tv

'I watch TV every day for work. These are my top 10 shows of all time.'

I need to watch a lot of television in my free time, because writing about TV during work hours is a big part of my job.

Considering how much TV I watch anyway, it's kind of the dream. 

What it means is that I can have three to four shows on the go at any given time. I try to devour as much as I can, although I'm grateful my colleagues like crime mysteries so I can skip the murders and go straight to the sappy rom-coms, sitcoms and political dramas I'm drawn to.

All of this is to say that I watch a lot of TV. And while there's always something great to enjoy - and lots of... not so great things too - I have a fairly solidified list when it comes to my favourite shows of all time.

These are the ones that for me, rise above all the others. The ones that I'll happily re-watch even if it's completely impractical for work, and will yell about to anyone who will listen.

In no particular order (there's no way I could actually rank these), here are my top 10 favourite shows ever:

Mad Men.

Image: AMC.

I said these weren't in any particular order, but I am starting with one of the most ~prestigious~ on my list, because deep down, I am a people pleaser and I want to impress you.

But let's be honest: Mad Men is one of the best TV shows of all time. 

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Watch: The Mad Men trailer. Post continues below video.


Video via Lionsgate.

On its surface, it's the story of philandering, ad-genius Don Draper. He is the kind of man you know is bad but can't help feeling for. It's about how he tries to change, and how he fails to do so. 

But beyond Don, Mad Men is about the women in his life: Betty, Joan, Penny and the rest. It is the story of the 60s and the gigantic social leaps that take place during that decade, from the availability of the contraceptive pill to second-wave feminism to the rise of hippie culture, which helps free these women from a society that constantly underestimates and overlooks them.

The transformation of Peggy, played by the incredible Elisabeth Moss (more on her later), from season one to seven is one of TV's best.

UGH. IT'S JUST SO GOOD.

Mad Men is streaming on Stan and Amazon Prime Video.

Seinfeld.

Image: NBC.

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To me, Seinfeld has a special nostalgia factor. It's also my dad's favourite show, so I grew up watching it and now I've re-watched it multiple times as an adult.

It is perhaps the most influential sitcom ever; a show about nothing, but also... everything.

I find myself thinking of it almost daily, because Jerry and pals have somehow made absolutely everything that happens in day-to-day life funny. 

Forgotten where you parked your car? Same. Double-dipped a chip? Hope no one saw that. Made a bet with your mates that sees you fantasising over a member of the Kennedy family? Okay, well, not quite, but... also a bit too close for comfort.

Also, Elaine is the feminist icon I didn't know I needed growing up. Bless her, and bless Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Seinfeld is streaming on Stan, Amazon Prime Video and Binge.

Veep.

Image: HBO.

Did I mention I love Julia Louis-Dreyfus?

An icon. A legend. One of the first people I would answer with if you asked me that classic, 'If you could invite anyone, dead or alive, to a dinner party, who would they be?'

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There are few things I love more in this world than political satire, and Veep is it at its very best. 

It follows former senator turned vice president turned - spoiler alert - President of the United States, Selina Meyer. Selina is a terrible, TERRIBLE person, surrounded by an inner circle of other terrible people. Everyone on this show sucks, and you love to hate them all.

Veep is chaotic, dark, sweary and laugh-out-loud - or gasp-out-loud - funny. 

It takes a special show to successfully pull off a political series that is even more of a mess than the real-life garbage fire that is US politics. And Veep delivers, even on the 1346th watch through.

Veep is streaming on Binge.

The Handmaid's Tale.

Image: Hulu.

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The Handmaid's Tale arrived on screen in early 2017, which just so happened to be the exact time I needed it. Personally, I was angry at the state of the world (lol, if only I knew how much worse it would get) and the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel felt like a much-needed validation of my rage.

Handmaid's is brutal and soul-destroying. The stakes - our right to live our lives as women on our own terms - could not be higher. There are many terrifying parallels (everything Atwood wrote is based on historical events) and to me, the show is a warning of what could be, and a reminder to always fight for women's rights.

