TV Month 2016 – The Sign Off.

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TV Month 2016 is over. So, what have we learned?

I learned that while I appreciate this current Golden Era of Television that we inhabit, I’d still love TV regardless, simply because it exists. For the most part, the content is secondary to the experience, which sounds weird and might have even gotten weirder as I tried to explain it over the past month.

I loved that it was there when I couldn’t sleep. I loved finding things in the vast reaches of space that I had never seen before. I loved that there was a channel that only satellite pirates could see. I love the local programming that I thought was being produced in my basement. I loved sitting back for an entire block of shows catered just to me as a child.

I even loved the Infomercials, psychics and hucksters that sold snake oil at 3am. I loved scrambled premium channels and trivia ads. I love the underrated pop culture worth of commercials. I love that a crazy person hacked into WGN, and an even crazier person created a video to be shown only when the end of the world was confirmed. I loved (and still love) anything that scares the living shit out of me.

With the rise of on-demand, streaming, computer/tablet viewing and flat-out piracy, people are getting rid of not just cable and satellite TV, but the physical invention of TV in general. It stands to reason that, in 20-30 years, the ‘TV show’ might still be as popular as ever, but the TV itself will be the product of a bygone era. The Television may die, while ‘TV’ continues to live. Weird, right?

I know for sure that TV will never exist again in the way that I grew up with it, and that’s fine. Even in 2016, the C-Band satellite is an obscure piece of technology only mentioned with the same sort of cult-like interest that one might have for a Ham Radio. Soon, that nostalgia will be replaced with the mini-dish, then Blu-Ray, then even streaming TV in favor of…whatever else is next in line, I guess.

No matter what, I’ll be watching.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day; links to all of TV Month 2016 are below:

Channel 0 – The Series Primer
Channel 1 – The Series Premiere
Channel 2 – The Big Ugly Dish
Channel 3 – The Premium
Channel 4 – The UHF Dial
Channel 5 – The Programming Block
Channel 6 – The Skeptic
Channel 7 – The Obscurity
Channel 8 – The Commercials
Channel 9 – The Doomsday
Channel 10 – The Unsolved
Channel 11 – The 100 Greatest (100-76)
Channel 12 – The 100 Greatest (75-51)
Channel 13 – The 100 Greatest (50-31)
Channel 14 – The 100 Greatest (30-11)
Channel 15 – The 100 Greatest (10-1)
Channel 16 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 1)
Channel 17 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 2)
Channel 18 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 3)
Channel 19 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 4)
Channel 20 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 5)
Channel 21 – The Series Finale
Channel 22 – The Sign Off

(The CDP will return on Monday, June 20.)

TV Month 2016 – The Series Finale.

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By and large, a TV show goes off the air for a few specific reasons.

The biggest culprit is low ratings and/or not enough network support to allow the show to tough out said ratings. This is what happens to 90% of American programs, accordingly to a statistic I just pulled out of my ass. No timeslot change, no ad campaign, no wacky neighbor or surprise death can save you from your fate. You’re going away and you’re never coming back.

Arrested Development, one of the greatest Sitcoms of all-time, suffered a particularly embarrassing fate. After being pulled from the air for nearly six weeks, FOX burned off the final four episodes of Season 3 opposite the Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony. An absurd, paltry-at-best way for a show of that caliber to flatline.

However, Arrested at least had the opportunity to (somewhat) wrap things up before they hit the road. They didn’t go out on their own terms (more on those shows in a little bit), but they saw the writing on the wall and came up with something that would satisfy most storylines in the event they were canceled, which they were. Some shows are blindsinded, canceled at the end (or worse, the middle) of a season where a cliffhanger looms, leaving fans to forever ponder what was going to happen.

The HBO series Carnivale, for example, was unceremoniously yanked after just two of an intended six-seasons, resulting in several abandoned storylines and outraged fans. Unlike Arrested, all the petitioning and letter-writing in the world could not revive it.

In 1987, a low-rated sitcom called I Married Dora was canceled halfway into their first season. Instead of quietly bowing out or burning off the material they had, Dora went out in one of the most peculiar and fourth-wall-breaking moments in TV history. Check it out:

Some shows remain popular (or profitable enough) to overstay their welcome. Off the top of my head, Roseanne, Dexter and House MD were all shows that started huge and ended with more of a wimper than a bang. In fact, you can usually find Roseanne and Dexter on lists of the Worst Series Finales Ever, and I wouldn’t dispute it in the least.

Also, it’s 2016 and Grey’s Anatomy and Supernatural are still on the air. Can you believe that shit? Good for them; go get it and so forth.

