The Best Television Dramas of all Time

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Pogo Pogo's picture

N.Beltov wrote:

I really don't understand this Sopranos thing. I made a decision not to watch a show that portrayed gangsters in a positive light, even after it was clear to me that the show would be very popular, and I still stick to my decision. To each their own.

Mind you, i still watch Canucks hockey... and that's a kind of male soap opera I suppose. But i actually played ice hockey at one time, still skate, and (very rarely) play a game of pick up as well.

  So you have no problems with people watching Sopranos if they have loanshark experience?  Does skimming from my kids allowance count?

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

The Simpson's.  /thread

G. Muffin

I kind of liked Judging Amy with Tyne Daley.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Pogo, i just treated The Sopranos as a drama/"soap opera", that's all. My own hockey background isn't relevant to my main point of not wanting to participate in what I thought was the glorification of gangsters. I think real gangsters probably liked the show ... but i really don't know.


I don't think The Sopranos portrays anyone in a good light.  Everyone in that series was somehow corrupted. 

Throughout most of the series I thought little Anthony was the lone innocent, but by the end he had sold his soul as well.

Pogo Pogo's picture

N.B. nothing serious intended.  I do admit though that I enjoy gangster shows.  What I found with Soprano's is that it showed that business trumped friendship and often trumped family and the people that failed to live by this rule soon found themselves on the wrong side of the ball.  The psychopathic nature of the mobsters transfers directly to our captains of business.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

There is an intimate connection between gangsterism in North America and the political efforts to weaken the trade union movement in both Canada and the US. Gangsterism had polluted the trade union movement although, it could be mentioned, at one time when trade unions were criminalized by the bourgeois state (i.e., prior to WW2 in both countries) there could easily have been overlap. For example, the destruction of the left-led Canadian Seaman's Union after World War 2 involved the joint participation of the Canadian state and gangsters (one Hal Banks, e.g.) to carry out this nefarious deed. There's a lot more under that rock that has never seen the light of day.

Anyway, that's where I'm coming from when I make remarks like I did above.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

N.Beltov wrote:

Pogo, i just treated The Sopranos as a drama/"soap opera", that's all. My own hockey background isn't relevant to my main point of not wanting to participate in what I thought was the glorification of gangsters. I think real gangsters probably liked the show ... but i really don't know.

I'm not sure actual gangsters WOULD have liked that show.  In showing how deeply flawed and human gangsters were, it was a direct challenge to their "macho" image.  They might well have taken it as threatening in that it showed them as potentially weak(which, ironically, was the fear that had kept Tony Soprano from seeking counselling from Dr. Melfi for a long time).


If I were asked for the one scene that would define The Sopranos, it would be where Junior Soprano, a guy who conspired with his sister-in-law to whack his own nephew, sang Catari, Catari (Core 'ngrato ).  He was pouring his heart out into a beautiful song, surrounded by weeping gangsters yet having candies thrown at him by Tony's daughter.


Here's the scene


I'm not sure why Lucienne Boyer's Parlez-moi d'amour (I have the 78 too), and those other songs were tagged onto that scene.  Maybe to show how universal Junior's sentiments are?

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

If you get the chance to get it on DVD, watch the "American Family" series that was on PBS(No, not the documentary about the Loud Family from the early Seventies).

It starred Edward James Olmos, Raquel Welch, Esai Morales and Constance Marie, among others, and was a brilliang extended series about a Mexican American family in Los Angeles.  It started with gritty realism then went to magical realism in the last season.  Watch it.  It will amaze you.

ceti ceti's picture

Wow so many BSG and Caprica stars! Okay, just Olmos and Morales who actually have a strong activist backgrounds. 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

David Simon, Creator of The Wire, Speaks on Felicia "Snoop" Pearson's Arrest

First of all, Felicia's entitled to the presumption of innocence. And I would note that a previous, but recent drug arrest that targeted her was later found to be unwarranted and the charges were dropped. Nonetheless, I'm certainly sad at the news today. This young lady has, from her earliest moments, had one of the hardest lives imaginable.  And whatever good fortune came from her role in The Wire seems, in retrospect, limited to that project. She worked hard as an actor and was entirely professional, but the entertainment industry as a whole does not offer a great many roles for those who can portray people from the other America. There are, in fact, relatively few stories told about the other America.


