Points of Ponderation…..Episode 12.16

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

 

 

nightmareI never know whether to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas on Halloween or during the Christmas season…so I just don’t watch it. Stop confusing me Tim Burton!!

 

 

 

You can’t spell Louis L’Amour without Islam.

 

 

Prepare to be amazed. Yours truly is about to recommend yet ANOTHER new television show. In the last edition of PoP I gave props to ABC’s thisisusDesignated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland. Today I want to endorse NBC’s innovative dramedy This Is Us. It’s one of those big ensemble family deals, which on the surface isn’t really breaking new ground, but the creators of this one have come up with a unique angle that almost kinda sorta involves time travel. Let’s just say that Mandy Moore portrays a 30 year old and a 66 year old…in the same show. Mind blown, right?? It is really well-written and the cast is superb. I kept missing it and finally decided to seek it out online, and when I did I was so hooked that I caught up on five episodes in one evening. I’m not sure if This Is Us is a show that can be sustained for the long haul, but even if we only get one or two seasons it will be greatly enjoyed.

 

 

 

I wonder if anyone has ever had four daughters and named them Autumn, Winter, Spring, & Summer.

 

 

 

I have remained relatively quiet during this election cycle, atleast for me. However, with the big day right around the corner allow me to briefly opine. I just don’t understand how any thinking person can cast their vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m tired of Hollywood celebrities…especially females (no offense ladies)…pulling out all their “glass ceiling”, “historic election” poppycock. I do NOT care that she is a woman. I have nothing against the idea of a female President. I‘m sure that there are several qualified contenders out there that’d vote-touch550make a fine chief executive. But I do not believe that gender alone is a good enough reason to vote for anyone. I happen to like my Constitutional rights and have valid concerns about how freedom of speech, freedom of religion, & the right to keep & bear arms would be negatively impacted under an HRC administration and perhaps for generations to come…certainly for the remainder of my life…if she is allowed to pack the Supreme Court with “progressive” justices (she has even floated the idea of nominating President Obama!!). I can’t honestly say that I am excited about casting my vote for Donald Trump. I had hoped that the GOP would nominate a dyed-in-the-wool conservative with atleast some high level government experience. Having said that, I understand the movement that has propelled Trump this far and am more comfortable gambling on his outsider shtick to find out if his business acumen really can translate into political leadership than I am giving Hillary Clinton any legitimate power. I am not one of those doomsdayers that think Trump will somehow lead us into World War III or otherwise do irreparable damage to the country. Worst case scenario?? He ticks off some people who take their ball home and refuse to play with us anymore. If the United States can withstand Vietnam, Watergate, the extreme lows of the Carter Administration, the overstated yet undeniable foibles of George W. Bush, and the what I believe to be intentionally destructive actions of the past eight years, then I hardly think Donald Trump will do any permanent damage. I believe Mrs. Clinton would do far more harm to the cause of freedom.

 

 

The world would be a much better place if people would just stop & think how their actions might negatively affect others.

 

 

 

Dear Dairy Queen (or any other purveyor of tasty ice cream treats):

milkshakeYou do realize that there is a slight difference between ice cream & a milkshake, right?? When buying a milkshake it does not impress me that it is super duper thick. I don’t care if you can flip it upside down and not spill the contents. What I do care about is being able to drink the darn thing thru a straw. I feel weird sitting in my vehicle sucking so hard (on the straw) that the eyes of children under 18 should be shielded. Obviously I wouldn’t like a watery consistency either. I am merely suggesting that there should be an acceptable middle ground. Surely someone somewhere gets paid a fair salary to deal with such issues.

Winning & Musing…..Volume 3.16

Greetings sports fans. What’s up?? I hope everyone is enjoying the early delights of summer and that those pesky cicadas aren’t annoying you too much. Just think…once we get thru the next few weeks we won’t have to hear that awful noise until 2033. By that time I’ll be 60 years old!! Okay…I just freaked myself out a little. Let’s talk about sports.

 

 

 

 

 

hockeyGuess what y’all…I’ve actually been watching hockey!! No one is more surprised than me. As of this writing my Pittsburgh Penguins are up 2-1 over the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Finals. Two of the games have gone into overtime. I was really hoping the Pens would go up 3-0 which would essentially mean it’s over, but now I am leaning toward my original assessment, which is that this thing could go the full seven games. It’s a shame that the championship series of a major professional sport is being shown mostly on a marginal channel like the NBC Sports Network, which is in 12 million less homes than ESPN, 10 million less than Fox Sports 1, & a whopping 30 million less than NBC itself which is where the games would be broadcast if it were football, baseball, or basketball. There are multiple things that could possibly be blamed for hockey’s lack of popularity in America, but that’s a broader topic than I want to address at the moment. For now let’s just say that I am hooked and will be watching this series. Go Pens!!

 

 

So I guess we have a Summer Olympics coming up?? They are scheduled to get underway in Rio (that’s in Brazil for those that slept thru geography class) in early Rio2016August. Numerous medical professionals have opined that the event should be postponed or relocated because of the Zika virus, which is apparently a rather big issue in South America, but we all know that there is way too much money involved for that. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. As for the games themselves, I am really only interested in basketball. The United States hasn’t announced their 12 man roster yet, but it is anticipated to include guys like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, & Lebron James. Nothing less than another gold medal will be acceptable.

 

 

CCI’m not quite sure what to say about the death of Cassius Clay. He is practically being deified by the sports talking heads and the general drive-by media. Boxing has never really been in my wheelhouse and the fabled career of “The Greatest” was stumbling to a pitiable close by the time I even became conscious of his existence. Inside the ring he was an impressive 56-5 over a couple of decades, won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics, and captured professional boxing’s heavyweight title three times. Outside the ring he was doing pro wrestling style promos years before pro wrestling gained pop culture relevance in the 1980s. Cassius Clay might have been successful had he simply been a great boxer, but being a charismatic entertainer is what elevated his status to legendary. The most controversial aspect of his life began in the early 60’s when he became an adherent of Malcolm X and converted to Islam, which led to him “conscientiously objecting” to the Vietnam War and refusing to serve in the armed forces. I sincerely believe in freedom of religion, but my faith tells me that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, & the Life and that no man shall come to the Father except through Him. It also annoys me greatly that when a Muslim uses their faith as an excuse to protest something they are applauded for it, but Christians are not afforded the same respect. I don’t hate Cassius Clay. I feel bad for him. I do not believe that Islam is a “religion of peace”. History…especially in recent years…reveals that idea to be absurd. Yet I don’t believe that all Muslims are bad people. Cassius Clay chose to follow Malcolm X and elected to “dodge” the draft. He paid a price for it, losing three prime years of his career. Later on he gained the sympathy of the masses while fighting a courageous & debilitating battle against Parkinson’s Disease, an awful condition no one should have to endure, and became a kind of goodwill ambassador, even traveling to Iraq & Afghanistan to negotiate the release of American hostages. What’s done is done and Cassius Clay is gone now. I don’t revile him for his choice of religion or anti-American rhetoric in regards to Vietnam, but neither will I participate in hoisting him up on a big ol’ heroic pedestal. My prayers are with his family & friends.

 

 

The NBA Finals are underway as well. As many people expected it’s all come down to the defending champion Golden State Warriors vs. Lebron James and his NBA-FInals-2Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors are up 1-0 at the moment and looked pretty dominant in that first game, but I am hoping this series goes 6 or 7 games too. It would be a huge letdown to everyone outside of Oakland, CA if it is a brief & one-sided sweep.

