But, that said, I do question some of the subject matters you guys like to focus on. For instance, lately I've gone around, taking polls about what subject matters to do for these period Top Ten Lists. I ask that you do your best to come up with a Top Ten List, you haven't seen, 'cause I'd much rather like to be different than every other blog or site that does these lists, but I understand that that can be difficult these days. That said, last time I took a poll, of the few decent responses I had, and I added a couple more that I thought would be interesting, including this one, that I really tried to push:
From my "Top Ten Miniseries" blog:
...And also the best idea, the one I clearly would've voted for, and boy this is a great list idea; you have no idea, unless you really look into it too, the "Top Ten Most Landscape-Altering Times a TV Show Changed Networks"! Oh yeah, this is a killer list, seriously unbelievable list. It's got everything, a look at many different kinds of television shows, many of them groundbreaking and important, a look at the business side of television, how decisions are made and how the simplest shifts can change the future of a network, and in some cases completely change everything we know about television at that point, plus it goes into TV history incredibly well, where you really can dive in and see just how we got to the television landscape we have now by looking at how much it's shifted in the past. There's so many little things and quirks in television executive decision-making, you'd be shocked, and this is just one kind of those decision, and there's some, in hindsight, really huge ones, and many you don't think about, that- like, "Wow, had that happened, how different would television be," it's really stunning, there's such amazing potential for a great list there,...
So, what were the results of that poll:
TOP TEN MINISERIES 19 Votes
TOP TEN MOST UNDERRATED SITCOM CHARACTERS 11 Votes
TOP TEN REASONS WHY TELEVISION CRITICS ARE TERRIBLE 10 Votes
TOP TEN POLICE DETECTIVE SERIES 9 Votes
TOP TEN MOST LANDSCAPE ALTERING TIMES A SHOW CHANGED NETWORKS 0 Votes
So, you know, my birthday's coming up, I feel like I want to be happy and just write about something I want to write about, and hopefully it'll all be fun for you guys too. I think it will to, 'cause this is kind of an interesting thing when you look back on it. Especially, since this is kind of a relevant and common thing again. There's all this talk about bringing back television shows and whatnot, but a lot of those shows are brought back on different networks than they originated on. And shows are jumping networks, especially now that there's so many options out there.
And it's not the first time there's been such a huge amount of network-hopping. Even the early days of television, it wasn't that uncommon for shows to get cancelled one week from one network and then air on another, literally the next week or two later, on another network. There wasn't as much television back then, and networks need to fill air time somehow. It happens sporadically throughout television, the thing that most of the time, it's not that important or "Landscape-altering". They're usually shows that, frankly are only sorta great or popular and are on-the-cusp of being relevant and important, and networks that pick up a show are mostly taking a shot at something to fill air time. I mean, did "The Jeff Foxworthy Show" going from ABC to NBC change anything, other than, somehow get that show enough episodes to be cheaply rerun forever on Nick at Nite? No, probably not. WB picking up "Grounded for Life" out of Fox, was probably one of the few times they saw a good show and knew to put it on their network, but their influence is minimal at best. How many of you remember the time CBS pulled a Friday Night coupe and stole half of ABC's TGIF lineup of "Family Matters and "Step By Step" out from under them? Yeah, like I said, it's not usually, the kickstarter move that changes much, but occasionally it has. And some of the time it really altered everything we knew about television.
So yeah, that's what I feel like doing, a Top Ten List on the Most Landscape-Altering Times a Television Show Changed Networks. The Top Ten List I wanted to do months ago, but nobody wanted me to. (Sigh) Damian Chazelle is younger than I am, and I'm doing this for a living, get off my back; we're doing this, and you're gonna like it! Alright, good. We're counting down!
THE TOP TEN MOST LANDSCAPE-ALTERING TIMES A TV SHOW CHANGED NETWORKS!
Okay, let's start with NUMBER 10!
With...- Oh, c'mon! Really? Do I have too? (Sigh) Well, it's not about shows I like or hate, it's about the times when shows changing networks, changed the television landscape, and-eh.... well, it's kinda hard to make a claim that this show in particular, hasn't changed the television landscape, for the good and the bad. Mostly bad, and for the worst.
10. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Roswell" move from The WB to UPN.
