Just as they did in 2006 with their list of the 101 Best Written Screenplays, the Writer's Guild of America has released their list of the 101 best-written TV series. While many screenwriters aspire to see their vision on the big screen, with cable becoming ever more cinematic every year, the hard and fast division between the two mediums, at least in terms of quality, is fast falling by the wayside. Click below for the top ten on the WGA's list!
Breaking Bad, which, like The Wire, and The Sopranos, stretched the boundaries of what a TV show could do, in terms of writing, directing, and acting, is on the list at #13. Some might even argue that TV is a better medium for telling broad, cinematic stories because the long seasons allow for more complicated story arcs and greater build-up of dramatic tension.
The only show on the list that began its life as a movie is M*A*S*H, adapted from Robert Altman's classic 1970 classic comedy (ironically enough, it was the success of the movie which allowed him to break out of TV, where he had been toiling as a journeyman since the '50s, at a time when the distinction between the two mediums was far greater than it is today.)
The Top Ten
- The Sopranos
- The Twilight Zone
- All In The Family
- M*A*S*H (adapted from Robert Altman's classic)
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show
- Mad Men
- The Wire
- The West Wing
The rest of the list is an interesting look back at TV history. A few talk shows (The Daily Show, Colbert Report, the first season of Late Night With David Letterman) made the cut, as did a surprisingly small number of shows from TV's so-called 1950's "Golden Era" (I Love Lucy, the aforementioned Twilight Zone, The Honeymooners and Playhouse 90, where James Dean made his first national appearance).
A lot of screenwriters get their start writing for television, and today more than ever there are quality TV shows that are arguably just as good as many films. What do you think of the list? Did the WGA leave out any of your favorites? What's been your experience with writing scripts (spec or otherwise) for TV, as opposed to screenplays?