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What Are the Best Written TV Shows of All Time? The WGA Announces Its Top 101 Picks

What Are the Best Written TV Shows of All Time? The WGA Announces Its Top 101 Picks

Following up on their 2006 list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays, the Writers Guild of America have decided to celebrate the highest level of quality in the television medium by announcing its list of the 101 Best Written TV Series. The list was compiled through onlines votes by members of Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) and Writers Guild of America East (WGAE).

“At their core, all of these wonderful series began with the words of the writers who created them and were sustained by the writers who joined their staffs or worked on individual episodes,” said WGAW President Chris Keyser and WGAE President Michael Winship in a joint statement. “This list is not only a tribute to great TV, it is a dedication to all writers who devote their hearts and minds to advancing their craft.”

At number one is the monumental HBO mob series “The Sopranos,” followed by the sitcom/cultural phenomenon “Seinfeld.” Coming in third place is “The Twilight Zone,” with sitcoms “All in the Family” and “M*A*S*H” rounding out the top five. The placement of each particular show on the list is sure to cause plenty of controversy and debate amongst endless amounts of fans. Is “The Wire” properly acknowledged at ninth place? Does “Lost” really deserve to be placed above “The Cosby Show”? You can check out more about the full list on the Writers Guild of America website.

1. The Sopranos, HBO, Created by David Chase

2. Seinfeld, NBC, Created by Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld

3. The Twilight Zone (1959), CBS, Season One writers: Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Robert Presnell, Jr., Rod Serling

4. All in the Family, CBS, Created by Johnny Speight

5. M*A*S*H, CBS, Developed for Television by Larry Gelbart

6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show, CBS, Created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns

7. Mad Men, AMC, Created by Matthew Weiner

8. Cheers, NBC, Created by Glen Charles & Les Charles and James Burrows

9. The Wire, HBO, Created by David Simon

10. The West Wing, NBC, Created by Aaron Sorkin

11. The Simpsons, FOX, Created by Matt Groening, Developed by James L. Brooks and Matt Groening and Sam Simon

12. I Love Lucy, CBS, “Pilot,” Written by Jess Oppenheimer & Madelyn Pugh & Bob Carroll, Jr.

13. Breaking Bad, AMC, Created by Vince Gilligan

14. The Dick Van Dyke Show, CBS, Created by Carl Reiner

15. Hill Street Blues, NBC, Created by Michael Kozoll and Steven Bochco

16. Arrested Development, FOX, Created by Mitchell Hurwitz

17. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, COMEDY CENTRAL, Created by Madeleine Smithberg, Lizz Winstead; Season One – Head Writer: Chris Kreski; Writers: Jim Earl, Daniel J. Goor, Charles Grandy, J.R. Havlan, Tom Johnson, Kent Jones, Paul Mercurio, Guy Nicolucci, Steve Rosenfield, Jon Stewart

18. Six Feet Under, HBO, Created by Alan Ball

19. Taxi, ABC, Created by James L. Brooks and Stan Daniels and David Davis and Ed Weinberger

20. The Larry Sanders Show, HBO, Created by Garry Shandling & Dennis Klein

21. 30 Rock, NBC, Created by Tina Fey

22. Friday Night Lights, NBC, Developed for Television by Peter Berg, Inspired by the Book by H.G. Bissinger

23. Frasier, NBC, Created by David Angell & Peter Casey & David Lee, Based on the Character “Frasier Crane” Created by Glen Charles & Les Charles

24. Friends, NBC, Created by Marta Kauffman & David Crane

25. Saturday Night Live, NBC, Season One: Writing Supervised by Walter Kempley, Harry Shearer; Written by: Ann Beatts, Chevy Chase, Tom Davis, Al Franken, Rosie Michaels, Garrett Morris, Michael O’Donoghue, Herb Sargent, Tom Schiller, Alan Zweibel

26. The X-Files, FOX, Created by Chris Carter

27. Lost, ABC, Created by Jeffrey Lieber and J.J. Abrams & Damon Lindelof

28. ER, NBC, Created Michael Crichton

29. The Cosby Show, NBC, Created by Ed Weinberger & Michael Leeson and William Cosby, Jr., Ed. D.

30. Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO, Created by Larry David

31. The Honeymooners, CBS, Season One writers: Herbert Finn, Marvin Marx, A.J. Russell, Leonard Stern, Walter Stone, Sydney Zelinka

32. Deadwood, HBO, Created by David Milch

33. Star Trek, NBC, Created by Gene Roddenberry

34. Modern Family, ABC, Created by Steven Levitan & Christopher Lloyd

35. Twin Peaks, ABC, “Pilot,” Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch

36. NYPD Blue, ABC, Created by David Milch & Steven Bochco

37. The Carol Burnett Show, CBS, Season One: Written by Bill Angelos, Stan Burns, Don Hinkley, Buz Kohan, Mike Marmer, Gail Parent, Kenny Solms, Saul Turtletaub; Writing Supervised by Arnie Rosen

