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 Berenstain Bears (2003)
star
10.00
54 votes

#1 - 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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Big Pacific
star
9.70
91 votes

#2 - Big Pacific

Plunge into the Pacific with researchers and cinematographers and see the ocean’s rare and dazzling creatures in a way never before seen on television. The show examines an ocean that covers a third of the Earth’s surface.

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Wishbone
star
9.69
64 votes

#3 - 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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America Revealed
star
9.65
100 votes

#4 - America Revealed

Based upon the BBC’s award-winning Britain From Above. America Revealed is a unique look at what makes America tick, what it takes to keeps the biggest food machine in the world going, the delicate balance that keeps our supermarkets stocked with groceries and fast food restaurants supplied with fries. How we keep America moving with its vast and complex transport systems. How we propel ourselves through energy, what maintains the constant supply of fuel and electricity to our homes and businesses and finally how we keep up with the ever changing world, the import and export infrastructure that shapes our manufacturing industry. From the Corn farmer in Central Valley, California to the live wire cable repairers in New Jersey. Viewers will discover a fascinating new perspective on the hidden patterns and rhythms of American life, by looking through the eyes of individuals who all play a part in keeping America fed, moving, powered and making goods. The series is presented by technology expert and communications attorney, Yul Kwon, but we probably know him better as the winner of Survivor: Cook Islands 2006. In this series Yul fully embraces his role as presenter and our guide, by jumping out of aeroplanes in Kansas, climbing to the top of wind turbines in the Columbia River Gorge and taking part in a giant tomato fight in Nevada. America Revealed uses beautiful and breath-taking aerial photography to provide an otherwise unseen view of America and use original data visualizations to demonstrate how our systems work.

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The New Yankee Workshop
star
9.53
329 votes

#5 - 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
9.24
2599 votes

#6 - 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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Frontline
star
9.22
798 votes

#7 - Frontline

Explores a wide scope of the complex human experience.

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Jazz
star
9.14
207 votes

#8 - 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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Your Inner Fish
star
9.06
98 votes

#9 - Your Inner Fish

Have you ever wondered why the human body looks the way it does? Why our hands have five fingers instead of six? Why we walk on two legs instead of four? It took more than 350 million years for the human body to take shape. How did it become the complicated, quirky, amazing machine it is today? Your Inner Fish delves deep into the past to answer these questions. Premiering Wednesday, April 9, 2014, the three-part series reveals a startling truth: Hidden within the human body is a story of life on Earth.

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The Joy of Painting
star
9.04
673 votes

#10 - 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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Triumph of the Nerds
star
8.95
364 votes

#11 - Triumph of the Nerds

It happened more or less by accident; the people who made it happen were amateurs; and for the most part they still are. From his own Silicon Valley garage, author Bob Cringely puts PC bigshots and nerds on the spot, and tells their incredible true stories. Like the industry itself, the series is informative, funny and brash.

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How We Got to Now
star
8.94
143 votes

#12 - 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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The Vietnam War (2017)
star
8.91
769 votes

#13 - 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
8.91
2011 votes

#14 - NOVA

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

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Reading Rainbow
star
8.90
203 votes

#15 - 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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Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks
star
8.88
118 votes

#16 - Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks

Grandad tells his grandchildren about his adventures as a boy.

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Between the Lions
star
8.82
88 votes

#17 - Between the Lions

Five years in the making, Between the Lions has set out to get kids "wild about reading". In every episode, there can be found countless sight gags, puns, parodies, songs, and more, all of which are designed to help kids better understand the pronunciation of everyday words. The setting for the show is, fittingly, a library, where husband-and-wife team Theo and Cleo are the Librarians. Their inquisitive cubs, younger sister Leona and older brother Lionel, often help them out, while another character - the Information Hen - dispenses information to perplexed Library patrons. Among the other colorful characters likely to be encountered, is a statue of the library's founder, Barnaby B. ("Don't Call Me Buster!") Busterfield III, who makes sarcastic comments about the silliness he often witnesses going on in the library. There are also two dim-witted pigeons, Clay and Walter (get it?) who hang around the statue, keeping him company - but he just wishes they'd go away! Additi

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The Elegant Universe
star
8.77
158 votes

#18 - 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
8.74
415 votes

#19 - 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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American Masters
star
8.71
241 votes

#20 - 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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The Civil War
star
8.71
466 votes

#21 - 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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Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth
star
8.70
102 votes

#22 - 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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Baseball
star
8.69
267 votes

#23 - 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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Globe Trekker
star
8.66
189 votes

#24 - 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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The Mind of a Chef
star
8.64
164 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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Bill Nye: The Science Guy
star
8.61
450 votes

#26 - 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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Great Performances
star
8.61
107 votes

#27 - Great Performances

Great Performances, a television series devoted to the performing arts, has been telecast on PBS since 1972. The show is produced by WNET in New York City. It is one of the longest running performing arts anthologies on television, second only to Hallmark Hall of Fame. Great Performances presents concerts, ballet, opera, an occasional documentary, and plays. The series has also won many television awards, including an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award, and an Image Award, with nods from the Directors Guild of America and the Cinema Audio Society.

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Battlefield
star
8.59
102 votes

#28 - Battlefield

The landmark television series 'Battlefield' is a documentary series initially relased in 1994 that explores some of the most important battles fought during the Second World War and the Vietnam War. Featuring fascinating archive footage, the programme includes a review of the political and military situation before the battle, portraits of leaders and commanders, an explanation of weapons and tactics and the story of the battle itself. Vivid graphics place the battles into the context of the war as a whole. Seasons 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 are all WW2 battles and Season 3 focuses on the Vietnam war in a special 12-part season.

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America in Primetime
star
8.53
165 votes

#29 - 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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Austin City Limits
star
8.53
263 votes

#30 - Austin City Limits

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

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WordGirl
star
8.51
100 votes

#31 - 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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America's Test Kitchen
star
8.49
283 votes

#32 - 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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Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
star
8.47
59 votes

#33 - 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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The War
star
8.47
372 votes

#34 - 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
8.46
261 votes

#35 - 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
8.43
272 votes

#36 - 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
8.42
401 votes

#37 - 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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PBS Specials
star
8.40
278 votes

#38 - 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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Ghostwriter (1992)
star
8.36
128 votes

#39 - 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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This Old House
star
8.29
333 votes

#40 - 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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The U.S. and the Holocaust
star
8.28
47 votes

#41 - The U.S. and the Holocaust

Examines the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany in the context of global antisemitism and racism, the eugenics movement in the United States, and race laws in the American south.

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Nature
star
8.26
513 votes

#42 - 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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Cook's Country
star
8.25
234 votes

#43 - Cook's Country

A team of cooks travel the country and scour the history books to find the very best traditional and contemporary American dishes, then bring them back to the test kitchen and develop practical, approachable recipes.

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Country Music
star
8.16
55 votes

#44 - 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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The Blues
star
8.16
92 votes

#45 - 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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Prohibition
star
8.15
305 votes

#46 - 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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FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman
star
8.11
87 votes

#47 - FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman

FETCH! is a reality-based game show where young contestants take on various challenges to gain points.

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The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
star
8.10
186 votes

#48 - 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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Angelina Ballerina
star
8.08
131 votes

#49 - Angelina Ballerina

Angelina Ballerina is a cartoon mouse, created by author Katharine Holabird and illustrator Helen Craig, who is featured in a series of children's books. The series is set in Chipping Cheddar, a place similar to 1920s London.

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Super WHY!
star
8.04
238 votes

#50 - 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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