The 5 Best Seasons of TV

OK, Rusty mentioned that season 1 of Lost was one of the best seasons of TV ever. Brian disagreed. So what’s your top 5?


1. Twin Peaks Season 1. I recently rewatched this. It is amazing. Yes the editing is a little choppier than I remembered (and especially compared to the digitally edited stuff of the last 10 years). But everything is just so perfect. Lynch did an amazing job of finding this enchanted world below the mundane. It’s too bad things went to hell the following season. This is a show that still influences a lot of TV. What’s nice is Lynch is kept somewhat restrained as compared to some of his more extreme “artsy” works. It also has arguably the best soundtrack to ever come from TV.

2. Battlestar Galactica Seasons 1 & 2. The first season was vastly superior to the miniseries. There were only two weak episodes in season 2 (and both of those were superior to most everything in seasons 3 and 4). It’s sad how the show ended up because the first two seasons are everything you could want from a show.

3. Deadwood Seasons 1 & 2. Like nothing that came before. Yes there is a lot of offensive stuff – especially language. But the show made a crude vulgar mining town into a poetic examination of the roots of America and democracy itself. I’m still devastating this show was cancelled.

4. 24 Season 1. The second season was fun, but each subsequent season got dumber and dumber as the idea became more and more worn. (Get rid of the real-time vehicle guys) There’s a slight lull from episode 13-15. But it really works amazingly well. If you’ve watched 24 since it might not have the same impact, but even if you are turned off by the last few seasons check out of the first season and try to pretend you haven’t watched the others. It really is amazing.

5. The Prisoner. I don’t know how many seasons this actually had. I think just one. It helps to know that the main lead played a James Bond like character in a prior television series. Basically a spy is kidnapped at the heart of the cold war, put on a mysterious (and psychedelic) island. He doesn’t know if it’s by his enemies, his friends, or what. It’s a very philosophical series. Even though some aspects are quite dated by 60′s sensibilities it’s amazing how much still works well. Reportedly this is being remade and I’m curious to see how well it translates. (I think removing it from the paranoia of the cold war might not work)

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54 thoughts on “The 5 Best Seasons of TV

  1. Season 1 of Friday Night Lights and Season 2 of The West Wing would be at the top of my list.

  2. My wife and I have watched some older shows lately and they are practically unwatchable now. The pacing is so slow and there are often these scenes showing a car driving along – no dialogue, no actors. (I think of those interminable riding sequences in Butch Cassidy.) TV has definitely gotten better lately, or maybe we’re too jaded.

    The shows we watched recently (and loved when we were younger):

    Hers: Remington Steele
    Mine: Sledge Hammer!

    Sadly, even Brisco County doesn’t hold up, although I still think it’s a fine show.

  3. 1) The Wire, Season 4
    2) Lost, Season 1
    3) Seinfeld, Season 5
    4) Arrested Development, Season 2
    5) Arrested Development, Season 1

    I don’t think I’ve seen enough tv to give an accurate list. The above is just from what I’ve seen. I’d like to see Deadwood, Mad Men, Breaking Bad and a few others.

  4. Season 1 of Friday Night Lights

    I don’t know if I’d put it top-5, but it’s one of my personal faves.

    Adding to the list:

    - X-Files Season 4
    - The Office Season 2 (At the time I thought The Office could rival Seinfeld)
    - The Simpsons Season 4 (Mr. Plow, The Monorail, Kamp Krusty)

  5. The Simpsons season 4.

    Lost season 6 (it’s just gotta be awesome!)

    Mr Roger’s Neighborhood season 1-31.

    Probably too hard to decide if we include old TV shows (Newhart, MASH, Gidget…).

  6. Tim J: you beat me to it while I typed. Don’t forget “Homer the Heretic”—one of the best Simpsons ever—and Treehouse of Horror III with the evil Krusty doll. “Here’s your problem: this doll is set to ‘evil.’”

  7. I had to pick just 5, so I left off Pushing Daisies (which was great). Yeah I cheated a bit by including two seasons for several shows I included.

    Also nearly on my list were some of the Sherlock Holmes seasons the BBC did. Towards the end there were a few age – continuity issues. (A lot of the later stories took place younger in Holmes life) But very, very good.

