10. The Office, NBC. The Office is one of those shows that I just want to watch each week. Some shows are a chore, but with this, I know that I am going to either: A) Laugh or B) Be made to feel uncomfortable a couple of times during each episode. Yes, some of the episodes feel flat or are too crazy for my liking, but on the whole, The Office is one of the most consistent shows on TV as far as entertainment value is concerned. I might be labeled a blaspheme for saying this, but it's waaaaaaay better than the British version too.
9. How I Met Your Mother, CBS. Remember when NBC was busy racing around trying to find the next Friends? Remember Coupling? Well, if ever there is a show that is the next Friends, it's How I Met Your Mother. What makes HIMYM so great is its total lack of regard for the standard sitcom formula. Sure, there is a laugh track, but HIMYM is actually funny minute to minute. The jokes aren't rationed out per episode and telegraphed from a mile away like most sitcoms. Also, the plot is actually linear throughout the show's history, instead of being self-contained in each episode. And Neil Patrick Harris as Barney? Legend...wait for it...ary.
8. Big Love, HBO. Aside from too much "Paxton ass" in its first season, Big Love is a drama that would feel at home on any of the major networks. There is not much language, little violence and the family, while polygamists, are a good portrait of a troubled, but loving, modern American family. And that is essentially what Big Love is, a family drama. HBO has a way of raising your expectations for shows, and for good reason, but with Big Love, its important to appreciate it for what it is, not what it isn't.
7. Alias, ABC. JJ Abrams left a big mark on TV in the 2000's, and while Felicity was the show where he found his footing, Alias was the show where it all took off. At its core, Alias was Felicity with spies and it also foreshadowed the kind of mystery that Abrams and Co. would later employ in Lost. Like 24, Alias trailed off quickly after its first 3 seasons, but those first 3 seasons...wow.
6. 24, FOX. If ever there was a show living off its previous glory, it's 24. What has become a tired show, recycling previous plots and characters several times over, 24 was once one of the most gripping shows on TV. It still has its moments, but for me, the first 3 seasons of 24 will go down as some of the best in TV history. And given its now-mediocre existence, Keifer Sutherland's Jack Bauer is still reason enough to tune in each week.
5. The Shield, FX. The Shield proved that cable could do TV just as good, and as racy as HBO. Despite its somewhat tedious first 2 seasons, The Shield grew into a show where every action had a reaction, as Michael Chiklis' corrupt cop, Vic Mackey, dealt with the consequences of something he did in the show's pilot -- all the way to the series finale. Whereas most TV shows have plots which are self-contained within a single episode or season, The Shield carried out one linear plot for its entire run.
4. Rome, HBO. Rome lived a short life on HBO. What was originally to be a mini-series became a 2-season show, which is now rumored to be continued again as a theatrical movie. We can only hope to see Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson on screen together again as the troubled widower Lucius Vorenus and the violent but loyal Titus Pullo.
3. Friday Night Lights, NBC. Shows based on movies rarely ever work. Anyone remember the TV show version Ferris Bueller's Day Off? I do. FNL is true to the film in that it tells raw stories about people who happen to be related to the town's high-school football team in one way or another, but that's it. There are no other comparisons to be made. FNL works because its largely improvised, which elicits realistic performances from its actors, and the writing is not content to spin generic TV drama yarns about characters getting pregnant or coming back from the dead. It's about real people. Good people. FNL doesn't need villains.
2. Lost, ABC. It's really unfair to Lost that The Wire existed in the same decade, because put simply, Lost is the greatest network show ever created. It transformed the serial and then turned it on its ear. Has a show ever been as rich in detail as this? I mean, Lost has its own wiki-page -- and it's about as vast as Wikipedia! At times the show can be frustrating, but as we've recently seen, it does intend to answer most of the questions it has asked over the course of its run.
1. The Wire, HBO. What else can I say about a show that has been hailed as the best TV show ever?
Contenders: Big Brother, The Contender, Damages, Gossip Girl, Tell Me You Love Me, True Blood.
Note: Shows such as The Sopranos, which started in the 90's didn't qualify.