20 of TV’s Best Shows Explained in 3 Sentences or Less

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By: Dave Taylor | Frenchie Aguilh Posted: 8:37 PM, Oct 3, 2017

Movie and TV review site Rotten Tomatoes released a list of the best TV shows from the past 20 years; but with all those shows over so many years, there's bound to be one that you haven't heard of. So, let us take all the hard work out of researching them for you. We've got 20 of the most essential descriptions of the list's shows that give you everything you need to know about them – and some things you don't – in 3 sentences or less.

1. Game of Thrones

What Medieval Times would be like if the performers were hotter, the horses were replaced with dragons, and the audience area had a splash zone for wine, dragon fire, and carnage.

2. Breaking Bad

A high school chemistry teacher finally realizes that all it takes to make money as a good drug dealer is to be really good at science. That's probably why most people aren't drug dealers.

Have you taken high school chemistry? It's impossible.

3. The Big Bang Theory

The nerds you knew in high school graduated, learned more about physics, and became more successful than you; but all that education does not teach you how to be cool or talk to girls, so they're now adult nerds, and at some point, "hilarity" ensues.

4. Friends

6 friends with different backgrounds and reasons for living in New York City find their way through '90s life in their twenties (and eventually thirties). Between dealing with adult life, jobs, falling in and out of relationships, and somehow affording their bagillion dollar apartments with vague careers, the show proves that when the going gets tough, the tough always have their friends.

5. Seinfeld

See the synopsis for Friends, but put the show in the later '80s – early '90s, give the characters more relatable quirks and appearances; add plot points that show how ridiculous it can be to live in NYC, and put the characters in apartments in more realistic price ranges. Then cut in some stand up clips from Jerry Seinfeld and there you go: Seinfeld.

6. Law & Order

Get an inside look at what it's like to be a criminal, catch a criminal, prosecute a criminal, and stay on television for a decade. Then see what what it's like to create spin-offs for varying audience interests (Criminal Intent, SVU, True Crime, etc…) that eventually surpass the original show in popularity, but it still gets the credit for starting it all.

7. Downton Abbey

A show that brings all the aristocratic, old English, nobleperson novels you didn't read in high school, but tell people at office parties that you did, to life. We won't tell Virginia Woolf if you don't.

The only disappointment in this show – seeing Maggie Smith do absolutely no magic, when you know she knows how to (wizarding magic of course – her acting is always magic).

8. The West Wing

Politics in real life can be stressful, so get your politics fix from TV dramas instead. See what it'd be like if Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe were running the White House on the daily, with a lot of slick walking and talking scenes, writing that you'll either love or will go right over your head, and some nudging at real life events. And, bonus, talking about The West Wing might be the only way to get away with talking about politics with your family, without it making dinner a little awkward.

There are even moments that will make you say, "Hey, politics is kind of funny sometimes," unironically for once.

9. Doctor Who

A time traveling alien and several different humans solve crises and cryptic problems around the galaxy in the alien's British police box that's "bigger on the inside", kind of like a hatchback car. The show has been captivating audiences with its aliens, robots, and handsome stars since 1963, much to the approval of your nerdiest friends.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

See how much more difficult being a teenager would be if you had to split time between homework, chores, and battling evil forces and slaying vampires, werewolves, and more. If you don't love the quirky personalities and clever banter, you'll love the inspiration Buffy gives to us all.

We all have vampires to slay in our own lives and the catharsis you get from watching Sarah Michelle Gellar slay hers is incredible.

11. The X-Files

*Best read in a sitcom promo voice:* One FBI agent totally believes in aliens – his partner, not so much. But the two still team up against strange cases of UFOs, alien abductions, and more of the paranormal stories you spooked your friends with as a kid.

Will Mulder ever get Scully to believe? Oh, brother…

12. Sherlock

Sherlock, looks at what Sherlock Holmes and Watson would look like solving crimes in the today times. Much to current Sherlock's chagrin, he becomes popular to the masses, not through books, but through Watson's blog, making him a reluctant hero in a world that needs him.

The show is also one leg of BBC's slew of shows that incite Beatles-like mania among Tumblr users, people who wish they were British, and, often Doctor Who fans – probably thanks to Benedict Cumberbatch.

13. The Sopranos

Mob bosses have feelings and problems too, as we learn when we watch Tony Soprano balance mob life, family life with his wife and kids, therapy co-pays, and New Jersey toll roads.

The show captivated audiences with its beautiful scenes, discussions of deep thoughts, its terror, and elements of dark comedy – all of which can also kind of be used to describe the state of New Jersey.

14. Grey's Anatomy

Five surgical interns and their supervisors realize that there's more to working at a hospital than just saving lives – there's also stress, conflicting views, sadness, and personal-life balancing; and a lot of making out…more making out than there should be at a hospital, we feel like…but what do we know.

15. The Wire

A look at crime in the Baltimore area brought from the perspectives of law enforcement and the big, bad criminals they're fighting. There's corruption, there's action, there's great storytelling – and better than all of those – there's lines you'll be quoting to other Wire-heads for the next year or so.

16. 24

How many times can you watch Kiefer Sutherland yell "GET DOWN!" in the span of 24 hours? You'll find out when you watch this cleverly executed show about counterterrorist agents preventing crisis in America over the course of an entire day.

But I really want to see is the show "After 24", where it's literally just Sutherland's character sleeping and eating Ho-Hos for a couple of days…how else do you unwind after 24 hours of world saving?

17. The Simpsons

A regular family and their neighbors in a quiet American town, just like yours, use satire and hilarious writing to show what it's like to live in an ever changing world while trying to keep family values intact. But sometimes it can be hard to do with a silent but smart baby, a sensitive daughter, a bad boy son, doting, groaning, supportive wife, and you're a dopey dad full of love – and donuts.

18. The Office

You know those people at work that say, "Our workplace is so funny – it could totally be a show"? The Office is kind of like what that would look like, only it's undoubtedly funnier than your actual workplace.

See what happens when coworkers try to make it to quittin' time between falling in love with each other, meshing their personalities, pranking each other, and dealing with their goofy, trying-hard-to-be-cool, yet well-meaning boss – all while trying to reach their sales goals and making hilarious deadpan faces at the camera.

19. ER

See Grey's Anatomy, but add more interns and doctors, a little bit of George Clooney, a lot more actual trauma and lifesaving, and a little less making out.

20. Lost

A show from anyone afraid of flying's nightmares, 48 passengers survive a plane crash, wind up on a mysterious island, and have to figure out how to survive – kind of like if Survivor met Gilligan's Island, only with more meaningful overtones and metaphors and a lot fewer jokes about coconuts.

To read the real synopses of the Rotten Tomatoes' Top 40 Best TV Shows of the Past 20 years – and to see where your favorite show ended up – click here to head to their full list.

What's your favorite TV show from the past 20 years – or ever? Tell us on our Facebook page, @TheListShowTV.