Friday Night Lights was a show that, despite low ratings, was able to tell the story they wanted to tell thanks to internal support and a rabid fanbase, myself included. Despite being loved by NBC, something had to give by Season 3. Instead of pitching FNL into the dirt, NBC worked with DirecTV’s 101 Network to produce and air three additional seasons, with NBC rebroadcasts during the summer to alleviate costs. Instead of being a two-season wonder, FNL was given five years and 76 episodes to make history. This is an extremely, extremely rare example of a network moving heaven and Earth in order to allow someone to tell a story.

When AMC took a chance on Breaking Bad, it wasn’t really all that big of a chance. It was a 7-episode first season on a network not yet renowned for their original programming. However, their patience to let Vince Gilligan breathe and tell the story he wanted to tell allowed for what became perhaps the greatest Drama in TV History.

That brings me to the next reason why a TV show goes off the air: Because they’re done. This is obviously the best-case scenario for the show and fans, and when done correctly, turns out to be something very special. In recent years alone, Breaking Bad, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and The Office all had the chance to stick the landing and succeeded. Even if you agree that The Office should have ended with the departure of Steve Carell, which I wouldn’t necessarily dispute.

(This may be the funniest scene in The Office history.)

Another rare example of a show being jerked around in perpetuity is Futurama; a franchise that aired four different episodes designed to act at Series Finales in the event that they didn’t come back.

South of Sunset, a 1993 CBS drama starring Glenn Frey of The Eagles, was canceled after a single episode. Frey played a private detective, and I’m not kidding. There was also a 1997 FOX drama called Lawless that was canceled after one episode, starring NFL player Brian Bosworth as a private detective. Not sure what to tell you, there.

In 2008, NBC drama Quarterlife was pulled after a single episode that I watched and enjoyed. However, the ratings were historically abysmal; NBC claims the viewership was even lower than the XFL. Oof.
In 2010, the NBC sci-fi drama Day One was all set to fill the Heroes timeslot following the Olympics.They had high hopes and clearly put a lot of money into the pilot (see below). However, the network had an abrupt change of heart, and the show was pulled before even airing an episode. If you think you watched Day One in 2010, you didn’t, or you’ve been poofed over from an alternate universe where it was a huge hit. Bring me back a Berenstein Bears book next time.

Before we wrap it up, I wanted to talk about something I haven’t mentioned in over six years: The Series Finale of Lost.

Lost was part of many quirks of TV History. Just from a story standpoint, they utilized the Internet and Easter Eggs in a way that most shows hadn’t attempted on such a grand scale. But they also got caught in a Writer’s Strike that shortened one of their seasons, changing the way they had to tell their Season 4 story. They had to deal with major characters leaving the show, minor characters becoming fan favorites, and child actors hitting puberty at the absolute worst time.

(Remember when Walt sang the song of the Summer? So dope.)

In Season 3, the fans got restless due to a lack of answers and an abundance of unlikable characters and stand-alone stories. On the surface, it looked like Lost was losing steam and didn’t know where to go. In reality, ABC wasn’t clear about how long they expected Lost to stay on the air (it was immensely profitable), forcing the writers to tread water while they figured out how long they had to tell their tale.

At some point between Seasons 3 and 4, it was announced that Lost would end at the conclusion of their 6th Season, for better or for worse. ABC decided to compromise and determine a set end date for Lost, and from that point until the Finale, the writers knew exactly how to plan their arcs and hit the road running. It was a total win/win.

And I liked the Finale. I liked it a lot.

I never felt cheated. I never thought it was a cop-out. I never thought it was an ass-pull. I never thought it was a dishonest tactic used to avoid wrapping up illogical storylines. I didn’t have a problem with any of it. I really didn’t. It was a bit vague, it was a bit supernatural, and it was a bit more Faith-based than Science-based. But you know what? The entire series was that way.

Damon Lindelof got more shit for that finale than any showrunner I’ve ever heard of in my life, and considering some of the creative decisions we had to tolerate from certain shows since then, I feel more now than ever that it was woefully undeserved. Lost was a great show that changed the game in this current Golden Era of Television. Also, the only way this Golden Era ends is if the fans start to think that their opinion should matter.

And let me be clear; your opinion should not matter. Not enough to alter the material, at least. The all-consuming, nerd-ball gobble-monsters of Media are a real insufferable bunch at times. Here’s a group of people who want the following:

1. A perfectly thought-out story with no plotholes or deviation in source material.
2. Their opinion to be taken seriously, and the material to evolve as a result.

