10 Best NBC Shows of All Time, Ranked

Movies


NBC has been delivering hit TV shows for decades, some of which go down as being among the most iconic series in history. While specialty networks like HBO and Showtime often get the most attention for quality shows, traditional linear networks like NBC should not be discounted.


Some of the best NBC shows of all time hail from decades past, while a few were introduced in the 2000s. Some are still going strong, breaking records for being among the longest-running scripted series ever. Others continue to air in syndication or are available on streaming services, so a new generation of fans can enjoy them, and original viewers can relive the nostalgia.



10 ‘Little House on the Prairie’ (1974-1983)

Created by Blanche Hanalis (Based On The Book Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Image via NBC

This American Western historical drama is set on a farm in Minnesota in the 1870s through 1890s, following the Ingalls family and their lives. Starring well-known names like Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert, older sister of Sara Gilbert from Roseanne and The Conners fame, Little House on the Prairie was far ahead of its time. The series tackled serious topics like alcoholism, faith, prejudice, adoption, drug addiction, child abuse, and more.


Considered to be predominantly a drama, Little House of the Prairie had some comedic moments as well. Airing for nine seasons and spawning a spin-off and three made-for-TV post-series movies as well as a 2005 miniseries, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some type of remake of the series come to fruition. It was announced back in 2020 that Paramount was reportedly working on a one-hour dramatic series adaptation, according to Entertainment Weekly, but nothing has yet materialized.

Little House on the Prairie TV Show Poster

Little House on the Prairie

Release Date
March 30, 1974

Cast
Melissa Gilbert , Michael Landon , Karen Grassle , Rachel Lindsay Greenbush , Sidney Greenbush , Melissa Sue Anderson

Main Genre
Drama

Seasons
9

Creator
Blanche Hanalis

Little House on the Prairie can be streamed on Peacock in the U.S.

Watch on Peacock

9 ‘Saturday Night Live’ (1975-)

Created by Lorne Michaels

Dana Carvey as The Church Lady on 'Saturday Night Live'
Image via NBC


It seems like every year, people cry that Saturday Night Live (SNL) is no longer funny, and it’s on its last legs. Yet now, almost a half-century later, the sketch comedy series is still going strong. Some of the most iconic comedic talents over the decades got their start on or were featured on SNL, from Eddie Murphy to Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Sudeikis, Tina Fey, and Kristen Wiig.

The show has spawned some of the most memorable sketches and sketch comedy characters, many of which have turned into movies, from Mike Myers’ and Dana Carvey’sWayne’s World to Will Forte’sMacGruber. Featuring celebrity guest hosts each week along with talented musicians, SNL has been a staple Saturday night viewing for the last 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

snl-poster

Saturday Night Live

Release Date
October 11, 1975

Main Genre
Comedy

Seasons
49

Studio
NBC

Producer
Lorne Michaels


Saturday Night Live can be streamed on Peacock in the U.S.

Watch on Peacock

8 ‘Miami Vice’ (1984-1990)

Created by Anthony Yerkovich

Don Johnson in Miami Vice standing in a crowd with a white blazer, blue T-shirt, and sunglasses.
Image via NBC

The crisp white suit and bright blue T-shirt dates back to Don Johnson’s iconic character of James “Sonny” Crockett, an undercover detective working in Miami alongside his partner Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs (Philips Michael Thomas). One of the first police procedural style primetime crime dramas, Miami Vice combined the dark underworld of crime with the beautifully sunny scenery of Miami and beach life.


What set Miami Vice apart from the typical police procedural was its integration of 1980s pop culture, complete with pop and rock music that was modern for the time. The cases often involve drug trafficking and prostitution, and the episodes typically include gun battles and death. Miami Vice became just as influential for its impact on men’s fashion, however, as it did on the TV landscape. It’s worth a re-watch for the impressive list of guest appearances from actors who have since become massive stars, like Stanley Tucci, Liam Neeson, Ian McShane, Bruce Willis, and Kyra Sedgwick.

