The Greatest TV Shows Of The Noughties?

SurvivorLists, lists and more lists emerging as the year and the decade draw to a close.

There are many opinions about which shows have shaped the last ten years of television.

The Sunday Age on the weekend noted: The Sopranos, The Office, Australian Idol, Big Brother and Lost.

Big Brother debuted in the Netherlands in 1999. By 2001 we had our own version, and we could not believe our eyes. For the first time we were seeing not just real people on television, but real people like us. Despite furious denial in some quarters, the young folk of the Big Brother house lived in every street in Australia. Traditional audiences – and television executives – liked to pretend they didn’t, but reality television brought the awful, shocking, hilarious, poignant truth home: this is what Australia looked like,” wrote Melinda Houston.

Over in the US, the Dallas-Forth Worth arm of NBC gives its list as:

1. American Idol
2. Survivor
3. The Sopranos
4. Sex and the City
5. Lost
6. Family Guy
7. The Office
8. Grey’s Anatomy
9. Desperate Housewives
10. Two and a Half Men
11. 24
12. Arrested Development
13. Six Feet Under
14. Battlestar Galactica
15. The Daily Show

Variety asked the Television Critics Association to nominate their best. In drama they chose Friday Night Lights, Lost, Mad Men, The Sopranos, The West Wing and The Wire while in Comedy they picked 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Daily Show, Everybody Loves Raymond and The Office.

Meanwhile the San Francisco Chronicle promises a list on January 1st but notes that some argue the decade doesn’t actually end on Dec. 31, 2009, but on Dec. 31, 2010.

“Ratings were never a factor in deciding on the Best Series of the Decade. Neither was a show’s social impact – it’s ability to influence the zeitgeist. I think that’s why you’ll see the lack of some very big reality/unscripted series. (As an aside, I have an admitted bias toward scripted series. A reality show can be entertaining, but in my mind it can never be brilliant. A concept – or a contest, for that matter – pales in comparison to writing, to the development of a nuanced character.) What I wanted was very simple: greatness. I found that most often in scripted series,” writes Tim Goodman.

In the UK they’ve packaged together an entire TV special on the subject (think 20 to 1?), The Greatest TV Shows Of The Noughties which airs this week. It promises Doctor Who, The Wire, Planet Earth, The Apprentice, Big Brother, Friends amongst its ranks. Top Gear was named Britain’s favourite television programme of the decade.

And as for me? I’ll narrow it down to most influential Reality: Survivor and most influential scripted series: Lost.

And for what it’s worth, the latter was famously inspired by the success of the former.

Source: The Age, NBCDFW,, Variety


  1. “The Office” UK and, sadly, “Big Brother” both have to be up there with for the most influential programs.
    For mine, “The West Wing” must be the best series of the decade, even if it did start in 1999 in the US.

    The return of “Doctor Who” was, personally, the most welcome moment in television since the aborted return in 1996 (via the horrendous telemovie).

  2. Secret Squïrrel

    For Christopher – The Wire. The Wire. The Wire. The Wire. The Wire. The Wire.

    Although I think that The West Wing edged it. Really looking fwd to the final season of Lost too – Season 5 was awesome.

  3. Big Brother was definitely the greatest and most influential of the decade in Australia. It brought TEN ratings it hadn’t seen in years, and brought a new genre to Aussie TV. It was compelling viewing – it was new, it was extravagant, exciting, shiny. It introduced a fresh-faced host with a penchant for outrageous fashion and an undoubtable talent for live TV. It is responsible for more controversy than most shows would want or get.

    We can all say it’s a crap show (which yes it very much dwindled down to) and we didn’t watch it but even in it’s fifth and sixth seasons it was getting fantastic ratings, and arguably peaked in terms of ratings in its third.

    Other shows I would nominate are Kath & Kim (for bringing back the sitcom to Australia), Border Security (even though I hate this show, it was one of the first and certainly most popular of Seven’s current factual-o-rama), and Desperate Housewives (reviving both ABC in America and Seven here) as well as Lost.

  4. @mark, I fail to see how liking shows that feature murderes and criminals in lead roles makes one more intelligent. Perhaps that’s my lack of intelligence.

  5. Glad that Grey’s made the list. Its first 2 seasons were awesome and the past 2 seasons have got back to the Grey’s roots. It is one true drama. Lost has changed the way we look at TV and i love it. Despite what people might say i think Alias was an awesome show and sure it wasnt as popular but i think it changed tv just a bit. Look at when it was launched, just after Sept 11. CSI i will admit changed everything we knew about forensics and more. Despite not watching for 4 years the show in its hey day was fantastic. Now i dont watch it.

    Survivor is the king of Reality if you like it or not. Sure Idol is there and i think American Idol is the best in the world of its format but Survivor singlehandedly gave us reality tv. Desperate Housewives gave us something we havent seen in ages and it is still something i never miss. I havent missed an episode season 1 was just brilliant. I also loved the last season. 24 was another influential and very controversial show and i think has changed the face of television.

    One not on that list is Dancing With the Stars. It changed the way we watch Dance. In Australia in particular it helped Seven single handedly return to the top along with the US imports. It took time but when Seven returned to the top it was the #1 show on the network and still rates very very well. Then PTTR came along and well what a show that is. You look at it from an American point of view and particularly ABC’s 4 shows changed the way we watched. Dancing With the Stars, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy and Lost. The same 4 shows which helped Seven.

    Sorry its a bit long but heres my top 5:
    Grey’s Anatomy
    Dancing With the Stars

  6. Survivor should win because Survivor started the whole reality TV phenomenon. A whole lot of shows would not have even been commissioned if it wasn’t for the success of Survivor.

  7. The Amazing Race anyone?
    The first season of 24 was also incredible in terms of storytelling in ‘real time’.

    Australian tv- panel shows seemed to dominate (at least on ABC) Spicks and Specks did it best, but The Gruen Transfer also got people talking. Did Denton begin in the ‘noughties’? Can’t remember (short memory!)

  8. Jezza of the city

    Reality TV errr a myth…..most ‘reality tv’ was just an extended form of the traditional game show revamped and located in a different environment. The TV execs always had controls of the boundaries and the prizes.

    Take the amazing race….if it was ‘real’ they would have different teams all over the world as the slackers would fall way behind amd the smart folk be way ahead….it is just a game show.

    My top 3 are Top Gear, The Office &……………Desperate Housewives series 1

  9. The West Wing was not just the best programme of the decade, but one of the best programmes ever produced. The writing, acting and production values all took television to a whole new level, but it was the humour that made me love it so much.

  10. The spirit of reality TV did die, I think it did, it continues to exists in a sort of zombie form with less interest and fascination. As for other great shows of the noughies, I thought, Hells Kitchen, Big Bang Theory & maybe How I Met Your Mother to a lesser extent would certainly be up there with the rest of them. In terms of reality tv, I thought The Amazing Race was a well produced & entertaining show, & probably on par with Survivor even though it probably didn’t receive as many viewers.

    From the UK, there was Little Britain and Extras, Balls of Steel as well as The Office with honorable mentions going to Dragons Den & The IT Crowd. As for Australian content there was Chasers War On Everything, Thank God You’re Here, Spicks & Specks, The Glasshouse, The Gruen Transfer, Kath & Kim, Enough Rope and honorable mentions going to The New Inventors. There are probably some other great shows of the noughties but that’s what I could recall. I wait with anticipation as to what will come in the next decade, possibly titled the teenties, twenty-O’s, twenty teens etc.

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