Around about mid-October, I could hear – courtesy of the world wide web – a distant wailing and gnashing of teeth but not of biblical proportions. More the odd e-mail. The cause of this background noise, it transpired, was The 100 best TV shows of all time you have to watch, one of those listy things that periodically bubble to the sub-culture’s surface – in this case one engineered by Time Out critics Phil de Semlyen and Matthew Singer.

And – as always – the first thing that devotees of certain shows or qualified and unqualified historians of the medium do is to go and check out the presence, position – or absence – of the Show That’s Special To Them or possibly The Show That They Need To Sell A Book About. So, the wailing and gnashing of teeth that I heard was most likely to have come from Matthew and Luke, no doubt forgetting the teachings of Christ and venting their spleen at the absence of Jesus of Nazareth (1977), the ITC/Rai co-production starring Robert Powell which actually received world-wide promotion from the Pope.

For myself, I hadn’t honestly been expecting to find Oliver’s Travels (1995) on the list anyway. So I was quite happy. I suspect that there’s really only me and my wife who enjoy it so much. I mean, Alan Plater was not at all happy with it, and he wrote it. And a five-part filmed serial badly promoted by BBC1 in a summer weekend slot probably didn’t blip on the mass viewing consciousness radar. I would not expect Phil and Matthew to be aware of it. Come to think of it, Murder Most English: A Flaxborough Chronicle (1977) isn’t there either… and that’s another gem.

Fig 1: Gotta love a bit of Alan Plater. Even if Alan Plater didn’t.

After all, these are the views of just two people… and even for two industry-standard, very knowledgeable people, 100 shows is a very small sample. The subject of ‘TV of all time’ is just too big. Nobody can do it all. Network Distributing – may it rest in peace – used to generously describe me as a ‘television historian’… but only because the phrase ‘bloke who watches too much television’ didn’t really cut it as a selling point on the back of a DVD box. As I’m always very clear, I tend to like stuff with monsters and spaceships; sports programming, current affairs, soap operas, reality TV, game shows, etc. etc…. not my area, please look elsewhere. It’s like when you tell people that you’re building Alteryx databases to model population profiles at postcode levels and they say: “Oh yes! You know all about computers. Can you take a look at my laptop – it’s not charging properly.”

In particular, there was a small dollop of scorn plopped on top of the observation that ‘The shift in perception [of television quality] is widely credited to the arrival of The Sopranos [(1999-2007)], which completely reinvented the notion of what a TV show could do,’ is noted, although the authors very quickly add ‘But that doesn’t mean everything before 1999 is pure dross’ before admitting their offering ‘is dominated by 21st century programs, there are hundreds of shows that deserve credit for pushing TV forward into its current golden age.’

Now, I suspect that Phil and Matthew are of a different age to myself, so their cultural landmarks are also different – some recall shifts in captivating television as The Forsyte Saga (1967), I, Claudius (1976), Edge of Darkness (1985) etc. etc. and these things are all important to us due to the impact they made at that time in our lives. We have different experiences and different perspectives… and so I found this list kinda interesting. Not just to breakdown and understand the commonality with my experiences. Being modern-style people, they have access to streaming and platforms that deliver programming to phones… whereas we rather frugally can’t keep up with all the stuff on Freeview or whatever unloved DVD set we discover in CeX on a Saturday. As such, 28 of these 100 shows aren’t available to us. Of the remaining 74, we have watched 51 of them.

Look, here’s the full breakdown:

Fig. 2: Gotta love a graph!

Some of these big-hitters arrived at the wrong time for us – either in terms of our age or our available viewing time (curse you channels that strip daily…!). I remember being rather impressed when I saw the opening episode of The Sopranos on Channel 4 on Thursday 15 July 1999… after all, it’s David Chase and I remember him doing some cracking scripts for The Rockford Files (1974-1980) and kolchak: the night stalker (1974-1975) and it was rather good… but then life got in the way. Hope to catch it again some time.

But, because of the rather decent overlap to Phil and Matthew’s hot picks, I have certainly filed away some of these titles for future reference. ’Cus if they admire them, maybe I will too? And here’s two guys who simply want to share good stuff and get the word out there about it. So… thank you Phil, thank you Matthew.