You can never have it both ways. You’re going to be upset one way or another. If you take umbrage to the entertainment that’s out there, go make your own, stand on the front lines and defend it from the jerks. It’s really quite simple. Live together or die alone.

TV Month 2016 has been fun, but it all comes to an end tomorrow. Links to the entire series are below. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

Channel 0 – The Series Primer
Channel 1 – The Series Premiere
Channel 2 – The Big Ugly Dish
Channel 3 – The Premium
Channel 4 – The UHF Dial
Channel 5 – The Programming Block
Channel 6 – The Skeptic
Channel 7 – The Obscurity
Channel 8 – The Commercials
Channel 9 – The Doomsday
Channel 10 – The Unsolved
Channel 11 – The 100 Greatest (100-76)
Channel 12 – The 100 Greatest (75-51)
Channel 13 – The 100 Greatest (50-31)
Channel 14 – The 100 Greatest (30-11)
Channel 15 – The 100 Greatest (10-1)
Channel 16 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 1)
Channel 17 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 2)
Channel 18 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 3)
Channel 19 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 4)
Channel 20 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 5)


TV Month 2016 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 5).

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In March of 2013, I kept a log of every television show I watched for an entire week. Every single program, good or bad, no exceptions. As a result, I also inadvertently kept a log of nearly everything else I did during that time. Here are the links:

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5

I had a lot of fun doing this, so I wanted to bring it back for TV Month 2016. Here then, Part 5 of the TV viewing habits of yours truly, for better or for worse. Let’s go.


4:30-5:00pm – Pardon the Interruption
5:00-5:30pm – UFC 198 Weigh-Ins (DVR)
5:30-6:30pm – Antiques Roadshow (DVR)
6:30-7:00pm – Animals Gone Wild (Partial)
7:00-9:30pm – Raptors vs. Heat
9:30-11:30pm – Legacy Fighting Championships (Partial DVR)

I was drinking with friends on this night, and they refused to watch the basketball game, opting to confiscate the remote and watch Animal Planet (they’re particularly fond of My Cat From Hell). I responded by watching the game in my office and drinking with the cats. I was still a good host, however, coming downstairs to mix drinks when requested.


12:00-1:00pm – Ring of Honor
1:00-2:00pm – UFC 198 Countdown
2:00-5:30pm – PGA Player’s Championship
5:30-7:00pm – UFC 198 FightPass Prelims
7:00-9:00pm – UFC 198 Prelims/Bellator MMA
9:00-11:30pm – UFC 198
11:30-12:00am – UFC 198 Post-Fight (Partial)
12:00-12:25am – Dragon Ball Z Kai (DVR)
12:25-12:50am – Dimension W (DVR)
12:50-1:15am – Hunter x Hunter (DVR)
1:15-1:40am – Samurai Champloo (DVR)
1:40-2:05am – One Piece (DVR)
2:05-3:10am – SNL: Drake (DVR)

I still count all the post-midnight stuff as technically Friday, as I hadn’t yet gone to sleep.

MMA, Golf, Anime and Drake. The Mount Rushmore of sleeping on the couch.

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So check this out; TV MONTH AIN’T OVER. It’s still May for a few more days, so we will have new essays on Monday and Tuesday to round out this cavalcade of test patterns and fuzzy nostalgia. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend.


TV Month 2016 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 4).

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In March of 2013, I kept a log of every television show I watched for an entire week. Every single program, good or bad, no exceptions. As a result, I also inadvertently kept a log of nearly everything else I did during that time. Here are the links:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

I had a lot of fun doing this, so I wanted to bring it back for TV Month 2016. Here then, Part 4 of the TV viewing habits of yours truly, for better or for worse. Let’s go.


4:30-5:00pm – Pardon the Interruption
5:00-5:30pm – NBC 15 News
5:30-6:00pm – NBC Nightly News
6:00-6:30pm – NBC 15 News
6:30-7:00pm – Wheel of Fortune
7:00-7:30pm – NXT
7:30-8:00pm – Lucha Underground (Partial DVR)
8:00-8:25pm – The Middle (DVR)
8:25-8:50pm – The Goldbergs (DVR)
8:50-10:00pm – Heat vs. Raptors (Partial DVR)
10:00-12:15am – TrailBlazers vs. Warriors


4:30-5:00pm – Pardon the Interruption
5:00-5:45pm – The Ultimate Fighter (DVR)
5:45-6:10pm – Modern Family (DVR)
6:10-6:30pm – NBC 15 News (Partial)
6:30-7:00pm – Wheel of Fortune
7:00-9:00pm – Thursday Night SmackDown
9:00-10:30pm – Spurs vs. Thunder (Partial DVR)

My viewing habits this week have been more akin to a geriatric than a 34-year old creative type. But shit, it’s mid-May! Most season finales have already finale’d, my DVR is empty and I’ve got nothing to watch on Netflix. These things happen.