Miami Vice TV Show Poster

Miami Vice

Release Date
September 16, 1984

Main Genre
Drama

Seasons
5

Creator
Anthony Yerkovich

Miami Vice can be streamed on Prime Video in the U.S.

Rent on Prime Video

7 ‘This Is Us’ (2016-2022)

Created by Dan Fogelman

Kevin and Randall with their heads on Kate's shoulders in This Is Us.
Image via NBC


This Is Us follows the Pearson family through several time periods in their lives. Present day features the three grown kids, twins Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) and their adopted brother Randall (Sterling K. Brown) navigating their adult lives. Fans know their father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) died when they were teenagers, but the flashback stories re-tell pivotal moments of their lives, from Jack and Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) budding romance to the kids growing up. Later, flash forwards show the future as well. From the highs to the lows to the traumas and triumphs, every story keeps fans guessing with teaser storylines that draw fans in.

A deeply emotional primetime drama, This Is Us had people parking in front of the TV every week at a specific date and time, popcorn and a box of tissues ready. In a day and age of streaming at leisure, a show that people look forward to watching as soon as it’s on is a big deal. This Is Us is one that made people rethink cutting the cord to traditional cable.


This Is Us final season poster featuring the full ensemble cast

This Is Us

Release Date
September 20, 2016

Main Genre
Drama

Seasons
4

Studio
NBC

This Is Us can be streamed on Hulu in the U.S.

Watch on Hulu

6 ‘The Office’ (2005-2013)

Created by Greg Daniels (Based On The Office by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant)

Steve Carrell as Michael Scott in The Office talking with the camera person
Image via NBC

The Office took a formula developed in the U.K. for the BBC and turned it into one of the most iconic mockumentary sitcoms of the 2000s. Steve Carell takes on the lead role Ricky Gervais portrayed in the BBC series. He’s Michael Scott, the goofy regional manager at the Scranton branch of a fictional paper company called Dunder Mifflin. The series follows him and his team as they navigate the mundane, daily doings of office life.


The ensemble cast made stars of many of its members, including Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Mindy Kaling. Fans weren’t initially hooked. But soon, the fabulous comedic timing, corny jokes, and ridiculous storylines had them invested, even obsessed with the characters. The overarching love story brewing between Pam (Fischer) and Jim (Krasinski) became one of the most beloved sitcom romances ever on television.

The Office TV Show Poster

The Office

Release Date
March 24, 2005

Cast
Steve Carell , Rainn Wilson , John Krasinski , Jenna Fischer , Mindy Kaling , Craig Robinson , B.J. Novak , Creed Bratton , Angela Kinsey , Oscar Nunez , Ellie Kemper , Ed Helms

Main Genre
Sitcom

Seasons
9

Number of Episodes
201

Network
NBC

The Office can be streamed on Peacock in the U.S.

Watch on Peacock

5 ‘ER’ (1994-2009)

Created by Michael Crichton

George Clooney, Anthony Edwards, Eric La Salle, and Noah Wyle in a promo for E.R.
Image via NBC


One of the most successful and iconic medical dramas of all time, ER famously starred George Clooney in one of his first major roles before becoming a Hollywood movie leading man. The series, as the name implies, follows a group of doctors and other staff in the emergency room of a fictional hospital. It also delves into their personal lives and presents patients with urgent medical needs that a talented team of doctors must treat.

As the second-longest primetime medical drama in history, bested only by Grey’s Anatomy, ER earned 23 Primetime Emmy Awards through its 15-season run. The cast list reads like a who’s who of stars who went on to (or had already) accomplished big things, like Anthony Edwards, Julianna Marguilies, Maria Bello, Maura Tierney, Linda Cardellini, Mekhi Phifer, John Stamos, and Angela Bassett.

ER TV Show Poster

ER

Release Date
September 19, 1994

Main Genre
Drama

Seasons
15

Creator
Michael Crichton

Studio
NBC


ER can be streamed on Max in the U.S.

