My thanks to “Soap” scholar Jeff Krueger for calling my attention to the naming of the 100 best-written American television shows, according to the Writers Guild of America.
As with most of these lists, the amount of credence you pay them is in direct proportion to how closely you agree with them. And to answer your question, “Soap” placed….97th.
Let me give you an idea of the shows that were deemed better written than “Soap.”
- Cheers (#8)
- I Love Lucy (#12)
- Taxi (#19) (!)
- Friends (#24)
- The Honeymooners (#31)
- Northern Exposure (#53)
- Everybody Loves Raymond (#63) (!!)
One hates to get into one of those “this show was much better than that show” spleen-sessions that can go on for weeks. Still, there is something drastically wrong here when we remind ourselves that this is about the best written shows rather than the most popular. A couple of those mentioned above were well written for their day, but certainly don’t stand up to more recent standards. And two or three of the more recent ones above are little more than cookie-cutter sitcoms.
Looking up the rankings of some of the shows I would deem the best written quickly told me I was never going to see eye-to-eye with this list.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: To my mind still the best plotted American television series to date (disregarding the first two seasons) in terms of the philosophical issues it tackled and the imagination it used to do so. #49
- Monty Python: Perhaps the only series to actually transcend the TV medium completely to become a transatlantic cultural text all its own. #79
- Fawlty Towers: Arguably the most tightly-written series in history. #58
- Gilmore Girls: In the interests of full disclosure, my last book was about the making of this series. Still, in terms of dialogue alone, this is probably the best-written American series. On the WGA list: doesn’t even rank.
What chance did our beloved “Soap” stand?