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Greatest TV Shows of All Time – Rolling Stone

If Louie wants to show himself in the car air-drumming to "Who Are You? If he wants to abandon the half-hour comedy format entirely for an extended indie-film vibe with Charles Grodin and Ellen Burstyn, he does that too. Louis C. No, it doesn't last. He fidgets, fondles his tie, cracks awful jokes, plays guitar "Free Love Freeway"! This mockumentary raised the cringe level of sitcoms everywhere, spawning the surprisingly great U. Cheers started with a focus on the mismatched romantic banter between Ted Danson's washed-up Red Sox pitcher Sam and Shelley Long's uptight bookworm Diane.

Cheers was like that bar, to the point where you could tune in just to see which regulars would hang with you tonight. We thought we already knew Larry David via his Seinfeld be the most painful-to-witness tryst of Larry's abysmal career as a single guy. Who can forget Larry cringing under his Palestinian sex goddess as she snarls, "I'm going to fuck the Jew out of you"?

From religion to race, from the mock Seinfeld reunion to the burning ethical dilemma of whether men should wear shorts on airplanes, Larry is always there to make every awkward situation worse. Gene Roddenberry's original series remains the foundation, with William Shatner's awesomely pulpy Capt. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy's logical Mr. Spock, Bones, Sulu, Uhura and Scotty. They make contact with bizarre and inexplicable life-forms — Romulans, Gorns, Joan Collins. During its three years, Star Trek suffered from low ratings until NBC pulled the plug, but thanks to the most doggedly loyal of TV cults remember when "Trekkie" was an insult?

And they're just jampacked with secrets. It evolved into a solemn if sometimes preachy meditation on the futility of war.

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The finale was seen by more than million and remains one of the most-watched TV events of all time. Premiering in the fall of , The West Wing played like a Bubba-era fantasy of how the political future would look like if the Democrats had a little more courage, or if the Republicans had a principle or two that soon turned out to be utterly out of step with the Bush-Cheney years.

But Sorkin's trademark rapid-fire dialogue and the Bartlet administration's idealism made this a welcome parallel universe. As Larry Sanders, he played a showbiz monster whose loathing for all forms of humanity especially himself left him no choice but to make small talk with strangers behind the desk of his late-night chatfest.

Larry Sanders debuted on HBO in with a whole new look — single camera, no laugh track, a constant stream of bile and abuse — and became a word-of-mouth hit.

Larry always had the biggest ego in the room, but he had competition from Rip Torn's producer Artie and Jeffrey Tambor's pitiful sidekick, Hank. Not to mention Paul Shaffer, the indispensable piano man. Letterman was a connoisseur of American eccentrics without ever pretending to be one himself, and a master interviewer, especially when he was up against a fellow curmudgeon, like when Cher called him an "asshole. When Letterman made the move to CBS' Late Show in , he changed titles and time slots, but kept that same acerbic spirit alive — especially in his magnificent final weeks, as he broke down the statistics: "33 years, 6, shows, eight minutes of laughter.

With its premise of " The Sopranos in Middle-earth," it's the HBO fantasy series that broke through genre boundaries to stake its claim as one of the most compellingly realistic dramas on the air, going beyond George R. Martin's books. It might grab attention with the nudity, the dragons and severed heads, but at heart it's a political thriller.

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As Martin told Rolling Stone , "History is written in blood, a gold mine — the kings, the princes, the generals and the whores, and all the betrayals and wars and confidences. It's better than 90 percent of what the fantasists do make up. I went to a Seals and Crofts concert last summer! It tragically lasted only one season, but all 18 episodes hit home, with a rock soundtrack and a cast of future legends.

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The Daily Show got more politically abrasive as the news got progressively worse. Stewart had the rage of a man who'd signed on at the end of the Bill Clinton years, only to end up with an America much scarier and uglier than the one he bargained for, and the anger showed. While the franchise struggles on without him, Daily alumni John Oliver and Samantha Bee keep that hard-hitting spirit alive on their own shows.

And it was Number One in the ratings every year because it didn't belittle its characters — as creator Norman Lear told Rolling Stone , "People were interested in seeing themselves very correctly. Those were the days. As Lorne Michaels likes to say, "We don't go on because we're ready. We go on because it's People keep deciding this time it's really Saturday Night Dead, yet time after time it surges back. No other show has unleashed so many beautifully demented performers on the world.

It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone. The best Twilight Zone episodes looked for freakdom in the everyday: space invaders posing as hotrod greasers, suburban neighborhoods turning into hysterical mobs, grotesque death masks, talking dolls. Countless vignettes remain classics, from William Shatner staring out the airplane window and seeing a gremlin on the wing to Richard Kiel as the gigantic, smiling alien who arrives with the solutions to all Earth's problems — simply because he wants to serve man.

Because they're also America's realest family. Especially Homer, the doofus dad everybody fears turning into, nature's cruelest mistake: "And to think I turned to a cult for mindless happiness, when I had beer all along!

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  • Not to mention Apu, Krusty, Flanders, Monty Burns, Amanda Hugginkiss or any of the other unforgettable kooks who make Springfield just like your town, except funnier. As creator Matt Groening boasted to Rolling Stone in , "Characters on our show drink, smoke, don't wear their seat belts, litter and fire guns.

    In this season's Halloween episode, there's probably more gunfire than in the entire history of The Sopranos. Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer: four friends who happen to be horrible people, in a New York full of soup Nazis, close talkers, anti-dentites, sponge baths, astronaut pens and lobster bisque.

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    Even at the time, everybody could tell Seinfeld was the funniest sitcom we'd ever witness, a week-to-week miracle. But no matter how many times you've double-dipped into all episodes, they keep luring you back like pretzels making you thirsty. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David set the rules from the start — "No hugging, no learning. I mean, if you stand back from it and look at what happens every week, they do terrible things to one another. And yet they continue to hang out. Alexa nailed this one.

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    • She's really an unsung hero of the show. She just had her finger on the pulse of a broader array of talent than our industry is given credit for. Fogel: Michael K. You keep very good records for all your auditions. Michael K. Williams Omar Little : They kept writing—I knew that dude was gay—all they kept doing: Omar rubs the boy's lips. Omar rubs the boy's hair. Omar holds the boy's hand. I'm like, "Don't gay people fuck? You know what I mean?

      Don't they kiss? Don't they grab each other? I was like, Listen, we've got to step it up.

      I was like, "I'm not doing that. I'm not playing a junkie. You ain't got no money. They didn't offer you the role. You got to go audition.