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, 19884-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)
And now, to document shows #60-#41! Let's start with a guy who had the rough job of having to replace a legend, twice. Now, I'm one of the few people who thought his second run through, was pretty damn good, even if it was short, and while his current show is still worth noting, I went with his first series, at least the first one he did, in front of the camera.
60. Late Night with Conan O'Brien (NBC, 1993-2009)
It's really kinda difficult now to talk about Conan O'Brien, without putting him in the context of the situation that he entered and was put into when he first came up. Letterman was leaving after the whole "The Late Shift" debacle and Lorne Michaels was put in charge of trying to figure out, what to do with the 12:30am spot, and of course, Conan was famously pulled out of the writer's room of "The Simpsons" but ironically I think it was probably Jay Leno that hit the nail right on the head when he said that, they were right to get somebody who knew how to write, and so you'll have the material and eventually grow into the performer and that's exactly what happened. I mean, it's definitely always gonna be a part of Conan's mystique that he basically was the last possible person to get the job, but he used to his advantage, 'cause I think the main difference between Conan and Letterman is that Letterman was always doing sophomoric humor but he was also always kinda outside of it, seeming bemused at everything else around him, Conan was more or less, way more interested in being apart of the sophomoric comedy, creating it. I mean, it's definitely this strange combination of, somebody who, probably is very much a modern-day Steve Allen, against this, really well-refined persona of clearly, being, just out awkward enough to know that, he is definitely a non-performer trying to perform, at least he was a non-performer, now he's clearly a capable performer, but it helped him find his own niche in the Late Night cover. Conan O'Brien definitely found a way to be creative and different, at a time when nobody really thought there was much left in the talk show genre, and he found a new approach that's probably more imitated than I think we even realize. I know there was that joke about how everybody was gonna end up with a talk show and now it does seem like every doofy guy somehow ends up with a talk show, but you see Conan O'Brien and you realize how talented somebody has to actually be to pull that off. He was the first really talented doofy guy with a talk show and is still one of the best.
There's quite a few spinoffs on this list, probably more than people realize. Even still this one is unusual. It's one thing to be able to spinoff a character from one show to another, hell, the show it was spun-off from had already done it twice before, with a surprisingly reasonable amount of success, but you never saw a character completely switch genres before. Yeah, we'll get to Mary later, but first, lets get to her boss.
59. Lou Grant (CBS, 1977-'82)
"Lou Grant" has got written out of a lot of the television drama series history, and that's kinda weird, 'cause you really easily argue this show as a forerunner to a lot of the more influential drama series that came later, like a "St. Elsewhere" or a "Hill Street Blues", it's certainly for the seventies one that completely stands out. Lou Grant, Ed Asner's character is still remembered from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and they remember "Lou Grant" as being the first time somebody won an Emmy for Drama and Comedy Series Acting for the same character, but that's it. I mean, people remember Nancy Marchand for playing Tony Soprano's mother at the end of her life, they forget that she won four Emmys in five years for playing a character that was almost like the-eh Leona Helmsley version of that character, and that was back when they never gave people that many awards in a row. It's also, about the newspaper industry which does make it a bit dated, unfortunately, which is ironic considering the whole premise of the series is how Lou Grant is going back to the newspapers, from television, and how he's adapting to the modern times in the industry. This was also, really the most controversial show of it's time, 'cause it was the first show that tackled a quite a few social issues that, a lot of drama series didn't tackle. Drama series were more action based and mystery based at the time, a few medical shows but we were still in the Marcus Welby era of drama series, so to see episodes of series in 1979 that debated issues like abortion, outside of "All in the Family", and not used for fodder or as a soap opera plot, was quite unusual in it's time and that had a lot to do with Ed Asner. Asner was the President of the Screen Actors Guild at the time and he is probably the most political figure to ever hold that position, and that's ultimately what cost him the show, 'cause he got into a fight with Reagan after going against his position on the rebel fighters in Nicaragua and it was canceled despite being one of the biggest shows on television at the time and, then the "Hill Street Blues" would come around and eventually "Lou Grant" has sorta gotten swept under the rug. It's absolutely a shame 'cause there isn't really an equivalent series that's come around since to really hold up the mantle for a lot of what this show was striving for and achieved, and I guess the sad thought is that might not be one that's out there.
Ed Asner wasn't the only major television star to have their television show get canceled because they were causing political controversy in the Reagan era, but we'll get to the other one later. In the meantime, let's get to another controversial television show that's about the news industry, with a memorable and multi-Emmy Award winning main character. I have to apologize for the video clip; most of you have probably noticed that I try to find the opening credits or theme song for each of these TV shows, but unfortunately, this show never had a regular theme song or credit sequence, so, I'm just gonna put up one of the few episodes of the show I can actually find online. Good thing it's a funny one, although, they're all funny.
