TV shows with the highest signal-to-noise ratio.

In which we discuss which televisions are most reliable in terms of quality.

I don’t necessarily mean the best shows, by the way, or even your favorite ones. My all-time-favorite show is probably a three-way tie between Xena: Warrior Princess, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Doctor Who, but all three of those have a large number of clunkers mixed in with the great episodes (though with Xena one can always just skip to a Gabrielle scene, turn off the sound, and watch Renee O’Connor being awesome). All three are great, but they’re not consistent.

For consistency rather than greatness, the first show that comes to my mind is the Jack & Anita Program, better known as the original Law & Order. While it did vary somewhat in quality over the years, it never failed to be interesting, was rarely stupid, and never inspires one to hit pause on the DVR, quickly make some popcorn, and come back so you can throw the popcorn at the scene. L&O is my benchmark for predictable quality.

But that’s just me. I’m sure you guys have your own opinions.

I think I’ve been consistently amused by every episode of *Mike & Molly *that I’ve seen, with some real laugh-out-loud moments in many of them. Yeah, some things are predictable, it’s a sitcom after all, but so much of the dialog just cracks me up, especially the lines they give Vince and Grandma.

Although there have only been two seasons, I’m amazed at the quality of Fargo; also the quality of Veep has been amazing with really crisp writing episode after episode.

Firefly! Small sample size, of course.

Game of Thrones, IMO. Also, The Wire, Sopranos, Mad Men, and Justified – few lousy episodes among them. I’ll throw in Archer too, for kicks, and maybe Key and Peele for some more variety.

Breaking Bad - only slight exception to issues like Marie and shoplifting, Hank and his rocks/minerals, or Skyler and her cheating with Ted

Sopranos - Every season, Every Episode, very little filler

The Wire - All except the last season, that season was still good

Fargo - Both season, little/no filler

On the sitcom side, Parks and Recreation was consistently great after the first season. It dragged a little bit during the “Leslie running for city council” arc, but there aren’t any episodes that I would consider skippable.

I’ll give Arrested Development high marks for a 1/2 comedy. Very fast paced, all about the jokes, no wasted scenes. It is just comedy, it’s harder to pack the content in a drama, but it was well written with a continuing storyline.

Drama wise I’d agree with L&O. They did get bogged down in the second half occasionally when they spent time moralizing in the DA’s office instead of showing trial or negotiation.

Many of the high concept shows of the 60s maintained consistent levels of quality. All the episodes of The Addams Family are about equally funny. All the episodes of Green Acres (after season 1) are about equally funny. Same for The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Munsters and so on. Whether any of these shows are to your particular taste is another matter.

I thought about specifically disqualifying Firefly just for that reason. With only thirteen episodes and the general feeling among its fans that it was robbed by the network, it seems likely to eliict an “It was perfect!” reaction.

I haven’t watched a lot of GoT. For some reason every time I’ve turned it on, somebody is being raped, and that put me off.

I can think of several Mad Men that sucked, especially as they never killed off that hoser Draper.

The Wire is too realistic. Realism is for weenies.

You could convince me on Archer. l

Forgot Deadwood. Any episode with Swearengen (most or all of them!) is already better than most shows on TV.

Seasons 2, 4, and 5 of 24. Ignore the mountain lion, Kim was super hot, so its ok

It’s easy to peg the comedies that do it for me with a high degree of consistency: Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There are a couple of episodes of Sunny that aren’t quite my favorite, but even those ones only flutter a bit rather than take a hard dive, and I get some serious laughs out of each one. The Todd Margaret series is another, although I don’t rate it as highly overall, it is consistently clever (mixed in which the low-brow) and weird. Oh yeah, Archer is at least close, if not perfectly consistent.

For dramas, I’m not sure of any that really do it for me every episode. Even Breaking Bad, Sopranos, GoT, and The Wire had at least one or two clunkers. Better Call Saul and Fargo very likely count for me, but maybe we should wait until each gets a few more seasons under it’s belt (Todd Margaret is a little light on the episode count, too).

Some of my very favorite shows don’t make the cut. And, damn, we need better SF on TV. Even the best SF shows are often not very good.

Hill Street Blues is my favorite T.V. show. I am currently working my way through the DVDs again, and it’s amazing how every episode turns out to be one I remember as my favorite. The show was really high quality throughout its run.

I agree with *Law & Order *for the most part, but I find that it drags a lot during the Dennis Farina years. I sometimes skip those episodes.

I remember that the original Jump the Shark website had a section for shows that had never jumped. Among them were *The Dick Van Dyke Show *and the original Odd Couple. I think both shows were consistently good. I’d add *Barney Miller *as well.

The UK show Peep Show only has 6 episodes per season (9 seasons) and I think they are all hilarious! Even the one where they eat a dog…sigh…

Same goes for Spaced. Not too many episodes, but each one perfect.

I’m re-watching 30 Rock. They have full 26-show seasons (7 of them) and I am pretty sure every episode is funny.

I agree with Law & Order. I watched every episode over a period of about a year and a half, some years ago. Each one was good, and stood the test of time.

I’d say *The Closer *fits the bill very well.

I agree with Archer, the Sopranos, and (especially?) Game of Thrones. I would agree with the Wire, but since the last season sucked, I’m not sure I’d include it.

Yes Prime Minister. Every episode is funny and endlessly quotable. In contrast, Yes Minister had the occasional unfunny episode (The Death List comes to mind). I think my preference for the former may be a function of familiarity, though; there are lots of things discussed in Yes Minister that didn’t really exist by the time I was old enough to appreciate it - like fallout shelters.

I agree with Barney Miller, and I’d add Brooklyn Nine Nine as well. For a drama, I’d say Numb3rs.

I love this show and Vince and Peggy are my favorite characters. Carl and Sammuel are close seconds. The lines they give Sammuel to crack on Mike and Carl are great.
Parks and Rec.
It’s always Sunny.
Big Bang Theory.

Community is back on in reruns in my area and I’m watching it everyday and once I realize what episode it is instead of thinking, “Ugh, this one again.” I think, “Alright, this one again.”

I’m working my way through a box set of Homicide:Life on the Street. It has a very, very high hit rate.