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I think my favorite news coming from the 2016-2017 upfronts was that not only were we getting another season of ABC’s The Goldbergs, but that it would now lead off the Wednesday Night block at 8/7c. The Middle will be moving to Tuesdays as a lead-in to Fresh Off the Boat, Agents of SHIELD and debuting sitcom American Housewife, while The Goldbergs will kick off a night that includes Modern Family, Black-ish and newcomer Speechless. More on all of that during my Fall TV Preview in late August/early September.

If you are anywhere near my age and aren’t watching The Goldbergs, I don’t know what to tell you. They quite simply get it right every single week. They’ve already devoted entire episodes to countless aspects of 80’s Pop Culture, such as…

Weird Al, Double Dare, the Beastie Boys, Hands Across America, Scrambled Porn, Say Anything, Life Alert Bracelets, Gimbels Department Store, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, Slap Shot, Star Wars, The Goonies, the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, Laser Tag, Punch-Out, WWF, Mixtapes, Trivial Pursuit, Back to the Future, Mall Modeling Scams, New Kids on the Block, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Cabbage Patch Kids, a $900 Compact Disc Player, The Noid, Just Say No, America’s Funniest Home Videos, American Gladiators, The Princess Bride, Dance Party USA, Milli Vanilli, Jazzercise, Strawberry Shortcake, Short Circuit, We Are The World, Troop Beverly Hills, New Coke, Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ Video, Dirty Dancing, Columbia House, David Copperfield, Rush, Space Camp and Dungeons and Dragons.

These aren’t just passing, winking references, either. Everything I mentioned was either the subject of an entire episode or a major character arc. It also boasts the greatest soundtrack since The Adventures of Pete and Pete (or The Wonder Years), and the whole thing is narrated by Patton Oswalt. Oh, and since the show is based loosely on the real-life family and experiences of Adam Goldberg, we often get home movie footage at the end of the episode, sometimes replicated shot-for-shot earlier in the episode. It’s absolutely fantastic.

We wrap it up tomorrow, and TV Month 2016 begins to draw to a close.


TV Month 2016 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 3).

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In March of 2013, I kept a log of every television show I watched for an entire week. Every single program, good or bad, no exceptions. As a result, I also inadvertently kept a log of nearly everything else I did during that time. Here are the links:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

I had a lot of fun doing this, so I wanted to bring it back for TV Month 2016. Here then, Part 3 of the TV viewing habits of yours truly, for better or for worse. Let’s go.


1:00-2:00pm – Hannibal Buress: Live From Chicago
2:00-2:30pm – NFL Live
2:30-3:00pm – The Jump
3:00-3:30pm – SportsNation
3:30-4:00pm – Highly Questionable
4:00-4:30pm – Around the Horn
4:30-5:00pm – Pardon the Interruption
5:00-5:30pm – NBC 15 News
5:30-6:00pm – NBC Nightly News
6:00-6:30pm – Seinfeld
6:30-7:00pm – Wheel of Fortune
7:00-8:00pm – The Flash
8:00-9:30pm – Heat vs. Raptors (DVR)
9:30-9:55pm – The Grinder (DVR)
9:55-12:15am – TrailBlazers vs. Warriors (Partial DVR)

As you can probably tell, I did not work on this day. I mean, I handled some domestic stuff, hit the treadmill and mailed a letter, but I mostly had the TV on for background noise. And my background noise is usually always ESPN. It’s comfort food. Mac and cheese. There’s nothing I like hearing more than the same five talking points, over and over again, spanning eight hours and 16 different shows.

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Apparently the willingness to test the Missus’ patience was high, because I then took in two basketball games in primetime after The Flash.

But hey, I also had time to cook dinner with my wife, AND take in a stray cat that wandered onto our porch during a thunderstorm. No joke. Right in the middle of mincing some kale or whatever, we hear a noise and five minutes later, we have a cat taking refuge in my office. A long stroll through the pouring rain and about an hour later, and the cat was safely returned to a neighbor down the street.

Dinner was delicious.


TV Month 2016 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 2).

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In March of 2013, I kept a log of every television show I watched for an entire week. Every single program, good or bad, no exceptions. As a result, I also inadvertently kept a log of nearly everything else I did during that time. Here are the links:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

I had a lot of fun doing this, so I wanted to bring it back for TV Month 2016. Here then, Part 2 of a week in the TV viewing habits of yours truly, for better or for worse. Let’s go.


