My — gulp — all-time favorite (since ended) shows. There's more, of course, but these are my top picks. *As current shows end, things will change.
  1. 1.
    HBO's NOLA drama has heart. It's frequently an emotional wrecking bomb, sharing hard, dark stories, but its love and appreciation for New Orleans culture — especially its music — and charming characters cut the edge. A masterclass in the power of TV, by David Simon.
  2. 2.
    The Wire
    David Simon's first HBO drama, about the ins and outs of Baltimore's drug war, is — as you've probably heard — a masterpiece. It's honest and thoughtful portrayal of the kingpins, the pawns, and the cops is riveting, powerful, exciting, and depressing. The Wire manages to be both an excellent drama and a fine piece of journalism.
  3. 3.
    Mad Men
    Slow at worst, brilliant, emotional, and exciting at best, Matt Weiner's AMC drama propelled the network from classic movies to a name brand in original programming. It's a tribute to the 60s inside a story about ad men & women, and it's mesmerizing.
  4. 4.
    Breaking Bad
    "You take Mr. Chips and you turn him into Scarface." Vince Gilligan's epic drama manages to be both brilliant and action packed, stunning and multifaceted, absurd and entirely plausible. It zigs and zags and played around with traditional TV conventions, and eventually took the world by storm.
  5. 5.
    The Sopranos
    David Chase's mob drama lead by the late, great James Gandolfini propelled HBO to greatness and helped define the idea of premium television. It paved the way for every anti-hero story that followed.
  6. 6.
    The West Wing
    Little compares to Aaron Sorkin at his best. The idealism, wit, and heart that flows through the playwright's theatrical NBC political drama is unmatched on television. It occasionally stalls and exists as a more traditional workplace drama, but its powerhouse cast carries it through those moments to highs that are inspiring, emotional, and entirely entertaining.
  7. 7.
    Birgitte, Birgitte, Birgitte! This Danish drama manages to tell a deeply personal story about the rise of a Prime Minister and the toll the job takes on family while also tackling the intricacies of Denmark's government. It has the heart and idealism of The West Wing, without many of its less plausible theatrics, and the emotion of Parenthood, without the constraints of (American) broadcast TV.
  8. 8.
    Jason Katims' charming, heart-warming/tear-jerking NBC family drama is the family show you need. The Bravermans will capture your heart and help you get through this crazy thing called life. Quite simply, Parenthood is network TV at its best.
  9. 9.
    Men of a Certain Age
    Ray Romano and Mike Royce made TNT a lovely little show about middle aged men that was absolutely brilliant, yet, sadly, no one watched it. But for two seasons, it was wonderful, and it deserves to be remembered as such.
  10. 10.
    Friday Night Lights
    Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose. Jason Katims writes family drama better than anyone, and Friday Night Lights is the clearest reminder. Thanks NBC and DIRECTV for keeping this little show that could going. Texas Forever.
  11. 11.
    The Closer
    Procedurals can, in fact, be quite good. To do so, they need a rich setting, a phenomenal cast, powerful stories, and compelling serialized arcs. James Duff's TNT drama about LAPD Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson checks all the boxes.