Okay, I loathe "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer". I genuinely consider this to be one of the worst shows of all-time, and I have no idea why people look at this show so highly. To me, it's always been a show that was aimed at stupid little girls, where the hero was also too stupid to live, and even when it was trying to get out of that issue, Whedon's writing which constantly doubles back into some fairly trivial forced manufactured conflicts would double-back upon itself, and make it worst. Basically, how I feel about everything Joss Whedon's ever done. But, it's impact can still be felt, especially on The CW. However, before that network existed, they were two separate networks, The WB, which took the lead in the idea of catering to this pre-teen demographic in Primetime with stuff that was basically what I'd refer to as fantasy shows, done in the style and tone of "Beverly Hills 90210", and "Melrose Place", only far less adult than those shows were. UPN, is even more of a mess to figure out. It was originally supposed to sorta be the spiritual successor to FOX's old African-American series-based lineups, and in that respect, they actually did have more decent show than you'd think. "Girlfriends", and "Moesha", honestly hold up better than they probably should. They also debuted by airing "Star Trek: Voyager" but that debut was probably the highlight of the network for most people. Other than that, it's hard to really understand what the network was about. They were a mess. In fact, the fact that they got "Buffy..." at all, is a bit shocking; for all-intensive purposes while, I'd argue that WB had even less quality shows than UPN, although the few the did have like "Reba" and especially "Gilmore Girls" probably overshadow anything UPN ever had, "Buffy..." is basically the premiere WB series. "Roswell" was cancelled due to bad ratings, but "Buffy..." they couldn't renew, because it was too popular! Yeah, the rights to the series had gone up, especially from the influx of outside avenues for revenue, including comic books, toys, etc. "Buffy..." became a franchise and they were priced out of airing rights, but they still had a lot of control over the series. Even withing the deal was a stipulation that required UPN to pick up "Angel" if that were ever canceled. For the record, I liked "Angel" better than "Buffy...", but not by much, but UPN backed out of that deal, and after two years, "Buffy..." was canceled for good. And two years later, both The WB and UPN were canceled as well, as the two networks came together to form "The CW", which is amazingly a dumber name than both WB and UPN. (Although I guess it's better than The W.C.) So, why is this on the list at all? Well, while UPN did contribute a bit in the beginning, I think it's safe to say that whatever strategy they had to co-exist, "The CW" is basically "The WB" 2.0, and "Buffy..." is still the mold that the majority of their shows are following. Hell, their biggest shows are basically Marvel series; they went from a show that became a comic book, to comic books that have become shows. I still personally consider The CW the also-ran in the big network race, hell if you go all the way back, you can actually trace some of their roots to the Dumont Network, which, was the original 4th network, back when there were only three. In terms of influence, of these two outlaw networks struggling to follow in Fox's footsteps, and the fact that they inevitably decided to join together and team up, you can point to this exchange as the first step in their inevitable journey.
I didn't plan on it, exactly, but this list is NBC heavy. I've brought this up before, but you gotta understand NBC and MUST SEE TV in particular, was so dominant in terms of television, that every other networks feels small in comparison. Like their also-rans. They just had a run of great television that's almost unparalleled and that'll probably never be equaled again. Even their bad shows for the most part during this era were better than other bad shows. But, sadly while they still had some good shows on, when the Warren Littlefield's left and the Jeff Zucker's came in, NBC stopped being the premiere network and they started relying on some questionable-content reality shows. That's a trend that hasn't died yet, entirely, and now they're barely able to keep a "Law & Order" on the air. The sad thing is, it didn't have to be this way; they could've rebounded, they had some quality shows, some that networks could build their whole channel around..., and somebody did.
9. TNT wins the bidding war for NBC's canceled "Southland".
To this day, I have no idea what Jeff Zucker was thinking just giving up "Southland", with multiple networks interested and fighting over it. After the Time Warner/AOL merger, the Turner Networks went through a major transition. I could've hypothetically also including, TBS taking "Cougar Town" but that was a cult hit that was low-rated and canceled at the time, "Southland" didn't even have the time on NBC to become that. TNT wanted to rebrand itself as the cable television channel you came to for Drama, but mostly that just meant, a few movies, and a bunch of "Law & Order", but along with the surprise hit, "The Closer", and becoming the surprise winner of the bidding war for "Southland" they established themselves as a cable channel, with a legitimate brand identity and established themselves as a cable channel with a certain quality level of television shows, a trend that's continued to this day. And sure "Southland" wasn't the greatest show or anything, it was basically another reworking of "Hill Street Blues", but it was a good version, and network dramas didn't have anything of that quality at the time, and NBC, outside of "Law & Order" and the cult hit "Hannibal" really haven't developed a drama series identity since. Only now, with "This is Us" does it look like they might've finally recovered, but it's still too little too late. Quality television is the domain of cable, especially drama series, and while TNT isn't the top dog in that battle, it's set itself up as a player. This move, basically set the tone for both channels in the future, and it's effect is still being felt today.
Despite the fact that it's far too common nowadays, television shows coming back, years after cancellation, isn't entirely now. Rarely have they happened because of Fan outpouring and support until recently, but, off-the-top-of-my-head, "What's Happening Now" aired years after "What's Happening", there were dozens of attempts to bring back "The Brady Bunch", for some reason. (Shrugs) "WKRP in Cincinnati" had a couple revivals if I remember, none of them were that good. And there's several others, and usually it doesn't work, especially if a show has been off the air forever before then. That's part of what makes number EITH on this list so fascinating, but the fact that a show came back years later and helped push, not only a network, but helped spark a new alternative television service to succeed, that's quite impressive.
