The Top 10 TV Shows of the Century

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
The Top 10 TV Shows of the Century
Indeed, of the millennium!
by Elissa Haney
10 Gunsmoke (1955-75)
Gunsmoke has strong evidence to support its claim as America's favorite TV Western. The show rounded up a loyal audience that kept it in the Nielsen top 20 for fifteen years. Marshal Matt Dillon dealt with familiar, believable issues even as he fought the forces of Old West evil.

9 The Ed Sullivan Show (1948-71)
The king of his genre, Ed Sullivan offered American television viewers honest-to-goodness Variety. Perhaps the range of talent, including comedians, puppets, classical musicians-you name it-is what held our interest for 23 years. Of course, modern America will always be most grateful to The Ed Sullivan Show for bringing us the Beatles, among other beloved rock 'n' rollers.

8 The Honeymooners (1955-56)
Though the Kramdens and the Nortons showed up for several years in sketches on Cavalcade of Stars and The Jackie Gleason Show, the program that they called their own was, surprisingly, on the air for only one year. The Honeymooners managed to achieve its status as a classic through its hilarious characters and its honest portrayal of less-than-perfect relationships and realities in a blue-collar world.

7 Star Trek (1966-69)
Adventure, drama, and a heaping dose of science fiction have made this show (and its various TV incarnations, movies, and reruns) indispensable to its dedicated audience since the beginning. Captain Kirk and his crew provided an imaginative peek into a far-out future that was, at the same time, not so different from the society we know.

6 The Simpsons (1989-present)
Though the appeal of the most successful primetime cartoon in TV history isn't understood by everyone, Gen-Xers know that Matt Groening's talents go way beyond his artistry and his often shocking but always amusing brand of humor. The Simpsons offers a witty, dead-on look at life in the 90s that is celebrated by slackers and scholars alike.
5 60 Minutes (1968-present)
TV's first and longest-running prime-time news magazine, 60 Minutes first aired in 1968 and the clock is still ticking. Despite having some rocky years in its past, the show has pulled through and proven itself a trusted and creditable source of information.

4 Sesame Street (1969-present)
It's celebrating its 30th year as a positive, educational influence on young children. Its embedded humor is as entertaining to parents as it is to the kids they watch it with. But the real beauty of this show is the comfort in knowing that Big Bird will still be the same, six-year-old feathered friend many of us grew up with, as long as there's a place called Sesame Street in TV-land.

3 All in the Family (1971-78; 1979-83 as Archie Bunker's Place)
Offensive, yet somehow likeable, Archie Bunker kept us in stitches even as he reminded us of life's less pleasant realities. All in the Family brought a new social consciousness to television, dealing with issues ranging from bigotry to breast cancer with both humor and compassion.

2 I Love Lucy (1951-57)
The timelessness of this early, groundbreaking sitcom has kept it entertaining Americans generation after generation. Lucille Ball's gift for comedy manifested itself through her funny facial expressions, her witty one-liners, and the outlandish escapades her character found herself embroiled in.

1 M*A*S*H (1972-83)
One of TV's best-loved shows, M*A*S*H successfully used war as a means of entertainment without sacrificing a sense of its gravity. The show's 11 years on the air culminated in a series finale that still holds the record for the highest rating share in TV history. Like so many other great shows, M*A*S*H successfully combined comedy with social commentary, but its cast of characters sparked a sense of sympathy that endeared the show to its large audience.

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