8 of the Most Popular TV Shows of All Time


Authored by Phil Dotree in Movies and Television 
Published on 11-22-2009

In television, there’s one difference between cult hits and cultural milestones: ratings. The shows that stay in our collective conscious, like it or not, tend to also be the most popular shows. Here’s a look at a few of the most popular and influential television shows ever broadcast on American TV.

Cheers – From its iconic theme song to its series finale, Cheers was huge. It was one of the largest shows of all time in both cultural impact and ratings. The series finale ranks in the top ten most watched TV shows of all time.

Seinfeld – The neurotic anti-heroes of Seinfeld annoyed many viewers with their tongue-in-cheek last episode. Many people seemed to miss that it perfectly fit with the Seinfeld approach to television. The joke was funnier if you had to think for a few minutes to get it. They parodied the end of TV shows, and throughout its run Seinfeld made an art form out of subtle anti-comedy. Many of the phrases from this show have entered the common vernacular.

Friends – Critics have sometimes called Friends light weight. That may be true, but it didn’t stop it from being massively popular. Friends only had a year or two at the top but kept steady high ratings throughout its lifespan. Even in syndication, it’s an incredibly popular sitcom.

Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? – Though it may not be as popular these days, when Regis Philbin hosted this show it certainly spent some time on top. Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? was the #1 show of 1999-2000. It also launched numerous other game shows as rival networks scrambled to replicate the phenomenon.

The Cosby Show – In the ’80s, the family comedy of the Cosby show beat out a lot of other shows. Through its many seasons it made Bill Cosby into a sort of beloved parody of himself. Every show had a great message and a happy ending. Eventually, this got However, its biggest contribution to pop culture might be the Jell-O pudding commercials that Cosby recorded during the show’s tenure.

All In The Family – A lot of America’s racial frustrations were addressed quite beautifully on All in the Family. The racist (yet likeable) Archie Bunker got over his fears and old ways as the series went on. It doesn’t play as well today, though; America’s simply not in the same place. Nevertheless, it was a very important and incredibly popular television show.

ER – The hospital drama that launched hospital dramas consistently scored very high ratings. Maybe ER did it the best, or maybe it was because they were first. Whatever the reason, ER has been one of the most popular medical shows ever. Except…

M.A.S.H. – The Vietnam show was alternately funny and heartbreaking. It brought a new outlook to the war. The last episode of M.A.S.H. was the most watched last episode of any sitcom in America. The cultural impact of M.A.S.H. was also fairly staggering.

What did you think of the most popular shows when they were on? Post in our comments section below.


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