Elisabeth Moss' performance as June - known as Offred in the earlier seasons - is glorious, and supporting cast members like Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia, Bradley Whitford as Joseph Lawrence, and Madeline Brewer as Janine, bring such incredibly complicated, layered performances to their characters.

I could talk about The Handmaid's Tale forever. Luckily, I get the recap the show for Mamamia, which has been one of my career highlights. 

Blessed day.

Seasons one to three of The Handmaid's Tale are streaming on Stan. Season four is streaming on SBS On Demand.

The Good Place.

Image: Netflix.

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The Good Place is a wholesome, virtuous series with a side of existential dread. It's a really weird recipe that many shows have tried to pull off, but none have ever done it as well as creator Mike Schur does here.

The series begins when Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) dies and ends up in 'The Good Place'. Which is fantastic, except that Eleanor was a nightmare of a human and is definitely not Good Place material. She concocts elaborate plans and recruits a number of friends/frenemies to ensure the architect of the heaven, Michael (the fantastic Ted Danson) doesn't find out there's been a mix-up. 

The Good Place is hilarious, heartwarming and philosophical. It asks the very big, very deep question: 'What does it mean to be a good person?'

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Through ridiculous antics, mishaps and twists, the very flawed but very endearing group of characters set out to find the answer, and you'll laugh and cry as they do.

The Good Place is streaming on Netflix.

Jane the Virgin.

Image: Netflix.

For me, Jane the Virgin is like a weighted blanket. I go back to it time and time again, because it's warm and cozy and makes me feel good.

The plotline of this show is intentionally wild, modeled off the outrageously over-the-top telenovela genre.

It follows young woman Jane (... a virgin) who is accidentally artificially inseminated and becomes pregnant during a routine gynecologist visit. It turns out the father is Rafael, Jane's crush from high school who is very handsome and very rich. And the aforementioned gynecologist is his sister.

Yes. It's bonkers, and I love it so much.

Jane the Virgin is escapist television at its best - ridiculous and unrealistic, but so sweet, touching and wholesome. 

Oh, and Jane and Michael are my number one favourite TV couple. Fight me, team Rafael.

Jane The Virgin is streaming on Netflix. 

The Mandalorian.

Image: Disney+.

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Ah yes, here is where my inner nerd makes itself known.

I bloody love Star Wars, okay, but even if you're completely unfamiliar with George Lucas' (literal) universe, The Mandalorian is spectacular television. There are plenty of Easter eggs and references for anyone who has seen the three movie trilogies, but it's far enough removed from those for new fans.

Each episode is like a movie in scale, effects and budget. Disney really went 'yeah we are rich as hell' when making this show, and it paid off for them.

The most incredible thing to me is how Pedro Pascal, who plays the titular character, manages to convey so much emotion despite the fact we never see his face. He's literally wearing a helmet the entire time, and yet somehow we can... just tell how he's feeling. 

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Plus, Baby Yoda is the cutest thing to ever (not actually) exist. Fact.

The Mandalorian is streaming on Disney Plus.

The Sopranos.

Image: Binge.

In my mind, The Sopranos and Seinfeld hold a similar space despite being... wildly different TV shows. One is about nothing, and the other is about a mob leader and his incredibly dysfunctional family, but both were shows I grew up watching (hey mum, a word?) and have maintained a love for decades on. 

The Sopranos was most people's first foray into prestige TV, because it's probably the very first prestige TV show.

Before Tony Soprano visited his therapist, TV was very much looked down on in Hollywood. It was movies, or the B-list. Two decades on, things have almost flipped in completely the other direction, as previous 'movie stars' like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Hugh Grant have all made moves into (very good) TV recently. 

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The Sopranos is about as good as television gets. Tony is a terrible person, and yet the expert writing portrays him so sympathetically that we still root for him throughout the entire show. 

