#15 - Life (2007-2009)
I don't really go for procedurals on TV. But what I do go for is a crime show where the leads have a personal investment in the crime. In LIFE, Charlie Crews was a cop that was set up for murder and sent to jail. When he was finally proven innocent, part of his multi-million dollar settlement was that he get reinstated to the LAPD. Presumably, he wanted his old life back. What he really wanted was the resources to track down who had done this to him.
#14 - Sports Night (1998-2000)
Aaron Sorkin can write a series about watching paint dry, and I'd watch it. In this, his first series, he took a cast on the verge of greatness - Peter Krause (SIX FEET UNDER), Felicity Huffman (DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES), Joshua Malina (THE WEST WING) - and filtered the issues of the day - divorce, drugs, sexual harassment, corporate gluttony - through the eyes and hearts of a SportsCenter-type TV show. A lot of the pathos came from the fact that, no matter what was going on in these character's lives, their job was to be happy for the rest of us. There are some amazing supporting turns, including Robert Guillaume (before and after his stroke), Teri Polo, William H. Macy, Clark Gregg, the underestimated genius that is Ted McGinley, Brenda Strong, Paula Marshall, and Lisa Edelstein. The "behind-the-scenes" concept has carried Sorkin throughout his TV career.
#13 - How I Met Your Mother (2005-Present)
My wife turned me on to this one. The high-concept is this: Our hero, Ted, at a future time, sits his two children down to tell them the story of how he happened to meet their mother. Ostensibly, the entire series is told in flashback, and starts with the day that Ted met Robin, a Canadian emigre newscaster. Each episode, Ted takes a step closer to meeting the elusive "mother," or toward realizing that Robin is the one for him, although she's referred to in the first episode as "Aunt Robin." But don't believe them. The actors that play Ted and Robin are likable, but they are ably supported by Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segel, and Alyson Hannigan, all TV comedy veterans.
#12 - The West Wing (1999-2006)
Our dream White House doesn't have to do with party affiliation. It has to do with having a thinking, feeling human being running the show. That's what Aaron Sorkin gave us with Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen), a democrat by affiliation, but a compassionate, intelligent man by nature. Again, the supporting cast is outstanding - Bradley Whitford, Rob Lowe, John Spencer, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff - and Sorkin still had the ability to pull in more star power as the series went on - Joshua Malina, Stockard Channing, Mary McCormack, Jimmy Smits, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, Mary-Louis Parker, Moira Kelly, Gary Cole, Ron Silver, Tim Matheson, Teri Polo, Marlee Matlin, Janeane Garofalo - not to mention solid guest turns by veterans like John Amos and Karl Malden.
#11 - Over There (2005)
Steven Bochco didn't go away after NYPD BLUE, he just moved to cable. This F/X series may not have been what people wanted to see (as evidenced by a similar reaction at the box office), but the war in Iraq was on everyone's mind, and just as there were films being made about World War II during the war, so too were there artists and producers concerned with getting our fighting men and women's stories on-screen. This series only lasted 13 episodes, and focused on the gritty, dirty world of war, as seen through the eyes of a single company, and the effect it had on the loved ones at home.