Top 100 TV Shows Of All Time 16-20 (Or Nick C Has No Taste)

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.

sixmBy 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.

larry460One 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…

buffyThrow 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?

tick-graphicThis 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.

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18 responses to “Top 100 TV Shows Of All Time 16-20 (Or Nick C Has No Taste)

  1. This is a great selction. Spot on. (I have never seen Carol Burnett, however.)

    But the others are worth of high placement. Each was unique and went on to be much copied. SMDM led to every single super-hero on TV in the ’70s and after, Buffy brought a new sensibility to TV heroes (and inspired multiple identical shows), Larry Sanders perfected a genre and raised the bar impossibly high for everyone who has followed. The Tick, for me, is the true parent of all the cool cult animated shows that followed.

    These four have me nodding my head in total agreement. Even someone who dislikes one/all of them will have to concede that they shaped all the television that followed them.

  2. Good call on Buffy. Agree wholeheartedly about Seasons 1-3 being winners. Season 4 started a bit weaker, and I can remember at the time that’s when fans started wondering aloud whether Whedon’s time working on Angel was detracting from Buffy. Same thing happened in I believe Season 6 when he started working on Firefly.

    Still, Season 4 yielded some of the best stand-alone episodes (Hush, Something Blue) of the series, even if the overall arc was weak. Season 5 seemed to be setting the show up for an endgame, and I thought it got pretty good towards the end. Personally I feel they should have left it there. Seasons 6-7 are what I feel drag the show down in terms of quality and character development.

    For The Six Million Dollar Man, its funny the one thing that to this day stands out to me about that series is the intro. “Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive.” Definitely the creation of an iconic character and a star in Lee Majors.

    This is a really great list, Nick. Can’t wait to see what shows make the Top 15!

  3. Darn, this list keeps making me want to watch these shows again! Season 2-3 of Buffy, which I only watched recently, is some of the best TV ever. And Larry Saunders–brilliant.

  4. I had the exact same reaction to the news that Buffy was going to be turned into a TV show. Most TV adaptations were far worse than the movies from which they originated and so I never gave Buffy a chance.

    It was quite a long time before I eventually watched the entire show. Seasons 2 and 3 are my favorites too, though I definitely liked S5 as well. And as Frank says, even the less enjoyable Seasons had at least one or two very interesting episodes.

  5. Glad you paid special attention to Buffy seasons 2-3. I actually loved all 7 seasons, but nothing will ever beat the finale when they had the showdown with The Mayor. I didn’t enjoy season 4 much when it first aired, and kind of fell off as a regular viewer from 5-7, but awhile back I started over with season 1 on DVD and found myself enjoying 4-7 quite a bit more than what I remembered. The best standalone episodes, in my opinion, came later on, such as “Hush,” “Once More With Feeling” and “The Body.” But as entire seasons go, 2 and 3 were unbeatable.

  6. I so don’t agree with you. Buffy was awesome all way through. The difference between season 1-3 and seasons 4-7 is that it starts being an adult show instead of a “high school show with a twist”. And yes, it deserved a way higher position.

  7. Buffy S4 I didn’t like that much but I thought S5 and Glory were fantastic, and the additions of Spike and Dawn to the main cast of characters were very welcome.

    “The Body” is the best episode of any TV episode I’ve ever seen period.

    S6 started off well but the Nerds of Doom got to be annoying and I never really bought Willow as a Big Bad.

    S7 made up for it though, bringing Buffy and Spike’s relationship to a good conclusion, bringing back Faith, and Fillion as the mad preacher was outstanding. The finale despite some dodgy wire-fu was a great way to go out – all guns blazing!

    I wish they would release more seasons of SMDM over here.

    I remember when they killed off the Bionic Woman, everyone was talking about it at school the next day.

    Lee Majors had a certain uncomplicated charm about him.

    I’m glad they haven’t “reimagined” SMDM (yet).

  8. I think I may be the only person on this site who never watched Buffy. I remember seeing the movie – which starred a different blonde actress whose name I can’t remember, but she went on to “Dancing with the Stars,” and in the process I believe helped break up the marriage of her dancing partner. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I guess it’s kind of too late for me to start with Buffy, so I’ll just have to trust ya’ll that it was as great as you say.

    Carol Burnett – heavens, YES! She was the last of an era with the great variety shows – people who were real, rock solid, all-around “entertainers.” It would be interesting (hint, hint, Nick C.) to have a thread dealing with why those shows disappeared. They were such a mainstay of television – and they were entertaining. Are we just no longer producing the all around entertainer anymore who can not only act, but sing, do comedy, etc., etc.?? I can’t believe we can just say that kind of entertainment if from a bygone era.

    I also have to admit, that I NEVER expected to see The Six Million Dollar Man on this list. I remember watching every episode as a kid – watching that “space ship” or plane or whatever it was crash and roll and roll and roll. It kind of had the same appeal as watching the beginning of “Wide World of Sports” and seeing the skier going down the slope and wiping out. You knew it was coming – “the agony of defeat.”