8. Netflix brings back "Arrested Development"
"Arrested Development" was a great show; it was canceled too soon, and it never had the ratings partly 'cause of it's schedule-placement on FOX, partly because it was a bit ahead of it's time, but it came back, and it was still a great show. But, the fact that it came back on Netflix, was the most startling thing. Netflix, was a DVD-through-mail, service, which they now, for some reason keep separate now from the streaming service, (sigh) that was one of the first to start monetizing streaming movies. However, when it started announcing that they were now gonna start producing television, most were skeptical. Bringing back "Arrested Development" on top of producing "Orange is the New Black" and "House of Cards" among others, was the first big signal that they were serious about being a major television producer and network. Now, everybody's gotten into the streaming game, including the major pay channels like HBO and Showtime, and while it might not have started the streaming television revolution, it definitely was the first one that was taken seriously as a legitimate television producer and network. Previously, streaming services were the outlets for those just trying to break in, an alternative outlet for those trying to break in, or on the fringes of the entertainment industry. That'll never be the same again.
And speaking of alternative television outlets on the fringes of the entertainment world, NUMBER SEVEN!
7. "Quarterlife" airs on NBC
Okay, that's not too fair, the people behind "Once and Again", "My So-Called Life" and "Thirtysomething" were not then, or now on the fringes of the entertainment world, which is probably why this little side-project got on the air. If you think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is being really inventive with his HITRECORD.com then you probably don't remember this. "Quarterlife", was the first webseries that found it's way to network television. It didn't last long, only one episode aired on NBC to dismal ratings, and the other five episodes of the series were quickly run-off and dismissed on Bravo. Before that, the show, well technically you could call it a MySpace series, yes, MySpace. but actually, the show was based around it's own website, and like Youtube is now, it was supposed to be a community for people to publish and produce their own work, especially young people, who, the idea was to get together and share their work and essentially connect with each other. (And I might or might have posted one of my earliest short screenplays on their now-defunct website. Whew!) Was it the greatest show of all-time, no, and the people behind it, Marshall Hershkowitz and Edward Zwick have done better, but it gets a bad rap. For what it was, it was a pretty smart and revolutionary show. I mean, yeah, if you're say, somebody who can't stand the pretentiousness of the 20-somethings in like "Rent" or something, then yeah, you'll get annoyed at it, but I can't say it was bad enough to pan. And there was some talented actors on the show, Elizabeth Tulloch's on "Grimm", David Walton's had some bad breaks with some other good shows, hell, Majandra Delfino had success with "Roswell" before "Quarterlife", this was probably the biggest and more professional production ever made specifically for the internet at the time, and fact that it made it to television was revolutionary. A few other shows have pulled that off since, although mostly from big names already, like Lisa Kudrow's pet project "Web Therapy" ,making it's way to Showtime, but you can argue that "Quarterlife" was the first instruction book on how to do it. You can thank this show, for "Broad City" and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" among others. Not to mention this started the idea that internet series can be as viable as television itself. "Quarterlife" might not have been on television long, but the fact that it made it on, is the precedent and in many ways, television has not been the same since. Good luck trying to find it if you're interested, even the Youtube page, with no updates in nine years, is only available outside the U.S. Honestly, It was pretty good, I wish it lasted more than six episodes.
