Only Fools and Horses

From Only Fools to Doctor Who, the Top 100 TV shows of all time revealed – but some classics have failed to make grade

SINCE its inaugural issue on September 28, 1923, Radio Times has remained the authority on the best TV and radio out there.

To celebrate its centenary, the magazine has curated its top 100 shows over the years – making for a glittering list of comedy, drama and factual greats.

Radio Times has compiled a list of the 100 greatest TV shows (pictured EastEnders)

Radio Times has compiled a list of the 100 greatest TV shows (pictured EastEnders)

1 Desert Island Discs, 1942, BBC Forces: Radio show in which a celebrity imagines being a castaway and chooses eight records to ease the solitude. In its 80-year history, more than 3,000 guests have taken part.

2. Come Dancing, 1949, BBC: The predecessor of BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing was a contest between non-celebrity competitors who took to the dance floors across regional TV studios.

3. The Archers, 1950, BBC Home Service: Radio soap originally billed as “an everyday story of country folk” is now the world’s longest-running radio drama, with 20,000 episodes.

4. Billy Bunter Of Greyfriars School, 1952, BBC: The seven-series comedy centred on the chubby public schoolboy with a habit of stealing cakes and falling asleep in class.

5. Panorama, 1953, BBC: Current affairs programme investigating hard news, from Princess Diana’s divorce to the sex crimes behind closed doors at the Vatican.

6. Hancock’s Half Hour, 1954, BBC: A radio comedy and later TV series starring comedian Tony Hancock, playing an exaggerated version of his character Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock, a shabby comedian living in London.

7. Zoo Quest, 1954, BBC: Sir David Attenborough and a London Zoo team travelled the globe in search of the world’s most exotic animals.

8. My Word!, 1956, BBC Home Service: Quiz show featuring Frank Muir and Denis Norden. Two teams faced questions on literature, including defining obscure words and giving the origin of famous phrases.

9. Today, 1957, BBC Home Service: In- depth news programme with political interviews, current affairs and topical talks and a Thought For The Day religious spot.

10. Blue Peter, 1958, BBC: The longest- running children’s TV show in the world, which has starred 42 presenters focusing on arts, crafts and much more.

11. Danger Man, 1960, ITV: Spy adventure series starring Patrick McGoohan as globe-trotting British secret agent John Drake.

12. Coronation Street, 1960, ITV: The longest-running soap in TV history, with more than 10,000 episodes, it focuses on the cobblestoned streets of fictional Manchester district Weatherfield.

13. Z Cars, 1962, BBC: Drama series following the uniformed police officers on patrol in the fictional town of Newtown, the show aired 801 episodes.

14. The Saint, 1962, ITV: Roger Moore starred as Simon Templar, aka The Saint, a wealthy and slightly crooked hero using his wit to outsmart criminals and save innocent victims.

15. Doctor Who, 1963, BBC: Sci-fi classic about the Doctor, a regenerating Time Lord who travels the universe to save it from evil forces in his spaceship, the Tardis.

16. Top Of The Pops, 1964, BBC: The world’s longest-running weekly music show, broadcasting some of the week’s most popular music based on the singles charts.

17. I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, 1964, BBC Home Service: Radio comedy sketch show starring John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, among others.

18. Play School, 1964, BBC2: Children’s TV series including songs, stories and activities for pre-schoolers. By looking through one of three windows, young viewers would watch educational films and listen to short stories.

19. Seven Up!, 1964, ITV: The first of a seven-part film series, one every seven years, following the lives of ten men and four women, starting when they were just seven years old.

20. Match Of The Day, 1964, BBC2: Football highlights from the top games of the day broadcast for audiences who couldn’t make it to the stadium or just preferred to stay home.

21. The Singing, Ringing Tree, 1964, BBC1: A dark children’s fantasy film produced in Germany based on a Grimm Brothers story.

22. The Magic Roundabout, 1965, BBC1: French children’s programme using stop-motion animation, rewritten by English narrator Eric Thompson — father of actress Emma.

