I want to once again thank those at Geekcast Radio for allowing me to participate and remind people that, this series of blogs, is me revealing, "MY BALLOT" and my ballot ONLY, go check out Geekcast Radio to find the complete results of their poll. For those who haven't been keeping up with my reveal, you can see my previous posts where I revealed the first sixty spots on my ballot, at the links below:
Those links will give more detail on each and every one of my selections and why I picked them. For those, not interested in starting from the beginning, let's take a quick look at my previous picks before we continue:
"MY" TOP 100 GREATEST TV SHOWS BALLOT!
100. St. Elsewhere (NBC, 1982-'88)
80. Will & Grace (NBC, 1998-2006)
79. The Golden Girls (NBC, 1985-'92)
78. Perry Mason (CBS, 1957-'66)
77. In Treatment (HBO, 2008-'10)
76. Barney Miller (ABC, 1975-'82)
75. The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show (CBS, 1983-'86)
74. Louie (FX, 2010-Present)
73. Family Ties (NBC, 1982-'89)
72. 3rd Rock from the Sun (NBC, 1996-2001)
71. Good Times (CBS, 1974-'79)
70. The Newsroom (HBO, 2012-'14)
69. Jeopardy! (Syndication, 1984-Present)
68. I Love Lucy (CBS, 1951-'57)
67. The Muppet Show (ITV, 1976-'81 [UK]; Syndication, 1976-'81, [U.S.])
66. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX 2005-'12, FXX, 2013-Present)
65. Married... with Children (FOX, 1987-'97)
64. Dallas (CBS, 1978-1991)
63. Sex and the City (HBO, 1998-2004)
62. The Rockford Files (NBC, 1974-1980)
61. King of the Hill (FOX, 1997-2010, Syndication, 2010)
60. Late Night with Conan O'Brien (NBC, 1993-2009)
59. Lou Grant (CBS, 1977-'82)
58. Murphy Brown (CBS, 1988-'98)
57. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central, 2005-'14)
56. Northern Exposure (CBS, 1990-'95)
55. Dexter (Showtime, 2006-'13)
54. Friends (NBC, 1994-2004)
53. Your Show of Shows (NBC, 1950-1954)
52. Arrested Development (FOX, 2003-'06, Netflix, 2013-Present)
51. Star Trek: The Next Generation (Syndication: 1987-'94)
50. Parks and Recreation (NBC, 2009-'15)
49. Girls (HBO, 2012-Present)
48. Sports Night (ABC, 1998-2000)
47. The Sopranos (HBO, 1999-2007)
46. The Office (NBC, 2005-'13)
45. The X-Files (FOX, 1993-2002, 2016-?)
44. 30 Rock (NBC, 2006-'13)
43. Mad Men (AMC, 2007-'15)
42. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (CBS, 1967-'69)
41. ER (NBC, 1994-2009)
And now, let's break into the Top 40. We begin with a hilarious comedy that began with it's main character, having to get up from a concert performance, to answer his phone that was ringing and annoying the audience. Now, that doesn't sound particularly unique or unusual, but keep in mind, they didn't have cell phones back in the '60s. And also, the phone, was inside the guy's shoe? Yes, this scene's dated, but most of the rest of the show is still funny as hell.
40. Get Smart (NBC, 1965-1969, CBS, 1969-1970)
Spoofs don't have the greatest of success rates on television, at most they usually end as cult series, because really, how long can you really make fun of the same genre over and over again, that why it's really a sketch show, plus half the time the thing your making fun of is so timely that the references will probably not hold up years later, so the only way you can really get the spoof genre to work on television is if it's just incredibly talented funny people working on it. Um, to quote Jeff Daniels, "God Bless Mel Brooks". It was Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, still in the beginning of their careers then, but already comedy legends, who were tapped to create the show and they basically created this show as a satire of the James Bond movies and some of the great spy drama series of the '60s, like "Man from U.N.C.L.E." and "Mission: Impossible", and it's one of the few truly hilarious shows from the late '60s. People are trying to replicate "Get Smart", and it almost never works no matter what genre they're doing, but "Get Smart" is just classic comedy from great comic minds, that happens to be shoved into this strange, surreal comedy, that's a parody of the sixties, a parody of a whole genre, a parody of the Cold War,... it's really one of the funniest, smartest and strangest comedies of all-time. Don Adams, Maxwell Smart, is one of the greatest characters ever created. Maxwell Smart is just one of the greatest characters ever created, Barbara Feldon's 99 character, (Which was originally named 69, at one point, 'cause of course it was), is credited as being the first female character to every get married, give birth to kids on the series, and then go back to work. I mean, if you don't watch "Get Smart" and not laughing silly at something, then you just don't know great comedy. "Missed it by that much", "The old, gun in the bunny trick", "Sorry about that Chief". So many great catchphrases, Don Adams was absolutely born for this role. In a sense, you could argue that this is the last great, classic sitcom before the Norman Lear shows took over the in the '70s. It's definitely one of the few sitcoms from that late '60s that still holds up as well as it did at the time, and a lot of that has to do with just, the great comedy. Long after we don't remember half the shows they were parodying, we still have "Get Smart".
There's something I gotta talk about with a lot of these older shows, the fact is that, we're often not watching the original series as it originally aired, especially when they used music, particularly licensed music. Yes, we all know that episodes were often longer and they sometimes get chopped in reruns, but music licensing rights running out also causes some shows to fall by the wayside. One episode of the cult series, "Buffalo Bill", has an entire musical sequence edited out of it's DVDs, and a show like "Cold Case" which often used pop music in it's series to delineate period time periods, are a nightmare for reruns and DVDs. That said, no great show probably got in worst when it comes to music rights than this one, even with the latest DVD release, the series is still by some account, only 80% of the series is in tact from it's original airing.
