Thursday, September 18The CDP 2008-2009 Fall TV Preview.
After toiling, researching, back-checking links and writing pages upon pages of material, Blogger decided to delete the saved progress of the 4th Annual CDP Fall TV Preview, mere minutes before it was to be proudly published. A fitting end to TV Week, it would appear.
This has never happened to me before in this magnitude, and I honestly don't have the time to reformat everything that went into this massive post right now. As many of you familiar with the CDP Fall TV Preview already know, this is one of my biggest posts of the year, I work my ass off on it, and quite frankly, it's usually pretty awesome. You should have heard the profanities. In fact, I'm sort of surprised that you didn't.
However, Blogger was kind enough to leave me with the base outline I started with when I sat down to flesh this entire thing out, so that's what I'll share with you right now; a stripped-down list of the programs I intend to watch this season, sticking mainly to national, primetime shows in the Central Time Zone. Not really as exciting without all the photos, jokes and gloss, but hey, whaddya gunna do?
7:00-8:00 – Chuck (NBC)
7:30-10:30 – Monday Night Football (ESPN)
8:00-9:00 – Heroes (NBC)
8:00-9:00 – Dirty Jobs (DISC)
8:00-10:00 – Monday Night Raw! (USA)
7:00-8:00 – Dollhouse (FOX)
8:00-9:00 – 24 (FOX)
BEST BET? - Heroes (NBC)
WORST BET? - My Own Worst Enemy (NBC)
TAKE A CHANCE ON… - Dollhouse (FOX)
7:00-8:00 – Opportunity Knocks (ABC)
7:00-8:00 – House, M.D. (FOX)
8:00-9:00 – Fringe (FOX)
7:00-8:00 – American Idol (FOX)
8:30-9:00 – The Goode Family (ABC)
BEST BET? - House, M.D. (FOX)
WORST BET? - 90210 (CW)
TAKE A CHANCE ON... - The Goode Family (ABC)
7:00-8:00 – Pushing Daisies (ABC)
7:00-8:00 – Knight Rider (NBC)
8:00-9:00 – Mythbusters (DISC)
8:00-9:00 – Ghost Hunters (SCIFI)
9:00-10:00 – Destination Truth (SCIFI)
8:00-9:00 - Friday Night Lights (DIRECTV)
BEST BET? - Mythbusters (DISC)
WORST BET? - Lipstick Jungle (NBC)
TAKE A CHANCE ON… - Destination Truth (SCIFI)
7:00-7:30 – My Name Is Earl (NBC)
7:30-8:00 – Kath & Kim (NBC)
8:00-9:00 – The Office (NBC)
8:30-9:00 - 30 Rock (NBC)
8:00-9:00 – Supernatural (CW)
9:00-10:00 – Eleventh Hour (CBS)
8:30-9:00 – The Office Spin-Off (NBC)
9:00-10:00 – Lost (ABC)
BEST BET? - 30 Rock (NBC)
WORST BET? - The Moment Of Truth (FOX)
TAKE A CHANCE ON… - Eleventh Hour (CBS)
7:00-7:30 – Everybody Hates Chris (CW)
7:00-9:00 – Friday Night Smackdown! (MYTV)
8:00-9:00 – Supernanny (ABC)
9:00-10:00 – 20/20 (ABC)
8:00-8:30 – Outnumbered (FOX)
BEST BET? - Nothing (NOWHERE)
WORST BET? - Don’t Forget The Lyrics! (FOX)
TAKE A CHANCE ON… - Outnumbered (FOX)
7:00-8:00 – Dateline NBC (NBC)
7:00-7:30 – COPS (FOX)
7:30-8:00 – COPS (FOX)
10:30-12:00 – Saturday Night Live (NBC)
BEST BET? - COPS (FOX)
WORST BET? - ‘Crimetime Saturday’ (CBS)
TAKE A CHANCE ON… - Dateline NBC (NBC)
6:00-7:00 – America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC)
7:00-10:00 – Sunday Night Football (NBC)
7:00-7:30 – The Simpsons (FOX)
7:00-8:00 – Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC)
7:30-8:00 – King Of The Hill (FOX)
7:30-8:00 – Sit Down, Shut Up (FOX)
BEST BET? - The Simpsons (FOX)
WORST BET? - Family Guy (FOX)
TAKE A CHANCE ON… - Sit Down, Shut Up (FOX)
10 NOTABLE SHOWS NOT RETURNING
Beauty And The Geek (CW)
Kid Nation (CBS)
Las Vegas (NBC)
Oprah’s Big Give (ABC)
Simply gripping literature, right there.
So, in a rather anticlimactic fashion, TV WEEK draws to a close. Sorry about that. Sound off in the comments section, share your television viewing habits with the masses and enjoy your weekend. I will be in downtown Madison on Friday and Saturday for the Forward Music Fest; hopefully I'll see you there. Bring bail money.
Next Week On The CDP:
Specifically so you don't have to, I have mined YouTube and assembled almost 60 clips of theme songs, intros, bumpers and random nostalgic bliss from the past 25 years of television in honor of the almighty Programming Block. You remember the joy of the Programming Block: those 2-3 hours of weekly television that had a specific theme, intro/outros and hosted bumpers that tied everything into one nice, neat package. A time to change into your pajamas, gather a couch full of snacks and settle in with the only friend that will never betray you and force you to stab them to death behind the pet food store on Christmas Eve, the Television.
We're focusing on six Programming Blocks in particular, as they were the ones that I grew up with. The years next to the titles represent the amount of time I made them a part of my weekly routine. If I got to decide how you read this post, I'd ask that you stay up late with it, checking out all of the links and allowing yourself to slip back in time a little bit, and hopefully feel a little warm and fuzzy in the process. Let's go.