Catchfire wrote:
David Simon, Creator of The Wire, Speaks on Felicia "Snoop" Pearson's Arrest

First of all, Felicia's entitled to the presumption of innocence. And I would note that a previous, but recent drug arrest that targeted her was later found to be unwarranted and the charges were dropped. Nonetheless, I'm certainly sad at the news today. This young lady has, from her earliest moments, had one of the hardest lives imaginable.  And whatever good fortune came from her role in The Wire seems, in retrospect, limited to that project. She worked hard as an actor and was entirely professional, but the entertainment industry as a whole does not offer a great many roles for those who can portray people from the other America. There are, in fact, relatively few stories told about the other America.

Sad news.


I'm pretty sure the Simpsons isn't a drama series.

Northern Exposure was the best, ever*, followed by Traders, This is Wonderland and Boston Legal. I suppose Wonderland was too Canadian and didn't live long enough to be considered, but BL should certainly have made it, for writing, acting, topical content and sheer guts.

*because it dealt with everything from psychology to culture to social relations, was witty, varied and credible, even in its casual, everyday magic.

knownothing knownothing's picture

The West Wing is by far the best TV Drama ever made. Too bad the Democrats weren't like that in real life however.


I didn't miss an episode of Boardwalk Empire.  I like it for lots of reasons.  It's a "gangster" show, it takes place in the 20s (CTV used to have a show in the 70s called "Flappers" that I used to like), and it's historically pretty accurate.


I watch Nurse Jackie too.  I just started watching it as episodes were released only a couple of weeks ago.  I discovered it on the rerun channel and watched the first two seasons last summer over about two weeks.  The show is good, while Jackie herself is a horrible person, yet a good nurse.

Now these aren't dramas, but the kids used to have their butts parked on the chesterfield watching Mythbusters when I'd get home from work; now when I get home I find them watching three English guys drive cars for half an hour.  I disremember the name of the show right now...I'll get back to you.

Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture

500_Apples wrote:

These people are lacking in credibility, check out what they wrote about Battlestar Galactica:

To call it the greatest modern sci-fi series would be to damn it with faint praise - it's so much more. With towering performances all round, anchored by Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell (two people you'd really like to be running things if we're ever facing apocalypse) it was some of the most breathtaking, passionate and emotional drama that TV has ever given us. The plots were deft essays that touched on heavyweight topics such as the division between church and state, or the balance between faith and destiny, without ever forgetting to be anything less than totally entertaining. It also proved the scope of its relevance with one of the most articulate depictions of the war on terror that TV has ever dared to approach. But yes, it has mean-looking robots so it will probably always be filed under geek. Still, it's genius - so say we all. RV

Oh right, science fiction is for them stupid nerds, we're sophisticates we prefer the relationship drama of Six Feet Under !!!

Doctor Who, The original Outer Limits, star trek, B5, Firefly, Dollhouse, Sarah Connor Chronicles, X-Files ... those shows are not interesting at all. They're for losers.

PS Mad Men is a good show, but it's definitely not that good. I think people who rank it that high, a top 5 show of all time, must have too much fun vicariously experiencing the privileges men had in the 1960s.


Let's face facts about BSG-it's a [url=]mundane's[/url] show, pure and simple.

This show, by virtue of having a distant civilation wear suits and ties, eat chicken pie, hamburgers, drive around in Humvees, use corded phones while on a spaceship, have bullets instead of laser weaponry, and a couple of other things that don't compute, is not really sic-fi. It has the trappings of sci-fi, but it really isn't sci-fi. That's why the Guardian rates it quite highly-Star Trek had too many alien characters for their liking, as did Babylon 5, The Outer Limits had that last thing plus stories that the mundanes couldn't get into, Firefly was too weird..I could go on, but I won't. I'll just say that BSG is a mundane's show, and leave it at that.

As for BSG itself, I have a great review about it that explains why it isn't sci-fi, which I will post:


God I really, really want to like this new show, the "re-imagined" Battlestar Galactica, developed by Ron Moore and currently airing in reruns on The Sci Fi Channel (before a second season starts soon). I keep telling myself I shouldn't be an Old Fogey (even though I'm only 35) about this. I should not keep stating that the old show was better, more fun, more successful in terms of its characterizations, effects and production design. After all, the new show is winning critical accolades right and left. It's not just the second coming of Battlestar Galactica. It's the Second Coming for Science Fiction on TV, we're supposed to believe. Well. Okay. I guess. I can almost swallow that Kool Aid. But then again, I am old enough to remember when people said that

I wrote a book all about the underpinnings of the original Battlestar Galactica in 1997, which was published by McFarland in 1998, entitled
An Analytical Guide to TV's Battlestar Galactica. You can buy it at I argued there -- hopefully persuasively -- that the
original Battlestar Galactica had its flaws, but that despite them, it was a unique and interesting series. And for a number of reasons, I
claimed this was indeed so. The great expense of the original 1978 series (more than a million dollars per episode...) assured
imaginative costumes, impressive sets, and the best and most convincing special effects yet developed for American television (Space:1999 was British...). On top of production values, enormously appealing actors like Dirk Benedict and Richard Hatch made the show more than the Star Wars rip-off the MSM wanted to make it out to be, and as the show developed over the weeks, it actually boasted something akin to a story arc. Finally, I also felt the original Battlestar Galactica had an interesting hawkish philosophy that differentiated it from Star Trek, and an interesting use of Christian and Greek/Roman mythology.

