Last month, when we evaluated television's greatest sitcoms, the road to ranking the 50 funniest TV comedies of all time wasn't as difficult as one might've expected. To put it differently: It was nowhere near as taxing as counting down the 50 best TV dramas of all time.

Figuring out why that was the case is a fascinating endeavor. In an age where cable networks consistently produce the most compelling, rich, and progressive hour-long character studies and epic tales, the rules have drastically changed. Decades ago, procedurals were all the rage, and none of them exhibited the degrees of cinematic storytelling now seen on channels like HBO, AMC, and FX.

Would it be fair to dock the older programs for that, though? Not at all, which is why the following list represents our best effort to assess TV's 50 finest examples of dramatic excellence based on creative merits more so than time-period reflections. Besides, it's not like anyone's energy would be wasted sampling any of these shows on any given day. After all, greatness speaks for itself.

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Written by Tara Aquino (@t_akino), Matt Barone (@MBarone), Justin Monroe (@40yardsplash), and Ross Scarano (@RossScarano)