    Watching old shows can be painful. I tried watching Mork and Mindy, which I loved as a kid. Ugh. The first season of Happy Days still stands up though even if the rest doesn’t. I also surprisingly liked Highway to Heaven, although I just love that genre of guy who wanders around helping those he meets. (One reason why Burn Notice gets me – even if the format needs to shake up a bit)

    An other show almost making the list was season 2 of Millennium. Season 1 was a tad repetitive but it really came into its own in season 2 with this weird conspiracy and gnostic angle. Sadly the ratings weren’t great so they toned down the weird stuff and had a really mundane and boring shortened 3rd season. The “climax” was done on the X-Files with an explanation that made zero sense in connection to what was established in seasons 1 & 2.

  8. Remington Steele was awesome – as I remember. It’s been a very long time since I last saw it so I don’t know if it holds up. Seinfeld I always liked but I never got “captured” by it the way some did. It’s surprisingly how well it holds up though – outside of all the mullets. MASH I’ve watched a few times and it’s amazing how well it holds up. I think the first few seasons were the best – at the end the continuity got to be a bit much. (How long was the war???) Still, the ending where Hawkeye has a nervous breakdown was amazing.

  9. Alias Season 1 – by far the best of the show
    Babylon 5 Season 3 and Season 4 – an amazing story
    Lost Season 1
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 2 and Season 3

    I’d have to agree that Battlestar Galactica’s first and second seasons truly were excellent.

  10. I just love that genre of guy who wanders around helping those he meets

    Then Dr Who should be in your list. Especially the 4th doctor.

    And yes, some old TV shows I used to love—and remember as being great—are really bad. Incredible Hulk is a great example. I remembered it being full of action, but I watch it now and it’s just a lot of that stupid bending-metal sound while Lou Ferrigno moves in slo-mo. And Magnum P.I.—I used to think of him as the ultimate man’s man, but I watch it now and he’s just a whining baby. “Higgiiiiiins!”

  11. I practically can’t stand many of the shows that I used to like back in the day. Personally, one of my favorite all time shows is “The Greatest American Hero.” I think it holds up okay over time. I have all three seasons and the kids like to watch it too. I also like the old George Reeves Superman, good show.

  12. Deep Space 9 – season 6
    St. Elsewhere – season 5

    Both of those are second-to-last seasons and in both cases, the show’s legacies would have been stronger without the final season.

    While probably not one of the five best, season 1 of Hill Street Blues deserves mention, because simply by surviving that season, the show rewrote the rules for TV dramas.

  13. I have high hopes for The Prisoner remake. Ian McKellen is Number Two. It’s on AMC. And AMC has been kicking some TV butt lately.

  14. Deadwood Seasons, 1 and 2.
    The Wire, Seasons 1, 2, 3, and 4.
    Six Feet Under, Season 1.
    Mad Men, Season 1.
    The Sopranos, Season 1.
    Twin Peaks, Season 1. (totally agree with Clark)
    My So-Called Life, Season 1.
    Northern Exposure, Season ??.
    Star Trek TNG, Season ??.

    Saw the last two series mostly during syndication and didn’t delineate between one season and the next.

  15. I heard there was talk of remaking The Greatest American Hero. It’d be interesting if they made the partner Kiefer Sutherland which would fit the role Robert Culp had. (Culp had a long pedigree of tough guy roles including his role on I Spy.

    While I loved TGAH as a kid, I can tell just by my memories that it wouldn’t live up. Even as a kid I noticed lots of production problems. It’s a great concept though and would really be a great way of sarcastically critiquing the action hero genre as well as the superhero genre. It’d require really good writers to pull off though. There’s just too much temptation to get campy or be too overt with sarcasm. It’s a show I think you really need to have most of the show playing it straight.

    I agree with Alias. The first season and a half were fantastic. It almost made my top 5. Sadly they really didn’t know what to do once they broke up SD-6 and it never really recovered.

