Naysayers call it the “boob tube,” but that small box of entertainment known as the television has surprised us over and over again.
Throughout the years, small screen programming has continued to improve at an exponential rate, getting to a point where we can barely tell the difference between TV and movies. Some of the best storytelling, acting, and production values are to be found on the boob tube.
As such, Wealth of Geeks presents our picks for the 20 Best TV Shows of All Time – at least until we have time to catch Succession.
1. Billions (2016 – )
6 Seasons, 72 episodes (with more on the way)
Cast: Paul Giamatti (Chuck Rhoades), Damian Lewis (Bobby Axelrod), Maggie Siff (Wendy Rhoades), Toby Leonard Moore (Bryan Connerty), David Costabile (Mike ‘Wags’ Wagner), Condola Rashad (Kate Sacker)
Billions is a drama that explores the world of high finance in New York City. Having premiered on Showtime in 2016, we are anxiously waiting for the show’s seventh season. Giamatti plays Chuck Rhoades, a U.S. attorney going after big-time hedge fund manager, Bobby Axelrod (Lewis). Billions is worth watching for the plethora of twists and turns you won’t see coming.
The first six seasons can be streamed on Showtime.
2. Halt and Catch Fire (2014-2017)
4 Seasons, 40 episodes
Cast: Lee Pace ( Joe MacMillan ), Scoot McNairy (Gordon Clark), Mackenzie Davis (Cameron Howe), Kerry Bishé (Donna Clark), Toby Huss (John Bosworth)
This series follows a group of techies from the personal computer boom of the 1980s, up until the growth of the world wide web in the early ’90s. Created by Christopher C. Rogers and Christopher Cantwell, this period drama aired on the AMC Network for 40 episodes across four seasons.
Throughout its original run, viewership numbers were always low despite receiving high scores from both critics and viewers. A good amount of credit goes to AMC for sticking with the show and giving it a proper two-hour series finale.
All four seasons are currently streaming on The AMC+ app.
3. Friends (1994-2004)
10 Seasons, 236 episodes
Cast: Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green), Courteney Cox (Monica Geller), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe Buffray), Matt LeBlanc (Joey Tribbiani), Matthew Perry (Chandler Bing), David Schwimmer (Dr. Ross Geller)
A sitcom based in New York City, Friends revolves around six friends in their 20’s and 30’s. It aired for a whopping ten seasons on NBC, having first premiered in 1994. The series finale aired in 2004. Relative unknowns before their starring roles in the show, Friends featured an excellent ensemble cast, including Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer.
The show is exclusively available to stream on HBO Max.
4. Dexter (2006-2013)
8 Seasons, 96 Episodes
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Cast: Michael C. Hall (Dexter Morgan), Jennifer Carpenter (Debra Morgan), David Zayas (Sgt. Angel Batista), James Remar (Harry Morgan), C.S. Lee (Vince Masuka)
Dexter aired on Showtime for eight seasons between 2006 and 2013. The series stars Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan, a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police also living a double life as a vigilante serial killer who targets other murderers that have escaped justice.
Throughout most of the show, Dexter was indeed one of the best shows on TV, although many agree that the series finale left something to be desired.
In 2021, Dexter Morgan returned – not dead, but living under an assumed name. No spoilers, but Dexter: New Blood was designed to be a single season of 10 episodes.
All seasons of the original show are streaming on Amazon Prime Video. They are also available on Showtime and Paramount+, which is the only place you can see New Blood.
5. Sherlock (2010 – )
4 Seasons, 15 Episodes (with more hopefully on the way)
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes), Martin Freeman (Dr. John Wattson), Una Stubbs (Mrs. Hudson), Andrew Scott (Jim Moriarty)
Sherlock is a BBC crime drama with a modern-day twist on the famous Sherlock Holmes novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This brilliant update follows Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as his partner Dr. Watson as the duo solves crimes in 21st century London. With sharp dialogue, the series is well-acted.