And – because I’m feeling kinda lazy this week and am happy to retool somebody else’s idea – here’s my own ‘Top 100’ of shows that we kinda like.  Well, like this week anyway.  Next week, the choices may be different. Some, frankly, aren’t even that good… but they’re interesting and we’re fond of them. Oh – and I am also very, very facile. It’s a wonder that there’s anything on this list that doesn’t feature monsters and spaceships.

It is consistently inconsistent… but only in a rather irregular manner. Sometimes I include pilots and remakes, sometimes I don’t. We may even include the odd film recut as a TV series.  I’m only going to apologise for not apologising – you’ll have to live with it. And – of course – you’re all free to do your own ‘Top 100’s for CSTonline, which, y’know, I’d be happy to read.

Oh, and a lot of these shows were made in The Past. We all know that The Past can be an offensive place. You’re all grown-ups and you can judge your own level of offense and deal with it as appropriate. And, I promise you, there’ll be some stuff in there that will lower your opinion of me.  Yes – who’d have thought?  Even lower!

Finally, it’s also not in any ‘ranking’.  What’s the point? Is the black humour of One Foot in the Grave (1990-2000) better than the conspiracy drama of Edge of Darkness? Is the surrealism of The Corridor People (1966) better than James Burke’s historical Connections (1978)? Does Washes Whiter (1990) chronicle advertising better than Elizabeth R (1971) dramatises Tudor times? The scary alien Martians of Quatermass and the Pit (1958-1959) are amazing… but, then again, in their own way, so are the charming Argonds who set The Adventure Game (1980-1986).

So… chronological order.


Fig. 3: A bit of Nordic noir. Gotta love a bit of Nordic noir.




  • The Adventure Game (1980-1986)
  • The Flipside of Dominick Hide/Another Flip for Dominick (1980,1982)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981)
  • Hill Street Blues (1981-1987)
  • Whoops Apocalypse (1982)
  • Bird of Prey (1982)
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984-1985)
  • Chance in a Million (1984-1986)
  • Das Boot (1984)
  • Travelling Man (1984-1985)
  • The Beiderbecke Affair (1985)
  • Moonlighting (1985-1989)
  • Max Headroom (1985-1987-1988)
  • Edge of Darkness (1985)
  • The Singing Detective (1986)
  • Lovejoy (1986-1994)
  • A Very Peculiar Practice (1986-1988)
  • Crime Story (1986-1988)
  • A Dorothy L Sayers Mystery (1987)
  • Star Cops (1987)
  • Hot Metal (1986-1988)
  • Probe (1988)
  • The Black and Blue Lamp (1988)



  • Monk (2002-2009)
  • Hustle (2004-2012)
  • The Mighty Boosh (2004-2007)
  • The Thick of It (2005-2012)
  • Sorry, I’ve Got No Head (2008-2011)


  • Borgen (2010-2022)
  • The Cricklewood Greats (2012)
  • Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish (2013-2017)
  • The Life of Rock with Brian Pern (2014)
  • The Brokenwood Mysteries (2014-)
  • Timewasters (2017-2019)
  • Ghosts (2019-2023)


  • We Are Lady Parts (2021)
  • Ghosts (2021-)

And anyway, now you’ve got this list, what are you going to do about it anyway?  There’s probably no capacity in your lives to see these things anyway. Either the DVD price is through the roof because Network went into liquidation or you’re in the wrong part of the world or the kids need putting to bed or your own hard drive is full anyway or it’s almost 10pm and you’ve still not been out to the Co-op to get the milk for breakfast tomorrow. So, y’know, don’t worry… these are 100 shows that I’ve enjoyed seeing, but if you never get to, don’t worry… the world doesn’t come to an end.  And I’d rather you had something to put on your Weetabix tomorrow morning.

Oh hump – I forgot Upstairs Downstairs (1971-1975). Need to fix that. And Our Flag Means Death (2022-). And Spyder’s Web (1972). And The Good Place (2016-2020).

Look – leave it with me.  I’ll get back to you…


Andrew Pixley is a retired data developer. For the last 30 years he’s written about almost anything to do with television if people will pay him – and occasionally when they won’t. Double hump! He forgot Murder Most English as well!