The BEST PBS shows of all time

Every PBS show, ranked

We've compiled the average episode rating for every PBS show to compile this list of best shows!

The New Yankee Workshop
star
9.54
327 votes

#1 - The New Yankee Workshop

In this PBS series, craftsman Norm Abram demonstrates how to build quality furniture in one's own workshop using traditional carpentry techniques. Abram also gives pointers on restoring and caring for antique furniture, along with short history lessons regarding famous craftsmen of America's past.

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Cosmos
star
9.27
2617 votes

#2 - Cosmos

Carl Sagan brings us the Cosmos, everything that ever was and ever will be, in an approach that is easily accessible even for those of us that are not science wizards. This 13 part series covers everything from the history of astronomy, the challenges it faced at its creation, how the universe was created and how it all might end.First aired in 1980, updated segments have been added to the series to include recent discoveries and the current theories in astronomy.Winner of an Emmy and a Peabody Award.

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Jazz
star
9.26
197 votes

#3 - Jazz

This series explores the history of the major American musical form. We track its development in African American culture, its rise to prominence with its golden age of popularity spanning from the 1920's to the mid 1940's both in its original form and in Swing through its popular decline and the rise of vital new sub-genres into the present day. Along the way, we learn of the lives and work of major contributors to the form such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Charlie "Bird" Parker and many others who helped form Jazz into the vibrant musical form it is. Moreover, we see how the music reflected the political and social issues of the African American community over the course of the form's history.

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Frontline
star
9.23
794 votes

#4 - Frontline

Explores a wide scope of the complex human experience.

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The Joy of Painting
star
9.06
664 votes

#5 - The Joy of Painting

Artist Bob Ross takes you to his magical world of happy trees and teaches the laymen step by step how to create wonderful works of art using his trademark wet-on-wet technique.

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Reading Rainbow
star
9.03
194 votes

#6 - Reading Rainbow

Host LeVar Burton shepherds children through the exciting world of books with celebrity guest narrations, youth book reviews, and relevant cultural tie-ins.

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The Vietnam War (2017)
star
8.99
667 votes

#7 - The Vietnam War (2017)

An immersive 360-degree narrative telling the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. Featuring testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.

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NOVA
star
8.94
2045 votes

#8 - NOVA

Helps viewers of all ages explore the science behind the headlines.

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How We Got to Now
star
8.93
143 votes

#9 - How We Got to Now

How We Got To Now with Steven Johnson reveals the story behind the remarkable ideas that made modern life possible; the unsung heroes that brought them into the world – and the unexpected and bizarre consequences each of these innovations has triggered. It's a journey that takes Steven to meet penguins in the middle of the desert, deep down into the sewers of San Francisco and to the frozen wastes of the Arctic to fish with the Inuit.

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Wishbone
star
8.89
126 votes

#10 - Wishbone

An intelligent and witty dog imagines himself in the role of characters from classic books and gets involved in similar real-life adventures.

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Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth
star
8.82
97 votes

#11 - Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth

Bill Moyers interviews legendary scholar and teacher Joseph Campbell about the origins and meanings of mythology. Using history, art, Jungian psychology, and even modern cinema, Campbell demonstrates the origins of mythic images in the deepest parts of our psyche and the power of myth in our daily lives. Most of these conversations were filmed at George Lucas' 'Skywalker Ranch.' Lucas volunteered the use of the buildings to thank Professor Campbell for the role his work played in shaping Lucas' Star Wars films.

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The Elegant Universe
star
8.80
154 votes

#12 - The Elegant Universe

Eleven dimensions, parallel universes, and a world made out of strings. It's not science fiction, it's string theory.

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American Experience
star
8.80
407 votes

#13 - American Experience

Presents an absorbing look at the personalities, events and resources that have had a profound impact on the shaping of America's past and present.

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Baseball
star
8.80
240 votes

#14 - Baseball

Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns is an Emmy Award-winning 1994 documentary series by about the game of baseball, originally aired on PBS.

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The Civil War
star
8.79
432 votes

#15 - The Civil War

Between 1861 and 1865, Americans made war on each other and killed each other in great numbers - if only to become the kind of country that could no longer conceive of how that was possible. What began as a bitter dispute over Union and States' Rights, ended as a struggle over the meaning of freedom in America.

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American Masters
star
8.72
236 votes

#16 - American Masters

To honor America's most notable creative artists and the inspiration behind their work. Special broadcasts profiles a cross-section of the nation's finest artistic pioneers from the past and present.

