Top 100 TV Shows Of All Time 31-35 (Or Nick C Has No Taste)

Here we go:

35.  NEWHART (1982-1990 CBS)

So the question really was?  Which Bob Newhart show to choose?  The 70s show where he’s the shrink in Chicago and the amusing patients or the show where he runs a small bed & breakfast in Vermont?  I chose NEWHART simply because of “Hi, I’m Larry, and this is my brother Daryl and my other brother Daryl.”  Those character as well as Tom Poston’s George the Handyman sealed it for me.  However you could throw either show into this slot, because basically Newhart plays the same person, the person he made famous doing standup.  However both shows were important in the land of sit-coms.

See Bob Newhart was famous for being the first solo “straight man,” when generally a “straight man,” is part of a comedy team.  His unique approach was then taken to sitcoms and he was able to pull it off there as well.  In fact it was so original at the time that it lasted for 2 hit TV shows, and without his shows ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and their ilk that combined much of what he brought to sitcoms with other techniques wouldn’t have existed like we know them.  America wasn’t much on “intelligent humor,” like the guys on the other side of the pond.  So what Newhart brought was extremely fresh for the time.

The show is also famous for the finale.  It has been voted the greatest Series Finale in history on more than one occassion.  In the final scene of Newhart, Bob wakes up to wife Suzanne Pleshette from the first series only to find that “Newhart,” was a dream.  However, it pulled it off with some truly off the wall craziness before hand.  Japanese Businessmen had bought up the town to turn into a golfing resort and the b&b was the only holdout.  It fastforwarded 5 years with his wife dressing like a geisha, and the japanese help were hilarious.  Just as Newhart yells “you’re all crazy,” he’s hit by a golf ball in the head.  Then he wakes up to the famous ending.

34.  SECOND CITY TELEVISION (1976-1984 on Global, CBC, and the Superchannel)

A year after SNL became a surprise hit in the states, the Cannucks decided to do their own thing.  SCTV was unique in that it was a sketch comedy show but it was all supposed to be real segments for a fictional TV Network in the city of Melonville.  My favorite bit was probably the bit about shooting celebrities (Where the game show consisted of trying to shoot celebrities) and of course John Candy’s Johnny La Rue and the soap opera “The Days of the Week.”

The show garnered such recognition that NBC even ran it for a couple years.  While SNL had Dan Akroyd, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, & Garrett Morris (and later Bill Murray after Chase left) the SCTV group was just as talented with John Candy, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, and Harold Ramis.

sctvThe show had such an incredibly low budget that they had to create techniques that are still used today.  In addition that low budget meant cheap makeup and hair, so they had to improvise what exactly to do for each sketch.  That also lead to how to switch between sketches and they came up with promos for shows on the network they’d never do a sketch of (but were rather hilarious).

One thing the show never gave up even when it was moved to Cinemax for its final season was the idea that this was a real TV Network making real shows for the people of Melonsville.  So they had “plots,” that would carry over from show to show in the background.  One was “Moral Majority,” which won an Emmy, that was about advertisers wanting to force change on the Network’s programming.  The time when if my memory is right they were taken over by the mafia and the answer to their competition was to have hits put out on people from different shows (like THREE’S COMPANY).

One of the greatest sketch shows ever, and it did it all on such a low budget it’s amazing.

33.  STAR TREK (1966-1969 NBC)

Gene Roddenberry pitched the show as “Wagon Train to the stars,” and twice went through pilots.  First in 1964 with Captain Pike, and then again in 66 with Captain Kirk.  Lucille Ball ended up pushing the show through onto NBC (the show was produced by Desilou at the time).  It never had good ratings.  In fact without Ball a 2nd season never would have happened.  A 3rd season only happened due to fan letters (yeah fans have caused shows to be brought back for a long time).  Of course NBC rewarded the fans with a Friday Night time slot, and one that would be its last.  However despite all the wrangling 79 classic episodes of cheesy sci-fi were made.

star-trek-inspirational-poster

STAR TREK dealt with a lot of social and political problems at the time by using sci-fi to mask them.  Racism was dealt with a race of humanoids who were both white and black, but if white on the left side, the members of the race who were white on the right hated you for instance.  The show covered a lot of different social and political themes over the 3 seasons and this would make it something more than just a cheesy sci-fi show.

insp_yourlastbattleThe show also happened to use some of sci-fi’s best writers at the time:  Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold, George Clayton Johnson as well as well known writers of non-sci-fi like Robert Bloch (PSYCHO).