58. Murphy Brown (CBS, 1988-'98)
If people were upset when shows like "Julia" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" first starting showing single women in the workplace and derided the feminist movement, and not looking for a husband, than "Murphy Brown" must be the character that haunted their nightmares. Murphy Brown is one of the greatest characters in television history and the show is really, sorta forgotten despite how influential it is. You can definitely see it as the birthplace of a lot of the self-referential comedy that we associate with somebody like a Tina Fey now, but few shows took so many chances as this one did. It's amazing how a show that's this political, like literally political, remains this funny. I guess part of it is that it rarely seems to have a decent run in reruns for some reason. This is the show that a lot of the new crop of women-created and based comedy series, wish they could be. Murphy was a recovering alcoholic, a vicious political reporter who was bias and yet would completely annihilate everybody. It's arguably the last show that really tackled some of the modern issues of it's time and not just as joke references, really tackled them, to the point of them becoming the story. I mean, the entire Dan Quayle incident is forever gonna b remembered as it's most enduring pop culture moment, but I mean, you can throw down the list of first this show did. First show to show an abrasive single working women equal to men in power and behavior, first single woman to be pregnant and have a kid out of wedlock, first character to battle breast cancer, first to showcase the benefits of a main character using medical marijuana,.... One of the first shows to really attack the media from the perspective of the media; you can legitimately argue that "Murphy Brown" is the biggest influential predecessor to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart". And it's so consistently, funny, on the highest of levels. Great acting, great writing,... this show is way more important and influential then people realize and yet, they've only released one season of DVDs and you can barely find it streaming or in reruns, a lot of that might be the music rights issues but still, this is a show that absolutely needs to be rediscovered and recognized as one of the greats.
From a show that satirized the news and undercuts popular culture on television and elsewhere, to another show that satirizes the news and undercuts popular culture on television and elsewhere. I swear the timing of that is coincidental and that the fact that I ranked these shows in this order is nothing more than an anomaly of the list. There's a lot of truthiness in that statement.
57. The Colbert Report (Comedy Central, 2005-'14)
The Colbert Report - Last Finale Episode - Full... by disnmad
I mean, it makes so much logical sense that you're a little surprised it took them so long to come up with it, to not just have a show satirizing the news, and how it's basically become this Fox News cesspool of pundits pretending to be newsman, so the next step in the advancement is to have the next step is to actually have a somebody pretending to be like one of those pundits doing the fake news. Believe it or not the origins of the character that Stephen Colbert eventually evolved into originated on "The Dana Carvey Show" but eventually he brought it over to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and was constantly the main correspondent on the show, and would really embrace this persona very exaggerated, self-obsessed counterpoint, and when he took that to "The Colbert Report", it really was just a brilliant extension of everything that's happened before, and had the absolute perfect person to do it. It's really kinda accidental brilliance, 'cause this was like the one great perfect time to really play and parody with the entire idea of a talk show. I mean, I know the first time that I saw him get up from his desk and walk run over to the guest, I fell on the floor, it never gets old. I mean, sometimes there's so much satire going on, you don't even know where to look after a while. I mean, this went after, the news, the pundits, political, the entire genre of the talk show, the entire genre of a fake news talk show...,- I mean, you expect that in a "Family Guy" episode maybe, but not in the same joke on the same show. I mean, I hate to say that it's gonna be disappointing to see him get rid of that character and transfer to something more traditional, taking Letterman's slot, but you can't keep that up forever. It's amazing he last this long and now, he's gonna do it, the more traditional way; I mean, where are we gonna put Stephen Colbert in the annals of great television figures at the end of it? The sky's the limit for him.
You know what's surprisingly kinda rare on this list, fish-out-of-water television shows. You'd think they'd be more common, since it's such a classic formula, and television is the perfect medium to create and explore entire worlds from scratch filled with crazy characters, and they have over the years. Mayberry, Hooterville, Pawnee, but yeah, even in "Green Acres", you really didn't see them do as much with the concept as you'd think shows would've. And not even in a Bob Newhart way where it's just the main sane character surrounded by crazies, but a complete clash of cultures and have one main character completely entering a new world. I guess perhaps, it's a little unbelievable 'cause if it's that ridiculous they'd probably leave, unless they had a reason that made them stay.
56. Northern Exposure (CBS, 1990-'95)
I think in a lot of debate over whether or not a dramedy is a comedy series or a drama series that's happened over the last few decades, I'm a little surprised more people don't bring up "Northern Exposure". I think too many people think that genre, basically started with "M*A*S*H", and then there was "The Wonder Years" and one or two other cult series that lasted for a minute, and then suddenly there was a bunch of "Orange is the New Black"'s confusing the hell out of people, but my god, "Northern Exposure" is one of the funniest and most surreal so-called drama series of all-time. It's one of those shows that's such an anomaly that I think people have kinda forgotten about it over time, but boy, not only is it fairly unique, it's another one of those shows, that when you actually do go and seek it out and you realize that, "Oh my god, this show was doing what?" "And getting away with what?" People who forget just how much comedy there is in drama, probably will be shocked at just how ridiculously funny this show is. Basically, and this is one of those shows "Night Court" that came about because this sort of thing actually happened, but Alaska, was short on doctors, so the state actually started paying the tuitions for medical students at major universities to get their degrees in exchange for moving up to Alaska and living up there in some of the more remote areas that literally didn't have a doctor around, for a few years and if they didn't they'd end up in federal prison for defrauding the government, so you got these big city young doctor, going up to middle-of-nowhere, and that alone is funny enough, but the show was so well-acted and so well-written, that it became this show about the great characters in this town. Plus, it's this strange modern time period too, so you basically have these same cultural influences of modern television, still on the edges of the world, so you get like, both sides of the culture divide, sorta commenting and being effected by this. There's something very "The Last Picture Show" about it, but it's not that depressing even when a character dies, it's usually light and funny. It's sharp too. "Northern Exposure" is one of those rare drama series that blurs the line between comedy and drama, usually it's a comedy that supposedly too dramatic nowadays, but it's nice to see it done so well the other way around.
