Think it would be hard to narrow down all of television history to a ranked list of the top 101 best-written shows ever? Think again: it’s as easy as “bada bing.”
This weekend, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) released its list, a follow-up to their ranking — in 2005 — of the best screenplays ever. HBO’s The Sopranos, created by David Chase, topped the list. WGA members from both the East and West divisions of the organization voted for the list, which included all genres of English-language television over the last seven decades.
The writers are the foundation of a good show, said WGA presidents Chris Keyser and Michael Winship in a statement:
At their core, all of these wonderful series began with the words of the writers who created them and were sustained by the writers who joined their staffs or worked on individual episodes.
Coming in after The Sopranos was a diverse slate of TV classics: Seinfeld, The Twilight Zone, All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mad Men, Cheers, The Wire, The West Wing, The Simpsons, I Love Lucy, Breaking Bad, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Hill Street Blues, Arrested Development, The Daily Show, Six Feet Under, Taxi, The Larry Sanders Show…
And the rest of the list, from 21 – 101, is just as mixed, from recent favorites like Friday Night Lights and Homeland to oldies but goodies like Sesame Street and The Andy Griffith Show. There were several ties (Downton Abbey, Law & Order and thirtysomething all placed at No. 43) and the show that just made the cut, at No. 101, was Oz.
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As with any ranking, the list is ripe to be the subject of argument—but the controversy doesn’t stop there. Over at Deadline, the fact that TV Guide sponsored the list and its unveiling (and had the exclusive scoop on the announcement) was the subject of some finger-wagging. Deadline reports that few members of the WGA were aware of the voting, and that some feel that the sponsorship deal hurts the Guild’s reputation.
The full list is available here.