However STAR TREK is STAR TREK because of the three lead actors.  This is an ensemble piece at its heart.  Without Wiliam Shatner as James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, and DeForrest Kelley as Bones would the series have ever done as well as it did?  Who knows.

insp_expendabilityThe impact of this series is of course well known.  It lead to a Movie Franchise, I believe 5 TV series, and lots of books and games.  It also would inspire other things including George Lucas who himself would create a sci-fi masterpiece that would inspire thousands.  The original series is still strong today.  It has had its FX remastered and these episodes air in syndication and the G4 network has Star Trek 2.0.

insp_logic

32.  THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (1970-1977 CBS)

When CBS picked up THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW they made history.  It was the first show where the main character was a single, never married, career woman.  Oh yeah, she was independent too.  She had no boyfriend that defined her.  At the time, like SANFORD AND SON it was a gamble.  Silly to think of now, but it was at the time a risk.

In fact this show was so ground breaking that many media outlets have called it one of the greatest tv shows ever.  So how do I justify it being ranked so low?  Same way I will with SANFORD AND SON.  It just happened.  There are literally so many shows, and so few spots left.

6a00d8341bfb4353ef00e5537963898834-800wiThe show would win 3 emmy awards for best comedy (in a row) and at the height of its ratings it was the 7th most watched show on TV.  For 3 seasons it would make the top 10, and would only have 2 seasons where it wasn’t a top 20 show (the first and final seasons).  The show definitely stayed on the air too long.  By the last two seasons it saw major loss in viewers (19th then 39th).  So it doesn’t get a nod like many other shows on here do for going out while still on the top, however it did provide some great comedy for many years.

It also stole Emmy Awards from SANFORD AND SON, which at least one season was much more deserving.  I’m not going to harp on racism of the 70s, but the fact remains that for some reason this show is always mentioned for being brilliant and one of the greatest shows ever, while SANFORD AND SON is usually mentioned as an “Oh yeah,” kind of thing.  People must not remember that SANFORD AND SON was funnier, and watched by more people.

However Mary Tyler Moore suceeded in creating a character that wasn’t defined by another man and was independent.  The cast of Edward Asner, Ted Knight (playing pompous and dimwitted like only he can), Gavin Macleod, Betty White, Valarie Harper, & Cloris Leachman might have been one of the most talented casts ever put together.  The show shined, and TV GUIDE recently picked one of the episodes as the greatest episode of TV ever.

31.  SANFORD & SON (1972-1977 NBC)

Ok, this was tough.  I could easily have put this show in my top 10 and felt good about it.  It however slipped, and kept slipping.  32 is probably a disgrace, but when you start getting to the top of a list like this it just gets tougher.  SANFORD AND SON was a classic and it was one of the first successful shows starring African Americans.  Red Foxx was a famous comedian, and no one knew how such a foul mouthed man could ever get on TV.  Somehow they did it.

The show was based on a father & son relationship between Foxx as grumply old curr Fred Sanford and Demond Wilson as Lemont Sanford.  In a technique that had been used before and will definitely be used again, the responsible one was the son, and it was as if the son was bringing up the dad.  Fred was famous for having fake heart attacks “I’m coming to joine you Elizabeth!” and getting his son into all kinds of troubles.

The family owned a junk yard, and that is where the show usually took place.  The troubles Fred would cause usually had to do with some get rich quick scheme or another.  Lemont was always there to put out the fire.  Their relationship was a classic love hate relationship with Fred usually calling Lement “Big Dummy,” and Lemont usually referring to his father as “Old Fool.”