23. The World Cup Final, 1966, BBC1: The final at Wembley saw England go head-to-head with West Germany before claiming the Jules Rimet trophy in a 4-2 victory.

24. Talking To A Stranger, 1966, BBC2: TV drama telling the events of one weekend from the separate viewpoints of daughter Terry (Judi Dench), dad Ted (Maurice Denham), son Alan (Michael Bryant) and mum Sarah (Margery Mason).

25 .Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons, 1967, ITV: Set in the year 2068, the science fiction show followed Captain Scarlet in the war between Earth and the Mysterons, a Martian race.

26. The Radio 1 Breakfast Show, 1967, Radio 1: Radio broadcast hosted by 15 presenters in its 55-year history, including Tony Blackburn, Simon Mayo, Chris Evans, Zoe Ball and Greg James.

27. Just A Minute, 1967, Radio 4: Comedy panel game show which sees panellists talk for 60 seconds on a subject without hesitating, deviating or repeating what they have said.

28. The Dave Allen Show, 1968, BBC1: Sketch show starring Irish comedian Dave Allen, which included solo sketches and stand-up routines.

29. Dad’s Army, 1968, BBC1: Sitcom following Home Guard soldiers during World War Two, led by pompous self-appointed captain George Mainwaring, played by Arthur Lowe.

30. Civilisation, 1969, BBC2: A 13-part documentary series tracing the development of art, architecture and philosophy since the Dark Ages.

31. Star Trek, 1969, BBC1: US sci-fi series following the adventures of the starship Enterprise that spawned films and spin-off series galore.

32. Monty Python’s Flying Circus, 1969, BBC1: Surreal sketch show written and performed by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam which again led to several cinema films.

33. The Goodies, 1970, BBC2: Slapstick comedy about three friends, alias Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, who hired themselves out for “anything, any time and anywhere”.

34. The Two Ronnies, 1971, BBC1: Featuring Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, the show included solo stand-up, sketches and musical finales.

35. Upstairs, Downstairs, 1971, ITV: Drama series set in a large townhouse in central London, depicting the servants living downstairs, and their masters upstairs, between 1903 and 1930.

36. The Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, 1971, BBC: Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise tickled the nation’s funny bones in the Christmas special, joining conductor Andre Previn for a musical segment.

37. Weekend World, 1972, ITV: Political series presented by broadcaster Paddy O’Connell, focusing on viewers’ comments on the World News programmes of the week.

38. The Ascent of Man, 1973, BBC2: A 13-part documentary series developed by Sir David Attenborough focusing on the development of human society through science.

39. MAS*H, 1973, BBC2: Standing for the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, the war comedy series was based on the relationships of doctors on the front line during the Korean War.

40. The Jimmy Young Show, 1973, Radio 2: The two-time number one hitmaker launched his long-running radio show after becoming a disc jockey, mixing music and chatter.

41. The World at War, 1973, ITV: A 16-episode documentary chronicling the events of the Second World War, from the 1920s to the aftermath and the lives it affected.

42. Not On Your Nellie, 1974, ITV: Sitcom with veteran actress Hylda Baker as Nellie Pickersgill, a teetotal middle-aged daughter of pub landlord Jed, who has to take over his business.

43. The Sweeney, 1975, ITV: Policing drama focusing on Jack Regan, aka John Thaw, an unethical officer in the Flying Squad.

44. Days Of Hope, 1975, BBC1: Four films following the lives of a working-class family from World War One to the General Strike in 1926.

45. Fawlty Towers, 1975, BBC2: John Cleese and Connie Booth’s sitcom about hapless hotel boss Basil Fawlty.

46. The Duchess of Duke Street, 1976, BBC1: Drama set in London between the 1800s and 1925 showing skivvy Louise Trotter’s ascent from cook to the owner of a posh hotel.

47. The Price Of Coal, 1977, BBC1: Two-part drama set in fictional Milton Colliery, where a fatal accident occurs when a coal pit is cosmetically improved for a royal visitor.

