21 Iconic TV Shows That Stand the Test of Time

Television shows have significantly shaped the society we live in today. Some are so exceptional they go on to have substantial impacts on the wider culture. From gripping dramas to laugh-out-loud comedies, here are some of the best TV shows of all time.

The Sopranos (1999)

Photo Credit: HBO.

This American crime drama focuses on the life of New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano as he tries to lead his criminal organization while maintaining his family life. The unique blend of crime drama, family dynamics, and psychological exploration makes it one of the best of all time.

Breaking Bad (2008)

Bob Odenkirk Breaking Bad AMC
Photo Credit: AMC.

Breaking Bad tells the story of how a high school chemistry teacher transforms into a ruthless drug kingpin after being diagnosed with cancer. The show is perfectly written and features a masterful performance from Bryan Cranston. We see how the most innocent can become a notorious monster once put under the right pressure.

Sherlock (2010)

Photo Credit: Hartswood Films.

This is a quirky spin on the Sherlock Holmes detective stories that follows Sherlock, a “high-functioning sociopath,” and John Watson as they solve bizarre murder mysteries in modern-day London. The clever writing and well-crafted mysteries make it really fun to watch. The rivalry between Sherlock and Moriarty is one of the best on TV.

The X-Files (1998)

The X-Files 20th Century Fox
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

With a perfect blend of science fiction, horror, and mystery, this show focuses on paranormal phenomena and government conspiracies. Iconic episodes like “Home” show just how good the storytelling in the show is. The “monster-of-the-week” episodes mixed with mythology made it unique and intriguing.

Mad Men (2007)

Mad Men AMC Original Productions
Photo Credit: AMC Original Productions.

The show delves into the personal and professional lives of employees at Sterling Cooper advertising agency in 1960s New York City, focusing on the enigmatic and troubled creative director Don Draper. It depicts how creativity and innovation in the advertising industry shaped the American consumer culture.

The Wire (2002)

The Wire HBO
Photo Credit: HBO.

The Wire is known for its realistic portrayal of urban life in Baltimore, with a focus on the drug scene, depicting the struggles of both drug dealers and law enforcement. It provides an in-depth exploration of the characters and touches on themes of drug addiction and institutional dysfunction.

Game of Thrones (2011)

Charles Dance As Tywin Lannister Game of Thrones (2011-2015) HBO
Photo Credit: HBO.

Anyone not living under a rock has definitely heard of this one. The show revolves around the power struggles among noble families vying for control of the Iron Throne. The show is very unpredictable and has some of the best characters on TV. It received the most Emmys of any drama series.

The Office (2005)

Photo Credit: NBC.

The U.S. remake of The Office is considered one of the greatest comedy series in history. The show’s unique style of humor makes it different from other comedy shows. It has one of the funniest ensemble casts and has been a major pop culture influence.

Succession (2018)

Photo Credit: HBO.

This HBO series about a rich, greedy family fighting for the role of CEO is absolutely bonkers. The plot twists and schemes keep loyalties shifting. The show has a stellar cast that delivers quick-witted dialogue with densely-packed insults like it’s an everyday conversation. It’s a brilliant show with an amazing finale.

Friends (1994)

Photo Credit: NBC.

Friends is one of the most popular television shows of all time. The sharp and witty humor, along with clever one-liners and running gags, never fails to make the audience laugh. The show has a lot of memorable moments, and even with the friends’ unique personalities, their chemistry is nothing short of incredible.

The Simpsons (1989)

Photo Credit: FOX.

Over the years, this show has consistently delivered smart, witty humor, poking fun at various aspects of American life. The satirical brilliance and cultural impact are unmatched. It’s known for predicting a few events that happened. It never ceases to entertain and has become a part of pop culture in its own right.

Black Mirror (2011)

Photo Credit: Netflix.

This anthology series offers us a glimpse into a dystopian future where several individuals grapple with the manipulative effects of cutting-edge technology. The well-crafted stories and social commentary on contemporary issues in each episode often spark discussions about the consequences of our increasingly digitized world.

Stranger Things (2016)

Photo Credit: Netflix.

Stranger Things is one of the biggest shows on Netflix. The incredible young actors, captivating story, ’80s nostalgia, and stunning visuals make the show appealing to a wide audience. The series only grows in scope with each passing season, with season 4 making it the second most-watched Netflix show of all time.

True Detective (2014)

True Detective - HBO Entertainment
Photo Credit: HBO Entertainment.

True Detective is an anthology series, and each season focuses on different detectives trying to solve homicides. The first season, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, was absolutely brilliant. The acting, writing, and overall storytelling make it a compelling watch.

The Americans (2014)

The Americans FX Productions
Photo Credit: FX Productions.

Described as one of the greatest spy dramas on TV, The Americans is about Soviet spies undercover as an American couple. It combines espionage with domestic drama, creating a unique blend of thrilling spy missions and the challenges of maintaining a double life. The show has you rooting for characters despite their terrible actions.

Six Feet Under (2001)

Six Feet Under HBO Entertainment
Photo Credit: HBO Entertainment.

The show explores the lives of a family that runs a funeral home. It moved audiences with its black humor, sharp characterization, and flawless cast. The brilliant writing makes it wrenching and other times, cathartic. It’s also considered to have one of the greatest TV show finales of all time.

Seinfeld (1989)

Julie Louis-Dreyfus Seinfeld Castle Rock Entertainment
Photo Credit: Castle Rock Entertainment.

Seinfield has a revolutionary approach to comedy, introducing the ‘show about nothing’ concept and crafting a satirical mirror of everyday life. The humor in the show often has the iconic cast making observational comedy out of everyday situations and social norms, making it relatable to many viewers.

Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005)

Avatar_ The Last Airbender Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Photo Credit: Nickelodeon Animation Studio.

It’s a great show that has everything—fantastic storytelling, messages, lessons, philosophical discussions, character development, and comedy. It’s a very mature animated show that can be enjoyed at any age. Avatar was a big part of my childhood, so I just hope the upcoming live-action show on Netflix does it justice.

Better Call Saul (2015)

Photo Credit: AMC.

Vince Gilligan proved that Breaking Bad wasn’t a one-off and went ahead to create a spin-off on the same level. The intelligence in dialogue, empathy for characters, twists, and expectations are genius. The best part is getting to see more of Gus Fring.

24 (2001)

Photo Credit: FOX.

24 is known for its intense action sequences and suspenseful plotlines that keep viewers on the edge of their seats. It has some of the most memorable character debuts, shocking character deaths, and greatest episodes. Kiefer Sutherland’s performance as Jack Bauer made him one of the most memorable characters on TV.

Fleabag (2016)

Fleabag Two Brothers Pictures
Photo Credit: Two Brothers Pictures.

Fleabag operates on a level of intimacy that feels startling, constantly employing the act of breaking the fourth wall to share both her innermost and totally superficial feelings with the audience. The show explores themes of grief, loneliness, and human connection with a special sort of humor.