20 of my favorite television shows, in chronological order:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955)
The Twilight Zone (1959): Both mostly on Netflix Instant. Absurdly smart, tense shows.
Star Trek: The Original Series (1966): Silly? Sure. That’s why it’s so wonderful.
Sliders (1995): Very ’90s sci-fi as often terrible as it is clever. Stop watching before Season 4.
Ally McBeal (1997): Presented without comment.
Sex and the City (1998): A sharp, funny show about attractive women sleeping around. Remind me why I’m not supposed to like it? (Related: Ally McBeal.)
Freaks and Geeks (1999): The best show you never watched. Except for Party Down. Funny, heartfelt, real — The Wonder Years with edge.
The O.C. (2003): Season 3 is sloppy and melodramatic, but Season 4 picks up after Ryan gets over Marissa. Introduces the world to Seth Cohen, the greatest television character of all time.
Arrested Development (2003): I never actually finished Season 3. I’m sure it’s great.
Joe Millionaire (2003): Best reality show ever. Completely ridiculous.
Veronica Mars (2004): Have only watched Season 1. Season 1 is incredible. One of the better shows about high school.
Lost (2004): Season 2-3.5 is arduous but worth suffering through until the writers’ room picks up Brian K. Vaughan and figures out what to do again; Season 6 (after Vaughan had left, tellingly) is hugely disappointing but the rest is the best television I’ve ever seen.
Project Runway (2004): Reality competition at its finest. Genuinely talented people, a genuinely intense competition, Tim Gunn being Tim Gunn.
The Office (2005): Season 2 is perfect television. I got bored halfway through Season 6 and gave up.
Stella (2005): Michael Showalter should be co-starring in bromances with Paul Rudd every three months.
30 Rock (2006): It’s Tina Fey!
Mad Men (2007): It’s Mad Men!
Gossip Girl (2007): Uneven but also tremendous, especially once the cast gets into college.
Party Down (2009): The most satisfying comedy show on this list. Better thanArrested Development? Yes. Really.
Bored to Death (2009): Jason Schwartzman, Dave Rawk hero, in the role he was born to play.
Parks and Recreation (2009): This is currently the funniest show on television, in no small part because it is also the warmest and the most expertly cast.
Childhood favorites/honorable mentions: Seinfeld. The Wonder Years. Darkwing Duck (which has aged remarkably). Mystery Science Theater 3000.