So many golden ages, so much brilliance from which to choose. In culling from the “60 Greatest” lists TV Guide Magazine compiled for the 60th-anniversary year, we shook things up, blending drama, comedy and other genres to salute the shows with the biggest cultural impact and most enduring influence. What will the next 60 years bring? We can’t wait to find out.
1. “The Sopranos”
A family saga like no other and a Mafia drama that whacked us repeatedly
with its psychological riches and gallows humor, David Chase’s groundbreaking masterpiece asked us to empathize with the most human of mobsters (and monsters): Tony, played by the great James Gandolfini. He and his gang haunt us still.
The hilarious spirits of the masters of their domains echo in shows like “Veep” and cocreator Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but “Seinfeld” set the bar for lovable outrageousness with memorable shtick that shocked and awed. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
3. “I Love Lucy”
No ‘splaining necessary. We’ve loved zany Lucy, hotheaded Ricky and the loyal Mertzes for as long as we can remember. Whether in the candy factory, stomping grapes or cavorting with Harpo Marx, Lucille Ball showed generations of funny ladies and gents how it’s done.
4. “All in the Family“
Norman Lear brought domestic television comedy into the real world with the Bunkers, whose ’70s culture clashing hit home with an unflinching pungency but also a surplus of heart. And then came “Maude,” “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times” and more: an empire of meaningful humor.
5. “The Twilight Zone“
Even 3-D pales next to the endlessly inventive “dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind” created by Rod Serling, TV’s multifaceted Dickens. His anthology of fantastic stories bridged the worlds of sci-fi and horror with whimsy and an abiding faith in humanity.
6. “The Wire“
Hot-button issues — the war on drugs, political corruption, the failures of the education system — deeply resonated in David Simon’s unvarnished journey into the heart of Baltimore’s urban darkness. The result was so vérité, it often felt more like a documentary than a drama.
7. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show“
America’s sweetheart turned the world on with her smile, a toss of the hat and a plucky spunk that radiated throughout her TV-newsroom office. A gallery of lovable characters would earn their own spots in the pantheon — Rhoda, Phyllis and Lou Grant among them.
Laughing in the face of death, Hawkeye, Trapper John, B.J., Hot Lips and the other cutups of the 4077th made war a little less hellish.”M*A*S*H” wore its Purple Heart on its bloody sleeve, and we cared deeply for these reluctant heroes on the front lines of daring satire.
9. “Breaking Bad”
From the first tragicomic escapade to the blistering finale, Vince Gilligan’s immorality tale was as addictive as the blue meth that made Walter White into a criminal legend. Bryan Cranston’s transformative performance is one for the ages.
10. “The Simpsons“
After more than two decades and 500 episodes of whip-smart parody that made sacred cows an endangered species, we’re still drawn to Springfield and its colorfully warped denizens.
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and we were always glad when we came to Boston’s cheeriest bar. Weathering Coach’s death and Diane’s exit, the brew crew grew stronger with Woody and Rebecca. And the show spun off a classic farce, “Frasier.”
12. “Star Trek“
Five-year mission? Are you out of your Vulcan mind? Nearly 50 years later, Gene Roddenberry’s creation continues to boldly go where no science-fiction franchise has gone before, launching five more TV series and a dozen movies. Can it keep going? Yes, it Khaaan!
13. “The Honeymooners“
Ralph’s get-rich-quick schemes may never have worked, but Jackie Gleason found a comedy gold mine in the realistic struggles of the Brooklyn bus driver, his long-suffering wife, Alice, and his dim-bulb BFF, Ed Norton.
14. “Law & Order“
In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate but equally important groups. And Dick Wolf’s franchise has been represented by five series, including the flagship (which ran for 20 seasons!) and the still-going-strong-after-15-years “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
15. “The Andy Griffith Show”
From the opening shot of Sheriff Andy Taylor and son Opie gone fishin’, the sitcom welcomed us to Mayberry, where Aunt Bee, Barney Fife and others became part of our extended TV family.
16. “Masterpiece Theatre”
Since 1971, PBS has brought us the best of British TV, from “I, Claudius” to “Downton Abbey.” We’ll watch it upstairs, downstairs — anywhere.
17. “The Carol Burnett Show“
Harvey Korman wasn’t the only one who couldn’t stop cracking up at the wacky antics of Burnett, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Co.
18. “Saturday Night Live”
“SNL” has been berry, berry good for comedy for four decades, creating superstars and defining the pop-culture conversation.
19. “The Oprah Winfrey Show“
For 25 years, Oprah created a safe space for both weighty issues and celebrity chat from the City of Broad Shoulders.
20. “The Dick Van Dyke Show“
Primetime’s first workplace-as-family sitcom gracefully sidestepped clichés. If only Rob Petrie had the same kind of luck with ottomans.
21. “Mad Men“
The unglamorous side of selling the American dream is vividly realized in Matthew Weiner’s gorgeous but bleak paean to the swinging ’60s.
22. “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson“
Heeere’s…the guy who made it look oh-so-easy. Late-night TV would never be such a delicious communal experience again.