The Disney Afternoon (Syndicated) - 1990-1994
This was the first block that I really became a part of. Every day after school, I'd run down my driveway as fast as I could to see as much of The Disney Afternoon as possible. Due to me living in the middle of nowhere, I was typically the last one off of the bus, making it impossible to ever see the first show of the block. Luckily, Disney did something neat by adding a new series every season and pushing all of the older shows up a half-hour.
The Disney Afternoon Introduction
Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers
Shows like Darkwing Duck and DuckTales were legitamately wonderful, boasting animation awards, feature films and theme songs that most of us know by heart. Even though it wasn't on Saturday morning, The Disney Afternoon was a children's programming staple for millions of kids in my generation. And hey, speaking of Saturday morning...
CBS Kids (CBS) - 1988-1994
What an eclectic mix of programming in the late 80's/early 90's CBS Saturday Block. Saturday mornings in the early 90's were jam-packed with goodness on all three major networks, so having the schedule down was an absolute must in order to catch all of the best stuff. Getting up at 5am didn't hurt, either.
Garfield & Friends
Hey Vern, It's Ernest!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
First, you had Garfield & Friends, which was two shows in one (remember U.S. Acres?). Hey Vern, It's Ernest! was one of those shows that adults seemed to understand a bit more than their kids did (even if in hindsight, it was annoying as hell). Muppet Babies was, looking back, a truly bizarre and surreal show (with one of the best theme songs ever). Pee-Wee's Playhouse was nothing short of revolutionarily awesome, and TMNT was possibly the most popular children's cartoon of my generation. Seriously, the hype and merchandise sales were unbelievable during those years.
Must-See TV (NBC) - 1984-1991
Moving out of animation-based programming and into primetime network stuff, we have the long-running 'Must-See Thursday' block on NBC. Even though it still exists with shows like The Office, 30 Rock and My Name Is Earl at the helm, I wanted to focus more on the roots of the block in the late 80's and early 90's.
'It Must Be Thursday' 1984 Intro
Gimme A Break!
The Cosby Show
A Different World
Wings - (For some reason, I couldn't track down the Wings opening theme, so I put this NBC Thursday night promo up. I think it's better anyways, and look at the Seinfeld episode that was on that night!)
I didn't remember that Mama's Family was part of this otherwise-solid string of sitcoms until I went back to study it. I also remember that during the closing credits of Night Court, there was a guy laughing in the background of the theme song that always bothered me for whatever reason. Don't forget the 'Sit Ubu, sit' production company bumper to close out Cheers, as well as the fact that Lisa Bonet was hand-picked for A Different World because Bill Cosby wanted her off of his show as fast as humanly possible.
TGIF (ABC) - 1986-2000
This is as good of a definition of 'Programming Block' as I can think of. Two hours, every friday night, nothing but comedy, hosted bumpers, a theme song specifically for the block, and some really classic television programs to boot. It may have waned in the later years, and a lot of these shows certainly don't hold up to save their fictional lives, but that's not really the point, is it?
TGIF Intro Video
TGIF Closing Video
'Things That Make You Go 'Hmmm...'' Intro
Step By Step
Boy Meets World - (This isn't the opening to Boy Meets World, but I liked this clip better. So will you.)
What I remember most about this block was that it was a 'family' block, which meant that the whole house got together and sat in front of the television, which I was quite fond of. I unapologetically loved Full House, Dinosaurs was...man...just unreal, and the guy that did the Full House theme song also did the Family Matters theme (really, listen to them).
And Topanga. Sweet, weird, curvy Topanga. I love you and want you to come back home now.
By the early 90's, I was entering adolescence and was fortunate enough to get cable television. As it turned out, this turned me on to what was probably the most well-remembered programming block of my generation..
SNICK (NICK) - 1992-1999
SNICK had it all. The big orange couch. The Saturday night timeslot. The feeling that you were in on something really special; something that was made just for you. The '166 hours' closing always bummed me out, as it reminded me that Sunday was tomorrow and I'd have to prepare for another week of school, but for those few hours, SNICK made everything better.
SNICK Opening Sequence
SNICK Closing Sequence
Clarissa Explains It All
Ren & Stimpy
Ren & Stimpy - LOG!!
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
The Adventures of Pete & Pete
The Secret World of Alex Mack
The Ren & Stimpy phenomenon was completely justified, The Adventures of Pete & Pete makes me warm like a shot of whiskey, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? was legitamately terrifying at times; even more so than Tales From The Crypt. It's a shame I never got the chance to start up that Midnight Society like I wanted to. If I did it now, I'd probably get arrested.
Another thing I want to mention. Amanda Bynes was on All That when she was exceedingly young, and I have to say that I found her to be absolutely hilarious, then and still. I don't know what has been happening with her career since then, but she was really funny, spastic kid.
MTV Animation/Liquid Television (MTV) - 1991-2000
The mid-90's couldn't have been better for music. The rise of Alternative made MTV a must-watch network, and it was inarguably at its best for these few years. Eventually, reality shows took over, but before that, we had Liquid Television and the rise of MTV Animation; not necessarily a block in and of itself, but worth mentioning due to their popularity and nostalgic appeal.
Beavis & Butt-head
The Head (Pilot Episode)
To this day, I could watch Beavis & Butthead tearing apart music videos until the end of time. The genius of Mike Judge's satire was that a lot of fans didn't realize that he was squarely making fun of them, anything but encouraging slacker and near-retarded behavior. Daria showed up a little later, but boasted a great soundtrack and a pitch-perfect Generation X outlook on High School life and society in general.
Man, we're done already? But I don't want to leave this world of nostalgic TV wonderment! Well, for those that have stuck it out this far, here are a few more great clips that I could't help but toss onto the pile. Enjoy.
