5: The Wire
It's not just one of Hollywood's favorite shows but also that of a certain resident of Washington, D.C. "I'm a huge fan," President Obama said in March, when he invited creator David Simon to the White House. "I think it's one of the greatest, not just television shows, but pieces of art in the last couple of decades."
"Milton Berle once told me that if you can't make a character funny, make him interesting," says Michael Richards, 66, who turned Kramer, Jerry's screwball next-door neighbor, into the quintessential sidekick on the decade-defining sitcom that was famously "about nothing."
3: True Detective
Nic Pizzolatto's postmodern take on noir cop thrillers sparked a network bidding war that included Netflix and HBO. "I really admire Netflix," says Pizzolatto, 39. "I use it as much as anybody on the planet. In the end, though, it was the model of putting every episode out at once. Some shows are better off having a week in between to digest and anticipate."
2: Breaking Bad
HBO, Showtime and, ultimately, FX passed on this dark drama about a disillusioned chemistry teacher turned meth dealer. "It was dead as a hammer," says creator Vince Gilligan, 48, when his agent at ICM sent it to AMC, which was desperate for original series. "Why don't you send it to the Food Network? It's a show about cooking, after all," Gilligan recalls saying. In 2006, AMC picked up the series and approached John Cusack and Matthew Broderick to star. But Gilligan, a former writer of No. 3 on this list, remembered an X-Files episode with Bryan Cranston and cast the actor as his lead.
1: Game of Thrones
The biggest hit in HBO history � it has surpassed this list's No. 6 The Sopranos � keeps fans hooked with the bloodiest, most shocking cliffhangers on TV (say it ain't so, Jon Snow!). But co-creator David Benioff sees the dragon-and-swords series as less a thrill ride than a sociopolitical parable. "Ultimately, it's not just about good versus evil," he says. "It's about people of good intentions who come into conflict with each other because they have very different views of the world."