39. WKRP in Cincinnati (CBS, 1978-1982)
I love this theme song, it is surprisingly sad, and there is a great sadness to "WKRP in Cincinnati", for most of the characters, it's basically, where they ended up. It's hard to really remember when DJs were actually disc jockey, and actually did play records on the radio, and they weren't just radio zoo people who were Howard Stern wannabes and clicked on a computer and played whatever pop song was next to play, Right before the era of MTV, the disc jockey was probably one of the coolest jobs you could have, except at WKRP, the last place station in Cincinnati, where the secretary made more money than the boss. "WKRP in Cincinnati" was the coolest show of it's era, and it's still one of the funniest shows of all-time. I mean, this show belongs on the list for the "Turkeys Away" episode alone. God, that's still one of the funniest and most surreal episodes of all-time. Unfortunately, if people "WKRP in Cincinnati" it's mainly because they know that episode, and they completely ignore the entire series. Hugh Wilson is one of the most underrated TV writers of all-time and he created the show, and it's great mix, some pretty great comedy, and amazing characters, Howard Hessman's Johnny Fever, is one of the great original characters in television, and yet, the show, has this great sadness to it. There's convicts, there's people of last resort trying to make the radio channel better, there's the darkness of characters that are really at the edge of their ropes trying to do better, and all the while, you have this, at the time, it was at the precipice of modern music and the zeitgeist, of rock'n'roll. It was also important to remember that the show, was partially canceled because of Howard Hessman's political activities, the show, sorta fell along with "Lou Grant" with the Ed Asner controversies, but the show, got treated terribly from the network. The show was constantly jumping around the channel for years, and actually became a bigger hit originally in syndication, before the licensing rights ran out, but afterwords, a few channels try to bring it back, but it kinda gets forgotten. It was the late '70s, it hit late, and there was so many great shows of that era that you forget this show in the list of greatest TV shows, but it really belongs on there. It's gotten bad break after bad break, but the people who really know television, know this show belongs where nobody else does.
I will admit now that this is probably the most controversial show selection on my list. I'm not gonna pretend that, maybe had I done this list on another day, it wouldn't be, so high, (It would definitely be on the list though, for sure, and maybe it's not exactly an accurate portrayal of the world that it's depicting, but, as somebody who is apart of that world to some extent, I couldn't care less. It may have only lasted one season, but to the people who watched it, and kept at it, this ranks as one of the best shows of all-time.
38. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC, 2006-'07)
Every once in a while, television has to come out and criticize itself, and aim just a little bit higher than it probably should, and somebody saying it that absolutely has every right to complain and comment on how it should be better. Norman Lear, did that a lot over the years, but in print, rarely did you see it done on television, certainly not on a television show, certainly not, on the first episode of arguably the biggest television show money-wise ever produced for network television. Television, especially network television would be better now if people had actually listened. "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip", was a drama, about comedy, and that's something that, a lot of people, inside and outside the industry, probably couldn't handle, but trust me, there's definitely a lot of drama in trying to create something funny. If there is a criticism of the show, it's probably that it was too funny at times, but you know, Aaron Sorkin doesn't create reality, he creates television shows about the way we hope or wish life was. It's arguably the greatest cast in television history, and it's just incredible dialogue and storytelling. The reason it was canceled actually, wasn't the ratings, actually ratings-wise, if you put it on today, it'd be one of the top shows on network television, but it was just way too expensive to stay on the air at the time, and in many ways, it is a story of hubris above anything else. Daring that television, be something better than just a box with lights; I mean, it's sad, but too many people just see it as this, but the fact is, he's right. "Studio 60..."'s failure, is a cautionary tale, but goddamn, why television actually be as good as this show is. A great television show about how hard it is to make great television; it's sad that this is an idea that's, mocked, when it should be the norm.
I have to talk about another show that missed my list, and no, I don't hate "Community", but no, I don't think it's by any means one of the greatest shows ever. For one, thing, it took a great premise, and then just decided to ignore it. There's so much great material with community colleges as a setting it's amazing nobody's made that show yet, and instead, he diverges into, anything else; I always watch the show feeling like I got misdirected into one show, when I was originally promised another. That said, I think I kinda get what they're going for. A main character who's part conman, a group of ragtag character who are thrown together into a situation, trying to scheme over others all the time, this formula can work.
37. The Phil Silvers Show (oka "You'll Never Get Rich") (CBS, 1955-'59)
Another classic show gotten forgotten in television history. If "I Love Lucy" and "The Honeymooners" are the Chaplin and Keaton of film, than "The Phil Silvers Show" show is The Marx Brothers, This was pure anarchy. "The Phil Silver Show", was originally titled "You'll Never Get Rich", it's sometimes called "Sgt. Bilko" or just "Bilko" in reruns, boy the show, really kinda gets beaten around nowadays, but it was the first sitcom to win the Best Comedy Series Emmy, three consecutive years, first to ever win it three times, period, even "I Love Lucy" only won it twice, and yes, it's an Army show, but Sgt. Bilko, Phil Silvers, who, man, does he not get the credit he deserves, he's basically the continuous conman, who happens to be in the military, which presents, those extra layers of problems, thankfully, it was the '50s and not a war and there were quite a few, sorta Beetle Bailey-type military comedies on from the '50s and '60s, from "McHale's Navy", which was also created by Nat Hiken, who's considered the first television show "Creator", to "F Troop" to "Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C." but this is by far the best one. Phil Silvers was a pain in the ass to CBS, and he was constantly trying to push the boundaries of what was allowed on television at that time. He was really a renegade of television, so much so that CBS, after they did finally cancel the show, despite still being a major critically and commercial hit, they sold the rights to the show to NBC, who made more money airing the show in reruns for years, in one of the dumbest business ever, but they were tire of dealing with him, He said, as a comedian, he was impatient, so he insisted that everything be quick and fast-paced and mad, 'cause he figured that the audience was as impatient as him, and when you watch "The Phil Silvers" compared to something like "I Love Lucy", everything is quick-witted and fast-paced, and they shot live too, and half the time people forgot their lines and they improvised to speed the show, it is just pure anarchy. There's no set up before Lucy is suddenly overrun by a mountain of bread, for instance, on Phil Silvers, first there's a mountain, then there's getting out of the bread, then there's hiding the mountain, it is so much, so fast, it's amazing anybody could ever really keep up with him. Real television people who study everything about television, know how important and legendary and in many ways one-of-a-kind, "The Phil Silvers Show" is, but yeah, other than them, today, you never hear this show brought, and you hardly ever hear about Phil Silvers as being one of the greats comedians of the golden age of television, and he truly was one of the very greats.
