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“Six Feet Under” -- A finely written melodrama about finding life in the company of death.
“Friday Night Lights” -- Brought realism to the notion of a “happy marriage” and showed a local community creating meaning.
“The Wire” -- A haunting epic about crime, poverty, drugs, and helplessness, and the antipathy between individuals and social systems.
“Breaking Bad” -- A tightly written, Kafkaesque portrait of personal transformation and a man driven to extremes by fear.
“The Sopranos” -- Took TV drama in a new anti-heroic direction, told its stories through a fascinating psychological lens.
Carin Baer/Castle Rock Entertainment
“Seinfeld” -- Stripped the sitcom of sentimentality and sent-up small-mindedness and urban life.
F. Scott Schafer/Fox/AP
“Arrested Development” -- The age of the dysfunctional family got its own farcical opus.
Fox Broacasting Co./AP
“The Simpsons” -- The relentlessness of American pop culture, embedded in a family comedy.
“The Andy Griffith Show” -- Morality tales, family bonds, and small-town life gone by.
United Press International
“The Dick Van Dyke Show” -- A snapshot of America’s Camelot that brought situation comedy to a new level of honesty.
“Lost” -- It pushed serial storytelling to the outer limits, asking the viewer to work to piece together a global and cosmic puzzle.
“Mad Men” -- A fine literary melodrama, and an anti-nostalgic look back at an era of change. Read Matthew Gilbert's complete list of 30 shows.
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