 

 

espnWhat in the world is going on at The Mothership in Bristol?? Not only are they losing noted blowhard Skip Bayless to Fox Sports 1, but now Mike Tirico is jumping ship & heading to NBC, while ESPN original Chris Berman is reportedly being phased out after his contract expires at the end of the year. I really couldn’t care less what happens with Bayless. He joins fellow windbag Colin Cowherd at FS1, taking that network from its current status of “irrelevant” to “avoid like The Plague”. Hey FS1…if the goal is to increase ratings you’re doing it wrong. Conversely, Tirico seems like a decent dude and he’s great at what he does. I am assuming that his presence will make it easier for NBC to gently push 71 year old Al Michaels into retirement without Sunday Night Football missing a beat. Sean McDonough, a decent enough play-by-play man, is now going to be doing play-by-play on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, but that show is doomed as long as Jon Gruden…the guy who once said that “any team that passes on Johnny Manziel will regret it”…is doing color commentary. He makes John Madden & Charles Barkley look like Woodward & Bernstein. It may seem like Berman is ancient because he’s been there since ESPN’s launch, but he’s only 61 years old. His shtick has worn a little thin with some, but it feels a bit premature to put him out to pasture. Of course Berman’s eventual departure is only part of ESPN’s makeover of its NFL coverage, as they’ve already ousted Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Ray Lewis, & Keyshawn Johnson in favor of new faces Randy Moss, Matt Hasselbeck, & Charles Woodson. Those feel like positive, much needed changes.

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 6.13

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

I rarely comment on the deaths of various celebrities. I have a rather pragmatic view that comes directly from my father, who always says that death is part of life.  I also don’t think most celebrities are worth wasting much time & effort on, plus I believe that my RIP tribute that traditionally ends the annual Sammy Awards is an elegantly understated way to honor siskel-and-ebertthe passing of public figures who have meant something to me personally as well as the world in general. However, I want to take a moment to mention the loss of film critic Roger Ebert. The older I get the less likely I am to really care all that much about the opinions of others, but Ebert and his partner Gene Siskel (who died in 1999) were the gold standard of movie punditry when I was growing up. Now we have The Internet, with sites like Rotten Tomatoes where there is no shortage of opinions about everything that hits the theater. But in the 80’s and even into the 90’s Siskel & Ebert were pretty much it. I always enjoyed their show. They were smart, entertaining, and persuasive. They couldn’t get me to go see a movie that I had absolutely no interest in or dissuade me from seeing something I really wanted to, but if I was on the fence and not necessarily sure how I felt about a particular film then two thumbs up or two thumbs down could be quite influential. Mr. Ebert was a raging liberal who I disagreed with on many issues, but that’s par for the course and I have had to learn to put aside such differences and enjoy the talents & contributions of many who see the world differently than me. With the death of Roger Ebert I feel as if another little piece of my childhood is gone and that makes me sad.

 

So I was out & about on a lovely spring weekend and went to the mall for no apparent reason other than to get some exercise & check out the bookstore. I might have seen a movie but I was just a few minutes too late for the only one I was interested in seeing and the next showing wasn’t for four hours and I knew I wouldn’t hang out there that long. I decided hcto get a haircut even though I didn’t necessarily need one just yet. The place was packed because there were a couple of local proms that night and several young ladies were getting all curled & styled. I signed in and left for a bit then came back. As I sat there I kept wondering how far down the list they’d gotten and was struck with another million dollar idea. Big hairstyling places need to be like the DMV where you are issued a number and when that number comes up it shows on a digital board along with a voiceover that says ‘Now serving number…”. When my time finally came (after a half hour of waiting once I’d returned) I was conversing with my stylist about how busy they were and she informed me that eventually they would be getting a system wherein you could go traipsing about the mall and they’d text you when it was your turn, which I think is an even better idea than mine. I suppose they might have that technology in some big cities already, which means it may arrive here in West Virginia sometime in the next couple of decades.

 

God help me, but I have been unsubscribing from friends on Facebook who do nothing but post about their wonderful hbspouse or significant other. I know that is awful. But when I am sitting at home every night without so much as a phone call from anyone outside of my Dad I just can’t seem to get jazzed about the love lives of people far less lonely than me.

 

One of the things I do on a daily basis is check out various news sites…CNN, FoxNews, Drudge, USA Today, etc….to, as I tell Rocco, see what’s going on in the world. During one of those recent online expeditions I was kind of surprised but not really (if that makes any sense) to see it trumpeted as newsworthy that NBC Today reporterette Jenna Wolfe is “having a baby” with her lesbian lover (also an NBC news “journalist”). First of all, who cares?? Millions of people have babies every day. It’s not news. And neither bridegroom-aisleWolfe nor her “partner” are famous enough for anyone to give a damn. But more interestingly to me was the fact that two lesbians “having a baby” (I’m sure there is sperm involved in this somehow but of course the story conveniently left that part out) is seen as something to celebrate in 21st century New America. Look, do your thing. Live your life. Sleep with whomever you please. Wallow in whatever kind of deviant lifestyle you choose. But if people are going to constantly berate Christians for trying to “shove our beliefs down other peoples’ throats” then please do not be so hypocritical as to publically rejoice in your sinful choices that go directly against the Word of God. I am not easily offended but I get a little sick & tired not just of the wayward path America is following but the fact that so many are so brazenly, gleefully, boldly taking that path while looking at those of us who embrace traditional, Godly principles as if we are the crazy ones.

 

The suits at NBC have confirmed the rumors. Next year Jimmy Fallon will take over The Tonight Show. I do like the factJimmy Fallon-SGY-008669 that they are keeping Fallon in New York. They aren’t retiring The Tonight Show name as I suggested, but I didn’t really expect that to happen. I am sure that Leno will land on his feet, whether that means fading into obscurity or getting a show on another network. Word on the street is that SNL’s Seth Myers will get the 12:30am Late Night gig and I suppose that is a safe if uninspired choice. Now CBS…it’s your turn. David Letterman hasn’t been funny for a few years now and it may be time to give him a gentle nudge out the door.

 

I like cereal. I’m not quite on the Seinfeld level yet where I have a dozen or more boxes in my kitchen, but I usually have 2 or 3 atleast. I have been trying to eat a bit healthier so I lean toward high fiber, low fat varieties, although being the minimalist that I am my favorite…as it has been since I was a kid…is Rice Krispies. Anyway, I was fixing myself a bowl one day and began pondering packaging. The package that several products come in has evolved over the course of my lifetime. Not only is milk no longer delivered straight to one’s door but it also doesn’t come in glass bottles anymore. Ditto for glass bottles of cereal cola. The beloved silver foil that Ho-Ho’s used to come in disappeared decades before Ho-Ho’s themselves vanished from supermarket shelves. McDonald’s…bowing to pressure from environmentalist wackos…eliminated Styrofoam in favor of simple paper or cardboard years ago. When I was a kid we had to drink water from the faucet, but now it comes in handy dandy bottles. I remember my mom coming home from the store with big ol’ brown paper bags. Now all your groceries are packed in plastic bags at the checkout counter, although once again the environmentalists are trying to persuade everyone to convert to permanent cloth bags. At any rate, what I am wondering is why cereal packaging hasn’t advanced?? Cereal comes in a transparent plastic bag which is then placed inside of a rectangular cardboard box. If one doesn’t tear open the cardboard just right (and I never do) the little tabs they put in place to enable one to reclose the box is useless. And if one doesn’t tear open the inner plastic correctly then the cereal doesn’t pour out right and can potentially end up all over the place. I find this troubling and am calling upon some enterprising soul to fix the problem. Yet another million dollar idea I am offering up free of charge.

 

 

 

Points of Ponderation…..Episode 5.13

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

 

 

 

I was recently prescribed a week long course of steroids…a Z-Pak…to treat bronchitis, and I was somewhat taken aback by the side effects. I have always heard about ‘roid rage, but since I am far from a ripped body builder hangin’ at the gym pumping iron I never thought I’d experience it. However, words cannot accurately describe the absolute fury I felt for several days. One evening I deleted probably 20 people from my Facebook  simply because one humorless know-it-all I barely angerremember from college ticked me off. Another night at work my poor co-worker had to hear a quite vociferous rant about job related frustrations, and even though that irritation isn’t anything new I’ve rarely felt…or expressed…such visceral disgust. It’s the medication…I know it is. When I had my weekly weigh-in I gained a pound even though I’d stuck to the program pretty good. Now granted…the symptoms of the bronchitis subsided considerably which I guess is the whole point of the drug, but I am quite uncomfortable with the ancillary issues created.

