#24. Alias (2001 -2006)
I didn’t watch Alias when it aired on television. It peaked my interest as I heard about it being a similar show to Lost. Jennifer Garner stars as Sydney Bristow, a seemingly young college student, but really a recruited CIA spy. The show is action packed, but the real draw of the show is the relationships of the characters. Sydney’s estranged father is also in the CIA, mystery constantly surrounds her dead mother, and she is in love with her CIA handler Michael Vaughn. The series was only on for five seasons, but there was such an underlying mythology woven throughout, that made the show very credible.
Notable Performances: Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow
Victor Garber as Jack Bristow
Memorable Episode: Season 2 Episode 22 : The Telling
#23. Friends (1994 – 2004)
In the 90’s there were countless shows that tried to mimic Seinfeld. What made Friends different from all the other shows was primarily the cast. The connection that these six main characters had with each other was evident on-screen. The actors were all so talented, that, along with witty writing made for a sure-fire hit. The ongoing relationship with Ross and Rachel was really the heart of the show. It started with that and after ten seasons it ended with that.
Notable Performance: Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay (Emmy Winner 1998)
Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green (Emmy Winner 2002)
Memorable Episode: Season 2 Episode 7 : The One Where Ross Finds Out
#22. The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964)
The sci-fi show that spawned endless others. Rod Serling’s masterpiece focused each week on ordinary people put in bizarre, unimaginable situations. It was one of the first shows, along with Hitchcock Presents, that was very thought-provoking. It had some really strong messages about how we, as humans, live our lives. The Twilight Zone is probably most famous for its twist ending of each episode. It has now been fifty years since the show aired and people still refer to a shocking ending of a show or movie as a “Twilight Zone ending”.
Notable Performance: Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis
Memorable Episodes: Season 1 Episode 8: Time Enough at Last
Season 2 Episode 6: Eye of the Beholder
Season 5 Episode 3: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
#21. The Comeback (2005)
Lisa Kudrow’s hilarious comedy about Valerie Cherish, a washed up actress trying to make her way back in the business. Cameras follow Valerie as she has landed a new sitcom Room and Bored as the older Aunt Sassy. Done in a documentary style, this HBO series didn’t have enough time to really blossom. It only lasted one season, where as today, I think it would have been more receptive to viewers. Lisa Kudrow’s first post-Friends tv show, she came out swinging. She shines as Valerie Cherish and we really get to see what a great talented comedic actress she is. This is definitely one of the most tragic cancellations in history.
Notable Performances: Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish
Robert Michael Morris as Mickey Deane
Memorable Episode: Season 1 Episode 2 : Valerie Triumphs at the Upfronts
#20. The New Adventures of Old Christine (2006-2010)
The Seinfeld curse is finally broken. Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Christine Campbell (Old Christine) a divorced mother who is still friends with her ex husband, who is now in a relationship with a younger woman also named Christine, a.k.a. New Christine. A great premise for a show and Louis-Dreyfus is wonderful as Old Christine. The self-absorbed, wine drinking, promiscuous 40 something is trying to be the best mother she can, but of course she gets in her own way. A remarkable cast surrounding her makes it seem like these people are an actual dysfunctional family. Another show cancelled too soon and unfortunately didn’t get a rightful ending.
Notable Performance: Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Christine Campbell
Hamish Linklater as Matthew Kimble
Wanda Sykes as Barb Baran
Memorable Episode: Season 4 Episode 3 : White Like Me
#19. The Amazing Race (2001 – Present)
The Amazing Race has all the elements of a great reality show rolled into one. It has great characters, difficult challenges and exotic locations. Together it makes for a great hour every week. Teams of two race around the world searching for clues to their next destination. They must battle the elements of each country, road blocks, detours and each other to get to the end to win a million dollars.
Notable Performances: Phil Keoghan as the Host
Memorable Episode: Season 15 Episode 5 : Do it For the Hood! Do it For the Suburbs!
