“Did You Have A Favorite TV Show As A Child? Radio Show?”
I’m copying and pasting my answer from a post I did over a year ago, but all of the answers still hold strong.
WINNER – M.A.S.H. (premiered in 1972)
RUNNER UP – Three’s Company (premiered in 1977)
HONORABLE MENTION – The Incredible Hulk (premiered in 1978)
M.A.S.H. was already deep into syndication by the time I was old enough to understand it, but it was that same exposure that made me realize the significance of the program (as we all know, the series finale attracted over 105 million viewers). I was initially drawn to Three’s Company because of the slapstick antics of the late John Ritter, but as I get older, I enjoy it because it’s one of the filthiest sitcoms of all-time. The Incredible Hulk hasn’t aged very well, or spawned anything even resembling an interesting film, but it’s still good for nostalgia’s sake.
WINNER – Cheers
RUNNER UP – Knight Rider
HONORABLE MENTION – Family Ties
The Missus, in her lifelong quest to hold grudges for the most superficial reasons ever, hates Cheers because she hates Ted Danson (for a reason which still escapes me). The rest of us know that it was one of the greatest and best-written television shows (comedy or drama) of all-time. The fact that they rarely left the bar and still managed 11 seasons of brilliance is proof enough. Knight Rider has greatly diminished in retro appeal since the remake and subsequent fall from grace of David Hasselhoff, and Family Ties still reminds me of just how cute Justine Bateman was and still is.
WINNER – The A-Team
RUNNER UP – Webster
HONORABLE MENTION – Newhart (premiered in 1982)
The A-Team was a hilarious cavalcade of unnecessary violence, pro wrestler cameos and tricked-out GMC vans. The recent rumor of a film remake sounds pointless, but almost expected in this current state of zero Hollywood ideas. Webster will be remembered by me for having a series finale that consisted of the family inexplicably traveling into space with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Newhart was another classic that I started watching too late, but can look back on fondly as a man-child.
WINNER – Miami Vice
RUNNER UP – Hunter
HONORABLE MENTION – Charles In Charge
Miami Vice was far more influential than given credit for. The use of music, imagery and location has since been mimicked into oblivion by essentially every flashy crime show on television. Hunter ruled because Sgt. Hunter’s weapon of choice was a 9mm that he used to pretty much kill at least one person every week. Charles In Charge was a springboard for the limitless talent and world-renowned celebrity of Willie Aames.
WINNER – Amazing Stories
RUNNER UP – MacGyver
HONORABLE MENTION – The Equalizer
Can someone please tell me why the Second Season of Amazing Stories hasn’t been released on DVD yet? After winning 5 Emmys (and being nominated for 12), NBC pulled the plug on this incredible anthology series created by Steven Spielberg in 1987. MacGyver needs no explanation, and The Equalizer seems to be a somewhat-forgotten all-time TV badass. “You wanna know what I do for a living? I kill people!“
WINNER – Sledge Hammer!
RUNNER UP – ALF
HONORABLE MENTION – Perfect Strangers
Sledge Hammer! was one of the first ‘spoof’ shows I had ever seen as a kid, and it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Even then, I loved the idea of tearing apart cliche’ in absurd and over-the-top ways, and I consider it a large influence on my sense of humor. ALF is absolute trash if you happen to watch it in present day, but at the time, it was a major hit, and Perfect Strangers was always absolute trash, although nobody in America happened to know at the time; presumably hypnotized by the rugged good looks of Bronson Pinchot.
WINNER – Full House
RUNNER UP – Max Headroom
HONORABLE MENTION – Thirtysomething
I’m something of a Full House junkie; I’ve seen every episode at least three times, I can tell you what the episode is about within the first 30 seconds and I can relay every character arc at the drop of a hat. Max Headroom was ahead of its time, and it probably still is, honestly. Thirtysomething was the first in a long line of shows where friends sit around and cry about things, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t awesome.
WINNER – The Wonder Years
RUNNER UP – Unsolved Mysteries
HONORABLE MENTION – China Beach
Now we’re getting somewhere. I know I’m not alone in saying that The Wonder Years was one of the greatest TV shows of all -time, in that it laid the blueprint for hundreds of shows thereafter. The fact that there hasn’t been a complete DVD release is almost criminal (securing music rights is what’s keeping dozens of brilliant television shows off of DVD). Unsolved Mysteries doesn’t necessarily fall into the Comedy or Drama category, but as a kid, this was the scariest show on national television; I still remember the Tip Line 1-800 Number by heart. China Beach was a critically-acclaimed and multiple Emmy award-winning war series that was taken off the air after poor ratings sealed its fate.
WINNER – The Simpsons
RUNNER UP – COPS
HONORABLE MENTION – Seinfeld
Wow; what a year. The FOX Network becomes a ratings powerhouse nationwide, bringing with them two shows that are still in production to this day. The Simpsons is, without question, the greatest television show of the 20th Century (just ask Time Magazine), COPS is a show that I pray runs forever (and why couldn’t it?), and Seinfeld was the funniest live-action sitcom ever made. Jeepers.
