Once again, thank you for Geekcast Radio Network for allowing me to participate. Remember, this is my ballot and MY BALLOT ONLY that I am revealing here, and I'm gone through detailing each of my selections, and choices on the blogpost at the links below, if you're just catching up now:
For now, before we reveal the Top 20, let's just recap one more time, the old-fashioned way:
"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)
40. Get Smart (NBC, 1965-1969, CBS, 1969-1970)
39. WKRP in Cincinnati (CBS, 1978-1982)
38. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC, 2006-'07)
37. The Phil Silvers Show (oka "You'll Never Get Rich") (CBS, 1955-'59)
36. Dragnet (NBC, 1951-'59)
35. Sesame Street (NET, 1969-'70, PBS, 1970-2015,[Second run, 2016-Present,] HBO, 2016-Present)
34. Frasier (NBC, 1993-2004)
33. Six Feet Under (HBO, 2001-'05)
32. The Wonder Years (ABC, 1988-'93)
31. Family Guy (FOX, 1999-2003, 2005-Present)
30. Scrubs (NBC, 2001-'08, ABC, 2009-'10)
29. 24 (FOX, 2001-'10, 2014)
28. The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (NBC, 1962-'93)
27. L.A. Law (NBC, 1986-'94)
26. The Carol Burnett Show (CBS, 1967-'78)
25. Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC1, 1969-'73; BBC2, 1974)
24. The Simpsons (FOX, 1989-Present)
23. Soap (ABC, 1977-'81)
22. The Bob Newhart Show (CBS, 1972-'78)
21. Coupling (BBC Two, 2000-'02, BBC Three, 2004)
Starting off the Top 20, a guy who I could've probably put him on here a few times actually, and it was actually a bit tricky determining which of his shows belong on the list. That said though, to really understand why and how important he is, we probably have to put this series of his, on the list, the highest and in-context.
20. Late Night with David Letterman (NBC, 1982-'93)
So you gotta remember with Johnny Carson, not only was he just dominate, there really wasn't any real competition to begin with; he destroyed Merv Griffith, her destroy Dick Cavett, and he had taken the show from New York to L.A. and he had shortened the show from an hour and a half to an hour, it might have even been two hours at one point, and that led to the extra of time available, so NBC had time after, and for awhile it was, just a regular, although good, interview show with Tom Snyder, but after that was done, and the thing is though, Carson, was of another era. He was classic, he idolized Jack Benny, he had Doc Severinson and this big bang orchestra, especially before MTV and cable really kicked, there is this giant sense that watching "The Tonight Show" and pretty much all talk shows, even if they had more modern guests on, we still felt like our grandparents generation were pretty much, still making television and ruling the Late Night scene. But, even as a kid, staying up late at night, watching "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" and he was classic and smooth and perfect every time, and then, "Late Night with David Letterman" would come on, and it was clear that, "Okay, this guy, this guy was our time." He had "The World's Most Dangerous Band", he wasn't just, he was throwing watermelons off the roof, he was reading viewer mail, and throwing it into the streets; Johnny had Joan Embry from the San Diego Zoo, and Dave had Stupid Pet Tricks, hell, these all Top Ten Lists, he was making fun of them back then, and now,-, Thanks, Dave, now everybody makes them. It was sophmoric, but he was always apart of what's going on, but also outside of it as well. We think of him now, as the one who took over Carson's crown, more-or-less he actually did that, and even co-opted many of Carson's routine, with his permission, but without Letterman, who the hell knows where we'd be now. I mean, this whole era of the modern talk show, the challenging and changing of the format, and the breaking down of the conventions, that all goes to David Letterman, and in particular with "Late Night with David Letterman", 'cause that's really the show that changed everything.
In much the same way that Late Night was Carson's domain for decade, for much of television, the mystery series was also a dominant genre, and usually the main detective character for these shows, was, as it was parodied in "Network", a "Crusty but benign" detective, that solves a murder of the week. It felt wrong not to include one, although there were so many that most of them do sorta blend together, but even among that crowd, there's one character who stands out as the best television detective. Oh, and-eh, just one more thing, Ma'am....
19. Columbo (NBC, 1968-'78, ABC, 1989-2003)
It's actually hard to believe, but Peter Falk didn't always play Columbo, the character originated on an anthology series called "The Chevy Mystery Show" in 1960 and was played by Bert Freed, in a one-off role that was eventually adapted to a stage play and the role kinda got bounced around, with the eventual idea to have a regular series, and that started with a couple TV movies and then eventually the series and that's when Peter Falk eventually became the character. I think Hallmark Channel tried to bring this back at some point, but basically, NBC had this, Wheel Schedule, where they would alternate multiple series, each week, you had, "McCloud" and "McMillan and Wife", also, but honestly, I don't really think anybody ever brings those shows up anymore, they certainly were never memorable enough to bring back over a decade later as a series of television movies. You see, all the other detective, were trying to be, hip or had some kind of gimmick, even if it was just a lollipop, but with "Columbo", he would come in and you'd be like, "Wait, he's the detective?" It seems hard to believe now, now we watch "Columbo", waiting for that moment where "Columbo" enters and starts to break up everything, but it had to be pretty off-putting and confusing at the time. This little old Italian guy, would stumble in with a raincoat and, especially with all the killers being upper crust and sophisticated, you had this complete shift in class going on, on top of everything else. You see, every other detective, was a Whodunit, series, and the mystery would be, trying to figure out who killed the guy, but "Columbo" wasn't. You saw who did the crime already, "Columbo" was a howcatchem, it's a subtle difference, but it stands out, and it's actually a lot more difficult to pull off when you think about it. That's why, the great character he creates is so special and so highly regarded, because, it really is the highest level of acting to pull off. We care this character, with the made up family stories and the wife with no first name, and get those rich hypocritical rich snobs who think they're so much smarter than they are. There's a lot of cops and detectives, but of all the classic detective, "Lt. Columbo" is the standard.
