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Which TV shows should be canon, like ‘Great Books’ of the past?

As the best TV grows in consistency, depth, and prestige, it’s a familiar leap to apply the metaphor of literature to the most acclaimed shows.

Collected as DVD box sets, scripted TV series line shelves like fat Victorian novels. Critics and academics compare “The Wire,” with its social conscience and scope, to Charles Dickens. Top colleges offer full-semester courses on “The Simpsons,” “Mad Men,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Sopranos,” and “South Park,” analyzing them as mirrors of human nature, time capsules, and multilayered, allusive narratives. And countless others online recap and deconstruct every episode of their favorite shows with a scholarly passion that can border on pedantry.

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