This my first Top Ten list: Tim’s Top Ten TV Shows to Marathon Watch.  There are likely at least mild spoilers in here, but the spoilers are for shows that ended at least 5 years ago, so if you are reading this and worried about 5-year-old spoilers let me know what you think of the iPhone 4 when it comes out in your world.

TV shows have some great writing.  Getting into a show and bingeing on it for a week lets you get the whole story without having to wait, and trying to remember what happened last week.  Before this angers some people, I have not seen every TV show ever made.  I can only create this list based on all the shows I’ve seen and liked.  I will have an honorable mention at the bottom, but this list is by no means exhaustive or complete.

10. Law and Order (The ones that lasted longer than 1 season)


The list of TV shows that last for 20 years is short.  Combine that with 2 successful spin-off shows (and two not so successful ones) and you get a series that cannot be excluded.  Law and Order is so spree-worthy that it even does so on a regular basis on more than one Network TV channel.

Law and Order has a pretty simple formula, half cop show and half courtroom drama.  It is the combo meal of crime drama.  Instead of shows that focused solely on one aspect of the process, Law and Order makes you feel like you get the whole thing.  You get to see the arrest, the interrogation and finally the trial.  Not many shows can be that versatile and not feel like you are watching a potential spinoff.

Law and Order is the standard by which all other procedural cop shows are judged.  Without this show, we wouldn’t have CSI and their spin-offs as well as NCIS and a whole slew of cop shows too numerous to mention.  The writing was always on-point with events happening in the news; which made it consistently relevant and compelling.  Not to mention the acting and guest stars from top-notch actors, easily put Law and Order on the list.  If a show can make Ice-T a cop, it has to be worthy of being considered great.

9. South Park


As the only animated show on the list, South Park has something that few shows have.  A talking towel.  Beyond that, South Park is a consistently entertaining and funny show that keeps itself relevant.  Always tackling controversial topics, it seems to never run out of joke ideas so ridiculous that you forget the topic they are talking about is a sensitive issue.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker have had some other successes that attest to their comedic skills but South Park is so simple in the premise of being a group of friends in a small town, that they can and have taken it everywhere without feeling like they have jumped the shark (for that reference: see Happy Days on some older guys list).  On top of a successful TV show, South Park has a number of games, a movie, various merchandise, and even a few CDs (I am not ashamed to admit that I owned and listened to these CDs quite a bit).

At 18 seasons and still going, I hope it continues to keep being relevant and funny.  They worked out the movie rights in 2013 so I hope another movie is on the way as well.

8. Lost


Love or hate, if you feel either way, you watched it.  Lost was so compelling from the start, you couldn’t look away.  Once I started watching it I couldn’t just stop. I had to know what the smoke monster was, what’s in the hatch, and who the other people are.  The writing was very well done and the special effects were simple enough that they hold up to the test of time.

Simple plot, plane crashes on an island and the survivors are trying to get rescued.  The delivery was so well thought out they had websites that referenced the show that you could go to and learn easter eggs about the show that you wouldn’t otherwise know.  Don’t get me wrong, not doing that stuff doesn’t take anything away from the show; but I felt like I was part of a secret group of people who got to see extra stuff. Audience participation made this more than a show, it was a full on interactive adventure.

Lost is one of the shows on this list that had a controversial ending. Unfortunately, when a show gives you so many questions and so few answers, very few endings will feel satisfying.  Whether you enjoyed yourself or not, at least it didn’t end like the Sopranos or that season of Dallas where it was all a dream…

7. Leverage


Leverage is the only show on this list that was actually canceled, due to bad ratings.  The show was aware of this possible event so the last episode was produced to be a possible series finale.  I cannot express how well done this show was.  Every episode is a heist.  That is all I needed to hear to get started watching Leverage.  This is actually my favorite show on the list due to it’s rewatchability but I understand that it isn’t the best show here. As a matter of fact, I am watching it while I write this list.

A-Team meets Robin Hood.  Leverage is about a team of thieves that decide to steal from the rich and corrupt to even the score with victims. The ‘rooting for the little guy’ aspect of the show makes it very likable and easy to fall in love with the characters. Sometimes, bad guys make the best good guys.

The writing was very clever and character development was a slow burn but didn’t feel drawn out.  There was never a real main focus on romantic relationships but they ended up being there without feeling pushed or forced.  There was something for everyone: attractive male and female actors, great writing, completely made up names for confidence games, fight scenes in almost every episode, and a generous amount of running gags to make it enjoyable for everyone.

6. Breaking Bad


Everyone is high on Bryan Cranston right now for good reason.  He’s a great actor that finally was able to show off his real skills in Breaking Bad.  With a spin-off on the way, Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad is easily on most people’s favorite show lists.  With a great supporting cast, a wife you love to hate, and a partner so messed up you end up cheering for him, Breaking Bad was easily one of the best stories on TV ever.

Walter White, normal every-man chemistry teacher, is diagnosed with cancer and decides to start making crystal meth with one of his former students. You know, exactly how any reasonable person would react. Leaps in logic aside, Breaking Bad will make you change the way you think about people and their breaking points; especially about what they do when pushed beyond them.