    I thought about Hill Street Blues too, but it’s just been too long since I saw it. I have this sneaky suspicion that it was too much a product of its times. I know most of the “compelling” shows of that time seem dated. MASH is one of the few that doesn’t. (Although the Jeffersons episode where George Jefferson joins the KKK was on TV the other day and it was hilarious) Oddlly I tried to watch The Flintstones on Boomerang with my son the other day. Boy is that dated. It just comes off as misogynistic now. I recognize that it’s largely a riff on the Honeymooners which is really dated and shows sex relations in the 50′s. But man…

  16. The best part of Sledge Hammer was doing target practice with his coat closet. (He’s in a tiny NY apartment) Second best Sledge Hammer moment. The time he’s on that quiz show being fed answers and the question is who invented the .44 Magnum. (Elmer Keith although technically Ruger beat him to market by a few months)

    Samurai Jack is amazing, although I actually like the latter seasons best. (I actually don’t own the first season on DVD — although I have the rest)

    How could I have missed the Muppet Show?

    Also Cheers. Fantastic show that surprisingly hasn’t aged much when I’ve watched it. (Other than the hair cuts — but if anything Seinfeld looks more dated even though it came out afterwards)

  17. How can so many people leave out Arrested Development?

    1. Arrested Development (any season)
    2. Arrested Development (any season)
    3. Arrested Development (any season)
    4. The Office season 1
    5. The Office season 2

  18. Susan,

    I finally discovered Arrested Development a few weeks ago. It is so so funny.

    This is a great question.
    I agree with Buffy seasons 2 and 3 and Mad Men season 1. Prolly Lost season 1, as well. Early seasons of X-files … but everything following the first movie was so bad I have a hard time forgiving any of it. Any season of FNL is right in there, for me.

    I haven’t watched Twin Peaks for an age. There is one I wonder how it has held up. re: David Lynch: I find Blue Velvet almost unwatchable, but when younger thought it was one of the best films ever made. ~

  19. The Muppet Show season 2 was amazing TV. Gilmore Girls season 2 is one of my favorites and never gets old for me. Friends had a couple really good seasons too. Mad Men season 2 was also great tv. I am rewatching Bones season 3 right now and it’s a great season. All the characters really started to gel. I also think the first season of Dead Like Me was a stand out.

  20. How about season 1 of Dexter? I still can’t watch the show’s intro where they are just cutting up fruit and making breakfast.

  21. I also liked Divinci’s City Hall (CBC). I didn’t like Divinci’s inquest, but the politics in the later series were interesting to watch.

  22. I don’t know about specific seasons but these shows are involved:

    The Wire
    Arrested Development
    Fawlty Towers
    Blackadder
    Deadwood

  23. What about season 1 of Heroes? Season 2 was awful, and I haven’t watched it this year but the first season was the funnest thing.

  24. Season 1 of Heroes was very good (except for 2 episodes in the second half and the horrible season finale). I’m not sure it’s top 10 good let alone top 5.

    Season 1 of Dexter was pretty awesome

    A few of the South Park seasons ought be in there as well.

  25. BSG 1 & 2 (about to finish 3 which was a letdown, haven’t seen 4, I’m going to do a writeup on the whole thing once I finish)
    30 Rock 1-3
    24 season 1
    Wonderfalls
    Northern Exposure 1 till about 4
    Simpsons from about 3 till about 7

    I loved Sledge Hammer, but I haven’t seen it for 20 years, and I have no inkling of how it would hold up.

    Oh, and BSG 1 again.

  26. Brian V, Good call on Blackadder. 2 and 3 were really great.

    Veronica Mars was great in both the first and second seasons.

    Muppet Show season 2 was fantastic. That’s when the show really hit its stride.

    Avatar: The Last Airbender’s third season was about as perfect as an animated series can be, I think. Season 2 was also great.

    I think a good argument can be made for Lost season 2 being better than season 1. This past season really didn’t have too many weak spots either.

  27. I’ss second Firefly and Pushing Daisies

    The Big Bang Theory is one of the funniest shows on TV now — though it is targeted at geeks.

  28. I don’t get the Deadwood love at all. I mean it was good, just not great. Two of the main characters (I forget their names, but Montana and the wicked Saloon owner) were boring, flat characters that didn’t seem dynamic and I didn’t care about them at all. There were other characters that were really and the town of Deadwood was great but still one of TVs best? No way.