23. “Hill Street Blues“
The police procedural found a genre-busting new voice in Steven Bochco’s rowdy chronicle of a busy urban precinct.
24. “60 Minutes“
The stopwatch continues to tick for the pioneering news program, which set the standard for compelling nonfiction storytelling.
25. “The X-Files“
The truth is still out there for Chris Carter’s cosmically suspenseful thrill ride. Mulder and Scully were ground zero for shippers.
26. “The Cosby Show“
The warmth and wisdom of Bill Cosby’s parenting philosophy made the Huxtables America’s first family.
James Arness’s Matt Dillon kept the peace in Dodge City in TV’s longest-running Western.
We were there for them — in droves — turning an irresistible ensemble into instant media phenoms. Could we have been more in love with their rom-comic lives?
With a pulse-quickening pace and a roster of hot docs — get us George Clooney, stat! — this electrifying smash revived the hospital drama.
30. “Sesame Street“
This boulevard of sweet dreams has weaned wee ones on the joys of learning — through Muppets magic, animation and music — for more than 40 wondrous years.
31. “The Ed Sullivan Show“
From the sublime (Elvis, the Beatles) to the ridiculous (Topo Gigio, Señor Wences), the king of variety put on a really big show.
We worshipped the domestic goddess and her perfectly imperfect brood. Unlike the Conners, viewers won the lottery long before the show’s ill-conceived final season.
Peter Falk’s deceptively ingenuous detective always got his man — and helped Steven Spielberg and Jonathan Demme cut their creative teeth.
34. “The Waltons“
Every night was good on Walton’s Mountain, as John-Boy and his kinfolk endured the Depression while keeping their — and our — spirits high.
Here comes the Sunshine Cab Company — Alex, Louie, Tony, Elaine, Bobby, Latka and Reverend Jim — to take us for a divinely loopy ride.
Flashbacks, flash-forwards, flash-sideways: The innovative castaway serial kept us deliriously off-balance as we teetered on the edge of our seats.
37. “Your Show of Shows“
The skit-com’s on-camera talent (Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner) was equaled only by its behind-the-scenes geniuses (Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, etc.).
38. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer“
Joss Whedon’s teen saga slayed us with stake-sharp dialogue, emotionally resonant shocks and even a stunningly hummable musical episode.
The tribe has spoken: If we were stranded on a desert island with only one reality show, we’d carry the torch for this exotic competition.
40. “Sex and the City“
The cosmopolitan sexploits of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda exemplified the single life for an urbane generation.
42. “The West Wing“
There was never a better platform for Aaron Sorkin’s passionate rhetoric to take flight than President Josiah Bartlet’s bully pulpit.
43. “Modern Family“
This nontraditional TV clan is a contemporary favorite for a good reason: They’re a riot.
44. “NYPD Blue“
Anticipating the spate of antiheroes, this down-and-dirty police drama shattered network taboos.
Answer: It’s the habit-forming quiz show that moves at lightning speed and always makes us feel smarter. Question: What is “Jeopardy!?”
46. “Barney Miller“
A wry slice of life in a police station full of world-weary detectives, this felt more real than most cop dramas.
Shooting J.R. was just the tip of the gusher in this Texas-size melodrama, which sparked a frenzy of nighttime soaps.
48. “American Idol“
The cunningly crafted singing competition hit all the right notes—and revolutionized primetime.
49. “The Bob Newhart Show“
One of the greats took his mastery of minimalism to classy new heights, with a sophisticated wife and a caseload of wonderfully weird patients.
50. “The Shield“
No badges for good behavior, but there was plenty of glory for this steely story of Los Angeles cops gone bad.
51. “St. Elsewhere“
Anyone checking in was treated with a healthy dose of future megastars (Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon) and seriocomic drama.
52. “The Big Bang Theory“
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to explain the formula for this sitcom’s explosive success: It’s all about the ensemble’s chemistry.
53. “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart“
The mock anchor sets the national agenda like a wiseass Walter Cronkite — and the show helped turn Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell into headline makers.
54. “The Golden Girls“
Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia proved that senior citizens can still swing.
55. “Homicide: Life on the Street“
A proto-”Wire,” this Baltimore cop drama explored Charm City’s less enchanting side with an invigorating creativity.
56. “The Larry Sanders Show”
The ’90s references may be dated, but the office politics involving Larry, Artie, Hank and the staff are hysterically timeless.
57. “Battlestar Galactica“
The 21st-century reboot alchemized the ’70s cheese-a-palooza into a startlingly up-to-date allegory for modern warfare. So say we all.
58. “Monty Python’s Flying Circus“
The parrot may have been dead, but the anarchic vibe of the U.K.’s sketchiest comics has lived on via “Fawlty Towers,” “The Kids in the Hall” and “Portlandia.”
59. “The Good Wife“
We’ll be forever faithful to Julianna Margulies’s Alicia Florrick, until cancellation do us part. May we kiss the bride?
60. “Everybody Loves Raymond“