WINNER – Twin Peaks
RUNNER UP – Get A Life
HONORABLE MENTION – The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
Even as a 9 year old, I loved the hell out of Twin Peaks. The amount of intrigue and attention the first season of this David Lynch show received was unparalleled until the debut of Lost. As an adult, the DVDs remind me that it stands the test of time…well, Season One, at least. Get A Life was too weird, even for FOX standards, and the fact that The Fresh Prince is now on Nick At Nite makes me feel like I’m about a billion years old.
WINNER – Eerie, Indiana
RUNNER UP – Herman’s Head
HONORABLE MENTION – Blossom
Attempting to cash in on the Twin Peaks method of ‘weird is in,’ NBC scored huge (with me, at least) with Eerie, Indiana. America needs the wisdom of Herman’s Head now more than ever, and I’d probably still chop off one of my fingers for just one night alone with Six from Blossom.
WINNER – Picket Fences
RUNNER UP – Dateline NBC
HONORABLE MENTION – Roseanne (premiered in 1988)
More Twin Peaks-style weirdness (it was fairly influential, you see), this time on CBS and set in Wisconsin! Picket Fences was more well-received than Eerie, Indiana, and boasted a great cast to boot. Dateline NBC redefined the ‘News Magazine’ format and is still one of my favorite television shows in the True Crime format, and Roseanne began a stretch of incredible seasons that, unfortunately, hit the toilet faster than you can say ‘Tom Arnold.’
WINNER – The X-Files
RUNNER UP – Phenom
HONORABLE MENTION – Frasier
Without Twin Peaks, there would be no The X-Files, and creator Chris Carter knows it, too. Fortunately, The X-Files carved out its own legacy, becoming one of the most terrifying, interesting and influential shows in history. When you watch some of the best X-Files episodes, rest assured that you’re watching some of the best televised sci-fi ever filmed. Phenom was a hilarious and almost instantly-forgotten show about an up-and-coming, young tennis star and her family, and Frasier would soon be remembered as an intelligent, brilliantly-written and worthy successor to Cheers.
WINNER – The Critic
RUNNER UP – My So-Called Life
HONORABLE MENTION – Party Of Five
In 1994, The Simpsons couldn’t have been any bigger than if it were 1989, and the idea of a spin-off was music to the ears of fans. The Critic wasn’t the hit it could have been, but much like Futurama, there are flashes of brilliance in every episode. My So-Called Life wasn’t nearly as good as people remember it being, but it launched the career of Claire Danes, one of the worst actresses of my generation. Party Of Five did the same thing for Neve Campbell, Scott Wolf and Jennifer Love-Hewitt, while Matthew Fox managed to snag Lost almost a decade later.
WINNER – NewsRadio
RUNNER UP – American Gothic
HONORABLE MENTION – Ned & Stacey
For those that keep wondering, “Why won’t people shut up about NewsRadio?“, it was honestly that good. Anything with Phil Hartman is amazing (even that Atari commercial he did in the 80’s), but the rest of the cast (yes, even Andy Dick) really drove home the underrated power of this show. American Gothic was a short-lived, Twin Peaks-esque series that I don’t recall surviving for very long, and I probably only watched two episodes of Ned & Stacey, but thought it was pretty funny at the time. And Deborah Messing is freaking beautiful.
WINNER – ER (premiered in 1994)
RUNNER UP – Early Edition
HONORABLE MENTION – Men Behaving Badly
As ER mercifully enters its final season this year, I’m forced to remember a time when it really was the best new show on television. George Clooney, for Christ’s sake! Early Edition was not a show I admitted to watching at the time, but man, Kyle Chandler is seriously one of the best male, dramatic actors on television (he sucks at straight-ahead comedy, as ‘What About Joan?’ can attest to). While I wouldn’t watch a show like Men Behaving Badly now, I thought this Americanized version was fairly funny while it lasted.
WINNER – King Of The Hill
RUNNER UP – Ally McBeal
HONORABLE MENTION – Working
It took a long time for a worthy comparative animated series to The Simpsons to arrive, but it did in a big way with King Of The Hill. Mike Judge, to me, is the king of underrated satire, and he hits both sides of the spectrum with the Beavis & Butthead/King Of The Hill universe. Ally McBeal launched my two-year long obsession with Calista Flockhart, and the Fred Savage NBC series Working could have been remembered with as much appreciation as The Office had it had the time to percolate.
WINNER – Sports Night
RUNNER UP – Dawson’s Creek
HONORABLE MENTION – That 70’s Show
Looking back through TV history, it’s a shame to see all of the great shows that were canceled far too soon, only to pave the way for a major hit years later (presumably when the audience has finally caught up to the previous show). Sports Night is one of those shows, and their huge current following only solidifies their significance. Dawson’s Creek was a show that I simultaneously loved and hated as a High School Sophomore, knowing full well that teenagers don’t talk that that, Katie Holmes didn’t exist in my reality and Joshua Jackson carried a season-long affair with one of his teachers. That 70’s Show started off extremely shaky, but went on to become a huge hit thanks to the skyrocketing celebrity of some of the worst actors in the cast.