 

 

It seems that the Late Night Wars may be heating up once again and y’all know that is amongst my favorite frivolous topics of ponderation. The rumor is that NBC suits (them again) are spooked by ABC’s move of Jimmy Kimmel to 11:30pm. Kimmel’s irreverent, wry sense of humor is likely to attract the younger demo…something that Jay Leno is thought unable to do. Basically Kimmel is what David Letterman was 30 years ago and Conan O’Brien almost became in the not so distant past. So the geniuses at The Peacock Network are pushing Leno out the door (again) and moving Jimmy Fallon to 11:30pm. Personally I don’t have a problem with that plan. Leno once upon a time had promise but has grown stale. He’s lenokimmelcomfortable & amiable like Johnny Carson was, but has never quite measured up to the legendary Carson. I’d take things a step further though. Ostensibly Fallon is going to take over The Tonight Show (because that worked out oh so well for Conan), and yet another new host would take over the Late Night show in at 12:30am. But here’s what I’d do. I’d retire The Tonight Show altogether. Any host that takes over that mantle will forever be compared to Carson and can never equal the legend. End that show and just move Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to 11:30pm. He could stay in New York, stay in the same studio…keep everything the same except for the time slot. Remember…having to “change for the 11:30 audience” is what destroyed Conan. I think an evolving society that is increasingly okay with things like teen pregnancy & same sex marriage can handle a revolutionary idea like enjoying the same kind of humor that works at 12:30 an hour earlier. Then you bring back the Later title for the 12:30am show and find a decent host for that gig. I’ve heard the names Tina Fey & Amy Poehler batted around. I’d suggest maybe trying to lure Craig Kilborn back to the late night scene, or possibly Joel McHale. kimmelWhat I’d really love to see is a revival of the one-on-one interview type of show that Bob Costas or Tom Snyder used to do. That’d be awesome if the right host could be found. At any rate, change is coming. Leno has had a nice run and maybe he’ll end up on Fox or Bravo or A&E, or he could just slip into “retirement” and continue doing stand-up like Jerry Seinfeld. I know axing The Tonight Show franchise may seem like a radical idea, but anyone who has been paying attention in 21st century New America knows that there are very few sacred cows anymore. I’d rather see it go into retirement than see Jimmy Fallon be forced to conform to some archaic standard and have his career castrated like Conan’s was a few years ago.

 

 

I don’t talk about my “real” job in this forum for a variety of reasons. I do like to retain some sense of privacy, plus I really don’t want to get fired. But suffice to say that I deal…indirectly…with other people’s problems and I’m kind of getting tired of it. I call it Big Redneck Drama. I am well aware that my childhood & family lifefp was as close to ideal as possible. My parents loved one another, didn’t drink or do drugs, and treated myself & my sister as good as any parents could. That is why I have such a difficult time wrapping my head around some of the absolute idiocy that I am confronted with on a daily basis. At this point in my life it doesn’t seem as though…for whatever reason…God is going to bless me with a wife or children. And I know plenty of people out there who would dearly love to have those things as well but do not or cannot. So it is beyond my limited comprehension why people blessed with a family that others genuinely covet take every opportunity to crap all over what they have been given.

 

 

The equality crowd is at it again. They are all using a pink equal (=) sign as their profile pic on Facebook like good little liberal sheep. That’s their right as Americans, but I’ll be damned if I will support it. The thing is, I really think that most of these peoples’ hearts are in the right place. Equality sounds like a fine idea. Minorities…blacks, women, the disabled…have fought for it for decades or even centuries and still have to wage battle to a degree. But as much as I respect & honor the rule of law I ultimately answer to a higher authority and my God tells me in His Word that homosexuality is shameful, unnatural, lustful, & indecent…an abomination. Both the 7th chapter of Corinthians and the 5th chapter of Ephesians clearly identify marriage as being between a man and a woman. Now, does that bgmean that we are to mistreat or harm those who choose what we consider to be the wrong path?? Of course not. Both myself & God know that I sin far too often, and I am thankful that I am not shunned completely by those who may not agree with my every decision. I’d be a very lonely man if society rejected me for my mistakes. But there is a fine line between rejection & approval. While I believe wholeheartedly that every individual should be treated with a spirit of love, respect, mercy, & compassion I do not think wholesale tacit approval of a deviant lifestyle is the right course for our nation. The U.S. Supreme Court is about to rule on the constitutionality of California’s Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man & one woman. I am doubtful that the law will be upheld, which means that the definition of marriage in America will likely be altered forever. That’s okay. Like I said…at the end of the day I answer to a higher power and it is His way to which I adhere. If that upsets people then that is just something with which I will have to deal.

 

 

So I guess Jim Carrey has written a parody song attacking the late Charlton Heston and defenders of the 2nd Amendment. That’s fine. It is his right to do so, just as it is my right to not watch the stupid video. I don’t follow Carrey on Twitter but I hear58948_JimCarrey.png that he has been kind of an ass on his feed, saying some pretty derogatory things about gun owners. Here’s why I get so annoyed at the hypocrisy of the left though. I guarantee that Mr. Carrey has an armed entourage everywhere he goes and that his home has 24/7 armed security. That’s nice if you can afford it, but for most of us in the working class all that stands between us and evildoers is a .22 or a 9mm or a .44. The Constitution of the United States gives law abiding citizens the right to own firearms. What’s so difficult for the Hollywood elite to understand about that??

 

 

 

 

50 Favorite TV Shows…..The Top 5

I bet you thought I forgot, didn’t you?? Well, I didn’t. Today at long last we conclude the Top 50 Favorite TV Shows series with the Top 5. I am sure there won’t be any big surprises here. All five finalists are generally thought of as being amongst the finest franchises to ever grace the small screen. You’ll see three sitcoms, one drama (or nighttime “soap opera” if you prefer), and one comedy/talk/variety show that has stood the test of time & come into our living rooms for over a half century. Television, like movies, sports, and other forms of entertainment, isn’t necessarily vital to our existence, but it certainly adds an undeniable layer of pleasure and relaxation that can enrich our lives. I appreciate the opportunity to learn something and gain knowledge from any medium…books, music, film, radio, and yes…television. However, at the end of the day a good television show should be…used to be…comfort food for our souls. It should be like an old friend that we welcome into our lives for 30-60 minutes every week (or every night in some cases), that makes us smile & feel content, that when it leaves the airwaves makes us kind of melancholy and nostalgic, and that we remember fondly long after the final episode has aired. These five shows are being lauded for a variety of reasons…smart writing, memorable storylines, great acting, and the indelible mark they have made on pop culture in general and my own life in particular. They are indeed old friends that I miss dearly but have provided a plethora of memories that I will cherish always.

 

 

 

5       Dallas

          CBS 1978-91

One of my fondest childhood memories is sitting in my living room every Friday night at 9pm with both of my parents and my sister watching the adventures of the lecherous & deceitful Ewing clan battle their enemies and each other in the race for power & wealth that only billions of barrels of oil could bring. My father loved the conniving JR Ewing and how he always seemed to be able to come out on top while totally screwing over his wife, his brother, his business rivals, and especially his sworn enemy…the slovenly, woefully overmatched Cliff Barnes. Dallas had elements of Shakespearean tragedy mixed with campy soap opera drama, and in no way resembled the real world. I think that was the key to its charm…even as a child I realized that this was all just great fun and that very few individuals (even rich people) actually behaved that way. It is a show that defined a genre and a generation. It gave us season ending cliffhangers and juicy sneak previews of next week’s episode. It gave us larger-than-life characters and stirring, emotion-filled theater that no “reality” show can ever dream of matching. Dallas was pure escapism, which is kind of the point of watching television, right??