My Favorite Show Openings/Misc. Awesomeness
Six Million Dollar Man
The Greatest American Hero
Seinfeld - Greatest American Hero
Play It Safe Around Electricity
Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (Joel)
Mac Tonight Commercial
Thanks for going back in time with me. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day. And hey, don't forget that the Programming Block that has been CDP TV WEEK isn't over just yet.
TOMORROW: TV Week Concludes With The 4th Annual CDP FALL TV PREVIEW!
2005 Fall TV Preview.
2006 Fall TV Preview.
2007 Fall TV Preview.
Wednesday, September 17TV Week! (Part 3: Top 20 Shows Of All-Time)
Here now, the second half of my Top 20 television shows of all-time. As was the case with A Lifetime Of Shows, I stuck mostly to well-known and at least somewhat-popular network shows. This is 100% personal preference, and continues to change by the minute as I write it up. Appreciate it as entertainment, please.
10. The Prisoner
The Prisoner is the only television show in the countdown that I have never actually seen on a standard television set. The DVD box set still runs well over $100, so I’ve been forced to enjoy the 17-episode series via Interweb. Fortunately, it takes nothing away from one of the most visionary, complex and downright frustrating shows ever created.
An underrated, early predecessor to shows like Twin Peaks, Lost (for sure) and even The X-Files, The Prisoner was one of those shows where you only knew as much as the main character, which in this case, wasn’t very much. As the weeks rolled on and the surreal story started unraveling, less seemed to make sense, culminating with what could be the most bizarre series finale of all-time. Find an opportunity to watch this show, and hey, if you happen to own the series on DVD, don’t be afraid to send a copy this way.
theCDP. PO Box 865 Sun Prairie, WI 53590
Show co-creator Patrick McGoohan sez’:
"I think progress is the biggest enemy on earth, apart from oneself…We're run by the Pentagon, we're run by Madison Avenue, we're run by television, and as long as we accept those things and don't revolt, we'll have to go along with the stream to the eventual avalanche… As long as we go out and buy stuff, we're at their mercy. We're at the mercy of the advertiser and of course there are certain things that we need, but a lot of the stuff that is bought is not needed...We all live in a little Village… Your village may be different from other people's villages, but we are all prisoners."
9. Twin Peaks
Finally! After mentioning Twin Peaks nearly 20 times in the last two days, it finally shows up to claim the #9 position on our countdown. It would have placed much higher, but with only a season-and-a-half of programming, it seemed a bit too grandiose. Not that it wouldn’t have deserved it or anything.
David Lynch is, from what I can tell, an all-American guy. Lived a storybook childhood. Is a great conversationalist and storyteller. Enjoys fishing and baseball. But when this man gets behind a camera, he always manages to create the impossible: a conscious dream. Seriously; what I like the most about Lynch’s work is that it’s truly like viewing the most lucid and unexplainable dream possible, and yet there it is, right there on the silver screen. Or in the case of Twin Peaks, the TV screen.
Do me a favor. Go back and watch Eraserhead, and tell me that isn’t the closest representation to an honest-to-God nightmare as you’ve ever seen. I dream about crap like that all the time. Unnamed characters that come and go. Scenes that lead to nothing. The laws of physics breaking and gluing themselves back together. People randomly tuning into completely different characters. Backwards-talking midgets and a woman that takes advice from a log that she cradles like a newborn. With Twin Peaks, Lynch actually took this style and made a national television show out of it, which seems absolutely impossible, and yet captivated the entire nation for the two glorious years that it existed. When we follow Special Agent Dale Cooper through the dreamlike, film noir town of Twin Peaks, we’re with him in the realization that something isn’t quite right. Like maybe, we’ll just wake up from this world and get back on with our real life. So goes the genius of Lynch.
The ‘Who killed Laura Palmer?’ storyline in 1991 was an even bigger phenomenon than the ‘What’s in the Hatch?’ Lost storyline from 2004. The Emmy nominations piled up, imitators came out of the woodwork, and ABC will always be remembered as the network that gave David Lynch and a brilliant cast the chance to create the most unlikely television classic in history.
Lynch, Lynch, Lynchity-Lynch Lynch. Penis.
"Before the two-hour pilot premiered on TV, a screening was held at the Museum of Broadcasting in Hollywood. Media analyst and advertising executive Paul Schulman said, “I don't think it has a chance of succeeding. It is not commercial, it is radically different from what we as viewers are accustomed to seeing; there's no one in the show to root for.”"
8. The Wonder Years
Paul Pheifer isn’t Marilyn Manson. Wayne Arnold didn’t commit suicide. Winnie Cooper is indeed the hottest math teacher on the planet and Kevin Arnold is Daniel Stern. Wait, what?
I’m big on influences, and to me, there were few programs that had such a positive influence on television (and my writing style) as The Wonder Years. This was the first show that I can remember as a child that had no definable genre. It was set in Vietnam War-era America. It was narrated by an adult version of the main character. It was brilliantly funny. It was heartbreakingly sad. It had moments of true emotion and deep nostalgia. The soundtrack was amazing. Nowadays, most programs attempt to combine as many genres as possible, but The Wonder Years was one of the first to do it so perfectly. In a standard sitcom, you knew that the main character’s girlfriend wasn’t going to be killed by the end of the episode. In The Wonder Years, everything was open for interpretation and flux.
Due to the aforementioned music rights issues, this timeless show hasn’t seen the light of day on the DVD rack. I can only hope that this matter gets handled immediately, so I can finally see if the show holds up to all of the praise that I feel I’m rightfully stacking upon it.
Kevin Arnold sez’:
"...And so Winnie and I had our one slow dance after all. But things wouldn't be the same between us. We were getting older. And whether we wanted it or not, the Lisa Berlinis and the Kirk McCrays were changing us by the minute. All we could do was close our eyes and wish that the slow song would never end..."
