The Epic Journey of the Best Drama TV Shows: From 'Hill Street Blues' to 'Deadwood'
Are you ready to dive into the gripping world of the best drama TV shows? Get ready to immerse yourself in a thrilling journey as we take you through a list of some of the most iconic series that have captivated audiences for decades. From the beloved classics like 'Hill Street Blues' and 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' to the modern masterpieces such as 'Game of Thrones' and 'Stranger Things', this article will unravel the allure and brilliance of these unforgettable dramas. So, brace yourself for a rollercoaster of emotions as we explore the mesmerizing stories that have left an indelible mark on television history.
15 'Hill Street Blues' (1981-1987)
There are many crime/cop shows, especially in the 21st century, that owe a debt of gratitude to Hill Street Blues. It was one of those shows that paved the way for others of its kind to succeed. Hill Street Blues was ambitious in its attempt to balance a large ensemble cast and provide a more realistic portrayal of police work than what was typically seen on TV at the time. Its ambition paid off with a staggering 26 Emmys won during its run, and it also helped launch the careers of influential TV writers like David Milch (creator of Deadwood) and Mark Frost (co-creator of Twin Peaks).
12 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' (1987-1994)
While the original Star Trek series will always hold a special place in fans' hearts, Star Trek: The Next Generation is often considered the best installment of the franchise. It ran for an impressive seven seasons and introduced a new generation of Starfleet officers on their mission to explore space. The show built upon the original series' legacy, offering a more advanced and unpredictable sci-fi world. Despite the risks of a sequel series, The Next Generation exceeded expectations and ran for four more seasons than its predecessor.
11 'Twin Peaks' (1990-1991)
Image via ABC
Renowned director David Lynch, known for his wonderfully strange movies, brought his unique vision to television with Twin Peaks. Created in collaboration with Mark Frost, the show blended elements of soap opera, comedy, fantasy, crime, and surreal horror to create a delightfully eccentric and unpredictable series. While it faced premature cancellation and had a somewhat aimless period before its end, Twin Peaks lives on with a prequel movie and a groundbreaking revival season called Twin Peaks: The Return in 2017, ensuring its legacy remains intact.
8 'Law & Order' (1990—)
Image via NBC
With nearly 500 episodes spanning over 30 years, the original Law & Order series is a landmark in American television. It follows the intertwining stories of criminal cases, balancing the procedural work of the police with the legal battles in court. The show's longevity, successful spin-offs like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and its enduring popularity make it a significant and deserving part of TV history.
9 'Six Feet Under' (2001-2005)
Image via HBO
Six Feet Under delves into the theme of death with brutal honesty and occasional humor. Set around a family-run funeral home, the show explores the lives of the family members after the death of their patriarch. Blending drama with moments of comedy, Six Feet Under offers a moving and engaging look at its ensemble cast. It is especially revered for its final season and series finale, which is considered one of the greatest of all time.
10 'Game of Thrones' (2011-2019)
Game of Thrones became a cultural phenomenon throughout its run, despite its later seasons receiving mixed reviews. Set in the fictional continent of Westeros, the show centers around a power struggle for the Iron Throne, while a dangerous force known as the White Walkers threatens the realm. Combining compelling storytelling, memorable characters, and stunning visuals, Game of Thrones captivated audiences with its epic scale and unpredictable plot twists.
7 'The Americans' (2013-2018)
Image via FX
The Americans is renowned for its gripping storytelling and exceptional final season. Set during the Cold War, the show follows a pair of Russian spies living undercover as an American family. With a slow-burn narrative, The Americans expertly balances suspense and intrigue, keeping viewers hooked with its well-acted performances and meticulous attention to detail.
16 'ER' (1994-2009)
ER is widely regarded as one of the greatest medical dramas of all time. Spanning 15 seasons and over 300 episodes, the show takes place in Chicago's County General Hospital and explores the personal and professional lives of a diverse cast of characters. While it may have run for a long time, ER stands as a seminal series that left a lasting impact on TV drama.
17 'The X-Files' (1993-2018)
The X-Files holds a special place in TV history, enduring through its original run and even returning for additional seasons and films. The show follows FBI agents investigating paranormal cases while unraveling a web of conspiracies. Combining a mix of overarching storylines with standalone episodes, The X-Files became an iconic and addictive show known for its blend of mystery and sci-fi elements.
18 'Justified' (2010-2015)
Image via FX
Based on the works of acclaimed author Elmore Leonard, Justified is a serialized TV show that captures Leonard's signature style. It follows a US Marshal returning to his hometown of Harlan County, Kentucky, and dispenses his own brand of justice. Known for its great characters and well-written dialogue, Justified stands out in the crowded crime/thriller genre and continues to entertain viewers with its unique blend of drama and humor.
