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TV Guide: The Top 30 Cult TV Shows Ever


Today, TV Guide decided to update their Top 30 Cult TV Shows list. Last updated in 2004, the list now sports some new, shiny TV shows, like Jericho and LOST. Its an interesting list, both from what shows are on it and what isn’t and also from a ‘cult’ status. Let’s see some of the selections:

  • H.R. Pufnstuf clocks in at #27. Cult? I’d hate to be a member of that cult. H.R. Pufnstuf is scarier than Scientology, although it makes more sense.
  • Firefly is at #25. Absolutely this is a cult TV show, and it is certainly better than many of the shows above it. I’m looking at you, Quantum Leap. This is one show the definitely should be higher.
  • Babylon 5 is at #16. Another one I’d say has a definite cult following, albeit a more muted cult than, say, the Browncoats. I’d also say that I’d put it a bit higher on the list, maybe even in the top 10.
  • Battlestar Galactica is at #14. Alright, so, is the new BG a cult favorite? It gets a ton of press and blog attention. I guess being on cable, and with fairly low ratings (overall, not in terms of cable shows), qualifies as being a cult. But I don’t see the ‘cultishness’ playing out on the web. And I’m not ready to put it higher than B5. Yet.
  • Jericho debuts at #11. Oh please. Just because the show gets a limited revival because the network received tons of nuts in the mail doesn’t make this a cult show. Not yet. Star Trek wasn’t a cult show because it was canceled, then revived. It became a cult show because of its long term impact on fans. Jericho isn’t there yet, and I don’t think it ever will. It’s just not up to par with some of the other cult shows quality-wise, and placing it at #11 is ludicrous. It should be close to #30.
  • LOST is found at #5. Love it or hate it, LOST has definitely had impact on fans. Not only is it a popular show, it also has rabid fans infesting the ‘Net. Which leads to the question: If a show is really popular, can you call it a ‘cult’ show?
  • And last, Star Trek, the original, is, of course, at #1. How could the show that defined ‘cult TV’ not be at number 1? The question here is: Can you consider any of the follow on series to be a ‘cult’ TV show?

What jumps out at me here is that while Jericho gets some love, Heroes doesn’t? What. The. Hell? But then again, it all comes down to the definition of ‘cult’ in a TV sense. Is Jericho more cultish than Heroes? My gut feeling here is no. Certainly, Heroes is more popular, but does more popular mean not cult anymore? If so, then why is LOST on the list? The TV Guide article mentions these questions, but then proceeds to not answer them.

It’s still an interesting list. What do you guys think?

About JP Frantz (2322 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

18 Comments on TV Guide: The Top 30 Cult TV Shows Ever

  1. HR Pufnstuf is the king – I am so gonna smack you with my magic flute if you start talking bad about him!!! :-@

  2. Quick! Sic the Teletubbies on Tim!

    *is alarmed*

    I think the reason Babylon 5’s cult following is more muted than the Browncoats, like you said, is that B5 got five years and all sorts of assorted spinning-off things. We got our story told. We want MORE story, true enough, but we got the five year story told.

    Firefly was gunned down when it was learning to walk, for Pete’s sake.

    I really didn’t care for Jericho at all. I dont’ know if it was just me, but it didn’t appeal to me at all. Like BSG, it fell into the “regular mainstream show, but with a vague sci-fi feel to get, you know, those people too.”

    It’s probably just me.

  3. “H.R. Pufnstuf is scarier than Scientology, although it makes more sense.”

    People around me are staring at me even more than usual at my outburst of laughter. Nice job JP!

    Be it drugs or homosexuality, HR is way out there in the world of the strange considering it was designed to be a children’s show. But cult following? Really? I mean, I’ve heard of parties where they were ‘puffing stuff’ but I never saw them watching the show.

    It seems wrong to have shows that are still on the air in the cult category. If they have enough of an audience that they can get ad revenue from them, how can they be considered a cult? And how can The Simpsons not be mainstream now – maybe not when they first started but today they’ve defined a whole genre of adult-oriented animated shows (see the entire lineup on Adult Swim.)

    MST3K is too low – some of those shows are just classic. From “Nic Drywall” to “I should repeat to myself it’s just TV, I should really just releax” MST3K was awesome. I wish it was still on, with Joel at the helm.

  4. The sad (or glad) thing is I have seen everyone of these shows except for the last two (Strangers with Candy? Absolutely Fabulous?)

    It’s also interesting to note that about 1/3 of these shows are sci-fi. Are we cultists or what?

    If H.R. Puffnstuff is on the list, where is that alarming purple dinosaur that drove me to knife my vcr while my son was growing up? The best therapy was the Doom game with the Barney background. Henceforth, a show cannot be a cult favorite unless someone on the opposite side of the emotional spectrum hates it enough to build a Doom background where you kill the main characters.

  5. Hang on. Someone is still watching JERICHO? Wow, must be mind-controlling drugs involved in that cult.

    Mir aka DeLenn and Lennier’s Secret Love Child

  6. RE: the question of Cult vs. Popularity.

    It depends on your definition.

    Merriam-Webster says: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad.” No comment at all is made to its popularity or the size of the following, whereas… says: “of, for, or attracting a small group of devotees” — implying low popularity.

  7. Someone (I forget who) once said that a cult TV show is one that is underrated by a majority and overrated by a minority. In the case of shows like Firefly I think that has the ring of truth.

  8. Is NOT. *gets huffy, stomps off*


  9. And may I just say that Quantum Leap stops being cool about the time you hit puberty. Again, maybe it’s just me, but…

  10. Most of my favorite shows are on this list, including Firefly, B5, BSG, Jericho, and Lost.

    As a fan of all five, I would put none of the latter three ahead of Firefly and B5, yet they all appear higher on the list seemingly just because they were more popular, which shouldn’t be how this works..

    For instance, if Jericho were not renewed, would there still be a dedicated following to it 5 years later like there is with Firefly or a decade later like their is with B5? I doubt it..

  11. PapayaSF // June 29, 2007 at 11:00 pm //

    I agree with scottsh: true cult status is only earned after death. (Any small devoted following can be called a cult, so I think the bar should higher for a list such as this.)

    And maybe I’m just not aware of the size of the subcultures, but do Buffy and X-Files still have that much of a following? Are they even in reruns at the moment?

  12. Buffy’s got a good following. They’re currently supporting the Season 8 comic book that Joss Whedon’s writing (I’m enjoying it, for example.)

    And there’s chatter of another X-Files movie, but god knows if there’s a cult out there for it. I know my wife is still a fan, but beyond that? Search me.

  13. Buffy the Vampire Slayer should be at #2. It has a way more loyal and obsessive fanbase than the X-files, or almost all of the other shows. Countless Buffy-related fan stuff can be found across the internet, even after its death. Star Trek is rightfully and #1.

  14. Greg Lindenberg // July 1, 2007 at 11:31 pm //

    Jericho. Ugh. The world ends and nobody notices–they’re too busy soap opera-ing. I’d put Highlander on the list and bump off maybe Veronica Mars (Buffy without powers. Ho hum.).

  15. Just a tad late here, but I had to express my outrage at the Quantum Leap, Firefly comment. Are you shitting me? I’m just so sick of all this Firefly bs – name ONE aspect of Firefly that is better. Christ.

  16. The X-Files still has a huge cult following and I’m glad it’s in the second place! And of course the show that defined the cult following – Star Trek – deserves to be No1!

  17. tvshowsaver // July 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm //

    Reaper should be on this list somewhere

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