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TV Guide cover from the week of May 4, 2002 that coincided with the list. Pictured clockwise from left: Johnny Carson as Carnac the Magnificent, James Gandolfini from The Sopranos, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore from The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bill Cosby in The Cosby Show, The Simpsons, Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy.

The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time is a list of American TV series compiled by TV Guide as a cover story for the week of May 4, 2002. It coincided with an ABC primetime special that aired on May 13, 2002. The list garnered much national attention at the time, as the magazine was simultaneously celebrating five decades on newsstands. At the time, TV Guide billed the list as a perspective of the most "influential" television programs in American history. [1]

Breakdown of shows

  • Earliest aired show on the list: The Ed Sullivan Show (first aired in 1948)
  • Most recently premiered show: The Sopranos (first aired in 1999)
  • Shortest run: An American Family (12 episodes, plus two subsequent special episodes)
  • Primetime shows: 41 (highest-ranking was Seinfeld, #1)
  • Late-night shows: 4 (The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, ABC News Nightline, Saturday Night Live)
  • Daytime shows: 4 (Oprah, Donahue, Sesame Street, Today Show)
  • Syndicated shows: 3 (Oprah, Donahue, Star Trek: Next Generation)
  • Sitcoms: 18 (highest-ranking was Seinfeld, #1)
  • Variety shows: 5 (Laugh-In, Your Show of Shows, Carol Burnett Show, Ed Sullivan Show, Saturday Night Live)
  • Talk shows: 5 (Oprah, Donahue, Today, Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Late Show with David Letterman)
  • Drama: 18 (highest-ranking was The Sopranos at #5)
  • News: 3 (Nightline, Today, 60 Minutes)
  • Animated: 2 (The Simpsons, Rocky and Bullwinkle)
  • Game shows: 0 (although TV Guide had earlier made a separate list of the 50 greatest game shows)
  • Soap operas: 0
  • Reality shows: 1 (technically, An American Family at #32 is considered primitive reality)
  • NBC shows: 17 (highest-ranking was at #1, Seinfeld)
  • CBS shows: 16 (highest-ranking was at #2, "I Love Lucy")
  • ABC shows: 8 (highest-ranking was at #19, Thirtysomething)
  • Fox shows: 2 (highest-ranking was at #8, The Simpsons; other was The X-Files, #37)
  • Cable shows: 2 (both from HBO; highest-ranking was The Sopranos at #5; other was Larry Sanders at #38)
  • Public TV shows: 2 (highest-ranking was Sesame Street at #27; other was An American Family at #32)
  • The WB/UPN shows: 1 (Buffy the Vampire Slayer at #41)

Top Ten




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