 

 

4       Frasier

          NBC 1993-2004

Rarely does a sequel…or in this case a spin-off…excel to a point that it exceeds its predecessor. However, I must say that as much as I love Cheers I love Frasier even more. I think there are a few reasons for that. First of all, Cheers came about in the 80’s and to be honest I started watching it because it was something my Dad watched (not that there is anything wrong with that). Conversely, Frasier came on the scene when I was on my own in college. I made the conscious, independent, adult decision to watch. Secondly, by the time the 90’s rolled around I was past my “I watch way too much TV” phase. I much preferred hanging out with my friends, drinking copious amounts of adult beverages, and even occasionally studying to watching television. I had a life!! I was too busy for TV. Therefore the few shows that I made a special effort to keep up with during that time had to, by definition, be extraordinary. Also, the setting of Frasier…the professional & personal world of two intelligent yet socially awkward yuppies…spoke to me in a very personal way. I have always envisioned myself as a sort of yuppie-country boy hybrid, so I got a kick out of Frasier & Niles’ odd relationship with their blue collar father and their constant effort to ingratiate themselves into culture & society. The writing was about as quick-witted & razor sharp as any sitcom in the history of television. The characters were smart & relatable and the plots as sophisticated as anything you’ll ever see on a 30 minute comedy show. I’m not sure Frasier was as broad & accessible to the masses as many sitcoms, but that’s okay…dumbed down products don’t appeal to this humble Potentate of Profundity anyway.

 

 

3       The Tonight Show

          NBC 1954-Present

Anything that has lasted 50+ years like The Tonight Show has to be doing something right and must be given its due. It is undoubtedly the gold standard against which all other shows of its ilk are measured. Now I am way too young to have watched during the Steve Allen or Jack Paar years. Rather, I came along in the midst of the Johnny Carson era, and what a time it was. Admittedly I didn’t get to watch the show back then as often as I would have liked…afterall, 11:30pm is a bit late for a young boy who has school the following day. But I usually watched every Friday night during the school year and in the summertime got to see it more often. Carson was born to host a late night talk show. His monologue was always funny and current, but didn’t have the self-important, smartass edge that seems to be the norm today. He was an easygoing, smooth interviewer. And an appearance with Carson on The Tonight Show…especially if he gave the “okay” sign or waved the performer over to the couch for a chat…could legitimately make a young comedian’s career. That’s how far our society has fallen: from having the goal of making the preeminent funny man in show business laugh in order to launch a career, to saying “Ehhh…maybe I’ll just make a sex tape or do a reality show.” Personally I preferred the former protocol. At any rate, even Johnny’s retirement took late night television to a whole new level. The battle between Jay Leno & David Letterman brought much publicity, and eventually gave us more competition in the time slot, which is good for viewers. Leno took the Tonight Show mantle and was almost as solidly & comfortingly funny as Carson for many years. Then there was more controversy, Conan O’Brien got his shot, and eventually Leno returned. I didn’t like how that whole thing went down but hindsight being 20/20 I guess it all worked out. Conan wasn’t the right fit, and despite the fact that I think he handled the situation poorly the fact is that Leno is a worthy successor to Carson. At the end of the day (literally), we all just want to relax, put our troubles on the backburner, laugh a little, and forget how badly humanity can totally suck. Whether one does that by watching a movie, reading a book, praying, or making sweet love to a significant other, it’s all good. And it’s nice to know that amongst our plethora of choices The Tonight Show has been a viable option for so many years.

 

 

2       The Andy Griffith Show

          CBS 1960-68

I have been dreading this moment. Why?? Well, because while I feel like I am a decent enough writer I am unsure if I can come up with the exact right words to properly encapsulate not only my own but the world’s admiration for The Andy Griffith Show. It was…is…precisely everything a television show should be and more. Mayberry may ostensibly be a fictional town, but it is a place that I desperately wish was real and would absolutely move to in a heartbeat. The people are friendly, the pace is slow, and any problems that arise are easily solved with a little old-fashioned ingenuity and good solid love, understanding, and neighborliness. It is fascinating to think that this show was produced in the midst of the raucous counterculture 60’s but never dared to go near any of the controversy that decade manufactured. Now I suppose touchy feely, bleeding heart, politically correct types would consider that a damning indictment of The Andy Griffith Show, but I think it is part of its genius. Whereas so many modern television programs strive to be current, hip, & edgy, and utilize storylines “ripped from the headlines”, the powers-that-be in Mayberry understood that real life was hard enough, that when one sits down to watch TV they want to be entertained not preached at or talked down to. They understood that traditional values like friendship, family, kindness, hospitality, empathy, and respect for the law could be communicated in a way that was funny, inviting, and palatable. The Andy Griffith Show embodies everything great that America once was and could be again. I know that times have changed. We live in a different world these days. Entertainment seems to be all about sex, drugs, violence, werewolves, vampires, hating God, and embarrassing stupidity (Honey Boo-Boo?? Please, just shoot me.) I am so thankful that, even though this show was long gone before I was ever born, reruns have continued for over 40 years. Think about that for a second. This is such a great show that four decades after it went off the air it is still being shown. That is remarkable!! I get an opportunity to watch it every weekday at 12:30pm right after the afternoon news. I even interrupt my post-midnight shift daytime nap for it. We lost Andy Griffith just a few months ago, and almost all the rest of the cast (Don Knotts, Frances Bavier, George Lindsey, Jack Dodson, Hal Smith, etc.) have also gone to be with The Lord (Ron Howard, Jim Nabors, and Betty Lynn are still with us). However, the memories that they all created over 8 years & 249 episodes will remain forever, and for that I say a most heartfelt Thank You.

 

 

1       Seinfeld

          NBC 1989-98

As we reach the pinnacle a few things must be said. First of all, Seinfeld beats out Andy Griffith in a photo finish for one simple reason…it was on the air in my lifetime and I enjoyed it as it was happening rather than enjoying it in reruns several decades after it was gone. Secondly, I am more than a little surprised (even though this is my list) that a 90’s show comes out on top. I would have thought an 80’s show would have received the honor. And finally, the contrast between #1 & #2 couldn’t possibly be starker. Whereas Griffith is gentle, benevolent, and laid-back, Seinfeld boldly embraces the brash callousness, egotism, and pessimism of not only its NY City setting but of its era. However, it does this in such a way that is completely hilarious, more than a little ironic, and overwhelmingly self-aware. Jerry Seinfeld was The It Comedian at a time when the thing to do was give comedians their own sitcom. Sometimes it works (Gabe Kaplan/Welcome Back Kotter, Tim Allen/Home Improvement, Bob Newhart/Newhart, Bill Cosby/The Cosby Show, Ray Romano/Everybody Loves Raymond), sometimes it doesn’t (George Lopez/The George Lopez Show, Brett Butler/Grace Under Fire, Roseanne Barr/Roseanne, Ellen Degenerate/Ellen, DL Hughley/The Hughleys), but Seinfeld most definitely worked. When a show has been off the air for more than a decade and folks can still recite memorable lines and recall the plots of entire shows it says to me that the show was memorable and extremely well-written. It was always promoted as “a show about nothing”, and lived up to that promise. While lots of other programs would tackle big topics and have a point-of-view about certain themes, Seinfeld instead concentrated on life’s minutiae and mundane details. The supporting cast (Jerry’s ex Elaine, his next door neighbor Kramer, and his best friend George) was probably amongst the best in television history. As characters they were self-absorbed, insecure, cynical, superficial, and insensitive…but hysterically so. How many shows could take simple, relatable concepts like waiting for a table at a restaurant, forgetting where you parked the car in the mall garage, dealing with an eccentric boss, or leaving a regrettable voicemail, and turn them into 30 minutes of laughs that people remember 20 years later?? The answer is not many. Jerry Seinfeld himself was never a great actor, but he was saved by the writing and his superb co-stars. Seinfeld had the good fortune to come along at the perfect time. A decade earlier and it would have been dismissed as too mean-spirited and esoteric, a decade later it would have been lost amidst the white noise of shows trying too hard to be edgy, post-modern, and sardonic. We the viewers were the beneficiary of that perfect timing, and for that we should all be appreciative.

