50 Favorite TV Shows…..40-31

As we continue the countdown a few random thoughts jump to mind. I understand the deal with reality shows…they are much cheaper to produce than a sitcom or hour long drama. But how ticked off must a lot of struggling actors…who work hard to hone their craft and juggle multiple minimum wage jobs just to pay the rent…be to see an idiot like Kim Kardashian or some clueless himbo from The Bachelor become famous just because they’ve successfully whored themselves out?? That being said, I do like some of the reality/documentary shows on The History Channel…stuff like American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and American Restoration. Atleast those shows offer some educational value alongside the entertainment. More random thoughts at another time. Until then…we ride!!






40     The Beverly Hillbillies

          CBS 1962-71

Here we go with another great theme song!! It’s a shame TV shows no longer have memorable theme songs. Most of them don’t even have one at all because bean counters figured out that was another 30 seconds that could be used for commercials. At any rate, this is one more fish-out-of-water tale about a family from the south who strike oil and for some reason feel compelled to move to California. Cultures clash, hilarity ensues. I have no statistics for verification, but this has to be one of the most rerun shows in television history. It was cancelled a year before I was born but was on all the time when I was a kid and can still be seen occasionally even today.



39     7th Heaven

          WB/CW 1996-2007

The CW (formerly the WB) has never quite risen to the level of the original three networks or even Fox, but it did produce this one good show, which actually holds the record for the longest running family drama ever, beating out both Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons. It followed the trials & tribulations of a minister, his wife, and their brood of seven children. Be fruitful & multiply indeed. Storylines didn’t shy away from serious topics like drug & alcohol abuse, racism, teen pregnancy, etc., but overall the show had an easygoing, breezy tone with likeable characters. The powers-that-be went for a general moral vibe rather than an overtly Christian message, which is about as far as the entertainment industry is willing to go nowadays.



38     Pardon the Interruption/Mike & Mike in the Morning

          ESPN 2001&2004-Present

As I’ve gotten older my tastes have naturally evolved, but television has also changed considerably. I just can’t get into all this reality stuff that’s on nowadays. My own life has enough reality, and I always thought the point of watching television was to escape reality. Anyway, one “real” thing I enjoy immensely is my sports. On autumn weekends you’ll find me glued to the 40 inch hi-def flat screen watching as much football as humanly possible. I like watching Nascar on Sundays, keep up with my Pittsburgh Pirates baseball, and follow the NBA and college basketball. ESPN provides a plethora of programming that examines, reviews, debates, and converses about the sports news du jour. Two of my favorites are Mike & Mike and PTI.



37     Remember WENN               

          AMC 1996-98

There seems to be a lot of buzz about American Movie Classics’ drama Mad Men these days. I must confess that I have never seen that particular show, but I was a big fan of AMC’s first foray into original programming about 15 years ago. The title is a play on words involving the call letters of the fictional Pittsburgh radio station depicted. Set during the early 1940’s before TV was the standard and radio was the most influential form of entertainment, it follows the personal & professional interaction between the talent & management that work at the station…sometimes funny, sometimes melodramatic. Remember WENN didn’t last long, but it made a memorable impression on its fans.



36     Beavis & Butt-head              

          MTV 1993-97

Take a group of college frat boys, add some beer or other intoxicants, and then throw in a cartoon about two dim-witted teenagers who sit around making fun of music videos. That’s a recipe for aheck of a fun time.





35     General Hospital/Days of Our Lives

          ABC/NBC 1963&1965-Present

My sister & I had a babysitter when we were in grade school that got us hooked on these two soap operas during the summer. I think there is a comfort factor with soaps…they are on the air every weekday – year round – for multiple decades, many characters never leave, and one can miss several days or even weeks and easily keep up with the general plot. We literally watch some characters grow up, get married, have kids, and die. Sometimes they have multiple marriages and deaths. It’s all quite kitschy & fun as long as one doesn’t take it too seriously. Many big time stars got their start in soaps…folks like Meg Ryan, Demi Moore, David Hasselhoff, Kevin Bacon, Marisa Tomei, Alec Baldwin, Sarah Michelle Gellar,  Robin Wright,  Ryan Phillipe, Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, Julianne Moore, James Earl Jones, and Eva Longoria…just to name a few.




34     The Facts of Life

          NBC 1979-88

A spin off of Diff’rent Strokes, this show saw a former housekeeper take on the job of housemother to a group of young girls at an exclusive New York boarding school. Fun fact (pun unavoidable): after the first season the original group of girls was pared down considerably so that the focus could be on just 4 main characters (Blair, Jo, Natalie, & Tootie). Among those cut from the cast?? Molly Ringwald. Fortunately things turned out okay for her. Another fun fact: in 1985 there was a recurring handyman character. Who played the handyman?? George Clooney. He’s still doing just fine too.



33     Diff’rent Strokes

          NBC 1978-86

The premise: two orphaned black boys from Harlem are adopted by a wealthy white widower who lives in a penthouse on Park Avenue. It was a pretty unique concept 30 years ago. Unfortunately today Diff’rent Strokes is known for the later misfortunes of its three child actors. The breakout star, Gary Coleman, who was 10 when cast in the show, had a variety of legal, medical, and financial issues that made him a favorite of trashy tabloids and died tragically at the age of 42. Dana Plato, who played the spoiled daughter, battled drug addiction, did porn, was arrested for armed robbery, and died of an overdose when she was 34 years old. Todd Bridges, the elder son, had well publicized drug issues and arrests but has seemingly turned things around.



32     Six Feet Under

          HBO 2001-05

One would not normally think that a show about a family that runs a funeral home would be all that entertaining, but it was cool in its own dark, brooding, morbid sort of way. The writing was crisp and the acting superb. Each show would open with the death of some random character, with my favorites being the dude who was jogging through a canyon and got pounced on by a cougar (which scared the crap out of me) and the man who got chopped to bits by an industrial dough mixer. The series finale that aired on August 21, 2005 was amazing…I still can’t get that song out of my head.



31     All in the Family

          CBS 1971-79

For the most part I am not a big fan of preachy, socially conscious, “message” television. That’s just not what I watch TV for, and these days the messages conveyed are usually rather Godless, liberal, and morally corrupt anyway. However, part of the issue also lies in the fact that there’s just not much left to be said. Most of the boundaries have been crossed, nearly all the taboos have long since been broken. That wasn’t the case 40 years ago. With the arrival of Archie Bunker we had a guy whose blatant honesty and disdain for political correctness was way way way ahead of his time. Though the left leaning suits behind the show obviously meant to cast Archie as a depraved, racist malcontent in a blatant jab at conservative values a funny thing happened on the way to the soapbox. It turns out that Archie oftentimes expressed things that a lot of Americans were thinking but were too polite to say out loud. Archie Bunker was Rush Limbaugh decades before talk radio was cool, and we loved him for it.






4 thoughts on “50 Favorite TV Shows…..40-31

  1. Great analysis Sam. I got hooked on General Hospital when my sisters and mom started watching in the late 70’s (I think). I was around for the Luke & Laura romance, their flight from a mysterius assassin, the Robert Scorpio / Anna Devane years, Demi Moore, Rick Springfield, John Stamos, Jack Waggoner, and so many others. I’m betting one show that won’t appear on your list is “Profit” from Fox back in 1996 or so. An immoral young executive engineers the weekly demise of some coworker as he ruthlessly climbs the corporate ladder – extortion, bribery, blackmail… murder. So sinister it was fun. 🙂

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