What do people watch more – films or TV shows? Hard pick? There hasn’t been a better time for the small screen than now, particularly with the influx of digital media, devices and platforms. The television industry is arguably having its best time with a minimum of 400 original shows coming out every year. And there is an audience for every kind of show but what’s common across every genre is an audience that craves great, well-narrated content with unforgettable characters. On World Television Day, we bring you the 50 most popular TV shows of all time (in alphabetical order).
1. Agents of Shield
Marvel’s action-adventure series had a bumpy start but it turned into a rollercoaster ride second season onwards. And it has been consistently pleasing both fans and non-fanboys. The strong ensemble, swift pace, neat action & special effects are the reason it’s ready to roll its fifth season next month.
2. American Horror Story
Beginning in 2011, it’s a horror anthology series from Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy that is loved for its craziness and unpredictability. There are heroes, villains, vampires, witches, ghosts, and anything wicked you can imagine. The creepy storytelling and shock elements have made it stand out from its dozens of counterparts.
3. Band of Brothers
Ranked as one of the best mini-series ever made, Band of Brothers depicts the history of the “Easy Company”, part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Covering the heroics of the 101st airborne division during World War II, the show is relatable to those who fought in the war because of the astute portrayal. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, it’s a gem of a show that excels in intricate detailing and captivating atmosphere.
4. Breaking Bad
High-school chemistry teacher becomes a drug dealer when he realizes he is going to die. This concise plot is knitted beautifully into five seasons that is riveting from the first episode till the last. The assured storytelling, sharp direction and robust performances made it one of the best and the most thrilling TV shows ever!
5. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
The first of its kind TV show to underline that a boy need not only be a Superhero, Buffy the Vampire Slayer left a legacy behind it. Centered on a cheerleader who is chosen to battle the forces of evil, the show is a great blend of smart writing and bang-on performances. Encompassing plethora of metaphors and interesting character arcs, it revolutionized television shows.
6. The Big Bang Theory
A character-oriented show, The Big Bang Theory has been running since a decade and there are multiple reasons that make it special with the audience. Opposite to its title, the show isn’t about science but centered on five scientist friends residing in California. Penny, Leonard, Sheldon — each character has its own fandom that allows this comedy show to keep on thriving.
7. The Blacklist
This crime procedural drama is famous for two reasons. First, for the riveting performance of James Spader and second the fast-paced action. James Spader plays Raymond Reddington, a government agent turned wrongdoer who surrenders himself to the FBI with a promise of helping them capture the world’s most dangerous criminals. The deeply layered characters, compelling storyline, and killer music make it a compelling watch.
A serial killer imitates the plot of a mystery novelist. The novelist then tags along with NYPD and begins investigation. The series is part mystery, part police procedural comedy, and so much more. Whichever genre it switches in, it stays thoroughly fun and engaging. And it’s good to have a protagonist that isn’t Sherlock Holmes but an above average guy with creative prowess. The fine chemistry of the leads and consistency in plot kept people entertained for eight seasons.
A Blind man fights criminals as a lawyer by day and as a vigilante by night. One of the most adored comic characters, Daredevil was sure to be a hit. However, its top-notch production, gritty storytelling, gobsmacking action, and uniformly great performances elevated the show, the genre, and Netflix as a whole. Totally binge-worthy!
Before Daredevil, people had Dexter – a forensic expert who lived a double life as a vigilante serial killer, murdering those who have escaped justice. An artsy thriller bolstered by Michael C. Hall’s central performance as Dexter, the show manifested how a serial killer too can be likable.
11. Doctor Who
It has been 54 years since Doctor Who first aired on Television. With over eight hundred episodes and more than a dozen incarnations of the character, it’s one of the classic shows in the world that people love to celebrate. The protagonist is an alien who is travelling through time and space in TARDIS (a phone booth that has its own Wikipedia page). The show is properly British and the ideas and imagination imbued in it makes it better than you think!
12. Downtown Abbey
A period drama set in the English Countryside, it depicts the story of an aristocratic family and their hierarchy of servants. The witty dialogues, lavish costumes, and an excellent cast made Downtown Abbey a crowd favorite. Watch it for the British sarcasm, the splendid romance, and diplomacy.
Sherlock Holmes investigates crimes in modern day New York. A completely distinctive Sherlock Holmes program, Elementary was a long-running, fast-paced show that appealed to the young generation. Getting better with each season with improved character dynamics and entertainment quotient, it won the hearts of both the purists and eccentrics.