Now, for those who've seen the entire results of Geekcast Radio Network's poll, they'll not that many of the results slanted towards the superhero subgenres, sometimes disturbingly so. You'll notice a severe lack of them on my list, but I did have one television shows about a hero, who's parents were killed when he was a child, so he secretly trained for years to become as a vigilante where he haunts the night taking out the biggest criminals in the city, while constantly struggling himself whether his actions are for good or evil. Yes, I did remember to put one adaptation of television's many incarnations of the Caped Crusader on here, complete with all his weapons. This one, doesn't have a batmobile however, but he does have a boat.
55. Dexter (Showtime, 2006-'13)
I've heard some of the creators and writers of the show talk about how "Dexter" is basically "Batman" and yeah, it is, but what a way to go about it. It's easy to dismiss a lot of the shows' more cliched aspects, but this is probably the series, even more than "24" that really brought about, in a good way, that a TV series can have a season-long story arc that basically restricts the show to that particular season, especially this mystery aspect of it. Now, it's maybe too common in modern-day television that every season of a television show is completely different from the one before but, it was refreshing here. 'Cause we weren't diving into the story itself, we were diving into the character. Dexter Morgan, psychoanalytically, maybe him and J.R. Ewing are probably the most fascinating and complex characters ever created on television. I mean, the first season has that great build-up to the show's thesis, "You cannot be both the hero and the villain, it doesn't work like that!", that a character finally yells out at him and that's the show, pretty much. Nature vs. nurture, good vs. evil, can you do evil and still be good, I mean, there's so much there that, and that's just in the inner struggles of the character. The rest of the cast, some of it's a bit cliched, but they kept it interesting and especially when it started getting weird at the end, it was a bit, odd but, I mean, we're already starting with a TV show where we're sympathizing and following a serial killer, um, exactly where could it have gone from there? It's a simple story, told complexly and that's probably what should be the mold for all these very, season-centered narrative series nowadays and I think "Dexter" really deserves a lot of the credit for that. In a way, it's brought back the mystery procedural, although eh, even in a howcatchem and not a whodunit, they definitely found one of the most unique twists on it yet.
One of the most notable failures of a television show was"Quarterlife" a series from the same people who created "Thirtysomething" and "My So-Called Life" among others that showcased the lives of a group of characters, each of whom are in that early-to-mid '20s range in their lives where they're out of college and technically grown up and on their own but are still struggling to figure out their way in life. NBC, put an episode on the air in Primetime and it tanked, which stained the idea of series going from the internet to network or even cable television for a while. Now, I actually did like that show but now that I think about it, it probably wasn't the best show to make that experimental leap with. It's not the first time NBC realized just how hard it would be to take that formula and make it successful; they may never admit it, but they really lucked out when it worked the first time.
54. Friends (NBC, 1994-2004)
I think people don't realize just, how big a gamble this show was. I mean, I'm dating myself here, but before Darva Conger, eh, the great television experiment was "Friends". This show had six main characters, each of them, know each other, yada, yada, good characters, but there was no star of the show. There was no Tim Allen or Bob Newhart, or somebody surrounding the characters, this was a gamble, you literally had a bunch of supporting characters, they'd be supporting characters in most shows, but they were all equal to each other. It was an ensemble, and that had never happened before, and now, people are learning, that, really you can't do it again. I know people try, and I could argue maybe one or two were good or even successful, but I mean, if the show hadn't worked, it would've been, "Oh, don't do that idea, that "Friends" show tried it, and it failed miserably", but now that it's successful, you can't do it, 'cause now it's, "Oh, that show, they're just completely copying "Friends" it'll never work." And, I guess, you can say "Modern Family" has sorta ended that streak, but that's a family sitcom, this was just, "Friends". I mean a couple were related, but other than that, it's a bunch of 20somethings. This is still, in my mind a one-shot experiment that happened to work. The show was pretty risky at the time too. You had, characters from broken homes, one who's parent turned out to be gay, one who grew up homeless, a divorced character who's ex-wife was gay, this was surprisingly risky at the time. It's sorta hard to remember, like right when this went on the air, but "Friends" really did, break a few of the barriers that more traditional sitcoms would later be more common. It's also the first time in recorded history where the entire cast of a series got together and asked to be paid the same amount, that-, I know, that of course, it's the first time, but like, for those that went through the Carroll O'Connor negotiations for "All in the Family" in the later years, or the Suzanne Somers fiasco on "Three's Company", this was a hell of a strange standard that now existed. "Friends" really did change a lot of things, not the least of which, showing that a true ensemble sitcom can actually work. The great keyword is the "Friends" actually means "Family", 'cause that's the part of their lives when your friends are your family, and you know this is the one show that brings that to the forefront, but you know, I've seen this show, actually be used in sociological classes to analyze the dynamics of friendships. It's one of those shows that everybody knows and sees, it's one of the biggest shows ever, it's a bit cliche, but when you really realize how this show came about, they deserved it. This is the show that started as the revolutionary show that became the standard for everybody else.