On the latter front, for instance, Battlestar Galactica made more than a token attempt to remind us that the lead characters were all from
another planet, another solar system. The characters had names like Athena, Apollo, Lucifer, and Adama, and in the first episode, the survivors of the Twelve Colonies crossed a red-hued mine field that was the equivalent to the Red Sea. The characters said "yahren"
instead of year. When they cursed, it was "frak" or "felgercarb." When they smoked a cigar it was a "fumarello." When they counted down time units, it was "centons" and "microns." Dogs were "daggits," and dollars were "cubits." It might have been ham-handed or silly at
times, but this attempt at a legitimate Colonial language/lexicon granted the Battlestar Galactica world a veneer at least of
otherworldly reality. We actually believed that these were "brothers of man," out in space; people like us, but not actually from Earth. We
could suspend disbelief.

And for me, that's the thing that's almost wholly absent in the ripped-from-the-headlines, September 11th-style re-imagination. I was
shocked to hear Starbuck quote the Tom Cruise movie Top Gun (1986) in one episode, noting a pilot cadet's "need for speed." I was
disappointed to hear thoroughly earthbound references to "stogies" (instead of fumarellos) and "lemonade." I was disappointed that all
the characters wear contemporary-style ties, business suits, and glasses, and that on occasion, are wont to exclaim "Jesus" rather than
say "Oh Gods" (as they often do in later episodes). Whoa! The feeling that these people are from another world (another friggin'
galaxy maybe!) - and not models starring in Pier One commercials - is totally lost in this new Galactica. And for that reason, I keep
wanting to scream at the screen --- you ain't from Earth! You haven't seen Top Gun! Come on, Ron Moore, you can do better than that! I saw Carnivale - it rocked!! And the work you did on DS9 and Next Gen --friggin' brilliant stuff, dude!

And then I start get bitter, you see. And here's why: This new and (improved?) Battlestar Galactica was never designed to be faithful to
the original. Never. Oh, the execs and the story editors say so, but they just aren't being honest, perhaps even with themselves. What is
quite obvious from the TV episodes is that the writers want this show to be about us. Here. On Earth. In 2005. Dealing with Abu Ghraib.
Dealing with Faith-Based Politics. Okay, that's cool - actually daring even - but it's not, repeat NOT true to the history and character of
Battlestar Galactica. If truth be told, it's a helluva lot closer to Space: Above and Beyond(1995) than it is Battlestar Galactica. These
new creators are simply using the title Battlestar Galactica as quick franchise identification. The name is a marketing tool, nothing more.

Consider all the changes to the franchise core. The Cylons are no longer robotic machines (okay, occasionally they are...) but rather
Terminator-like human "sleepers" (like Al Qaeda! Get it?) "Apollo" is no longer a character's name, but a call-sign like Tom Cruise's
"Maverick" (shit, what's this unhealthy obsession with Top Gun anyway?) Starbuck is no longer a man, but a woman. Boomer is no longer
a black man, but an Asian woman, and Colonel Tigh is no longer a loyal, upstanding lieutenant to Adama, but a Dick Cheney-lookalike
with a drinking problem and a whore for a wife. The Colonies look like Earth, down to hairstyles and costumes, not alien worlds. And that's
just for starters! Considering these changes, I think Moore would have been better off to remake Space: Above and Beyond.

But here's the thing: besides you and me (and the other anorak sci-fi TV fans out there) how many people actually remember Space: Above and Beyond? It isn't really a usable title, you see? But Battlestar Galactica?! Gosh, it aired almost thirty years ago, and people still
remember it today, even though it was on ABC for just one season (24 episodes; 17 stories). Sixty-five million people tuned into the
original's premiere back in 1978. So, Battlestar Galactica has a magic ingredient: an exploitable name. And that's just what the makers of this new show needed. They've exploited the name, a few of the key concepts, and then gone and done something completely about face. Is it good? Hell yeah, I do think the new show is good. But again... Galactica...