From one of the great shows of television, to one of the great shows, of radio. This is the oldest drama series to make my ballot, and it's influence is still relevant all over network television. This show in particular, is also one of the rare shows that had multiple successful reincarnations on television. I could've put the late '60s version of the show on here as well, but eh, I went with the original version instead.
36. Dragnet (NBC, 1951-'59)
I don't know what the deal is with "Dragnet"'s public domain status, but sometime I run into an old rerun that was re-entitled, "Badge 714", which was of course Joe Friday's badge number, which is permanently retired by the LAPD now, but I don't know quite what that deal is, but that version has like, weird, bad '80s music and, it's just strange. "Dragnet", is basically as bare bones you can get for a cop show and that's what so great about it. It's about the case, and it's incredibly procedural, lots of episodes are just, seeing the old computers, looking through for information, it's very much, by the books, just the facts ma'am, it's really that simple. And especially, in the really early episodes, it looks awful. I mean, even for the 1950s, it looks like the shittiest, cheapest camera they could find, and shot on location, it is dingy, gritty, bare, and that's how "Dragnet" should look. Hell, that's how "Law & Order" should look, somethings don't need to be pretty, they look particularly good. Jack Webb, really was the man behind this show, he wasn't just Joe Friday, he wrote, directed, produced the show, he created the original radio program, it's him, kinda wanting to detail the true gritty little details of police work, however interesting, or sometimes, how uninteresting they are, it's always fascinating, and it's basically the blueprint for, pretty much, to some extent, every cop show since.
From one of the oldest shows on the list, to the longest-running continuing series that's on the list, lasting 46 years, and still going strong. It's also the only series representing it's genre to make the list; I guess I could've put a few other shows in it on the list, but even if I did, they would all be dwarfed by this show.
35. Sesame Street (NET, 1969-'70, PBS, 1970-2015,[Second run, 2016-Present,] HBO, 2016-Present)
Yeah, you start listing the greatest television shows and then somebody mentions "Sesame Street" and from there, nobody really knows where exactly to put it, other than the fact that it completely deserves to be there, and everybody grew up with it, at least in America, anyway, and now most every country it seems has had some version of "Sesame Street". People forget that-eh, this wasn't something that Jim Henson, necessarily wanted to do. It's basis was not in the Muppets but in Joan Ganz Cooney, who was the first female television executive, in American history, btw, who wanted to create a show, using actually some scientifically-tested technology believe it or not, to figure out how to both teach kids and entertain kids, and that's when they brought in Jim Henson, who was far more hesitant than people remember. He was much more darker and adult humored in general, and he had wanted to try to expand the art of puppetry to beyond being a kids' programming, but of course once he came on, he then put everything he could into it and created, arguably some of the most memorable television characters of all-time. It's a far more difficult show to write than people realize too, believe it or not, most children's television show, at least the ones with an education-first bump to them, were written by teachers, until "Sesame Street" who wanted to go beyond that, and they figured it was easier to find good writers, who could figure out the curriculum and then find a way to captivate the attention, than it was to teach teachers to be funny, and in many ways that was a stroke of absolute genius. We, as adults, we like to go back and catch all the great parodies they were doing at the time of the songs and television shows and movies of the era, the pop culture relevance they had, but when you're a kid, you didn't know they were parodying something, you were listening and learning, and now as an adult you can actually appreciate "Sesame Street" on completely different levels. It's one of the greatest institutions in television history.
Spin-offs are often difficult, for every "The Jeffersons" or "Laverne & Shirley" or "Rhoda", three shows that absolutely could've been on this list, but unfortunately weren't, you then have quite a few shows like "The Tortellis" or "AfterM*A*S*H", that definitely faltered and sputtered. For fear of this spinoff meeting similar fates, the creators made sure to make it as different as possible from the original series, and now, it's often cited as the most successful spin-off of all-time. It certainly is if you count Emmys.
34. Frasier (NBC, 1993-2004)
I don't know if I'd actually call "Frasier", "The Smartest Show on Television", like it was so often, but it's definitely one of the sharpest and wittiest. It was the definitely one of the only that ever actually acknowledged that characters could be smart and cultured and not have that be a knock against them, and yet, still really show the conflict that that can actually create from that, clash. "Frasier" at it's core was really, this farce; it's the classic setup the people who try to make everything as perfect as possible constantly getting bombarded by real life, just getting continuously in the way. Kelsey Grammer had created the character, originally it wasn't even an original character on "Cheers", it was only supposed to last a few episodes but it kept evolving and evolving, and eventually he became a regular, and his character coming into the series had this whole history behind him, and even they destroyed half that history, and see this new evolved version of this. The show, was always good, it got tiring, after a while, I mean, I could pretty easily see an argument that the show sorta jumped the shark after Niles and Daphne started dating, that's when it's unprecedented streak of consecutive Emmys started to end, but honestly the show was still great, and some of the best episodes of the series, were in like, season nine or ten, like "Cheers" before it, it's one of those few shows that knew exactly how to evolve when some of it's original premises and ideas kinda fluttered and they were able to move on from that, and you ended up with numerous other great elements to a show. It wasn't about, just the conflicts and comedy it was about the great characters involved in them. And it really is, just well-written. It wasn't flashy, it wasn't over-the-top, it didn't go for the easy laughs, it was a character piece, and that's why, you can "Frasier" pick it up anywhere, and really still laugh and be entertained at it, even if you don't know the subtleties between Jung and Freud, you get the relationship between two brothers and the cop father who's nothing like them.
