Down to the final 20…
20. THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN (1973-1978 ABC)
By 1973 ABC had fallen. The had no top 10 shows and had fallen to 3rd place (remember there were only 3 networks at the time). However they had one bright spot and that was that one of their tv movies had been a huge success (much more so than normal numbers). That movie was THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. Based on the book CYBORG by Martin Caidin, the movie had captivated both audiences and critics alike. So they ordered two more movies.
By the time the 2nd movie had aired, they were sure they wanted a series, and the series was rushed into production. The thing to note is that the first movie had an entirely different tone and feel to it than the other movies or even the series. The first movie was a dark, serious piece. The 2nd two movies were handed to Glen Larson to produce and make like James Bond. The series was further changed to be more of an everyday many who saves the world through bionics.
The idea of the series was simple. It was about an astronaut who was hurt in a crash that had to be rebuilt. The famous line of “we can rebuild him, better, faster, stronger than before,” was put in the title sequence and a whole new era of TV was launched. The show was an immediate success for ABC and became their most watched program. The show did have an immediate dip, but the solution was to bring in Kenneth Johnson who at the time was an unknown. Johnson would breathe life back into the program by creating the role of Jaime Sommers, the bionic woman. The tale of how she gained her biotics and died captivated America. She was quickly brought back from the dead and given her own series. Together they would break into the top 10. THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN would remain a main stay in the top 10 for awhile. However when ABC dropped THE BIONIC WOMAN after a slight drop in ratings, the writing was on the wall.
Kenneth Johnson would jump ship and make THE INCREDIBLE HULK for CBS, and the ratings would drop while Johnson didn’t have the time to oversee every detail like he did before. However the show was able to reach 100 episodes plus the movies. By the time it left the air, ABC was number 1 again (big time). The show launched the career of Johnson, and made Lee Majors a household name.
19. THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (1992-1998 HBO)
It’s not TV. It’s HBO. Those lines mean something because of this show about a show. The idea was simple: an inside look of a fictional late night talk show. Screw 30 ROCK, this show was amazing and the real deal. Gary Shandling played the neurotic talk show how, Jeffrey Tambor played his jealous sidekick, and Rip Torn played the producer who held it all together. Jeremy Piven long before he was Ari, portrayed Jerry the head writer.
The show made excellent use of its guest stars. Real Hollywood stars would appear on the show as themselves or really fake versions of themselves as guests of the talk show. David Duchovny was easily my favorite. His LARRY SANDERS version of himself was a possibly gay man with a thing for Larry. This joke would play out over many seasons on until the finale.
One of the greatest comedies ever made, this show garnered something like 5 straight Cable Ace awards for best comedy. It made HBO, HBO in terms of being known for quality original programming. Simply one of the greatest achievements of modern TV.
18. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1997-2001, 2001-2003 The WB, UPN)
I know, I know what kind of idiot lists this show so low? It should be in the top 5! No, no it shouldn’t. Anyone (I’m looking at you Empire) who thinks that, shouldn’t be allowed to make a list. However, don’t take 18 as a sign of anything, but that this was a great show. First, I’m not a Joss Whedon fan.
I remember the day I found out this was being made into a TV program and thinking WHY? I also remember finding out about ANGEL late (last season) and becoming a fan of that show. However it wasn’t until I saw FIREFLY that I decided to give this show a chance. I just never understood how such a bad movie could be adapted for TV. Sure, I heard the legend of the wunderkid Whedon and how evil Hollywood types had destroyed his script, but doesn’t every writer claim that?
The first season gets a lot of unnecessary criticism. The show was good from the start. Yes, it found its legs in season 2, but you can see how it would get there with season 1. This is basically a high school show with a twist. The twist is that the main character is a vampire slayer. Ok, still doesn’t sound that good does it? Well, what if you take all the monsters she fights and have them be some kind of metaphor for the normal problems that all teens end up having to deal with while maturing? Ah, then you have something…
Throw in some extremely likable characters, witty dialogue, and great acting and what you get is a cult classic. The first 3 seasons of this show are some of the best TV ever created. As soon as she goes to college the quality drops drastically down. It’s still better than a lot of TV, but it’s not great anymore after that point. However the 2nd and 3rd season are so good, they make this show rank as high as it does. Seasons 4-7 don’t make me a Whedon fan, but I am a fan of that work in season 2-3. Amazing stuff. Really.
17. THE TICK (1994-1996 FOX)
Ben Edlund’s comic book hero didn’t belong on Saturday mornings. It was too good for that. It deserved to be on primetime. Something Fox would admit later and try and do but in live action format (which bombed). The amazingness of this cartoon is almost without discription. How does one describe exactly to people who aren’t aware of just who Chairface Chippendale or El Seed?
This is just one of the greatest comedies ever. It ages well with time, too. Over the years the significance of the show has grown. First making one top 100 list, then breaking into top 10 lists. The show is the ultimate parody of super hero shows. It’s like The Kids In The Hall got together and said “lets make a cartoon about super heros!”
16. THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW (1967-1978)
The greatest prime time sketch comedy show ever? Who can forget such classics as AS THE STOMACH TURNS or THE FAMILY (later spun off as MAMA’S FAMILY). Burnett was joined by Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, and the late great Harvey Korman. Together they provided some of the best laughs of the time.
Before she was suing FAMILY GUY, Burnett was one of the best improv actors of all time. She created some roles remembered to this day (including the part she sued FAMILY GUY for using). Korman and Conway would tour their own comedy routine after the show left the air. Lyle Waggoner would go on to star in WONDER WOMAN (I still smirk when I see him playing such a serious role on that show).
The problem I have writing about this show, is that it was mostly before my time, and DVD sets have yet to be officially released. It was however one of the last truly successful variety shows. I remember some of the skits vaguely, but the impace Burnett had on the industry is unmistakable.