CNN Names Top 20 Shows of Past 20 Years

In the midst of studying for finals, I have been unable to fully engage with my weekly television lineup. However, I did manage to find this interesting article on the CNN Homepage, which documents the past 20 years in television, noting it as the “new, new golden age.”

Of the hundreds upon hundreds of scripted shows that are produced every year – many of which never making it to audiences – staff writer Todd Leopold chose 20 scripted shows that have, in their own way, changed the course of the television industry.

However, I argue that four shows have been unfairly shut out of this list so I felt the need to write this post. All of them are, in their own way, cultural phenomenons, becoming household names and essential reference points in everyday conversation.

First, the American adaptation of Ricky Gervais’ The Office, has taken the states by storm. In it’s nine-year run, the show has created meaningful story lines for its characters and has allowed audiences to feel welcomed in the work place – where virtually no work is done. As it closes on its final episodes, audiences are still sporting their Dunder-Mifflin tees, taking a pilgrimage to Scranton, PA, and spitting out, “That’s what she said,” in more inappropriate settings than Michael Scott could have even imagined. 

Modern Family is the next show that I feel was wrongfully left off of Leopold’s list. Much like All in the Family showed the first real family on television (before, shows like Leave it to Beaver had simply depicted the nuclear family in its perfect, carefree way), the ABC comedy has redefined the way we look at family. In the Dunphy house, we see your stereotypical family with a mom, a dad, and their three kids. Over at the Pritchett home, there is a multi-cultural, age-defying marriage. Lastly, at the Tucker-Pritchett household, we see a gay couple who has just adopted a Vietnamese child. Despite going against the norm, all three of these families prove week after week (in a less corny way than Full House) that families come in all different shapes and sizes, but at the end of the day their values still hold true.

The Walking Dead invites more than 10.8 million viewers weekly to its post-apocolyptic world, where the line between right and wrong is blurred like the smearing of guts on a window pane. That was a bit much, but you get the point. On Leopold’s list, he listed Mad Men and Breaking Bad in the top 20, but he clearing doesn’t understand ratings. TWD brings in more weekly viewers than the other two acclaimed series…combined. Not only that, but this show has taken the liberty of adapting a comic book for television and being called out time and time again for its graphic content. With season 4 in the works for October, the cast and crew aren’t looking back at humanity to be their judges.

Taking a trip across the pond (and back in time a hundred years), Downton Abbey has taken the world by storm. This period drama intricately intertwines the lives of the aristocracy of the early twentieth century, with those of their dutiful servants. Over its three-year run, writer Julian Fellows has developed each and every character in the enormous cast with such precision and detail that when an untimely death is brought upon one of them, the audience takes to the interwebs to vent their grievances. Moreover, Downton has been a recurring reference throughout other television shows, such as Modern Family30 Rock, and, most notably, Jimmy Fallon’s talk show, in which he had a recurring satyrical segment entitled Downton Sixby. 

You can read Leopold’s article here and comment with what shows you were surprised to see on the list or vent about those which you think should be on the list of the greatest 20 shows of the past 20 years.


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