It's often thought that film and television are pretty much separated from each other, but even from the beginning days of television that's not completely true. Maybe the star side, that might be true, but people from Sidney Lumet, Robert Altman and John Frankenheimer honed much of their craft in television and took inspiration from the art form before going into film. That's especially true for writers, especially on the comedy side and no writer's room is more legendary than this show.
53. Your Show of Shows (NBC, 1950-1954)
The first thing that people have to talk about is the Writers' Room of "Your Show of Shows". Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, that's three of the greatest comedy writers on the last 60 years, Selma Diamond, great writer/actress, Mel Tolkin, who wrote for "All in the Family", "Love, Sidney" for "Make Room for Daddy", for "Bachelor Father", and when you get to "Caesar's Hour" and "The Sid Caeser Show" you get Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart, legends of writing. Basically the history of comedy in the second half of the twentieth century are all in the same room, writing for Sid Caesar, who was probably the first great American satirist of pop culture and Americana. You gotta remember, TV's were expensive and not everybody had them, but the upper crust and cultured did. So, he was able to get away with making satires of Kurosawa films and stuff like that, and then really take shots at Americana. In the age of the white picket fence, Sid Caesar was the one who had his tuxedo covered in white paint lines. He's one of those absolute great talents that really, everybody int he industry just looks over and studies over and over again. A lot of what we know about sketch comedy and comedy in general is basically invented here. And he was really a sketch comic above everything else, he wasn't a stand-up, he didn't come from the vaudeville circuit, he wasn't really a radio performer, this is pretty much the invention of him. Even he came up with a bickering couple, "The Hickenloopers" before Jackie Gleason came up with "The Honeymooners". Incredibly talented performer who basically invented a genre, and got the greatest talent of people around to work in a new medium. Sid Caesar and "Your Show of Shows" is basically the first baby steps of television that, 60 years on, it's still growing from this seed that Sid Caesar invented.
Usually when we talk about a sitcom, there's mainly two known distinctions, the single-camera or the three-camera. The 3-camera, started by "I Love Lucy" is the one most well-known to people, is the one where there's a few sets and a studio audience either live or seeming to be there like a play, while single-camera, is usually shot like a movie, only one camera and often shot on location to give the idea of a whole community, while it's popular and more common now, the practice dates back to "The Andy Griffith Show" and except for the 4-camera set-up used on "Mork & Mindy" to follow Robin Williams around, there really aren't two many variations of that setup. So, I think that's probably part of the reason why this show didn't quite catch on with the public originally, as it was the first show to shoot on location, and with multiple cameras, much more similar to the style of a documentary or reality program. Other than the fact that Ron Howard's voice was there, nothing else about it seemed like a sitcom.
52. Arrested Development (FOX, 2003-'06, Netflix, 2013-Present)
It's actually sorta strange when a sitcom does the huge family ensemble idea, and they're all crazy, a sitcom is such a small genre usually, that a large show is kinda unusual. There's a few precedents like "Soap", and that was a satire of a completely different genre. "Arrested Development" is one of those shows that was timely in it's day, 'cause it wanted to take a look at a family in the middle of those corporate bankruptcies and scandals and whatnot and see a family loses their riches, and I guess that's still what the show was about, but they definitely made a conscious decision to add so many extra layers to their humor that the more you watch the show the more layered the comedy is. I mean, I think you can explain it to people, but you really do kinda have to shove it in their face sometimes to really get them to see and understand it. That's a bit of a detriment that there's so much going on but it is this crazed satire of Americana, especially that higher higher, upper crust, especially the ones that really don't deserve to be up there. I seriously watch this show sometimes wondering if they were ever actually rich or even if they are, how are the affording anything? I guess it's just another running joke. It's another example of getting a great and overly talented cast around a complex script and idea, and you end up wit something that gets funnier the more you watch it. That was something far more deliberate too, there were a lot of shows that did throw in hints of future developments and stuff like that, but I think "Arrested Development" was probably the first show that really caught on to the idea of, not only rerun value, but DVD rerun value. They aged incredibly well, and obviously, they're still here for some reason. And there's lots of great characters, that's the great thing about a big cast, there's usually a character or two to like, but everybody's an eccentric character, except maybe for Jason Bateman's character and even he can be as delusional in his rebelliousness. "Arrested Development" was definitely too unique and funny to ignore, and it's one the more influential shows in the way it took a lot of the cutaway gags from animation, and mixed it with this live-action absurdity. It's definitely one of the most unique shows on television and one of the most influential. And one of the funniest, they definitely were able to and succeeded at getting away with a lot more than most other shows, partly 'cause of that style that's maybe not duplicated, but it's certainly now influential.
I'm probably gonna get some slack for not including any other show from this franchise on my list, and a couple of them, including the original show. I actually came close to including it, but it just missed out. Sorry Kirk and Spock guys, that version good, but Picard's better.
