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The Top Ten TV Show Seasons of All Time

Updated on August 15, 2012

As a person whose main interest is the forum of film, it’s at times difficult for me to get into TV shows. I won’t bore you too long here, but my thought was always that films gave you a resolution to the story quicker, while you would have to wait weeks or months for the resolution of a television show. Sure, you’d get to know the characters more seeing them every week, but sometimes that was more of an annoyance then a plus. However, when a television show hits the right notes, it can be just as captivating, if not more, than any great film out there.

So with that thought in mind, I thought I would start off here by giving you all a list of the top ten television seasons of all time. The only criteria for this list that animated shows aren’t included; everything else live action is fair game, regardless of what year or station it was broadcast on. So sit back, relax, and enjoy.

(note: this list is of my opinions on shows. If you’re show isn’t on here, it doesn’t mean it’s not great)


10. Veronica Mars (Season 1): Mixing the best of The X-Files and Buffy with Chloe Sullivan like character, Veronica Mars quickly became the under appreciated darling of the new millennium back in 2004. And while it never quite had the same magic in season’s two and three, the first one delivered the goods, packed with captivating characters, an amazing story arc and the right amount of twists to go with it. Still remains the greatest thing Amanda Seyfried (who played Veronica’s murdered best friend Lily Kane) was ever involved in.

9. Grey’s Anatomy (Season 2): With declines in quality since the end of season five and the tendency to wander into soap opera waters, it’s easy to forget that Grey’s Anatomy has at times been one of the strongest and most consistent shows around. The show’s second season remains the best example of this, with the top form cast getting even better thanks to the arrival of Kate Walsh’s Addison Montgomery-Shephard and Jeffery Dean Morgan’s wonderful Denny Duquette, and some of the best episodes the series has ever produced. Highlights such as the amazing “It’s the End of the World…As We Know It” story arc and the out of control season finale more than make up for the never ending Derek-Meredith story and Izzie Steven’s unrealistic stupidity.

8. Heroes (Season 1): It’s hard to be kind to Tim Kring’s Heroes, especially after seasons two through four were so bad, disappointing seems to kind of a word to describe it. For the first season though, Heroes appears to get everything right. While the later seasons seemed to force storylines, twists and ideas, season one hits every note perfectly. The cast is at least likable and well put together, while the storyline is pure masterpiece and the twists are exciting and well executed. And while it’s debatable if Heroes reaches its full potential in this season, it’s definitely riveting TV, and is perhaps unfairly lumped in with the poor seasons that followed.

7. The X-Files (Season 2): The second season of the pop culture phenomenon features perhaps the best collection of episodes out of the series, such as the amazing “Duane Barry.” Not only that, but the show would introduce iconic characters such as Alex Krychek, X and The Alien Bounty Hunter while also elevating and developing The Smoking Man and the awesome Walter Skinner. Believe it or not, the reduction of screen time for Gillian Anderson’s Scully (Anderson was pregnant at the beginning of the season) allowed creator Chris Carter to fully put forth the series’ mythology, while allowing David Duchovny to show us exactly how close Mulder could get to crossing the line in search for the truth.

6. How I Met Your Mother (Season 1): The only season of a sitcom on this list, and for good reason. While How I Met Your Mother’s first season may not seem much different from past sitcoms, it’s able to blend in romance and coming of age sensibilities with comedy better than any sitcom before it. It also helps that there is no weak link in the cast (all of them are incredibly funny and well developed) and that the season’s payoff is both heartwarming and crushing. No question, season one is legan…wait for it…you know the rest.

5. Law and Order: SVU (Season 5): Always the more gripping and emotional of all the Law and Order series, season five of SVU takes things to a whole new level. It’s exhausting, powerful and relentless; never have I seen a show that raised the stakes seemingly episode to episode. Many other shows would’ve fallen on their face trying that, but the game cast of SVU (anchored by the superb chemistry of Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay) keeps up entirely. The show has remained great ever since, but it’s never been able to entirely duplicate the urgency of season five, nor has it had a stunning, thrilling episode like season five’s “Loss”.

4. The X-Files (Season 5): While season two of The X-Files may have had better individual episodes, season five of the show has the better story arc, as we see Mulder for the first time seriously start to question the beliefs he has held so dear throughout the show. On top of that, the introduction of new characters such as Diana Fowley and Jeffery Spender (played by Mimi Rogers and Chris Owens respectively) raised the stakes, and the war between the alien colonists and alien rebels added a much needed spark to the series mythology. Best of all, the season’s fifth episode “The Post-Modern Prometheus” is perhaps the best episode in the show’s history, featuring great guest appearances by Seinfeld alum John O’Hurley and Owens (playing the Frankenstein like Great Mutato), a boat load of Cher music and a story that captures the absolute best of the show.

3. Twin Peaks (Season 1): Like Heroes, Twin Peaks is most known today for its failure to capitalize on hype and momentum generated from its successful first season. Unlike Heroes however, Twin Peaks’ first season was both iconic and a pop cultural milestone, spawning a massive cult fan base and turning its mad scientist creators David Lynch and Mark Frost into household names. Most impressive, all of this was done in just seven episodes, making the show’s popularity all the more remarkable (only Grey’s Anatomy’s first season, which consisted of nine episodes, comes close to matching Twin Peaks’ popularity in so little time). And while the show’s second season and its under appreciated prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me never received the same praise or love, the first season remains a cultural touchstone, with the Pilot episode being one of the best openings for a show ever.

2. Alias (Season 1): Featuring the greatest Pilot episode ever seen, Alias was off the ground running in season one and never looked back. Indeed, Sydney Bristow’s quest to get revenge on terrorist group SD-6 for killing her fiancé while keeping her life as a spy secret from her friends was gripping, funny and action packed. Oh, did I mention that she is also working for SD-6 while helping the CIA bring them down? The season was also notable for making stars out of Jennifer Garner and creator J.J. Abrams, while also giving notoriety to fellow cast members Bradley Cooper, Michael Vartan, and especially older stars Victor Garber and Ron Rifkin. Alias would remain a great show for all five seasons on TV, but it was never the same after the turbo charged, what-the-hell-is-going-on first season came to a close.

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 2): Joss Whedon’s magna opus (sorry Avengers), the second season of Buffy brought out the most drama, humor and heartache a show can possibly have. While the other seasons were spectacular (Buffy in my opinion is the greatest show ever), this one was the best, with the spotlight focusing on the rise and fall of Buffy’s romance with Angel. Perfectly played by David Boreanz, Angel would transform from the guilt ridden, tortured love of Buffy’s life to the ultimate arch nemesis upon losing his soul after a night of passion with the Slayer. From there, characters would die (Jenny Calendar), new characters would be introduced (Seth Green’s Oz and the James Marsters’ popular Spike), and the lives of Buffy and the Scooby’s would be changed forever. In the end, you will have laughed, cried and likely been changed forever, just like Buffy.

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    • Lil Miss Reader profile image

      Stephany 5 years ago from Somerset New Jersey

      I completely agree with you that BtVS is the GREATEST SHOW EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for this hub.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      #6 and #5 are the only two shows/seasons I am completely familiar with but I understand where you are coming from. Some shows have peak seasons and don't recapture it. I honestly look back on the first season of How I Met Your Mother with a little disdain. To me, first seasons are the worst since the writers/actors/crew haven't really gotten into a solid groove but I think it has improved with age. Great hub idea and nice job!