 

 

 

50 Favorite TV Shows…..10-6

As I sit here writing this I am at work praying for a calm, uneventful night. I am also hoping to distract myself from yet another one of my infamous Facebook debates about sociopolitical issues. Though I refrain from engaging in such “discussions” as much as I used to, there are still times that I just can’t seem to resist. I always hate myself afterward though because I am inevitably left feeling utterly flummoxed by society’s loathing of God and the downward spiral of a once proud & exceptional America that has apparently slipped into the rear view mirror for the time being. At any rate, I can think of no better palate cleanser than to dive into the exciting conclusion of my 50 Favorite TV Shows series. I think, in the interest of readability, it is best to break The Top 10 into two entries, so here we go with the first half.

 

 

 

10     Saturday Night Live

NBC 1975-Present

SNL is the very essence of the term “hit or miss”. Certainly not all of its 35+ seasons have been winners. Even within each season some weeks are memorable and some induce channel surfing. Heck, each individual show has its ups & downs. Some skits are really funny, some are horrible misfires. Some guest hosts rock and some should stick to their days jobs. Different musical guests will obviously appeal to some viewers while being of no interest to others. However, taken as a whole one has to give due credit to Lorne Michaels & NBC for producing a show that has lasted so long and has become thoroughly ingrained in the pop culture fabric of the nation. The show has a built in mechanism to keep it fresh, with a different guest host each week and the fact that the cast never stays static for too long since after a few years the actors inevitably want to move on to sitcoms or movies. Over the course of nearly four decades SNL has launched the careers of people like Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Dana Carvey, Gilda Radner, Dennis Miller, Chris Farley, Jane Curtin, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Billy Crystal, Bill Murray, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and Martin Short. Of course it has also given us such forgettable performers as Morwenna Banks, Jim Breuer, A. Whitney Brown, Horatio Sanz, Charles Rocket, Jeff Richards, Ellen Cleghorne, Denny Dillon, Rachel Dratch, Siobhan Fallon, Melanie Hutsell, Tim Kazurzinsky, Cheri Oteri, Mark McKinney, and Finesse Mitchell, as well as people we wish we could forget like David Spade, Rob Schneider, Al Franken, Tracey Morgan, Jon Lovitz, and Janeane Garofalo. Whether they were one shot deals or recurring characters sketches like Wayne’s World, Matt Foley Motivational Speaker, The Church Lady, The Coneheads, Father Guido Sarducci, The Blues Brothers, Leon Phelps The Ladies Man, The Festrunk Brothers (two wild & crazy guys!!), The Ambiguously Gay Duo, Lazy Sunday (Chroni…what?…cles of Narnia!!), Just Pat, Bill Swerski’s Chicago Superfans, Mary Katherine Gallagher, The Spartan Cheerleaders, and Schweddy Balls are fondly remembered many years after they aired. SNL is like a well-worn, comfortable piece of furniture…we could take a chance on something newer, shinier, fancier, and more modern, but we like that old beaten up thing that we’re used to, even with all its scratches, dents, and other imperfections. 

 

 

 

 

9       Family Ties

NBC 1982-89

Are you ready for some Must See TV up in here?? In the 80’s NBC’s Thursday night lineup was quite possibly the best night of television ever assembled. At 8:30pm viewers enjoyed this tale of a Midwestern culture clash between liberal, ex-hippy, baby boomer parents whose roots were firmly planted in the 60’s counterculture and their teenage son who energetically embraced the conservative Reagan Revolution. Such a concept these days would undoubtedly be mean spirited and glorify deviant lifestyles, but 30 years ago it was just a good natured comedy full of family values, love, and an appreciation for all points of view. Michael J. Fox became an overnight sensation playing young yuppie wannabe Alex P. Keaton and eventually parlayed that success into superstardom with his lead role in the Back to the Future movie trilogy. Courtney Cox, way before Friends made her a star, got her start playing Alex’s girlfriend. A young Tom Hanks made guest appearances as Alex’s alcoholic uncle. The writing was smart and the performances were above average for a sitcom. I seem to recall that on occasion serious issues like racism, drugs, and suicide were tackled, but the tone of the show never felt preachy or trite. I don’t have a problem with sitcoms addressing such topics in a thoughtful manner as long as the fact that it is supposed to be a comedy is never forgotten.

 

 

8       Cheers

NBC 1982-93

Right after Family Ties, at 9pm every Thursday night in the 80’s, NBC gave us the story of a Boston watering hole and its quirky band of misfit employees & patrons. Personally my beer swilling days pretty much ended after college and in reality middle aged people hanging out in bars tend to be kind of sad & pathetic, but fortunately the gang at Cheers wasn’t quite as pitiful as actual boozehounds. Ted Danson played bar owner Sam, a former Red Sox pitcher & recovering alcoholic. His employees…sardonic (and fertile) barmaid Carla, dimwitted yet kindhearted bartender Coach, naïve bartender Woody, and pretentiously loquacious waitress Diane…were like a neurotic little family. The group also included bar patrons Cliff Clavin, a bloviating mailman, and Norm Petersen, an unemployed accountant extremely fond of beer and not keen on going home to his wife. The show’s memorable theme song sums up the appeal of the bar and therefore the show itself:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you got

Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot

Wouldn’t you like to get away

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came

You wanna be where you can see our troubles are all the same

You wanna be where everybody knows your name

If only there were places in the real world that were so fun and welcoming, right??

 

 

7       The Cosby Show

NBC 1984-92

A quick gander at NBC’s 1982 television schedule makes it obvious why the network was struggling at the time. Notable shows produced by The Peacock that year were dramas like CHiPs, Little House: A New Beginning, St. Elsewhere, Fame, Knight Rider, Hill St. Blues, and Quincy. They needed more comedy!! Sure, Saturday nights that year gave us Diff’rent Strokes, Silver Spoons, and Gimme A Break, but Saturday nights traditionally don’t produce great ratings since most folks are out & about doing something more fun than watching TV (atleast they were back then). Cheers did premiere in ’82, but it took a couple of years to find an audience. Family Ties also debuted the same year but took some time to gain traction as well. So the suits at 30 Rockefeller Plaza decided to bring in a heavy hitter. They greenlit a sitcom starring Bill Cosby, who was a very popular stand-up comedian and already well known for Saturday morning cartoon staple Fat Albert as well as the 1965 adventure show I Spy (becoming the first black lead actor ever in a TV drama in the process). The show was based on Cosby’s observational stories about family life that had made his stand-up act so successful. The Cosby Show was intelligent, witty, and well written. It rightfully took people of color out of the ghetto and made them educated & prosperous. In some ways it was your usual family sitcom fare, but honestly, to compare The Cosby Show to other sitcoms of its day is like comparing cheap champagne to Dom Perignon. I have to assume that this show, as much as a television shows can do such a thing, provided inspiration to countless minorities that they too could become a doctor, lawyer, or anything their heart desired as long as they read, studied, and stayed out of trouble. It’s not that shows like Good Times, Sanford & Son, and What’s Happening!! weren’t funny in their own way, it’s just that they all painted a stereotypical picture of black folks living a blue color life in the projects, whereas The Cosby Show subtly pointed out the fact that affluence, achievement, and accomplishment are not solely reserved for white people. But beyond all that it was funny, relevant (to all races), and charming (unlike mean spirited, low brow crap like Roseanne, Married With Children, and Family Guy). The Cosby Show was immediately a huge hit and was the #1 show on television for the vast majority of its run. It deserves a spot on the Mount Rushmore of television, and I am so glad it just happened to come along in the midst of my crucial “I watched WAY too much TV” years.

