A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, July 08, 2005

Friday's List: Best TV Shows Ever

Well, at least since the 1970s. I don't have a large frame of reference for TV shows from the 60s and earlier, since I hadn't been born yet. So, Gunsmoke, the Ed Sullivan Show, Burns and Allen, etc. are not included. No doubt some, maybe many, of those golden era shows belong on the list, but I just can't make that judgement. I also don't watch a lot of TV these days and don't have HBO and most other cable networks--yes, I do live in a cave-- so my ability to judge recent shows and HBO and other cable shows is limited.

Longevity was a factor, but quality was a more important factor, and consistent quality throughout the life of the show was an even bigger factor. Shows that lost it at the end despite a fantastic beginning are ranked on the entirity of the show's run, good and bad. Thus, SNL does make the list, but barely, since it has been inconsistent and rather unfunny in stretches.

Right. Here goes:

25) M*A*S*H* Got very preachy at the end, but it had some of the most affecting moments in television and a great ensemble cast.
24) The Powerpuff Girls. Saving the world before bedtime. A fine trick to turn, having a show that appeals to kids and their parents alike. PPG makes it seem effortless.
23) Hill Street Blues. I don't remember this show that well, but I remember being riveted by it back in the day. You know, before I became an old fart.
22) Cheers. It lost it a little at the end, or it would be higher on this list.
21) Saturday Night Live. It's had its share of unfunny moments, particularly of late, but it was revolutionary for its time and hilarious for much of its existence.
20) Married With Children. Completely lost it the last season or this show would be much higher. Gut busting hilarity and some scathing social satire.
19) Law and Order. Fifteen years is bound to bring some mediocre efforts, but overall this show has had great writing and great acting. And some bad spinoffs.
18) Fawlty Towers. God this is a funny show. Unfortunately, it had a very brief run, only 12 episodes. Otherwise it would probably be higher on this list.
17) Friends. The chemistry between the six stars was undeniable, and the writing remained crisp and funny despite the somewhat unbelievable number of times Rachel and Ross broke up and got back together.
16) Columbo. A great PI series, with Peter Falk in the perfect role for his talents.
15) South Park. I haven't seen the show much lately, but the first few seasons were awesome, and what I have seen of the last few seasons has not disappointed.
14) The Twilight Zone. A little inconsistent, but so inventive and so good when its good.
13) ER. It's been on too long, and the quality of both the cast and the writing has slipped, but in its hay day, it was the best drama on TV. The best hospital drama to hit the airwaves.
12) Soap. Irreverent, hilarious, satirical and yet still affecting at times. Also groundbreaking for its time, and with one of the best ensemble casts ever.
11) The Muppet Show. The best variety show ever. Muppets rock.
10) The X-Files. This show would be higher, but they tried to keep it going despite losing Mulder and then Scully. Still, a groundbreaker and damn fine TV viewing.
9) The Rockford Files. Jim Garner was perfect as Rockford. Classic stuff.
8) Homicide: Life on the Street. Great show. I was disappointed it got cancelled, but on the plus side, it never had a chance to get stale or lose its edge.
7) Fraser. Consistently excellent. Like Seinfeld, it benefited from a stable cast, and unlike so many long-lived comedies, it did not lose it at the end.
6) CSI. Took Quincy and made it cool. Vegas helps. Great cast, great writing.
5) NYPD Blue. All the people that died around Andy stretched credulity a bit, but otherwise, this show never lost it. Even the finale wasn't over the top.
4) The West Wing. It's not quite as good now as it was in seasons two and three, but it's close. And, unlike many shows, it hit the ground running-- even the pilot is good.
3) Seinfeld. Who would've thought a show about nothing could be so funny?
2) The Simpsons. Consistently funny, edgy and satirical and able to make full use of the freedom animation gives them. Oh, and they've done it for over 15 years.
1) Monty Python's Flying Circus. Set the stage for so much of what would come after. Hilarious, irreverent, bawdy, satirical, ground breaking, unconventional. This show was the best. Ever.

All right. Those are my top 25. Here's a list of shows that just missed or weren't quite "good" enough to make the cut: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, News Radio, St. Elsewhere, The Bullwinkle Show, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Sports Night, Night Court, Barney Miller, Max Headroom, The Tick, Highlander, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Doctor Who, Gilligan's Island, Police Sqaud!, and Dennis Miller Live.

I'm off to swim. Boy, all these vacation days are rough on a guy.

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Comments:
“…so my ability to judge recent shows and HBO and other cable shows is limited.”

I think those HBO shows are for pretentious twits. Kind of like the book that everyone talks about but no one has actually read.


25) M*A*S*H* Got very preachy at the end, but it had some of the most affecting moments in television and a great ensemble cast.