Speaking of anthology series, this is one genre that's disturbingly lacking from my list. The fact is, I haven't seen most of them. It's a genre that really only recently, and not in it's original format. You see, while this is the only anthology series on my list, this was once upon a time a very prominent genre in the early days of television. Series like "Playhouse 90", "Kraft Television Theater" and "Studio One" where the hey-day of the teleplay, and names like William Rose, Paddy Chayefsky and the man who created this series ruled television. It's basically now an extinct genre, but they were basically television's version of a book of short stories, and while I myself, probably get more personal enjoyment out of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" or even "Love, American Style" out of this genre, the predominant TV show that people really remember, is this one, and for good reason. Everybody has their favorite, what's yours?
18. The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959-'64)
You can find someone who's never watched anything before 1997 on television, and that person will probably still have seen at least one episode of "The Twilight Zone". Rod Serling is basically a god-like name in horror and sci-fi circles, on the same line like Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick, and everybody has a favorite "The Twilight Zone" episode. It's kinda bizarre, it's basically the one anthology series that, pretty much universally, everybody loves as much as others love a serial series or a plot-driven series. It's actually kinda weird when you think about it, but that's how great the television show was, that people love it anyway. I know actors who always keep a random monologue or two from "The Twilight Zone" to memorized, I know people who know every single episode and the title and can recall each one. It's strange that so few shows like this have held up over time. You see people, every so often, try to bring back the anthology series, a new "The Twilight Zone" series, or "The Outer Limits", or "Tales from the Crypt" or something like that, but it never hold up. There's something about the black and white, the creepy song, the writing of the original, this is probably the one series from that era, that remains iconic because it belongs in that era, not because it can hold up now.
From a show that was a different story every episode, to a television series that told a single story over the entire arc of the series. Yeah, I know, that can technically apply to every series, but still, this is pretty unusual. Most series that show a character changing over time, usually is representative of an evolution of the show, and/or the writers, but occasionally, you get a show that starts a character one way, and then slowly but surely changes that character over time, and do it deliberately. That said, this is a tough arrow to thread, any change to big or ridiculous and a show can go from the biggest cult hit of the day to jumping the shark pretty quickly if they don't do it right, and do it the other way and you end up with something too boring that doesn't change quickly enough. That's the true reason why this show ranks so high on my list, threading that needle perfectly, over the entire series, and to keep to the plans that way, that's bold and just tough.
17. Breaking Bad (AMC, 2008-'13)
You know, ironically, the core of "Breaking Bad" is much simpler than it seems, it's basically, what do you do, what would you do, when you have nothing to lose. If there is no tomorrow. The only real difference is that, nobody actually counts on what happens to yourself after you decide to make that choice. It was somewhat unusual for television, to have this kind of arc, and Vince Gilligan, really wanted to explore that dynamic, of, basically what would happen if you saw a character change over the progression of a show, which isn't an unusual idea, but it is a bold one, changing a character over time from a good guy to a bad guy. What it really takes among everything else is skilled writing and acting. It's basically of what we've normally seen with television series, trying to keep character changes, subtle and minimal over time, to keep the dynamic of a series constant enough, what we have here with "Breaking Bad" is that, we get a severe change, and normally when that happens in a television show, it's just bad, and not really sensible, but the way it's done here, is that, he made the transition of a character, the actual show; that's the trick to why "Breaking Bad" remains held in such high regard, and why too many other shows that try this, even subtlely, even only within a grander narrative, come up short. Yeah, "Breaking Bad" does deserve all the credit and acclaim it's gotten, probably deserves more actually.
The creator of this show's has been involved with, probably with more shows that made this list than anybody. The first show he created was called "Room 222", one of the more realistic and believable dramedies in television and a rare great show that was based around a high school. If there is something that he's known for, and something that's severely lacking in a lot of modern sitcoms now, the emphasis on realism into comedy. Amazingly this show, isn't the highest-ranked of his series on the list, but it's still a great one.