But frankly, I'm in a minority of one making this argument. Many original Battlestar Galactica fans thoroughly despise me because I
dared (in my book) to speak my mind about the flakiness and bad storytelling of the original (and those dreadful space westerns with
saloons, swinging doors, cowboy boots and horses...) So, given that my thoughts aren't always welcome in the Original Show camp, by all
means, I should be comfortable with the new show, with its FTL jumps and deep story complexities, but I'm not. I'm on my own. I'm a man alone. The old fans don't like me, and I don't really think the new show comes from a place of honesty or faithfulness to the original.
On the new show, I do like the new Baltar. I like the civilian president too. Ive enjoyed Richard Hatch's two guest appearances. I
appreciate how the program visually apes 24-style techniques with hand-held camera work and shaky cams and the like. I think the stories
are decent, and even at times quite compelling, especially as a reflection of the times we live in.

Yet the cynicism of this enterprise (or this battlestar...) depresses me through and through. Why so much sex and nudity every week? I like sex in drama, but it's so overused here as to be a joke. The skinflashing and face-chewing in each installment is entertaining, but all
too calculated. Star Trek did this with Seven of Nine, and now Battlestar Galactica is doing it with Number Six. Isn't it about time we outgrew this clichéd presentation of women in science fiction television? Does Starbuck have to bed every guy (including Baltar and Zac) she meets? And do we have to see it? Is this really good storytelling, or has Battlestar Galactica merely succumbed to the trend in a lot of sci-fi TV and adopted soap opera-style storytelling? I wonder...

And lastly, to get one last thing off my chest. The hype. The bloody, frakking hype.

There's so much hype about how "popular" this new Battlestar Galactica supposedly is. Don't you believe it, buddy. The original drew 65
million viewers during its premiere. The ratings slipped, but the series was still drawing 20 and 30 million viewers regularly , even in
repeats. A new episode of Sci-Fi's Battlestar Galactica if it's lucky, draws four or five million viewers, a fraction of the original series'
pull. So congratulations to the new team. They've taken a blockbuster property and successfully transformed it into a niche one. Is it
successful on the Sci Fi Channel? Sure. Absolutely. But so was John Edward's show about Crossing Over for a while. So was Shannon Doherty's Scare Tactics. So were reruns of Strange World. But Galactica is not what it could have been, had it stayed true to its lineage and

Yet, I'm still watching. And I'm still hoping. There's a lot of good work in this new show, and interesting, developing storylines. But they better stop quoting Top Gun, these so-called aliens from the planet Caprica. Maybe they are receiving transmissions from the is-it real-or-not planet Earth, but only ones somehow related to Scientologists...

Making Lemonade: Or I Feel the Need, the Need for Speed...on the new Battlestar Galactica

Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture

absentia wrote:
Northern Exposure was the best, ever*, followed by TradersThis is Wonderland and Boston Legal. I suppose Wonderland was too Canadian and didn't live long enough to be considered

TradersThis is Wonderland were never shown in the U.K.-that's why they're not on the list.



My personal ranking is The Wire, The Sopranos and Breaking Bad in that order, great characters interesting scripts and only one or two boring seasons in the lot.


My personal ranking is The Wire, The Sopranos and Breaking Bad in that order, great characters interesting scripts and only a few less interesting episodes in the lot.


These don't count as best dramas of all time, but a couple I've gotten hooked on this year are GCB and Once Upon a Time.  Yes, they're fluff, but they're very entertaining!  Once Upon a Time opened really strongly, but I think the episodes have fallen off a bit.  GCB has just started, and it's hysterical.  I guess it's part comedy and part drama, but basically it's a night soap and lots of fun.

I really need to see some of the other series I keep hearing about, like Six Feet Under, The Wire, and Lost.

I watched an episode of Mad Men and didn't even get through it.  I found it boring and trite, and the stereotypes they were making fun of were too obvious even for their satirical take.

I also love cop-and-lawyer dramas, even though I know they manufacture consent.  Law and Order should be on that list somewhere. 

The Canadian cop drama, Flashpoint, isn't too bad either, although their constant refrain of "copy that" while on their radios makes radiorahim insane.  So now, whenever we see it, we automatically say, "Copy that," to each other, and say it at every point where we figure the characters are going to say it.


The Sopranos. Far and away the best.

Law and Order CI is very underrated.

infracaninophile infracaninophile's picture

For made-in-Canada drama series, I have (had) a perverse fondness for Kung Fu:The Legend Continues which ran for 4 seasons in the late 90's and was featured on CHCH and TNT in reruns for several years thereafter.  It was a curious, but well-done mix of action, metaphysics, intrigue, culture and father-son dynamics. I had fun watching the episodes (set in an un-named city) for familiar Toronto landmarks, as it was filmed entirely there.