 

 

6       WWE Raw

USA  1993-Present

I’m gonna get a lot of flack about this one, but I gotta be honest. Yes, I am a huge fan of professional wrestling and have been for about 30 years. As a kid I was gullible and thought it was all real, but that’s okay because back then it was pretty benign stuff. By the time wrestling became more violent & adult oriented I was all grown up and had become what is referred to as a “smart” fan. In other words I knew about the secrets, the storylines, and even occasionally what was going to happen ahead of time. With the invention and proliferation of The Internet in the 90’s smart fans had even more outlets to get the inside scoop. This necessitated a change in the wrestling business. You see, in the old days promotions like the WWF, AWA, & NWA would tape a month or so of television programming all in one night. I actually attended a TV taping once when I was in college, and it was exhausting!! Darn show lasted about 6 hours (although it was worth it since I did get to see Hulk Hogan). Obviously that way of doing things wasn’t going to fly in the Internet Age, so live programming became necessary. WWE recently aired its 1000th episode of Raw, which is remarkable. Long running shows like Gunsmoke, Law & Order, Lassie, & The Simpsons only produced 400-600 shows, and they had summers off. Raw doesn’t get weeks off. It is on every week. I am well aware that wrestling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and my Dad has been telling me for many years “Son…that damn stuff is gonna disease your mind!!”. However, after decades of exposure I feel like I am about as mentally stable as anyone I know, and any neuroses from which I do happen to suffer cannot be blamed on wrestling. I have seen it referred to as “a soap opera for men”, which is about as accurate of a description as any I suppose. In recent years the sexuality and violence has been toned back down a lot, which is a positive thing. I am still not sure I would let children watch it, but that can be said for a lot of other things on TV as well.

50 Favorite TV Shows…..20-11

Please be sure to catch up on the previous entries in this series here, here, here, and here. I will be taking a brief intermission from this series before we get to the highly anticipated (I hope) Top 10. God has laid it on my heart that it is time to get back to writing about some more meaningful things. Please be sure to read those when they are finished, and we will get back to the exciting conclusion of this adventure eventually.

 

 

 

20     M*A*S*H

          CBS 1972-83

I hated MASH as a kid. First of all I was way too young to “get it”. To me it was just another “war story” that my Dad watched that bored the crap out of me. Secondly, as I recall, it came on at 9pm on Monday night…the same time as Monday Night Football. I always had a bedtime (which I loathed since I’m a night owl but am now thankful for because left to my own devices I would have stayed up til 3am every night and probably flunked out of school), and I wanted to spend my last 30-60 minutes of “freedom” watching the ball game. Unfortunately my father was King of the Castle (something which I now truly understand) and he wanted to watch MASH…hence my animosity. However, a strange thing occurred in my adult years. I began to watch reruns of MASH and realized what a remarkably well written, well performed show it had been. This may have been the genesis of my affection for the dramedy genre, because sometimes one has to laugh to keep from crying.

 

 

19     Taxi

          ABC 1978-83

I called WKRP in Cincinnati one of the most underrated sitcoms ever, and here we have a similar situation…yet another workplace comedy that didn’t last as long as it should have and has never gotten the love it deserves from the masses. Set in a NY City cab company, the casting director gave us such luminaries as Danny Devito, Tony Danza, Judd Hirsch, Christopher Lloyd (who would star as Doc Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy a few years later), and Andy Kaufman. I think that is why Taxi outranks WKRP…its stars went on to become even bigger stars. Devito’s Louie DePalma was your typical smarmy, immoral, narcissistic boss character, but Devito played it for laughs…lots of them…instead of making the audience hate him. My father LOVED Louie, and my father isn’t easily entertained. Personally I was as amused by Lloyd’s Rev. Jim Ignatowski, a former Harvard student turned hilariously burned out reminder of the drug infested 60’s. Every sitcom writer ought to study Taxi like a science experiment and learn how to create memorable characters and a funny show.

 

 

18     Later with Bob Costas

          NBC 1988-94

I ranked The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder 25th on this list, and coming in just a few spots higher is a show with the same general vibe…two people sitting down to have a meaningful tete-a-tete for an hour…no band, no comedy, no sidekicks, no live audience. I think Bob Costas may be one of the smartest people on television, and what makes him so cool is that he seems blissfully unaware of that fact, unlike smug windbags like Oprah, Bill Maher, Dr. Phil, Bryant Gumbel, Matt Lauer, ESPN’s Skip Bayless, or just about any successful movie star of the past 20 years (really George Clooney & Brad Pitt…we don’t care what your opinions are on sociopolitical issues). I also like the fact that Costas has always pretty much stuck with his first love…sports. Could he do weightier, supposedly more important things?? Sure. He is probably the most talented person to walk the halls of NBC in my lifetime. But he enjoys doing sports and doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone. However, the one time he did step beyond his usual boundaries was this show, and it’s a crying shame it didn’t last very long. I read somewhere that Costas himself stepped away because he & his family lived in St. Louis and the show taped in New York, which became too much of a grind. If I would have been in charge I would have moved the damn show to St. Louis. In what rule book does it say that every movie & TV show has to be produced in New York or Los Angeles?? At any rate after Costas’ departure Later went thru a plethora of hosts, including Greg Kinnear, MTV’s Cynthia Garrett, & comedienne Rita Sever, and even “presented” old reruns of SCTV (Canada’s answer to Saturday Night Live), before ultimately being repackaged as Last Call, hosted by former MTV tool Carson Daly. Not that it matters to me, because after the departure of Bob Costas I stopped watching.

 

 

17     The West Wing

          NBC 1999-2006

I really didn’t want to like this show. The writers, producers, and practically the entire cast were complicit in presenting an obviously liberal spin on political issues, but I’ll be darned if it wasn’t amongst the best written, best acted, best directed dramas in my lifetime. I have no idea if what was portrayed on screen was in any way an accurate representation of how the real White House works, but I must say that, regardless of party affiliation or philosophy, if the American people were ever fortunate enough to be able to vote for a guy like Jed Bartlet we could do much much worse. Unfortunately I don’t believe for one second that real politicians…especially liberals…are as honest, honorable, compassionate, and intellectually sincere as those portrayed on The West Wing. Writer/producer Aaron Sorkin…leftist though he may be…is a terrific scribe and I enjoy almost anything with which he is involved. The performers on this show were sublime…folks like Richard Schiff, Allison Janney, John Spencer, Joshua Malina, and Bradley Whitford. Martin Sheen was already a proven commodity and The West Wing was just the cherry on top of a memorable career, but the majority of the rest of the cast were little known character actors who probably plateaued with this show. Even former Brat Packer Rob Lowe was made to look like a credible actor, either due to the company he was in the midst of or because of Sorkin’s deft skill. In my humble opinion this show…this concept…is tailor made for an eventual revival. Would Sorkin return?? Would the idea work with a whole new cast?? I don’t know, but it is an interesting idea to ponder.

 

 

16     Late Night with David Letterman

          NBC 1982-93

David Letterman circa 2012 is a bitter old man who doesn’t even try to hide his extreme left political bias. It is my opinion that the events of September 11, 2001 combined with a month long hiatus due to heart surgery in early 2000 changed the Letterman we’d all known and loved for two decades. I rarely watch these days because I just don’t find him funny anymore. However, before 9/11, before his heart problems, and even before his move to CBS & the 11:30pm time slot in 1993 Letterman spent a glorious decade at NBC in the 12:30am period immediately following Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and he was absolutely brilliant. Late Night in the 80’s was quirky, bold, sardonic, original, irreverent, unpredictable, odd…and most of all very very funny. Every effort was made to be different from Carson and attract a younger, hipper demographic. Letterman utilized his actual staff…bandleader Paul Shaffer, stage manager Biff Henderson, producer Robert Morton, director Hal Gurnee, and a host of others…in comedy bits unlike anything that had been done on late night television. Current staples like the nightly Top Ten list, Stupid Pet Tricks, and Viewer Mail were fresh back in the 80’s. Letterman made a star out of little known actor Calvert Deforest (aka Larry “Bud” Melman), dropped things off buildings, wore crazy Velcro suits, crushed things with a steamroller, introduced the world to his mother Dorothy, had frequent (and amusing) phone conversations with paper pusher Meg at Simon & Schuster, and mercilessly berated his bosses at NBC & General Electric. It was all quite silly, but hey…silly is exactly what most people enjoy at 1 o’clock in the morning.