The family drama is not often looked upon as the greatest of drama series. Often times, that's because they usually they're sometimes a little too wholesome and forgiving. Shows like "The Waltons" and "Little House on the Prairie" while occasionally having some serious and oftentimes profound and touching moments, it's pretty hard to claim that they hold up that well over time. Families, just aren't that sincere and loving, there's real problems and traumas involved in them, and most of the time, you couldn't really find a great drama series that depicted that, in a modern way believably. That's somewhat changed in recent years, even the supposed "family dramas" that are for the more family values set like "Gilmore Girls" work a lot better than shows of the past, but if you ask me, the show that really truly broke the barrier and got this right, and the family drama that feel most alive, is ironically the one, that dealt with, the darkest of topics, death.
33. Six Feet Under (HBO, 2001-'05)
Everybody talks about "The Sopranos" on the drama side anyway, being the show that forever solidified HBO's status as premiere television network and then "Six Feet Under" if it ever gets brought up at all anymore, it's remembered as-eh, that other other HBO family drama, probably because it came, second. I don't think it would be that way if they switched the debuts. "Six Feet Under", was created by Alan Ball, he had just won the Oscar for "American Beauty" and basically had a carte blanche to create whatever he wanted, and it makes perfect sense, knowing that, the fact that he would create a television show about a family that runs a funeral parlor, makes complete sense, but still, what a strange perspective to take, and the funny thing is, it's not that strange. It's really about a family trying to deal with the fact that they lost their patriarch, and trying to move on. Trying to fall in love, out of love, trying to find their place in life, trying to be an artist, trying to move on from losing a husband, a wife, dealing with having a kid, a nymphomaniac trying to get over her addictions, a gay couple that, really was a believable gay couple, one of the first in fact on television, okay, a few unusual quirky things, but still, it's all there, but you never saw it done with this perspective of constantly seeing and dealing with death, in a very real way, even if many of the deaths in the show had their particularly sardonic moments. There was always something haunting about the show, rather beautiful in fact, something about how everything felt like it was fleeting. The show probably could've lasted a lot longer, but I like that they ended it when they did; this should be a show that, sorta caught in time, like a painting, it's almost too perfect. And I just watched the ending again and now I'm crying again; I really gotta stop doing that.
Another subgenre that's conspicuously absent for most of this list is the teenage comedy. Or teenage anything for that matter. Most of them don't hold up, even the best ones tend to go on a little too long, and even the best of them, usually don't adapt too well or believably over time, especially on network television where they haven't been able to get too deeply into some of the more adult material that they encounter. That said, there are a few exceptions of great television shows that document the experience of being a teenager, it's a little funny that most of them, for some reason, take place in the past however.
32. The Wonder Years (ABC, 1988-'93)
I don't think about it too often, but "The Wonder Years" is definitely way more influential than I think people realize. It's common to use techniques like voiceover and use single-camera for television sitcoms now, but "The Wonder Years" was immediately unique and different compared to everything else on television when it came on, but it makes sense for this show, because, in a sense, the show was a period piece, there was always this great sense of nostalgia with this show. Yet, it felt completely believable. You can imagine that somebody could've made this show in, say the '50s, and it would've been taking place in the '20s or '30s or something. For some reason, when other shows go for this kind of period piece, it's much more sardonic, and they play up how dated the period is; this show has a timelessness to it, even if it very obviously takes place in the late '60s and early '70s. It is a comedy, it just is a comedy of behaviors, it's about learning the ways of the world, it's a small comedy, but I can see how it could be construed as a drama. This is one of those rare series that could really fit either one of the categories, and really is probably the show most people think about when they think about something being a dramedy. This emphasis on real life, the quirks of the characters, the strange fumblings of first love, the subtle differences and changes with the growing up of characters. Fred Savage is an unusually great actor for a kid, and that certainly helps. There were television shows before, where you saw characters and even kids growing up before our eyes before, but rarely if ever were they the center of the show. Ricky Nelson, wasn't the star of "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet", you know, this was a kid's perspective and about the kid's problems, it was always about the kid's problems from the perspective of the parents, and here we saw the kid's perspective. "The Wonder Years" is just a great, touching, funny show, and it definitely is an anomaly of a series, it's just a great show but it's definitely on it's own, one of the more unique shows ever and one of the most influential.
Although it ended, rather seamlessly, "The Wonder Years" is one of many shows on this list that were canceled as opposed to leaving the air on their own fruition, Some shows on the list have actually managed to survive cancellation and get renewed, sometimes on a different network, sometimes through popular demand, sometimes shows stay on the air 'cause the network has nothing to replace it with at times. ("Late Night with Conan O'Brien" survived that fate more than a few times during it's run for that reason) Still though, when people think of a show that survived and came back from being cancelled, this is the one most people think about.
