First an introduction to this little opinion piece. This is my opinion, and my opinion only. It’s about as accurate as the TIME magazine articles that traced the top 100 TV shows, movies, and albums of all time that were released in I believe 2007. I can promise one thing: This list will not have a gaping hole in it like TIME’s Top 100 Albums that somehow didn’t have one Pink Floyd album. What that will show you is that at least I know what I’m doing (unlike them, that kind of disqualified them from being able to even discuss top albums).
Lets get some things out of the way: These aren’t my favorite shows. In fact some of them I may not have liked all that much (like say DALLAS) but I recognize them for what they did or didn’t do. Some of these shows are my favorites. Feel free to discuss my horrible or brilliant choices but understand:
This is summer. I’ll release 10 shows a week every Monday Night and you guys can have a week to use it as ammo that I either have a clue or do not. This is to basically start conversation and it’s quite possible I’ll leave a good show out just from being forgetful. I at least have the balls to RATE my list and not just throw 100 items out there. It’s for the summer and I figure it will give us something to talk about at least once a week!
So here we go counting backwards:
100. KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (1974-1975 ABC)
Universal was famous for pioneering TV Movies and one of their early success stories was 1972’s THE NIGHT STALKER a movie about Carl Kolchak a journalist who gets involved with a Vampire story in Las Vegas. After the success of the movie it was inevitable that Kolchak would return and it only took 2 years. This time however it was as its own series. 20 episodes in all of Kolchak hunting down the story on some impossible to believe “monster.”
The series is like watching a bad B movie that just happens to entertain you despite or perhaps because of the cheese. Kolchak resides in Chicago and is frequently seen driving his convertable around when they keep saying it’s the winter. The name of other characters on the show seem to change with every episode. A boom mic can be seen in one seen! It’s all held together though by Darren McGavin who plays Kolchak. He does it with such a style that it’s hard not to like the guy. When you look past the cheese you also see some interesting well written bits.
The show definitely influenced a lot of people including those who went on to make THE X-FILES. It’s also where Robert Zemeckis got his first gig as a writer (in a story about a headless motorcycle biker who beheads members of his old gang).
99. STAR TREK: THE ANIMATED SERIES (1973-1975 NBC)
It took only 4 years after the premature cancellation of STAR TREK for it to find a new avenue for story telling: 30 minute animated episodes on Saturday Mornings. They only made 22 episodes and somehow those 22 were enough for 2 whole seasons of broadcasting (kids must not mind re-runs). The original cast all reprised their roles and Roddenberry left the show in very capable hands. The “success,” of the animated series would lead to a re-launch of the Series. That would of course get turned into a movie after the success of STAR WARS.
98. SOAP (1977-1981 ABC)
Billy Crystal played the first openly gay character on TV in primetime. That was the least surprising or outlandish thing the show ever did. Since we’re talking late 70s here that says something! A parody of the incredibly popular soap opera’s of the time, SOAP was over the top and provided far better satire than the crap “satire movies based on popular movies,” of today. It even sparked a spinoff: BENSON.
97. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (2003-2006 FOX)
The best American comedy of the last 6 years. The Bluth family was outragious, smart, and just a whole lot of fun to watch. Mired by FOX’s inability to create a non-animated comedy block the show never gathered the viewer respect that it earned from critics. Despite its early cancellation we still received around 50 episodes of guaranteed laughter. A show that dared to make fun of corporate greed, incest, and wannabe magicians. A true classic.
96. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978-1979 ABC)
I might as well throw something up here that will bring me some heat right? Well I’ll let another cat of out the bag: The remaker isn’t going to appear on this list. The original was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Drama. The story of the last survivors of a civilization searching for their lost home “Earth,” while being chased by evil robots out to destroy them once and for all is a good one. It was well written, well acted (Richard Hatch was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama), and well produced. The show won an Emmy for best FX.
Obviously right now it’s popular do to the remake. A remake that in my mind was done wrong from the get go. There is only one Starbuck for me and he has balls. The show pushed TV at the time, something the remake did not do. In fact the show only left the air do to costs. It was popular (winning a People’s Choice Award for best new show) and could have stuck around for a long time. The details the creators and designers put into the series was exceptional. The ties to Egyptian relics in modern space suits, etc. was all well done and added some depth.
95. THE ODD COUPLE (1970-1975 ABC)
In an almost impossible task Tony Randall and Jack Klugman were asked to fill the shoes of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. They pulled it off. Based on the Neil Simon play Gary Marshall was able to transition it successfully to TV. Jack Klugman did such a fine job he won an Emmy 2 of the 5 seasons the show was on and Randall won once himself. One of the funniest TV shows of its time it was able to surpass the play & movie in comedy. The characters took on a life of their own and in a brilliant move it ended while still in its prime. Which is something some shows (CSI *cough*) could learn a thing from.
94. SURVIVOR (2000-???? CBS)
Ok. It’s a Reality TV Show. It’s still possibly the best. Over a month in some hot isolated place (it has to be hot so the women wear bikinis) bickering over who will be the last “player,” left. Yes, it’s entirely overdramatic and nonsensical at times. How someone could be a total bitch knowing that over 10 million people will be watching them be a bitch is beyond me. The concept of taking popular reality shows and turning it into such a back stabbing contest was total brilliance. After 9 years and 18 seasons the show is still kicking! It’s not my cup of tea, but I respect what it did and how. Unlike many others I don’t think it has “ruined,” TV. There is still plenty of room for quality scripted product out there.
93. WISE GUY (1987-1990 CBS)
One of the most brilliant programs on TV in the late 80s. It followed the story of Vinnie, an undercover agent for an Organized Crime department of some Bureau. The character development on this series was amazing and the acting chops they got to show up (including Kevin Spacey showing how he’d definitely be famous some day) and just flat out perform resulted in serious critical acclaim. Ken Wahl would even win a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama for his work in the series. If you like organized crime dramas this is one of the best ever. “WHITE NOISE,” is possibly one of the best episodes of TV ever.
92. THE SHIELD (2002-2008 FX)
The first cable produced product on the list THE SHIELD is quite deserving. For 6 years we watched Detective Vic Mackey do things we couldn’t believe. As a whole the show has serious issues, as a character study it is however amazing. What Chiklis delivers over the course of 6 years keeps you on the edge of your seat and the depth of character is simply unmatched by the vast majority of television. No it’s not a great show. It is however a great look into one character done right. That makes up for a lot of other things and the work of Chiklis is so brilliant it deserves to be on all top 100 lists of all time.
91. THE DAILY SHOW (1996-???? Comedy Central)
Ok. I admit it. I liked Craig Kilborn more than John Stewart. I still love the show and its infamous line of “When The News Breaks We Fix It,” still makes me smirk at times. It’s better than The Onion, better than the weak SNL Weekend Update (they so need Dennis Miller or even Chevy Chase back), and all the other poor imitations. Simply the funniest place to get your news.
Remember tune in next Monday where you can disagree with more of my opinions.