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New poll ranks the top 10 greatest television shows of all time

What makes a great television series is often the subject of much debate.

But to be considered one of the best yet of the 21st century, it seems laughter is something many experts can do without.


In a poll of more than 200 television specialists from 43 countries, to compile a list of the 100 greatest TV series since 2000, just two comedies made the top ten.

American crime drama The Wire was voted the greatest series of the last 21 years in the poll. 


Scroll down for the full list  

Victorious: American crime drama The Wire was voted the greatest series of the last 21 years in the poll (pictured: Idris Elba who played Stringer Bell in the series)

Victorious: American crime drama The Wire was voted the greatest series of the last 21 years in the poll (pictured: Idris Elba who played Stringer Bell in the series) 

The show, which ran from 2002 to 2008 and stars British actors Dominic West and Idris Elba, came out on top.

Almost a quarter ranked the series, based on the Baltimore drug scene, in first place and 48 per cent listed it in their top ten.

According to the list, compiled by BBC Culture, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comedy Fleabag landed in fourth place, with almost 40 per cent of experts placing it in their top ten. 

The show, featuring a young woman navigating life in London while she tries to cope with a recent tragedy, was the highest ranking programme by a woman.

Wow: According to the list, compiled by BBC Culture, Phoebe Waller-Bridge's comedy Fleabag landed in fourth place, with almost 40 per cent of experts placing it in their top ten

Wow: According to the list, compiled by BBC Culture, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comedy Fleabag landed in fourth place, with almost 40 per cent of experts placing it in their top ten

Mad Men was voted the second greatest show, with crime series Breaking Bad third and Game Of Thrones fifth.

The newest series in the top ten is Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, which was released last year and came in at number six. 

The Office UK, starring Ricky Gervais, was ninth – the only other comedy in the top ten. The US Office was significantly lower down at 39.

Mad Men was voted the second greatest show, with crime series Breaking Bad third and Game Of Thrones fifth.

Mad Men (left) was voted the second greatest show, with crime series Breaking Bad third and Game Of Thrones fifth

Krysten Ritter as Jane and Aaron Paul as Jesse in Breaking Bad

Krysten Ritter as Jane and Aaron Paul as Jesse in Breaking Bad 

Other top ten shows include The Leftovers, The Americans and Succession. The Crown was number 16, Sherlock 25th and police drama Line Of Duty was further down at 27. Downton Abbey featured at 36, while Luther sat at 95.

And there were a number of entries from the past two years, when Covid lockdowns have resulted in increased TV viewings.

Normal People, released in April last year, was 84th. Small Axe made 51st place, while The Queen’s Gambit was number 100. Kate Winslet’s Mare Of Easttown was 66th.

To compile the list, BBC Culture polled 206 critics, academics and industry figures from 43 countries. 

Critics could only vote for TV shows which had their pilot after January 1, 2000, and each critic voted for 10 programmes, ranking them one to 10. 

BBC Culture awarded 10 points per first ranked TV show, nine per second ranked TV show, and so on down to 1. We then added the points together. 

The TV show with the most points won, and programmes with more individual votes in total ranked higher. 

BBC Culture journalist Hugh Montgomery said: ‘We were overjoyed by the great response, and we hope that this list will provoke debate and inspire many watches and re-watches of the wonderful shows that have really helped make television the defining art form of the new millennium.’

English was the primary language of 92 of the top 100 shows. And 79 programmes were created by men compared to 11 made by women.

But BBC Culture said: ‘With non-English language series increasingly amassing huge international audiences and a more diverse range of voices in terms of race, gender and sexual orientation being given creative control, the TV landscape could shift once again in crucial and inspiring ways in the future’.  

As to be expected, the list sparked a fierce debate among readers, who were quick to point out iconic shows such as Peaky Blinders and Life On Mars had been snubbed. 

Several readers were also shocked to see The Sopranos hadn’t made the list – although the series was not eligible as it’s pilot aired in 1999 and therefore doesn’t fall into the 21st Century category.  

Fans penned: ‘What happened to The West Wing, True Blood and The Sopranos?’; ‘Band of Brothers only at 36? TV ‘experts? I don’t think so. #TVOfTheCentury’;

‘I’m definitely missing The Blacklist and New Amsterdam ‘; ‘Where the hell is Spiral??!!! Absolutely amazing french police drama’; ‘I would basically agree. But where is Dr Who? 