48. Rock Follies Of ’77, 1977, ITV: Sequel to the drama Rock Follies, following the ups and down of fictional female rock band the Little Ladies.

49. Pennies From Heaven, 1978, BBC1: Dennis Potter’s musical drama tracing music salesman Arthur Parker’s struggles in 1930s Britain.

50. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, 1978, Radio 4: Radio adaptation of the Douglas Adams comedy science fiction novels of the same name.

51. Law & Order (British series), 1978, BBC2: Crime drama series which saw the police investigate a crime, before the prosecutors went after the offenders.

52. Larry Grayson’s Generation Game, 1978, BBC1: Game show in which four teams of two people from the same family, but from different generations, went head-to-head to win prizes.

53. Life On Earth, 1979, BBC1: Sir David Attenborough’s 13-part natural history series investigating curious creatures, from Darwin’s frog to bats in flight.

54. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 1979, BBC1: Spy drama series adapted from John le Carre’s novel of the same name, starring Alex Guinness and Alexander Knox as members of the British intelligence service.

55. Not The Nine O’Clock News, 1979, BBC2: Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones and Pamela Stephenson in satirical sketches on current affairs.

56. Minder, 1979, ITV: The misadventures of deceitful businessman Arthur Daley (George Cole) and bodyguard Terry McCann (Dennis Waterman).

57. Cosmos, 1981, BBC1: Astronomer Carl Sagan’s science series using special effects to investigate the universe.

58. Hill Street Blues, 1981, C4: A gritty look at the life of cops at large in America, at the fictional Hill Street Station, and the casualties faced in their day-to-day lives.

59. Only Fools and Horses, 1981, BBC1: Brothers Del Boy and Rodney (David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst) buy and sell almost anything to get rich quick in this sitcom.

60. Brideshead Revisited, 1981, ITV: A young painter becomes involved with aristocratic family the Flytes and causes a scandal as he embarks on relationships with two — Sebastian and Julia.

61. Tenko, 1981, BBC1: A group of well-heeled female ex-pats living in Singapore are captured by the Japanese during World War Two and sent to a Japanese PoW camp.

62. Fame, 1982, BBC1: Based on the 1980 movie, the series followed the hopeful students at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts.

63. The first episode of Channel 4 News, 1982, C4: Peter Sissons led the channel’s first newscast on November 2, with an hour of topical stories.

64. Blackadder, 1983, BBC1: Rowan Atkinson in madcap comedy covering four periods on a medieval theme.

65. Victoria Wood – As Seen On TV, 1985, BBC2: Sketch show from the legendary writer featuring friends including Julie Walters and Patricia Routledge.

66. EastEnders, 1985, BBC1: The BBC’s long-running soap opera follows the lives and dramas of the residents of Albert Square in Walford.

67. Live Aid, 1985, BBC TV & Radio 1: Billed as The Global Jukebox and hosted by Britain and the US, Live Aid was the biggest live rock event ever.

68. An Audience With Billy Connolly, 1985, ITV: The Big Yin was joined by a stellar audience including Bob Geldof and Twiggy.

69. Edge Of Darkness, 1985, BBC1: A man discovers a government conspiracy to make weapons-grade plutonium.

70. The Singing Detective, 1986, BBC1: Another dark musical by Dennis Potter in which a bedridden mystery writer relives his detective stories through his hallucinations as he lies tormented.

71. Inspector Morse, 1987, ITV: Gentle crime drama following Chief Inspector Morse and Detective Sergeant Robert Lewis as they solve cases in rural Oxfordshire.

72. After Dark, 1987, C4: Late-night live panel discussion show with no scheduled end time.

73. Traffik, 1989, C4: Gritty drama covering the illegal drug trade through the perspectives of growers, dealers and users.

74. Nelson Mandela’s release, 1990, TV News: Historic moment that needed little narration as Mandela walked free from prison with wife Winnie among cheering crowds.