4:30-5:00pm – Pardon the Interruption
5:00-5:30pm – NBC 15 News
5:30-6:00pm – The Simpsons (‘Lisa Gets a Pony’)
6:00-6:50pm – Fear The Walking Dead (DVR)
6:50-7:05pm – Talking Dead (DVR – Partially-Watched)
7:05-7:55pm – Fear The Walking Dead (DVR)
7:55-8:10pm – Talking Dead (DVR – Partially-Watched)
8:10-10:10pm – Monday Night Raw (Partial DVR)
10:10-12:15am – Warriors vs. TrailBlazers (Partial DVR)

‘Tis slim pickings when it comes to my DVR these days. It’s down to pretty much nothing, now that I’m all caught up on Fear the Walking Dead. A season-and-a-half in, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. There are only three characters I really care about (Nick, Madison and Strand), and that feels pretty unacceptable on their part.

I mean, look at The Walking Dead or Lost. These shows had/have literally dozens of characters that elicit an emotional response from the audience, because the writers/producers did the duty of using backstory and standard development to get us on board with all of them. Even the players we didn’t initially like were eventually given redemption stories (or promptly killed off).

On Fear, we have a main cast of just seven people, and they almost flat-out refuse to create backstories for half of them. Ophelia barely speaks. It’s ridiculous. Perhaps it will evolve with time, but it’s been anything but smooth sailing (lololol) thus far. At least we have Better Call Saul on AMC with Preacher* coming up, which should be something to behold.

(*This was written before the premiere.)

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I typically don’t stay up until midnight on Monday anymore, but I drifted off with the Warriors/TrailBlazers game on TNT. I’ve been more captivated with this NBA season than I have since I was a kid, and it sort of takes me back.

On Monday night in 1990, there were not one but two TV adaptations of 80’s comedies. NBC had a Ferris Bueller spinoff that lasted 13 episodes and got replaced by Blossom, and CBS had an Uncle Buck spinoff (sound familiar?) that got steamrolled by Full House. MacGyver was also a ratings hit, which will, as per usual, be rebooted by FOX this upcoming season. Jesus H. Christ.

I think my favorite Monday show of this past season was Superstore, an NBC comedy that premiered midseason and slipped mostly under the radar. Fortunately, they were not only renewed for a Season 2, but will premiere immediately following the 2016 Summer Olympics, hopefully to a robust ratings boost.


TV Month 2016 – The Nuclear Nielsen Family (Part 1).

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In March of 2013, I kept a log of every television show I watched for an entire week. Every single program, good or bad, no exceptions. As a result, I also inadvertently kept a log of nearly everything else I did during that time. Here are the links:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

I had a lot of fun doing this, so I wanted to bring it back for TV Month 2016. Here then, a week in the TV viewing habits of yours truly, for better or for worse. Let’s go.


10:00-11:00am – UFC Rotterdam Pre-Show
11:00-1:00pm – UFC Rotterdam Prelims
1:00-2:00pm – SNL: Brie Larson (DVR)
2:00-4:00pm – UFC Rotterdam (Partial DVR)
4:00-4:15pm – UFC Rotterdam Post-Fight (Partially-Watched)
4:15-5:15pm – Cavaliers vs. Hawks (DVR)
5:15-5:40pm – Dragon Ball Z Kai (DVR)
5:40-6:05pm – Dimension W (DVR)
6:05-6:30pm – Hunter x Hunter (DVR)
6:30-7:00pm – One Piece (DVR)
7:00-7:30pm – America’s Funniest Videos (DVR)
7:30-7:55pm – The Simpsons (DVR)
7:55-8:20pm – Bob’s Burgers (DVR)
8:20-9:45pm – Spurs vs. Thunder (Partial DVR)
9:45-10:10pm – The Last Man on Earth (DVR)

I like sports, okay?

You might not believe me, but with each new TV season, I actively try to cut back on the amount of new TV shows I watch. Fortunately, based on the quality of most new network comedies and dramas, it’s become easier to do. Even though I look forward to each new Fall season with bated breath, I typically only pick up 2-3 new shows a year, of which 1-2 of them are canceled after only 1 season.

Furthermore, we’re into May, which means Season Finales followed by a whole lotta nothing. However, this is where I shoot myself in the foot. Not watching many new shows should mean that I spend more time away from the television, when actually it just means I have more time to watch sports. And this is how Sunday began, with nearly four hours of MMA action, live from the Netherlands. I also had time later in the day to check out not one, but two NBA playoff games. The Missus was thrilled.

