Lazy Sunday? Allow us to introduce the first 20 legends in our definitive guide to the 100 most iconic TV series of our lifetime. From empty-headed entertainment to some of the most thought provoking seminal dramas known to man, we’ve trawled over 30 years of telvision for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)
Though the series of Battlestar Galactica are mixed in quality, as an overall package it’s still one of the most awesome things ever to have aired on-screen. Set in a distant part of the galaxy, the crew of a massive military spaceship struggle to protect the remnants of mankind from a race of dastardly robots. Political intrigue, deception and some nifty space scraps combine to make this a seriously unmissable show. James Callis as cracked genius Gaius Baltar and Tricia Helfer as his femme fatale muse ‘Number Six’ are particularly impressive.
It’s often a sign of a flagging series when celebrity extras start getting chucked into the mix. When it comes to Entourage, celebrity extras were always part of the process. Their appearance in this popular American comedy is down to the fact the whole show is about fame. Or rather the attempts of a group of friends to deal with the trappings of fame as they guide young movie star Vincent Chase through the pitfalls of Hollywood.
Marion and Geoff (2000-2003)
This BBC mockumentary served as a platform for Rob Brydon to let us all know how good a comedian he really is. Playing sappy, slow witted taxi driver Keith, the series gives us episode after episode of unrelentingly grim information on the depressing breakdown of his marriage to Marion and her subsequent hook up with work colleague Geoff. It’s gloomy stuff, but delivered in such a quizzically baffled tone by Brydon that his oblivious nature is guiltily hilarious.
A lavish BBC/HBO collaboration Rome tells the tale of two tough Roman soldiers and their involvement, intentional and otherwise, in the rise and fall of Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus. Grand in scale and beautiful to look at.
King of the Hill (1997-2010)
Set in a Texan town, King of the Hill focuses on an ordinary Texan family and the less than ordinary situations they get into. Central to the series is Hank Hill a beer cherishing, BBQ loving, sports mad all round average American. Hank frets about his unmasculine son, weird friends, old dog, lawn and narrow urethra. Which is good, because these things are all funnier than they should be.
When his Grandfather dies, Jake Green rushes back to Jericho, his childhood home in Kansas. Whilst there he argues with his estranged father, and luckily, survives the fallout of a sudden nuclear explosion. Who set off the bombs? How will Jericho survive? How glad is Jake that he made the trip to the sticks to pay his respects? Jericho is a better than average thriller with glorious B movie sensibilities. Worth a peek.
The L Word (2004-2009)
The L Word was a bit of a game changer when it was first shown in 2004. The drama centred on the lives of a number of lesbian, bisexual and transgender people making the most out of life in sunny California. Smart, sharply written and well-acted, it brought a much needed major channel focus to America’s gay scene, while remaining entertaining enough to be enjoyed by anyone. Katherine Moennig’s portrayal of the outwardly tough but inwardly fragile Shane McCutcheon is particularly impressive.
The X-Files (1993-2002)
The X-Files ran off the rails pretty badly towards the end, mostly because star David Duchovny was involved in a legal battle over his pay. Still though, the first few series are absolute gold, and helped redefine the boundaries of popular entertainment. Edgy, moody and dark, the series managed to mix ready, ‘monster of the week’ horror with an intricately woven conspiracy thread. FBI agents investigating UFOs and werewolves? Who’d have thought it would be the biggest thing on American TV for half a decade.
The Big Bang Theory (2007-Present)
The premise of The Big Bang Theory is pretty lame. Basically some nerds live in a flat and a pretty girl who isn’t a nerd is their friend and neighbour. Safe and slightly timid it might be, but The Big Bang Theory is loaded with geeky pop culture references, intelligent asides and genuinely cringe worthy moments of social suicide. The on-off ‘Rachel-Ross’ style relationship between Leonard and Penny also adds a little bit of spice to proceedings.
South Park (1997-Present)
South Park is a sleepy village in Colorado where four young boys get to hang out with Jesus Christ, battle terrorists and take the piss out of a vast swathe of the world’s most precious celebrities. It’s always been controversial and admittedly while the quality can veer from the horrific to the herculean, South Park is still the most astute and brave animated series on TV.
Stripped of all the normal, nice, glitzy primetime sensibilities, Deadwood was a spectacularly bleak American Western. Teaming with unsavoury and unscrupulous characters, the show details the highs and lows of Deadwood, a growing frontier town in the middle of nowhere. Ian McShane’s portrayal of Machiavellian entrepreneur Al Swearengen is one of several noteworthy performances from the excellent ensemble cast.
My Name is Earl (2005-2009)
Earl was a bad guy who did bad things and mostly ended up with nothing to show for his underhand efforts. So after losing a winning lottery ticket Earl attempts to give a little back and balance karma out in an attempt to get his life back on track. Revisiting old foes and winning over people he wronged makes for some pretty uncomfortable comedy, while his dysfunctional entourage offer plenty of alternative entertainment.
Game of Thrones (2011-Present)
Based on George RR Martin’s amazing books about a kingdom at war, this HBO series gives fantasy fans plenty of boobs, blood and WTF moments. Handsome to look at and brilliantly acted, it’s a fairly faithful adaptation of the source material and better still you don’t have to be a Dungeons and Dragons fan to fall under its spell.
Arrested Development (2003-2006)
Arrested Development takes the usual ‘dysfunctional family’ concept and amplifies it. Crime, family feuds, sibling rivalry and potential incest all enter the mix in what is essentially a surreal series of quick-fire jokes and bizarre set pieces. One of the most critically acclaimed comedies ever produced, Arrested Development is genius.
Peep Show (2003-Present)
Oh how we love Peep Show. Corrosively misanthropic, genuinely cringe inducing and relentlessly brutal, the series portrays the lives of two socially lost and emotionally crippled flatmates. From accidently befriending a racist, to killing and eating a small dog, Peep Show isn’t afraid to place its stars into obscenely unsettling and darkly comic situations. Awkward but exceptional.
The Thick of It (2005-Present)
Even though the fumbles and fuck-ups of Britain’s real life politicians have been, at times, staggeringly amusing in recent years, this fictional portrayal of our incompetent Members of Parliament is still worth a watch. Created by Armando Iannucci, the series is perhaps most famous for giving us expletive fancying spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker played by the never better Peter Capaldi.
Generation Kill (2008)
Nominated for 11 Emmy Awards, this HBO miniseries details the last Iraq War through the eyes of a Rolling Stone journalist and a squad of US Marines. From start to finish it’s a pretty tense tale of bureaucratic inefficiency, confusion, heroism, tragedy and military folly.
The Simpsons (1989-Present)
While it might not be the show it once was, The Simpsons is still the all-time greatest animated series ever. Each episode is a multi-layered, smart but surreal look at family life and American excess. It also manages to make us root for a work-shy, beer swilling ignoramus. In fact, as hopelessly outlandish as Homer Simpson is, few men would claim not to relate to the fictional protagonist.
Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
The ultimate cult TV series, Twin Peaks thrusts a formal FBI agent into a rural community to investigate the murder of popular schoolgirl. While it’s initially set up like a standard crime show, Twin Peaks soon descends into darker territory. Weird and quirky don’t even begin to describe this David Lynch envisioned masterpiece.
The BBC’s recent efforts at putting together half decent comedies has been underwhelming at best and horrific at worst. Apart from Outnumbered that is. Outnumbered is a simple family based comedy where the children (largely unscripted) rather than the adults are the stars. Funny, quick and charming, it’ll bring back memories of your own younger days.