Movies & TV / Columns

The Top 5 TV Shows to Rewatch: Breaking Bad, MASH, More

March 21, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Bryan Cranston

Some of you long time 411mania readers may remember a regular column here called the Top 5. It had some of the best and brightest this site had to offer present their top 5 choices of a particular subject that was related to television and movies. 

The lists were personal and each of us gave our reasons for picking what we did. This made for some fun and lively comments in the comment section.

Given we’re in an unprecedented time in the world, I thought I’d brush the dust off and give my own top 5 to help pass along time. Will you agree with mine? Of course not. Besides, it works better if you have dissenting opinions on the subject. 

This week I’m taking a look at the Top 5 Best TV Shows to Rewatch. Include shows you’ve already seen and discovered that they’re even better the second time around. I know that’s a tall order and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to boil every show we’ve ever watched down to 5 but let’s try anyways. 

You might notice I don’t mention some heavy hitters like Friends, which I was never a huge fan and only liked a handful of episodes, or The Office, which I found unwatchable after season 4.  Also, I know I’ll catch hell for not listing The Wire. I love The Wire. One of the best shows of all time. Yet, I don’t find myself wanting to rewatch it as much as I do the other shows on this list. 

Oh, no animated shows. That will get its own category. And no reality shows. 

Honorable Mentions
Married…With Children
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Shield

5. 30 Rock
No matter how many times I watch this show, I laugh at the same set ups and jokes. I credit that to the superb writing and impeccable cast that includes heavy hitters like Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, with a supporting cast that has zero weak links in it. Plus, the show knew how to use special casts like no other. 

The show’s premise creates the ideal environment for comedic mastery as it follows Liz Lemon (Fey), who is the head writer of the sketch comedy show “TGS with Tracy Jordan”, a SNL homage, and she must juggle her boss (Baldwin) and a staff who all have their own things going on.

I was trying to find one episode that encapsulates the series but simply couldn’t do it. Enjoy these clips instead…

4. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia 
Some might claim this show has had a couple of lean seasons but I’m not one of them. Since episode one I’ve loved the misadventures from the Gang at Paddy’s Pup.

This show can be irreverent and crass while giving us some of the biggest laughs. It straddles the line and isn’t afraid to push things a little bit further than other shows would dare to go. 

Twins Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and Deandra “(Sweet) Dee” Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson), along with friends Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day) and Ronald “Mac” McDonald (Rob McElhenney), along with and Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito), Dennis’ and Dee’s legal father run Paddy’s Pub, an Irish bar in South Philadelphia and nothing is predictable or off-limits. 

There is no way anyone could have predicted the show’s longevity when it crashed upon the scene back in 2005 and in that lays the secret to its success. An unpredictable mess that leaves me coming back for more. One of my favorite shows to quote on an almost daily basis. 

3. Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad is a near perfect show and, surprisingly to me, great to rewatch. I credit this to Vince Gilligan, the creator who doesn’t hold back with the layers that make this show brilliant.

Even better is how much you pick up when you watch it over and over. From his use of colors to callbacks, Gilligan sets the table for you to feast again and again.

That’s not to take away from the cast and story. Bryan Cranston brings Walter White to life in a way that no other actor could have. To watch his transformation play out, beat by beat, is something to behold. You believe him in every scene and his chemistry with everyone on the screen carries serious weight. Jesse Pinkman as played by Aaron Paul could easily have ruined the show but Paul gives the character heart. 

Like above, it’s useless trying to pick one scene over another to showcase.

2. The Sopranos
Like Breaking Bad, The Sopranos owes much to its creator, David Chase. A show about the head of a New Jersey-based Italian-American crime family who tries to balance balance his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization could easily fall into a bunch of cliches but The Sopranos always stays one step ahead of the audience. 

The shows rewatchable factor lives and dies on its star, James Gandolfini. His Tony Soprano is reprehensible yet the audience follows his every move, cheering him on even though we shouldn’t be. Gandolfini is joined by the likes of Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler…actually, like the other shows here, not a weak one in the bunch. 

The Sopranos is one show I can put on, no matter the season or episode, a be guaranteed to be invested 100%

1. M*A*S*H
Surprised? M*A*S*H was able to do one of the most difficult things ever to pull off on a TV show. It balanced humor and drama, every episode, in a way that was believable and hilarious. I’ve yet to see another show pull it off as well as M*A*S*H did and create a world of memorable characters and moments. 

My appreciation of this show has grown as I’ve gotten older and I’ve been watching the show again recently, marveling at its ability to avoid the land mines that have ruined other shows. From replacing popular characters to handling serious subject matter with care and humor, M*A*S*H still stands tall today.

Alright. Go easy on me in the comments but feel free to share your Top 5!