I quickly knocked out SNL from the night before (it was alright), before clearing out Saturday’s Toonami block as well. Toonami airs seven shows in a row, but I’m only invested in four of them, which means I can do it in less than two hours. This gave me time to spare for Sunday night comedies on FOX, and a reasonable bedtime.

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It’s interesting to me how TV viewing habits change. When I was younger, Sunday night was death sentence for most shows; a throwaway night even worse than Friday. Now, it’s the marquee evening for just about every major drama out there, and it has been for years.

Looking back at the 1993-1994 national TV schedule for Sunday night (9-10pm), we have made-for-TV movies on three of the four major networks, and Married…With Children on FOX. That’s it. I’d also have to assume that, when there wasn’t a made-for-TV movie to air, these networks would show reruns, a word that essentially is no longer existent when it comes to Primetime programming.

By the 1999-2000 season, 10 of the top 40 shows on TV aired on Sunday nights, including Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, which was far and away the most popular show of the entire year. I think though, that the network move to load up their Sunday schedule had more to do with Cable (HBO in particular) than anything. With The Sopranos and most other standout HBO dramas premiering on Sunday, this spelled not only the next Golden Age of Television, but a movement that saw cable beating national TV in quality when it came to scripted programming.

All very interesting…right?


TV Month 2016 – The 100 Greatest (Part 5).

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Welcome back to TV Month 2016, and the conclusion to our week-long countdown of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of the Last 35 Years. We’ve reached the Top 10.

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10. Arrested Development

Few comedies have ever come close to matching the pacing, depth, acting, characters, writing, spectrum, pop culture knowledge, satire and self-parody displayed in just one episode of Arrested Development. I feel very fortunate that I lived in a moment of TV history where a show like this existed, if only for three* short seasons. It was that good.

The jokes were everywhere. The wordplay and puns were Shakespearean in their execution. Taboos were destroyed. The very network that took a chance and just as quickly left them for dead was mocked mercilessly. Guest stars trusted the material enough to play so far outside of their ranges that their careers could have been ruined had it been anything less than perfect.

And that’s what Arrested Development was. 100% perfect, from start to finish.

(*Season 4 never happened.)

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9. 30 Rock

Each of 30 Rock‘s first three seasons won the Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series. This is what’s known as ‘Batting a thousand,’ and apart from Frasier, I honestly don’t know of any other comedy that has ever accomplished something like that.

Drawing influences from every nook and cranny of the TV Comedy (and TV History) universe, 30 Rock was one of the smartest, most brilliant, most hilarious, cynical, satirical and unrelentingly perfect shows you’ll ever see on network television. The cast was top-to-bottom airtight, and they even stuck the landing with one of the best series finales ever. Each week, I watched 30 Rock with the same breathless appreciation that I did for Arrested; a silent applause for the genius it takes to write such material on a week-to-week basis.

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8. The Wonder Years

I’m big on influences, and to me, there were few programs that had such a positive influence on television (and my writing style) as The Wonder Years. This was the first show that I can remember as a child that had no definable genre. It was set in Vietnam War-era America. It was narrated by an adult version of the main character. It was brilliantly funny. It was heartbreakingly sad. It had moments of true emotion and deep nostalgia. The soundtrack was amazing.

Nowadays, plenty of programs attempt to combine as many genres as possible, but The Wonder Years was one of the first (if not the very first) to do it so perfectly. In a standard sitcom, you knew that the main character’s girlfriend wasn’t going to be killed by the end of the episode. In The Wonder Years, everything was open for interpretation and flux, just like real life.

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7. The Walking Dead

The comic was (and still is) a hit, but the concept of a weekly survival horror series, with zombies no less, was never really attempted on TV. If done incorrectly, it would be a laughingstock of a flop, and there are so many ways this could be done incorrectly. Instead, they assembled a Murderer’s Row of actors, directors, producers and special effects wizards, and the result is the most popular (and well done) show on TV today.

What’s more, I think The Walking Dead is getting better with time. Going into Season 7, I think their best work is still ahead of them, which is insanity. The cast is nuts, seriously; they’re so ingrained in their work that this series will be their calling card for the remainder of their careers (see Lost). It’s gut-wrenching, gory, suspenseful, unrelenting and heartfelt. In short, they nailed it.

