Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Best TV

Time magazine, to complement its lists of the greatest novels and movies released in recent years, has just released its list of the greatest TV shows ever. James Poniewozik, the Time TV critic who compiled the list, is doing a fair amount of blogging over at his excellent TV blog Tuned In about the list, his reasoning for various decisions, and so on.

As is my wont, I'll take a pass through the list to see what I think. A red show is one I have never or hardly ever seen, a black one is one I've seen a decent amount of, and a blue one is one I have seen all or most of.

I tried once, but couldn't get into it after the fact. (Have never watched in real time. Maybe one day.)

60 Minutes
I don't watch hardly any newsmagazines.

The Abbott and Costello Show
I'm in my mid-30s.

ABC's Wide World of Sports

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Ditto again.

All in the Family
A great, great show, with one of television's all-time greatest characterizations at its center. O'Carroll, as far as I'm concerned, can never get enough credit as an actor - watch his Archie and then watch him play the soft-spoken sheriff in an episode of In the Heat of the Night; it's hard to believe it's the same guy. His range was outstanding. And while the politics sometimes got heavy-handed, they were more balanced than you might remember, with Meathead hardly being right all of the time either. As I've said before, the genius episode where Mike and Gloria move to California, with its closing moment between Mike and Archie ("I know you think I hated you, Arch, but the truth is, well, I love you." - cue hug and an Archie desperately trying not to cry) shatters me whenever I watch it.

An American Family
I was more into cartoons at the time.

American Idol
Captivating - I watch it even though the singing (and of the "good" finalists," not just the opening weeks' train wrecks) is so often awful. Hard to argue with its status as a true phenomenon.

Arrested Development
Saw the first season on DVD, loved it, but haven't gotten to the second or third yet. I've a hunch history will not be as kind to this as fans and critics may assume, though.

Battlestar Galactica
Surprised to see something this recent get on the list, but I'll argue with no one who suggests that we are living in a golden era for television.

The Beavis and Butt-Head Show
I love that Poniewozik thought to include this. A very influential, much cleverer than it seemed show that did a whole lot with its extreme simpleness.

The Bob Newhart Show
Before my time.

Brideshead Revisited
Buffalo Bill

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Saw only the finale in real-time, and then the entire run on DVD. Easily as good as advertised, with the revelation for me how good Gellar got as Buffy. The episode where Buffy's mom dies is a true tour-de force for her, and on top of that easily one of the five best episodes of TV I've ever seen.

The Carol Burnett Show
I know I saw a bit of this as a wee lad, but I was too young to appreciate it.

The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite

A Charlie Brown Christmas
I dislike that Poniewozik wasn't more stringent with his rules, but, hey, it is his list. And this is great TV, with one of the greatest soundtracks ever recorded for television, and a pure, open simplicity that has allowed it to last despite its clunky and dated animation and editing.

One of the great solid sitcoms - no epiphanies, no groundbreaking, no depth, but just very funny characters in a definable sitcom universe.

The Cosby Show
Funnier in the early seasons than you may remember.

The Daily Show
I never got into this. I like my 11:30 sitcom fix too much.

The Day After
Before my time.

I'm about halfway through the second season, and the quiet, vulgar poetry of this show continues to surprise and delight. And Al Swearengen may just have muscled his way onto the top-ten TV character list.

The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Ed Sullivan Show
The Ernie Kovacs Show

All pre-me.

A DVD potential.

Freaks and Geeks
I know some think that the short life of this show was a blessing in disguise. I think they're nuts. I still mourn not getting to see these characters grow and change and graduate. Easily a top three show for me, and the biggest hole in my DVD colllection. If you didn't read Alan Sepinwall's summer rewind, where he blogged, in depth, about each episode, you missed out on some great, great TV blogging. Go read it now.

The French Chef
I've seen the Dan Akroyd parody.

Like Cheers before it, a supremely well-constructed and well-written sitcom, that consistently brought the funny.