The writing meshed very well with the acting to the point where you forget you are watching a show at times and you get emotionally invested in the characters.  To watch the main character go from sympathetic normal dad to inhumane criminal is different from any other TV show I’ve seen.  Normally you grow to love the main character but in Breaking Bad you grow to hate Walter for turning into a terrible person for all the right reasons.

5. Dexter


Despite the parallels, this isn’t the show about the kid in the lab coat.  Dexter was such an original and compelling concept: a serial killer that kills serial killers.  The idea that you can root for a murderer is pretty novel.  Getting inside of his head, you get to really feel for this character that evolves into someone with whom you can almost identify with.

The acting was top-notch and the writing really grabbed you in a way that made the episodes suspenseful without feeling gimmicky. The music mixed in the show quite, well ranging from the melancholy score to the upbeat hispanic music.  That kind of difference made the eerie ambient sounds feel even more creepy by contrast.

Dexter received bad reviews for having a bad finale. Truth is, the finale was good up until the last ten minutes. If you are watching the show for the first time and you want to know where it should end: watch until the boat is navigated into something then stop.  Don’t watch further, it’s just one big ole bag of disappointment.

4. 30 Rock

30 Rock

Critically acclaimed but never really won the masses over, 30 Rock is a great show to marathon watch.  There are jokes upon jokes that are thrown in there so much that you may have to watch it twice just to catch them all.  I’m a pretty big Tina Fey fan, her writing is stellar and she can lead a show.

30 Rock had an abundant amount of guest stars that really make for some great episodes. Some of the guests included: Bryan Cranston, Dean Winters, Paul Reubens, Oprah Winfrey, Peter Dinklage, and Jon Hamm. Kelsey Grammer is so good at making fun of himself that you forget he is a cocaine addict and drunk driver. Few other shows have had so many guests of that caliber and I doubt there will be many others that will.

The premise is basically the writing room of a sketch comedy show like SNL.  Loaded with SNL writers and cast members, 30 Rock gave us SNL humor without having to deal with the inevitable bad SNL sketches. There are very few shows that are this re-watchable.

3. Game of Thrones


Fantasy shows are rarely good and never great.  Game of Thrones is a phenomenal show that keeps you in suspense the whole time.  I haven’t seen a show before that keeps you guessing this many times. As a person who hasn’t read the books, I have no clue what is going to happen next.

The acting is great and the story is just beyond comparison to anything in the genre.  My only hesitation in putting this on the list was the fact that it isn’t over yet.  Short of turning the show into Happy Days in Mordor, I don’t see any reason to not think the rest of the series will at least be good.

The plot is hard to summarize but IMDB says it as good as anywhere else: Seven noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros. If you aren’t watching this now, you should.

2. Oz


Prison is scary and Oz doesn’t sugar coat it. Oz is the story of the day-to-day at an unusual prison. This show is so addictive I remember being hooked after the first episode.  The series as a whole was fantastic with the cameos, guest stars, and ensemble cast. I cannot overstate how masterfully put together this show was.

Stories melded together like a spiderweb in a way that we have seldom seen since.  The originality of Oz still stands today.  The gritty nature of the show made it a standout hit in the 90’s and would still be considered controversial today for all the same reasons.

Many of the major actors on this list started on Oz.  BD Wong and J.K. Simmons on Law and Order, Harold Perrineau and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje on Lost, Lauren Vélez and David Zayas on Dexter, J.D. Williams and Domenick Lombardozzi on The Wire and even Dean Winters was on 30 Rock as well as Law and Order: SVU.

1. The Wire


Every list needs a number 1 and The Wire more than enough reasons tops the list.  Easily considered one of the greatest shows ever to be on television, The Wire is my number one pick for a multitude of reasons.  Every aspect of the show was top-notch.  Acting, music, writing, direction, and action are all perfect on this show.

The Wire is about many aspects of Baltimore including: drug dealers, suppliers, politics, schools and press. There are no bad episodes or unnecessary moments.  I can easily watch this show on repeat in an endless loop and it would take quite a while for me to get sick of it.

Nothing is perfect but The Wire comes very close.  I don’t know if another show will ever match The Wire but I certainly hope something does.  Everything in The Wire is top notch.  Everything melds together perfectly.

Thank you for reading my list of shows to binge watch. I feel that the stuff you like is a reflection of you.  People who read superhero comics tend to be idealists and horror fans are mild adrenaline junkies.  There is a theme to the shows I enjoy. I love antiheroes. Vigilante justice appeals to me due to my lack of faith in the justice system but now I’m just over-sharing. I hope you liked my list as much as I liked writing it.  Below is a list of other shows that didn’t make the cut. Some of them I’ve seen and others I have not.  I feel like I would be doing readers a disservice by not having them somewhere. 

Honorable mentions

  • Arrested Development
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Burn Notice
  • Cheers
  • Criminal Minds
  • Dr. Who
  • Family Guy
  • Firefly
  • Freaks and Geeks
  • Friends
  • Heroes
  • House M.D.
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • Modern Family
  • Parks and Rec
  • Prison Break
  • Psych
  • Scrubs
  • Seinfeld
  • SNL
  • Sopranos
  • Supernatural (first 5 seasons)
  • The Big Bang Theory
  • The Golden Girls
  • The Mentalist
  • The Simpsons
  • The Walking Dead
  • True Blood
  • X-files