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Bill Nye: The Science Guy
star
8.68
445 votes

#17 - Bill Nye: The Science Guy

Comedian/scientist Bill Nye stars as the host of this show designed to get kids interested in the science of everyday, and some not-so-everyday, things. On a full range of subjects, including ecology, biology, chemistry and physics, Nye gives an easy-to-understand, yet informative lesson that both kids and their parents can enjoy.

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The Berenstain Bears (2003)
star
8.68
113 votes

#18 - The Berenstain Bears (2003)

We follow a family of bears, known as the Berenstain Bears, as they figure out life together. With friendly neighbors and close friends, the journey is never boring. Inspired by the book series written by Stan and Jan Berenstain.

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Globe Trekker
star
8.68
190 votes

#19 - Globe Trekker

Globe Trekker takes to on journeys to countries from every continent around the globe. Each unforgettable destination is hosted by one of the Globe Trekker team members, who dare to try or eat anything new. Join veteran Ian Wright, Justine Shapiro, Megan McCormick and their teammates on their journeys by tuning in your local PBS channels.

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WordGirl
star
8.61
91 votes

#20 - WordGirl

Learn new words and expand your vocabulary with the help of a different kind of superhero known as WordGirl. WordGirl and friends make learning fun.

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Austin City Limits
star
8.60
259 votes

#21 - Austin City Limits

Established singer-songwriters and acclaimed newcomers perform country, blues, rock, folk, bluegrass, and related styles of music.

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Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
star
8.57
56 votes

#22 - Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? is an American children's television game show based on the Carmen Sandiego computer game series created by Brøderbund Software. The program aired on PBS from September 30, 1991 until December 22, 1995, and reruns of the series continued until October 4, 1996. The series was replaced the following Monday by a second Carmen Sandiego-based game show, Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?. Actor Greg Lee hosted the program in the role of "The ACME Special Agent (renamed Senior Agent for Seasons 3–5) in charge of training new recruits." He was joined by actress Lynne Thigpen, who portrayed Lee's superior "The Chief", and a capella performing group Rockapella, who served as the show's in-house band and comedy troupe. The series was recorded in New York City and coproduced by PBS stations WQED and WGBH. Howard Blumenthal, Dana Calderwood, and Dorothy Curley were the series' developers and Blumenthal served as the show's producer for its first four seasons. The program received the George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in 1993. The program's theme song, written by Sean Altman and David Yazbek, has maintained public awareness over the years. In 2001, TV Guide ranked the show at #47 on its list of 50 Greatest Game Shows of All Time.

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America's Test Kitchen
star
8.55
283 votes

#23 - America's Test Kitchen

In "America's Test Kitchen From Cook's Illustrated," a team of expert chefs continue to provide viewers with practical recipes and recommendations that they can use to save money, time and effort in the kitchen. With its uniquely scientific flavor, the show uses blind tasting judges, flash animations and laboratory procedures to answer a variety of kitchen questions. Putting everything from pasta and pasta pots, cheese and cheese graters, as well as host Chris Kimball to the test, this series offers surprises that often defy price points and move beyond fancy packaging and brand expectations.

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America in Primetime
star
8.53
166 votes

#24 - America in Primetime

The man of the house evolves from being the man in control in family sitcoms of the 1950s to a more-conflicted figure in modern series.

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The Mind of a Chef
star
8.53
168 votes

#25 - The Mind of a Chef

The Mind of a Chef combines travel, cooking, history, science, and humor into an unforgettable journey. Producer and narrator Anthony Bourdain explores the creative processes of international celebrity chefs to learn what fuels their culinary artistry.

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The War
star
8.49
357 votes

#26 - The War

The War is the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four American towns. The war touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America and demonstrated that in extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives. A seven-part series by Ken Burns which includes interviews and archive footage.

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Rick Steves' Europe
star
8.47
256 votes

#27 - Rick Steves' Europe

Rick Steves has been the "travel guinea pig" for American Public Television since Travels in Europe with Rick Steves debuted in April of 1991. In his program, Rick shows some out-of-the-way places the average traveler misses, offers countless travel tips, and always enjoys being immersed in the adventure.

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The National Parks: America's Best Idea
star
8.46
266 votes

#28 - The National Parks: America's Best Idea

The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a six-episode series directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan. Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska - The National Parks: America's Best Idea is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background – rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.