31. Family Guy (FOX, 1999-2003, 2005-Present)
It's true that you can do absolutely anything with animation, but it's also true that with animation, you can absolutely get away with more, and "Family Guy", god, what don't they get away with. I was one of the ones who caught onto "Family Guy", right at the time, because it was clear that this was, somebody making it, who was like me, who basically grew up watching Nick at Nite and taking it as bible. Something that's sorta not brought up is how television is constantly repeating itself, very literally with reruns, and how, all of it, eventually becomes ingrained into our psyche as stories that have been well-told dozens of times over like fairy tale and nursery rhymes, and most television shows try to ignore this, at least until "Family Guy", now most of them embrace, but "Family Guy", was one of the shows I remember that really first recognized that and acknowledged it, and thank God for it, 'cause their inspirations are better and more interesting than most television shows. Seth MacFarlane was an animator from Rhode Island, with an inspirations that ranged from, Mel Brooks to Norman Lear to Gary Larson, and like something like "All in the Family", where anything of controversy and topical nature can walk through the front door and cause an issue, "Family Guy" is essentially the same version of that, only, way more absurd and outrageous. "Family Guy", didn't catch on for some reason originally, except by me, and then, after it was on cable, it became a cult hit on Cartoon Network, late at night, and DVD sales were some of the biggest of all-time and eventually, FOX took notice and they kept bringing the show back for like, a one-off episode or something, and then they finally just decided to bring it back and it's basically the centerpiece of their animation lineup now; I could argue even more than "The Simpsons" are to some extent. "Family Guy" probably hits more of a greater demographic really, "Family Guy" is referential and wild enough that they can find the things that can appeal to older demographics while I don't think other shows like it, can really get that as much. It's like the perfect demented mind, getting ahold of, just every possible piece of pop culture he can, and figuring out how to spew it out in ways that are just so quick and random, and full of basically any thing of comedy it can. There's a reason that "Family Guy" was the first animated sitcom since "The Flintstones" that found a way to get into the Best Comedy Series Emmy category, it really is a television show about people and by people who've basically done nothing but watch television.
"Family Guy" has certainly influenced a lot of television since, including this show. This was one of the first live-action shows post "Family Guy" that borrowed quite a few of it's techniques, probably because a lot of the show's producers started as writer's for "Family Guy"; that explains the cutaways and the single-camera format, as well as the unique television references, how did they get us to cry and shatter so often when they take those TV tropes and just destroy the reality of the world with them?
30. Scrubs (NBC, 2001-'08, ABC, 2009-'10)
A lot of the things that "Arrested Development" gets credit for, and they do deserve a lot of credit for them, but people, even today, they still don't really notice that "Scrubs" was doing them two years before that show was even on the air, and they were doing it while managing to still create, a far more realistic series about doctors than, I think even most drama series about doctors even pull off. Like, I can never sit through "Grey's Anatomy" 'cause the show just seems like "Scrubs", but not as realistic, and people think I'm kidding when I say, I'm not. "Grey's Anatomy" might be a drama, and 'Scrubs" might be a comedy, but from the mind perspective, "Grey's Anatomy" is just a soap opera, "Scrubs" is way more realistic. You do have, those quick jokes in the beginning of your mind before you turn that off and then try to say something that you really want to say. It takes a lot of the uses of voiceover that, probably a show like "The Wonder Years" really created for television at least, but so expanded it's use. This is a show that, for all-intensive purposes is told in the first person, and sometimes that first person happens to tell a bad joke or two, because they're doctors and that's what they do. I mean, it's nice to think of doctors as all Marcus Welby or Dr. Ross's or whatever, but these were fresh, young doctors out of school, still petrified of whether or not that damn medical degree is really what they want to do, and that struggle is the core of the show. It's characters being over-the-top and outrageous to hide their true thoughts and fears. I mean, I always tell people that this is the modern day version of "M*A*S*H", it's not a warzone, so it's not the same, eh, heights or drama that they're going for, it's much more lower, so it's okay to be aiming lower, and the thing is, sometimes they hit those heights. I don't think I can think of another show that's made me cry more often this century than "Scrubs", and it's not even necessarily; it's so wild and stream-of-consciousness with it's comedy, than when it does, have reality suddenly burst onto the show, it hits you harder than when, something like that would happen on drama series. Years from now, people are gonna look back at this era and see "Scrubs" struggling in the ratings for most of it's run, and wondering how the hell the most original and unique series on network television was basically ignored for most of it's run; this is a show that people will find in reruns and then they'll realize that this really is one of the best sitcoms ever.
"Scrubs" was definitely more inventive than most every other sitcoms on at it's time, but probably the most inventive drama series of it's time, was this one. It certainly was the most audacious and daring experiment. This might've made the list alone, if, it only aired for one complete season, but the fact that this show last longer than any other in the espionage thriller genre, and still finds itself the subject of possible returns, is pretty unprecedented. Especially for a show that was almost canceled for fear that not enough people were going to be able to follow it's storytelling structure, a truly unique one to television then and now.
29. 24 (FOX, 2001-'10, 2014)
"24" is quite possibly the most intense thing ever put on television. I mean, like, if you've never seen this show, and somebody gives you a season of the series on DVD and think you're gonna just put it on and go to bed while it's on, um, you won't sleep for like a day. I'm amazed this show did so well on DVD; this is a series that needed a week between episodes or else you'd just be, eh...- I don't even want to know. I often compared it to something more like "North By Northwest" than anything on television before. This was action and drama, but it was drama at the highest and most intense levels. Especially with that literal ticking clock they're battling. The show happen to come about, after 9/11 and here's a show dealing with counter-terrorism, but actually it didn't catch on for a few years, and when the series was first going on, there was a lot of talk about, getting rid of the conceit that every hour of the show is a literal hour in a day of the series, and the events were happening, pretty much in real time. The show, actually was not a hit originally, it wasn't the Winter Olympics later that year, where every other television show's ratings went down but "24"'s ratings actually stayed the same, and that's when they realized that once people got addicted to the series that, they were sticking around to see what happens next. For better or worst, you can pretty much argue that "24", is the show that basically started the trend of nearly every series being so intense on keeping with the continuous narrative, and the yearly continuous narrative too; if Jack Bauer wasn't the hero of every season, "24" could've been basically the first "True Detective" or "American Horror Story"-type series. Action series, before "24" were, mostly light-hearted to some extent, they were never like, "Holy shit" serious before. You didn't watch "Magnum, P.I." or "Miami Vice" or "The A-Team" on the edge of your seat, worried that, something wouldn't explode, they were just there to show action, well here you got a lot of action, and basically it was too much to deal with, 'cause it's overload and it's just-, I mean, I missed the season four premiere so I stopped watching it back then, and never gone back, and part of me wishes I were to get to it sooner, part of me doesn't think I can handle it. This is the most edge-of-your-seat thriller you can get on television. Maybe this should've just been a one-year experiment but it kept going and Jack Bauer is just, continuously fighting through terrorists. There's definitely a fantasy aspect to the series, but you're not thinking or realizing that when you're watching it.
