One-Season Wonders Make '101 Best-Written TV Shows' List: Four Short-Lived Shows That Made the Cut

Quality doesn’t mean quantity when it comes to the best-written TV shows of all time.

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Freaks and Geeks

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FREAKS AND GEEKS -- Season 1 -- Pictured: Busy Philipps as Kim Kelly -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank

The Writers Guild of America has named the top 101 best-written TV series of all time, and there are a few (pleasant!) surprises. In the not-so-shocking column, classics like "M*A*S*H," "Seinfeld," "All in the Family," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and "The Twilight Zone" made the Top 10, while "The Sopranos" was ranked #1. But on a list that had only 101 slots, a few one-season wonders squeaked in, which just goes to show that quality doesn't mean quantity.

Check out these four TV shows that were named cream of the crop, even though their time on the air was put to a quick stop.

#31: "The Honeymooners"

It's hard to believe the Jackie Gleason classic about a Brooklyn bus driver only aired for one season, (1955-56), but the show's run seemed longer because the characters frequently appeared in live sketches on "Cavalcade of Stars" and "The Jackie Gleason Show." While hundreds of "Honeymooners" sketches (some of them now lost) aired over several decades, the half-hour series lasted for a mere 39 episodes and is known as "The Classic 39." In a 1980 interview with People, Gleason said he had no trouble remembering his lines because he had a photographic memory. "I'd pick up a script, look at it, and that was it," he said. "I got to where I wouldn't look at a script until the day of the show, preferably an hour or two before we had to go into rehearsal. And then I wouldn't rehearse. I had a stand-in."

Check out this classic "Honeymooners" scene:

#68: "My So-Called Life"

ABC only aired 19 episodes of this 1994 angsty drama before its abrupt cancellation, but the short-lived series made Claire Danes a star. In 1995, she won an Emmy for her role as teen drama queen Angela Chase, beating out veteran actresses Angela Lansbury, Kathy Baker, Jane Seymour, and Heather Locklear. While rumors swirled that the up-and-coming teen was behind "My So-Called Life's" untimely demise, in 2011, Danes told Vulture, "You know, I love the show, and I'm still very close with Winnie [Holzman] who wrote it and the two Devons [Odessa and Gummersall] who were in it. It was a momentous event for me, and so I don't feel dogged by it, and I'm incredibly flattered that it continues to resonate." Of her current TV character, the "Homeland" star added, "I got a little bit annoyed when people were saying that Carrie Mathison is just Angela Chase grown up. That is preposterous."

Here's a clip from the "My So-Called Life" episode "Guns and Gossip":

#90: "The Prisoner"

The WGA praised this 1968 CBS series as "a strange, psychedelic amalgam of Cold War spy fiction, sci-fi, and Kafka-esque anti-authoritarianism," and panned the 2009 AMC remake. But while the groundbreaking original series only boasted 17 episodes, series creator and star Patrick McGoohan became a "prisoner" of his character, Number Six, on the short-lived cult series. According to the Daily Mail, McGoohan once said, "Mel Gibson will always be Mad Max, and me, I will always be a Number."

Watch the show's intro:


# 60: "Freaks and Geeks" (tied with "Moonlighting")

This 1999 series about teen siblings was set in the early 1980s and starred then-new kids on the block Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and James Franco. "Freaks and Geeks" was pulled after just 12 episodes, but fans petitioned for more, so six more episodes eventually aired. Show creator Paul Feig told Vanity Fair the secret behind the show's storylines, which were praised for their accurate portrayal of high school life: "We did our infamous two weeks with the writers locking ourselves in a room and telling personal stories," he said. "I wrote a list of questions for everybody to answer: 'What was the best thing that happened to you in high school? What was the worst thing that happened to you in high school? Who were you in love with and why?' That's where most of our stories came from. Weirder stuff happens to people in real life than it does on TV."

Check out this clip: (And yes, that's Don Draper's "Mad Men" mistress, Linda Cardellini, as teen Lindsay Weir.)

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