However to truly understand just what it was that Foxx and Wilson were pulling off you have to understand the times.  It was 1972 and the most popular show on TV was ALL IN THE FAMILY where the lead character was a biggot.  Interestingly both shows were produced by Norman Lear and both were adaptations from accross the pond.  Yet, while the show is based on STEPTOE AND SON, you have to realize the risk that Lear was taking by making Sanford black and placing the junk yard in Watts.  It was a gutsy and bold move that easily could have backfired.  Choosing Foxx a known comedian to portray the role was brilliant but itself also a risk.  Could Foxx be controlled?

1228130005_1The answer was of course yes, and imho it outshined the show it was based on which is rare indeed.  The true gems of the show usually came from Sanford making fun of one of his in-laws.  First it was Ethel (but she got the ribs in most of the time) then it was Esther.  The unique ways Foxx would put down Esther are now legendary.  They were easily some of the best scenes of the show.

The show was a runaway success and made Lear a genius.  Despite NBC picking it up, they were scared.  So the best place to put it was on Friday Nights (here we go again with another example of Friday Night not killing a show).  Despite being put in a time slot that NBC hadn’t had success with ever, the show debuted as the 6th most watched show on TV and then was the 2nd most watched TV series for 3 straight seasons right behind ALL IN THE FAMILY.

SANFORD AND SON redefined the black situational comedy and made it clear that there were plenty of people willing to watch shows based on African Americans.

Advertisements

11 responses to “Top 100 TV Shows Of All Time 31-35 (Or Nick C Has No Taste)

  1. Too bad Sanford and Son wasn’t around today – and on HBO or SHOWTIME. Could you imagine Red Foxx as Fred Sanford on a network that wouldn’t sensor his infamous foul mouth??!! It would be outrageous. He wouldn’t just be calling Aunt Esther “ugly.”

    And SCTV. I remember the first time I happened upon it I nearly wet my pants laughing so hard. At the time I saw it, I thought it blew SNL out of the water as far as humor. One of my favorite skits was Eugene Levey doing a take off of the Candadian rock/pop singer Gino Vanelli. Gino had a lot of hair, and not just on the top of his head. As Levey belted out one of Gino’s hits, he gradually became hairier and hairier (is that even a word?) until he wound up wearing a gorilla costume underneath his “Gino” clothes.
    Low budget, sure – but freakin’ hilarious!

    Great choices, Nick C.

  2. Ah yes, Newhart.

    I was a dedicated viewer and watched the entire run. On the day of the finale then an engagement arose that I simply could not get out of. So I programmed the ole VCR, something that I was quite skilled at, and looked forward to watching after my return home.

    Apparently there was a brief power outage in the interim that reset my VCR’s settings.

    I subsequently missed the finale and have yet to be able to see it. But it is quite swell to keep hearing about how great it was.

    #$%& ##### *&^%$ ^&($ #%^*

  3. AO, I’m rather sure the episode is available somewhere online…

    I’d have thought these choices would have garnered a little more reaction.

  4. Nick C,

    Yeah, most likely it is. I know it’s not on DVD (only the first Season was ever released) or iTunes. Due to a couple of negative previous experiences then I try to stay away from most other sites, but I suppose that I should think about making an exception.

    As for the lack of reaction? I would guess that part of it may be due to the shorter list and part of it because these all seem like very expected and unassailable picks. There may also be a good portion of your audience that is to young to have seen one or more of these shows. I would think that would make them less likely to comment on something that they are unfamiliar with.

  5. Nick C. Maybe there’s not so much reaction because they are ALL great choices! It’s usually when “us out there” aren’t on the same page as you are with your picks that we make a lot of noise. Like they say, the more “controversial,” the more reaction – and these picks could hardly be considered controversial. They’re rock solid. Plus it’s Monday!! 😉

  6. No reaction from me ’cause I have never seen any of these shows xD

    Though the Star Trek pictures did remind me of Galaxy Quest (woo) and made me giggle. Yay!