16. Taxi (ABC, 1978-'82, NBC, 1982-'83)
There'd been workplace sitcoms before, but generally, they were, shows about the comedy of the workplace, or it was just, the setting of the main character's job, so everything revolved around it. "Taxi" is different though, this was really one of the first shows about throwing a bunch of random characters together by forcing them in a situation, except nobody wants to be in the situation. One of the great monologues in all of television, the first episode, Judd Hirsch, talking about everybody else has another job and he's the only cab driver in the place. This was sorta the first show that really was a collection of losers, just surviving. It doesn't hurt that it has some of the greatest casts of all-time on television. I mean, it's interesting, they didn't create a great main character and a bunch of caricatures surrounding them, they just created a bunch of great rich characters. James L. Brooks started as a journalist before going into television, and so he always slanted towards realism in television, in much the same way that Norman Lear tended towards hyper-realism, and his shows and then later the people who worked under him, always ended up in that direction, and "Taxi" in particular, was the genesis of "Cheers" which is where Glen & Les Charles got their start, and basically where "Taxi" left off. "Taxi"'s another show that kinda gets pushed aside and forgotten somewhat, partially 'cause ABC, really screwed up a bit and changed it's spot on the schedule, and it got lost in the schedule a bit, and that makes some people think the show kinda lost it's way after, but it's absolutely the opposite. This was a show that ended way too soon, it could've gone on, twice as long as it actually did, if it had it probably be, mentioned more immediately among the greatest television shows of all-time.
When "Taxi" was canceled by ABC, the cast reunited briefly on an episode of the number 15 series that eventually led to the series getting it's final year on NBC. It says something about the show that, that probably wouldn't rank among the Top 100 moments of this show's most memorable or greatest moments, and yes, you can make a Top 100 on just this show, many lists. We're not gonna settle any debates about the best of this show today, but it's importance and influence over all of the entertainment landscape, to say the least, cannot be understated. So, we'll say it as loudly as possible, "LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT!"
15. Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975-Present)
I mean there's television institutions and then there's television institutions, and "SNL" is, the-, there's nothing really truly greater. And again, like David Letterman, it was Johnny Carson's dominance, on NBC, for a decade, ten years, they would air "Best of Johnny Carson" every Saturday and Sunday Night, and Carson, eventually got frustrated, asking for time off, to put those shows, instead on during the week, so they had to come up with something else to put on the weekends. Lorne Michaels was not overly well-known at the time, he was a young writer for "Laugh-In" and done some sketch comedy shows on Canadian television and Dick Ebersol pulled him out of that, to create a young, hip series for today's youth, and it's still doing that. I don't know, exactly who figured it out, I think it was eventually Bernie Brillstein, who figured out that, the concept was the base because, people, didn't completely realize that for years. People forever talk about canceling the show, the show should never be cancelled, 'cause the great thing about the show is how, as one group of the next generation of comedians comes in, the next generation comes in and makes it all their own again. Think about that, it's one thing that we argue who the greatest cast was of "SNL", but we can argue about it? How many shows can you actually say that about? Not many. Especially sketch comedy, which is a genre that's notorious for short runs, "SNL", shows how and why it can continue to thrive like it has. "Saturday Night Live" is sketch comedy for a lot of people, and to some extent I have to agree. It was the link to the past and the present when it started, and today, it's the last vestige of classic sketch and the showcase for new sketch. "SNL" is the past, present and future of comedy in America.
Sketch comedy since "SNL" has basically been either influenced by "SNL" or in some cases been an alternative or rejection of "Saturday Night Live". In many ways, you can say pretty much the same thing about drama series, since this television show came on the air; which is in many ways, could consider the first modern drama series; it's certainly the first and probably the most influential cop drama series. And Hey, "Let's be careful out there."
14. Hill Street Blues (NBC, 1981-'87)
Hill Street Blues - Opening Credits by Erwin0468
If you're a cop drama of some kind, you're either stealing from "Dragnet" or you're stealing from "Hill Street Blues". It's pretty much that simple. "Hill Street Blues", was one of the really first, if not the first big, great ensemble drama. It's was basically, the new evolution of a police series at the time and we're still pretty much just remaking "Hill Street Blues". Pretty much, every possible storyline you can imagine in every cop show since, it was basically done in "Hill Street Blues" first. Even today, as good as say "Southland" was, it was almost point-by-point a remake of "Hill Street Blues" at times. Even Steven Bochco's "NYPD Blue" was just a grittier version of "Hill Street Blues", you see it everywhere, he copies his own show, everybody else copies "Hill Street Blues". The large, large ensemble cast of actors, a revolving cast, great writing, great acting, characters who's lives at work are completely separate from their lives at home, and seeing them interfere, there's so much going on, so many characters; it creates this richer world. And still, anything can happen, you can have episodes, be fairly episodic in nature, where everybody's on their own stories, suddenly there's something happening that grabs everybody's attention; that's the great thing about having a show about cops, that they literally can go anywhere and do anything. Strangely, it's also a sad series. It's called "Hill Street Blues", not just because they're cops, it's about the perils and struggles of being a cop sometimes. There's great storylines, and yet, you can catch it anytime, be thoroughly entertained and engrossed into the world. If this was a list of the most influential shows of all-time, it might've ranked even higher on this list. We're gonna be stealing from "Hill Street Blues" for decades to come, and most people aren't even gonna realize it, and that's probably the saddest thing about the show, people don't realize how much the show still perpetuates the television landscape. Somebody wrote that when people watch the show now, they'll see it as a bunch of cliches, not realizing that they're only cliches now, 'cause they invented them.
