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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Empire presents:Greatest tv shows of all time

10)Spaced (1999-2001)
For a generation weened on geek culture and bottle fed on cult movies, Spaced was the perfect comedy. With a loose set up bringing together a bunch of disparate drifters (Simon Pegg's lovable comic book artist, Jessica Stevenson's lazy author and Nick Frost's army obsessive amongst others), each episode was little more than a collection of film and TV references strung together on an unlikely plot - luckily it had the good grace to be very funny and very clever.
9)X-Files (1993-2002)
Created by surfing enthusiast Chris Carter, The X-Files proved to be the show that could do anything. It could modulate its tone from Twin Peaks creepy to Texas Chain Saw Massacre terrifying to Three Stooges silly. It had a pair of good-looking, charismatic heroes with deliciously simmering sexual chemistry - plus a rogue's gallery of memorable villains, including the putrid Flukeman, stretchy Eugene Tooms and butt-loving Cigarette Smoking Man. Of course, the long-running 'Myth-Arc' conspiracy plotline would have baffled Einstein and was never properly wrapped up in any case, but with at least one more big-screen outing lined up for Mulder and Scully there's still time to redeem the show that launched a thousand Dark Skies.
8)The Wire (2002-2008)
David Simon's frighteningly realistic cop drama is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished TV shows ever created and the vast majority of people have never actually seen it. It's a slow-burning, uncompromising and above-all honest look at the mean streets of Baltimore and the drugs trade that stangles it. Each season has a specific focus (be it the working class, education, politics or the media) and proceeds to explore the underlying real-world problems within a dramatic context. It all sounds rather heavy but thanks to a mischievous sense of humour and some outstanding characters (Bubbles, Omar and The Bunk) the show is extremely watchable despite the weighty themes. Effortlessly straddling the divide between drama and documentary, The Wire, at its best, is without peer on big screen or small.
7)Friends (1994-2004)
How is it that Channel 4 can show the quintessential '90s sitcom on a virtual loop and it doesn't get old? It's because Friends, at its best, is as perfect a sitcom as you will find. In its earliest days, the adventures of six beautiful pals who apparently earned money by drinking coffee featured writing much sharper than the cuddly exterior suggested. Even when the quality dipped a little mid-run, the ensemble remained perfectly matched and the best comedy collective on TV.
6)24 (2001-present)
Okay, so the last series was bobbins, but 24 has bounced back before and we're hoping the forthcoming Season 7 will see the Jack Bauer Power Hour back on form. At its best, there is just nothing like it - insane levels of adrenaline, finely calibrated political intrigue and twists that hit you in the face like a two-fisted punch from Tony Almeida. 24 is some of the most cinematic TV you'll ever see, with no expense spared to depict CTU's intense battles against cunning terrorists and occasionally the odd rogue President. Even when 24's rubbish, it's still loveable - we still have a soft spot for the cougar who menaced Kim Bauer in possibly the show's worst ever plot twist, back in Season 2.
5)Lost (2004-present)
Only time will tell whether it's as clever as it seems, but few TV shows have gripped viewers' imaginations like this hybrid of Swiss Family Robinson and Twin Peaks. An innovative structure in which each episode hones in on a different character, with flashbacks and flashforwards expanding their backstory, ensures the entire cast is fleshed out beyond the constraints of the primary narrative. But aside from the host of unique and colourful characters - from earnest Jack to cocky Sawyer, noble Jin to bug-eyed Ben - it's the epic mysteries at the core of the story that keeps us coming back. What powers does the island have? What's that polar bear doing in the tropics? And how come Hurley never loses weight despite being marooned on an island?
4)The West Wing (1999-2006)
For a long time a walk-on part in The West Wing was the pinnacle to which all jobbing TV actors aspired. Smart and funny, Aaron Sorkin's political drama showcased the writer's gift for rapid-fire dialogue and layered, politically resonant storylines, proving that television can be funny and insightful all at the same time. The series took a temporary downturn after Sorkin's departure at the end of season four but rallied soon after with a number of surprising changes to both character roles and format. It all came to a natural close at the end of President Bartlet's second term in office but The West Wing remained one of the most intelligent shows on television throughout its run and a comforting image of what a more benevolent White House could look like.
3)The Sopranos (1999-2007)
hose who tuned into the first episode of The Sopranos in 1999 found not a documentary about opera singers but a dark, offbeat drama about a New Jersey gangster with a fixation on the ducks who visit his swimming pool. As the first season wore on, viewers became hooked on creator David Chase's uncompromising vision of an old-school criminal organisation beset by all the stresses and tensions of the modern day. A fusion of sharp, unpredictable writing and powerhouse acting ensured this show classic status, spawning a videogame, spoofs by The Simpsons and the Clintons (!) and an Artie Bucco recipe book, so you can make like Tony and feast on 'gabagool' yourself.
2)Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Emerging from the ashes of a failed 1992 movie, this improbably titled series was the phenomenon that put Joss Whedon firmly on the map. The very essence of girl power, Buffy was an arse-kicking babe blessed with a smart mouth and a vicious roundhouse right. The winning factor, though, was that the supporting characters were just as appealing as the lead, from Willow the lesbian witch to Anya the former vengeance demon. Above all others, though, It was however James Marsters' turn as Brit bloodsucker, Spike, who most frequently stole the show.
1)The Simpsons (1989-present)
Could it really be anything else? You can put The Simpsons in almost any category you like and it will come out on top. Best animated show. Best sitcom. Best family show. The list goes on. It's ageless, both in the quality of the jokes and the people it appeals to. Bart was originally intended as the focus of the show, but the brilliance of the writing means the rest of the family has come to be equally beloved. People complain about a dip in quality now that it's reaching its third decade, but even sub-par Simpsons is better than 90% of TV comedy. At its greatest, it's untouchable. Best. Show. Ever.
These are the first 10 tv shows.For the full list of the 50 greatest tv shows of all time,visit

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