Four seasons (or “series” as they’re known in the U.K.) of Sherlock have already aired along with a one-off Christmas special in 2015. Fans are currently holding out hope for more episodes from creators Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat.
All episodes are currently on Netflix.
6. The Office (2005-2013)
9 Seasons, 188 Episodes
Cast: Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute), John Krasinski (Jim Halpert),
Jenna Fischer (Pam Beesly), Leslie David Baker (Stanley Hudson), Brian Baumgartner (Kevin Malone), Angela Kinsey (Angela Martin), Phyllis Smith (Phyllis Vance)
Based on the U.K. show created by Ricky Gervais, this American mockumentary sitcom aired on NBC for nine seasons between 2005 and 2013. It follows a group of employees of the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Some of the notable stars of its main cast include Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Rainn Wilson.
The Office is currently exclusively on the NBC streamer Peacock.
7. Lost (2004-2010)
6 Seasons, 118 Episodes
Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Cast: Jorge Garcia (Hugo ‘Herley’ Reyes), Josh Holloway (James ‘Sawyer’ Ford), Yunjin Kim (Sun-Hwa Kwon), Evangeline Lilly (Kate Austen),
Terry O’Quinn (John Locke), Naveen Andrews (Sayid Jarrah),
Matthew Fox (Dr. Jack Shephard), Daniel Dae Kim (Jin-Soo Kwon)
From the minds of J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, Lost is a drama that follows 48 survivors of the jet airliner Oceanic Flight 815, which ends up crashing on a mysterious island. It was broadcast on the ABC Network from September 2004 – 2010. Over the last few years, the series producers have hinted at a possible reboot.
Lost can be streamed via Hulu.
8. Luther (2010 – 2019)
5 Seasons, 20 episodes (with more hopefully on the way)
Crime, Drama, Mystery
Cast: Idris Elba (DSI John Luther), Dermot Crowley (DSU Martin Schenk), Michael Smiley (Benny Silver)
Created by Neil Cross, this BBC-produced crime drama stars Idris Elba as DCI John Luther. He is both brilliant and self-destructive as he hunts down criminals. As with other shows on this list, fans are hoping for more Luther content in the future.
All five seasons of Luther are now streaming on Starz as well as Amazon Prime Video.
9. The Americans (2013-2018)
6 Seasons, 75 Episodes
Crime, Drama, Mystery, History
Cast: Keri Russell (Elizabeth Jennings), Matthew Rhys (Philipp Jennings), Keidrich Sellati (Henry Jennings), Holly Taylor (Paige Jennings),
Noah Emmerich (Stan Beeman)
A spy thriller set in the 1980s during the waning days of the Cold War, The Americans centers on Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, two Russian spies posing as an American couple in Washington, D.C. This is an insanely suspenseful show with solid performances from leads Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. The Americans lasted six seasons on the FX Network between 2013 and 2018.
The Americans is available to stream on FX on Hulu.
10. Justified (2010-2015)
6 Seasons, 78 Episodes
Action, Crime, Drama
Cast: Timothy Olyphant (Raylan Givens), Nick Searcy (Art Mullen), Joelle Carter (Ava Crowder), Jacob Pitts (Tim Cutterson), Erica Tazel (Rachel Brooks), Walton Goggins (Boyd Crowder)
This crime drama ran for six seasons on the FX Network from 2010 – 2015. It stars Timothy Olyphant as U.S. Marshal, Raylan Givens, who enforces justice in his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. Justified excelled with character development thanks to outstanding performances by its cast, which also featured Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett, and Damon Herriman as the unforgettable Dewey Crowe.
Recently, several of the cast was reunited for a new season of Justified, based on another story by Elmore Leonard. We don’t know yet when that will debut.
This show is another FX on Hulu exclusive.