51. Star Trek: The Next Generation (Syndication: 1987-'94)
The great thing about "Star Trek" is that, it's really journey into the mind and soul and just uses the conceit of traveling through space as the metaphorical journey. I think that's why, the whole franchise, and in particular, "The Next Generation" is still so acclaimed because it isn't just your typical, action series, or space opera. There's always something more going on, something smarter, something that made you think. It was a show about exploration, and where do you explore most, in the mind. The farthest reaches of the universe are only reachable because somebody imagined and tried to figure out how to get there. You kinda had that with the first series, but a lot of times, it came off, somewhat weird and goofy and they were competing with more action shows like "Lost in Space" or something like that, "Star Trek..." maybe had more freedom and better technology and they had goofy moments too but I think most everybody remembers the really dramatic stuff better than other shows at the time. It's the great characters, the great parables to reality, the exploration of the worlds, the characters, it's definitely, I hate to use the word high-brow, but this was definitely the show that aimed higher and achieved higher, and definitely is probably the show that all these other new, sci-fi and fantasy based drama series are trying to achieve. There's a reason that this was the last syndicated series that broke into the Best Drama Series category and it deserved it.
I think I gotta comment on a show that didn't make my list again. I know people like it, and it is a good show, and I'll get around to watching it more later, but I just find "Veep" unwatchable. I mean, it's funny, but it's so cynical, there's not a likeable character around, and to be frank, I nearly went into the political world when I was younger, and I do know that there are people like that in politics, and some do become that way, but it's just frustrating. And while, maybe "Veep" is realistic to some extent, but you know, people do actually go into government, who really do try to make a difference and actually believe government is where to do that, and they do make that difference. Even when, all other forces seem to do everything to stop them.
50. Parks and Recreation (NBC, 2009-'15)
I think it's easy to compare "Parks and Recreation" to something like, "The Office" or "30 Rock" 'cause of the people involved and the mockumentary style they brought over from "The Office", but honestly, the show that it actually reminds me of the most is "The West Wing". Maybe it didn't start that way, 'cause the early seasons were still finding their way a bit, but the show is pretty much a series that's about government, just not at the White House, at the town Chamber of Commerce or wherever the Parks department is. People, trying to do good in a world where nobody wants them to, there's a lot of great comedy in that. I don't know "Parks and Rec...", I guess it had a cult following, but it never caught on with the public, even though, it's one of the smartest and funniest comedies of recent years. And there's so many great characters as well. Who hasn't seen a Ron Swanson meme somewhere. It never even caught on with the Awards either; I don't get it, this is the show that really took off where "The Office" left off, or it should've but still the fact that it only got acclaim afterwards is just strange. It's great seeing this underdog, this somewhat overly-eager and obnoxious character, win you and everyone else over, with her enthusiasm. It's really encouraging and inspirational. I get inspired watching this show, and you don't really get that kind of emotional appeal with a sitcom often.
There's always a few shows that somebody gonna call represents the "Voice of the Generation", there probably isn't any show that's exactly like that, but I'll be honest, there are definitely some shows that have more relevance and personal importance to me than other shows. That said, you can kinda tell when one of those voices are saying something that nobody else is or in a way nobody else is. Not too many of those shows are daring enough to actually declare that in the first episode, and then prove it. Okay, to be fair, she was high as fuck when she said that but you know what, it still counts?
49. Girls (HBO, 2012-Present)
"Girls" is like, if somebody actually tried the "Sex and the City" or "That Girl" fantasy of going off to New York and live this fabulous life, but they did in reality, and it's the exact opposite and everything is completely fucked up, it's almost perversely realistic. Her Samantha is her drug addict friend, her Miranda thinks she's got it all figured out and instead is just a fucked-up homemaker who decides to give up everything and be a singer, her Charlotte is just an overzealous overachieving college student who's completely unaware of how strange she comes off, and Hanna Horvath, one of the great characters in television history, she's and yet, Hanna Horvath is really this heroic character who isn't in the great Manhattan apartment, she's on whoever's couch she happens to sleep on that week, and struggling to evolve and understand reality and has an STD..., she's this brave, bold, on her own, completely incompetent and yet, struggling to make it in the modern world, and achieve her dreams whether or not she's even sure of how to go about them. Every artist goes through this, and really wants to stay in that laze-faire state and it's full of sex and nothingness, and it's so great to see it so accurately and sardonically portrayed. It's real and hilarious at the same time, it's one of the most important and brave shows on television. "Girls" I think you can argue is the best show on television at the moment actually. One of the few sitcoms that dares to be so brutally realistic. and just absolutely hilarious. It's about coming-of-age in a modern world, and people don't come of age as teenagers now, they come of age, much later, and Lena Dunham, god bless her, realizes that. That's why she's one of the most important artists out there today.
Nowadays, it's a little more normal for their to be more single-camera sitcoms, on television, and audiences are more trusted that they can laugh without a laugh track being added, but you do gotta remember that this was not common in 1998. In fact, a single-camera sitcom was practically unheard of, That's one of the reasons why ABC really never did figure out what to do with this show. This is definitely a show that would fit in more now than it does back then, but the first one through the door ends up bloody, and despite critical and award acclaim, this show only lasted two seasons. Other networks were willing to pick it up for a third or more, but it's creator had another show he was working on at the time too, so he passed on those opportunities, which is a shame, but we'll get to that show later.