Awhile back, Norman Lear was asked about modern television and somebody asked him what television shows on today does he think continue on in the traditions of socially confrontational and relevant television shows. I don't know what shows they thought he'd mention or hold up to his high acclaim and standard that he set for himself and television over the years, which includes shows like "All in the Family", "Good Times", "The Jeffersons", "Maude", "One Day at a Time", "Sanford & Son", to name a few, but I don't think they expected him to say this show, which ranks as the highest-ranked, animated, series on my list.
13. South Park (Comedy Central, 1997-Present)
It is amazingly how long and how funny, smart and downright twisted "South Park" not only was, but still is, even today. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, um, yeah, I-eh, I don't know how they do it. I mean, especially with the speed they do it, creating and airing an episode, basically in a week, and usually finding something in modern or pop culture to absolutely annihilate on every side. They're equal-opportunity offenders, and sometimes that can be a little frustrating, 'cause it can come off as nothing but cynicism at times, but they do it so well. It's almost self-satirical the structure of the show, the kids do or see something that spurs into a problem and then the adults try to fix it, it goes completely out of control, I mean, it's amazing how it, frankly still stays funny after all these years. This started out as a cut-and-paste animation short, that got passed around Hollywood, and eventually Comedy Central took a chance on them, and really, I know we talk a lot about how big HBO and Showtime and AMC and FX have made cable television the premium network, but Comedy Central, since "South Park" essentially, put them on the map and you could legitimately argue that that might even be bigger than all those other networks' rises to the mainstream. That begins with "South Park", taking the controversial animated-series for adults reign away from "The Simpsons" and they have never given it up. As long as "South Park" remains on the air, and constantly pulling back the curtain and sure enough, there'll be a shit joke there to mock us. Hell, the shit might even be talking to the foul-mouthed kids that we've been following most of our lives.
Parker and Stone have basically come up with "South Park" as an avenue to express themselves culturally, politically and most importantly comedically, however they do find outlets outside of their series as well, including movies and even the Broadway stage. That's actually kinda the opposite approach of the creator and star of the next show on the list had. He actually didn't want to do a television series, because he already had an outlet for his skills and comedy on the radio, and only reluctantly decided to do a television series after be given a then-unprecedented amount of control on his show.
12. The Jack Benny Program (CBS, 1950-'64, NBC, 1964-'65)
If you ever want to learn about comedy, just watch every episode of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Jack Benny Program" and you'll learn everything you ever need to know about comedy. Jack Benny, people don't realized, even under normal circumstances just how great a comic genius Jack Benny was. People know "The Carol Burnett Show" "Gone With the Wind" sketch, which is still the longest recorded laugh in television history, but it's not the longest in recorded history. That belongs to Jack Benny's radio show. Jack Benny's held up, and the guy's got a gun to him, and he goes, "You're money or you're life!", and then nothing, for what seems like minutes. It took, years, of Benny setting up his persona as a cheapskate to make that joke. Really, Jack Benny, basically adapted his radio show to live-action, but really, that could've been anything. Some weeks, it was a straight variety show, some weeks, it was a sitcom about the behind-the-scenes of the Variety show, sometimes it's part Variety, part Sketch, part sitcom, part dream sequence, part-whatever, he didn't care. He just did whatever he wanted to do as long as it was funny. That was all he cared about, not-to-mention, he's simultaneously by doing that, deconstructing a television show from inside out in the process, long before anybody else did that. It's hard to imagine it, but now we get people like Louis C.K. and Tina Fey and Lena Dunham who have 100% control over their shows and how they put them on and whatnot, but that a pretty new phenomenon, even by today's standards, but he had that kind of power back then. They basically begged Jack Benny to stay on TV, the first few years, he only did episodes, like six a year, at most, eventually it was a regular series, but that's how big Jack Benny was, and that was before television, just on the radio. If he actually devoted the time to television, for most of his career, we would probably put him on a higher plain than just, another of the great golden age comic performers; he wasn't one of them, he was the biggest name of the time.
There's a few reasons why there aren't nearly as many drama series on this list as their are sitcoms, for one thing, comedy is more memorable and viscerally recalled and remembered, even dramatic moments in comedy seem to rind more emotion than overly powerful moments in drama series. However, another reason is that, drama series, don't survive that strongly, not in our collective mindspace, but even more importantly, certainly not in reruns. They try, but even during the heydays of television dramas, they rarely if ever, found continued success in reruns. This show was actually created, with that in mind, as a way to create a drama series that would success in reruns, and boy was he right about this one.