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NOVA scienceNOW
star
8.44
405 votes

#29 - NOVA scienceNOW

NOVA scienceNOW is a news magazine version of the venerable PBS science program NOVA. Premiering on January 25, 2005, the series was originally hosted by Robert Krulwich, who described it as an experiment in coverage of "breaking science, science that's right out of the lab, science that sometimes bumps up against politics, art, culture". At the beginning of season two, Neil deGrasse Tyson replaced Krulwich as the show's host. Following season five, David Pogue began hosting.

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Ghostwriter (1992)
star
8.44
129 votes

#30 - Ghostwriter (1992)

Ghostwriter was the story of a group of New York City kids, brought together by the spiritual being known as "Ghostwriter". The kids work together, with Ghostwriter's help, to solve the mysteries they encounter. The series featured a cast of widely different ethnic groups, and focused on the concept of "making reading fun."

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PBS Specials
star
8.40
278 votes

#31 - PBS Specials

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is an American non-profit public broadcasting television service with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. However, its operations are largely funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Its headquarters are in Arlington, Virginia. PBS is the most prominent provider of programming to U.S. public television stations, distributing series such as PBS NewsHour, Masterpiece, and Frontline. Since the mid-2000s, Roper polls commissioned by PBS have consistently placed the service as America's most trusted national institution. However, PBS is not responsible for all programming carried on public TV stations; in fact, stations usually receive a large portion of their content (including most pledge drive specials) from third-party sources, such as American Public Television, NETA, and independent producers.

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This Old House
star
8.34
328 votes

#32 - This Old House

This Old House celebrates the fusion on old world craftsmanship and modern technology. Each season features two renovation projects. Project One traditionally consists of eighteen or more so episodes and is filmed in Massachusetts. Project Two is taped in a different region of the country to highlight the variety of American architectural styles and renovation issues.

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Country Music
star
8.29
50 votes

#33 - Country Music

Explore the history of a uniquely American art form: country music. From its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues and hymns performed in small settings, to its worldwide popularity, learn how country music evolved over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music.

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Cook's Country
star
8.27
236 votes

#34 - Cook's Country

Cook's Country From America's Test Kitchen uncovers the best of American home cooking. Our recipes are developed through in-depth kitchen testing. The result: foolproof recipes you can trust to work the first time—and every time. Cooks's Country From America's Test Kitchen features the cast and crew of America's Test Kitchen, the top-rated cooking show on public television—now in its ninth season. Our new show is filmed in a renovated 1806 farmhouse with a full working test kitchen. Watch us update traditional American recipes—everything from California Barbecued Tri-Tip and Cincinnati Chili to Mashed Potato Casserole and Chocolate Blackout Cake. You'll learn what makes a recipe succeed (or fail) as well as which kitchen tools, cookware, and supermarket ingredients have won our independent tests. Join us every week as we bring the pages of Cook's Country magazine into your home.

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Nature
star
8.27
503 votes

#35 - Nature

Transport viewers to faraway places ranging from the steamy plains of Africa to the splendors of cold Antarctica. The main focus is on animals and ecosystems around the world.

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Prohibition
star
8.22
283 votes

#36 - Prohibition

The story of the American activist struggle against the influence of alcohol, climaxing in the failed early 20th century nationwide era when it was banned.

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The Blues
star
8.20
87 votes

#37 - The Blues

The Blues is a 2003 documentary series produced by Martin Scorsese, dedicated to the history of blues music. In each of the seven episodes, a different director explores a stage in the development of the blues.

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Dragon Tales
star
8.11
164 votes

#38 - Dragon Tales

Two Hispanic children, Max and Emmy, move into a new home. Like any young children, they're not quite happy at first about moving. Then, Emmy finds a secret drawer and inside is box containing a magical, shimmering dragon scale. Hmmm... there's some words on the box. What do they say? "I wish, I wish, with all my heart, to fly with dragons, in a land apart." The magical decorations fly around them, transporting them (and us) to Dragon Land. Brought to you by Sesame Workshop (formerly Children's Television Workshop), the company that brings you Sesame Street it's Dragon Tales! Join Cassie, Ord, Zak & Wheezie, Quetzal, and their human friends, Max and Emmy in two daily adventures, each separated by a musical interstitial, "Dragon Tunes." Dragon Tales has enjoyed two seasons and many years of success on PBSKids. The show's popularity has spawned book, video, DVD and CD releases and even a live stage show. Now, the show's popularity has prompted its return. The third season is no

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The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
star
8.10
182 votes

#39 - The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY chronicles the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. It is the first time in a major documentary television series that their individual stories have been interwoven into a single narrative. This seven-part, fourteen hour film follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th President of the United States and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd President of the United States. Together, these three individuals not only redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, but also redefined the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses the history the Roosevelts helped to shape: the creation of National Parks, the digging of the Panama Canal, the passage of innovative New Deal programs, the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights abroad. It is also an intimate human story about love, betrayal, family loyalty, personal courage and the conquest of fear.

