The Writers Guild of America selected the 101 best written TV series of all time. Here’s what we have to say about the top five.
1. The Sopranos
It would be a crime NOT to put David Chase’s mob drama about Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini) at the top of the list. By showcasing intense issues with an artistically graphic and entertaining flair, the writers struck ground in the mafia genre and created a family that “gave us an offer we couldn’t refuse.” Six un-fogget-able seasons led us to an infamous series finale that left viewers forever in disbelief. No one can remember what the episode was about, but the cliffhanger ending will forever stick in our minds. Cue “Don’t Stop Believing.”
There might be “no soup for you” but WGA gave a second place nod to Seinfeld‘s co-creators, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Although David’s spot at #30 for Curb Your Enthusiasm recognizes the show’s “retroscripting” of an outlined plot filled with improvised dialogue, Seinfeld is a sitcom where the writers essentially write about “nothing.” While episodes are mainly based on the writers’ real-life experiences, the fictionalized antics of Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer have become a cultural phenomenon through classic episodes such as “The Puffy Shirt” and “The Pez Dispenser.” Yada, yada, yada.
3. The Twilight Zone
It is easy to recognize the haunting success of the sci-fi fantasy series through its evolution into a feature film, a radio series, a comic book and a variety of other spin-offs. But however revered the series is in the world of sci-fi lovers, it is difficult to decipher who should be commemorated for the series’ lasting effect on pop culture: the writers of the series or the composers of the iconic theme song. The thrilling Twilight Zone achieves something that is less common in television today by allowing the politically symbolic stories to be the star of the series, even though several of the actors (i.e. Robert Redford, William Shatner, and Carol Burnett) went on to become icons.
4. All in the Family
While the CBS sitcom wasn’t initially a television hit, it soon blew up with its depiction of controversial issues never before seen in a sitcom format. Notorious for using television comedy to generate a national conversation on difficult issues, the writers revolved present day conflicts around family life inside a Queens home. A true test of the show’s success is that even though the show ended over 30 years ago, the well-written but not always politially correct characters still influence their most faithful viewers: the recent death of beloved actress Jean Stapelton, best known as the family’s matriarch Edith Bunker, has left many fans in mourning.
M*A*S*H, starring Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers, is most notable for being the only long-running series based around a war zone. However, it is also commemorated for its flawless integration of comedy and the traumatic themes inevitable in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. The series spans a three-year military conflict during the Korean War, but the real beauty of many of the plotlines is that they were founded on stories told by real MASH surgeons interviewed by the production team. To make M*A*S*H even more deserving of a top spot on the list, its series finale in 1983 was the most-watched television show of that time.