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 50 Best TV Dramas Ever

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Post50 Best TV Dramas Ever

50 Best TV Dramas Ever

TV's Best Dramas Ever: 50-26

50 Best TV Dramas Ever
that transcend their genre molds, family dramas that both warm and break your heart, terrorist- and mobster-fighting heroes and that's not even the top 25.

Click through to see the shows that filled the slots of 50-26, and come back Wed., March 25 for our final reveal of 25-1. -- By Kimberly Potts

50. 'House'
(2004-present)

In a lineup of TV's crabbiest characters, Dr. Gregory House is right up there with Archie Bunker, Mel Sharples and Oscar the Grouch. But being a smug know-it-all with no bedside manner works for House (Golden Globe winner Hugh Laurie) mostly because he does usually know it all, using his incredible diagnostic skills and intuition to ferret out treatment for even the most baffling medical mysteries.


49. 'Little House on the Prairie'
(1974-83)

Ma, Pa, Laura, Mary, Carrie and the many adopted Ingalls small fries remain one of the tube's most endearing bunches, because when the going got tough, the Ingalls always stuck together. 'Prairie' life was often difficult -- ruined crops, harsh weather, Mrs. Oleson -- but the Ingalls, particularly father Charles (Michael Landon), always stuck to their principles, and by their friends, no matter what.

lighting' had it all, including a will-they-or-won't-they relationship between private eyes Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) and David (Bruce Willis). Off camera, the two leads butted heads, but their on-screen chemistry was scorching, as epitomized in the series' classic spoof of 'Taming of the Shrew.'


48. 'Moonlighting'
(1985-89)

Dramedy, romance, fantasy, lightning-quick dialogue and even the occasional song-and-dance -- 'Moonlighting' had it all, including a will-they-or-won't-they relationship between private eyes Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) and David (Bruce Willis). Off camera, the two leads butted heads, but their on-screen chemistry was scorching, as epitomized in the series' classic spoof of 'Taming of the Shrew.'


47. 'The Practice'
(1997-2004)

Handsome Bobby Donnell (Dylan McDermott) was the face man for his scrappy Boston legal firm, whose attorneys and clients weren't exactly the cream of the crop. In fact, Bobby and his colorful cohorts often resorted to desperate, unsavory antics to win their cases, leading to outrageous courtroom drama, memorable characters and, eventually, one of TV's greatest bromances, Denny Crane and Alan Shore.
46. 'Kung-Fu'
(1972-75)

Shaolin monk Caine was trained to believe in peace and the powerful skills of kung fu. But after using kung fu against Chinese royalty, he fled to the American West. David Carradine's quiet, thoughtful portrayal made Caine a hero of few words, torn between using his skills to help others and wandering the Earth alone, avoiding Chinese agents and bounty hunters and searching for his brother.


ulie, hipster slackers who made amends for their own parole-earning misdeeds by investigating the uncool adults who were trying to prey on members of the Mod Squad's generation. Besides showcasing trendy duds and breakout star Peggy Lipton, 'Mod' also kicked off a decades-long streak of youth-oriented hits for TV legend Aaron Spelling.


45. 'Mod Squad'
(1968-73)

This groovy cop drama lured younger viewers with Linc, Pete and Julie, hipster slackers who made amends for their own parole-earning misdeeds by investigating the uncool adults who were trying to prey on members of the Mod Squad's generation. Besides showcasing trendy duds and breakout star Peggy Lipton, 'Mod' also kicked off a decades-long streak of youth-oriented hits for TV legend Aaron Spelling.


44. 'Northern Exposure'
(1990-95)

Small-town America never seems more quirky and quaint than it does in TV land, and Cicely, Alaska, is the quintessential TV small town, filled with endearing characters like pushy retired astronaut Maurice; Maggie, a pilot who thought she was cursed to see all her boyfriends die; and Dr. Joel Fleischman, a big city guy who rued the day he was sent to practice in Alaska to repay his med school student loan.


43. 'Dr. Kildare'
(1961-66)

The drama set the standard for doctor shows that go beyond medicine and focus on the lives of the staff and patients of a large metropolitan hospital. 'Thorn Birds' star Richard Chamberlain became a teen star as the titular Kildare, an intern who juggled honing his medical skills and winning his mentor's respect with learning how to treat his patients humanely in life-and-death situations.


42. '24'
(2001-present)

Premiering shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the real-time action-packed show follows counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) as he risks life and limb to save the country from baddies bent on destroying it. Controversial for Bauer's use of torture tactics, the drama was also ahead of its time for giving the country its first African-American President in the beloved David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert).


41. 'Lou Grant'
(1977-82)

Ed Asner's portrayal of journalist Lou Grant led him to become the only star to win Lead Actor Emmys in both comedy and drama. After being fired as a TV newser in the 'Mary Tyler Moore Show' finale, Mr. Grant moved to Los Angeles and became a newspaper editor, where he continued his gruff but lovable ways with photog Animal, reporter Billie and equally tough publisher Mrs. Pynchon (Nancy Marchand).


40. 'Homicide: Life on the Street'
(1993-99)

'Homicide' focused less on action scenes and more on the wearing psychological effects of dealing with dead bodies and live creeps as an inner-city Baltimore cop. Ongoing and often grisly plots (the headless Felton, for example) were also standard on 'Homicide,' along with a frequently changing, but always stellar ensemble cast, led most notably by Andre Braugher and Richard Belzer's Munch.