38. Battlestar Galactica (2005), SYFY, Developed by Ronald D. Moore, Based on the Series Battlestar Galactica Created by Glen A. Larson

39. Sex & the City, HBO, Created by Darren Star, Based on the Book by Candace Bushnell

40. Game of Thrones, HBO, Created by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, Based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

41. The Bob Newhart Show, CBS, Created by David Davis and Lorenzo Music *TIE

Your Show of Shows, NBC, Season One: Written by Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, Max Liebman *TIE

43. Downton Abbey, PBS, Created by Julian Fellowes  *TIE

Law & Order, NBC, Created by Dick Wolf  *TIE

thirtysomething, ABC, Created by Marshall Herskovitz & Edward Zwick *TIE

46. Homicide: Life on the Street, NBC, Created by Paul Attanasio, Based on the Book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon   *TIE

St. Elsewhere, CBS, Created by Joshua Brand & John Falsey, Developed by Mark Tinker / John Masius *TIE

48. Homeland, SHOWTIME, Developed by Howard Gordon & Alex Gansa, Based on the Original Israeli Series Prisoners of War by Gideon Raff

49. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, WB, Created by Joss Whedon

50. The Colbert Report, COMEDY CENTRAL, Season One writers: Stephen Colbert, Rich Dahm, Eric Drysdale, Peter Gwinn, Jay Katsir, Laura Krafft, Allison Silverman  *TIE

The Good Wife, CBS, Created by Robert King & Michelle King *TIE

The Office (UK), BBC, Created by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant *TIE

53. Northern Exposure, CBS, Created by Joshua Brand & John Falsey

54. The Wonder Years, ABC, Created by Neal Marlens & Carol Black

55. L.A. Law, NBC, Created by Steven Bochco & Terry Louise Fisher

56. Sesame Street, PBS, Created by Joan Ganz Cooney

57. Columbo, NBC, Created by Richard Levinson & William Link

58. Fawlty Towers, BBC, Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth *TIE

The Rockford Files, NBC, Created by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell *TIE

60. Freaks and Geeks, NBC, Created by Paul Feig *TIE

Moonlighting, ABC, Created by Glenn Gordon Caron *TIE

62. Roots, ABC, Written by William Blinn, M. Charles Cohen, Ernest Kinoy, James Lee; Based on the Book by Alex Haley

63. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, Created by Philip Rosenthal *TIE

South Park, COMEDY CENTRAL, Created by Matt Stone & Trey Parker *TIE

65. Playhouse 90, CBS, Season One writers: Edna Anhalt, Edmund Beloin, Harold Jack Bloom, Marc Brandel, George Bruce, James P. Cavanagh, Whitfiled Cook, Helen Doss, Scott Fitzgerald, Devery Freeman, Frank D. Gilroy, Helen Howe, Speed Lamkin, Ernest Lehman, Herbert Little, Jr., Don Mankiewicz, Elick Moll, Paul Monash, Dean Reisner, Norman Retchin, Selma Robinson, William Sackheim, Rod Serling, Leonard Spigelgass, Leslie Stevens, Brandon Thomas, David Victor, Charles M. Warren, Hagar Wilde, Cornell Woolrich

66. Dexter, SHOWTIME, Developed for Television by James Manos, Jr., Based on the Novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay *TIE

The Office (US), NBC, Created by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant, Developed by Greg Daniels, Based on the BBC Series The Office *TIE

68. My So-Called Life, ABC, Created by Winnie Holzman

69. The Golden Girls, NBC, Created by Susan Harris

70. The Andy Griffith Show, CBS, Episode 1, “The New Housekeeper,” Written by Jack Elinson and Charles Stewart

71. 24, FOX, Created by Joel Surnow & Robert Cochran *TIE

Roseanne, ABC, Created by Matt Williams, Based on a Character Created by Roseanne Barr *TIE

The Shield, FX, Created by Shawn Ryan *TIE

74. House, FOX, Created by David Shore *TIE

Murphy Brown, CBS, Created by Diane English *TIE

76. Barney Miller, ABC, Created by Danny Arnold & Theodore J. Flicker *TIE

I, Claudius, PBS, Written by Rupert Graves and Jack Pulman *TIE

78. The Odd Couple, ABC, Episode 1, “The Fight of the Felix,” Written by Peggy Elliott & Ed Scharlach

79. Alfred Hitchcock Presents, CBS, Season One writers – Gwen Bagni, Samuel Blas, Robert Blees, Ray Bradbury, Richard Carr, James Cavanagh, Eustace Cockrell, Francis Cockrell, Marian Cockrell, John Collier, Robert C. Dennis, Mel Dinelli, Stanley Ellin, Fred Freiberger, Irwin Gielgud, Gina Kaus, Terence Maples, Richard Pedicini, Louis Pollock, Joseph Ruscoll, A.J. Russell, Stirling Silliphant, Andrew Solt, Harold Swanton, Victor Wolfson, Cornell Woolrich  *TIE

Monty Python’s Flying Circus, BBC, Conceived and Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Terry Jones, Michael Palin  *TIE