It's got everything: high stakes drama, low stakes tragicomedy, infidelity, murder and actually-good dream sequences. 

Everyone aspires to make the next Sopranos. Few have even come close.

The Sopranos is streaming on Binge.

Game of Thrones.

Image: HBO.

For a long time, I resisted watching Game of Thrones. This was before my writing about television days, don't you worry, but the description of 'lots of violence, death and dragons' made me think I'd hate it.

How embarrassing for me.

We can debate as much as we want about the show's controversial final season, but the rest of the series was so well done that I don't think anything would've knocked it out of my list - and lists of the best shows of all time. 

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Violence, death and dragons still aren't my favourite things (lol), but that's a far too simplistic description of GOT. It's a geopolitical drama, set in a world full of backstabbers, revenge and... a terrifying ice-zombie army. There's family drama, some really good - and really bad - explorations of trauma, and the best battles ever seen on TV.

Actually, I think I just talked myself into a re-watch.

Game of Thrones is streaming on Binge and Foxtel.

Modern Family.

Image: ABC.

Friends is probably the best-acknowledged 'comfort show', but I could happily go my whole life without seeing another minute of it. Sorry. 

However, I firmly believe that everyone needs a comfort watch - the show you put on no matter how many times you've seen it, the one that feels like catching up with your favourite people - and mine is Modern Family.

It began in a hotel room in La Spezia, Italy. I was travelling alone, battling food poisoning. It was 2015, before Netflix and other streaming services really hit their stride, so I was pretty reliant on actual television. I don't speak Italian, and as you'd expect most TV in Italy is... in Italian. But for some reason, there was one English TV channel, and it played almost nothing but Modern Family re-runs.

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A few days later, I considered Phil Dunphy et al. close personal friends.

Ever since then, Modern Family has given me a sense of joy I can't even properly explain. It just makes me feel happy and warm. It's like a hug.

Modern Family is streaming on Binge and Foxtel.

Honourable mentions:

Sorry. I'm greedy, and this is fun. 

These are some of the shows that would make my top 15-20, if that was a thing, and that also hold special places in my heart:

Succession.

I wrote this entire article with Succession on my top 10 list, until I realised I'd actually listed 11 shows. Maths is not a strong suit.

Succession is already a modern classic in my mind. A funnier, 2020s Mad Men, that'll probably make the list for real as time goes on.

Succession is the kind of show where you know you should hate everyone. On reflection, you probably do hate them all. But when you're emersed in their world, you're having too good of a time to notice. 

All of this, presented with devastating one-liners and the most cynical of tones, make it the most compelling new show I've watched in years.

Orange is the New Black.

Up until the death of *spoiler* Poussay and the trial of Taystee, because these two were the heart of soul of the show and deserved so much better!!!!!

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How To Get Away With Murder.

Two words: Viola Davis.

Gossip Girl.

The most embarrassing show I will watch over and over. It has aged terribly and is mostly a toxic mess, but I'll probably never stop revisiting the Upper East Side.

Skins.

The show of my teenage years. It taught me so much. Oh, and Freddie is still the most traumatising TV death I've ever seen. I'll mourn him forever.

Grey's Anatomy.

Purely based on how much time I've spent watching. There's just SO MUCH OF IT TO WATCH. I no longer watch it religiously, but those first 10ish seasons were so bloody great.

Sex Education.

IT'S JUST SO GOOD. The blueprint for all teen dramas going forward.

Elite.

A Spanish Netflix original about rich, hot people, their rich, hot people problems and... murder. Not enough people in my life have watched it and it pains me greatly.

The West Wing.

I'm not sure if I mentioned that I like political dramas? Also, Bradley Whitford is an icon.

What's on your top 10 of all time list? Let me know in a comment.

Chelsea McLaughlin is Mamamia's Senior Entertainment Writer. For more pop culture takes, sarcasm and... cat content, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Supplied/AMC.

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