It was in 1996 when the United Nations General Assembly declared November 21 as World Television Day, and so to commemorate this occasion, we’re featuring five of the best written shows to have ever hit the small screen as ranked by the Writers' Guild of America in this week’s list!
Original run: September 17, 1972 – February 28, 1983
256 episodes in 11 seasons aired on CBS
“M.A.S.H” was an adaptation of the Robert Altman and Fred Williamson-helmed 1970 film of the same name, which in turn was based on Richard Hooker’s 1968 novel, “MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors”. It was developed for TV by Larry Gelbart. In a nutshell, the series was set in Uijeongbu, South Korea during the Korean War and follows the story of the team stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Its final episode, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” was at one time the most watched TV episode with 105 million viewers.
4. All in the Family
Original run: January 12, 1971 – April 8, 1979
208 episodes in nine seasons aired on CBS
Like “M.A.S.H,” “All in the Family” was developed for television by Norman Lear based on an earlier work, this time on the ‘60s-’70s British show “Till Death Us Do Part”. Lear’s show centered on the character of Archie Bunker, a “working-class World War II veteran living in Queens” and bigot, and his family. Although a situational comedy, the show tackled sensitive topics like racism, homosexuality, women’s liberation, and abortion, among other things, making it one of the most influential shows then and until today.
3. The Twilight Zone
Original run: October 2, 1959 – June 19, 1964
156 episodes in five seasons aired on CBS
“The Twilight Zone” was the brainchild of Rod Serling. It was an anthology series, with episodes featuring stories generally of the paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy genres. To somehow give you an idea on what a typical “Twilight Zone” episode tackles, its pilot, “Where is Everybody?” was about a man who seemingly was the last man on Earth but in reality was a training astronaut undergoing a test “to see if he can stay sane cooped up in a small spacecraft for the duration of a trip to the moon.” The original show became immensely popular that the years 1985 and 2002 saw revivals of this series.
Original run: July 5, 1989 – May 14, 1998
180 episodes in nine seasons aired on NBC
“Seinfeld,” which starred a fictional version of one of its creators Jerry Seinfeld, was often regarded as “a show about nothing.” Together with Larry David, Seinfeld penned this sitcom set in Manhattan’s Upper West Side and also followed the stories of the people in the character’s life, most notably Seinfeld’s best friend George Costanza, Elaine Benes, and neighbor Cosmo Kramer. Although Seinfeld the character was supposedly make-believe, a good number of the episodes were said to have been based on the writers’ real-life experiences. With a run spanning almost ten years, would you believe that only four episodes were asked to be produced at the very beginning?
1. The Sopranos
Original run: January 10, 1999 – June 10, 2007
86 episodes in six seasons aired on HBO
New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano is at the center of this drama series created by David Chase. Regarded by many as the “best” television series of all time, the show depicted the struggles of Soprano with his home life and his criminal organization. Or, in the words of its own creator, the series was about “a mobster in therapy, having problems with his mother.”
This list was based on The Writers Guild of America’s 101 Best Written TV Series list; however, additional information in this article were also sourced from the Wikipedia pages of M.A.S.H, All in the Family, The Twilight Zone, Seinfeld, and The Sopranos. See the full list of each show’s credited writers here. Meanwhile, you may read more about the World Television Day by clicking this link.
Like this article? Check out our Top Five List series in the Lomography magazine!