7. The Twilight Zone
There’s a reason why The Twilight Zone gets revived for a new audience every few years. The greatest sci-fi/horror series in history draws upon classic short stories to produce an original anthology that still draws annual marathons and legions of fans. Still the scariest and most thought-provoking show I’ve ever seen, the Rod Serling era-broadcasts are the very definition of ‘classic,’ and you’d be hard pressed not to find the show still in syndication in your area. The most memorable episodes are too numerous to name (besides, you know them by heart, I hope), and the cast of actors ranged from virtual unknowns to monumental royalty.
If you’re a fan of sci-fi and thought-provoking horror; any sci-fi and thought-provoking horror that currently exists on your television in any facet, you can thank The Twilight Zone for its existence.
Rod Serling sez’:
"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs, and explosions, and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, ideas, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy. A thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all it's own for the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is, is that these things can not be confined to the Twilight Zone."
6. Saturday Night Live
It has survived 34 years (5 without creator Lorne Michaels), boasted a revolving door of writing and acting talent, functioning as sort of an American Idol for comic actors and breakout stars. It has shaped the way we tell jokes, changed the way we talk to each other and even shaped Presidential elections. Where in the hell would American popular culture be without Saturday Night Live?
Whether it’s a good season or a lackluster one, people still watch, stars are still made and seven-minute sketches become the conversation topic of an entire nation come Monday morning. With the exception of maybe two other shows, nothing on television has shaped me as much as SNL has. Chances are, you’re probably the same way. And the music! For as much as the sketch comedy aspect of SNL dominates conversations on the historical significance of the series, their musical guests are always a more accurate and definitive snapshot of the times than even the sketches themselves.
In short, a Canadian created a show that, for all purposes, should go down in history as an American standard. Funny how things work out.
Sean Connery sez’:
"Suck on it, Trebek. Suck it long, and suck it hard."
TV Guide states that Seinfeld is the greatest sitcom of all-time. Of course, the nation was in the grips of Seinfeld-Mania at that particular point in time, so I have to believe that the list might be slightly altered should it run again in 2008. A quick scan of my high school yearbook even unearths tons of Seinfeld quotes and musings scribbled into margins and back pages by friends and teachers. Truly, Seinfeld was a defining moment in time, not just for television, but for comedy in general.
Within the confines of a ‘traditional’ sitcom, they broke taboos, seamlessly intertwined genius with wackiness and practically begged you to realize that the four main characters were some of the most selfish, shallow and self-centered characters ever created. We saw ourselves in those characters (I’m half-George, half-Jerry), and it allowed us to root for them, even as they ruined lives, obsessed over the trivial and broke up with people on a weekly basis for the most superficial of reasons.
When Seinfeld finally came to a close after nine seasons, I honestly didn’t know if there would ever be another live-action show as brilliant and versatile. Then…well…
George Costanza sez’:
"There is Relationship George, and there is Independent George...you are killing Independent George! A George divided against itself... cannot stand!"
4. Arrested Development
Well, here we are. My #4 favorite TV show of all-time, and my pick for the greatest live-action television series I’ve ever seen. Just like I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners or even Seinfeld, Arrested Development deserves to be placed on a pedestal next to these timeless shows, if only for the sole reason that they invented something brand new. I’d also argue that since Arrested Development invented something brand new in 2004, their feat is even more spectacular than all of the shows I just mentioned.
What is there to say about Arrested that hasn’t already been said? There was just absolutely nothing like it, before or since, that has even come close to matching the pacing, depth, acting, characters, writing, spectrum, pop culture knowledge, satire and self-parody displayed in just one episode. Quite frankly, I feel very fortunate that I lived in a moment of TV history where a show like this existed, if only for three short years. It was that good.
The jokes were everywhere. The wordplay and puns were positively Shakespearean in their execution. The taboos were destroyed. The very network that took a chance and almost instantly left them for dead was mocked mercilessly. Guest stars trusted the material enough to play so far outside of their ranges that their careers could have been ruined had it been anything less than perfect.
And that’s what Arrested Development was. 100% perfect, from start to finish.
Entertainment Weekly sez’:
"As Hollywood agents worry about the demise of the town's lowing cash cow, the multi-camera, staged sitcom, here to save the day is Arrested Development, a farce of such blazing wit and originality, that it must surely usher in a new era in comedy."
I get a free pass on Lost, as it would appear as if I’ve done enough talking about it already.
The CDP sez’:
"Lost is the greatest television drama of all-time, weaving the very best elements of survivalism, action, horror, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy (ack!) and surrealism, while opening discussions concerning the topics of fate, religion, free will, conspiracy and karma. The cast is historic, the storyline is genius personified, the storytelling elements are unlike anything ever put on TV, and the writing team of Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have created a world so deep and entertaining, we should be paying them a residual every week to even be allowed to think about this masterpiece. I’m done."
2. Mystery Science Theater 3000
Taken from MST3K Info; a perfect epilogue that I've probably read 100 times over the last 8 years:
So, after nearly 200 bad movies, ten years of production and fifteen years of television audiences joining the crew of the SOL for "movie sign!", it's fair to ask what it was that kept this show so beloved.
Well, Joel said something very profound about his show in an interview in 1990: "It's about liberty, in a small, goofy way," he said. And that is probably at the heart of it. It appeals to an innate human desire to unabashedly say what you think. And for young kids, that seems to be the principle draw: the whole notion of grown-ups in power being heckled and ridiculed for their obvious inadequacies is irresistible.
But there's more going on here, or this would just be Beavis & Butthead. More importantly, MST3K is a call to arms in a war most thinking people are waging every day: the battle against the mediocrity that floods our lives. MST3K is an object lesson, a demonstration that we don't have to--and shouldn't--passively accept the garbage we are spoon-fed on a daily basis. Indeed, the series places the 'bots and their human companion on the front lines of that battle. It's in this way that MST3K rises above mere heckling and becomes a compelling metaphor about fighting the good fight.
