Top 10 American TV Shows

It gives me great pleasure to bring you this TV Top 10 from a returning guest, Emily Goll,  Emily is the editor of My Dog Ate My Blog and writes on online universities for Guide to Online Schools. You can also follow the blog on Twitter @DogAteBlog.

We have already had a popular TV listing from Ruth with Top 10 American TV Series which was written from the UK perspective so it’s great to have the American view from Emily. Please do let us know what you think.

10. Deadwood

This is another example of a show I didn’t think I’d love. Deadwood takes place in middle of nowhere Deadwood, South Dakota in the 1800s and centers around the corruption present in the town, in large part due to the presence of saloon owner Al Swearengen (Ian McShane). With outstanding acting and absolutely beautiful cinematography and score, this show has the production quality of a movie. Its pacing is slow but gripping and the dialogue has been universally praised by critics (although it’ll take some getting used to). With a mere total of three seasons, this show truly raised the bar on quality television.

9. Freaks and Geeks

If My So-Called Life is the television show that most accurately depicts teenagers, Freaks and Geeks comes in at a very close second. Set in the early eighties, the show centers around Lindsay and Sam Weir and their misadventures in high school. Lindsay is an exceptionally smart girl who ditches the mathletes to hang out with the token “freaks” and stoners of the school. Sam, on the other hand, is a skinny, short freshman who has two very geeky friends and a crush on a cheerleader. This show is hilarious and relatable, plus it stars the now famous talents of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Busy Phillips, and Martin Starr.

8. Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights was a wonderful surprise for me. I don’t particularly enjoy football. I’ve never been to Texas, and this show centers around a high school football team in Texas. Yikes. Where’s the draw? I sat down because I had read some wonderful reviews of it and thought, why the heck not? If I can get over my prejudice of things airing on the SyFy Channel I can certainly shed my reservations about high school football. And man, am I glad I did. I think my roommate said it best: “This show makes me feel things I didn’t know I was capable of feeling!” The plots may seem simple. There are no mobs. There are no guns. Nobody gets murdered, and there won’t be any vampires popping up, but the characters, the events, and the emotions are so poignant they make the smallest moments on the show seem epic.

7. My So-Called Life

My So-Called Life was so well filmed Cameron Crowe openly copied a shot from the first episode and put it in Jerry Maguire. No joke. This show changed pop culture as we know it. Before My So-Called Life there was no market for television centering on teens. Sure, MTV existed, but an entire drama based on the life of a teenager, and not just our perceptions of teenage life, but the actual life of a teenager? No way. Prior to 1993, any shows revolving around teenagers depicted them acting like twenty-something adults (think 90210). Claire Danes’ arrival to the television screen, however, changed all that. An entire episode about a zit? Sure, let’s do it. A school crush who can’t read? Introduce Jordon Catalano. Like too many good shows it was canceled before its time, but Angela Chase’ s voiceovers will stay with us forever: “My parents keep asking how school was. It’s like saying, “How was that drive-by shooting?” You don’t care how it *was*, you’re lucky to get out alive”

6. Arrested Development

Are you a fan of humor (and if your answer to this question is no, well, you have a whole different set of problems)? If so, watch this show. In fact, even if you are not a fan of humor, watch this show. Arrested Development changed all the rules of a normal comedy. What is great about Arrested Development  was that the humor of the show is based not on whatever situation the characters find themselves in (although they are often hilarious), but on the characters themselves. To fans, it was like one big inside joke. The episodes became increasingly funny the longer you watched. Gob saying, “I’ve made a huge mistake” in the first episode doesn’t carry the same weight it does in the twentieth. Why is this? Unlike Seinfeld and Friends, Arrested Development is a character driven comedy as opposed to a situational comedy. Anybody who sits down and watches an episode of Seinfeld will understand what is going on. The same cannot be said for Arrested Development and unfortunately, this is what killed the show. It is a true tragedy that this show was canceled in season three. Most of the truly dedicated fans are chasing down rumors of movies (it is happening) and watching the DVDs over and over again. The jokes never stop being funny, even years later.