Based on Coen Brothers’ film of the same name, Fargo is a dark comedy series. Taking further the legacy of the film, the show offers plenty of weird characters and interesting storylines that are full of great twists and turns. While Noah Hawley’s direction and the sharp writing are the best elements, the eye-popping location & photography is another reason to watch this show.
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Calling F.R.I.E.N.D.S one of the greatest TV shows ever made will be an understatement. This ten-season long TV show is about a group of friends living in New York that serve as an antidote to all the human problems. Had a bad day at school or work? Watch Friends. Broke up with your girlfriend? Watch Friends. Feeling depressed? Watch Friends. Want to spend some quality time with family and friends? Well, you watch Friends. It will cheer you up!
16. The Flash
If there is a superhero with his memes spread all over the Internet, it’s Barry Allen. Arguably the strongest comic book show on TV, CW’s The Flash is a funny, fantastic superhero show that targets both the nerds and the novices. Centered on the titular character who acquires super powers through an accident, it’s a fun ride that is still going strong in its fourth season. Catch up with Earth’s Fastest Man Alive if you haven’t yet.
17. Game of Thrones
Just like F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Game of Thrones needs no introduction. The most divisive TV shows of all, GOT has a mega fan base and you can either love it or hate it. Based on George RR Martin’s seven volumes, it’s an epic fantasy show that explains the meaning of being grey-natured through extensively layered characters. Comprising an ensemble cast with the best production values television has ever seen, it’s worth checking out for once at least.
Currently in its fourth season, Gotham is an origin story of all the greatest DC Comics’ characters. Beginning with Jim Gordon to the Dark Knight aka Bruce Wayne himself, the show is a must watch for all who are fan of the Bat. There are plenty of characters that didn’t make it to the films made earlier (including Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy) but have a greater significance in comics. Watch it to explore their stories, the impressive production values, and the committed performances.
19. Grey’s Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy is one of the longest running shows on TV. Beginning in year 2005, the show is in its fourteenth season and its longevity is enough to justify its success. Centered on the personal and professional lives of the doctors of Seattle Grace Hospital, it’s an emotional roller coaster of love, heartbreaks, success, failures and more. It’s the daily bread and butter for many across the globe.
There is a reason behind Mads Mikkelsen’s great fan following. It’s Hannibal. Offering a far more brooding and disturbing take at the relationship of Doctor Lector and Will Graham than its other cinematic adaptions, the show was a testament to Mikkelsen’s acting prowess. Super stylish and hypnotically beautiful, it’s a show for those who vouch for the smarts.
NBC’s Heroes was about several lonely and disconnected people who realize they are destined to become superheroes. The moody tone and the unorthodox writing helped the show in subverting the superhero genre. Ditching the tropes of wearing mockish costumes, it focused on doing better things — be it exploring the genesis of the characters, or their purpose. It remains one of the finest and most popular TV shows ever made!
22. How I Met Your Mother
From the perspective of the audience, the title of this show could have been “How I Came to Know Barney Stinson!”. A secondary character that plays the friend of the protagonist who narrates to his kid how he met his mother, Barney Stinson was the real standout. He was a character that is considered to be perfect by the majority – rich, handsome, and quirky. Just give a Barney reference to someone to find out whether the person has seen HIMYM or not.
Forty-eight passengers survive a plane crash only to be stranded on a spooky island that has predators to scare the daylights out of them. As thrilling it sounds, Lost was a great show that entertained people to the hilt up till the fourth season after which it started dwindling. Co-created by the Star Wars, Mission Impossible III director J.J.Abrams, Lost was full of twists and thrills.
Remember the drug mafia Tom Cruise was working for in American Made? Well, Narcos is all about him and other drug kingpins that ruled the late 80s. Featuring Wagner Moura in the central character of Pablo Escobar, Narcos features solid acting and razor-sharp editing that holds the interest of the viewer. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but whoever’s it is, it’s the best one.
25. One Tree Hill
Steve Jobs once said that simple is harder than complex. The selling factor of One Tree Hill is its simplicity. The way everything is depicted — be it winning, losing, love, hatred, life, death, it’s absolutely wonderful. Centered on the lives of five characters who reside in a small town called Tree Hill, this is one helluva addictive series which renders a new perspective towards love, friendship and life.