I was gonna find an excuse to skip this one, but...- if you don't realize just how big this is, and this show in particular is on television, then I don't know what to tell you, except eh... ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
6. "Monday Night Football" moves to ESPN
Oh, where do I begin. First of all, football is an institution, that's just huge, huuuuuuge, in America. Even among the sports world, and when they introduced "Monday Night Football" on ABC back in 1970, it was huge. Night football games, were unknown, and the presentation and announcing, in Primetime, was legendary. We still talk about it today. And for 35 years, that was the norm. Then, in a somewhat controversial move, ABC gave it up. This was and still is a ratings juggernaut, and yeah, Monday Night Football on cable is weird now. Especially since ESPN, is notorious for jacking up the cable rights to show their channel to the cable companies. They really are dicks about it; honestly, unless you're a sports bar or something, I don't even understand buying ESPN anymore, even as a part of a cable package, even if you're a sports fanatic. They're the reason why cable and satellite alternatives like Roku and Amazon Stick have become so popular, and why other channels are choosing to bypass cable in favor of charging the viewer themselves. So there's that one thing, the fact that the most traditionally Primetime sports entity in America was now on cable, but also, this meant that, ESPN's traditional Sunday Night Football game, would move to NBC, and that would then be positioned as the premiere weekly NFL match-up, including an advantage that MNF didn't have, and that's the ability to flex-schedule games. As a results, while ratings in general might not compete with Monday Night Football in the past, compared to everyone else, "Sunday Night Football on NBC" is one of the biggest television shows on TV. Hell, it's probably the only things that's kept NBC afloat for the last few years. Also, is the middle of all this, is one of the strange trades of all-time, and it had nothing with people on the field, it was the trade of Al Michaels's ABC contract to NBC, for, the rights to Oswald, The Lucky Rabbit. No, I'm not kidding; Al Michaels got traded for an eighty-year-old animated rabbit. (ABC, is of course owned by Disney, and Oswald is the character that Walt created before Mickey Mouse, he didn't own the rights,...-, there's a whole story that explains that one. ) And that's the sidenote to this. Few sporting events have so drastically changed the medium, and "Monday Night Football", changed it again, maybe more drastically when it went from ABC Primetime to ESPN, where, for the most part, remains juggernaut in the sports world. Even the networks have trouble competing alone anymore, like the fact that CBS had to combine with the Turner networks in order to keep ESPN from taking the March Madness tournament away from them. that's the kind of a struggle to compete in the sports television world the networks face, and ABC sacrificing "Monday Night Football" to ESPN, was probably the biggest symbol of their cultural dominance over the sports world yet.
I wasn't gonna put this on the list, but after I looked it up, and really thought about this subject, yeah, I kinda can't ignore this one. So, CBS, in the '90s, especially the early nineties, is a bit of a strange era. Sitcom-wise, "Murphy Brown", "The Nanny", "Cybill" for a little while, they were good shows, not necessarily the biggest ratings hits, but they hold up. Drama series, not so much. I guess "Northern Exposure" that's a great show. They had some others. Actually, the big joke was that CBS was boring, and among the other major networks, they were the most conservative you would say. When I think, what was CBS in the '90s, I don't think "CSI: Crime Scene Investigators", or "Chicago Hope" or even "Picket Fences" or "Evening Shade", I tend to think, of shows like "Murder, She Wrote", or "Joan of Arcadia" or the really big one, especially in the '90s, "Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman". Oh my God, you have no idea if you weren't there, how much "Dr. Quinn..." was pushed. I'm still baffled when I see Jane Seymour today, and she seems like a really cool modern woman who at some other time would've been promoted as a sex symbol. Or no, the worst was "Touched By an Angel". Yeah, that was CBS in the nineties, so it's not that they're so much more progressive, I mean the joke used to be that CBS hosting the Tony Awards was the biggest irony, 'cause it's the gayest event on the calendar and here's the most repressed television network. I guess, to some degree they still are, and strangely, at the time, this show mostly just fit in, with that, but, somehow, they springboard that into something else.
5. CBS picks up "JAG" as midseason replacement.
So, like I said, I never thought about "J.A.G." getting canceled by NBC; I simply presumed it would die out. And NBC, this was in the mid-nineties, they were pretty stacked with their shows, and it wasn't a hit for them, so it made sense that it would get canceled, but CBS, picked it up late, and I guess it more or less fit in. They had some other-sub "Law & Order" intensity police and detective shows at the time, "Family Law", "Judging Amy", that one was big, so "J.A.G." in that sense, fit in, but for reasons that I never understood it became a huge hit on CBS. Not a critical or awards hit, but it was a Top 40 show by it's third season, and mostly remained so for most of it's run, and a couple years broke the Top 20, so it was pretty big. And it outlasted most of it's contemporaries, so when the "C.S.I."'s and "Criminal Minds" shows came in, it adapted to them, and also fit in with them fairly well. It was never the biggest or most popular, but it was consistent. So, what makes it this high on the list. Well, "JAG" is essentially a structured procedural drama series, it's one mystery a week, at the end, mystery's solved. There's some personal stuff, a la, "Blue Bloods" for instance, another show that kinda has a "JAG" influence to it, but still, it was "A Few Good Men", lightweight court show. But CBS, has thrived on that formula, even now when nearly every other major drama series has adapted soap opera structure, "CBS" has stuck to the formula, whether it be, "Elementary" or "The Good Wife" even, or the biggest show of them all, it's spinoff, "NCIS". Yep. Arguably the biggest drama series and one of the biggest ratings hit on television, and yes, it is a spinoff of "JAG", and behind maybe "Law & Order" the biggest franchise on network television. It might not win awards any time soon, but don't let that fool you, "NCIS" is huge. It's been a Top 5 show in each of it's last SEVEN SEASONS! No wonder, CBS is constantly rebooting the formula. Sure, it's "JAG" meet "CSI..." but... (Shrugs). So, yeah, in terms of the modern television landscape, "JAG" being picked up by CBS, was huge. Bigger than it even seems. I will never tell the joke that I couldn't believe "JAG" was still on the air, again.