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

More than ten years after its original air date, Buffy fans are still as obsessed with this show as they used to be. Academic conferences are held all over the world on Buffy, discussing gender issues, pop culture, family, and media. Books have been written by professors boasting titles such as, “Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale.” So why does everybody care so much? Because Buffy kicks ass. It paved the way for female protagonists in television. It covered all of life’s little issues in a clever way. It didn’t dumb down for its audience. The supernatural elements of the show were always a metaphor for life’s greater problems. Buffy, in this writer’s opinion, will always have a spot in the top ten.

4. The Sopranos

Another HBO show (and wouldn’t it be great if all networks had the budget and freedom HBO boasts?), The Sopranos takes you inside the mob and it is intense. Vanity Fair contributor Peter Biskind said of the show: “The richest achievement in the history of television.” Wow. Now that’s praise. Gripping and engaging, this show hooks you in fast and keeps you interested until the very final episode. With fantastic writing, acting, and directing, The Sopranos can’t really put a foot wrong. Critics have said that this show redefined television as we know it, making it obvious that the quality we see on the big screen can now be duplicated on TV.

3. Battlestar Galactica

“But no,” you may say. “It’s a sci-fi show. How can this make the list?” Oh Lord, for so many excellent reasons. Battlestar Galactica is a show that takes place in space, but it is not about space. BSG explores the human condition in ways no other show has come close to. What does it mean to be human? How do we know what is right and what is wrong? Why do we fear “the other”? Does God exist? Battlestar Galactica has never shied away from the tough questions. Beyond this, it is superbly acted and has an absolutely fantastic score, composed by the brilliant Bear McCreary. If you can get over the fact that yes, you are watching a sci-fi show and yes, there will be spaceships and killer robots, then you will be privy to a show that actually teaches you something about the world you live in while you watch.

2. The Wire

Praised as the most realistic crime drama ever (and we all know there have been a lot), this show packs a punch. If you can get over the very brief hurdle of “what are they talking about?” all new viewers experience in the first few episodes, you’re in for one hell of a ride. This character driven show keeps you engaged and guessing throughout the entire season. The villains are scary. The heroes are flawed. The pacing is thrilling. In short, The Wire‘s hype is well-deserved.

1. The Simpsons

This is, in my opinion, the greatest television show of all time. Better than Seinfeld. Better than The Wire. Better even than, ye gods, Buffy (and believe me, that’s saying something coming from  me). When The Simpsons was in its heyday, it was superb. The jokes were timely and hilarious. The characters were wonderfully rounded (in a two-dimensional, cartoonish sort of way). The plots could take you anywhere. I remember one episode (“Simpson Safari”) that begins with bag boys going on strike in Springfield and ends with the Simpsons uncovering Dr. Bushwell’s hidden life as a chimp master slave in Africa. How they get from point A to point B is both comical and ingenious. I will be the first to admit that the show is not what it used to be. Entering into its bazillionth season it has lost most of its brilliance. Nevertheless, for the ten or so seasons when it was great, it was very nearly perfect.

Check out Emily’s previous guest appearance –  Top 10  Emmy Snubs 2010

Many thanks go to Emily for her interesting and entertaining Top 10.  Do you agree, I am sure you have your own favourites so please use the comments box below to share your thoughts.


  • Valerie (@whatvalthinks)

    Nicely done! I liked this a lot. Deadwood and Battlestar Gallactica were similar for me in that they both felt like a stressful, endurance test. Each episode so heavy but worth it and I loved them both! I was gutted Arrested Development was canceled, here’s hoping they get the script for the movie done and that it’s even half as good as the TV show!

  • Valerie (@whatvalthinks)

    Nicely done! I liked this a lot. Deadwood and Battlestar Gallactica were similar for me in that they both felt like a stressful, endurance test. Each episode so heavy but worth it and I loved them both! I was gutted Arrested Development was canceled, here’s hoping they get the script for the movie done and that it’s even half as good as the TV show!

  • Christina Kingston

    Cheers for the list Emily. I love The Wire. One of my favorite TV dramas, ever.

  • Christina Kingston

    Cheers for the list Emily. I love The Wire. One of my favorite TV dramas, ever.

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