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6. Lost

I wrote this blurb years ago, and it’s still apt today. I’ve written enough about this show already:

Lost is one of the greatest television dramas of all-time, weaving the very best elements of survivalism, action, horror, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy and surrealism, while opening discussions concerning the topics of fate, religion, free will, conspiracy and karma. The cast is nearly flawless, the storyline is genius personified, the storytelling elements are unlike anything ever put on network TV, and the writing team of Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have created a world so deep and entertaining, we should be paying them a residual every week to even be allowed to think about this masterpiece. I’m done.”


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5. Friday Night Lights

Season One of Friday Night Lights is the greatest season of television I have ever seen. Better than Season One of Lost. Better than Season Four of MST3K. Better than the final season of The Fugitive. I watched it when nobody around me watched it. When everyone was convinced it was a show about nothing more than football. Slowly but surely, my living room started to fill up on Friday nights, as the deepest, most emotional, most beautiful and best written show on TV (at the time) won people over one by one.

…Okay, maybe not Season 4 of The Simpsons, but that shit was essentially royalty. You get the point.

When Friday Night Lights got renewed for a second season, I was a bit shocked. I thought for sure that we’d never see the Taylor family on TV again. But to NBC’s credit, they stuck with them in their ratings slump and promoted the hell out of it. When the Writer’s Strike struck in the middle of Season 2, only 15 of the 22 scheduled episodes aired, which I once again speculated would spell the end of the line. But NBC did what they could to compromise, and Season 3 aired in conjunction with DirecTV’s 101 Network, alleviating some production costs and keeping the show alive.

Now, when Season 3 had ended, I thought that was it (again). I figured NBC was done playing nice with an astounding show that just couldn’t seem to make its point and wrangle in more viewers. Again, not the case, as they did the unbelievable and ordered two more 13 episode seasons, guaranteeing a 4th and 5th Season, and making certain that Friday Night Lights was allowed to tell the story they want to tell. That is amazing.

Look, I’m not even going to get into the dynamics of the show and explain to you why its impact is clear to anyone that watches it (the music of Explosions In The Sky doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure). Just, for God’s sake, watch Season 1 and go from there.

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4. Mystery Science Theater 3000

Taken from MST3K Info; a perfect epilogue that I’ve probably read 100 times over the last 8 years:

“So, after nearly 200 bad movies, ten years of production and fifteen years of television audiences joining the crew of the SOL for “movie sign!”, it’s fair to ask what it was that kept this show so beloved.

Joel said something very profound about his show in an interview in 1990: “It’s about liberty, in a small, goofy way,” he said. And that is probably at the heart of it. It appeals to an innate human desire to unabashedly say what you think. And for young kids, that seems to be the principle draw: the whole notion of grown-ups in power being heckled and ridiculed for their obvious inadequacies is irresistible.

But there’s more going on here. More importantly, MST3K is a call to arms in a war most thinking people are waging every day: the battle against the mediocrity that floods our lives. MST3K is an object lesson, a demonstration that we don’t have to–and shouldn’t–passively accept the garbage we are spoon-fed on a daily basis. Indeed, the series places the ‘bots and their human companion on the front lines of that battle. It’s in this way that MST3K rises above mere heckling and becomes a compelling metaphor about fighting the good fight.

But beyond that, there is no mistaking the genius at work here. It shines so clearly that toddlers are instinctively drawn to it and senior citizens smile knowingly — even if neither gets all the jokes. From Joel’s forehead-slappingly simple concept to its loopy-yet-graceful execution, the show has a cool elegance, an endearing off-kilter brilliance. It engenders an astonishing loyalty in its viewers — a loyalty that stems in part from the way it makes its viewers feel like they are “in on” a very special secret. It manages the near-impossible by being one of the most delightfully unpredictable programs on national TV, while also being one of the most reassuringly formulaic. MST3K rewards knowledge and insight, punishes inattention and passivity. But most importantly, it always has been — and always will be — really, genuinely funny.

In the theater, the give-and-take rhythm between movie and commentary can be, at its best, dazzling and exhilarating; while the host segments often build to the kind of antic cartoon chaos that is a tonic for anyone who feels trapped in a dreary, workaday world. The overall result is an entertainment experience that leaves its viewer a little happier than when he or she found it.

On January 31, 2004, fifteen years of Mystery Science Theater 3000 came to an end on broadcast television. But the show lives on in the hearts and minds of fans all over the world who continue to live by those four magical little words: “Keep circulating the tapes.”

MST3K didn’t run forever. But it will never leave us.”