It was melodramatic, preachy, and sometime embarrassing in the thick slather of emotional butter it spread over everything. But it had its moments.

24) The Powerpuff Girls. Saving the world before bedtime. A fine trick to turn, having a show that appeals to kids and their parents alike. PPG makes it seem effortless.

Bleah. You’ve gotta be kidding. Why not put Pokemon or Scooby Doo here?

23) Hill Street Blues. I don't remember this show that well, but I remember being riveted by it back in the day. You know, before I became an old fart.

I never liked it that much. CHIPS was a better cop show. (J/K)

22) Cheers. It lost it a little at the end, or it would be higher on this list.

It should have wrapped up two or three seasons before it did. But those were some of the best laughs on TV.

21) Saturday Night Live. It's had its share of unfunny moments, particularly of late, but it was revolutionary for its time and hilarious for much of its existence.

Its such crap now, yet when you watch the old reruns, you can only say; “wow, what crap!” Overrated and overly dependent on nostalgia from people who think that Chevy Chase and Gilda Rander were ever funny. They never were.

20) Married With Children. Completely lost it the last season or this show would be much higher. Gut busting hilarity and some scathing social satire.

The second show you’ve listed, along with Cheers, that truly belongs on this list. I sometimes still say “the Ferguson, bawoosh!” to my wife, who gets it, but doesn’t laugh. :->

19) Law and Order. Fifteen years is bound to bring some mediocre efforts, but overall this show has had great writing and great acting. And some bad spinoffs.

I never watch it, but this show did define a genre.

18) Fawlty Towers. God this is a funny show. Unfortunately, it had a very brief run, only 12 episodes. Otherwise it would probably be higher on this list.

I’ve only seen a couple of episodes. I like other BBC comedies (Red Dwarf, Mr. Bean, Black Adder, My Hero) better.

17) Friends. The chemistry between the six stars was undeniable, and the writing remained crisp and funny despite the somewhat unbelievable number of times Rachel and Ross broke up and got back together.

There will probably never be another show like it. The whole sure did exceed the sum of the parts.


16) Columbo. A great PI series, with Peter Falk in the perfect role for his talents.

Not a bad show. Colombo was a cop, not a PI.


15) South Park. I haven't seen the show much lately, but the first few seasons were awesome, and what I have seen of the last few seasons has not disappointed.

Haven’t seen it. I love these characters running around who call themselves South Park Conservatives. He killed Kenny! But this probably doesn’t belong on this list.

14) The Twilight Zone. A little inconsistent, but so inventive and so good when its good.

Defined a genre. Gave us endings that were not happy.

13) ER. It's been on too long, and the quality of both the cast and the writing has slipped, but in its hay day, it was the best drama on TV. The best hospital drama to hit the airwaves.

Really good in its day. Still fun to watch. The format, tell about seven or eight stories per episode, means that there’s likely something that’ll catch your interest in an episode.

12) Soap. Irreverent, hilarious, satirical and yet still affecting at times. Also groundbreaking for its time, and with one of the best ensemble casts ever.

No way, Jose. This doesn’t belong on this list. Stupid and silly.

11) The Muppet Show. The best variety show ever. Muppets rock.

Absolutely. A few of the Muppet movies have been really good.


10) The X-Files. This show would be higher, but they tried to keep it going despite losing Mulder and then Scully. Still, a groundbreaker and damn fine TV viewing.

Two of the damn shames of modern times are the X files movie and the X files series finale.


9) The Rockford Files. Jim Garner was perfect as Rockford. Classic stuff.

The best PI show ever on TV.

8) Homicide: Life on the Street. Great show. I was disappointed it got cancelled, but on the plus side, it never had a chance to get stale or lose its edge.

Never saw it.

7) Fraser. Consistently excellent. Like Seinfeld, it benefited from a stable cast, and unlike so many long-lived comedies, it did not lose it at the end.

Fraser showed what good writing, good actors, and a little chemistry could do.

6) CSI. Took Quincy and made it cool. Vegas helps. Great cast, great writing.

Ugh. There’s way too many cop shows in this list. Nick, you may have missed your true calling in life. Do you ever dream at night of saying, with a smirk, “Book him, Dano”?

5) NYPD Blue. All the people that died around Andy stretched credulity a bit, but otherwise, this show never lost it. Even the finale wasn't over the top.

Ugh again.

4) The West Wing. It's not quite as good now as it was in seasons two and three, but it's close. And, unlike many shows, it hit the ground running-- even the pilot is good.

It should be renamed to “Democrat Wet Dreams.”

3) Seinfeld. Who would've thought a show about nothing could be so funny?

This one deserves to be here.

2) The Simpsons. Consistently funny, edgy and satirical and able to make full use of the freedom animation gives them. Oh, and they've done it for over 15 years.