19 'Stranger Things' (2016—)
Image via Netflix
Stranger Things gained massive popularity upon its release, captivating audiences with its nostalgic 1980s setting and thrilling story. The show follows a group of kids in a small town as they uncover mysteries and face supernatural threats, particularly the disappearance of one of their friends. While some seasons have received mixed reviews, the intense and impactful fourth season has reignited excitement for the upcoming final season.
20 'Hannibal' (2013-2015)
Image via NBC
Hannibal brings a distinct and chilling take on the iconic character Hannibal Lecter. The show explores the complex relationship between Hannibal and FBI profiler Will Graham as they delve into gruesome crimes. Despite its cancellation after three seasons, Hannibal delivers exceptional performances and mesmerizing storytelling, leaving viewers craving for more.
21 'Fargo' (2014—)
Image via MGM Television
Inspired by the acclaimed 1996 crime movie, Fargo stands as a remarkable anthology series that captivates viewers with its dark humor and unpredictable storylines. Each season offers a new story set within the same universe, with each installment standing out for its unique characters and suspenseful narratives. Fargo has cemented its place as one of the best TV anthology series of all time.
22 'True Detective' (2014—)
True Detective burst onto the scene in 2014 and quickly became a cultural sensation. The first season, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, follows detectives investigating a mysterious murder case. Known for its exceptional acting, writing, and storytelling, True Detective paved the way for subsequent seasons, each featuring a new cast and a new case. The upcoming fourth season, led by Jodie Foster, continues the tradition of delivering compelling and intriguing TV.
23 'Lost' (2004-2010)
Lost remains a divisive show, known for its complex and mysterious storytelling. At its core, Lost is a character-driven drama that follows a group of plane crash survivors stranded on a remote island. As the series progresses, it delves into mythology, time travel, and parallel dimensions. While some may criticize its unanswered questions, Lost is undeniably a unique and exciting show that left a lasting impact on TV.
24 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (1997-2003)
Image via 20th Television
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an action-packed fantasy/romance series that also excels at blending humor into its storytelling. Centered around the titular character, Buffy, the show follows her journey as she battles demons, navigates friendships and relationships, and faces the challenges of high school and adulthood. While it may have had a few missteps, Buffy the Vampire Slayer stands as a beloved and influential show with a dedicated fanbase.
25 'The Shield' (2002-2008)
Image via Sony Pictures Television
The Shield revolutionized the crime genre with its gritty portrayal of a corrupt cop and his team. Led by the morally complex protagonist Vic Mackey, The Shield explores the boundary between right and wrong in the pursuit of justice. Though it had its ups and downs, the show excelled in its later seasons and delivered a series finale that left a lasting impact.
6 'The West Wing' (1999-2006)
Image via NBC
The West Wing offers an idealistic and entertaining view of the inner workings of the White House. Following the fictional U.S. President and his dedicated team, the show presents a fantasy of how politics could function at its best. While it may not reflect the realities of politics, The West Wing captivates viewers with its likable characters, fast-paced dialogue, and a mix of humor and drama.
14 'Better Call Saul' (2015-2022)
Image via AMC
Better Call Saul, a spin-off/prequel to Breaking Bad, shines as its own exceptional series. Focusing on the character of Saul Goodman, also known as Jimmy McGill, the show explores his transformation into the lawyer viewers meet in Breaking Bad. Slower-paced but rewarding, Better Call Saul gradually builds tension and delivers an impactful final season. It stands as a testament to the quality of its parent show and showcases the rare spin-off that matches or surpasses its predecessor.
13 'Deadwood' (2004-2006)
Image via HBO
Deadwood is a monumental achievement in television, renowned for its exceptional writing and unforgettable characters. Set in the late 1800s in a lawless town, the show combines elements of historical drama, Western, and crime genres. Known for its profanity-laden and beautifully written dialogue, Deadwood captivates viewers with its richly depicted world. Although it was canceled after three seasons, it received a 2019 movie to provide closure to its intricate storyline.
As we reflect on these incredible dramas that have captivated audiences for decades, it's clear that the world of television has been forever transformed by their brilliance. From the groundbreaking storytelling of "Hill Street Blues" to the unforgettable characters of "Game of Thrones," these shows have left an indelible mark on the genre. With each new entry like "Stranger Things" and "True Detective," we are reminded of the endless potential for innovation and excellence in television drama. As we eagerly anticipate the next wave of captivating storytelling, we can be grateful for the legacy left behind by these extraordinary TV shows.
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