But beyond that, there is no mistaking the genius at work here. It shines so clearly that toddlers are instinctively drawn to it and senior citizens smile knowingly -- even if neither gets the Courtney Love jokes. From Joel's forehead-slappingly simple concept to its loopy-yet-graceful execution, the show has a cool elegance, an endearing off-kilter brilliance. It engenders an astonishing loyalty in its viewers -- a loyalty that stems in part from the way it makes its viewers feel like they are "in on" a very special secret. It manages the near-impossible by being one of the most delightfully unpredictable programs on national TV, while also being one of the most reassuringly formulaic. "The show," as devotees simply call it, rewards knowledge and insight, punishes inattention and passivity. But most importantly, it always has been -- and always will be -- really, genuinely funny.
In the theater, the give-and-take rhythm between movie and commentary can be, at its best, dazzling and exhilarating; while the host segments often build to the kind of antic cartoon chaos (reminiscent of Monty Python or a Warner Brothers Looney Tune) that is a tonic for anyone who feels trapped in a dreary, workaday world. The overall result is an entertainment experience that leaves its viewer a little happier than when he or she found it.
On January 31, 2004, fifteen years of Mystery Science Theater 3000 came to an end on broadcast television. But the show lives on in the hearts and minds of fans all over the world who continue to buy the Rhino Home Video episodes and who have never forgotten those four magical little words: "Keep circulating the tapes."
MST3K didn't run forever. But it will never leave us.
1. The Simpsons
There you have it, folks. Time Magazine's choice for the Greatest Show Of The 20th Century also happens to be the CDP's choice for favorite show of all-time. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.
TOMORROW: TV Week Continues With A Tribute To The Programming Block!
Tuesday, September 16TV Week! (Part 2: Top 20 Shows Of All-Time)
Here now, the first half of my Top 20 television shows of all-time. As was the case with A Lifetime Of Shows, I stuck mostly to well-known and at least somewhat-popular shows from my nation of birth (with the exception of one later on, I believe). This is 100% personal preference, and continues to change by the minute as I write it up. Appreciate it as entertainment, please.
The Simpsons has been the de facto standard as far as cartoons go for the last 20 years, so when another show comes along that beats it at its own game, it's quite a historic moment. However, that's exactly what King of the Hill did for at least back-to-back seasons in the span of 2003-2006. A brilliant take on rural living by Mike Judge, one of the underrated kings of satire, KOTH is now the second longest-running animated show in television history, which is saying a lot, considering FOX's fickle nature. At their best, you forget you're watching a cartoon (the show could easily have been shot live action) and immerse yourself into the completely-believable world of mild-mannered, straight-laced everyman Hank Hill; placed just under Homer Simpson in the world of iconic TV dads.
Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: In homage to the scene where a herd of Emu attack Bill, I sometimes randomly shriek "They're bitin'!" at random intervals.
19. Malcolm in the Middle
Malcolm got a lot of flack for starring legitimate douchebag Frankie Muniz, but I'll defend this show to anyone unfortunate enough to call me to task. Malcolm was originally billed as a live-action Simpsons, and while I understood the term to be endearing, they sometimes went places more bizarre and emotionally deep than anything ever done in Springfield. What I enjoyed most about Malcolm was that they threw absolutely everything at the wall every single week; the insanity notching itself further and further, yet feeling normal within the confines of their universe. The nonsensical cold openings, the non-laugh track, filmstock production and single-camera cinematography were just a few of the ways that Malcolm was slightly groundbreaking in consideration of what was to become of the American sitcom.
The constant side-plot of Francis skipping around the nation was always a welcome diversion from the household storylines (his time in the Army and Alaska being personal favorites), and an ensemble cast that essentially made Muniz the weakest character week after week (Jane Kaczmarek and Bryan Cranston were nominated for Emmys almost every season, and the show won 7 Emmys for the 7 seasons it was on). I've always felt that Malcolm was criminally overlooked as far as their efforts were concerned, and can virtually guarantee that this is a show that's begging to be rediscovered and appreciated on DVD.
Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: It's always fun to talk like Malcolm's handicapped friend Stevie, taking deep breaths in between each word of a sentence. "Can...you...pass...me...the...sour...cream...and...onion...dip?"
18. 30 Rock
In 2007, 30 Rock did something that I thought it would never do: It surpassed The Office as the Funniest Show on Television; even winning a Best Comedy Emmy for their efforts. Then in 2008, it did the same exact thing again, leading me to proclaim it the best comedy since Arrested Development (and the closest thing on television that resembles it). Each week, I watch 30 Rock with the same breathless appreciation that I did for Arrested; a silent applause for the genius it takes to write such brilliantly funny material on a week-to-week basis. The casting of Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan in their respective roles are television perfection, and Tina Fey's relateable lead role is something we all thought she was more than capable of pulling off. After their opening season, they found their stride in a big way, and I think that 30 Rock has done everything indicative of an instant classic.
Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: Anything in a Tracy Morgan voice that ends by acknowledging the person your speaking to by full name. Something like, "I'ma put a baby in you, Emily Mills!"
17. The X-Files
The X-Files single-handedly brought sci-fi back to network television. Well, good sci-fi, at least. Each week, they pushed the envelope, pushed the boundaries and pushed the imaginations of millions, drawing on past horror and sci-fi anthology shows to produce something altogether different and all-encompassing. Some episodes were deep and intelligent. Some were extremely violent and bloody. Others were terrifying. Despite the lackluster final seasons, The X-Files is a true classic; a show that most of us remember fondly and typically always shows up on these sorts of lists.
Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: Okay, this is cheating, as it comes from the X-Files themed episode of The Simpsons. Mr. Burns' "I bring you love!"