39. 'Marcus Welby, M.D.'
(1969-76)

Welby (Robert Young) was a family doctor who put a new spin on the old doc/young doc relationship: in Welby's office, he was the more unorthodox practitioner, while his younger cohort, Dr. Kiley (James Brolin), was the by-the-numbers guy. Both physicians were compassionate about their patients' physical and mental concerns, however, tackling everything from autism to faith healers.



38. 'Oz'
(1997-2003)

Sure, the setting was an experimental prison, but take that out of the equation, and 'Oz' was just like any other engaging, well-written primetime soap ... if that soap also featured a lot of shanking and man love. Even the most hated of characters -- racist Schillinger

(J.K. Simmons), plotting Adebisi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), daughter murderer Shirley Bellinger (Kathryn Erbe) -- were portrayed as real people, and not just cartoon-ish bad guys (and girls).


37. 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'
(1987-94)

It premiered to more than 25 million viewers and would go on to win more than a dozen Emmys. The secret to the success of this 'Trek' sequel: better special effects, series creator Gene Rodenberry at the helm, Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard and a penchant for social commentary in the show's plots, which touched on everything from racism and sexism to human rights and drug addiction.


36. 'Perry Mason'
(1957-66)

You always knew the outcome -- lawyer Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) would be victorious! -- and that was most of the show's appeal. Perry (the original Closer) would figure out who the case's real killer was, and, by badgering the witness during his cross examination, get the culprit to reveal himself in dramatic fashion. All that was left to do then was recap his sleuthing to cohorts Della and Paul.


35. 'Kojak'
(1973-78)

Who loves ya, baby? Everyone, if your name was Kojak -- Lt. Theo Kojak (Telly Salvalas), the smooth, wisecrackin' New York City policeman known for his cool baldness and his ever-present lollipops. Though it would've been a mistake to let his easygoing demeanor fool you: Theo was more than willing to bend a rule -- or bust a few heads -- to see justice meted out. Fellow detectives Crocker (Kevin Dobson) and Stavros (Savalas' real-life brother George) worked alongside him to take down the scum of the City.




34. 'Peyton Place'
(1964-69)

The first hit primetime soap's randy citizens (including breakout stars Mia Farrow and Ryan O'Neal) brought viewers what would become standard soap plotlines, including murder, blackmail, affairs and faked pregnancies. The series, set in the titular small town in New England, also had something in common with daytime soaps: In five seasons of 'Peyton,' the show never aired a repeat.

33. 'The Untouchables'
(1959-63)

It was 1930s Prohibition agent Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) and his incorruptible team of agents vs. Chicago's most notorious mob leaders, including Al Capone, Frank Nitti and Ma Barker. The fact-based drama was controversial in its time because of the constant bloodbaths that resulted from Ness' machine gun showdowns with the gangsters, but viewers appreciated that the "untouchable" good guys often got their bad guys.


32. 'Mission: Impossible'
(1966-73)

From the theme song to the opening sequence with the self-destructing tape recorder, iconic 'Mission' elements continue to pop up in spy-themed series, movies and commercials. Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) led the Impossible Missions Force agents, who were charged with combating dictators, crime lords and other Cold War-era evildoers on behalf of an unnamed branch of the U.S. government.


le leads (Emmy winners Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly) and because storylines included touchy topics like the bombing of an abortion clinic, date rape and racial slurs, the cop drama was actually cancelled by CBS after season 1, but a letter-writing campaign, led by Gloria Steinem, sparked fans to demand its return to the airwaves.


30. 'CSI'
(2000-present)

The Las Vegas crime scene investigators, led by William Petersen's Gil Grissom, have spawned two spin-off series, as well as video games, a magazine and a museum exhibit. The show's influence has also spread to real world trials, as people have come to expect more sophisticated forensic work and DNA evidence after seeing the 'CSI'-ers' meticulous handiwork solve the most complicated crimes.



29. 'St. Elsewhere'
(1982-88)

The Emmy-winning hospital drama was known for its well-crafted storylines that combined the harsh realities of illness with dark humor; helping launch the career of Oscar winner Denzel Washington; tackling tough topics like AIDS, rape and breast cancer; and for its series finale, in which the entire show turned out to be a figment of the imagination of young Tommy, one of the doctor's autistic sons.


28. 'Dragnet'
(1951-59)

Producer/actor Jack Webb's series struck a chord with viewers as the first realistic look at L.A. police work, from the mundane to the dramatic crime solutions. Webb's Sgt. Joe Friday also peppered viewers with police lingo (and his memorable "Just the facts, ma'am" catchphrase), while the show's "dum-de-dum-dum" theme is as classic as the "doink-doink" that's become a 'Law & Order' trademark.


27. 'Dallas'
(1978-91)

The saga of a Texas oil family led to a revival for primetime soaps, which had been in decline after 'Peyton Place.' Thanks to the double-dealing ways of wily Ewing son J.R. (Larry Hagman), the J.R. vs. Bobby (Patrick Duffy) struggle for Ewing Oil and cliffhangers like the famous 'Who Shot J.R.?' and Bobby-in-the-shower season finales, 'Dallas' became the most popular show on TV for several seasons.


26. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
(1997-2003)

It's the simple, yet spot-on accuracy of comparing teen life to Hell that's the true genius of Joss Whedon's masterpiece, which used Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) monster slaying as a metaphor for the heartbreak and loss she'd deal with. Whedon and the Scooby Gang also deftly met Buffy's sometimes harrowing dramas with a hefty dose of dark humor and an endless supply of pop culture references.

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