I looked for an existing thread, but gave up.
TOP 10 TELEVISION SHOWS
Most all have at least one weak season, some have many, generally towards the end of the show’s lifespan. Yet the quality, however concentrated throughout each show’s respective run, negates and overwhelms any problematic periods.
1. THE TWILIGHT ZONE 1959-1964
My mother claims that when I was very young I would sit up in bed with her and watch the original run, but my first memories of this show are the early ‘70s reruns on WPIX out of New York. A few subpar episodes are scattered throughout the five seasons, but The Twilight Zone is the pinnacle of what television could and can be.
2. GUNSMOKE 1955-1975
This show began airing seven years before I was born and ended when I was in my early teens. I never watched it growing up, but I began listening to the original radio program that the television show was based on about 15 years ago. It stands out as being far more adult and well-written than any of the contemporary programming. I had always assumed that the television show would be a watered-down version, but last year I dived into the series and found out how wrong I was. Most of the scripts for the first six seasons (the half hour episodes) are taken directly from the radio show, which was almost entirely penned by creator John Meston . With the hour-long episodes, the mood and pacing changes, but the quality remains.
3. STAR TREK 1966-1969
As with its contemporary cultural behemoth, Batman, we got two superb seasons followed by a disappointing third (with a few gems still hidden within), hampered by a slashed budget and lesser writers. I remember standing in the living room with my father watching the original airing of my favorite episode, The City on the Edge of Forever, and being uncomfortably shocked when Kirk said, “Let’s get the Hell out of here.”
4. SEINFELD 1989-1998
It began a little weak, and ended horribly, with two nearly unwatchable final seasons (though I love the “backwards” episode) made after co-creator Larry David’s departure as head-writer (his return for the show finale was a disaster), but the years in-between were some of the funniest and smartest pieces of television I have ever seen.
5. THE HONEYMOONERS 1955-1956
As with The Twilight Zone and Star Trek, I credit ‘70s WPIX reruns for allowing this show become a big part of my life.
6. ALL IN THE FAMILY 1971-1979
Adapted from the British sitcom 'Til Death Do Us Part. A show that changed what was possible in the medium. I grew up with this show, and the many spin-offs of varying degree of quality. The last few years were a bit rocky, but those early episodes still make my head spin. What performances from those leads!
7. COLUMBO 1971-1979
I’m only including the original run that was a rotating component of The NBC Tuesday Mystery Movie. I am not so enamored with the made-for-television follow-ups.
8. BATMAN 1966-1968
Not only do I remember watching this twice weekly in the original run, I saw the attached movie in a theatre, where my mother bought me the Matchbox Batmobile in the lobby (the same theatre where we saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a few years later, and also bought the Matchbox car in the lobby). As with Star Trek (see above), season three takes a dive, but I will never forget that inner tingling of excitement, sitting on a couch with my family, watching the debut of Batgirl in the season opener. Only matched a season earlier by the cliff-hanger announcement at one episode’s conclusion, that the following week would guest start The Green Hornet and Kato. Remember, no internet. It came as a complete shock: the first live-action superhero cross-over.
9. THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES 1962-1971
No weak seasons, hilarious all the way through.
10. LOST 2004-2010
I wasn’t interested in watching the original airing, but by two-season in, the show’s reputation drove me to catch up. After the first four episodes I was convinced that it was quite possibly the greatest thing put to television. But, of course, that momentum and that level of quality and excitement cannot be sustained for too long. Though the show continued to periodically enthrall me throughout its life, the payoffs became less frequent and, for the most part, less satisfying as the seasons progressed. It fell victim to its own success, where the studio demands more episodes, thereby postponing and muddying any preset vision or timeline, dragging the thing out until it becomes a confused, aimless, and unsatisfying mess. This has happened frequently to popular shows. Unlike many, I don’t hate the resolution, but it was rather underwhelming and didn’t fit with much that had gone prior. The show also suffers from the same major problem that crippled the brilliant Twin Peaks, of which it shares quite a bit, a show that would most likely appear on this list had it been a Top 20. Both shows ask us to invest in a mystery. We are given clues of all kinds; visual , through conversation, through monologue, through flashback, through innuendo. Both shows became national phenomena, with fans obsessing over every detail, parsing dialogue, comfort in knowing that there is a plan that would one day payoff. In both cases it turned out that there was no plan, leading to unsatisfying, illogical, and frustrating conclusions.