WGA Release ‘Top 101 Best Written TV Shows’ List – Gives ‘Sopranos’ Number 1 Spot

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wga top 101 written sopranos WGA Release ‘Top 101 Best Written TV Shows’ List – Gives ‘Sopranos’ Number 1 Spot

Lists ranking the top “whatever” are always an exercise in fire starting because of the subjective nature of the entertainment industry, but occasionally one of these lists comes from a source with enough authority on the matter at hand to make a head turn (though, not necessarily make it nod in agreement), and that’s just what we have now as the Writers Guild of America has released a list of the 101 Best Written TV Series.

Topping the list is David Chase’s venerable mob drama The Sopranos with Jerry Seinfeld’s show about nothing, Seinfeld, coming in at number 2. The Twilight Zone, All in the Family, and Mash rounded out the top 5 with the rest of the list doing a fair job of representing every genre and era in television history, though not everyone will feel that way.

For one thing, there are surely going to be people who say that the list somewhat inordinately rewards relatively newer shows with just shy of half the list featuring shows that premiered in 1990 or later, including the top spot, which could have justifiably gone to any one of the other shows in the top 5.

There are also 21 shows on the list that are presently on the air, assuming you count Arrested Development (16th) and 24 (71st). Newer shows that somewhat surprisingly didn’t make the cut were the wildly imaginative Community and the polarizing Lena Dunham penned series, Girls.

wga top 101 written daily show WGA Release ‘Top 101 Best Written TV Shows’ List – Gives ‘Sopranos’ Number 1 Spot

Late night shows like Late Night with David Letterman, The Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live, and The Daily Show placed on the list, with The Daily Show coming in at a somewhat surprising 17th, but the guild had no love for Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien’s Late Night, or Letterman’s time at CBS with The Late Show.

Shows with a strong female protagonist like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Murphy Brown, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer made the list, but classics and favorites like Maude, Cagney and LaceyDesigning Women, and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd failed to, as did Ally McBeal, a show that was lauded for its clever writing during its time on the air.

As was said before, about half the list featured shows from the last 25 or so years, but the preceding near-half century of television was also represented with a focus on legendary sitcoms like I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, dramas like Gunsmoke, and anthology series’ like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. Again, though, there is room to gripe about the absence of Hogan’s Heroes, Bewitched, The Jack Benny ShowThe Outer Limits, Night Gallery (though, one wonders if Guild Members thought one mention sufficed for Rod Serling and others like Letterman and Bob Newhart), and more.

wga top 101 written night gallery WGA Release ‘Top 101 Best Written TV Shows’ List – Gives ‘Sopranos’ Number 1 Spot

Really, this all comes down to one’s perception of what a well written TV show is and undoubtedly, any one of us could go down this list and lop off 15 or 20 of the guild’s choices and swap in some of our own. That’s part of the charm of these lists: they make everyone into an expert and everyone else into a fool.

So, with that said, here’s a link to the complete WGA list of the 101 Best Written TV Series, check it out and then let us know which shows you think got robbed.


Source: WGA

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  1. Number 93 for boardwalk empire… no respect for one of the best shows on television

  2. I’m not really a big TV guy at all, but I love Seinfeld. Even though I was born too early to experience it live in its original run, I’m a big fan through reruns and buying the DVD seasons. Happy to see it placed so high. It’s an exceptionally written show that has had a huge influence on my prospective screenwriting.

    • You were born too early?

  3. Also no luther or sherlock. Also imo lost is too high, as is game of thrones

    • The writing on Game Of Thrones is god-like. Proper spot on the list.

      • I disagree like many HBO shows they spend more time on sex scenes than thr actual story, but just an opinion. Ill stick to the books

        • They do spend a hefty amount of time on them, but we cannot deny that the writing is on another echelon.

          That’s why it’s not in the top ten.

    • I have to agree. I am surprised that Sherlock isn’t on the list. Lost might have been that high had they not messed up the last couple of seasons. GOT is spot on for now as being not the best but also not the worst

      • The list is only for American shows, not foreign ones; after all, this is The Writers Guild Of America, not Great Britain.

  4. The list completely ignores the longest running situation-comedy in TV history (32 seasons, plus several specials) “Last of the Summer Wine.” It ignores Deep Space Nine, Fringe, The Event, and on and on. What a joke!