  7. Pere – you are either very young or perhaps you live outside the U.S.? I don’t mean that as an insult in any way. I just want to emphasize that when these shows were on the air, they were VERY popular in the U.S. (that was looooong before cable and satellite TV when we only had three or four channels from which to choose programs to watch). Anybody alive and residing in the U.S. would know about these shows. They were VERY popular – and some of them are still on the air as “reruns” today! If you ever have a chance, you might want to check them out.

  8. I’m 18 and from Israel, so both! 😛

    I know shows like, say, Dallas, or The Facts of Life because they aired when I was very young here, but I can hardly remember them. But even though I remember hearing something once about the Mary Tyler Moore Show, and, well, knowing the original Star Trek as much as the next internet surfing guy who hasn’t watched it does, I’ve never heard of the other three shows.

    And there might be reruns of old shows on our commercial channels but I haven’t watched them in years, not since our TV providers started buying current shows the season they were aired in the US and not three years later 😛

    They sometimes air an episode every day of whole shows they bought (like Six Feet Under) which I record, but never a show older than, say, the year 2000.

  9. Nick C. Just a side comment and maybe a solicitation of your opinion. It seems like the shows that featured African Americans prominently in the 70s showed a more “down and out” group in our society (i.e., Sandford and Son, Good Times – even the Jeffersons were just “movin on up” at that point).

    Then of course in the 80’s there was The Cosby show and all it’s spin offs that featured African American families as not only “middle class,” but very well off.

    My question is this. Why do you think that there aren’t more shows on the major networks today that prominently feature African Americans as the central focus (or am I not aware of those shows if they are on)?? And I’m not just talking about having an African American cast member or two, but a program that centers around an African American family or primary character like those shows in the 70s or 80s did.

    I would think a show with the interaction between familiy members of the previous generations that were discriminated against and who struggled, etc., now dealing with their children/grandchildren who have become more successful thanks to what their parents and grandparents fought to achieve – would be an interesting concept and something worth watching.

    Unfortunately, many African American families still live like the family from “Good Times.” And conversely, many more African American families live like the Cosby family. Are TV networks “afraid” to protray an African American family that is struggling to get by? Would that be considered negatively stereotypical and “antiquated?” And do the networks think “it’s already been done” in regards to successful/affluent African American families like the Cosbys??

    I know that a number of people have noted that in general there is a lack of shows that feature African Americans prominently. I thought George Lopez did a great job with his show about a Hispanic family living in the U.S. Again, I don’t watch ALOT of TV – even though it may seem like I do – so I may be missing something – but it seems to me like we’re returning (or maybe we never left) to portraying African Americans on TV primarily as “gangstas and hos,” on shows in which they do appear – a BIG step BACKWARD.

    For example, I was watching an Episode of Season 2 of Burn Notice where the car thieves were all African-Americans. Seemed rather ironic, because isn’t the show supposed to be taking place in Hawaii?? Not that there aren’t African Americans in Hawaii, but you would think they could find some “native Hawaiians” or “transplanted continental 48ers” (by that I mean white folks) to have been the car thieves – or perhaps have the gang not be ALL African Americans.

    So are the networks again content with the “gangstas and hos” representation of African Americans – or are they not “risk-taking” enough or not “creative” enough to develop more programs – GOOD programs – that prominently feature African Americans in a good way. We are becoming a more and more diverse country – a GOOD thing – so you would think the TV networks would be on board with that and have their shows be more reflective of this positive change in our country.

    Thanks for any insight you can provide. And believe me, I’m not one to go around crying “victim” or “racism,” but it just seems to be that programs on the major networks (I know they cable networks are much more representative in this area) that feature African Americans prominently are few or none.

    Thanks again, – and sorry this is so long.

  10. One “oops.” Now that I think about it, I think Burn Notice takes place in Miami, not Hawaii. But either way, the car thieves were still represented by African Americans. Minor point in regard to my looooong post above, but did want to correct that error.

  11. Glad you picked SCTV, you’re right, the concept was brilliant, and the behind the scenes wrangling of a failing TV Network with hilarious and awful characters. My fave was Joe Flaherty’s weak Horror Movie host. “Scarrrrry.”