This one also deserves to be here.

1) Monty Python's Flying Circus. Set the stage for so much of what would come after. Hilarious, irreverent, bawdy, satirical, ground breaking, unconventional. This show was the best. Ever.

Nah. Watch it sometime as an adult, it just seems stupid.

Shocking oversights (in alphabetical order):

Babylon 5
Barney Miller
Black Adder
Bonanza!
Dick Van Dyke Show
Extreme Makeover, Home Edition
Funniest Home Videos
Gunsmoke
Highlander
I Love Lucy
LA Law
Little House on the Prairie
Magnum PI
Max X
Monday Night Football
Mr. Bean
Murder She Wrote
Night Court
Perry Mason
Red Dwarf
Smallville
Star Trek
Star Trek the Next Generation
The Andy Griffith Show
The Bullwinkle Show
The Cosby Show
 
I'm a huge Simpson fan, but props must be given to those who did it first: The Flintstones.
 
If we're going by quality vs. longevity, then Rescue Me should be on there somewhere.
 
All In The Family
Carnivale
Rescue Me
Dead Like Me
Sopranos
 
That's a decent list, but about 30% of them I wouldn't put on there. I agree the HBO shows are overrated - the Supranos, Six Feet Under and OZ were/are good, but I'm not sure I'd say they're the best shows ever. Anyway, a few "can't believes":

I can't believe you didn't include either ST or ST:TNG.

I can't believe you'd put Powderpuff Girls on there as a representative of kids shows. The original GI Joe or Transformers is a much better choice. Hell if you're going to go in that route, include Sesame Street.

I can't believe (but at least you explained why) you didn't have any of the great old shows. Mr. Ed, I Love Lucie, Bewitched, etc., etc.

I can't believe you didn't put Seinfeld as #1 (and #2-#10, for that matter). How many times have I been in a conversation with someone and said, "Hmmm, that Kinda reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld...."?

I can't believe you didn't put the Cosby Show on there. The Cosby Show, for cryin' out loud!

Finally, I'll wrap this up with a nod to what I think is the best NEW show on TV: House. This show (so far) finally may replace ER after so many "medical drama" duds, a label which I now also give to ER itself. I know, it's only been on one season, but I just can't get enough of it.

I've also been pretty hooked on Lost this summer, but I think that might just be because there's nothing else on.

Corribus
 
All in the Family. Yeah, that should be on there-- though the Meathead plot lines of the later seasons got a little tedious. Never seen Rescue Me or Dead Like Me or Carnivale or The Sopranos, as mentioned. Gunsmoke, I Love Lucy, etc. I have seen little or nothing of, as mentioned.

Star Trek. No. Groundbreaking in a number of ways, the original episodes are only good for nostalgia, for the most part. There are a handful, City on the Edge of Forever, for example, that were truly great, but far too many of them involved Kirk talking a computer to death. They have seriously not stood the test of time. TNG is dreadfully pretensious, and Riker is... icky. The best ST of the TV genre was Deep Space Nine, and I considered putting that on the list, but it wasn't top-25 worthy.

Babylon 5 was brilliant to begin, and gradually got less so as it rolled along, eventually dying an inglorious death when they tried to resusitate it for a final season. Black Adder... eh. Extreme Makeover Home Edition? Err... huh. America's Funniest? Errr... ugh. Red Dwarf... haven't seen that much of it. What I have seen has been good, not great. The Cosby Show, maybe, but mostly because it was a mainstream comedy featuring all black characters-- and didn't the Jeffersons do that already? The content was good, not great. LHotP, maybe early on-- ran too long. Monday Night Football... I suppose. I didn't really include any sports programming because it's not really a "show." MNF might be the exception. But if you judge it on its merits, at least half of the shows are mediocre to poor. Though the barn burners still resonate through the years.

The Flintstones? Fun show, until they totally lost it and had that stupid alien pop in. Not top-25 worthy.

In retrospect, I'd probably put Kim Possible ahead of PPG. Flying Circus stands the test of time, imo, and is the root of many of the funny shows that followed. I stand by it as #1.
 
Apparently John H has no sense of humor since he doesn't like Monty Python or Soap and doesn't watch South Park. (Plus he thinks Mr. Bean is funnier than Fawlty Towers. Bullocks!) His entire commentary should be thrown out, although he might have one small saving grace in listing Barney Miller.
Nick, pretty good list, although if you are going to list a cartoon, it should be The Tick.
 
The Tick was awesome, but very short-lived. I'm not sure it was around long enough-- and I haven't seen it in a while so I don't recall for sure just HOW awesome it was.
 
i prefer to live squarely in the present....and entourage on HBO rocks!!!.....best new show since rescue me...how come good TV is always on cable??
 
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