11. Law & Order (NBC, 1990-2010)
Actually, "Law & Order" wasn't the first show to actually use this formula, it dates back to a rare series called "Arrest & Trial" that took the hour-long format and had the first half of the series be the investigation of a crime with the second half of the episode, being the prosecution of the crime. "Law & Order", was originally conceived by Dick Wolf, originally as a series that was to air for an hour regularly, but he was going to break it into two half-hour episodes, for reruns, figuring that the hour-long drama wasn't working in reruns, then, like "Dragnet" the half-hour sitcom would work. People would start watching one day and then see the second half the next day. Instead, what it proved that, the hour-long drama can work in reruns. "Law & Order", I think the punchline is "Ripped from the headlines", which it was, but you it was never that simple. "Dragnet" very literally often, would just tell the stories, very literally the way they happens, through the banalities, but "Law & Order", took great care in giving us good actors, and drama as well as enough twists to the original story that, oftentimes, only people who are old enough to even remember the stories wouldn't actually know what they were riffing off of. It was the stories that was the central theme, so you could have that great revolving door cast for most of the series, and the fact that, we didn't focus on the characters, made us care about them more, especially Jerry Orbach's part, most notably. We all have favorites, but you can basically watch the show at any time, and there's talk of bring it back, it's got multiple successful spinoffs, etc. etc. There's a reason that "Law & Order" tied "Gunsmoke"'s record, and it's lasted as a franchise, I mean, it's probably got almost, if not, more seasons of television as a franchise than "Star Trek" even. There will always be headlines and "Law & Order" as long as there's still stuff going on in the courtroom and on the street, it's the way we wish the police and the lawyers of the world did act in the world, and it's nice to think that sometimes.
There's eight sitcoms in my Top Ten and we're gonna begin with one of the most iconic collection of characters in television history. The feminist icon in the era of Women's Lib Movement, this show became political by simply, going out of it's way, ironically, to not be political at all.
10. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (oka Mary Tyler Moore) (CBS, 1970-'77)
Mary Tyler Moore Show Theme and Intro by bourbonblog
I don't think people watching "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" now, really understand how, groundbreaking the show was at the time. Now, we really just see, one of the funniest shows of all-time, but at the time, there weren't too many show about single working women, and the only other ones were, "That Girl" which was about a girl in a relationship, and "Julia" which was about a single working mother, but she was also a widow, and yes, the first series with an African-American female lead, but it didn't last that long."Mary Tyler Moore" was really the first one. I don't know quite how to explain it now, it's like if "Mad Men" were a comedy and from Peggy Olson's point of view. James L. Brooks had worked in television, so he set it at a local television station, and that was the beginning, of the series, arguably the greatest pilot episode of all-time. The greatest cast of all-time, I mean, this show had three pretty successful spinoffs, two of them as it was going on, and still, the show won the Emmy in it's last three seasons. This show arguably got better as it went on, the most famous episode the "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode was in one of it's later seasons. Even before "All in the Family" this was the sitcom that really, it had some funny and goofy moments, but after decades of over-the-top ridiculousness of the comedy, we were just a couple years away from "Gilligan's Island" and "Bewitched" was still a top show, this was like, the first major sitcom that was a comedy and was specifically for adults. It dealt with, dating, it dealt with divorce, it dealt with homosexuality, it basically created a lot of characters that basically, we now think of as the signs of a depthful characters in sitcoms. They were peppered throughout the show. The series, could've been shown from any character's point of view and it would've been good, that's the great sign of a great show. It also ended, not because of ratings, but because they decided to. It was the first show to actually have an actual finale episode, even the best shows that never got that, they started great, ended great, and Mary Richards is the ultimate working girl, back when that was unusual. Now, it's,- you know, "30 Rock", but at the time, this was the premiere series and it deserved to be.
There's a few television series that began originally as sketches from other shows, but surprisingly that list is short. "Mama's Family" comes to mind, so did the British series "Absolutely Fabulous", but usually sketches rarely begin as the basis of future television series, but this spin-off actually originated as sketch on the Dumont Network series called "Cavalcade of Stars", and long continued in sketch form after the series ended for years. Those sketches were eventually brought together into half-hour forms and are now considered "Lost Episodes", while the episodes of the one season of television it ran as a sitcom, is now referred to as "The Classic 39".
9. The Honeymooners (CBS, 1955-'56)
It's startling how much "The Honeymooners" is still prevalent all throughout television. Basically any show with a big man protagonist with a young wife, usually one that's too pretty to ever actually be with him, is basically doing a modern version of "The Honeymooners". In many ways, this is simply, the blueprints for the sitcoms, the barest that's needed. You need a guy, a girl, a best friend, and something that 'causes somebody to overreact in some way, and we see them overreact and then, they get their comeuppance. It probably helps that the show started as a sketch, so that it was used to getting to things quickly and overreacting, but by the time they got to the Classic 39, they had evolved the characters and, actually it was a Top 20 hit at the time, I'm not quite sure why it didn't stay around longer, but Jackie Gleason, would keep the thing going through his numerous variety shows for years, although only when he had Art Carney to play Ed Norton. It's also so different from everything else of the fifties. It was gritty, it was poor, the apartment, it's basically a two-room apartment, with barely a kitchen, it was rural; in the era of the white picket fence shows, "The Honeymooners" still feels fresh. It's also still hilarious. Almost every sitcom has something in it that's inspired by "The Honeymooners" in some way. Times change now, sometimes it's the girl with the blue-collared job, sometimes it's not a blue-collar job, sometimes they're dating, sometimes they've had kids, but we're still catching up and trying to remake "The Honeymooners", sometimes more obviously than others. Hell, "The Flintstones" was blatantly an animated version of "The Honeymooners", "The Honeymooners" are everywhere. Still a great series.