 

 

15     Star Trek:The Next Generation

          Syndicated 1987-94

I have to give a shout out to my friend The Owl for turning me into a Trekkie. Before college I had a passing familiarity with Star Trek, but hadn’t really paid all that much attention. 20+ years later I love almost all the films and dig the original series. However, my initial affection started right here, with Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Lieutenant Commander Data, Commander Riker, Dr. Beverly Crusher, Lieutenant Worf (a Klingon!!), chief engineer Geordi LaForge, and Counselor Troi. This show is more character driven and explores more interpersonal relationships than the original, yet it still has its share of ass kickin’ action. Alot of plot points seem to involve a bit of sociopolitical commentary, but it is rarely preachy or trite. My preference for TNG over TOS (if you don’t get the acronyms then you obviously aren’t a Trekkie) is simply due to TNG being something I watched while it was actually on television instead of watching two decades after it was over like TOS. The series finale “All Good Things”, originally aired on May 23, 1994, remains one of the finest TV episodes I have ever seen. Indeed, the trial never ends. See you…out there.

 

 

14     Night Court

          NBC 1984-92

I have been in a courtroom exactly twice in my life, both times in a supportive role for friends who were facing legal battles. But it only took those two occasions to solidify my notion that a real court isn’t nearly as interesting as the stuff we see on TV or in movies. Usually what we see are dramatic situations in shows like L.A. Law, Perry Mason, and Law & Order, or films like To Kill A Mockingbird, 12 Angry Men, A Time to Kill, and Presumed Innocent. But in the 80’s NBC decided to give us a courtroom comedy, and oh what fun it was. Set during New York City’s night shift, the presumption was that most cases at that hour are of the eccentric, offbeat, absurd variety. That premise combined with the court’s quirky cast of employees made for a unique & memorable (if not necessarily accurate) take on America’s legal system.

 

 

13     Happy Days

          ABC 1974-84

Happy Days is the TV equivalent of the movie Grease…a story about high schoolers created in the 70’s, set in the 50’s. I am a sucker for that kind of thing. Creator Garry Marshall also gave us notable shows Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy (both spin-offs of Happy Days), as well as The Odd Couple. He would direct the Julia Roberts hit film Pretty Woman in 1990, and a host of other less celebrated movies. However Happy Days remains his most endearing legacy. In many ways it was your typical family sitcom, but the characters were so unique and, with one notable exception, very relatable & real. I loved the fact that it was set in Milwaukee instead of New York, L.A., or Chicago. Ron Howard, who had been a child star on The Andy Griffith Show and went on to become a big time movie director, embodied the classic awkward, insecure teenager yearning to be cool alongside his best buddies Ralph & Potsie (one of the all-time great sitcom nicknames). Ritchie’s parents…hardware store owner Howard and homemaker Marion…were the kind of parents every kid dreams of having. And of course eventually the real star of the show became a bike riding, leather jacket wearing, finger snapping ladies’ man named Fonzie, who wasn’t necessarily realistic (trust me…I’ve tried slapping a jukebox…fetching young ladies did not emerge from nowhere), but was such a well written, well performed character that it didn’t really matter. Sitcoms like Happy Days simply aren’t made in the cynical, vulgar, envelope pushing 21st century, and we’re all worse off because of that fact.

 

 

12     Friends

          NBC 1994-2004

Timing is everything, and this show about a group of young adults trying to make their way in the world came along just as I was a young adult dealing with many of the same issues. Unfortunately for me my close pals from college spread out across the country…Texas, Ohio, the Carolinas, etc.…so I wasn’t able to live across the hall from them or gather on a daily basis in the neighborhood coffee shop. Looking back I suppose Friends allowed me the chance to live vicariously and envision just how awesome it’d be to have the opportunity to hang out with my chums. Plus the characters had really cool jobs and lived in a kickass loft that I would never be able to afford. I most closely identified with Ross, the lovelorn, neurotic, socially awkward nerd, whose unrequited love for the beautiful Rachel eventually blossomed into an on-again off-again relationship that was the centerpiece of the show for much of its run. Friends probably lasted a year or two too long, but one cannot blame the suits for keeping their cash cow alive. Hindsight is always 20/20, and what one recognizes all these years later is that Friends was actually a very well written program, a skillful mix of old school sitcom with an edgier 90’s sensibility.

 

 

11     The Dukes of Hazzard

          CBS 1979-85

Corny?? Yes. Wholesome?? Sure. Entertaining?? You bet. And what exactly is wrong with any of that?? I may have mentioned previously that my friend The Owl contends that much of entertainment today embodies “the spirit of the age”…dark, profane, violent, and proudly sacrilegious. Dukes of Hazzard may not have been highbrow, culturally refined, or intellectually enriching in any way, but it was good clean fun that promoted family values, good triumphing over evil (if you can go so far as to call Boss Hogg & Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane evil), and a general sense of morality & friendship. That’s more than one can say about 99% of the crap currently on TV. I have fond memories of happily sitting in front of the television at 8pm every Friday night for several years loving every minute of the adventures of The Duke Boys, their wise old Uncle Jessie, and their exquisite cousin Daisy. Sure there were car chases and stuff got blown up, but unlike the vacuous special effects productions so prevalent these days there was also a storyline. It wasn’t exactly Shakespeare, but it was cool enough to put a smile on the faces of young boys nationwide, and I think that’s a pretty decent legacy.

 

 

 

 

50 Favorite TV Shows…..30-21

So, I’ve been thinking…

30 years from now another writer is going to do a list like this. If, like me, they are heavily influenced by the types of programming they grew up with, what will that list look like?? Will someone actually heap praise on crap like Family Guy, America’s Next Top Model, Wife Swap, or Glee?? I am well aware that there have been what most people would consider pretty decent shows produced in the past 10 or 15 years…stuff like Lost, 30 Rock, and The Sopranos…that for one reason or another simply never frosted my cupcake. But I maintain that the majority of what we see on television (and in movies for that matter) now isn’t nearly as good as what I grew up watching. Your mileage may vary. Anyway…on with the countdown!!

 

 

30     Wings

          NBC 1990-97

In the 90’s it seemed like NBC could do no wrong. They’d invented the idea of “Must See TV” in the 80’s and successfully made viewers buy into the concept for well over a decade. It didn’t hurt that the suits at 30 Rockefeller Plaza churned out a string of sitcoms ranging from exceptionally sublime to pretty darn good to better than average. I suppose there were a few clunkers in the mix (The Single Guy, Veronica’s Closet, Suddenly Susan, Just Shoot Me), but they were few & far between. One show that fell somewhere in the pretty good/above average area on the scale was this little tale of two brothers running a small independent airline on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket (you know…where that girl comes from). Wings was created by the same folks who brought us Cheers and Frasier (both of which will appear much higher in this countdown), so the elite pedigree is undeniable and the vibe was familiar. NBC kept moving its night & time slot throughout its 7 year run, so much like NewsRadio I think this is a show that never quite reached its full potential.

 

 

29     Entourage

          HBO 2004-11

Although I am fortunate to have made some good friendships in college that I maintain to this day, I don’t have any lifelong buddies that I’ve known since childhood, which are the types of relationships intertwined thru Entourage. The kicker is that one of the guys is a big time movie star who has transplanted his posse from Queens, NY to Hollywood. The language is a bit salty and these guys are clearly in a state of arrested development, but I guess young, rich, famous, good looking people can roll like that. There were some really well done cameos in Entourage’s 7 year run (Bob Saget, Mandy Moore, Gary Busey, and Mark Cuban immediately spring to mind), but the absolute best part of the show was manic, self-centered, foul-mouthed, politically incorrect uber agent Ari Gold. HBO is able to do its television seasons a bit different from the normal September-May/30 episodes thing that the broadcast networks have done for decades. Entourage usually aired in the summer for a dozen or so episodes, which atleast gave viewers something to look forward to apart from the reruns so prevalent on other channels. I just wish it was going to be on for a few more years…I wasn’t tired of it yet.