11. Hannibal (2013-2015)
3 Seasons, 39 Episodes
Crime, Drama, Horror
Cast: Hugh Dancy (Will Graham), Mads Mikkelsen (Dr. Hannibal Lecter), Caroline Dhavernas (Dr. Alana Bloom), Laurence Fishburne (Jack Crawford)
A psychological-horror series based on the Thomas Harris novels Red Dragon and Hannibal. The show focuses on the relationship between FBI Investigator Will Graham (played by Hugh Dancy) and Dr. Hannibal Lecter (played superbly by Mads Mikkelsen). Hannibal only lasted for three seasons on NBC from 2013 – 2015. Due to its subject matter, one may be surprised that it lasted as long as it did on an over-the-air network like NBC. Season 2 and 3 are absolute works of genius.
Hannibal can be streamed on the NBC website and on Peacock.
12. Seinfeld (1989-1998)
9 Seasons, 173 Episodes
Cast: Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld), Michael Richards (Kramer),
Jason Alexander (George Costanza), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine Benes)
Yadda, Yadda, Yadda…a sitcom created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, this iconic show aired for nine seasons from 1989 – 1998 on NBC.
It follows stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his neurotic group of friends living in New York City. For a “show about nothing,” Seinfeld managed to explore many things, from big salads to laundry cooked in pizza ovens to—ahem—shrinkage.
All of Seinfeld is currently streaming on Netflix.
13. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
8 Seasons, 73 Episodes
Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Cast: Kit Harington (Jon Snow), Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister)
Perhaps the most popular show on this list, Game of Thrones is based on the sweeping Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin. Although the series evolved a lot across its eight seasons, the fantasy drama is really about powerful families vying for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
While Season 8 let a lot of fans down, no one can deny that GoT changed the way that television is made and consumed.
The prequel series, House of the Dragon is currently airing on HBO and HBO Max in record high numbers.
All eight seasons of the original can also be streamed on HBO Max.
14. The Sopranos (1999-2007)
6 Seasons, 86 Episodes
Cast: James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Jennifer Melfi), Edie Falco (Carmelo Soprano), Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti), Dominic Chianese (Junior Soprano),
Steven Van Zandt (Silvio Dante), Tony Sirico (Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri), Robert Iler (A.J. Soprano), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano)
The story revolves around New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, Tony Soprano. Played by the late great James Gandolfini, Tony deals with personal and professional issues that lead him to seek professional psychiatric counseling. The colorful characters and solid writing will keep pulling you back in for more.
All six seasons can be streamed via HBO Max.
15. The Wire (2002-2008)
5 Seasons, 60 Episodes
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Cast: Dominic West (Det. James ‘Jimmy’ McNulty), John Doman (Dep. Comm. for Operations William A. Rawls), Deirdre Lovejoy (Asst. State’s Atty. Rhonda Pearlman), Wendell Pierce (Det. William ‘Bunk’ Moreland), Lance Reddick (Lt. Cedric Daniels), Sonja Sohn (Det. Shakima ‘Kima’ Greggs), Seth Gilliam (Sgt. Ellis Carver), Domenick Lombardozzi (Det. Thomas ‘Herc’ Hauk)
Often considered to be the greatest TV show ever made, this HBO crime drama ran for five seasons on HBO from 2002 – 2008. Set in Baltimore, Maryland, it explores the city’s drug scene from the perspective of both the drug dealers and law enforcement.
The Wire is not one of those shows that should be judged based on one episode. Instead, It takes its time to fully explore each detail with captivating storytelling that will leave you satisfied at the end of each season.
All five seasons can be streamed via HBO Max.
16. Fargo (2014 -)
4 Seasons 40 Episodes
Crime, Drama, Comedy, Thriller
Cast: Allison Tolman (Molly Solverson), Billy Bob Thornton (Lorne Malvo), Colin Hanks (Gus Grimly), Martin Freeman (Lester Nygaard),
Russell Harvard (Mr. Wrench)
This dark comedy crime drama/anthology was inspired by the 1996 Coen Brothers film of the same name. Set in South Dakota and Minnesota, each season tells a different story with mostly new characters, all of whom are portrayed by an all-star cast.