If you consider that COPS has been on the air for the same amount of time as the entire FOX network, you begin to see not only the magnitude, but the very real idea that the show could run forever. For some, it's a false display of the worst behaviors of society. For others, it's a shocking reminder of our de-evolution as a species. For most, however, it's the funniest show on television, and like Patton Oswalt says, I'm more or less a Trekkie for this show. I can instantly tell you what city they're in and what's about to happen by merely viewing the opening monologue. Like The Simpsons, I can't really imagine a world without COPS, and thanks to syndication, I'll probably never have to.
Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: "You like 'dat crack, don't you? Don't lie to me; you wouldn't be down here if you didn't like 'dat crack!"
15. Tales from the Crypt
I didn't get HBO until my early teen years, and Tales From The Crypt was my first experience to the previously-unseen world of 'adult' programming. Now that I'm older, I know that Tales was anything but 'adult;' a hilarious, tounge-in-cheek anthology show created by brilliant producers and starring some of the world's most well-known celebrities.
Tales From The Crypt took horror, comedy, over-the-top absurdity and brilliant storytelling (most taken directly from the DC comics which bore the name) and created a legacy that my generation adores. One week, we could see something side-splitting, (like 'Carrion Death,' starring Kyle McLaughlin in a solo role), and the next we could see something that made us sleep with the lights on (the absolutely terrifying 'Television Terror,' starring Morton Downey Jr. in a self-deprecating role, or 'And All Through The House,' a Christmas-themed favorite). The variety-show aspect was just one of the many reasons why Tales From The Crypt will always be appreciated by millions of horror fans.
Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: Cramming as many puns into a sentence as possible while doing the Crypt Keeper voice, normally during breakfast.
14. The Office
The Office is currently enjoying their status as the most popular comedy on television, and they deserve the praise. After all, in just four short years, they went from a line-for-line British remake to a critical darling to an award winner to an absolute ratings powerhouse. I credit NBC for giving them the chance to mature, although the choice seems relatively easy to make in hindsight.
Shows like The Office, in my opinion, still represent the future of American comedy, not a fading genre of cringe-humor that will eventually make way for the revival of the 'traditional' sitcom. Where shows like Arrested Development only attracted a fringe crowd that was actively seeking something different, The Office has infiltrated the mainstream through all-encompassing writing, creating a Trojan Horse effect that (hopefully) gets casual comedy fans expecting more from their 30 minute sitcoms. It's an amazing thing when I can agree with my mom on the merits of a televised comedy, and that's exactly what The Office does. That's truly special.
Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: "I bumped my elbow against the wall and now my elbow has a protuberance."
13. The Kids in the Hall
One of my biggest comedic influences came by the fortunate instance of finding myself awake at 2:30am on a Sunday, accidentally catching a syndicated repeat of a Kids In The Hall Episode. This was my generation's Monty Python; 5 guys that did absolutely anything and everything they wanted on a weekly basis, hitting every corner of the spectrum along the way. Their studio audience sketches were always on par with the best SNL material. Their filmed pieces ranged from head-shakingly absurd to awe-inspiring brilliance. The versatility of a guy like Mark McKinney was incredible. Their cult following nearly demands annual live performances and high DVD sales.
Again, much like Monty Python, there was really no gray area concerning your opinion of The Kids In The Hall. You either got it and stuck with it through thick and thin, or you hated everything about it and refused to understand. To me, anyone that watches and appreciates The Kids In The Hall instantly knows a lot more about me as a person. Whether that's a good thing is still yet to be determined.
Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: Far too many to mention. My old band even wrote a song called 'Rod Torfulson's Armada Featuring Herman Menderchuck,' all about not 'making it.'
12. Friday Night Lights
I can already hear the bitching from people thinking I put a two-season show like Friday Night Lights too far up the list. It is at this point where I'd recommend A) Making your own list, and B) Watching this damn show already.
I said this yesterday, and I'll say it again today: Season One of Friday Night Lights is the greatest season of television I have ever seen. Better than Season One of Lost. Better than Season Four of MST3K. Better than the final season of The Fugitive. I watched it when nobody around me watched it. When everyone was convinced it was a show about nothing more than football. Slowly but surely, my living room started to fill up on Friday nights, as the deepest, smartest, most emotional, most beautiful, best acted, best shot and best written show on television won people over one at a time. Hell, NBC believed in the show so much, that they released the Season One DVD for $20 with a money-back guarantee.
Watch the pilot episode. Download it, buy it on iTunes, rent it; I don't care how it gets in your living room, just make it happen.
Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: "Listen son, this ain't about yeeew."
11. The Adventures of Pete & Pete
If there was ever a show in my life that defined 'nostalgia,' it would be The Adventures Of Pete & Pete. To this day, I long to live in Wellsville, where it's perpetually Autumn, indie rockers are living on every block, and your own personal superhero is always there when you need him. Too smart for most kids to get at the time, yet too silly for a mainstream audience, Pete & Pete understood exactly what it was like to be a kid growing up, and yet found a way to capture youth and nostalgia in a surreal, modern-day setting, where the adults were always ten steps behind and authority was always meant to be questioned.
This October, like I've done for the last three Octobers, I will bust out my Pete & Pete DVDs and not only remember the greatest Nickelodeon series in history, but try to remember how amazing it was to be an adolescent in the early 90's. Damn, what an amazing show.
Quote I've Worked Into My Daily Life: Since 2001, I've named every computer I've ever had 'Artie.' The strongest computer.....in the world!
Thanks for reading; sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.
TOMORROW: TV Week Continues With The Conclusion To The Top 20!
Monday, September 15TV Week! (Part 1: A Lifetime Of Shows)
In July, I was asked to make a list of my favorite albums for every year I had been alive. This was a daunting task, but I feel as if I did a fair job. Not one to let a good idea go dormant, I decided to take the format and apply it to the small screen, listing my favorite television shows for each year I've been on the planet.