Hmm. Well, there's no real way to give an opening to this show better than the way the show was opened for every night during it's run (Well, most of it's run, sometimes there was a guest host), so, take it Ed!
28. The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (NBC, 1962-'93)
Well, "The Tonight Show" was actually invented by Pat Weaver, along with the "Today" show, it was his sort of idea that you open with the news and then you go to bed with comedy, and originally it was hosted by Steve Allen, who was such a huge hit that they moved him to Primetime to compete with Ed Sullivan and then Jack Paar, who was a much more of an enigmatic figure than even Carson, he would go after some of the elite and he was the one that perfected the opening monologue. Carson was very much a student of comedy, that was even his thesis in college and with television, his early programs like "Carson's Cellar" were kind of these strange configurations of comedy, for "The Tonight Show" he really was somebody who essentially took everything that he knew and knew that he was good at and eventually just formulated it into, what is essentially what we now think of as the prototype for the Late Night talk show. You do a monologue, do a sketch, and then have a couple guests, including a performer, like a band or a comic, at one point he would have four or five guests per show, he eventually got them to stop that and drop the series to an hour, but yeah, "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson", is the standard for a reason. I mean, look at today, Letterman, outlasted Leno although you wouldn't say he necessarily beat him, especially if you look at ratings, and now we're overloaded with late night hosts, it's not that there weren't shows going up against Carson, there were all the time, and they just got killed. Carson basically owned television, he was the centerpiece for a good many people; I grew up falling asleep to Carson, and I only caught the tail end, of his reign. He was sharp and funny, good for all time zones, and he's still the one that, pretty much every late night host gets compared to. If something wasn't invented by Carson and used on "The Tonight Show" he was the mastered it and just took it over from whoever did; he was just that good.
Carson is still the king of late night, although there a few late night variety talk show hosts that managed to get ranked slightly higher than him on this ballot. We'll get to them later. Right now, we'll get to the first major lawyer show. We've had a couple lawyer shows so far, but usually those shows were about the cases, or about the lawyer. This was probably not the first show that centered around a lawfirm, but this is definitely the prototype for most of the ones that come later.
27. L.A. Law (NBC, 1986-'94)
"L.A. Law" is technically one of Steven Bochco's show, in the first season, he hired an unknown lawyer named David E. Kelley, to help run and write the series, so, in many ways, I consider this to basically be the first David E. Kelley show and it's another one of those series that people just don't remember or mention anymore, despite the fact that this was probably the premiere drama series of it's time. It's one of those great ensemble drama series, that combined both the personal character dramas and the workplace procedural job of the daily grind of being a lawyer as well, and looking at the cases. It was considered at the time the most realistic lawyer show at the time, and-, I think it gets forgotten a lot because, it's not rerun much and also because David E. Kelley has basically been doing new variations of the lawyer show ever since, like "The Practice", "Ally McBeal", "Picket Fences" even, and they're great shows in themselves, too, but it all started with "L.A. Law". It's also one of those first really great dramas that was also pretty much a sardonic look at drama, for a drama series this show has some of the funniest moments in television history, definitely one of the funniest death scenes. People forget that that happened in, like the show's sixth or seventh season, Diana Muldaur's character falling down an elevator shaft, but the show was always, always a combination of sardonic surrealism of the world with the combining the realities of the life of working at a high-powered lawfirm. It actually makes perfect sense when you think about it, a lawfirm is actually the kind of location, where you can literally have anybody and anything come across the world; that's why the genre's continued on and remains successful even today, everybody thinking their version is the premiere or newest take, but they're basically all just new takes on "L.A. Law".
Yeah, "L.A. Law", like most drama series, hasn't survived as well in syndication, so it's somewhat forgotten nowadays until somebody brings it up. Strangely, this genre, which also doesn't have that many successful syndicated runs on television, including this series, which rarely airs in it's original form, still gets fans and people remembering it fondly years later. Might have something to do with the comedic genius behind the series.
26. The Carol Burnett Show (CBS, 1967-'78)
If you want to go back and look for the influences of this show, I would probably recommend a series called "Not Only... but Also" a Variety comedy series starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, that was somewhat of an offshoot of their great stage show, "Beyond the Fringe" which they did with Alan Bennet and Jonathan Miller. I would, but I can't recommend, because most of the series doesn't exist anymore. Not realizing the opportunities of reruns, the BBC, in an effort to save money, actually reused film for most of their first couple decades in existence, and sadly the majority of the first two decades of British television, hasn't survived, most of it being wiped from the original film, or just taped over. One of the reasons this show survived was because of the members making runs to preserve as much of it as possible in it's original form, and be able to prove reruns were viable as it became a hit all over again in America.
25. Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC1, 1969-'73; BBC2, 1974)
Oh God, "Monty Python", yeah, I mean, there's certain people who you can't tell the history of modern western comedy without, and they're definitely, a particularly unique and important part of that story. Seriously, has there been a more influential force in comedy, since? I mean, they're probably the last time when the true perspective on sketch comedy structure kinda changed. It went from set-up, punchline, to set-up,-punchline,-zinger-recall,-back-to-setup- punchline, zinger-, following the structure and randomness of their comedy is just weird. It's as absurd as the Terry Gilliam animations in them. They just new how to find that particularly unusual angle to jokes, and they used that, along with, I guess the "Laugh-In" approach to the completely random editing techniques, but "Laugh-In" was trying to get in as many jokes as possible, and the editing was the joke, with "...Flying Circus", there was a lot of it, but it was in part to help tell the strangest jokes it seemed. It's almost stream of consciousness really, just go from one thing to the next. Start with a barber sketch, but the barber sucks, so the barber wants to be a lumberjack, so he sings a song about being a lumberjack, except he doesn't realize what a lumberjack is.... it's also like that sketch game, "But and", where the idea is to constantly add something to the material that you have. They were constantly doing that, and it wasn't just every scene, sometimes it was every line, or every idea. This truly surreal approach to satire, it's still damn near impossible to do, and that's why "Monty Python" and "Monty Python's Flying Circus" is so highly regarded now. It's influence is vast, and yet you really have a difficult pinpointing people on television who have even really approached doing their brand of humor in their style as well. It's really, here the American example style, and here's the British style of sketch, and the first chapter is "Monty Python's Flying Circus".
One of the problems with doing this list is that the further down on the list I go, the more we get to some of those series, where there's literally almost nothing left to say about a show other than, what's already been said about the series. And, if there's ever been a series where literally everything has basically been said about it, good and bad, it's this one. Well, let's start with the good, it's the longest-running scripted Primetime series in television history, currently in season 27 and counting, and that's not counting it's original run as a sketch on "The Tracey Ullman Show"
24. The Simpsons (FOX, 1989-Present)
It's hard to believe now, but at one time "The Simpsons" were controversial. Supposedly too adult for kids, hell, it was just a novelty at the time that there was a Primetime animated kids series, I think you'd have to go back to, I don't know, "Wait 'til Your Father Gets Home" or something to even remember when that was happening. You gotta remember, animation at that time, and to many people still, was absolutely, just for kids. The Disney Renaissance hadn't happened, yet, there wasn't shows like "Ren & Stimpy" or "Beavis and Butt-head" even, what was the sorta '70s era animation like "Fritz the Cat" or "American Pop", or something like that, is barely remembered, certainly not considered great at the time or now, so "The Simpsons" for that alone, immediately stood out. It also was interesting that it did have people like James L. Brooks" and Sam Simon behind it, 'cause they were legendary television people, especially Brooks, that gave the show slightly more credibility, but it wasn't until years later did people really start recognizing it as one of the greatest shows of all-time. I know we like to think, "The Simpsons" came and changed everything, changed FOX, and really, "The Simpsons" was usually considered, the other thing on that the adults would watch 'cause the kids would like it and what happened was that the kids started watching it and becoming influenced by it and now they grew up realizing that animation was a viable way to put on, what is really just a sitcom. In many ways, "Springfield" is the new Mayberry, especially in an area, where the only successful single-camera sitcoms was "The Wonder Years", this was really the only sitcom that dared to create an entire fictional town and universe and they could do that, and because they've been on as long as they have, they can truly go about exploring it. The great successful long-time series, they find ways of doing that and not simply relying on, whatever they think or what made them successful out of the gate. You know, first it was Bart Simpson, being the breakout star, but then, we later gravitated towards Homer and then towards everybody else, "The Simpsons" grows with the times and it grows with us. That's it's greatest contribution to television and animation. As much as I like something like "Looney Tunes", they're pretty much in their own world, and are a reflection of Chuck Jones or whoever was working on them at the time, while "The Simpsons" has basically become a reflection of us, it goes and changes with it's audience. That's the great accomplishment of "The Simpsons".
"The Simpsons" are definitely one of the craziest and most memorable of crazy sitcom families, but they weren't the highest-ranked sitcom family on the list. This one, that just barely ranked above them, and despite not lasting nearly as long as "The Simpsons", I think I can claim that not only are they even crazier than the Simpsons, they're probably the craziest family in all of television history. (They were just as controversial in their time too as "The Simpsons" were in there's also) Confused, you won't be after you hear the show at number 23 on the list.