If you enjoy bizarre characters with odd story twists, Fargo is the show for you. Four seasons have already been broadcast on the FX Network, since the premiere in 2014. A fifth season starring Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, Joe Keery from Stranger Things, and Juno Temple premieres (hopefully) soon.
The first four seasons can be streamed on Hulu.
17. Peaky Blinders (2013 -)
6 Seasons 36 Episodes
Crime, Drama, History
Cast: Cillian Murphy (Thomas Shelby), Helen McCrory (Aunt Polly), Paul Anderson (Arthur Shelby), Joe Cole (John Shelby), Tom Hardy (Alfie Solomons)
This BBC-produced crime drama takes place in England after World War I. It stars Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby, an ambitious crime boss that leads the notorious Peaky Blinders Gang. It is a bloody, violent show with fantastic writing, acting, and outstanding cinematography.
While season 6 ended the series, there is a film coming, as well as a potential spin-off series.
All six seasons are streaming on Netflix.
18. Westworld (2016 – 2022)
4 Seasons, 36 Episodes
Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi, Thriller
Cast: Evan Rachel Wood (Dolores Abernathy), Jeffrey Wright (Bernard Lowe), Ed Harris (Man in Black), Tessa Thompson (Charlotte Hale), Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Robert Ford)
Based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 movie of this same name, Westworld is a science fiction Western drama that has aired four seasons on HBO to date. It starts in a Wild West-themed amusement park populated with android hosts who begin to revolt against their human masters.
The series is known for having complex, multi-layered storylines, stunning visuals, and top-notch performances from cast members. Aaron Paul joined Westworld for its third and fourth seasons.
All 36 episodes can currently be streamed on HBO Max.
19. Deadwood (2004-2006)
3 Seasons, 36 Episodes, 1 movie
Crime, Drama, History
Cast: Timothy Olyphant (Seth Bullock), Ian McShane (Al Swearengen), Molly Parker (Alma Garret), Brad Dourif (Doc Cochran), W. Earl Brown (Dan Dority), John Hawkes (Sol Star)
This Western drama follows the inhabitants of a settlement in Deadwood, South Dakota during the late 1800s. The fantastic ensemble cast is led by Ian McShane, who plays saloon owner Al Swearengem. Co-starring is Timothy Olyphant, who plays a U.S. Marshall and shop owner by the name of Seth Bullock. Deadwood is a rough-and-tumble-type show with a good amount of vulgarity depicting the lawlessness of the era. The long-awaited Deadwood movie aired on HBO in 2019.
All three seasons, plus the movie, can be streamed on HBO Max.
20. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
5 Seasons 62 Episodes
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Cast: Bryan Cranston (Walter White), Anna Gunn (Skyler White),
Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman), Dean Norris (Hank Schrader), Betsy Brandt (Marie Schrader), RJ Mitte (Walter White Jr.) Bob Odenkirk (Saul Goodman)
This is our absolute favorite TV show of all time. This crime/drama/thriller was created by Vince Gilligan and aired on the AMC Network for five seasons. Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico Breaking Bad stars Bryan Cranston as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with lung cancer, who takes up a new career as a meth producer in the hopes of earning enough money to take care of his family after he dies.
The outstanding supporting cast includes Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, and many others. The acting, writing, cinematography, and overall production values are superb. If you want more from the Breaking Bad Universe, the spin-off prequel, Better Call Saul, recently ended it’s six season run, with some cameos and crossover with the Breaking Bad timeline. The sequel movie to the series finale, El Camino, was released on Netflix in 2018.
All five seasons can be streamed on Netflix. The final season of Better Call Saul is no longer available, but the first five seasons are also on Netflix.
That’s a Wrap
And there you have it, folks. Your next binge-worthy TV show awaits.
There are so many good shows out there and if we tried to rank them all, we’d probably be typing away until the next century. This list is by no means definitive, so if we missed your favorite show, let us know!
Now, where’s that remote? There’s how many seasons of Succession?
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Featured Image Credit: Sony Pictures Television.