WINNER – Futurama
RUNNER UP – Action
HONORABLE MENTION – Freaks And Geeks
If you didn’t like Futurama when it debuted, do yourself a favor and check out a rerun on Comedy Central. It’s actually funnier now than it was then. Action was another Sports Night-esque series that pushed the boundaries on network television (bleeped profanities were part of the show, much like we later saw with the Documentary-style shooting of Arrested Development). Freaks and Geeks owes a lot to shows like The Wonder Years, although it more than carved out its own new millennium niche.
WINNER – Malcolm In The Middle
RUNNER UP – Survivor
HONORABLE MENTION – CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Even though the ratings, Emmy nominations and awards say otherwise, I still think that Malcolm In The Middle is one of the most underrated sitcoms in modern television history. They just brought everything to the battle, every single week. Survivor is still a ratings juggernaut, but nothing will compare to that first season, where seemingly everyone in the nation was watching. Then American Idol came along and (rightfully) took away their thunder. CSI was unlike anything I’d ever seen when it premiered, and now it looks like pretty much everything that you see on CBS six nights a week.
WINNER – The Bernie Mac Show
RUNNER UP – Fear Factor
HONORABLE MENTION – Undeclared
While the show fizzled after the departure of the head writer and creator, the first two seasons of The Bernie Mac show were absolutely hilarious and perfectly well-written. Fear Factor needed to be watched for the curiosity appeal alone, and Undeclared took the American Pie 00’s humor template and almost instantly got canceled.
WINNER – Andy Richter Controls The Universe
RUNNER UP – Oliver Beene
HONORABLE MENTION – American Idol
I don’t know what the mainstream has against Andy Richter, but he just can’t carry a show to save his life, no matter how hilarious it was. Andy Richter Controls The Universe could have been on par with 30 Rock had it the time to get over with the audience. Oliver Beene was exceedingly similar to Everybody Hates Chris, and as you should probably tell by now, the Wonder Years style of sitcom storytelling makes me a very happy guy. Maybe a decade from now, I’ll have my own show like that…..erm…or not. Then American Idol showed up and destroyed everything in its path for the next six years.
WINNER – Arrested Development
RUNNER UP – Grounded For Life (premiered in 2001)
HONORABLE MENTION – Cracking Up
There is nothing I can tell you about Arrested Development that would be an exaggeration of its comedic and satirical brilliance. Buy the DVDs and watch them. Then watch them again. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the post-Seinfeld measuring stick by which every sitcom will be judged. Grounded For Life, to me, may have been the last great pre-Arrested sitcom. Cracking Up was only on for a month or so, but worked very well with shows like Malcolm and Arrested in the FOX Sunday night lineup.
WINNER – Lost
RUNNER UP – The Office
HONORABLE MENTION – House, M.D.
Shocking as it may seem, I did not see the first season of Lost until I bought the DVD that Winter. Within hours, I was obsessed and certain that this was the best TV drama since Twin Peaks over a decade earlier. The Office took an American remake and actually pulled it off, becoming a hit and winning Emmys left and right. House also became one of the most-watched shows on television, now entering their 5th season and making Hugh Laurie over $500,000 an episode. This was clearly a good year for new programming; perhaps the last good one.
WINNER – Sons & Daughters
RUNNER UP – My Name Is Earl
HONORABLE MENTION – Night Stalker
This season was extremely frustrating for me, as two of my most favorite up-and-coming shows, Sons & Daughters and the remake of Night Stalker were canceled too quickly. Sons & Daughters was a slightly-improvisational show that I recommend tracking down on your Bittorrent site of choice, and Night Stalker was unbelievably violent and engaging for a national prime time series. They both could have been stand-alone diamonds, but instead were sent to the curb after a combined two months of lackluster ratings (Sons & Daughters was up against American Idol in the ratings, and Night Stalker was matched with CSI, almost guaranteeing disaster from the start). My Name Is Earl solidified the NBC ‘Must-See Thursday’ lineup, which is currently the best night of comedy on TV.
WINNER – Friday Night Lights
RUNNER UP – 30 Rock
HONORABLE MENTION – Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
You wait your entire life to find a show like Friday Night Lights. A blend of nearly everything you’d want in an intelligent drama; I give you my word that Season One of FNL is the greatest season of television that I have ever seen, just barely edging out Lost. 30 Rock is the funniest show on television, and the closest thing we have to Arrested Development in 2008, and Studio 60 was the most satisfying and interesting hour of television I would see each week, until its inevitable cancellation.
I would add a new section for 2008-2010, but really, is there anything new out there that’s good?
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