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 25 greatest TV shows of all time 25 greatest TV shows of all time

The summer season has ended, the Emmy Awards will be presented on Sunday and the new television season is not far behind. This year, ABC and People Magazine have come together to poll viewers on the greatest shows and performers of all time. The winners will be announced this week.

Here is our ballot:

Comedy: All in the Family

Drama: ER

Legal or Cop Show: Law and Order

TV Mom: Edith Bunker, All in the Family

TV Dad: Howard Cunningham, Happy Days

Reality Show: The Great Race

Talk Show Host: Johnny Carson

Game Show: Jeopardy

Daytime Drama: General Hospital

Animated Show: The Simpsons

Non-Human Character: Homer Simpson

Variety Show: Ed Sullivan Show

Theme Song: The Twilight Zone

All-Time Show: The Tonight Show

But, let’s take it further. Here are the 25 Greatest TV Shows of All-Time and some other lists of achievements. But how do you decide the greatest? If you go by popularity, just look at the Nielsen ratings. If it’s quality performances, check out the Emmys. What we want here are the shows that had the greatest overall impact.

So, here we go with the Top 25:

 1. The Tonight Show – from Steve Allen through Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno (even Conan O’Brien), this program has been part of our lives for almost 60 years.

2. All in the Family – it broke new ground for sitcoms and led to four spin-off series.

3. ER – the greatest TV drama of all-time, it survived many cast changes to hold its audience and maintain its quality for 15 seasons.

4. Mary Tyler Moore Show – a classic cast assisted by classic writing.

5. I Love Lucy – two great stars and two strong supporting actors made it TV’s first gigantic hit. Desi Arnaz played a bigger role in the show’s success than is generally credited.

6. 60 Minutes – a news program with success levels only top entertainment programs have achieved.

7. Ed Sullivan Show – he brought us Elvis, the Beatles and much more every Sunday night for 23 years.

8. The Simpsons – the greatest of all animated shows, featuring cutting-edge comedy and fabulous characters.

9. The Honeymooners – Gleason and Carney at their very best.

10. Saturday Night Live – some of our finest comic actors got their first major exposure here.

11. Dick Van Dyke Show – the star was backed up by a comedy cast as good as any.

12. Andy Griffith Show – it started as a small town story about a man and his son and took off with unforgettable comedy performances. 

13. M*A*S*H – a funny look at war which, like other great shows, survived major cast changes.

14. Today Show – like the Tonight Show, this early-morning program maintained its excellence throughout many changes.

15. Dallas – for over a decade, America was hooked on the Ewing Family, its friends and enemies.

16. Seinfeld – the show about “nothing” was really all about Manhattan, as told through the eyes of the star and his strange group of friends.

17. Playhouse 90 – this dramatic program from the 1950s introduced viewers to great plays and even greater actors.

18. Late Night with David Letterman – both very late on NBC and just plain late on CBS, Dave has taken the medium to new levels.

19. Law and Order – There are many versions and all have offered quality stories – its success also opened the door for the CSI series.

20. Oprah – for a quarter century she marched a unique mix of guests before her loyal audience.

21. Sesame Street – no program has had as great an educational impact on kids – while entertaining them.

22. The Daily Show – Jon Stewart and his brilliant group of reporters and editors have elevated a Comedy Channel show to the most watched late night program.

23. The Twilight Zone – Rod Serling’s great anthology of unusual stories has been imitated but never duplicated.

24. Cheers – another great comedy that survived cast changes and never lost its appeal.

25. The West Wing – a terrific cast gave us a look at how things get done, and don’t get done, in the White House.

Now, let’s see if we can put together The 20 Greatest TV Stars:

1. Mary Tyler Moore

2. Lucille Ball

3. Bill Cosby

4. Michael Landon

5. Bob Newhart

6. Johnny Carson

7. Carroll O’Connor

8. Dick Van Dyke

9. Jackie Gleason

10. Oprah Winfrey

11. James Garner

12. Dinah Shore

13. Red Skelton

14. Larry Hagman

15. Steve Allen

16. William Shatner

17. David Letterman

18. Andy Griffith

19. Jon Stewart

20. Carol Burnett

Here are the 5 Greatest Supporting Characters:

1. Barney Fife (Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show)

2. Ed Norton (Art Carney on The Honeymooners)

3. Radar O’Reilly (Gary Burghoff on M*A*S*H)

4. Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler on Happy Days)

5. Kramer (Michael Richards on Seinfeld)


Now the Top 5 Teen or Child Performers.

1. Ron Howard (The Andy Griffith Show)

2. Fred Savage (The Wonder Years)

3. Patty Duke (The Patty Duke Show)

4. Sally Field (Gidget)

5. Jerry Mathers (Leave it to Beaver)

And finally, the 10 greatest opening themes:

1. The Twilight Zone (“you’re traveling through another dimension”)       

2. The Andy Griffith Show (you can all whistle the tune!)

3. Dragnet (dum-de-dum-dum – it became part of our language)

4. Peter Gunn (a giant hit record for Henry Mancini)

5. All in the Family (Archie & Edith at the piano)

6. The Jeffersons (“movin’ on up...”)

7. Hawaii Five-0 (another big hit record)

8. The Lone Ranger (“a cloud of dust and a hearty hi-ho Silver!”)

9. Cheers (“where everybody knows your name”)

10. Dukes of Hazzard (“Good Old Boys” by Waylon Jennings)

(Special mention to The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island and The Patty Duke Show, whose themes all told you the entire story of the show!)

There you have it. Do you agree with our best of television? At least you now know the basics as you get ready for Sunday’s Emmys telecast. And, if you don’t like this season’s new shows, many of these are available in DVD sets.


Words of Wisdom: “Television itself is an intimate medium. It's in your house. You're visiting with these people. Not everybody's going to like it, just like not everybody likes everybody on the playground. I mean, that's life – especially if your job is to just go out there and be yourself.”

(Rachael Ray)


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