While Mary Tyler Moore may have become a feminist icon, but a generation later, when this stand-up comic found her way onto the small screen, critics referred to the series and similar series that propped up as "Slob comedy", but arguably this show might still be considered the most realistic modern portrayal of a blue-collar family, comedy or drama, and the show constantly dared to cross the lines into realism.
8. Roseanne (ABC, 1989-'97)
Oh, boy, "Roseanne". You know, every time I hear people talk about, how a sitcom isn't believable if it has 3-cameras and is shot in front of a live audience, or whatever, that sitcoms don't depict real life believably, it's not that it's not believable, it's that most sitcoms don't try to be realistic. Roseanne Barr, was one of the great stand-ups of her day, as was very in-your-face about being a "domestic goddess", and really putting a face to this lower-middle class household, which, really, you hadn't seen much on television. There wasn't really a show about a working mother, who wasn't a widow, who wasn't also working and from the Dad's perspective, and the fact is that, they do this, with the absolute right person at the center, 'cause without Roseanne, I don't know how this should would've come out. I mean, this was a show, that was just brutal in reality. There's whole episodes where the electricity in the house is off, there's multiple characters going through multiple careers, there's realistic kids. There's whole episodes where Sara Gilbert's Darlene character, literally does nothing but sit on the couch watching television. This show, just knew, how to hit on reality, and then, just be unbelievably funny. I remember years after, every time I saw Laurie Metcalf in something, wondering why she was never playing somebody like Jackie on something else, but then I realized that, there aren't other character like that. You watch it now, and you realize, just how really great and subtle the show was. It's one of the first shows where I think about, how well a sitcom did, foreshadowing, episodes, sometimes a whole season or two in advance, they really kinda transformed a lot of what we think about with a sitcom. I still don't think, a lot of people realize just how great "Roseanne" is. This is the sitcom that I think most people who truly love sitcoms, wish that more sitcoms were like.
From one stand-up comedy completely changing the conventions of a genre, to another stand-up who completely changed the conventions of his genre. This genre, was probably a lot harder to change however, and while "Roseanne"'s impact may be more cerebral, than literal, this man's influence, we can already see, all over the television map. Literally, I can name at least six major television shows on now, or soon, that are direct influences of this series, even the best in the genre can't claim that.
7. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Comedy Central, 1999-2015)
"The Daily Show" originated, as a replacement for Bill Maher's show "Politically Incorrect" which, people forget originated on Comedy Central, before it went to ABC, and the first few seasons were hosted by Craig Kilbourn, who had been a news anchor; he was a sports anchor on ESPN previously, and the show was fine, but it was basically just a straight parody of a news show, very much in the old SNL style, with occasionally some reporter segments, that weren't particularly beloved by the people working them. There were differences behind-the-scenes purportedly, 'cause there were people who wanted to do more sharper satirical work that was politically-motivated, but Kilbourn wanted a more host-based show. Eventually he left to do "The Late Late Show", and they then brought in Jon Stewart who had done a few well-liked talk shows before on MTV for instance, but honestly I distinctly remember thinking that that was probably the end of that series; it would be a barely remember relic of cable television in a few years, obviously, that's not what happened. Similar to what Johnny Carson did with "The Tonight Show", the show went from a show that was a stepping stone to fame to a show that was instead, the premiere Variety Series of all-time. It was, somewhat inevitable, that with the media becoming more and more, overbearing and one-sided that, something was gonna come on, and satirize it to death, but the distinctive thing was that, "The Daily Show" satirized it to the point where they basically turned into the news. It wasn't just the opening monologue at the beginning, recapturing the main news stories, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" was the news for many people, and ironically it was more accurate and relevant than the actual broadcasts. They found a way to infiltrate multiple genres by exposing the bullshit for what it was, through the frame of comedy, and at a time, when we needed something like "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" they re-wrote the rulebook of the Variety-Talk format, probably forever, and thank Christ for Jon Stewart.
"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" is the highest Variety show on my ballot. This show, in a way, was born out of the Variety show, one of the ones that made this list earlier in fact. It was created by one of the writers of that show and when it came time to write his own sitcom, he took the first rule of writing to heart, by just simply, writing what he knew.
6. The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, 1961-'66)
I think when you look back at television history, there's the very traditional family sitcoms most from the '50s and '60s and then, that all shifted in the '70s when you got the Norman Lear shows and "M*A*S*H" and "Mary Tyler Moore" and whatnot, and in-between there's a lot of mostly goofy shows that don't really hold up much nowadays. It's a lot more of the fifties that was already an aberration of the sitcom, and then there's a lot more "I Dream of Jeannie"'s and "Bewitched", but that said, if there is a sorta bridge show, between these two eras, it's "The Dick Van Dyke Show". The title's a bit of a misnomer, 'cause "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is actually the brainchild of Carl Reiner, who at the time was basically just a writer for Sid Caesar on "Your Show of Shows" and "Caesar's Hour", and when that ended, he did something, very shocking and unprecedented at the time, he didn't just write a pilot, he wrote about thirteen or so full episodes. He then, tried a pilot, and it didn't work, 'cause he had cast himself, but the scripts were good, and eventually, he got more talented people in there with Dick Van Dyke and eventually Mary Tyler Moore in the main show, and everybody else, it's just comedy gold. It was, sexier, it was more adult, than all those other shows, the comedy was sharper and wittier. It wasn't really about the kids, most of those shows we're either about the kids, and all the things they'd do, or it was a husband vs. wife, thing like "I Love Lucy", "The Dick Van Dyke Show" was always, "Two against the World," and all the struggles they go through, raising a kid, writing a TV show, etc. You watch it now, they had some great way-ahead-of-their-time ideas. They had flashbacks, they had dream sequences, they went into the surreal, I mean the episode with the walnuts alone, is just, incredibly funny, even today. There's episodes that satirize television and the trials of that, there's a lot of the techniques we think of now for modern shows, probably had a lot of their genesis with ideas from "The Dick Van Dyke Show". Consistently funny, all through it's run. This was the show that I think would lead to the more adult comedy series that came later, "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is really the one show that tried to explore all these ideas.