Watch on Max

4 ‘The West Wing’ (1999-2006)

Created by Aaron Sorkin

President Josiah Bartlett (Martin Sheen) on the phone in the Oval Office in The West Wing
Image via NBC

Popularizing the filming technique of following people walking and talking down a long hallway, The West Wing is considered to be one of the best serial political dramas ever made. The Aaron Sorkin series is set in the West Wing of the White House and follows the trials and tribulations of President Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, and his administration.

Named among the best TV series of all time with some seriously tense episodes, the show was praised for its portrayal of complex political issues as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. The West Wing earned 26 Primetime Emmy Awards throughout its run, including Outstanding Drama Series four times in a row. The West Wing paved the way for many other political dramas to come.


the-west-wing-poster

The West Wing

Release Date
September 22, 1999

Main Genre
Drama

Seasons
7

Showrunner
Aaron Sorkin

The West Wing can be streamed on Max in the U.S.

Watch on Max

3 ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ (1999-)

Created by Dick Wolf

Stabler and Benson investigating a case on Law & Order: SVU.
Image via NBC

As the fourth-longest running primetime scripted series, surpassing even the show for which it serves as a spin-off, Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU is also the longest-running primetime live-action series on American television. Like Law & Order, it covers criminal cases in every episode, beginning with the police investigation in the first half, then focusing on the legal case in the second. But Law & Order: SVU strikes a chord as it focuses on the most heinous crimes involving things like rape, child sexual abuse, human trafficking, and domestic violence.


What makes Law & Order: SVU even more compelling is that episodes are largely inspired by real-life cases. Still going strong with 26 seasons with no signs of slowing down, Law & Order: SVU is raw and emotional, some storylines difficult to stomach. But it’s a police procedural fans love to immerse themselves in, following both the cases and the personal lives of the main characters.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Release Date
September 20, 1999

Seasons
21

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit can be streamed on Peacock in the U.S.

Watch on Peacock

2 ‘Friends’ (1994-2004)

Created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman

Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and Courteney Cox on Friends.
Image via NBC


A sitcom that defined a generation, Friends continues to be watched and rewatched even two decades after it went off the air. The ensemble cast of characters portray six single friends navigating life in New York City. Dating, career moves, and hanging out at Central Perk to chat about their day over coffee, Friends was so relatable and absolutely funny.

The characters were easy to compare to viewers’ one friends, from the sarcastic and self-deprecating Chandler to the uptight Monica and the free-spirited Phoebe. Spawning so many one-liners, phrases, and memorable episodes, Friends is widely considered to be one of the best TV shows of all time.

Friends TV show Poster

Friends

Release Date
September 22, 1994

Main Genre
Sitcom

Seasons
10

Network
NBC

Friends can be streamed on Max in the U.S.

Watch on Max


1 ‘Seinfeld’ (1989-1998)

Created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld as Jerry and Jason Alexander as George in Seinfeld 
Image via NBC

Described as a show about nothing, that really is what Seinfeld was about. It followed four main friends and their mundane daily conversations about everything from dating to annoying people in the diner. Headed by Jerry Seinfeld playing a version of himself as a famous stand-up comedian, Seinfeld is a show that manages to make the minutiae of daily life incredibly funny, particularly with so many great unscripted moments.

It’s largely thanks to the cast, talented actors with impeccable comedic timing, along with the fabulously witty and bitingly funny writing. Every episode was funnier than the last, leading to memorable phrases like Man Hands, Puffy Shirts, and “Serenity Now!” Any fan of Seinfeld immediately knows the origins of these phrases, while a new legion of fans watch in syndication to get a taste of one of the best sitcoms ever made.


Seinfeld TV Show Poster

Seinfeld

Release Date
July 5, 1989

Main Genre
Comedy

Seasons
9

Creator
Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld

Network
NBC

Streaming Service(s)
Netflix

Friends can be streamed on Netflix in the U.S.

Watch on Netflix

KEEP READING: The 10 Most Rewatchable NBC Dramas of All Time, Ranked



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