Now, a few rules for the following list. I tried to stick mainly to national, prime-time programming; no cable shows, special events or mini-seriesezzes allowed (research would have been impossible). I also tried to limit each show to the year that they premiered (unless otherwise noted), to eliminate any duplicates.
Ready? Let's go.
WINNER - M.A.S.H. (premiered in 1972)
RUNNER UP - Three's Company (premiered in 1977)
HONORABLE MENTION - The Incredible Hulk (premiered in 1978)
M.A.S.H. was already deep into syndication by the time I was old enough to understand it, but it was that same exposure that made me realize the significance of the program (as we all know, the series finale attracted over 105 million viewers). I was initially drawn to Three's Company because of the slapstick antics of the late John Ritter, but as I get older, I enjoy it because it's one of the filthiest sitcoms of all-time. The Incredible Hulk hasn't aged very well, or spawned anything even resembling an interesting film, but it's still good for nostalgia's sake.
WINNER - Cheers
RUNNER UP - Knight Rider
HONORABLE MENTION - Family Ties
The Missus, in her lifelong quest to hold grudges for the most superficial reasons ever, hates Cheers because she hates Ted Danson (for a reason which still escapes me). The rest of us know that it was one of the greatest and best-written television shows (comedy or drama) of all-time. The fact that they rarely left the bar and still managed 11 seasons of brilliance is proof enough. Knight Rider has greatly diminished in retro appeal since the remake and subsequent fall from grace of David Hasselhoff, and Family Ties still reminds me of just how cute Justine Bateman was and still is.
WINNER - The A-Team
RUNNER UP - Webster
HONORABLE MENTION - Newhart (premiered in 1982)
The A-Team was a hilarious cavalcade of unnecessary violence, pro wrestler cameos and tricked-out GMC vans. The recent rumor of a film remake sounds pointless, but almost expected in this current state of zero Hollywood ideas. Webster will be remembered by me for having a series finale that consisted of the family inexplicably traveling into space with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Newhart was another classic that I started watching too late, but can look back on fondly as a man-child.
WINNER - Miami Vice
RUNNER UP - Hunter
HONORABLE MENTION - Charles In Charge
Miami Vice was far more influential than given credit for. The use of music, imagery and location has since been mimicked into oblivion by essentially every flashy crime show on television. Hunter ruled because Sgt. Hunter's weapon of choice was a 9mm that he used to pretty much kill at least one person every week. Charles In Charge was a springboard for the limitless talent and world-renowned celebrity of Willie Aames.
WINNER - Amazing Stories
RUNNER UP - MacGyver
HONORABLE MENTION - The Equalizer
Can someone please tell me why the Second Season of Amazing Stories hasn't been released on DVD yet? After winning 5 Emmys (and being nominated for 12), NBC pulled the plug on this incredible anthology series created by Steven Spielberg in 1987. MacGyver needs no explanation, and The Equalizer seems to be a somewhat-forgotten all-time TV badass. "You wanna know what I do for a living? I kill people!"
WINNER - Sledge Hammer!
RUNNER UP - ALF
HONORABLE MENTION - Perfect Strangers
Sledge Hammer! was one of the first 'spoof' shows I had ever seen as a kid, and it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Even then, I loved the idea of tearing apart cliche' in absurd and over-the-top ways, and I consider it a large influence on my sense of humor. ALF is absolute trash if you happen to watch it in present day, but at the time, it was a major hit, and Perfect Strangers was always absolute trash, although nobody in America happened to know at the time; presumably hypnotized by the rugged good looks of Bronson Pinchot.
WINNER - Full House
RUNNER UP - Max Headroom
HONORABLE MENTION - Thirtysomething
I'm something of a Full House junkie; I've seen every episode at least three times, I can tell you what the episode is about within the first 30 seconds and I can relay every character arc at the drop of a hat. Max Headroom was ahead of its time, and it probably still is, honestly. Thirtysomething was the first in a long line of shows where friends sit around and cry about things, and I'll be damned if it wasn't awesome.
WINNER - The Wonder Years
RUNNER UP - Unsolved Mysteries
HONORABLE MENTION - China Beach
Now we're getting somewhere. I know I'm not alone in saying that The Wonder Years was one of the greatest TV shows of all -time, in that it laid the blueprint for hundreds of shows thereafter. The fact that there hasn't been a complete DVD release is almost criminal (securing music rights is what's keeping dozens of brilliant television shows off of DVD). Unsolved Mysteries doesn't necessarily fall into the Comedy or Drama category, but as a kid, this was the scariest show on national television; I still remember the Tip Line 1-800-number by heart. China Beach was a critically-acclaimed and multiple Emmy award-winning war series that was taken off the air after poor ratings sealed its fate.
WINNER - The Simpsons
RUNNER UP - COPS
HONORABLE MENTION - Seinfeld
Wow; what a year. The FOX Network becomes a ratings powerhouse nationwide, bringing with them two shows that are still in production to this day. The Simpsons is, without question, the greatest television show of the 20th Century (just ask Time Magazine), COPS is a show that I pray runs forever (and why couldn't it?), and Seinfeld was the funniest live-action sitcom ever made. Jeepers.
WINNER - Twin Peaks
RUNNER UP - Get A Life
HONORABLE MENTION - The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
RUNNER UP - Herman's Head
HONORABLE MENTION - Blossom
RUNNER UP - Dateline NBC
HONORABLE MENTION - Roseanne (premiered in 1988)
RUNNER UP - Phenom
HONORABLE MENTION - Frasier
RUNNER UP - My So-Called Life
HONORABLE MENTION - Party Of Five
RUNNER UP - American Gothic
HONORABLE MENTION - Ned & Stacey
RUNNER UP - Early Edition
HONORABLE MENTION - Men Behaving Badly
WINNER - King Of The Hill
RUNNER UP - Ally McBeal
HONORABLE MENTION - Working
It took a long time for a worthy comparative animated series to The Simpsons to arrive, but it did in a big way with King Of The Hill. Mike Judge, to me, is the king of underrated satire, and he hits both sides of the spectrum with the Beavis & Butthead/King Of The Hill universe. Ally McBeal launched my two-year long obsession with Calista Flockhart, and the Fred Savage NBC series Working could have been remembered with as much appreciation as The Office had it had the time to percolate.
