The 10 Best Television Dramas

Once a week I deviate from my usual focus on becoming happier, healthier and more productive to write about something different. Today I rank my picks for the top television dramas.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

My Top 10

1. Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is the greatest television series ever made. Period. No show is perfect, but the second half of the final season is as close to flawless as television gets.

2. Game of Thrones

I fell in love with the TV series first, which drew me to the books. Now I love the books even more and I’m in the unfortunate position of comparing the two. This inevitably highlights the flaws in the show. Some seasons are better than others, but the first 15 minutes of 2016’s season finale just might be the best television you will ever watch.

3. The Wire

When you watch the first few episodes of The Wire, you wonder what all the fuss is about. At first it seems like a tropey cop show. But by the end of the first season you’re hooked, and the show continues to get stronger. As a former journalist, I was particularly impressed with how real the newsroom scenes felt.

4. Orphan Black

Orphan Black is the best television drama you’ve never seen. Tatiana Maslany’s acting in multiple roles is extraordinary. (The image accompanying this post shows Maslany in four of her characters). The plot is complicated, but the writing is strong. It’s filmed in my home town of Toronto and the final season began last night.

5. The West Wing

This show presents the hopeful side of U.S. politics — the optimistic opposite of what we see in House of Cards. With everything that’s going on in Washington today, we need Jed Bartlet more than ever.

6. Orange is the New Black

I almost gave up on this series after the first season, partly because I just wasn’t that interested in the Piper / Alex storyline. But the show has continued to get stronger as the plot focuses more on other members of the ensemble cast. I haven’t watched the latest season yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

7. Mad Men

Mad Men‘s strength is it’s subtlety. The show resists the temptation, so common in most television drama, for “water coooler” plot developments. There are few deaths or disasters. Instead, characters develop in small ways over long periods of time. But the primary narrative of the show is as deep as it gets: one man’s battle for his own soul.

8. Six Feet Under

On the surface, it’s a show about death set in a funeral home. But really, this is one of the best dramas ever made about family dynamics.

9. Better Call Saul

If you like fast-paced shows, you may not like Better Call Saul. The prequel to Breaking Bad moves slowly. But the writing is brilliant; the directing is artful and the depth of Bob Odenkirk’s performance as Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman is extraordinary.

10. Star Trek: The Next Generation

I’ve always loved Jean Luc Picard. He is probably the fictional persona whose character and leadership skills I most admire. If you can make it past the boring pilot, you’ll be hooked on this show.

Honorable Mentions

The Handmaid’s Tale: It was hard to keep it off the Top 10 list, even though only a handful of episodes have aired.

The Crown: This is another show that could move into the Top 10 list after it’s second season, expected in November.

Dexter: This show starts strong, peaks in the fourth season (Trinity) and then, sadly, gets pretty awful.

Narcos: Like The Wire, this show artfully switches between the criminals and the cops, with two very strong seasons in the books.

House of Cards: I’m still hooked on this show, but it peaked in the first episode of the second season. The show’s  weakness? The main character started in such an extreme place that there’s been little room for character development.

The Fall: A chilling story of a serial killer. The first two seasons are particularly strong before the second season ends with a cliffhanger that strains credulity.

Shows I haven’t seen

Here are some shows that will be on some people’s top 10 lists, but aren’t on mine because I haven’t seen them yet — or haven’t seen enough episodes to rank them.

Twin Peaks, Doctor Who, The Sopranos, Lost

So what do you think of this list. Tell me I’m crazy in the comments below.




  1. Firstly, you need to watch The Sopranos — and I’m confident it’ll jump to top-3. I actually just re-watched it and it still holds up..

    Why no mention of Homeland, or Prisoner of War (the Israeli predecessor of Homeland)?!?

    …And glad you think OITNB is a drama. I’ve had debates about this with people who call it a comedy. Totally a drama.

    Also: watch The Night Of (HBO version) and Luther. Both are spectacular. They’re in my top-10.

    • I’ve watched the 1 1/2 seasons of Sopranos, and wasn’t hooked. But you’re not the only one who has told me it needs to be in the top 10 so I probably need to keep at it.
      I’ve watched the first 2 1/2 seasons of Homeland. Loved the first season, then felt plot and character development got to messy. Do I need to keep at that show too?
      Haven’t watched Prisoner of War, The Night Of or Luther.

  2. Black Mirror but only the British ones. These mini movies are dark social commentary on the scary potiential of technology are so well written. But only the British ones.

    • Thanks Sara. I haven’t watched any of Black Mirror — not even the British ones — but will give them a watch.

  3. This is almost a perfect list, except you should absolutely watch the four you listed at the end! And, The West Wing would be my number one. I haven’t seen Six Feet Under or Narcos, but they’ve been recommended to me a few times. This must be my sign to go watch them.

  4. I love that Star Trek is on the list! Doctor Who is a definite must watch, but you have to start with Doctor nine until the present, then go back and start from the first Doctor, if you can find him. I’m glad that you added short descriptions without giving away too much; I haven’t watched many of these (Oh, the horrors of cable bills!), but hope to eventually.

  5. Reblogged this on My Instruction Manual and commented:

    Last night marked the series finale of Orphan Black, one of my favorite television dramas of all time.

    Today, I reblog an earlier #SundayFunday post where I rank my picks for the Top 10 TV dramas.

    Orphan Black made it.

    I’d love your thoughts on my list. What did I get wrong? What are your favorite shows?

  6. If you liked Six Feet Under then I bet you would like the series Rectify. Since you liked Star Trek you might want to check out Stargate, if you haven’t already. I would definitely check out Rectify though. Thanks for the list.😀

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