At #5 on the list, is the highest-ranked drama series on the list. So what does it take to be the best of a this genre to me? Well, as far as I'm concerned, you have to not only aim for the highest stakes, and you also have to succeed at them wildly, and what's a higher stakes than, being in charge and running the free world, without screwing it up of course.
5. The West Wing (NBC, 1999-2006)
To some respects, I look at most drama series today, and I'm usually unimpressed, 'cause I was spoiled by watching "The West Wing". Everything else seems unimpressive after that. Aaron Sorkin basically had over-written the script for "The American President" and he basically took most of that and redeveloped it into a television series, and it really was one of the first time we started associating a series with it's writer/creator. It's very rare that their actually was a writer for a series, usually there's a writer's room and a bunch of writers work on each script, and writers get assigned the episode they write, but Sorkin, wrote nearly every episode he worked on those series, and all the seasons he did write, they won the Emmy each year. No show, had a more distinctive voice. And yet, the show he created, was basically a workplace drama. The people, struggling to run the country, make the world work, the behind-the-sausages are being grinded, and yet, it's a very positive, human series. A show about how fragile and human democracy actually is. It's the smartest show, maybe ever made on television, not just in poetic language, or in characters, too many shows are trying to talk down to the audience, "The West Wing" insisted you got up to them and kept up. Now I look at most other shows and wonder why they aren't trying to make their characters as smart, why they don't aim so high; honestly, no matter how great some of those other shows are in this supposed golden age of drama series, I feel like I'm being cheated. It aimed higher than anything before, and it dared to do it and boy it succeeded. It's so hard to find a show that means or feel like it's anything, much less feels like it's trying to achieve more than anything else.
There's a shortlist of television shows that we can honestly say changed television. Some of them changed the art form more than others, but you can honestly look at the history of television and separate it into two parts, before this show, and after this show.
4. All in the Family (CBS, 1971-'79)
The scary part is how "All in the Family" is still ahead of it's time. Norman Lear, had worked a bit in television before, but had switch to movies before he decided to adapt this British series called "'Til Death Do Us Part" and after three pilots, they finally got the greenlight to air "All in the Family". I mean, the long list of things that his shows and "All in the Family" in particular dealt with, head-on and somehow still managed to make funny, and not just funny, goddamn hilarious. It's one thing to create a show that's designed to satirize pop culture and politics and the culture at large, but the main thing about the show, is the family dynamic. It is called, "All in the Family", after all. And somebody said it correctly that, you can replace all of Archie's dialogue to Meathead with "I can't believe you married my daughter when you weren't capable of providing for her", and the show would still work. The characters are strong and rich enough on their own, that we can literally put them in all these unusual and amazing situations and see how they react because we want to be able to see how they react, and we want to see how they react. I mean, it's ahead of it's time, but in many ways it's specifically of it's time. I mean, the fact is, there aren't a whole lot of Archie Bunker's in the world to satirize, not the way Carroll O'Connor played them, and frankly the ones that are left, they're already jokes. You can't take them seriously in this modern world; we do live in a post-"All in the Family" world, so maybe we won't see satirical sharp comedy like this again, but that's probably a good thing, overall. The show is about, how these characters adapt and deal with the modern ever-changing world and of course, whether it's liberal or conservative, we're reluctant to the change at first and it takes a lot of getting used to; thankfully it's the process of getting used to it that, indeed can be funny.
"All in the Family"'s influence is probably unmistakable, but when we look at modern television landscape and the influence, it's hard to look at the show and really see it's influence in the television landscape, but this series however, you can basically trace nearly every sitcom back to something from this show.
3. Cheers (NBC, 1982-'93)
I know there's a lot of '80s nostalgia out there now, but people forget that it wasn't particularly great time. The economy was terrible, unemployment was terrible in some places, the AIDS epidemic was being ignored by the government, and it was pretty depressing most of it, and what do you do when you're depressed and worried about the next day. You go to a bar, makes perfect sense to me. The original idea for "Cheers" was that Sam & Diane, would eventually get together, but it would take a while, over the course of the series, and the sexually chemistry between them, while still being very much opposites to each other would be where the comedy comes. I mean, I know most people are thinking, isn't that the plot of every sitcom, and it is, now. It wasn't then. And yet, the show lost that dynamic and in some ways got arguably better. "Cheers" was created out of Burrows, and Glen & Les Charles after they worked on "Taxi", and in many ways this is another show, where there's just a collection of random characters, but there's so much more going on in "Cheers", and it continually evolved as it went on. This is a show that changed a lot over the years, it took the time to focus on new characters, give them incredible arcs; it's rare when shows can just add and subtract characters so easily and get us to love new ones. It went after a lot of the upper crust too, with the backstories with Rebecca Howe trying to sleep her way up to being rich, there's satirizing both the upper class snob, and the lower class chicanery, there's a lot of things they did that I generally think of as stuff that happened on like "Friends" or "Will & Grace", those later influential '90s sitcoms. "Cheers" truly is probably the prototype that most sitcoms, either should be, or shows that they want to be.
"Cheers" is the ideal prototype sitcom, no doubt about that, I'd argue that nearly every sitcom on television now, you can probably trace it's main influences through "Cheers" somewhere. That said, the shows that aren't influenced in some way by "Cheers", they're probably more influenced by this show.
2. Seinfeld (NBC, 1989-'98)
There's always been this idea of taking a really good stand-up comic and then taking their persona and try to turn that into a sitcom, there's some great ones too, and I don't think anybody would thought, that "Seinfeld", that that would be the one that really took over, and it didn't seem like it would at first. It took two years from the first pilot 'til the point 'til it actually got a full season of episode. It just kept sticking around and then people started watching this pilot called "The Seinfeld Chronicles" and loving it. Basically it was Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, who created this series, basically out of their own conversations. It's amazing how much from "Seinfeld" has worked it's way into the Lexicon. There's like nine references from "The Contest" episode alone, but it's like everything from "Seinfeld" just gets called and recalled. I don't know how they did it, how they just were able to masterfully click so many things into our subconscious it's just amazing and surreal. Doing that once, is amazing, doing it time and time and time and time again, sometimes in it's prime, it was every episode. It's just bizarre. Maybe it is that, this is one of the first really big popular sitcoms about some pretty horrendous characters when you think about it. Arguably you can watch this show and think Kramer is the nice one that we're supposed to care about. It's basically the idea of how a stand-up comic gets his jokes; it's not really about nothing, but it is pretty close at times, just an absurdism for the sake of absurdism. It's almost surreal. It's takes a stand-ups perspective to come up with a show like this, to look at the world differently, and take a look at the sitcoms in a way that nobody had before. I mean, this is a show that took the stand-up formula, decided to sorta, tilt it completely sideways, and upside down.
Only one show left. What show actually ranks number one on my list. Well, just like "The West Wing" with drama series, when we're talking about as far as I'm concerned, you have to not only aim for the highest stakes, and you also have to succeed at them wildly, and what's a higher stakes than, depicting the perils and viciousness of the worst of humanity, in the middle of a war, and make it a comedy.
1. M*A*S*H (CBS, 1972-'83)
I know it's a bit cliche, but "M*A*S*H" is number one. I mean, how can it not be? I think you can legitimately make the argument that the TV show "M*A*S*H" is arguably the greatest depiction of Hell, ever put in literature, arguably "M*A*S*H" and Dante's Inferno. of course, "M*A*S*H" originated as a feature film, which itself was already fairly episodic, so it wasn't too surprising to find that it worked as a television show, but I don't think it would work this well but Larry Gelbart was on the writers in the legendary Sid Caesar writer's room, and he was the one who began adapting it to television, and later Alan Alda would take over and that was supposedly when the show became more serious, but it was always a severe mix of comedy and drama, serious drama. It was the first time a character actually died on television and depressed the hell out of everybody, and like "Cheers" it also got the ability to remain relatively good by adding characters and having characters evolve over time. I know that seems like a weird thing to say, but you go back in time, you don't actually see it often or as much before, where characters, especially in sitcoms would go from point A. to, maybe not point Z, but maybe point B, it was actually pretty odd. Even when Lucy had her kid, you didn't really see her change too much, it was about what situation she gets herself into. "M*A*S"H", wasn't about that. It was about, finding comedy as a way deal with the torture of pain and hell. I mean, yeah, there's the Vietnam parable at the time, but nobody watches shows like "Combat" or "12 O'Clock High" anymore, maybe 'cause they were dramas, but even the military comedies were, even the best were basically extended version of the "Humor in Uniform" section of the Reader's Digest, not "M*A*S*H". "M*A*S*H" was a funny-as-hell show about having to go through Hell by trying to be funny, and mostly, sadly, most of the characters don't even succeed at that. The war effected nearly everyone. I think in many of the same ways, "M*A*S*H" has effected everyone as well. The last episode of the series was inevitably defeated in ratings by a Super Bowl, but those Super Bowls were watched by less a 1/3 of the country, 2/3 of America watched the last episode of "M*A*S*H"; that'll never happen again, and not just because there's more television shows now, but because there will probably never be another "M*A*S*H".
There you have it Everyone. This was my ballot. Any thoughts questions, why'd I put that one, or not that, let me know in comments, and let me know what you think. Either way, I hope you enjoyed it. Goodnight Everyone.