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3. Seinfeld

TV Guide states that Seinfeld is the greatest sitcom of all-time. Of course, the nation was in the grips of Seinfeld-Mania at that particular point in time, so I have to believe that the list might be slightly altered should it run again in 2016. A quick scan of my high school yearbook even unearths tons of Seinfeld quotes and musings scribbled into margins and back pages by friends and teachers. Truly, Seinfeld was a defining moment in time, not just for television, but for comedy and culture in general.

Within the confines of a ‘traditional’ sitcom, they broke taboos, seamlessly intertwined genius with wackiness and practically begged you to realize that the four main characters were some of the most selfish, shallow and self-centered characters ever created. We saw ourselves in those characters (I used to be mostly George, but I’m mostly Jerry now), and it allowed us to root for them, even as they ruined lives, obsessed over the trivial and broke up with people on a weekly basis for the most superficial of reasons.

There are only two shows I still watch in syndication: The Simpsons and Seinfeld. I am constantly blown away by how much it holds up and is still so contemporary, even though it was created before cell phones and the Internet. How can a show about social foibles and the mundane frustration of daily life still seem so fresh? How can their slang and vocabulary still be a part of our cultural lexicon even 25 years later?

That’s the definition of ‘timeless,’ I guess.

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2. Breaking Bad

September 15, 2013. Season 5, Episode 14. ‘Ozymandias.’

Something happened to me while I was watching this particular episode. By this point, I was like everyone else- Totally and completely enraptured with the story of Walter White and his transformation to full-on meth kingpin. The way it unfolded over the course of five seasons was transcendent, and we were now deep into the horrific unraveling that would careen us into the Series Finale. Each episode got progressively better, building off of the story told a week prior, crescendoing into a symphony of violence, tension and brilliant, brilliant acting.

In the second half of ‘Ozymandias,’ there’s a scene where Walt and Skyler get into a physical altercation at their home. The scene is outstanding on its own, but the weight of the scene, knowing how far we’ve come with this family, was almost too much to bear. This was when I realized, for sure, that I was watching the greatest single episode of Television I have ever seen. I’m not alone in this thought. I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. When it was over, I only then realized that I had been shaking and sweating for the last 20 minutes of it.

Two years ago, we had a tournament here on the CDP to determine the greatest TV show of the last 25 years, and Breaking Bad beat out 127 other shows in a worldwide vote over the course of nearly two months. I didn’t have a problem with it then, and I don’t now. Breaking Bad is a triumph of TV Drama, now and forever.

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1. The Simpsons

The Simpsons is, quite simply, the greatest Television show ever made. From The AV Club:

“Here’s a no-brainer: The Simpsons is the best animated series of all-time, and Television’s crowning achievement regardless of format. Some may try to peel the rose-colored filter from the show’s classic era, others bemoan the creative direction of the past dozen or so seasons—but the fact that it’s survived long enough to even have 12 “bad” seasons is an achievement in and of itself. (And let’s be honest: Anything is going to look bad in comparison to the unprecedented eight-year run of near perfection that The Simpsons pulled off between 1989 and 1997.)

The Simpsons redefined the American sitcom, made primetime safe for animation again (effectively making every animated show from then on possible), and (for better or for worse) influenced the way people in the real world speak. The show even captured a culture so effectively that it built its own living, breathing universe that’s currently nattering away in millions of smartphones—this is no “meh” achievement. The Simpsons is cromulent, plain and simple, and we are all embiggened for having it in our lives.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.


TV Month 2016 – The 100 Greatest (Part 4).

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Welcome back to TV Month 2016, and Part 4 of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of the Last 35 Years. We’re getting serious now.

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30. Black Mirror
29. Roseanne
28. Bob’s Burgers
27. Beavis and Butthead
26. Home Movies

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25. Better Call Saul
24. Louie
23. Futurama
22. Curb Your Enthusiasm
21. Tales From the Crypt

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20. Twin Peaks
19. The Office (US)
18. The Sopranos
17. South Park
16. King of the Hill

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15. Malcolm in the Middle
14. The Wire
13. The Adventures of Pete and Pete
12. Parks and Recreation
11. The X-Files


TV Month 2016 – The 100 Greatest (Part 3).

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Welcome back to TV Month 2016; were on to Part 3 of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of the Last 35 Years. The countdown rolls on.

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50.The Flash
49. It’s Garry Shandling’s Show
48. Frasier
47. Freaks and Geeks
46. Party of Five

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45. The Critic
44. Full House
43. Friends
42. Mad Men
41. NewsRadio

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40. Community
39. Modern Family
38. The West Wing
37. The Golden Girls
36. The Larry Sanders Show

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35. The Goldbergs
34. The Ren and Stimpy Show
33. Cheers
32. Six Feet Under
31. Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist