There are twenty-five incredible shows on this list. Most have come and gone, a couple are on now. This list is numbered but it is in chronological order to reflect in what order they blew my mind.
1. Sesame Street (1969-present)
Multicultural, urban, smart, incredibly funny, and warm. This was the most influential media of my childhood, with Richard Scarry a close second.
2. Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-1974)
The Decline of Western Civilization began at the end of the airing of the skit called Philosopher’s Soccer Match. That was the peak of Western Culture and we’ve been in a decline ever since.
3. Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-1979)
This was the first show that I chose by myself. It was subversive, uniquely New York, and no one in my family understood it. I showed up for my 4th Grade class picture in a Sweathogs t-shirt and no relatives got copies of pictures that year.
4. NBC's Saturday Night (Live) (1975-present)
This blew my mind from the first time I saw it. I would sleep over at a friends house every Saturday night in order to watch it, and the entirety of my sense of humor, love of New York, and subsequent college choice stemmed from these origins.
5. The David Letterman Show (1980)
I was in Middle School and would get up early to watch when I could, and would VHS everything else. Chris Elliot and Rich Hall were awesome and Dave was just getting started.
6. Fridays (1980-1982)
SNL was transitioning and Fridays was rebellious AND from the otherside of the country. This show introduced me to LA culture more than anything, and the Andy Kaufman stuff was mind-blowing. Also, a lot of very early Larry David and Michael Richards genius. But the kicker for me was this was the show that hosted the Clash’s American TV debut.
7. Late Night with David Letterman (1982-1993)
Once we all got to college this was the only show we continued to watch – school nights at 12:30 AM. It was the only show that mattered.
8. Pee-wee's Playhouse (1986-1990)
Pure genius from day one. Everyone in Generation X has a little bit of Peter Pan Syndrome, and Pee-wee was the Prince of our Id.
9. Star Trek: the Next Generation (1987-1994)
Improves on the original and set standards for intelligence and science fiction on TV. It’s helped by the long and excellent career of Capt. Picard as Professor X.
10. The Simpsons (1989-present)
In SF, in the mid-90s, during the first few seasons people would collect every Thursday night at the Toronado in Lower Haight to watch in big public groups. This show started out as an Underdog because Matt G. was best know as the cartoonist in all of our hometown alternative weeklies.
11. The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998)
Still amazing after all these years. I especially liked the Jeremy Piven appearances, prior to becoming Ari.
12. Beavis & Butt-head (1993-1997)
I think this is somewhat under-appreciated. It’s not dumb, it’s just pretending to be dumb in a really smart way.
13. Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-1999)
Baltimore. Great dialogue. Eventually set up The Wire, so it’s influential beyond what it gets credit for usually.
14. The Daily Show (from 1999-present)
Consistently good and a farm system for a lot of genius comedy.
15. The Sopranos (1999-2007)
It’s from a genre but it breaks a lot of rules. It’s simply well written and enduring.
16. The West Wing (1999-2006)
Sorkin’s best – witty, fast paced, political and slightly chaotic. It got a lot of people through the years when we didn’t have a very good real president, and so a fictional one had to do.
17. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-2011)
It’s funny because it’s real. I’m only so-so on Seinfeld, but this is the bookend to the Friday’s I loved so much (at #6).
18. The Wire (2002-2008)
The list is chronological but this is #1. The language, the settings, the characters and the acting is all the best it’s ever been on TV.
19. Archer (2010-present)
Out of control and funny as hell. I’d live in that world.
20. Mad Men (2007-2015)
What started as a period piece for an industry (agencies) that I was working within, became a beloved drama about everything else.
21. Parks and Recreation (2009-present)
Greg Daniels is a great. He’s been a huge part of a number of great shows listed in my top 100 including: Not Necessarily the News, Saturday Night Live, King of the Hill, The Office and the Simpsons.
22. Boardwalk Empire (2009-2014)
Slept-on by most, but Steve Buscemi is awesome and fully deserves to have this as a series remembered with him the primary lead. The supporting cast are all great as well.
23. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
So, this one is a genius series. It just unfolds so well over so long, that alone is remarkable. It’s pace is very New Mexico. The details of the character development, and the way the plot reveals just enough to keep you hooked—fantastic. Also, Better Call Saul is currently adding to the legacy and re-enforcing Bob Odenkirk as the unsung 3rd character in the original.
24. Game of Thrones (2011-present)
Not my genre. Not my my genre. But, it’s not bad. Holy crap. Ok, this is frickin’ awesome. Is it every coming back?
25. Mr. Robot (2015-present)
Dude. WTF is going on? Amazing. Real hacking. Real plot twists. Psycho shit. I can’t wait for this to come back.
Japan Bonus: The #1 show ever in Japan—Susunu! Denpa Shōnen (Nasubi) (1998-2002)
Tomoaki Hamatsu, better known as Nasubi , is a Japanese comedian who was locked up in an apartment from January 1998 to March 2002 as part of a Japanese reality television show on Nippon Television after winning a lottery for a “show business related job”.
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