Okay, in the early days of cable, it wasn't too uncommon to find shows get revived or have a new life, by moving to cable, but it was unusual. "Babylon 5" got an extra season on TNT, after, being mostly a syndicated network run previously. Before that, "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" got a reprieve on Lifetime after being cancelled by NBC, and in fact probably was more successful on cable. (Blair Brown did more than just "Fringe" people) and "Southland" and "Monday Night Football" have already been mentioned, but it's very weird for a show to go from Cable, and then go to network. Particularly strange when you realize one show that somehow managed to pull this off, basically invented a whole new television subgenre that you still see it's influence today. And that show, was, "Good Morning, Miss Bliss"? Wait, what?
4. NBC keeps the rights after Disney Channel cancels, "Good Morning, Miss Bliss"
If you just clicked the Youtube video I just posted too, you're probably thinking the same thing I'm thinking, "What, the, hell, is this?". Okay, this will need some explanations. Oh my God, why did NBC keep the rights to this? Okay, I'm being a bit facetious, but this is a rare early pilot of "Good Morning, Miss Bliss", god that theme song, and the horrible, "Family Ties"-esque opening, oh my god.- (Scoffs) Sorry, anyway, let's tell this story. So, this was back when the Disney Channel was a pay channel, (Yeah, we're really going back here, Disney Channel, used to be like HBO, you had to pay extra for it, for some reason.) they were creating new series, and a few good ones I can remember offhand, but in the beginning days of that, they were working with other networks to have shows produced for them, and that happens all the time by the way, for several different reasons. Sometimes a network that aired a show and the studio that owns the rights to that show, have nothing in common. So, NBC, was creating shows for the Disney Channel at one point, and they created one called "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" . It was about a middle school teacher played by Haley Mills, you remember, the little girl in the original "Pollyanna" and "The Parent Trap", one of the original Disney princesses! (Long way to set that joke up) and it was canceled after thirteen episodes, but NBC, was producing the show, they kept the rights, and then, made a very peculiar move, to re conceive and re-brand the show, and even more bizarre than that at the time, they decided to air the series on Saturday mornings. A live-action sitcom, on Saturday mornings? That should not have worked, boy should it not have worked, 'cause if you don't already know this, that Pilot up there, eventually turned into....
I have forced that song into your head for the next two days! You're welcome! Yes, that, became "Saved By the Bell", I'll let you decide whether or not it's an improvement. "Saved By the Bell" is such a strange anomaly in the television world, that it's almost impossible to explain by itself, much less, it's place in history, but you gotta understand. There were sitcoms, that were made, basically, just for kids before. Many of them, "The Brady Bunch" comes to mind. "The Partridge Family", "Room 222", "The Flintstones", "Happy Days", the last few seasons of "Bewitched", except that's not true at all, none of those were kids shows. They were family shows. (Okay, "Room 222" was a show based in a school, and-, that's a whole other group of exceptions that one, forget I mentioned that one. Underrated show though btw), And they were on Primetime television, premiere slots too most of them. Television was aiming to get as much of the audience as possible, and there were fewer channels and a lot more audience back then. That why, something like a "My World... and Welcome to It" stands out as innovative and ahead of it's time, but lasted only a season, while, "Bewitched" lasted like eight, and like four more than it should have. Just having a kid-focused show doesn't make it a kids' show; "The Wonder Years" went on around the same time "Saved By the Bell" did, and that show's one of the best shows of all-time, and definitely wasn't just for kids. "Saved by the Bell" is probably the first really successful live-action sitcom attempt that was aimed directly at the kids, as in, aiming for the kids' audience specifically, including, giving it a daytime spot in the lineup. There aren't that many other shows that did that at the time, and the ones that did, they're not memorable. Eh, I guess Canada before "Degrassi", which you can also blame on "Saved By the Bell", they had "Hillside" or "Fifteen" as it was called here, when it made it's way to Nickelodeon in the early nineties, and even that show was after "Saved By the Bell". Maybe "Square Pegs" can count, but that wasn't a hit. You'd probably have to go back to something like "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" to really find something that hits the same kind of zeitgeist that "Saved By the Bell" started, and even that's a big stretch. And just immediately the impact, there were so many "Saved by the Bell" rip-offs, right after. My favorite was "California Dreams", 'cause I liked being that kind of snob even as a kid, but there was "USA High", there was, "Saved By the Bell: The New Class", don't forget that that lasted for like nine years, "Welcome, Freshman", "Sweet Valley High", "Clarissa Explains It All", there was a bunch of them. And there still is. Pretty much, every successful "Wizards of Waverly Place" and "Hannah Montana" and "That's So Raven", and "The Suite Life of..." whatever the hell their names were, anything that turned "Boy Meets World", from the underrated cool show on that TGIF lineup that actually progressed and became more adult as it went on, and turned it into, what was a not-as-bad-as-it-probably-could've been Disney Channel kids show spinoff 'Girl Meets World" can pretty much be blamed on "Saved By the Bell" being picked up, retooled and re-positioned as a new sitcom subgenre on NBC. Cause Disney Channel, canceled "Good Morning, Miss Bliss". Television is weird.