David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst in Only Fools and Horses

David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst in Only Fools and HorsesCredit: BBC
Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking BadCredit: Handout

75. The Simpsons, 1990, Sky 1: Long-running cartoon with a satirical depiction of American life.

76. The Larry Sanders Show, 1992, BBC2: American television sitcom set in the office and studio of a fictional late-night talk show.

77. Love Lies Bleeding, 1993, BBC2: One-off drama about an IRA fighter who is allowed out of the Maze prison for 24 hours to investigate the unexplained death of his girlfriend.

78. Cracker, 1993, ITV: Crime drama set in Manchester, following criminal psychologist — or “cracker” — Dr Edward “Fitz” Fitzgerald, played by Robbie Coltrane.

79. Seinfeld, 1993, BBC2: A stand-up comedian and his quirky group of friends navigate the pitfalls and prizes of life in New York.

80. Homicide: Life On The Street, 1993, C4: American cop drama chronicling the work of a fictional version of the Baltimore Police Department’s Homicide unit — culminating in a 2000 movie.

81. Frasier, 1994, C4: Cheers! Spin-off following Dr. Frasier Crane as he moves back to his hometown of Seattle, where he lives with his father, and works as a radio psychiatrist.

82. Panorama: An Interview With HRH the Princess of Wales, 1995, BBC1: A jaw-dropping 54-minutes as Diana opened up on her failed marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales – watched by nearing 23 million viewers in the UK.

83. The Royle Family, 1998, BBC2: The grit and wit of one mundane, working class family as their lives play out from the comfort of their sofa.

84. In Our Time, 1998, Radio 4: Melvyn Bragg’s long-running discussion series exploring a variety of historical, scientific and philosophical topics.

85. Dinnerladies, 1998, BBC1: Victoria Wood’s hilarious workplace comedy set in the canteen of a Manchester factory.

86. Queer As Folk, 1999, C4: Groundbreaking adult drama following a group of three gay men living in Manchester’s gay village around Canal Street.

87. The Sopranos, 1999, C4: Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) tries to balance family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization.

88. The West Wing, 2000, Sky 1: Cutthroat presidential advisers in the White House get their personal lives tangled up with their professional duties as they go about the business of running America.

89. Popworld, 2001, C4: Hilarious and pithy youth music programme hosted by Miquita Oliver and Simon Amstell.

90. Someone, Somewhere, 2001, Radio 4: In May 1980, 22-year-old Jessie Earl disappeared. This radio play tells the story through diary extracts.

91. Breaking Bad, 2008, FX: Dark comedy following a high-school chemistry teacher who begins manufacturing the illicit drug meth to provide for his family after being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

92. Modern Family, 2009, Sky 1: Revolving around three different types of families — nuclear, blended and same-sex — this American comedy offered a sharp take on family life.

93. Nurse Jackie, 2010, BBC2: Set in the emergency room of hospital in New York City, the action was fast-paced and slick, making the serial far from your normal medical drama.

94. Endeavour, 2012, ITV: Prequel to ITV’s long-running cop drama Inspector Morse, following the early career of Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) after he left Oxford University’s Lonsdale College before joining the police.

95. Killing Eve, 2018, BBC3: The sophisticated four-parter followed intelligence investigator Eve Polastri, tasked with catching psychopathic killer Villanelle (Jodie Comer) — and the longer the chase went on, the further a mutual obsession developed.

96. Succession, 2018, Sky Atlantic: A family saga following the dysfunctional Roy dynasty through high-powered deals and drama. With slick scripts and stunning direction, Succession set a new benchmark for TV drama.

97. After Life, 2019, Netflix: Ricky Gervais’s inky-black comedy of grief and surprising solace as a local newspaper journalist struggles to come to terms with his wife’s death.

98. PM’s coverage of the Covid crisis, 2020: Unmissable daily updates, with the then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson plus Matt Hancock and Professor Chris Whitty working their way through slides of statistics, new rules and messages.

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