WGA's Top 101 TV Shows (for Writing)

Aaron Silverman

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That site must be getting hammered -- I can't remember the last time a page took so long to load!

Thanks for sharing. It's an interesting list.
 

Quentin

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Lists are pretty much no more than a reason to argue. I always wonder when I see a list like this, what the criteria are? Why include mini-series and live/variety shows? If you include variety shows, how do you have "The Daily Show" at 17th ALL TIME, and "The Colbert Report" 50th ALL TIME, but you don't have "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" anywhere on the list? And, seriously...The Colbert Report? I find it an occasional amusement...it has no place on a list of the best written shows of all time, regardless of the criteria.

Once I see something that crass, the entire list is nullified to me. But, there is a lot of other weirdness on the list as well. Bleh.
 

TravisR

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Quentin said:
If you include variety shows, how do you have "The Daily Show" at 17th ALL TIME, and "The Colbert Report" 50th ALL TIME, but you don't have "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" anywhere on the list?
I think the reason they made it and The Tonight Show didn't is mostly because those shows are current and that puts them more in the mind of viewers/voters.

I assume they went with the idea of the best is the best whether it's 65 years old or 65 minutes old but personally, I think all current shows should have been off limits for this list because the newness can give them an artificial boost. I mean love Mad Men but I think more time needs to pass before saying that it's the 7th best written show of all time.
 

Quentin

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TravisR said:
I think the reason they made it and The Tonight Show didn't is mostly because those shows are current and that puts them more in the mind of viewers/voters.

I assume they went with the idea of the best is the best whether it's 65 years old or 65 minutes old but personally, I think all current shows should have been off limits for this list because the newness can give them an artificial boost. I mean love Mad Men but I think more time needs to pass before saying that it's the 7th best written show of all time.
Agreed. The list is very heavily modern-centric...Homeland? It's had 2 seasons. Modern Family? Really? Etc.

It's also very American-centric. The Brits got the shaft.
 

David Weicker

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Quentin said:
It's also very American-centric. The Brits got the shaft.
Well, it was a poll by the Writer's Guild of America.
I seem to recall a similar poll where Fawlty Towers was named the best show on TV - but that was a British poll.Both of those were polls of their respective countries.
 

ScottH

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Hard to argue with most of the stuff on that list, although two that jumped out at me were:

Friends - Good mindless entertainment I suppose, but from a writing standpoint wasn't much more than a comedic soap opera with cheesy one-liners and double entendres.

24 - I loved the show as much as the next guy (at least the first few seasons), but the writing? I don't know...I guess (as the blurb mentions) the format of the show was a heavy consideration.
 

Quentin

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Agreed, David...but, then why call it "101 best written tv series"? And, why have Brit shows on the list at all? Heck, I'm not even certain all these shows are WGA shows. I'd bets some of the older ones and some of the British ones are not. So, if it is actually the "101 best written tv series" of all time, then the Brits got the shaft.

Scott...I don't know WHERE on the list 24 belongs...but, it belongs. It was a HUGE hit, pretty solidly entertaining, and the structure was revolutionary. It is STILL a one of a kind show.
 

TravisR

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Just like the AFI lists, I'd rather see the list in alphabetical order so I didn't have to think how they said that show X is better than show Y. However, if they did that, people wouldn't really be talking or debating their list so I get why they go for the 'controversy'.

As for 24, I love the show and simply because it had to create so many stories and so many twists for almost a decade, I think it deserves some kind of recognition but it is odd to see it on a list with shows like The Twilight Zone or The Sopranos or The Wire or even Lost.
 

KevinGress

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I agree with Quentin that it's very modern-centric and simply meant to draw interest and arguments, but I'd also say that it heralds what was 'popular'. Battlestar Galatica was certainly a good show, but I'd put the writing of Firefly or Babylon 5 up against it any day.

If someone does a list like this they should also detail what their criteria and weighing system was.
 

Aaron Silverman

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Remember, this is the results of a poll of working American TV and film writers, not some arbitrary list that someone came up with for an article or a random Internet sampling.

Friends is one of those shows where when you go back and watch the first season, you realize that you've forgotten how original and clever it was when it was new (Sex and the City is another one).
 

Adam Lenhardt

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I've yet to watch "The Sopranos", "Mad Men" and "The Wire" -- but the rest of the top ten absolutely deserve to be in the top ten.
 

Josh Dial

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Even including the non-Sorkin era, The West Wing ought to have been number 1. I agree with the top 10 shows, though (just have a different personal ordering).

Solid list--that doesn't often happen.
 

Rick Thompson

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To me, the big omission is Harry O. Some of the episodes -- "Gertrude" and "Elegy for a Cop" come to mind -- are downright poetic. At the same time, it could have really funny moments -- in "Gertrude" (again), "Lester" and "Mister Five & Dime" especially. As noted above, though, it was probably hurt by it being a 70s show and only running two seasons.
 

mattCR

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The list is very US Centric. And I'd forgive it that if all it was was US shows... but the inclusion of Ab Fab, Monty Python and Downton Abbey seem to imply that it is a much broader list.
This is a bit out of whack, because I then find myself wondering: Where is Black Adder? It's hard to have so many comedies so high but Black Adder nowhere? Really?

I'll also make a case for another category that gets only one mention (Sesame Street).. I'd argue that the writing on a lot of Children's television is amongst the most difficult to accomplish and do well. Replace "The Colbert Report" with "3-2-1 Contact" or "Mr. Rogers" and I'm good there ;)
 

ScottH

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Aaron Silverman said:
Friends is one of those shows where when you go back and watch the first season, you realize that you've forgotten how original and clever it was when it was new.
See, Friends has the complete opposite effect on me. When I come across that show, even the early episodes, I cringe that I ever even admitted to liking it.
 
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