    • Everything you named don’t deserve to be on the list.

      • *doesn’t*

    • The Event? Are you high?

    • Again, the last applies to shows made in the USA, not Great Britain. Did you not read the criteria rules?

  5. In my opinion, they shoulda included Scrubs somewhere in there, other than that, I agree with the list.

    • I had the same thought about Scrubs. Really well written show. Could have definitely fit in among this list.

      • Yeah, now that I think about it Scrubs should get a spot. The last season being so awful might have effected it’s placing though.

        • Agh I like to think season 9 never happened aha. But I read in an interview it was supposed to be a completely different show, reason why they put a subtitle ‘Med School’ in the beginning credits. The network didn’t allow it to be a new show though =/.

          • Scrubs was funny til I realized the end of every ep was a downer with some heart felt wrenching message

            • One of the things I loved about the show, that part really differentiated itself from other shows. Hated it and loved it at the same time aha.

    • And it’s pretty accurate too but the last season was pretty awful so maybe that did it.

  6. Seinfeld is the funniest show of all time IMO and it deserved that 2nd spot on the list. I think Boardwalk empire is one the best shows I’ve seen on tv so I think it should’ve been a lot higher

    • I used to think that also but now I’ld have to say that Friends is better.

    • Yeah. Pretty insane the wire didn’t crack the top 5 IMO. The Wire, even with its praise is still the most underrated show. 9th? I would put it first because Sopranos had weak seasons. Wire never missed. Five unbelievably awesome seasons.

    • That very well may be, but it still didn’t grab me one bit. I never could get into The Wire. The writing was good, no doubt, but there is more to a great TV show than that. I couldn’t really connect with any of the characters and the subject matter of the first season couldn’t be any less interesting to me if it tried. Everything felt so cold and distant that I didn’t get any enjoyment out of it. And that was that for me. Ah, well…

      This probably isn’t a good time to mention that I haven’t seen a single episode of The Sopranos yet, is it? :D

      • I’m the same with The Wire… Give the Sopranos a go – you should like Tony and other characters from the get go.

    • Agreed. And how the hell did Mad Men surpass it.

    • I agree. I think although the Sopranos was good, it didn’t deserve the top spot. I think Top 10 or 20, yes, but not number 1. The Wire was a great show and thought it was a lot better than the Sopranos. The last couple of seasons for the Sopranos just ruined the show for me. Also I love Mad Men but that spot is a little high as well.

  7. I would put the wire and sopranos at least both in the top 3 somewhere, along with oz at #1 for me at least

  8. Id like to see how i met your mother on the list as well, not high on it but on it

  9. Community deserves to be SOMEWHERE on the list. And The Wire should be higher than Sopranos. Give Seinfeld number 1, I dont care (even though Ive always thought it was highly overrated), but The Wire is a better written show than Sopranos.

  10. Everybody Loves Raymond should be way higher, I thought that Show is one of the best, if not the best, written comedy show. The way it portrays the family dynamics is damn near perfect.

  11. Was Married With Children on the list? Cant remember.

    It should be.

  12. I can understand why the Sopranos is #1 but for me personally the farther time moves past I find myself ranking it lower on my all time list.
    My top 3 would have
    #1 Breaking Bad (could move down depending on the last 8 episodes but I doubt it)
    #2 The Wire
    #3 The West Wing

    • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip >> The West Wing

  13. All in the family is WAY too high.

    But I can see hollywood being fond of that agenda delivery mechanism.

    I see they’re still trying to convince people that lost was well written and not just a mad-libs hodgepodge of absurd misdirections to fool fools into thinking it must be deep.

    South park is better written then simpsons but fat chance of hollywood putting something on that list that is so fearless about skewing the hollywood agenda.

    But there are a lot of things on there that deserve acclaim also like Taxi and Twilight Zone.

    A half agenda half legitimate list IMO.

    Like every other hollywood creation.

    • I just noticed that South Park is on that list @ 63.

      Thats cool.

      But it should have been way higher.


    • I’d say All in the Family deserves its spot since it was pretty groundbreaking for its time. Other than that I wholeheartedly agree with you.

  14. Unless they mean The Twilight Zone from the 50s and 60s then that entire Top Five is total BS.

    Judging by that top five, I have no hope in the rest of the list being redeemed by accurate choices and placements for other shows.