  29. How about Carnivale? My wife thinks I’d really like it, especially the first season. I don’t want to get into it knowing that it was canceled , as I understand, mid-story. ~

  30. I really like Carnivale but it’s slow going. I thought the pacing was fine, but if you need things to move quickly, approach with caution.

  31. Amri:

    Here’s a nice piece about Deadwood from the AV Club that may help shed some light into why so many people think the show is so great:

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/deadwooddeep-waterreconnoitering-the-rim,28732/?utm_source=sidebar_tvclub

    Opinions are opinions and no one’s is right or wrong, but I will say that if you consider Al Swearengen a boring, flat character, I’d be interested in someone you consider a compelling or three-dimensional character. I would think that such a character would cause the fabric of the living universe to implode upon itself.

  32. Brian V. –I didn’t watch season 2 of Deadwood, maybe he gets better but in Season 1, he’s a bad dude, out for himself. I mean, the nice thing he does is being shitty to the Chinese guy so his underlings will respect him and then killing one of the opium thieves. He just wasn’t very interesting to me in Season 1.

  33. I don’t know if any season of 24 would crack the top 5, but I think season 2 is better than 1. Season 5 was also excellent.

  34. I like Lost season 2 better as well, although there were quite a few who thought it was too slow moving.

    I thought season 5 of 24 was pretty bad myself.

    Amri, in season 2 he really develops a lot more. The path of Swearenger is the path of America as it becomes civilized.

    Avatar is a fantastic animated series. Good call.

    I personally found the fourth season of Black Adder my favorite. Although season 1 and all the Shakespearean references still is a close second.

    The best season of The Simpsons was the one where Maggie gets sent to the Ayn Rand pre-school and leads a rebellion. Hilarious. The last 8 years have been weak compared to those four glorious seasons in the middle.

  35. The best season of The Simpsons was the one where Maggie gets sent to the Ayn Rand pre-school and leads a rebellion. Hilarious.

    Yep, Season 4.

    Season 1 vs. Season 2 of 24 is a tough call. And it also reminds me of a reason why the past few seasons have been much weaker: lack of compelling subplots.

  36. Both season/series of the British Life on Mars. It’s been a while since I’d seen sucj impressive TV. The American verison didn’t compare. Also the second season/series of the new Doctor Who.

  37. My Top 5:

    The X-Files, Season 3. Darin Morgan is God!

    Hill Street Blues, Season 3. The first episode of that season “Trial by Fury” was the best single hour of dramatic television I ever watched.

    The Prisoner – only one season. It was definitely a product of its time, but oh what a time that was.

    Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Series 1. This was a real toss-up between the first and second season; I went with the first because it showed “Confuse-a-Cat” and had the Funniest Joke in the World.

    Twin Peaks, Season 2. Another toss-up in my mind between the first and second season. The first had the Pilot, one of the most amazing shows ever put on TV. But the second season give us “Bob,” Leland going mad, Nadine wrestling, and endangered pine weasels.

  38. Mudhead, thanks for that reference to Darin Morgan – made for some interesting reading on wikipedia. I had no idea – but he wrote some of my favorite X-Files episodes.

  39. I’ve never seen better TV in my life than the two or three best seasons of The Wire. Season one and the school season (four? I think?) were the highlights.

    And, count me as another vote for “how can you leave off Arrested Development?”

  40. I am a prototypical “geek” and I think The Big Bang Theory is one of the most shallow, unbelievable sitcoms ever made. It makes According to Jim look like high comedy.

  41. It’s shallow and done it that classic 70′s sitcom style. But I guess I just knew way too many people like the characters in that show.

  42. An other I forgot about was The Equalizer. I caught that on late night TV a few months back when I had insomnia. Pretty good, although it does have that slow moving pace of the 70′s and 80′s. It probably was the main influence on Burn Notice (which premiered last night)

  43. I’ll have to second Season 2 of West Wing, especially the last two episodes. Amazing TV. The last half of Season 7 was decent, too.

  44. For me? Personally
    Seasons 1 and 2 of californication were terrific. Vular, rude, and not suitable for children but a crude and better taste of life in california… hank moody is one of the greatest characters ever to appear on television.

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