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The Making of Many Top 100 TV Lists Hath No End: Now It's TV Guide's Turn

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No sooner did time.com post my All-TIME 100 TV Shows than a package showed up at my office with a brand-new book: I Heart TV: Your Ultimate Companion to 100 Essential Shows, from the editors of TV Guide. Spooky! Well, not so much, since the book was messengered over by TV Guide’s publicist, but still, what are the odds?

So how do our lists compare? TV Guide’s list was put together by its staff of 43 [!] TV editors and writers, which probably by definition made it less shall-we-say idiosyncratic than the list by TIME’s TV staff of one. (As far as I can tell, TV Guide hasn’t posted the full list anywhere online, but I’ll link to it when and if they do. Update: They finally did.) TVG focuses more exclusively on dramas and sitcoms, with a few exceptions (Oprah, Monday Night Football), and focuses mostly on commercial hits. My detractors will be glad to know that The Andy Griffith Show and Law & Order made the list; on the other hand, you lose Freaks and Geeks and The Wire, to name just a couple. (And sorry, still no Fawlty Towers.) On the one hand, they picked fewer cult hits than I did; on the other hand, they picked (surprisingly) fewer shows from the early days of TV.

Having read the introduction and skimmed the book, I’m not sure if “essential” exactly means “best”–if so, good on you, Ty Pennington, because Extreme Makeover: Home Edition made the cut–or “most significant,” although it’s probably some combination of the two. But the list was open to newer shows, including Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes and–this one’s for you, chaddogg–Veronica Mars. Each gets a personal essay from a passionate TVG scribe. “What unifies these eclectic choices,” writes senior critic Matt Roush in the introduction, “is that there’s something in each of these shows that strikes a powerfully personal chord.”

Anyway, obviously no two (or 43) critics will agree on all the same shows, but having just recently put up my own glass house, I’m not going to snipe at TVG’s. Actually, I was surprised at the amount of overlap, even on a few polarizing choices like Battlestar Galactica, SpongeBob and The Real World. And there were at least a couple out-of-the-box choices that made me second-guess my own. (The Amazing Race and Degrassi: The Franchise, for instance.) Ultimately, our having picked different shows has more than anything to do with the fact that there are more than 100 great shows in TV history.

That said, of course, TVG included some shows that I wouldn’t have put on my list with a ten-foot listmaker (and I’m sure the feeling’s mutual). I won’t say which, but here, for your perusal, is the subset of TVG’s Top 100 shows that weren’t among my top 100:

Ally McBeal, The Amazing Race, American Bandstand, The Andy Griffith Show, Batman, Beverly Hills 90210, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, CSI, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Degrassi, Desperate Housewives, ER, Everybody Loves Raymond, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Family Ties, Frasier, The Fugitive, Gilligan’s Island, The Golden Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, Happy Days, Heroes, House, Jeopardy!, L.A. Law, The Late Show with David Letterman (I picked Late Night, but tomato, tomahto), Law & Order, Maverick, Melrose Place, Miami Vice, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Monday Night Football, NYPD Blue, The Rockford Files, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, Scrubs, thirtysomething, Today, Ugly Betty, Veronica Mars, Will & Grace, The Wonder Years

And here are the shows I picked that TVG didn’t:

The Abbott and Costello Show, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, An American Family, The Beavis and Butt-Head Show, Brideshead Revisited, Buffalo Bill, The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Day After, Dragnet, The Ernie Kovacs Show, Felicity, Freaks and Geeks, The French Chef, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, I, Claudius, King of the Hill, Late Night with David Letterman, Leave It to Beaver, Married… With Children, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, The Monkees, MTV 1981-1992, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Playhouse 90, The Price Is Right, Prime Suspect, The Prisoner, Rocky and His Friends, Roots, Sanford and Son, Second City Television, See It Now, The Singing Detective, Soap, The Super Bowl (and the Ads), What’s My Line?, WKRP in Cincinnati, The Wire, Wiseguy

It looks like a lot, but statistically, we are about 60% in agreement. Oh, also, they considered The U.S. and British versions of The Office, and the Star Trek franchise, to be one entry, which is so totally cheating. But at least they won’t have Capt. Picard all cheesed off at them.

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