – June 19, 1964

Starring: Various

Premise: Anthology series are enjoying a major comeback today, but nothing (nothing!) beats The Twilight Zone.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Star Trek'

Original run: September 8, 1966 — June 3, 1969

Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley

Premise: The show follows the crew of the USS Enterprise as they explore the galaxy and "boldly go where no man has gone before."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Saturday Night Live'

Original run: October 11, 1975 – present

Starring: So many talented comedians over the years, but currently: Beck Bennett, Aidy Bryant, Michael Che, Pete Davidson, Leslie Jones, Colin Jost, Kate McKinnon, Kyle Mooney, Cecily Strong, and Kenan Thompson

Premise: Hilarious live sketch comedy, delivered weekly.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Cheers'

Original run: September 30, 1982 — May 20, 1993

Starring: Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Nicholas Colasanto, Rhea Perlman, George Wendt, John Ratzenberger, Kelsey Grammer, Woody Harrelson, Bebe Neuwirth, and Kirstie Alley

Premise: The regulars at Cheers (a bar in Boston) meet up to drink, socialize, and hang where everyone knows their names.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'The Golden Girls'

Original run: September 14, 1985 — May 9, 1992

Starring: Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty

Premise: Four older women live together as roommates in Miami and share adventures, memories, and lots (and lots) of cheesecake.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Seinfeld'

Original run: July 5, 1989 – May 14, 1998

Starring: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, and Jason Alexander

Premise: Comedian Jerry Seinfeld plays comedian Jerry Seinfeld in a show that is literally about nothing. Seriously. Some of the best episodes are about things like waiting for a table at a restaurant and looking for a car in a parking garage.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'The Simpsons'

Original run: December 17, 1989 – present

Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, and Harry Shearer

Premise: The longest-running animated series on television, The Simpsons follows a dysfunctional family and ruthlessly parodies American culture in the process.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'The X-Files'

Original run: September 10, 1993 — May 19, 2002 (and then again from January 24, 2016 – present)

Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish, and Mitch Pileggi

Premise: Two FBI agents—a skeptic and a believer—investigate paranormal cases. Also aliens. Lots of aliens.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Friends'

Original run: September 22, 1994 — May 6, 2004

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer

Premise: Six best friends hang out in New York, drink coffee, and live way beyond their apparent means. Could this show be any funnier?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

Original run: March 10, 1997 — May 20, 2003

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, Anthony Stewart Head, David Boreanaz, Seth Green, James Marsters, Marc Blucas, Emma Caulfield, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Amber Benson

Premise: High school is hell—but, like, literally—and Buffy has to juggle the terrors of adolescence with the terrors of the supernatural.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'The Sopranos'

Original run: January 10, 1999 – June 10, 2007

Starring: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler

Premise: Tony Soprano is just a guy trying to balance his home life and job. And that job happens to be the mafia.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'The West Wing'

Original run: September 22, 1999 — May 14, 2006

Starring: Rob Lowe, Moira Kelly, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer, Bradley Whitford, and Martin Sheen

Premise: A look inside the inner workings of the Oval Office and the role POTUS' senior staff plays in running the government.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'The Wire'

Original run: June 2, 2002 — March 9, 2008

Starring: Dominic West, John Doman, Deirdre Lovejoy, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Seth Gilliam, and Domenick Lombardozzi

Premise: Season by season, The Wire focuses on different groups in Baltimore, from drug dealers to the press.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Arrested Development'

Original run: November 2, 2003 — February 10, 2006 (and then again in May 2013)

Starring: Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jessica Walter

Premise: When it comes to dysfunctional family comedies, no one does it better than Arrested Development. Also notable: AD kicked off the trend of Netflix bringing back beloved canceled shows.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Veronica Mars'

Original run: September 22, 2004 – May 22, 2007

Starring: Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Teddy Dunn, Jason Dohring, Amanda Seyfried, Francis Capra, and Enrico Colantoni

Premise: Veronica Mars is a teen private eye (you know, like many teens are) working to solve the mystery of her best friend's murder. The first season is pitch perfect.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Desperate Housewives'

Original run: October 3, 2004 – May 13, 2012

Starring: Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria, Nicollette Sheridan, and Brenda Strong

Premise: Wisteria Lane is a picturesque suburb—except for all the murders and arson. The show's tongue-in-cheek tone makes it one of the greatest nighttime soaps ever.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'30 Rock'

Original run: October 11, 2006 — January 31, 2013

Starring: Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, and Jack McBrayer

Premise: A hilarious comedy about what goes on behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show filmed at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (NBC's real-life headquarters).

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Breaking Bad'

Original run: January 20, 2008 — September 29, 2013

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, Laura Fraser, and Jesse Plemons

Premise: An average high school chemistry teacher gets diagnosed with cancer and turns to a life of crime—cooking meth. You know, normal.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Parks and Recreation'

Original run: April 9, 2009 — February 24, 2015

Starring: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O'Heir, Retta, and Billy Eichner

Premise: A chronically optimistic city employee named Leslie Knope works tirelessly to help make her apathetic hometown of Pawnee a better place.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Modern Family'

Original run: September 23, 2009 — present

Starring: Ed O'Neill, Sofía Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould, Rico Rodriguez, and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons

Premise: The series follows three branches of the same family and hilarity ensues. Yes, "family comedy" is a tried and true premise in television, but Modern Family's execution of it is next-level.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Shameless'

Original run: January 9, 2011 – present

Starring: William H. Macy, Emmy Rossum, Justin Chatwin, Ethan Cutkosky, Shanola Hampton, Steve Howey, Emma Kenney, Cameron Monaghan, Jeremy Allen White, and Joan Cusack

Premise: The word "dysfunctional" comes up a lot on this list, but this truly is the world's most dysfunctional family.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Game of Thrones'

Original run: April 17, 2011 — present

Starring: Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, and Gwendoline Christie

Premise: An epic battle for the Five Kingdoms, complete with political intrigue, a startling amount of incest, ice zombies, and not enough dragons.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'Orange Is the New Black'

Original run: July 11, 2013 – present

Starring: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Michael Harney, Michelle Hurst, Kate Mulgrew, Jason Biggs, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Selenis Leyva, Adrienne C. Moore, Dascha Polanco, Nick Sandow, Yael Stone, and Samira Wiley

Premise: The inner workings of a women's prison and a deep look at the lives of the inmates.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
'The Good Place'

Original run: September 19, 2016 — forever, hopefully

Starring: Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D'Arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto, and Ted Danson

Premise: A not-so-nice woman is mistakenly sent to the Good Place (basically heaven) when she dies and has to try to figure out a way to stay. Pretty much every episode ends with a twist.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Culture