  15. No Sherlock? This list can’t be taken seriously.

  16. No Archer? WTF? That show is consistently brilliant! No Person of Interest?

    Game of Thrones should have been higher as well.

  17. Absent shows i wouldve like to see on the list…

    Doctor Who
    Malcolm in the Middle
    Skins (UK Version)

    Wasn’t “Band of Brothers” and “Roots” miniseries and not television shows? I’m sure there was something else on the list that might be iffy

    • Very true on Malcolm in the Middle, just finished watching the whole show another time after a couple of years and almost forgot how amazing the writing is. Throughout the series, I find the writing was never dumbed down or got any worse than the previous season, it just got better. The final seasons were definitely my favorite.

  18. Personally think fringe should be on there. IMO probably top 10. Justified should be a lot higher too.
    I’d find a spot for archer too.

  19. Wow, that list is complete garbage. Rome isn’t on there at all? Sex and the City above Game of Thrones? Freakin’ SEINFELD as number 2? Yah, ok…

    Justified, Game of Thrones, Dexter, Rome, heck, even Firefly should be in the top 10, not the crap they have there… Sorry, never was a fan of Sopranos…

    • Yes, yes, I forgot about Rome. Totally agree. It should be on the list. Now that I think about it I think The Tudors should as well. Not high but at least top 50

    • It was Rome’s budget that pushed Deadwood out of production. With Rome, the acting was horrible, the direction was average, and the writing was flat.
      Deadwood was one of the most eloquent/vulgar shows ever written and deserved much more than three seasons.
      1. Deadwood
      2. Breaking Bad
      3. The Wire
      4. 30 Rock
      5. Band of Brothers (even though a mini-series is not a television show, per se)

      Honorable mentions: Sherlock, Luther, West Wing (pretty much anything Sorkin), The Daily Show, Boardwalk Empire, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and Family Guy.

      • @Mr. E

        Yah… if you say so, lmao… Sorry, can’t take your comment seriously…

        I tried to watch Deadwood. It was alright, but didn’t keep my interest at all…

        • I can completely understand your opinion. My two-year-old doesn’t get it either.

  20. Even House is WAAAAYYY too low in the list. And for sci-fi Stargate SG1 needs to be on there…

    • Yup.

  21. I’m sorry, but I just had to exit out of an advertisement for “The Purge”. I love ScreenRant, but I will stop coming here if that ad is only the beginning to advertising every page I visit..

    • ScreenRant wouldn’t be here for you to come to if there wasn’t ads. Think about it…


        • Stay off the dirty sites then… LOL

  22. a very good and thorough list sopranos is no# 1 on my list as well many other of my favorites made the list

  23. I would place The Twilight Zone (the original) the best written show ever.
    I have them all and the consistent high quality maintained through wildly
    different stories from week to week was a tougher threshold to meet.

    • Nobody shows Fringe and Prison Break any love. I’m glad some has.

  24. 24 should be in the top 10.

  25. The only Problem I have is with the list is The Wire’s placing. IMO it is the most well written show ever on television but like I said IMO.

    I was very happy with the rest of the list. Sesame Street (52), Band of Brother (88), Will & Grace (94), Louie (100) and my favorite Twilight Zone at (3)

    My only suggestions would have been The Chappelle Show, Community, (and for a real push) SpongeBob (Don’t shoot lol)

  26. Ugh I’m so tired of hearing about sopranos that show was alright its just the whole Italian mob chit has been done to death the Italians even got tired of it.i mean you seen godfather and casino ya seen it all. Boardwalk empire, the shield,and breaking bad we’re so much better and at a faster pace. Hell even the x files was better then sopranos .i tried to watch but I just couldn’t all they did was just talk Italian s*** and eat meatballs 0-0-0-0-0-0

  27. Ugh I’m so tired of hearing about sopranos that show was alright its just the whole Italian mob chit has been done to death the Italians even got tired of it.i mean you seen godfather and casino ya seen it all. Boardwalk empire, the shield,and breaking bad we’re so much better and at a faster pace. Hell even the x files was better then sopranos .i tried to watch but I just couldn’t all they did was just talk Italian chit and eat meatballs 0-0-0-0-0-0