48. Sports Night (ABC, 1998-2000)
The main motif in most of Aaron Sorkin's work is the behind the scenes of television, what goes into what's eventually aired on television, and this was the real first introduction to that. This was when "SportsCenter" and ESPN was the coolest show on the other side of MTV, back when MTV was still cool, and this was the first time somebody actually really gave a look at the behind-the-scenes of a cable channel that looked at it seriously. It was way too unique and so different comedically than other shows. Sorkin's brilliant dialogue is too witty and just didn't fit into the typical rhythms of what we think of as sitcom patterns at that time, but that's what makes a show like "Sports Night' so refreshing and smart, and now, it's not uncommon to use that practice, it's not as subtle on a show like a "30 Rock" or something, but it's just as rapid-fire. Look at the cast, Josh Charles, Felicity Huffman, Robert Guillaume, Peter Krause, Josh Malina, Sabrina Lloyd, these are some of the best television actors you can find; put this cast up against anybody. "Sports Night" is one of those shows that just came at the wrong time, and now, would probably be way more accepted. Today, it's one of the great shows that never was, and yet there's remnants of it all over the modern network television these days. Everything except Aaron Sorkin's writing, and that's probably the thing that we absolutely need the most.
"Sports Night" is one of those shows that probably would've had better success if it was on cable television, but except for "The Larry Sanders Show" at the time, there really wasn't the presence and respectability of cable television programs at the time, and half the people thought that was a fluke. It was until this show started getting on the air, and completely shattered that preconception and television has never been the same ever since.
47. The Sopranos (HBO, 1999-2007)
The Sopranos Intro with Twin towers HD by rootsgoofy
David Chase had been a great television writer for a lot of years, starting with working on "The Bold Ones" back in the '70s and "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" and "The Rockford Files" and "Northern Exposure" and "I'll Fly Away", this guy already had worked on some of the great classic dramas of television, which is actually kinda strange in hindsight. I think most people would've thought "The Sopranos" which was so, brazen and unique and groundbreaking in television history, I think most people would've thought this idea was from somebody who was more of an upstart and fresh, but actually, it does make sense that it would be David Chase that would come up with this. As unique as the show is, I think it's secret to why it was so beloved is that it's much more classical than we imagine. It's a family drama, it's almost "Dallas" by way of East Rutherford. Classic great types and archetype characters, some that are completely subverted by our expectations. The mob boss seeing a therapist, the next in line wanting to go into the entertainment business, the fight for power in a major company, it's Americana more than anything else. That's the key. to it and why it so connected, it might've had more violence and nudity than anything else before it, but mostly it seems like a story that was told to us multiple times over before hand. You can probably say that's because the Mafia culture, through film had already been ingrained in us from "The Godfather" or "Goodfellas" but "The Sopranos" definitely took that and created a television mythology using those motifs, unlike anything else in American television before. It's the standard now that all other drama series today, compare themselves with as well.
Some might be surprised that "The Sopranos" isn't higher on my list, and in fact, it's not even the highest ranked HBO Family Drama series on my ballot, but we'll get to that one later. Right now, we're going to something, not so Americana, and much more worldly. I already talked about the original British version of this show, but now it's time to get to the American version of the show.
46. The Office (NBC, 2005-'13)
You know, when I first heard that they were adapting "The Office" to America, I had a few concerns, for one thing, NBC had just had a gigantic failure in adapting "Coupling" to American television, and then, on top of that, while the workplace comedy, is one of the greatest of all sitcom premises, but the traditional sentiment, was you never do a typical office workplace, they never work. In film, or television, the notion was that, you didn't want to put something on television or film that reminded people too much about what they were working in real life, especially a mockumentary-style comedy that pretty realistically sometimes portrayed the typical conditions of an average workplace, complete with an irritating and annoying boss. Yet, they put they gave it to Greg Daniels who had done, "Beavis-and-Butthead" and "King of the Hill", and that was a genius move, 'cause nobody is probably better than observing the behaviors of people than he is and he was absolutely the perfect choice to adapt this. Now the mockumentary format is completely overused but it was pretty jarring, but once you got used to it, it leads to some of the funniest jokes in recent years. And some of the greatest characters. I mean, it takes that idea from the first series, that we're gonna eventually, slowly start to care about these characters by our observing of them over time and from the perspective of the documentary crew, but it took it so much further and more in depth. I mean, Jim & Pam are as great a romance in television sitcom history and probably because it's one of the most disturbingly real ones of all time. It's one of those shows that absolutely earned it's happy ending for a series and for most every character. You can easily look at "The Office" and see it as the base of a lot of modern comedy television today, it's definitely the show that has influenced the comedy and style of most of it nowadays. We're gonna be seeing the influence and importance of "The Office" for years.
From the all too real world of a Scranton office workplace, to the all-too unreal or surreal world of the supernatural. Well, that's not exactly fair, actually you can argue pretty accurately that it was pretty damn real, or at least they were searching for something real. Or maybe it's something somewhere in between. Whatever it was, they were looking for it, and convinced that the truth was out there. Well, one of them one, the other got convinced about it though.