    But on that subject, I has “Wide World of Sports” been on the list yet? I know it’s a sports program – but it certainly had a huge impact. Today we have all kinds of sports channels/networks covering every kind of “sport” under the sun – and I would think the roots go back to Jim McKay and Wide World of Sports.

  9. @Rick Holy:

    It’s never too late to start with Buffy, my mum’s seen every episode.

  10. Seasons 4-7 of Buffy are nearly trash. Yes, they had some good episodes thrown in. HUSH as mentioned was a phenomenal episode for what it did.

    The whole making Spike a good guy thing and that entire path was total trash. Vampire with a soul? Been there, done that. Anyone who defends those plots is just an obsessed fan. Because seasons 4-7 were more like fan fiction than actual good TV. The only thing that kept it entertaining were the characters you learned to love over the first 3 seasons and some truly great episodes thrown in here and there.

    It most definitely does not deserve to be higher on the list, and I think the shows that make the top 10 will be rather bullet proof.

  11. Nick, obviously I disagree, and I wouldn’t call myself on obsessed fan who worships at the foot of Whedon. Dollhouse is crap and seasons 3 and 4 of Angel were dire.

    I agree, the first three seasons were the best ones of Buffy and it lost some of its appeal when she went to college. I do think S1 gets a bad wrap.

    I think Glory is one of the best villains of any season.

    As for Spike’s arc, I thought it interesting, in that unlike Angel, he got a soul himself and wasn’t cursed to have one, or wanted to do good deeds, he wanted one so the hot blonde chick would want to shag him (again). LOL.

    The show needed Spike after Cordelia went to Angel because you always need the square peg in the round hole, the wild card, the one that says “Now just hang on a second, do we really want to be doing that?” the person who shakes up the status quo and causes a bit of friction.

  12. “Seasons 4-7 of Buffy are nearly trash.” This is a joke. Obsessed fan? What about the majority of critics who say that Buffy kept improving and innovating? That’s your opinion and it’s doesn’t have anything to back it up.

    Season 4 was very good, season 5 was epic, season 6 was ambitious and season 7 was amazing.

  13. Ricardo, show me critics who say the show kept improving. Then show me reviews of the later seasons and try and convince me that the 3 or 4 you find is more than the 15 to 20 I find that say the opposite.

    Sure, there are some in the minority who feel the show got better. They however are in the minority.

    Just from basic story telling standpoints I can point out massive flaws in the 4th-7th seasons.

    peter noble, you can’t convince me that wasn’t the jumping the shark moment of that show. Specifically him even hooking up with her in the first place. Also didn’t the show have the ex-demon girl to provide the Cordelia lines?

  14. Nick,

    For me it wasn’t the jump the shark moment,. American TV fans are obsessed with this “jump the shark” thing – it is possible for shows to take a dive and find their feet again

    Anya was a square peg, but in my opinion, and here were are just arseholes giving our opinions, she isn’t as strong a character as Spike, even when she went back to being a vengeance demon, it wasn’t as strong as Spike’s out of control obsession with Buffy or his struggle against the First and to be worthy of Buffy’s faith in him.

    I just think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

    What Buffy did was present the world with was basically a superhero show that tackled the all-to real transition from teenage relationships to adult relationships and responsibilities that everyone faces and can identify with while kicking arse and taking names.

    It’s a cult thing but a worldwide cult thing, and I think it’s worthy of a place in any top 100 TV shows list.

  15. peter noble, it was the point in the show where it became like HEROES is now. It had a story it wanted to tell, and to get there it made a character act in an unbelievable manner for that character.

    At that point the show dropped like a rock in quality. Lets not even mention the very real jump the shark moment of instant brand new sister.

    It was all very fan fic like. They had the bad guy people loved become a good guy who had a relationship with Buffy. That’s just bad writing. It ignores both characters pasts.

  16. ……. kind of like when “Hulk Hogan” became a bad guy – and then went back to being a good guy again, or when “The Undertaker” or any number of others “rasslers” went from being hated villans to loveable heroes????

    (I have actually no idea since I never watched Buffy, but just thought I’d throw that analogy in for more fodder!) 😉

  17. Stories of bad guys who become good guys later on are comon place in some countries. A lot of Japanese anime/manga stories are like that. Although, it did bug me the way Spike cast off long time love Drussilla to obess over Buffy for the rest of the series run.

    There are DVDs of the Carol BURNETT SHOW but a lot of the musical numbers got edited out due to the cost of musical rights and such. Which is probably why I’m in no hurry to get them.

  18. AniMatsuri, yeah… but unfortunately it made as much sense as Rick Holy’s nod to heels makin good in wrestling.

    The story wasn’t about a bad person turning their intentions around, it was just a sad example of bad decision making.

    It’s a major no-no in writing. To justify the change they had to create new history about the character because the previous history provided made no sense for the change. So they made up new history. Which albeit is easier to do when the person is 100+ years old. You can just show a never before told past and have it try and make sense out of the bad decision made.