The last group before the Top 25…
30. FRIENDS (1994-2004 NBC)
I’ll be honest, I don’t like this show even on the list. I always thought the show should have been named “Whiteville,” or something similar. Here they are in NYC and they only ran into white people for like 8 seasons until the press finally said “What is with the lack of minorities?” Then all of a sudden an avalanche of non-white people showed up on the show. I always hated the aspect that the show was so incredibly racist in their casting… of course people will say it’s coincidence. I say “No way in hell.” The show didn’t need one of the main characters to be a minority it just needed them to at least run into a minority, date minorities, etc. Yet every time there was a casting call it said “white,” and thus the whitest show in modern times makes this list for every other reason.
Lets look at those reasons: It was on 10 years, and was massively popular. In fact its best year was the 8th season when it finally made it number 1 and had 24M viewers on average. That season also was the only one to ever win an Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series. All 10 seasons it was a top 10 show, something that very few can ever claim.
Cultural impact? Hard to say. Just about every source I could find states some absurd claim, like Joey’s catchphrase of “How you doin?” becoming popular. Like people weren’t using that before. I do remember people getting their hair cut a lot like the women on the show particularly Aniston & Cox.
Was the show funny? Not exactly. It wasn’t a show that was going to make your sides hurt from laughing so hard. What it was, was comfortable. The ensemble cast was so good together they made us all believe these were real friends, and thus it was easy to sit down and watch 30 minutes “with them.” One study I found while researching this piece was that viewing went up 17% immediately after 9/11. Meaning people tuned in to “tune out.” Which shows just the kind of impact it had.
Yes, this show could be a top 10 show, but I threw it in at 30 simply due to it being “Whiteville.” It just wasn’t realistic. There was actually a drinking game, where every time someone came on scene who wasn’t white, you’d have to take a shot. People were practically dead of alcohol poisoning at the end of every episode! 😉
29. LAW & ORDER (1990 – ???? NBC)
It is about to tie GUNSMOKE for the longest running prime-time drama in American TV History. Created by Dick Wolf to combine police procedure and legal drama. The gamble of would the two coincide and bring in viewers was a healthy yes. However it wasn’t the first show to do so. In the 60 there was ARREST AND TRIAL which Wolf claims he was unaware of. Britain had a show in the 70s entitled LAW AND ORDER which again Wolf claimed he wasn’t aware of. However the creator of the British show claims he sent copies of his show to Michael Mann who at the time was making MIAMI VICE with Wolf. So it’s hard to say if Wolf just came up with it, or not.
The show had a few things going for it at the time which were unique (and now are old and tired) which was the first segment dealt with the police investigating, then the 2nd segment dealt with the trial. The unique aspect at the time was the trial was from the POV of the prosecutor which during that time on TV when it came out was unique, the vast majority of legal shows were from the other side of the court room.
Ratings for the show are interesting. It was never a huge massive success until its 12th and 13th seasons when it became a Top 10 show. Most of the time the series is ranked between 25th and 35th, and only 2 of the 19 seasons weren’t a top 50 show. For a show that airs in the top 10/9 time slot this is a great success.
I could write more, but the show has been on for 19 straight seasons, if you don’t know of it or about it…. it has had numerous spin offs, inspired shows, etc.
28. OZ (1997-2003 HBO)
The impact of OZ is un-debatable. It was the first hour long drama produced by HBO for HBO. It would lead to THE SOPRANOS, DEADWOOD, etc. Created by Tom Fontana (and written by Tom Fontana, every episode had his name attached as a writer or co-writer), the show revolves around the Oswald State Correctional Facility a maximum security prison. To further tie it to the fantasy “OZ,” the show also seemed to primarily center around a section called “Em City,” which was a tightly controlled part of the prison aimed at rehabilitation.
OZ used a unique Voice Over which broke the “4th wall” (character talks directly to the viewer, generally staring at camera, think Ferris Bueller) that involved Augustus (former drug dealer and convicted murderer) narrating and introducing characters. He was what is referred to as writers as an omniscient narrator, he was aware of everything, and thus when a new character was introduced Augustus would fill you in completely on his past, the type of person they were, and what brought them to Oz.
OZ because it was on HBO took full advantage of everything that had to offer. Nudity, language, & violence were all a regular part of the show. This caused an uproar at first, but that was only due to it being the first. Now, it’s no big deal. In fact DirecTV is going to air the entire series in order, unedited with no commercials on their 101 station.
The impact of OZ was great, and it just wasn’t an industry impacted, it was culture. The most famous pop culture take on OZ was the SNL episode immediately after the SEINFELD finale, which starred Jerry Seinfeld. In the famous skit, a continuation of the finale, Jerry (from the TV series) is sent to OZ for his punishment. The skit was all shot on the OZ lot, and featured many of the actors from the series. In fact this skit was better than the entire finale on SEINFELD.
27. ENTOURAGE (2004-???? HBO)
Yeah, it’s a show that is far funnier for those who work in the industry. It’s why everyone of them tries to get on the show. It’s just one of those things. However for the rest of the nation it provides a look into just how absurd the industry is and the lifestyles of these stars who make it big. It’s all loosely based on the real life of Mark Wahlberg, who yes has an entourage.
Everyone argues about who the show is about and who came up with the idea. The actual answer is Mark Wahlberg’s assistant who just started filming Mark and his friends. Then he gave the idea to Wahlberg who toyed with a documentary then a show based on him and his friends. Then he decided their background might be too tough for America to swallow so Vinny Chase was created. The Turtle character and the Johnny Drama character are the only two characters that held up from the original idea. Doug Ellin, himself a member of an entourage (David Schwimmer’s) as the lead writer and show runner then took his experiences and mixed them in with Wahlberg’s. Thus ENTOURAGE was born.
The show however is mainly just a way to watch Jeremy Piven light up the screen as Ari, the agent for the main character (and based on Ari Emanuel). The lengths Ari goes to and his lovable but annoying nature make the show what it is. Without Ari the show would be close to nothing in the early seasons.
26. REALTIME WITH BILL MAHER (2003-???? HBO)
HBO is really starting to make this list eh? Well, the importance of REALTIME is that Bill Maher really wants to get down to the bottom of everything and screw the left and the right, he wants the truth. The truly great thing about this show is that up until this season the Right and Left had no problem going on the show and battling it out in a manner that was surprisingly forthcoming with information. Things these people would never be caught dead saying on FOX or CNN were being said on HBO. Maher, who while a nut in his own right, is the perfect middle man. He isn’t far left or far right. He does have some leftist beliefs, but he also has some heavily right leaning beliefs. The fact that he isn’t “liberal media,” is why the show works. Yes, he was against McCain. Right now his show is paying for it with the Republicans not going on the show like they used to.
Still, strangely the best and most accurate news seems to come from this show. You get takes on situations that no News network would ever dare say. Then you think about it and realize that take might be the right one. Many times it comes from the guests and not Maher. Maher is just there to rule over it all.