WINNER - Sports Night
RUNNER UP - Dawson's Creek
HONORABLE MENTION - That 70's Show
Looking back through TV history, it's a shame to see all of the great shows that were canceled far too soon, only to pave the way for a major hit years later (presumably when the audience has finally caught up to the previous show). Sports Night is one of those shows, and their huge current following only solidifies their significance. Dawson's Creek was a show that I simultaneously loved and hated as a High School Sophomore, knowing full well that teenagers don't talk that that, Katie Holmes didn't exist in my reality and Joshua Jackson carried a season-long affair with one of his teachers. That 70's Show started off extremely shaky, but went on to become a huge hit thanks to the skyrocketing celebrity of some of the worst actors in the cast.
WINNER - Futurama
RUNNER UP - Action
HONORABLE MENTION - Freaks And Geeks
If you didn't like Futurama when it debuted, do yourself a favor and check out a rerun on Comedy Central. It's actually funnier now than it was then. Action was another Sports Night-esque series that pushed the boundaries on network television (bleeped profanities were part of the show, much like we later saw with the Documentary-style shooting of Arrested Development). Freaks and Geeks owes a lot to shows like The Wonder Years, although it more than carved out its own new millennium niche.
WINNER - Malcolm In The Middle
RUNNER UP - Survivor
HONORABLE MENTION - CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Even though the ratings, Emmy nominations and awards say otherwise, I still think that Malcolm In The Middle is one of the most underrated sitcoms in modern television history. They just brought everything to the battle, every single week. Survivor is still a ratings juggernaut, but nothing will compare to that first season, where seemingly everyone in the nation was watching. Then American Idol came along and (rightfully) took away their thunder. CSI was unlike anything I'd ever seen when it premiered, and now it looks like pretty much everything that you see on CBS six nights a week.
WINNER - The Bernie Mac Show
RUNNER UP - Fear Factor
HONORABLE MENTION - Undeclared
While the show fizzled after the departure of the head writer and creator, the first two seasons of The Bernie Mac show were absolutely hilarious and perfectly well-written. Fear Factor needed to be watched for the curiosity appeal alone, and Undeclared took the American Pie 00's humor template and almost instantly got canceled.
WINNER - Andy Richter Controls The Universe
RUNNER UP - Oliver Beene
HONORABLE MENTION - American Idol
I don't know what the mainstream has against Andy Richter, but he just can't carry a show to save his life, no matter how hilarious it was. Andy Richter Controls The Universe could have been on par with 30 Rock had it the time to get over with the audience. Oliver Beene was exceedingly similar to Everybody Hates Chris, and as you should probably tell by now, the Wonder Years style of sitcom storytelling makes me a very happy guy. Maybe a decade from now, I'll have my own show like that.....erm...or not. Then American Idol showed up and destroyed everything in its path for the next six years.
WINNER - Arrested Development
RUNNER UP - Grounded For Life (premiered in 2001)
HONORABLE MENTION - Cracking Up
There is nothing I can tell you about Arrested Development that would be an exaggeration of its comedic and satirical brilliance. Buy the DVDs and watch them. Then watch them again. As far as I'm concerned, it's the post-Seinfeld measuring stick by which every sitcom will be judged. Grounded For Life, to me, may have been the last great pre-Arrested sitcom. Cracking Up was only on for a month or so, but worked very well with shows like Malcolm and Arrested in the FOX Sunday night lineup.
WINNER - Lost
RUNNER UP - The Office
HONORABLE MENTION - House, M.D.
Shocking as it may seem, I did not see the first season of Lost until I bought the DVD that Winter. Within hours, I was obsessed and certain that this was the best TV drama since Twin Peaks over a decade earlier. The Office took an American remake and actually pulled it off, becoming a hit and winning Emmys left and right. House also became one of the most-watched shows on television, now entering their 5th season and making Hugh Laurie over $500,000 an episode. This was clearly a good year for new programming; perhaps the last good one.
WINNER - Sons & Daughters
RUNNER UP - My Name Is Earl
HONORABLE MENTION - Night Stalker
This season was extremely frustrating for me, as two of my most favorite up-and-coming shows, Sons & Daughters and the remake of Night Stalker were canceled too quickly. Sons & Daughters was a slightly-improvisational show that I recommend tracking down on your Bittorrent site of choice, and Night Stalker was unbelievably violent and engaging for a national prime time series. They both could have been stand-alone diamonds, but instead were sent to the curb after a combined two months of lackluster ratings (Sons & Daughters was up against American Idol in the ratings, and Night Stalker was matched with CSI, almost guaranteeing disaster from the start). My Name Is Earl solidified the NBC 'Must-See Thursday' lineup, which is currently the best night of comedy on TV.
WINNER - Friday Night Lights
RUNNER UP - 30 Rock
HONORABLE MENTION - Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
You wait your entire life to find a show like Friday Night Lights. A blend of nearly everything you'd want in an intelligent drama; I give you my word that Season One of FNL is the greatest season of television that I have ever seen, just barely edging out Lost. 30 Rock is the funniest show on television, and the closest thing we have to Arrested Development in 2008, and Studio 60 was the most satisfying and interesting hour of television I would see each week, until its inevitable cancellation.
Right on. Sound off in the comments section with your own selections and enjoy your day.
TOMORROW: TV Week Continues With The CDP's Top 20 TV Shows Of All-Time!