The Very Best TV - At Least for a While!
I’ll admit I am a TV baby – Because I grew up watching TV, and largely because we generally lived in rural settings and I was an only child, my life, sadly enough, evolved around television shows. Yes, television was aptly called the “great wasteland” by FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Chairman Newton Minow in 1961, just 4 ½ years after I was born. But regardless of his damning proclamation, I quite frankly loved television!!!
On a side note, I think Mr. Minow was about 40 years ahead of his time, because today I would agree with his proclamation. However, the wasteland clearly began to evolve with cable television. Cable TV officially started in 1948 and was in existence when Minow uttered those words, but cable didn’t really gain major viewership until around the year 2000. What’s ironic about this is that as cable developed, there was a new evolution of truly good shows and stations, even among the predominate “trashy” stations and programs. Cable evolved so quickly and effectively, that the previous dominant networks quickly became after thoughts, in many peoples viewing preferences.
There are huge numbers of very well performed and designed television shows today. The educational, historical, and scientific, shows are many and so very well done with enhanced research, digital photography, and creative writing – a great value and resource. But I want to focus today on just plain-pure entertainment.
We all have had our favorite shows, much like the songs and artists I spoke about in an earlier message titled “Whistle a Happy Tune.” Today we will focus on my favorite shows, in hopes this will bring back some great memories and evoke some thoughts, reactions, and possibly some debate.
Most of my favorite shows have been somewhat short-lived, as very few of them have stayed true to their beginnings. For example I, like many, enjoyed Friends. But as a television pure-est, I enjoyed the entertainment of it not the “I’m cool because I watch - water cooler” talk aspect that so many sought after. Seasons 1-4 were pretty good, but then the “stars” wanted more money and NBC acquiesced. But greedy NBC just had to increase their profit margin so they fired the writers, that made the show successful, and hired lesser quality writers. From this point on the show was pretty average. The same exact thing happened to Big Bang Theory, it was amusing and entertaining to me until the writers could no longer be afforded, due to the raises the “stars” received.
So, I’m going to unpack my favorite shows, at least until something happened to cause them to change.
In the 1980’s, I really enjoyed Three’s Company up until Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers), left. In the 90’s, it was NewsRadio prior to Bill McNeal’s (Phil Hartman) death, man was he funny! I also loved the X-Files, but it lost its luster when Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) left. In the 2000’s, I really enjoyed Psych until they changed their writers for the last season, and Boston Legal was very entertaining, although it had a definite liberal bias, as most David E. Kelley shows do. In the 2010’s, I really loved Downton Abby, although I didn’t watch it first run, but later watched each episodes, in order, on Netflix.
My two favorite shows of all-time are Cheers and NCIS. Let’s start with Cheers. I truly feel this is the greatest sitcom of all time, a solid A++. Primarily for those first few seasons when Coach Ernie Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto) was a regular character. He played the dense minded yet loving character better than any I have ever seen – just hilarious!!! I still feel the show was outstanding after Coach passed and they added Woodrow Huckleberry Tiberius Boyd “Woody” (Woody Harrelson). While Woody certainly had his own down-home Indiana charm, it was just a tiny bit less funny than Coach’s very slow witted and somewhat obscure humor. Cheers remained an “A+”, in my mind, until the departure of Diane (Shelly Long). I feel the show slid after Shelly Long left and was quite a bit below average from there until it finally concluded in 1993, after eleven seasons.
Along with being a very endearing and funny show, with a super cast of unique everyday walk of life characters, Cheers launched almost a cult following from this supposed Boston bar. Tourist attraction, memorabilia, t-shirts, posters, slogans and sayings, and tributes soon followed the show’s success. It launched the successful sitcom Frasier, which ironically also aired for eleven years, and introduced us to many new cheers like characters.
My next favorite show is NCIS. This show has run for 18 seasons, from September 23, 2003 until today (still running). I first saw the show while on business travel in Europe and the first two episodes I watched, ended with one of the show’s stars being killed. That was a new one for me. Yes, we see stars of shows near death, all the time, but the one flaw in these stories is the fact that we all know they won’t kill-off one of the stars – but on this show, they did. This intrigued me so much that, when I came home, my wife and I started watching the series from the very beginning and we haven’t missed an episode yet.
This show blends true life drama, comedy, human frailty, elation, depression, and most importantly is very passionate towards its victims and towards our servicemen and women. This show has been brilliant, at times, and just plain really good at its weakest. It was a solid A++ with Agent Caitlin "Kate" Todd (Sasha Alexander), who unfortunately was the very agent who was shot and killed in that first episode I watched, and thus left NCIS at the end of season 2 (she made some cameo appearances in early season 3). Alexander was replaced by Cote de Pablo who played the role of Israeli Mossad Officer Ziva David. Ziva’s character was an adequate replacement but she was definitely no Kate!!! Unfortunately, the show is not quite as great today with the loss of some key characters/actors, but prior to Tony Dinozzo (Michael Weatherly) leaving in season 13, and Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) leaving, at the end of season 15, I had never seen a bad or weak show. I REALLY REALLY miss Kate and especially Tony!!! 😊
These two shows are just examples of the many shows that start out stellar only to make changes that lead the shows down the tubes (excuse the pun – older TV’s had tubes … lol) and into obscurity. I have listed my 25 very favorite shows, of all-time, below. As you can see, only 6 of these shows (24%) have stayed true to their original success and format. The six shows that are/were just as good when they ended as when they started are; Rockford Files, Downton Abby, The Bob Newhart Show, Kids Baking Championship, Cake Wars – Buddy vs. Duff, and Halloween Baking Championship.
Finally, Television is an escape for most people. Good or bad, it is sought out entertainment which can fill a void, or offer relief in a stressful or otherwise trying day, week, or time, in our lives. The truly great shows are worth the time to be entertained, and we can become part of the shows portrayed world, or become close to the characters we grow to love. When this occurs, the show, the writing, the characters, and the make-up of the entire cast, are all great. Thus, it becomes as valuable to some as reading a book, riding a bike, or playing a musical instrument. When these shows fall short of greatness, their value to most of us, and society as a whole, diminishes.
YES, I quite frankly loved television – The VERY Best of television, at least for a while!!!
My disclaimer: These top 25 shows are only shows that I have watched, either regularly or occasionally. It would not be appropriate to rate show’s I have not seen. Only my opinion REMEMBER 😊.
I hope this list will spark some thoughts and bring back some great memories!!!
A++ Shows: (in no particular order)
Cheers - Prior to Coach passing
NCIS - Prior to Kate leaving
BONES - Prior to Zack leaving
News Radio – Prior to Bill McNeal’s passing
Greys Anatomy - Prior to Burke leaving
Night Court - With Christine Sullivan
Scrubs - Prior to Zach Braff leaving
Psych - Prior to the last season
MASH - Prior to Henry and Trapper Leaving
Happy Days - Prior to Arnold leaving
Dick Van Dyke - Shows primarily portrayed in the Writers Office
Mary Tyler More - Prior to Rhoda leaving
This is Us - Seasons 1-3
A Million Little Things - Prior to Maggie-Gary breakup
Picket Fences - After Don Cheadle started
X-Files - Before Mulder left
Boston Legal - With Brad and Denise
Modern Family - Seasons 1-3
The Bob Newhart Show
Friends - Seasons 1-4
Kids Baking Championship
Cake Wars – Buddy vs. Duff
Halloween Baking Championship