"NCIS" has been the highest rating scripted series on television for seven years, it's rarely number one, but it's always been Top 5. But that means, for the most part, reality has overtaken scripted television, in Primetime, and that can be annoying, but, honestly I don't have a problem with that. Reality's a genre, like everything else. You can do it good, or bad, and when it's good, it can be great and deservedly be ranked among the best shows on television. Another side effect of reality was that, it became an over-saturated market, because they were cheap to make and they in tune, had great returns on them, so a show, like "Big Brother" that, really was never a hit, in the U.S. anyway,, just by the fact that it was cheap enough to make and got enough of an audience, that it stayed on the air. This also created a market on cable, for entire channels to try and base themselves as reality-based channels. Most of them have tried and done fairly well at this, enough to create their own niche in the marketplace, however, there was an opportunity for there to be a real, premiere space on cable for quality reality television, and it was heading in that direction. And then, they lost their flagship show straight out from under them.
3. The Weinstein Co. moves "Project Runway" from Bravo to Lifetime
I seriously do not think this is talked about enough as one of the important transformative moments in recent television history. One of those channels that was the first to jump on the Reality show bandwagon was Bravo, shortly after Andy Cohen took over as Head of Programming, and after the channel was bought out by NBC-Universal, one of the first successes in their rebranding as a more artistically-inclined, reality-based channel was "Project Runway". It became a smash hit, and I'd argue remains to this day as the best reality-competition show of all-time. Once that hit show came about and most of their other programming, which was based in upper-artistic culture, especially appreciation of the arts, most notably, "Inside the Actors' Studio", which has still survived, they built the rest of their lineup around "Project Runway", and they did it, with some amazing good reality shows. "Top Chef" became "...Runway"'s sister show, and one of the best reality-competition shows in it's own right, "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" won back-to-back Emmys for Best Reality Program, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", which also won the Emmy one year, even their more supposedly exploitative shows, actually were rather intriguing looks at the lives of inner workings of some of the more creative people out there, particularly in the posh L.A. areas. "Blow Out", about a high-class beauty salon, "Flipping Out" about an obsessive-compulsive who's neuroses were his biggest weakness and strength as a house flipper, "Workout" about the trainers at one of the biggest and most exclusive L.A. gyms, these were good shows, and they were lining up and making waves. They weren't one big hit, but they blueprinted how to base a network around reality shows and still actually have quality and credibility with it's image. However, the Weinsteins' owned the rights to "Project Runway", and in a sudden move, after the show's fifth season, they accepted an offer to move to Lifetime. This led to one of the biggest lawsuits in television history, and it actually took so long to finish that they actually finished taping two runs of the series before it was allowed to air. And don't think this was just because they took their show away, "Project Runway" was and still is one of the biggest shows on cable, there's a reason both sides fought as hard as they did to keep ownership the show. Without a centerpiece show, Bravo went from the premiere spot for the best in reality television, to, well, the Real Housewives channel. And it's a shame too, 'cause Bravo, for those few years really could've been considered one of the best channels on television, and considering "Project Runway" is still successful, they lost a goldmine. Lifetime's coupe did lead to their own reality renaissance, one that unfortunately wasn't as prolific, but they've also started making quality scripted series recently as well. While Bravo, well, they're trying. "Top Chef" still holds on, but it's not the centerpiece of the channel, which has become more exploitative than it at first seemed like it was going. When you really think about how much of a mess, the reality show lineups are on cable, and how, mostly benign they've become on the networks, who have basically narrowed themselves to a few main reality shows that alternate runs each, Bravo losing "Project Runway" feels even more sad and depressing now. They tried to replace it with other fashion shows, but it just wasn't the same, and Bravo hasn't been the same since. This move ranks as one of the biggest missed opportunities in recent television history.
Now I know at this point, you've gotta be a bit surprised that there hasn't been a Late Night reference yet. Yeah, Late Night, from what I remember there a lot of shifts, in Late Night television, over the years, some of them, very famous, Late Shifts, over the years; shouldn't they be on the list? Well, not exactly. You see, while certain people moved from one network to another, we're talking SHOWS, changing networks. Letterman left NBC, he didn't take "Late Night..." with him, that went to Conan O'Brien, who in turn, didn't take "The Tonight Show" with him when he went to TBS, and neither did Steve Allen, or Alan Parr, or anyone else really. So, that said, there's only one Late Night show that made that list, but actually, it might secretly be the most important and influential move in all of Late Night history.