It had quite a devoted following, so it's surprising Warner Bros. has never marketed the series on DVD. I found pirated ones on the web and enjoyed watching the series again a couple of years ago almost as much as the first time.  You can see most of the episodes on You Tube if so inclined.


Any other fans out there?


"Mad Men" might be a generational thing.  Some of the stuff you might be too young to remember, Michelle.  I'm on the tail end of a lot of that stuff, myself.

There's a lot of authenticity in "Mad Men".  In fact, it's patterned after an actual add agency, and "Don Draper" is losely based on a real person.  The episode where the agency takes a full page add out (after losing the Lucky Strike account) was lifted right from the pages of history-- although the actual event happened in the late 40's, not the 60's. 

The movie "The Hucksters", staring Clarke Gable is also losely based on the same character that Don Draper plays and the same add agency, more period appropriate to the history, though dramatic licence is taken with the facts a lot.

Perhaps the most memorable scene from that movie is Sidney Greenstreet sitting down at a formal meeting at a highly polished oak table, and hawking the most disgusting loogie on the table in front of everyone-- as a lesson in advertising.  The Gable character thinks there is more to advertising than that.

The satirical show "Robot Chicken" did a satire on "Law and order", where all the characters were chickens, and only spoke in variations of "buck-buck-bugaaaack!"  and you got the plot and jist of the story.  Showing how formulaic the show is.


I completely agree that Law and Order is formulaic.  And I still love it!  I also like Criminal Minds a lot. I'm also getting into Unforgettable, which is a bit less substantial than Law and Order, but it's fun.  I like all the Law and Order franchises - I guess the one I see most is Special Victims Unit these days.  BTW, did you know that in Peel Region, they actually have a Special Victims Unit and they call it that?  I found that rather smirkworthy.

I know there were cop shows before Law & Order, but I think Law and Order kind of tweaked the formula that all subsequent cop or detective or medical examiner shows now follow, although each show usually puts a slight twist on it to create their own formula that they copy for all of their episodes.

I'm finding that I'm watching way more TV shows now that various networks put full episodes online.  I'm not sure that's a good thing.  I never remember when shows are on TV, and I'm not the type to rearrange my schedule around them (although GCB has been an exception lately, simply because it's on at 10 on Sunday nights and I'm practically never doing anything then), so I've never really gotten into drama series that you have to follow a plot line from episode to episode for.

BTW, I agree that the Sopranos is an absolutely incredible show - I mentioned it in a previous post earlier in the thread so I didn't repeat it above.  I didn't start watching it until it was in re-runs, so I never saw it in order, from the beginning, but I got lucky a few years ago and one station started playing the re-runs in order, from the first season.  So I saw a lot of them, but I haven't seen all of them.  Someday I'll probably get the episodes on DVD so I can watch them in order, but it hasn't been a priority.


I never got into the Sopranos for some reason.  A lot of those shows, if I don't get in on the ground floor, I tend to ignore them altogether.  About the only series I'm addicted to these days has been "The Walking Dead", and "Hell on Wheels" which I thought really found it's footing in the second half of it's first season.  And of course, I loved "Rome".  But you all knew I would.


We recently downgraded to basic cable, and it's funny.  I miss a few shows on Discovery-- and I can catch up on "Mythbusters" anytime on line.  For my documentary fix, I've rediscovered PBS and TVO-- and you know what?  They are better.  I can kick myself.

I do miss the Teletoon network, as this was my turn off the brain at night before bedtime stuff.  But youtube has whole episodes of "Archer" for me to excersize all that stuff I'm not supposed to laugh at.

About the only "crime drama" I was ever into was, for a time, CSI Los Vegas.  I've seen parts of a few episodes of "Criminal Minds", and, to be honest, I find each character a cardboard cut out.  I find nothing about them that draws me in.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..”breaking bad” i like as they are masters of tension and suspense.

..“being human” the original uk version and not the us one. this is where a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf live together. i read somewhere that the artistic talent for this show have a free hand within certain limits and complete changes occur in direction throughout. for instance the actors that appeared in the pilot were changed except for one or two and a new pilot done. as were the actors in the 4th season.

..”true blood” for it's originality and exploration into vampires, shape shifters, fairies and other incredible creatures. very well written.

..i really enjoyed “intelligence” the canadian spy series. i'm very sorry that it was cancelled. i learned of it on this thread and am grateful. i hope to watch it again in the near future.

..and of course “deadwood”. a perfect example of how capitalism works in it's gangster ways with it's corporate, government, legal, media enforcement structures and how they come together to exploit everything around them. i'm not sure how they ever got away with making 3 seasons it's such an exposé .