23. Soap (ABC, 1977-'81)
The rumor is actually true, when they were first conceiving of a sitcom that was basically a satirical spoof of mostly daytime, but also the continually growing primetime soap opera genre, they network got over 32,000 pieces of mail about it, and all but nine of the letters were negative. You gotta realize, soap operas actually rules the world at one point, daytime soaps and daytime soap opera fans in particular basically were as big if not bigger than the Primetime series, and they did not like people making fun of them. Without "Soap", there's no "Arrested Development", there's no "Desperate Housewives", there's definitely none of the shows that are ripping off "Desperate Housewives", I mean, sitcoms, always did have a continuous structure to them, even the earliest days, I mean, once Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky, she was a mother and stayed a mother for the rest of the series, you know, but you didn't think of television sitcoms, could work in that manner, you barely thought television dramas could work like that back then, so "Soap" was just breaking every rule in the book, and on top of that, it was absolutely insane. Literally, every rule. Okay, let's go with one, Billy Crystal's arc, he's the first openly homosexual character in scripted television history, Jodie Dallas, he wants to undergo sexual reassignment surgery, but instead becomes suicidal, he then starts in a relationship with Carol, an attorney who stands him up at his wedding, but then leaves their child Wendy at his doorstep, before going to court to fight for custody back, which he wins, but Wendy is later kidnapped, he has to go save her, which he does, and then leads to him going through therapy and through a hypnotherapy fuck-up, believes he is an old Jewish man, by the end of the series. The series only lasted four seasons and 85 episodes and he's one of the characters that doesn't have stuff happen to him. I'm not even gonna try to explain the arc of everybody else. I mean, this show, really did stick to it's soap opera arc, as closely as possible, and like a soap opera, it could and did go anywhere. A great cast too, very underrated. Ted Wass, Katherine Helmond, Cathryn Damon, of course Robert Guillaume, Robert Urich until his character got killed. Richard Mulligan as well, who, I guess people might remember now from "Empty Nest", which is a good show too, but he is probably one of the most underrated of all television actors, of all time, and his Burt Campbell, if you want to see some great comedy acting, this is some of the very best acting ever. This had to be the largest cast for a sitcom at that sitcom, you just didn't have sitcoms with this large an ensemble and this insane a premise and action at that time. Now, it's more common, but "Soap" I think, probably 'cause it ended suddenly, and without real explanation; it was still a pretty big hit at the time, and then it just ended, probably 'cause of advertisers upset at the series, also because it was just riddled with controversy. It was all about sex, there was a priest who was seduced by a character, who then had the priest's baby and then their was an exorcism, I mean, this show was complete what-the-fuck, especially for it's time. It might've been tamed by soap opera standards, well probably not, but a Primetime absurdist comic spin, you end up with a show that, I think now are people are realizing is one of the truly great revolutionary television shows.
From a totally insane family, to a relatively quiet and soft-spoken normal guy, who happens to be a psychologist and has is surrounded everyday by the most insane group of patients around. I could've picked a couple series that starred this legendary comedian to be one the list, in fact this was the second television series to have this name. The original was a variety series that actually won, what we now consider the Outstanding Comedy Series category Emmy back in 1962, but it was also canceled that season (And he wasn't listed as a show's producer, so he wasn't awarded an Emmy himself), and that was after it's star had already won the Best New Artist Grammy. Despite many attempts at television shows since, including two successful long-running sitcoms, he wouldn't officially win an Emmy of his own, until 2013.
22. The Bob Newhart Show (CBS, 1972-'78)
It's actually strange for a show to be about and based around a stand-up comedian, to really have him, not be the focus of the comedy, but "The Bob Newhart Show" is definitely that rare exception, so was "Newhart" for that matter, where Bob was the regular person trying to keep his sanity around him, while everybody else was losing their mind and going bonkers around him. It makes sense when you think about Bob Newhart's comedy routines, 'cause they're all about him, just reacting to everybody else around him, which is especially impressive when he's the only one there. I mean, there's a reason that he picks up the phone at the beginning, 'cause that was what made him famous, these great phone call routines that he had, and so, "The Bob Newhart Show", makes perfect sense, make him a psychoanalyst, and all he does all day is listen to other people's problem. You know, it isn't anything greater or deeper than that, but that's all you need, and from there, you can do anything, and you just have Bob Newhart, reacting to it. That's all he wanted to, famously, they wrote an episode where Suzanne Pleshette's character would have a kid and he said, "It's great, but who are you gonna get to play Bob"? You know, some shows are great when you add and evolve them, other times though, it helps to know not to do that and Bob knew the strengths of the series were definitely to keep his life small and to keep his work life evergrowing and evolving and he was right there. Some shows, even shows on this list can start failing when they do something like adding the wrong element where it's not needed, "The Bob Newhart Show", remains so high and relevant, partly because it doesn't itself too much, when it definitely could've dozens of times over.
Some might be surprised that I chose this as the highest-ranked British series on the list. There were others I could've picked, and there certainly have been some other great sitcoms in the UK, from "Are You Being Served?" and "As Time Goes By" to more modern ones like "In the Loop" or "Episodes" or even "Outnumbered", but to me, well,- here's the thing, I'm a writer so I know a little bit about what things are tougher to do than others, and there's no genre more difficult to pull off than this over, in any form of entertainment, so this might not make that much sense to some, but, trust me on this one, this is impossible, and he pulls it off.
21. Coupling (BBC Two, 2000-'02, BBC Three, 2004)
I know what Tina Fey said, about how only "Friends" is the exception and that every other show that has nothing but a cast of good-looking young people, but if there is another exception, it's the British version of "Coupling". This is some of the greatest sex farce ever put on television, maybe ever. I mean, think of that genre to begin with, the people who have done that genre well, start with Shakespeare and then, you-, you end up having trouble naming people after, and that's how hard the genre is to pull off. I mean, I give "Three's Company" credit just for trying it, but Steven Moffatt, yes, that Steven Moffatt, who's now mostly known for "Sherlock" and "Doctor Who", he basically wrote, not his version of "Friends", but almost "Friends" in reverse, where you have the couple who's about to get together and be the center of attention, and then, all the exes and crazy friends surround them. I mean, the second episode of the show, is one of the funniest episodes, ever made of anything, and the whole thing revolves around one character's penis. I mean, I can't explain it, but trying to write that is impossible, finding the right actors to perform it, extra hard, it's funny as hell. I mean, it's cool to know "Seinfeld" references, knowing what a giggle loop is, or why remote controls can be horrifying or Captain Subtext or The Melty Man, now you're really into the hipster cool points, as far as I'm concerned at least. It's that kind of show. I always tell people it's "Friends" meets "Sex and the City" only ten times funnier than both, but there's a lot of "Seinfeld" in it too. I don't see too many shows that try what "Coupling" try does succeed, and they certainly don't do it nearly as well as "Coupling" does.
We're down to the Top 20 folks. You've probably figured out most of the shows that are left, but have you figured out what's number one? We'll see where all the shows that are left end up, next time, as we concluded this list. We'll see that next time.