1 of 10
Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
The 1990 premiere of David Lynch's twisted nighttime soap (I gave it an A+ in EW's eighth issue) was a key moment: Someone from a supposedly ?higher art form — film — demonstrated that TV could do things that movies could not, in terms of multiple-twist serialized storytelling.
2 of 10
The X-Files (1993-2002)
This hit show, the vision of one creator (in this case, Chris Carter), helped usher in auteur TV and paved the way for visionaries like The Sopranos' David Chase and The Wire's David Simon.
3 of 10
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
It kick-started the vampire craze in 1997, and became the model for cult shows whose influence exceeds their ratings. Buffy's dialogue was stuffed with pop culture references, a triumph of self-awareness. Scores of shows have tried to match its dense but speedy wit.
4 of 10
The Real World (1992-present)
Between the time World debuted in 1992 (I'm shocked to see I gave it an A) and Survivor premiered in 2000 (a B in my estimation then), a new genre took shape. Ordinary, sometimes very outrageous citizens became TV protagonists, and love it or hate it, reality TV was here to stay.
5 of 10
The Shield ?(2002-2008)
Basic cable came of artistic age, equal to both broadcast and pay cable, in 2002 with The Shield, a legacy that continues with Mad Men? and Breaking Bad.
6 of 10
First there's the title: It introduced a new locution into the language. Then there was the chatty naturalism of the dialogue, initially criticized as self-indulgent, but soon developed into a fresh way to explore a generation's challenges in moving into adulthood, parenthood, and careerism.
7 of 10
Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
It only lasted a season, but the 1999 show was a complete original: a hilarious sitcom with poignant drama. A great, honest look at adolescence, F&G launched the careers of creator Judd Apatow as well as introduced us to performers such as James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Busy Phillips, and Linda Cardinelli.
8 of 10
The O'Reilly Factor (1996-present)
O'Reilly's confrontational style can be seen as either a new, fresh take on news and commentary, or a contribution to the death of objective TV news. If you like him, you think he's a bold truth-teller; if you don't, well, understand that without the success of The Factor, you wouldn't have Keith Olbermann's or Rachel Maddow's shows, either.
9 of 10
The Late Show with David Letterman (1993-present)
Furious that he wasn't named as Johnny Carson's successor, Letterman left NBC to do battle with Jay Leno's Tonight Show, igniting the Great Talk-Show Wars. The result was a Dave who settled into middle age but remained restless, funny, and confrontational (his most classic interviews are from his CBS years, including everyone from Madonna to Joaquin Phoenix).
10 of 10
The great gamble that paid off: a six-season puzzle on an epic scale, with scores of characters and intricate plotting that truly put the myth in ''mythology.'' Lost altered our view of the size and shape and momentum a TV series could maintain. When it ended, it was common to say that there'll never be another show like it. I prefer to think the lesson of Lost is that another unique experiment can come along and become a mass-audience favorite.