2. "Politically Incorrect" moves from Comedy Central to ABC.
So, Late Night history, is fairly dominated by NBC and "The Tonight Show". Starting with Steve Allen, then Jack Paar, and then of course Johnny Carson, and then the infamous Late Shift happen with Letterman going to CBS to start "The Late Show" and Jay Leno, continuing "The Tonight Show"'s legacy. ABC, was the also-also ran in the race for most of that time period. You can probably argue that, outside of "Nightline" their most successful Late Night legacy prior to "Politically Incorrect" which they poached from the young cable upstart Comedy Central, was either "The Joey Bishop Show" or "The Dick Cavett Show", and both of those were decades old, even at the time, and while culturally they're relevant, they didn't have much ratings success and didn't exactly leave much of an identifying mark on the network. "Politically Incorrect" still ranks as one of the first and probably biggest and most successful series that actually pulled off the transition from cable series to network series, and for a time being, on both Comedy Central and then later on ABC, if there wasn't a good guest on Leno or Letterman, it was the Midnight alternative for the more progressive and politically-aggressively inclined. After 9/11 the show was cancelled and Bill Maher, after controversy and struggling to pull in advertisers for the edgy show, probably for the best, went back to cable to host "Real Time with Bill Maher" and for all-intensive purposes, he's never looked back and it's considered a move that benefitted all involved. Especially after ABC, took a chance on bringing in Jimmy Kimmel, who's turned the ABC punchline of a Late Night lineup to must see television that equals and even competes with both networks and cable. Hell, he's technically the longest continuously-running late-night host currently still on the air! (Oh God, I just made myself sad.) The thing is, this doesn't rank this high, because of what it did for ABC; it ranks this high cause of what Comedy Central, had to do, in an effort to replace it..., They didn't have Bill Maher, but they still wanted a program that wouldn't still satirize, comment on and parody the news, something that kept them modern and gave viewers a reason to tune in most nights. The show that replaced "Politically Incorrect," was "The Daily Show with Craig Kilbourn". That's right, it's because of "Politically Incorrect" moving to ABC, that Comedy Central of all channels, created the biggest late-night dynasty of all-time, one that has it's influence marked all over the Late Night scene today, on all three major networks, and TBS and HBO, not to mention, the series that forever solidified Comedy Central as one of the premiere cable networks and has kept it that way, for over two decades.
Now, before I get to number one, there's a few honorable mentions that just missed the list.
"Batman: The Animated Series" goes to The WB- I probably could've included "Animaniacs" in here as well, but honestly, I look at this as the end of the afternoon cartoon era moreso than the beginning. I mean, The CW isn't continuing this tradition, are they? No. This didn't last.
TBS pick up "Cougar Town" after it's canceled by ABC-Eh, I never fully got "Cougar Town" if I'm being honest. I would've considered this along with/instead of "Southland" but really, TBS's comedy lineup was built around "Family Guy" and "The Office" reruns, as well as grabbing Conan O'Brien moreso than this one.
"Sesame Street" moves first-run shows to HBO-This is a tricky one, because it's still on PBS, just not in it's First Run of shows. Also, it's too early to tell, really how much impact this will have. Kids television, particularly preschool age television has gotten a short ends in the stick in television in recent years, and it doesn't look like PBS is getting the funding it should get either. (Sigh) Stupid Trump.
KTMA sells "Mystery Science Theater 3000" to The Comedy Central-"MST3K" has actually been on several networks over the years, including recently, a new reboot of the series to be on Netflix in the near future. I'm not so sure I can really claim that they've put their mark on any of them, but this is one of the most successful examples of a local television show, one that started on Channel 23 in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region, and then managed to get sold to national network, even though it was cable at the time, and then finding greater long-running success.
Hulu picks up FOX's canceled "The Mindy Project"-I really wish people wouldn't just presume that from here on out, if your favorite show gets canceled, Hulu will bail you out and renew it, but "The Mindy Project" is one show that did better streaming on Hulu than it did in ratings on FOX, so it makes sense that when Hulu decided to get into the producing game that this was the main show that they picked up first.
CBS signs Jackie Gleason away from the Dumont Network-This would've been really high on the list, maybe even number one, if it weren't for the fact that I'm not 100% sure whether or not it's eligible. Gleason broke into television, first, finding mainstream success on "The Life of Riley", but it was when he took over hosting for the Dumont Network Variety Series, "Cavalcade of Stars" that he really became huge. CBS signed him away from Dumont, and I've read some who consider "The Jackie Gleason Show" to be a renaming of "Cavalcade of Stars", others who consider it a different show entirely...- it's not clear, "Cavalcade of Stars" is the show that originated "The Honeymooners" btw.
