Survey Names the Best U.S. Television Show of All Time

Sep 19, 2012  •  Post A Comment

A survey conducted as part of “Best in TV,” a special installment of ABC’s “20/20” that aired Tuesday night, picked a winner that probably won’t come as a surprise to most industry insiders. The survey named “I Love Lucy” as the best TV show of all time, UPI reports.

The five finalists were all comedies. Here’s the Top 5:

1. “I Love Lucy”
2. “M*A*S*H”
3. “Seinfeld”
4. “All in the Family”
5. “Cheers”

Said Barbara Walters, who hosted the show: "We were not surprised Americans chose comedies as their favorites of all time. We all like to laugh and these shows still make us laugh today."

The survey, conducted by ABC News and People magazine, also named the best drama series of all time, which went to “ER.” Here are the Top 5 dramas:

1. “ER”
2. “The Twilight Zone”
3. “The Sopranos”
4. “The West Wing”
5. “Mad Men”

An online component to the survey, found here, presents — via video clips — the results in a number of other categories, including best talk show host, best reality show, best TV theme song and best animated show. (Short-attention-span warning: It may take more time than you’re willing to spend to get through these videos. At least, that’s what happened to us when we went there.)

We did make it through best animated series and can share this: “The Flintstones” beat out “The Simpsons” for the top spot in that category.


  1. West Wing??? REALLY…???

  2. Breaking Bad should have been #1. There has never been a better drama, year after year.

  3. I wonder if the demographics of the survey were designed to match the demographics of the 20/20 audience… which is to say, older folks.
    I think a survey of ALL those who currently watch television would not have picked a show from the 1950s and one from the 1970s as the top two shows of all time. I’m pretty sure most of the current 18-49 demo have barely heard of I Love Lucy.
    Personally, the greatest show in television history — when you factor in the all-important Degree of Difficulty — is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Really. It’s easy to be funny. It’s easy to be scary. It’s nearly impossible to by funny, scary, romantic and dramatic all at the same time. Which is exactly what Joss Wheadon pulled off week after week, season after season.
    The “serious” dramas (ER, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere) were great accomplishments, but there have always been great and provocative dramas on television, and there have been great and provocative dramas since (can’t argue with Breaking Bad, or The Wire, or many others), but Wheadon’s balancing act is a unique achievement. Sadly, like most genre efforts, it rarely got the respect it deserved…

  4. What about “Simon and Simon”
    or “Hustle”?

  5. A couple of months late, I know, but I just wanted to say how much I agree with you about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That show really was a unique achievement and, although it was popular with critics, continues to be underrated by general audiences. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those cultural artifacts that is only fully appreciated several decades after the fact.

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