Kevin Drum of Mother Jones points us to an interesting tidbit in the Writers Guild of America’s list of the 101 best-written television shows of all time:
- 33: Star Trek
- 79: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Drum takes this to be the nail in the coffin of any argument to the effect that STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was better written than the original STAR TREK series, but I always find these lists somewhat dubious because of the difficulty of setting a standard for comparison. For example:
- Are we talking about the sheer number of good episodes? That would favor longer-running shows like ST:TNG
- Are we talking about average of quality, factoring the best and the worst? By that standard, an overall mediocre show might rank as highly as a great show that was marred by some bad episodes. This is especially important in the case of STAR TREK, because almost everyone agrees that its third and final season was a misfire. By this standard, I think STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION would edge out its predecessor: Episodes like “The Royale” were bad but not as bad as “Spock’s Brain.”
- Are we just considering which show reached the highest level of achievement, even if in only a few episodes? By this standard, I think STAR TREK would handily win; there were a dozen or so great episodes that outdid anything STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION ever mentioned.
Regardless of this concern, Drum points out that STAR TREK gave the world more memorable catch-phrases, such as “Live long and prosper” and “I’m a doctor, not a brick-layer.” ST:TNG has nothing comparable.
Other horror, fantasy, and science fiction shows to make the list:
- 3: THE TWILIGHT ZONE
- 26: THE X-FILES
- 27: LOST
- 35: TWIN PEAKS
- 38: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2005)
- 49: BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
- 63: SOUTH PARK
- 66: DEXTER
- 90: THE PRISONER
- 91: THE MUPPET SHOW
Of course, any list that omits THE OUTER LIMITS (the original 1960s version) should be regarded as highly suspect. Likewise, placing LOST and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE above THE PRISONER is indefensible. But at least the voters were smart enough to put THE TWILIGHT ZONE near the top.