Star Trek: The Next Generation, SYN, Created by Gene Roddenberry *TIE

Upstairs, Downstairs, PBS, Created by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins *TIE

83. Get Smart, NBC, “Pilot,” Written by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry

84. The Defenders, CBS, Created by Reginald Rose *TIE

Gunsmoke, CBS, Episode 1, “Matt Gets It,” Written by Charles Marquis Warren & John Meston  *TIE

86. Justified, FX, Developed for Television by Graham Yost, Based on the Short Story “Fire in the Hole” by Elmore Leonard   *TIE

Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show), CBS, Created by Nat Hiken  *TIE

88. Band of Brothers, HBO, Written by Erik Bork, E. Max Frye, Tom Hanks, Erik Jendresen, Bruce C. McKenna, John Orloff, Graham Yost; Based on the Book by Stephan E. Ambrose

89. Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, NBC, Season One: Written by Chris Beard, Phil Hahn, John Hanrahan, Coslough Johnson, Paul Keyes, Marc London, Allan Manings, David Panich, Hugh Wedlock, Digby Wolfe

90. The Prisoner, CBS, Premiere Episode: Written by George Markstein and David Tomblin

91. Absolutely Fabulous (UK), BBC, Episode 1, “Fashion,” Written by Jennifer Saunders, Based on an Original Idea by Jennifer Saunders & Dawn French *TIE

The Muppet Show, SYN, Season One: Written by Jack Burns, Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, Marc London *TIE

93. Boardwalk Empire, HBO, Created by Terence Winter, Based on the Book Boardwalk Empire by Nelson Johnson

94. Will & Grace, NBC, Created by David Kohan & Max Mutchnick

95. Family Ties, NBC, Created by Gary David Goldberg

96. Lonesome Dove, CBS, Teleplay by Bill Wittliff, Based on the Novel Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry *TIE

Soap, ABC, Created by Susan Harris  *TIE

98. The Fugitive, ABC, Episode 1, “Where the Action Is,” Written by Harry Kronman  *TIE

Late Night with David Letterman, CBS, Season One: Writing Supervised by Merrill Markoe, Writers: Andy Breckman, Tom Gammill, David Letterman, Richard Morris, Gerard Mulligan, Max Pross, Karl Tiedemann, Steve Winer  *TIE

Louie, FX, Season One: Written and Directed by Louis C.K. *TIE

101. Oz, HBO, Created by Tom Fontana

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this list is all kinds of bullsh_t.


Although I haven't seen all of the Mad Men series, I feel that as of what I've seen that it definitely has nowhere near as good of writing as Breaking Bad. Even thought the show is pure writing, I stopped watching the first season because I got tired of watching it. Definitely was no enticement to watch any more of it.


Where is Partydown? I know it was only two seasons on starz but it is a comedic diamond in the rough.


also – Deep Space Nine should not only be on this list, but it should be higher up than TNG and the OG series.


anyone who would put The Walking Dead in top 101 shows for writing would have to be insane… where the show fails miserably is always in it's writing. sometimes it would actually come close to being worthy of it's stupidly high ratings/hype if it weren't for some of the worst dialogue on TV period.



Sam E

Late Night with Conan would have been my pick among the late night talk shows and also Sports Night should have been on the list.


No scrubs? Is this list for real? The greatest dramedy ever to grace television screens? And though it is omitted as of now, if FX's the Americans keeps up the pace it's first season has it would crack the top twenty easily.


I had to check and make sure Star Trek was in there or the entire list would have to be invalidated.


What about Doctor Who ?

Georg Csarmann

I just don't get why nobody wants to acknowledge "Community" (season 4 not included), either during awards season or on lists like these .


DEADWOOD should absolutely be top 5 – my number 1.

Yea I agree re Game of Thrones – NOT even close to great writing – Too often 'cheap', exploitative, soapy, spectacle TV only a shadow of the books…

Fawlty Towers and Black Adder should def be up there too…


Fawlty Towers at 58!? The best British sit-com of all times…come on?
The Wire 9th!? Well what can I say…


I cannot believe that "The Walking Dead" is nowhere on this list, it should be in the top ten at least, maybe top five IMO.


Looks like only Americans write for TV


Cheers at #8? Total crap.

Stuart Kazanow

I'm actually surprised Moonlighting is so far down the list. When it was at its best, the show had some of the smartest dialogue on TV. And seriously…Friends in the top 30???

leslie j yerman

The Wire as #9 is definitely disappointing. It should be #1. If The Sopranos must be #1, it should be #2.

K. Shults

The Wire and The Sopranos deserve the top two spots, though I happen to think the former is the better show overall.


I think a few vital ones have been missed. Sherlock, Doctor Who, Blackadder, and Father Ted!


"Game of Thrones" has some of the worst writing on television. It's all production. What a stupid and frivolous list. Same with "24".

And what are David Letterman and the non-scripted "Curb" doing here?

"Deadwood" and "Twin Peaks" should, at the very least, be top 20.

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