Written By Summer 2013 : Page 30

101 A ll-time lists, regardless of the topic, are tricky things—subjective and thus instantly debatable, prone to generational differences and, frankly, the winds of memory. members, reveals itself to be a multigenerational tribute to lasting quality, if not also the power of Netflix. 30 • WG A W Written By summer 20 13 Written by Paul broWnfield By the Numbers Checking the 101 Best Written TV Series list Laugh-In, not to mention Roots, not to mention South Park, not to mention The Wire . Not to mention the writers themselves, known and less known. Bochco and Brooks, Milch and Sorkin, of course, but also the team of Levinson and Link, who first met in junior high, and went on to create Columbo together. Or Lucille Kallen, the only female writer in the famous comedy war room that was Your Show of Shows . Voting on the 101 Best Written TV Series was done via online balloting. Writers could submit as many as 20 shows, provided the series had aired on American televi-sion (shows could originate elsewhere). Miniseries of six hours or longer were also eligible. Each series submitted on a ballot received one vote. Somewhat remarkably, the list breaks down almost evenly between dramas (46) and comedies (48), with allowances made for various melding of the genres in shows like Moonlighting, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Northern Exposure . There are also five miniseries; the landmark children’s television series Sesame Street ; and its primetime variety offshoot, The Muppet Show . The list invites comparisons across eras but also be-lies it. Much has changed since the golden era of the 1950s. Television, at the risk of stating the obvious, was done live in its infancy, the business based in New York. When Jackie Gleason, host of the variety show Caval-cade of Stars, asked his writers to dream up the charac-ter that would become Ralph Kramden for a sketch, he gave birth to the working-class hero against whom all future working-class sitcom schlubs are still judged. Television shows are no longer incubated on the fly like that. The Honeymooners (it’s No. 31 on the list, by the way) is now called classic, which partly indicates how much has changed in terms of the way television is made and what writers are free to say. In 1955, Sputnik had yet to be sent into orbit, much less a satellite beam-ing down 500 channel options, and wireless Internet was still some lightyears from bringing on-demand epi-sodes of 30 Rock or Breaking Bad into the palm of one’s That said, the 101 Best Written TV Series, as voted on by Guild There is even something touching and inspirational about how the twisted pay-cable series Dexter checks in at No. 67, followed by the raw and whimsical and short-lived My So-Called Life, which itself is followed by something as broad and even Vaudevillian as the hit network sitcom The Golden Girls . In 2005, the WGA released the 101 Best Screen-plays of all time as voted on by the membership, an idea dreamed up by the Guild’s Publicity and Marketing Committee. Casablanca was No. 1, and Notorious was No. 101. Here, as the voting worked out, two HBO series came in at No. 1 and 101— The Sopranos and Oz, respectively. In between is everything from The Defenders to

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