#48. The Cosby Show (1984-1992)
Bill Cosby’s groundbreaking show about wealthy African-American family raising five children in Brooklyn Heights NY. Cosby is Cliff Huxtable the patriarch of the family and also a doctor. Phylicia Rashad plays his wife Claire, a successful lawyer. Bill Cosby’s greatest achievement in his long career, it was an instant hit and sustained its prominence in the ratings for eight years.
Notable Performance: Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable
Memorable Episode: Season 2 Episode 3: Happy Anniversary
#47. Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List (2005-2010)
Kathy Griffin is one of my favorite comedians, but she is the funniest when she is herself. That is why this show is so hilarious. Kathy, along with her assistants, takes on any and all jobs to try to move herself up the celebrity ladder. Her 80-year-old, wine drinking Mom steals the show when she is on, and you can see where Kathy gets her sense of humor from. This is the only reality show on my list that isn’t a competitive one. The reason is because the show is really well done. Kathy comes off as her sharp-tongued, celebrity bashing self, and we love it.
Notable Performance: Kathy Griffin as Herself (Emmy Winner 2007 & 2008)
Memorable Episode: Season 2 Episode 3: Iraq
#46. CSI (2000-Present)
When CSI debuted in 2000, it blew all other procedurals out of the water. It changed the way crime shows were depicted including some of the most grisly and graphic images on network television . CSI was an intelligent look at crimes and how the scene of the crime can tell the story. Las Vegas is the setting for the show which allows for endless possibilities of wrongdoings for our investigators. William Petersen was great as Gil Grissom, the leader of the night shift team, unfortunately the show lost a little bit when he departed in season 9.
Notable Performance: William Petersen as Gil Grissom
Memorable Episode: Season 5 Episodes 24 & 25 : Grave Danger Volume 1 & Grave Danger Volume 2
#45. The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)
It’s campy and cheesy and that is why it’s so great. The Brady Bunch is about a man and woman who marry and join their families. He has three boys and she has three girls, so let the antics begin. The straight-laced Brady’s always taught their kids to do the right thing and each show had a heartfelt message. The Brady Bunch is a huge part of pop culture, there are so many memorable episodes it is hard to narrow it down to just one.
Notable Performance: Ann B. Davis as Alice Nelson
Memorable Episode: Season 2 Episode 15: Will the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up?
#44. American Idol (2002-Present)
This powerhouse reality show dominates the ratings from January to May every year. Thousands of singers hope to be picked to go to Hollywood and compete to be a contestant on Idol. They must sing their hearts our each week and be judged by the judges and ultimately America, because we are the ones who are voting. It is a show that, universally, everyone can relate to and it is fun to root for the average Joe to get the chance to be a superstar.
Notable Performance: Simon Cowell as Himself
Memorable Episode: Season 2 Episode 39: Clay vs. Ruben
#43. Law & Order (1990 – 2010)
A brilliant procedural that wraps up the whole case in one episode. The first half you see the crime and police making the arrest, then the second half focuses on the trial and outcome of the case. It is such a great concept that it worked for 20 seasons and 2 successful spin-offs. The characters changed some over 20 years, but Law & Order does such a great job of giving us just enough back story to these people that we do care about them. Yet, the fact that we are not highly involved in their personal lives makes it so easy to watch any episode at any time of any season and we haven’t missed a thing.
Notable Performance: Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Briscoe
Memorable Episode: Season 9 Episode 20: Empire
#42. The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1978)
A Saturday Night Live-esque show that featured hilarious skits with recurring characters. Carol Burnett was comedy in the late 60’s. The show won a ton of Emmy’s and was the show to watch at the time. There were only five main cast members but slew of guest stars that graced the stage. The show wasn’t shown live, but it had that feel to it. Burnett interacted with the audience and many of the actors broke character and couldn’t stop laughing, most notably Harvey Korman.
Notable Performance: Vicki Lawrence as Thelma “Mama” Harper
Memorable Episode: Season 11 Episode 24: A Special Evening with Carol Burnett
#41. Murphy Brown (1988-1998)
Murphy Brown was about a strong female journalist at a television show, FYI. It was a really smart, sophisticated show that centered on Brown and her colleagues at the news room. Brown’s personal choices were the subject of a, now infamous, fight with Dan Quayle. She chose to raise a child, unmarried. Now it seems absurd that it would cause controversy, but Quayle made a big deal about it in one of his speeches and the writers just used it in the show.
Notable Performance: Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown (Emmy Winner 1989, 1990, 1992, 1994 & 1995)
Memorable Episode: Season 5 Episodes 1 & 2: You Say Potatoe, I Say Potato Parts 1 & 2
#40. The Office (U.K.) (2001-2003)
The original British version of the mockumentary comedy. Ricky Gervais played David Brent, the boss of the paper company in Slough. He is immature and sometimes offensive, but thinks he is really cool and hilarious. Rounding out the office is Tim a sales rep who likes the receptionist Dawn, and plays practical jokes on his deskmate Gareth. The American version uses a lot of elements from the original series, yet they got to develop the characters more, since The Office U.K. was only on for 2 years.
Notable Performance: Ricky Gervais as David Brent
Memorable Episode: Season 1 Episode 1: Downsize
#39. Mad Men (2007-Present)
Mad Men is about the advertising executives at Sterling Cooper on Madison Avenue in New York City in the 1960’s. It really shows how these men were king at this time. Smoking and drinking were acceptable at anytime and any place, depicting the stress they were always under. Adultery was rampant and women had to fight just to be more than an average housewife. Beautifully shot, amazing acting and incredible sets are a few things that make this show a critical success.
Notable Performance: Jon Hamm as Donald Draper
Memorable Episode: Season 4 Episode 7: The Suitcase
#38. Ally McBeal (1997-2002)
This David E. Kelley quirky drama/comedy is in a category of its own. It is about a law firm in Boston but seen through Ally McBeal’s eyes. We see her fantasies and thoughts come to life as she struggles with a new job where her ex works with his new wife. Lots of oddball characters and funny guest stars made this show a must see in its early days. The craziness could only go so long until it got too out of the box for the average viewer. No other show has been able to maintain the bizarre with the serious as well since.
Notable Performance: Peter MacNichol as John Cage
Memorable Episode: Season 3 Episode 16: Boy Next Door
#37. Family Ties (1982-1989)
A great show about a couple of former hippies raising four kids in the suburbs. Family Ties always hit on some tough family issues and had them play out very realistically. Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter were great as parents Steve and Elyse Keaton, but it was Michael J. Fox that stole the show and skyrocketed his career, as conservative Alex P. Keaton.
Notable Performance: Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton (Emmy Winner 1986, 1987 & 1988)
Memorable Episode: Season 2 Episode 14: Say Uncle