Comedy Central brings back "Futurama"-Eh, I don't know. Animated series already had a history of coming back after years off, thanks "Family Guy", for that precedent, and it didn't exactly impact or effect Comedy Central to bring it back; it was already a success for the network in reruns. It's not like how "Arrested Development" helped make Netflix a go-to channel, you know?
"Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" moves from Crackle to Netflix-This one, just happened, and I don't really know how this'll turn out, but so far, it's already ranked as the most successful, and maybe only major time when a show went from one Internet-based network to another, different internet-based network, so it's got that without even airing on Netflix yet. That's groundbreaking television history, something that is entirely new for Jerry Seinfeld, except for of course, you know, that other show he did.
Okay, Everyone, the NUMBER ONE MOST LANDSCAPE-ALTERING TIME A TELEVISION SHOW CHANGED NETWORS is....
I said this list was a bit NBC-centric, and we talked about the end of "Must See TV", but now it's time to talk about the beginning of "Must See TV' era, but what actually started it? NBC was struggling in a distant third for years,before it finally took over and put stranglehold on network television for decades. Now, most point to "The Cosby Show" being the ratings winner that helped explode the network, and it was, it didn't do it alone. And it required a lot of breaks and taking a lot of chances, sometimes risky chances, most notably, keeping "Cheers" on the air, despite finishing, literally dead last in ratings after it's first season. Before they got, "Cheers" however, they had to have one of the best shows in television history fall into it's lap.
1. NBC picks up "Taxi" from ABC.
"Taxi" gets lost in the shuffle all the time. It doesn't help that this show, which won three straight Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series, happened to air, from '78-'82, so it doesn't really have a decade associated with it. It came out too late to be remembered for the '70s, and ended too early to be remember as an '80s show, but I rank it among the Top 20 Shows of all-time, and pretty much everybody I know who remembers and has seen the show, probably gives it a similar rating. It made a lot of people superstars, Danny Devito, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Kaufman, Judd Hirsch, Tony Danza, Marilu Henner, among others. Not-to-mention James L. Brooks, who helped create the show. "Taxi" was originally a runaway hit on ABC, but after it's third season, ABC switched it's spot in the lineup, to Thursday 9;30pm, which was at that time, CBS's prime spot and the show started losing ratings to the likes of "Nurse" and "Magnum, P.I." among others. NBC won the bidding war after ABC canceled the series, and it kept it's spot in the lineup, but Brooks got together with a couple writers who worked on "M*A*S*H" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", Glen & Les Charles, and they created "Cheers" as "Taxi"'s lead-in. NBC's Thursday 9:00pm slot is arguably the most gloried and honored spot in the television lineup. "Cheers", "Seinfeld", "Frasier" "Will & Grace", and even after the Must See TV era ended, "The Office" held that honored spot, almost thirty years of, the best of television. (And there were those rare times when Zucker put "The Apprentice" on that spot, and gee, wow, CBS wins Thursday nights now.) "Taxi" would end soon enough, but the move meant that the era CBS's dominance would soon be over. ABC's had multiple identity crises over the years, but after "Barney Miller"'s final season Emmy win for Comedy Series, (Which was "Taxi"'s companion show in the ABC lineup btw), they didn't have another Emmy win for Comedy Series until "Modern Family", even with ratings juggernauts like "Home Improvement" and "Roseanne" helping make them the Must See TV alternative for a while there. Still, though, ABC bumbling it's biggest show, leading to the creation of Must See TV, that's a big enough legacy worthy of the number one, but it's actually the alternate scenario that really makes this moment interesting. You see, there was a bidding war for "Taxi", but it wasn't NBC and CBS, in fact, for most of 1981, when the battle was on for the series, the leading bidder, was HBO. And this was well over a decade before HBO was taken remotely seriously as a network known for producing quality original content, but they were trying to be in the fight back then. James L. Brooks even once told Marilu Henner that if they end up on HBO, the first shot of the show will be of her tits, just so everybody knows they were on HBO. While, that's definitely one reason to wish that had happened, but even without that, imagine the alternate scenario where HBO picks up "Taxi", and then got "Cheers" and started their television legacy back then? Even still, this was the first sign of HBO and cable's dominance in the years to come. All this makes "Taxi" moving to NBC the most landscape-altering time a television show changed networks.
I hope you enjoyed the list, and if you think I missed one that was more landscape-altering or more interesting, let me know. It's possible I missed one or two of the big ones, especially since I only have American shows on here; I don't know the British TV landscape as well. I had fun, next time, I promise, I'll do your guys' choice for a Top Ten List; but this one was for me, and now I'm gonna go spend my birthday, eh, probably watching movies and television like I do most everyday. (Shrugs) Oh well.
Oh, and WatchMojo.com, do it better!