‘Admittedly I have only seen half a dozen of these, but no Top 100 place for Life on Mars? Seriously?’; ‘How I Met Your Mother is ranked in the top 100, but The Sopranos, Peaky Blinders and Community are not there?! Brooklyn 99 knocks the socks off of HIMYM and The Big Bang Theory as well. New Doctor Who and Good Omens should both be there as well. 

‘Doctor Who has been a 21st century phenomenon – no place on the list?’; ‘It’s A Sin not being on that list is also a huge miss.’; ‘No Peaky Blinders, Justified or Black Sails in the top 100?! This list is legitimately invalid.  

‘The good thing about lists is they never make anyone happy. This is light on non-English TV (just 5 shows) including too many bang-average shows. It lacks Deutschland 83/6/9, Engrenage/Spirals, Peaky Blinders and Boardwalk Empire.Thinking face Also, no anime. The Great Passage is a joy.’ 

The 100 greatest TV series of the 21st Century – full list  

 1 The Wire (2002-2008)

2 Mad Men (2007-2015)

3 Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

4 Fleabag (2016-2019)

5 Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

6 I May Destroy You (2020)

7 The Leftovers (2014-2017)

8 The Americans (2013-2018)

9 The Office (UK) (2001-2003)

10 Succession (2018-)

11 BoJack Horseman (2014-2020)

12 Six Feet Under (2001-2005)

13 Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

14 Atlanta (2016-)

15 Chernobyl (2019)

16 The Crown (2016-)

17 30 Rock (2006-2013)

18 Deadwood (2004-2006)

19 Lost (2004-2010)

20 The Thick of It (2005-2012)

21 Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-)

22 Black Mirror (2011-)

23 Better Call Saul (2015-2022)

24 Veep (2012-2019)

25 Sherlock (2010-2017)

26 Watchmen (2019)

27 Line of Duty (2012-2021)

28 Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)

29 Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)

30 Girls (2012-2017)

31 True Detective (2014-2019)

32 Arrested Development (2003-2019)

33 The Good Wife (2009-2016)

34 The Bridge (2011-2018)

35 Fargo (2014-)

36= Downton Abbey (2010-2015)

36= Band of Brothers (2001)

38 The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-)

39 The Office (US) (2005-2013)

40 Borgen (2010-2022)

41 Schitt’s Creek (2015-2020)

42 Peep Show (2003-2015)

43 Money Heist (2017-2021)

44 Community (2009-2015)

45 The Good Fight (2017-)

46 Homeland (2011-2020)

47 Grey’s Anatomy (2005-)

48 Inside No 9 (2014-)

49 The Bureau (2015-)

50 Halt and Catch Fire (2014-2017)

 

51 Small Axe (2020)

52 This is England 86, 88 and 90 (2010-2015)

53 Call My Agent! (2015-2020)

54 Happy Valley (2014-)

55 The Shield (2002-2008)

56 The Big Bang Theory (2007-2019)

57 The Young Pope (2016)

58 Dark (2017-2020)

59 The Underground Railroad (2021)

60 House of Cards (2013-2018)

61 Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)

62= The Good Place (2016-2020)

62= Pose (2018-2021)

64 Detectorists (2014-2017)

65 Orange is the New Black (2013-2019)

66 Mare of Easttown (2021)

67 RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009-)

68 Stranger Things (2016-)

69 24 (2001-2010)

70 Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)

71 Enlightened (2011-2013)

72 Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)

73 Planet Earth (2006)

74 Utopia (2013-2014)

75 Babylon Berlin (2017-)

76 Rick and Morty (2013-)

77 American Crime Story (2016-)

78 The Killing (Denmark) (2007-2012)

79 Mindhunter (2017-2019)

80 House (2004-2012)

81 OJ: Made in America (2016)

82 Big Little Lies (2017-2019)

83 Insecure (2016-2021)

84= Normal People (2020)

84= Narcos (2015-2017)

86 How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)

87 The Comeback (2005-2014)

88 The OA (2016-2019)

89 Dexter (2006-2013)

90 It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005-)

91 Westworld (2016-)

92 Show Me a Hero (2015)

93 Treme (2010-2013)

94 Louie (2010-2015)

95 Luther (2010-2019)

96 Catastrophe (2015-2019)

97 Hannibal (2013-2015)

98 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-2019)

99 Steven Universe (2013-2020)

100 The Queen’s Gambit (2020)


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