45. The X-Files (FOX, 1993-2002, 2016-?)
Every time I hear people talking about "The X-Files", they always some of these elements, like the mysteries within the shows, the clues and motifs or whatever that they were apparently trying to follow, which is strange 'cause when I watch the show, that was absolutely the last thing that I ever gave a shit about, and if there's definitely something to this show's detriment it's that too many of that has influenced too many crappy shows that have become popular since. I kinda always thought that the strength of the show was the formulaic structure; it was "Law & Order" with aliens. Something happens, Mulder & Scully come and investigate to see whoever, or whatever the hell they found that started it. To me it was a procedural, it was science-fiction, but it's pretty much, except for maybe "CSI..." and maybe "Monk" the last time a mystery procedural actually mattered. You gotta remember that even before "The X-Files" there really was a lot of alien conspiracy people out there getting publicity, this was a big thing at the time, and "The X-Files" definitely exploited that, but that probably definitely been more or less forgotten ever since, for better and worst, and after 9/11, "The X-Files" must've really seemed ridiculous then, but it's influence can't be ignored. I think too many people caught on to the other stuff, and forgot that, the "The X-Files" is the best of these is because you can put on a random episode and watch it at any point and be thoroughly entertained. It mixes the supernatural with the classical of television. It's another good two in the morning show if you're tired of the predictability of "Perry Mason" and want something a little more supernatural.
The modern trend of the best of sitcoms right now, is pretty simple, find somebody talented with a different and unique voice, give them all the freedom they want to create whatever they want, and let them do it. You can find that common trend with a lot of people and shows on this list, from Amy Poehler to Louis C.K. to Lena Dunham, to Glazer & Jacobson on "Broad City", and there's several others like Amy Schumer and Key & Peele to Garfunkel & Oates that have made either a brief but memorable or important and long-lasting marks on the television comedy scene. That said, you gotta give it up to the Queen of the modern comedy movement. In a few years, I might've put her new show, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" on here, but we're giving it to her here for forever rechristening 30 Rockefeller Center into it's beloved in-house nickname.
44. 30 Rock (NBC, 2006-'13)
I think a lot of the people who didn't get "30 Rock" completely missed that this was obviously a reimagining of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show". single, female, TV producer, constantly battling against her boss who's her direct opposite, while trying to wrangle up a bunch of eccentric fellow workers to put on a television show, while struggling to adapt and date in the modern world; it's couldn't be more MTM if she was throwing her hat in the air. Tina Fey, I remember when she started on "SNL" and you kinda started to tell that the sketches, were a little more unusual than were used to, and slightly different. And the first time I saw her on "Weekend Update", and it was, like, "Glasses, who is that?" Whatever it is that's giving this new perspective on things, it's coming from her. I don't know how, but it has to be from her. You can tell right away, this is somebody different, with a completely different new perspective than before. Somebody who knew how to take the pop culture iconography and motifs that we were used to seeing, and throwing it back at out faces vagina first. There's a reason she's the youngest person to ever win the Mark Twain Award, nobody's got her sensibilities and intelligence and pop culture awareness. She is the most transformative comedy figures, maybe this century so far and in that respects, "30 Rock" is probably the definitive modern series look at the behind the scenes of television, and probably the definite female perspective on pop culture as well. On top of just being ridiculously hilarious, every time.
To be honest, before this show, something that I was convinced television shows couldn't really pull off well were period pieces. I know, there's some exceptions, there's been period drama series dating back to the days of the Western, and British television like "Upstairs, Downstairs" or it's modern version, the great "Downton Abbey" among others had been telling literary tales through television for decades, but I never really took them seriously. For one thing, they're expensive, ask John Milius about why "Rome" only lasted two season on HBO, but the other because, television is such an immediate art form, one that's continually commenting on itself and is the ultimate visual guide for showcasing the modern zeitgeists of the day, that most every one of them just came off as behind-the-times and irrelevant to anything going on today. Why comment on the present by showing the past, and you can tell that, only recently has that begun to change, 'cause there was a long line of television dramas and sitcom failures that tried to do this, and even the few that were successful never went farther than maybe twenty years into the past, just enough for nostalgia value and nothing more. So, in that sense, I can kinda see why it took so long to get this show on television, and even then, it was a network that had almost no history of creating television before, but apparently I was wrong.
43. Mad Men (AMC, 2007-'15)
Matthew Weiner created "Mad Men" while working on "The Sopranos", and nobody wanted to make it, until AMC, which was really just a movie channel and not even the best one on basic cable at the time, picked it up and kinda suddenly started to get back into the television producing game; they had one sitcom years earlier called "Remember WENN" that nobody remembers for good reason about a decade before, but there was some talented people behind this, and what you ended up with was, not-so-much a period piece, but really this strange combination of eh, well, there's a lot going on on "Mad Men" isn't there. There's the slickness of the '60s cool era, changing into the modern post feminism world, there's the evolution of the workplace, there's the great mysterious characters that we follow, there's the mystery of Don Draper, there's the major thing that I think most people completely miss is how it's a parable about writing and creating art. The metaphor of a Madison Avenue advertising man, and how he comes up with his ad lines and jingles and whatnot, the show oddly enough is really about writing. You go out, you see the world, you drink, have sexual liaisons and adventures, the search for inspiration to create. That's probably the biggest strength of it, on top of the great collection of actors and characters, what you really have is the great portrayal of the creative process done on television. It's this collage of classic iconography and evolution of great characters and just great storytelling and writing, 'cause like it's main character, it collects and borrows it's influences from everybody and everything around it and creates it's own thing. There's a lot of shows that people think have extra layers and depth to them, but this is one that actually does and knows how to use it.