General Hospital
The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show

Gilmore Girls
Very pleasantly surprised to see this series get on the list - Lauren Graham's lack of an Emmy has been bemoaned enough, but this show did a great job of building a slightly unreal TV world and having fun with it, without shying away, as many have suggested, from the ickier aspects of its central conceit (that a young Mom and her teenaged daughter could be more friends than parent-child). Sure, for the most time it idealized the relationship, but every now and then the problem with that dynamic reared its head.

Hill Street Blues
Homicide: Life on the Street
The Honeymooners
I, Claudius
I Love Lucy

King of the Hill
I like King of the Hill and yet never, ever watch it (seriously, I think I've seen maybe five episodes). Not sure why that is.

The Larry Sanders Show

Late Night with David Letterman (NBC)

I've never been a religious Letterman watcher, but I've always been a fan, and have lost my fair share of sleep to his antics. I'll always hold a special fondness in my heart for those times Tony Randall and Mandy Patinkin would come in and commandeer the studio for a song.

Leave It to Beaver


Probably my favorite series ever. It just pushes all my buttons - surprise-filled writing, twisty characterization, stellar production values, and a great score. That I have to wait until February (February!) for new episodes is painful.

Married... With Children
A show I never really enjoyed - too cartoony and broad for me. That Ed O'Neill could actually act, though, was a revelation when I saw him in later roles.

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Another show that seemed to be constantly on in reruns when I was a kid and not old enough to appreciate it. And yet when I catch a glimpse nowadays, it's as if I've been poisoned by those childhood memories of nothing being on but that boring war show.

The Monkees
Monty Python's Flying Circus

MTV 1981-1992
I liked me some videos as a teen, and Beavis and Butthead, but that's about it.

My So-Called Life
Mystery Science Theater 3000

The Odd Couple
Klugman and Randall were like peanut butter and jelly.

The Office [American]
The Office [British]
I know, I know - I'm a bad Office fan. I do plan to get to the BBC series eventually.

The Oprah Winfrey Show

Pee Wee's Playhouse
Loved this as a kid. Bizarre enough to be cool, but not so bizarre as to turn off kids. Perfect.

Playhouse 90

The Price Is Right
Come on down!

Prime Suspect
The Prisoner
The Real World
Rocky and His Friends

The biggest fall, from greatness to crap, seen by any TV show. And yet it still deserves its slot, so god were those first five seasons or so.

Sanford and Son

Saturday Night Live
Every generation loves the SNL that aired when that generation was between the ages of fifteen and twenty-three and despairs the current iteration. And this shall it ever be.

Second City Television
See It Now

One of the ages. I'm loving how, as the episodes start to date, the period touches never take away from the rock-solid construction of the characters or the (for a show about nothing) involved, well-constructed plots.

Sesame Street
Is it an overstatement to say that the world would be a different place had Sesame Street never been created? Probably. But not by much.

Sex and the City
The Shield

The Simpsons
The greatest television program ever. Bar none.

The Singing Detective
Six Feet Under

The Sopranos
A great, great television achievement, and one of a small handful of series I really want a complete DVD set of.

South Park
SpongeBob SquarePants
Star Trek
St. Elsewhere

The Super Bowl (and the Ads)
An odd choice, Poniezowic.


Has any sitcom ever delivered a more durable stable of actors - Hirsch, Danza, DeVito, Lloyd? All went on to very filled careers.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

The Twilight Zone
I've seen a few, but when I think about it, not that many. Maybe partly because as a kid I got out of the library and read, a few times, a book that summarized every episode.

Twin Peaks

The West Wing
Another of the want-a-complete-DVD-set shows. Having watched the show not in real-time, but by renting season after season, I can report that the latter seasons were not nearly as lesser than the early seasons as has been reported.

What's My Line?
WKRP in Cincinnati
The Wire
The X-Files
Your Show of Shows

Until Whenever


Roger Green said...

Boy, you ARE young. I dare say there are at least a half dozen you should at least try on DVD - Bob Newhart, Dick van Dyke, Homicide, Hill Street, MTM, St. Elsewhere. And WKRP, if they ever put it out.

Tosy And Cosh said...

WKRP came out some months back, at least the first season. Of the listed suggestions, Homicide intrigues me the most - I liked Oz a lot, and that was I believe a lot of the same folks.

Roger Green said...

Oh, your Tuned In link doesn't work.