#18. The Simpsons (1989 – Present)
The Matt Groening animated sitcom about a family in Springfield is still going strong in its 22nd season. The Simpsons consist of Homer and Marge and their children Bart, Lisa and Maggie. Bart, who is notorious for getting into all kinds of mischief, has become a pop culture icon. Homer Simpson has grown into being more than just a dimwit, he really tries to do right by his family. Homer was chosen by EW as the #1 television character of all time. The Simpsons have the same great voice actors as they had when they first began on The Tracey Ullman Show. Hundreds of famous celebrities have provided voices over the years such as Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and Elizabeth Taylor.
Notable Performance: Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson
Memorable Episode: Season 6 Episode 25: Who Shot Mr. Burns?: Part 1
#17. 30 Rock (2006 – Present)
30 Rock is based on Tina Fey’s reign as head writer on Saturday Night Live. Fey’s character Liz Lemon is the head writer of a skit comedy show and she tries to keep all the craziness in check, especially with her outrageous star of the show Tracey Jordan, played by Tracey Morgan. Her boss Jack Donaghy is all business but ends up being a real confidant to Liz. The show is very hip and the jokes are quick-witted. Tina Fey is a genius and this was a perfect transition for her from SNL. Tons of powerhouse guest stars pushes this shows quality over the top.
Notable Performances: Tina Fey as Liz Lemon (Emmy Winner 2008)
Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy (Emmy Winner 2008 & 2009)
Memorable Episode: Season 5 Episode 4: Live Show
#16. Grey’s Anatomy (2005 – Present)
Grey’s Anatomy follows the surgical staff at Seattle Grace hospital. If I had done this list last year I think that Grey’s would have been a much higher number. I always enjoyed Grey’s Anatomy but I thought it was another soapy medical drama. Now, after seven seasons, I can see that creator Shonda Rhimes established very well-defined characters. It took me six years to see it but this season of Grey’s really opened my mind and I could see the development of these people. At the end of Season 6 there was an explosive episode with a shooting at the hospital. Season 7, then, focused on what the ramifications of what that event did to everyone. It was a very real depiction of how trauma is dealt with even months after the fact. Grey’s doesn’t get the critical acclaim it deserves, it is a terrific show with an amazing cast.
Notable Performances: Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepard
Chandra Wilson as Miranda Bailey
Sara Ramirez as Callie Torres
Memorable Episodes: Season 6 Episode 23: Sanctuary
Season 6 Episode 24: Death and All His Friends
#15. Top Chef (2006 – Present)
This is the highest reality show that I have on my list. Top Chef is a delicious look at chefs competing in, sometimes silly, challenges to see who will be the culinary champion. The contestants are actual chefs from across the country and if you didn’t know, chefs have big personalities, which makes for great tv. There are three main judges but each week there is a guest judge who is usually a big name in the foodie world. Top Chef recently won the Emmy for best reality show.
Notable Performance: Tom Colicchico as Head Judge
Memorable Episode: Season 8 Episode 1: History Never Repeats
#14. The X – Files (1993 – 2002)
The X-Files was another show that I did not watch live when it aired. It wasn’t until after the series ended that I watched the entire nine seasons on DVD. It took me a couple of years to do, but I am so glad that I did. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully are FBI agents assigned to the X-Files, a department that investigates unexplained events. Mulder is a true believer and Scully is the forever skeptic. Together they are my second favorite partnership to ever grace the small screen. What a great match to delve into the deep twisted phenomenon of the universe. The X-Files was also the first show that I remember seeing a mythology to the back story of the characters. Definitely one of the best sci-fi shows ever made and gave the Fox network some much-needed credence.
Notable Performances: David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
Memorable Episode: Season 2 Episode 25: Anasazi
#13. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-Present)
Larry David’s autobiographical look at his life post Seinfeld. David was the writer and co-creator of Seinfeld and now lives in LA with his wife, but nothing seems to make him happy. Larry has all the money he could wish for, a beautiful wife, a lovely home, but yet the smallest things tick him off and he just can’t get over them. A perfect show for HBO because it needs the profanity and inappropriate subject matter in it to make it all that much funnier. A really, really hilarious show that also pokes fun at the LA lifestyle of a celebrity. His friends often appear in episodes like Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Lewis and Wanda Sykes. The highlight of Curb was a Seinfeld reunion arc that included the cast altogether for the first time since it went off the air.
Notable Performances: Larry David as Larry David
Susie Essman as Susie Greene
Memorable Episode: Season 7 Episode 3 : The Reunion