Despite having quite a few Variety and Sketch series on my list, there's one that I left off sadly that probably should be brought up and that's "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In". It's definitely the show that most people think of as the great counter-culture Variety/Sketch show of the late '60s and '70s and it started numerous careers and includes numerous pop culture references that are still used today. It actually came very close to making my list, just missing it. "Laugh-In" broke a lot of ground, and got away with a lot of political and cultural satire that's influenced television for years. How-ever, a lot of the reason "Laugh-In" survived so long, might have a lot to do with the fact that this groundbreaking Variety Sketch show, didn't survive.
42. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (CBS, 1967-'69)
The Smothers Brothers are this great comedy/music team, country/folk brother team who did some of these great comedic sketches between them, that were hilarious and seemingly non-threatening, and the kids liked them, so CBS gave them a Variety Show, 'cause this was the time that everybody at some point got a Variety show from Dean Martin to Tony Orlando & Dawn to Donny & Marie to Sonny & Cher to, you name, everybody had a old-time Variety Show at some point, and didn't figure much, in fact they put it up against "Bonanza" just figuring they would get some of the kids who weren't watching that juggernaut and instead they ended with the biggest show on television and the absolute biggest regret they ever made. Dick and in particular Tommy Smothers, were very much, on the far left politically and very much related to the hippie youth culture of the time and they really were the first casualties of television that truly went out after the political leaders. This was the era of Vietnam, the era of Nixon, in particular and to be honest, Tom Smothers didn't care. He might've played the fool in the bits, but behind the scenes, that really starting pushing the envelope. This show was basically "The Daily Show..." of it's time and CBS was not prepared for something like that. Dick Smothers, eventually started to simply refuse to show the episodes to the executive before they aired, after they started editing episodes, and the show, was canceled after three seasons, but at that point, the show changed television forever and this would be the first show that led to things like "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show..." stuff that truly took their comedy from the modern politics and culture of the time and speak to a younger and a more politically aware generation of viewers who really wanted something more reflective of them, and you when you really go back through the beginning years of television, there is truly very little there before The Smothers Brothers came along.
At the 2008 Emmy Awards, Tommy Smothers was finally given an Emmy for Writing and Variety Series for the show that he should've won in 1969, the year the show was canceled and his name was taken off the Writing credits. The Smothers Brothers are definitely heroes to many, but we're end this portion of my countdown, with some otherwise rather everyday heroic people, saving lives everyday. It's the highest ranked and longest-lasting Primetime medical drama in television history.
41. ER (NBC, 1994-2009)
It's kinda funny to think about now, but "ER" was actually originally intended to be a movie directed by Steven Spielberg of all people, and there's definitely precedent for that, Paddy Chayefsky had won an Oscar for writing "Hospital" years ago, which was basically a long episode of "The Doctors" or eventually what "ER" would become and he's a television legend, so Spielberg decided to do Crichton's other project, "Jurassic Park" and NBC, started with ER as a television movie and then adapted it to a series, and pretty much the rest is history. This was also the early days they really started mastering steadicam, so "ER" is often noted as the first show that really did these walk-and-talk scenes, even years before "The West Wing", this idea of constant motion and going on, the characters were great but the crux of the show was definitely the location. It's goal, wasn't different than "St. Elsewhere"'s to portray with as much accuracy as possible the setting of a hospital emergency room and, for all intensive purposes that's what they did. You haven't seen an exact "ER" copy do well since. You've had a "House" or a "Nurse Jackie" or something like that, even a "Grey's Anatomy", it's character-based, not about the job of being doctors and nurses. "ER" is very bare-bones. It's a workplace drama, and that workplace can be very hectic, it can also be full of eerie calmness and serenity and characters going about their lives as well, and then sometimes there's absolute disasters you have to deal with. Shows like this survive so long, because anything can happen in them, really. Characters, interesting ones can come in and out, some more often than others, some more interesting than others, there's always something going on. I mean, the show lasted so long that eventually, I can't even- did anybody on this show actually last the entire series? I don't even know to be honest. It doesn't matter, it's like "Law & Order" it doesn't matter who the detectives are, there will new murder cases and new detectives and in the same way there will be new doctors and nurses and patients and the emergency room, just doesn't end because the show ended. You learn to like and love the characters anyway and they got to try so much, it's why "ER" still holds that spot as the premiere medical drama and probably will hold it for awhile. It's probably the closest to at least, ideally, what we'd like to think a documentary of a day in a hospital feels like, the actual action of it. Shows did first and shows tried to it later, but they did it the best, and consistently well too over the years.
That might be the last medical drama series, but two medical-based comedy series, actually ranked higher on my ballot than "ER". Well get to them later. Join us next time as we dive into my TOP 40. Keep an eye out for that update and listen to Geekcast Radio's complete podcasts for the complete results of their poll.