The Top 20 Thriller TV Shows of All-Time

I wondered why is the difference between a Thriller TV Show and a Suspense TV Show. As it turns out, they are technically the same, which is a bit of a disappointment. Thriller seems to have more potential for an upbeat ending, while suspense opens the door for a climactic downer. You can disagree with me, but when I put this list together I had to come up with a way that separates it from 100 similar lists that are copied and pasted for your annoyance.

One thing that I found consistent with those annoying lists is that there are very few, if any, TV series from before 2000 that voters or critics decided were worthy of a spot on the All-time Thriller list. Either most of the voters and critics were born after 1995 (a possibility) or TV just sucked when it came to writing great thriller/suspense genre TV shows. Feel free to comment on what you think why the vast majority of All-Time Thriller TV shows came after 2000.

Now here is my take on it in two words – cable TV. Most of the shows that made my list were seen or can be seen on regular old cable stations. USA, Showtime, and HBO to name a few (and no, I didn’t stop Netflix shows from making the list). That may say a lot about the future direction of TV because it is actually getting better. More choices, more opportunities for avoiding network TV sitcoms and half-hearted attempts at producing quality shows.

As for who made this list, I decided to eliminate the shows that do not have a lone major character who, if they got killed, that would be the end of the show. TV series such as Dexter, 24, and Narcos made the list because obviously, if you kill off the main character it is a show stopper. Also, the series must not be episodic, meaning that every weekly show cannot dilute the main character because of the storyline. This requires a bit of explanation.

Law and Order, that interminable TV drama that has 100 spinoffs, is actually the definition of the reverse of a thriller. Nobody watches the show and cares what happens to McCoy or Schiff or Briscoe. We only care about if they got the bad guy. How do you think Law and Order SVU can drone on for decades? All they did was replace the detectives, who no one really cares about, and focus on a popular topic that virtually everyone agrees on. Changing assistant DAs on the original series didn’t slow down its ratings.

Enough of my droning. On to the list (which is not in any particular order).


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