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Super WHY!
star
8.07
239 votes

#40 - Super WHY!

Super WHY! is a new program designed to help teach kids that reading can be fun by illustrated children’s tales. Kids will learn through four interactive heroes who use reading to solve mysteries overcome obstacles. The fairy tale books that the interactive heroes travel into are somewhat different from the original story.

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Liberty's Kids
star
8.06
115 votes

#41 - Liberty's Kids

Liberty's Kids was a truly "revolutionary" children's animated series by DIC. For as long as it ran on PBS, Liberty's Kids entertained seven to twelve-year-olds while introducing them to the exciting stories and people behind the birth of a nation. The program unfurled its historical vignettes through the eyes of two teenage apprentices, Sarah Phillips and James Hiller, who worked in Benjamin Franklin's print shop and discovered first-hand the great adventures of the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin's wise words and strong principled actions gave guidance to our young heroes, whether he is with them in Philadelphia or writing from across the ocean in France.

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Wild Kratts
star
8.06
344 votes

#42 - Wild Kratts

The Kratt brothers go around the world looking for animals and use "creature power suits" - suits created by their friend, Aviva, out of the creatures' DNA. There are three villains in the show: Zach Varmitech, who controls the creatures' minds and uses them as slaves; Donita Donata, who freezes creatures and sells them alive as jewelry; and Gourmond, who makes expensive gourmet dishes out of endangered species. The Kratts use their creature powers to foil these three villains' plots.

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Genius by Stephen Hawking
star
8.01
92 votes

#43 - Genius by Stephen Hawking

Join Professor Stephen Hawking as he reveals our true potential in a series that challenges a selection of volunteers and viewers to think like the greatest geniuses of the past and answer some of humanity's toughest and most enduring questions.

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The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!
star
7.94
116 votes

#44 - The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!

The Cat in The Hat knows a lot about virtually every thing. With the help of fish, thing 1, and thing 2; the Cat in the Hat teaches kids about many things through song and games.

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Zoboomafoo
star
7.94
71 votes

#45 - Zoboomafoo

Meet the Sifaka Lemur, Zoboomafoo, who has the ability to speak. Chris Kratt and Martin Kratt, the two companions of Zoboomafoo, discover more about the world of animals. This show teaches about the lifestyles, habitats, and characteristics of the animal discussed about in that episode.

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The West
star
7.88
72 votes

#46 - The West

This documentary covers the history of the American West from the Native American tribes to their encounter with Europeans and how the Europeans conquered them and settled the land. In telling this story, the film takes into the account to both the viewpoints of Indians and other minorities to balance the white populations history.

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Soundbreaking
star
7.87
252 votes

#47 - Soundbreaking

Soundbreaking explores the history of recorded music. Featuring more than 150 original interviews, the series charts a century's worth of innovation and experimentation, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at the birth of brand new sounds.

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Sanditon
star
7.79
305 votes

#48 - Sanditon

Charlotte Heywood, a spirited and impulsive woman who moves from her rural hometown to Sanditon, a fishing village trying to reinvent itself as a seaside resort, is exposed to its “intrigues and dalliances” and the locals whose fortunes depend on Sanditon’s commercial success in a story of love and self-discovery in the 19th century. Inspired by Jane Austen’s unfinished final novel of the same name.

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Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
star
7.75
281 votes

#49 - Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Fred Rogers hosts this children's television program that teaches children the important issues of life, such as being friendly, sharing, etc. Also features an imaginary world with puppets living in a medieval-type kingdom.

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The Magic School Bus
star
7.74
421 votes

#50 - The Magic School Bus

A classroom taught by Ms. Valerie Frizzle is always fun and exciting. The colorful teacher owns a Magic School Bus which can transform into different things like a spaceship, a battery, or even an alligator! These things can help Ms. Frizzle with visual teaching methods as she reveals information about anything in science. The students include Carlos, Phoebe, Keesha, Dorothy Ann, Tim, Ralphie, Arnold, and Wanda. Originally, The Magic School Bus aired on PBS. But when production ceased after four years, The Magic School Bus's run on PBS ended with it.

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