TIME Magazine's 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME

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The 100 Best TV Shows of All-TIME is a best-of list published in 2007 by TIME Magazine critic James Poniewozik.

It is unusual in a number of ways. First, the shows are not ranked and are instead listed in alphabetical order. Second, for a major publication's list, it is chosen by only one person—Poniewozik. Most magazines have panels to choose best-of lists, and even though TIME eschewed the panels typical of Entertainment Weekly or TV Guide, it had previously that year published lists of 100 Greatest Movies and 100 Greatest Novels which were each chosen by two critics. However, as the magazine's only TV critic, Poniewozik made his choices alone. What's more, the list was not truly of "all-TIME," because it was limited only to those shows which premiered prior to 2006, thereby disqualifying the most recent shows (including Poniewozik's favorite Friday Night Lights). It also included movies as well as series, and in at least one case, an entire network (MTV).

What's not unusual, by Poniewozik's own admission, is that the list is as subjective as any other best-of list. However, Poniewozik made an attempt to be as objective as possible. According to his introduction, he tried to include shows from all genres and time periods. He tried to judge shows based on their individual merits and not their popularity or how much better they could have been under different circumstances. He tried to include influential shows of which he himself was not a big fan.

One of his more controversial rules was, "Where two shows with the same creators or talent had similar themes, milieus, characters or narrative styles, I generally picked one." This decision led to apparent contradictions, as, for instance, he included both British and American versions of The Office, which he claimed were "different achievements," although British creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are executive producers on the American version, which also used the original's pilot script as its own and has closely mirrored the British version's story arcs. On the other hand, his "Two Shows, One Slot" rule eliminated, for example, Fawlty Towers from consideration with Monty Python's Flying Circus, although only two people, (John Cleese and John Howard Davies) were heavily involved in both shows, which are otherwise of two different genres (sketch comedy vs. sitcom), two different structures and, by Cleese's admission, two completely different philosophies of comedy. (He has referred to Python as "a comedy of the mind," while Fawlty Towers he calls "a comedy of emotion.")

Nonetheless, Poniewozik said of the list, "It's my list. ... If you have read my list and think I am a moron, that's all the thanks I need."


The List





External Sites