Friends stars Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, Matt Leblanc

(Credit: Featureflash Photo Agency on Shutterstock)

NEW YORK — They don’t make’em like they used to — especially when it comes to TV shows. The results of a 2022 poll reveal that Americans believe the ‘80s and ‘90s were the best decades for television. According to the survey of 2,000 adults, TV shows from the end of the 20th century are still better than anything on the air today.

Most beloved TV show ever

Nearly a fifth of respondents (19%) claim the ‘80s and ‘90s were prime for television, with the 2000s (15%), 2010s (10%), and ‘70s (10%) trailing not too far behind. In fact, only seven percent believe that we’re currently living in the best era for television.

Out of a list of 35 iconic TV shows, the two most-watched and beloved TV shows are ‘90s giants: “Friends” (43%) and “Seinfeld” (40%). Other shows people will stop to watch are “Game of Thrones” (37%), “Three’s Company” (36%), “Frasier” (36%), “The Office” (36%), and “MASH” (35%).

Commissioned by YouTube TV and conducted by OnePoll, the study revealed three in four respondents will always stop to watch their favorite TV shows, no matter how they’re feeling.

What makes a show ‘good’?

Greatest TV ShowsThe survey also explored the factors that make some TV shows more appealing than others. Sixty percent care more about a show’s cast and writing than they do the aesthetic (46%) or plot (46%). Interestingly, two in three Americans claim their lives could be the plot of a new TV sitcom.

Another 65 percent say they think of the people in their lives when they watch their favorite TV shows — claiming characters often remind them of family members (62%), close friends (59%), or their significant others (52%). Close to three-quarters (72%) always associate their favorite shows with good memories.

“It’s not surprising to see that so many people still love and watch TV shows from decades ago,” says Kimberly Taylor, product communications manager at YouTube TV, in a statement. “There’s a sense of nostalgia and comfort when you watch your favorite older show, but we’re just as excited about all the great TV airing live now. No matter if you like older classics or modern sagas, people want to be able to watch their favorite shows whenever they want.”

‘You gotta watch this’

Sixty-nine percent will try to convince all their friends and family to watch a show they discovered or found interesting. In fact, many Americans found their favorite TV shows through recommendations from their friends (48%), family members (41%), and significant others (41%).

While a third of the poll (37%) note their favorite show is no longer on air, 21 percent wish they could go back in time to watch them live on TV or in person. Nearly half of Americans (45%) still have recordings of their favorite TV show episodes on VHS tapes or DVDs. Of them, 92 percent still occasionally watch those recordings. Three in four love watching reruns of their favorite shows on TV or streaming platforms whenever they can.


  1. Friends – 43%
  2. Seinfeld – 40%
  3. Game of Thrones – 37%
  4. Three’s Company – 36%
  5. Frasier – 36%
  6. The Office – 36%
  7. MASH – 35%
  8. Battlestar Galactica – 30%
  9. The Simpsons – 29%
  10. The Wire – 28%
  11. Twin Peaks – 27%
  12. Family Guy – 27%
  13. The Sopranos – 26%
  14. Sex and the City – 24%
  15. American Dad – 23%
  16. Law and Order – 23%
  17. Grey’s Anatomy – 23%
  18. Bob’s Burgers – 23%
  19. Community – 21%
  20. Big Brother – 21%

UPDATE: This poll was originally published in January 2022. “Friends” star Matthew Perry tragically died at the age of 54 at his Los Angeles home on Oct. 28, 2023. Between 1994 and 2004, Perry appeared in 235 episodes of the hit sitcom and number one show on this poll’s list.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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  1. Lutzy says:

    Andy Griffith show come one still popular

  2. BPK says:

    I know “Friends” is popular. It’s one of those shows that I never watched.
    “Cheers” and “The Office” are some other ones.
    Like many of the shows on the list there.
    I watched “Seinfeld” all the way through when it began streaming. It was funny.
    I don’t really remember any of it.
    Art has to be about something and say something. None of these shows qualify.
    Pure escapist waste of time. Not my style.
    I do enjoy and re-watched a few times “Curb Your Enthusiasm” because real
    life is parodied in clever funny ironic ways.
    “Star Trek” the original to me was like that.
    I am glad these shows pleased so many people, I just wish there were more
    programs for me! 😉

  3. Craig Kennedy says:

    The Deuce was an excellent series

  4. Charlene King says:

    Only forgiving because it’s from a poll, but I don’t understand how I Live Lucy, Always Sunny… or and Trailer Park Boys are not on this list

    1. BPK says:

      I think they just fade over time. My Grandma loved ILL, but I could never stand it.
      Speaking of ILL, what about Star Trek from Desilu?

  5. shelley N says:

    Pathetic list. Breaking Bad, the Twilight Zone, Lost, Peaky Blinders, I Claudius, and so many more truly great ones. This list is from an alphabet generation i.e. Z or X.

    1. BPK says:

      Oooh, yes, I, Clavdivs … I loved it. It was so great and with such minimal production values, it told a great story with great characters.

  6. Linda B. says:

    Come on, seriously. Where is Breaking Bad and Mad Men? That list is ridiculous.

    1. Kaka says:

      I thought Breaking Bad would be the first on the list but at the end it’s not even mentioned what a disappointment…… And to be honest i never enjoyed Friends not even a little

      1. shelley n says:

        I am a baby boomer, the first television generation, and I think Breaking Bad was the best series “evah”. The acting, writing, soundtrack, location filming and everything else can not be challenged by any other show for outstanding quality. This list is schlock.

      2. BPK says:

        BB was a great show, but far too dark and ciminally based to be the best show ever, in my humble opinion. Too much violence and ugliness … more of a guilty pleasure. I’ve watched the series through about 3 times, America is addicted to dark themes and violence and death. It disgusts me on the whole, though BB was quality and well done.

  7. d s says:

    horrible list,no cheers,all in the family,jeffersons,little house,twilight zone and many more

    1. BPK says:

      All In The Family was great.
      Shows that mean something to me are the best. The ones you remember and change you in some way.

  8. Midge White says:

    How narrow a view of television’s grand contributions to societal advancement through comedy and/ or drama.

    Where is “All in the Family” or “The Cosby Show” ? They both were instrumental in bringing a new image to Black America as previously portrayed on the small screen. Ahh, not PC now or even seen or replayed for today’s generations. So sad!
    Just two examples.
    Then to include “Twin Peaks”? Oh please! I love a little off-the-wall programming, but to consider that amongst the top ten of all time greatest shows? Please! This survey just confirms my sad conclusion that our citizens have been consistently “dumbed-down” over the past 40 years. Heaven help us all!