 

 

28     The Wonder Years

          ABC 1988-93

I’m a sucker for the whole wistful, nostalgic zeitgeist, and few TV shows have ever captured that as well as The Wonder Years. Narrated by the vastly underrated Daniel Stern (Home Alone, City Slickers), the show follows the teenage angst of young Kevin Arnold as he deals with his family, friends, and puppy love for the fetching Winnie Cooper in the late 60’s & early 70’s. The show not only represents an era well, but nails small town life, family dynamics, and the growing pains of a boy evolving into a young man…sometimes fun, sometimes sad, complex yet quaint.

 

 

27     Star Trek

          NBC 1966-69

Full disclosure: not only was I not yet born during the original Trek’s run, but I didn’t really become a Trekkie until college and that was mainly influenced by the film series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, it is my belief that love of the entire Trek universe must encompass a respectful appreciation of the series that birthed all that followed. The idea was spawned from the creative genius of Gene Roddenberry, a former pilot & LAPD cop turned writer who envisioned Star Trek as a spaghetti western set in space. Nearly 50 years later millions of people still fondly recall the adventures of Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy”, the half human/half Vulcan Spock, and the rest of the crew of the starship Enterprise, as well as the various alien races they battled like the Klingons & Romulans. It blows my mind that the show only lasted three seasons.

 

 

26     Jeopardy!

          Syndicated 1984-Present

My Grandma Pigott was a big fan of game shows. The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Password, Press Your Luck, Family Feud, Tic-Tac-Dough, Card Sharks, The $10,000 Pyramid, Hollywood Squares, Match Game…I could go on. Has there ever been a cooler name on television than Wink Martindale?? In my opinion the best game show in history is Jeopardy. I’m a huge trivia buff, and I think it’s awesome when one can chill out watching TV for a half hour and still learn a few things. Too many things have contributed to the dumbing down of America, but I’m happy to say this show isn’t among them.

 

 

25     The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder

          CBS 1995-99

I’m a big fan of late night TV, partly because I’m a night owl and partly because I can vaguely recall a time when television stations actually ended their broadcast day at some point (usually with The Star Spangled Banner) and am still enamored with the fact that they don’t do that anymore. I am easily entertained. At any rate, most late night shows follow your typical funny host with a sidekick, live audience, & house band/monologue/comedy bit/interview with a celebrity guest plugging their latest project/end the show with a musical act formula, and that’s okay. However, I am a minimalist who finds it fascinating when two people can sit down and have a lengthy & interesting conversation. We don’t do enough of that in our real lives anymore, and we rarely see it on television. Tom Snyder hosted a late night show called Tomorrow on NBC in the 70’s when I was far too young to stay up that late. That show was cancelled in 1982 to make way for a new guy named David Letterman. A little more than a decade later Letterman restored balance to the universe by bringing Snyder back to host the 12:30am show immediately following his own. Snyder was such a unique host, with his hearty laugh, easygoing manner, and an ability to connect with the audience and his guests. Plus, even though he wasn’t a comedian like Leno or Letterman, he was hilarious. Who could ever forget his nightly appeal to “sit back & relax, fire up a colortini, and watch the moving pictures as they fly through the air”?? I don’t know whose idea it was to replace Tom Snyder with the sardonic Craig Kilborn in 1999, but I hope there is an especially warm place in Hell reserved for those responsible.

 

 

24     Growing Pains

          ABC 1985-92

Speaking of growing pains…whereas The Wonder Years took a distinctive, sentimental approach, this 80’s staple utilized the old fashioned, paint-by-numbers typical sitcom method, which was perfectly fine. It served as a launching pad for the career of Leonardo DiCaprio, and to a lesser degree Kirk Cameron. I say that because, even though Cameron was the centerpiece of the show throughout its run and DiCaprio was only on for 1 year, I think we can all agree that Leo’s superstar trajectory has reached a wee bit higher than Cameron’s (although to be fair Kirk Cameron has dedicated his life to serving our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, which in the long run is more significant than being a movie star, even if one of those movies is Titanic).

 

 

23     Little House on the Prairie

          NBC 1974-83

I think this may have been the very first television show I ever loved. Based on the series of childrens’ books by author Laura Ingalls Wilder published in the 1930’s, it is a family drama set in the small town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota during the latter half of the 19th century. Surprisingly I’ve never read the books.

 

 

 

22     Who’s the Boss?

          ABC 1984-92

Hey-oh, oh-ay!! The story of a widowed single father from Brooklyn moving to Connecticut to provide a better life for his young daughter. The catch?? He has to take a job as a live-in housekeeper for a snobbish single mother and her young son.  Hilarity ensued. Much like Growing Pains this show didn’t color outside the lines of sitcom convention, but it did what it did quite well. I’ve always enjoyed Tony Danza’s relatable charm, and Alyssa Milano was amongst my first celebrity crushes.

 

 

 

21     WKRP in Cincinnati

          ABC 1978-82

I really feel like this is one of the most heinously underappreciated sitcoms in television history. Heck, I even feel like I am underrating it!! I suppose the latter statement is due to the fact that it went off the air when I was 10 years old. Fortunately for me it became a much bigger ratings hit in syndication during the 80’s than it was in its original run. Workplace comedies with a bunch of quirky misfits aren’t exactly rare…they are a tried & true TV tradition (Barney Miller, Taxi, The Office, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Murphy Brown,  and so on…). However, when the workplace is a radio station and it is being produced at a time when some of the best rock n’ roll ever made is on the air then that is a winning combination. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with super cool DJ’s Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap?? Or have a lovably clueless boss like Mr. Carlson and an understanding supervisor like Andy Travis?? And who wouldn’t absolutely love to see a gorgeous receptionist like Jennifer (Loni Anderson) as soon as you walk thru the door every day?? Sadly I have felt varying degrees of malice toward every place I’ve ever worked and have not found a job environment nearly as awesome as those we see on TV. I would be remiss if I did not mention and highly recommend an episode called “Turkeys Away”, originally aired on 10/30/78, in which Mr. Carlson comes up with “the greatest Thanksgiving promotion in radio history”. It can be found online if you look hard enough and it is well worth the effort.

50 Favorite TV Shows…..50-41

I ran some numbers on this list just for fun.

As far as network representation, NBC has 21 shows, ABC 11, CBS 9, The WB/CW, ESPN, and HBO have 2 each, USA & MTV each have 1, and there are 2 shows that are/were strictly first run syndicated. Curiously enough Fox has apparently never produced a show that frosted my cupcake all that much.

18 of my choices were mainly 80’s shows, 14 were 90’s shows, 4 came and went before I was even born (ahhh…the magic of reruns), and only 5 shows emanate from this century (2000 and beyond for those of you in Wyoming County, WV who might be having a friend from civilization trained in the literary arts reading this to you). Only 8 are still in production.

27 of my selections are comedies and 11 are dramas. A couple of shows are the difficult to pigeonhole hybrid dramedy, and then we have a game show, a couple of soap operas (thanks to my childhood babysitter), four late night comedy talk shows, two sports talk shows, and a few shows that simply cannot be categorized.

This information may not interest anyone but me, but I found it thought-provoking.

Now, onto the first ten selections!!

 

 

50     Dawson’s Creek

          WB 1998-2003

I always found the crew from Capeside, Mass. To be far more interesting than those other high schoolers on the left coast that resided in the 90210 zip code.


 

49     Sanford & Son                      

          NBC 1972-77    

My Dad and my Papaw Jim loved the adventures of junkyard magnate Fred Sanford and his son Lamont. I always got a kick out of the banter between Fred and his sister-in-law Aunt Esther. This show was cancelled when I was 5 years old, but reruns were so ubiquitous throughout the 80’s that it was never really off the air.

 

 

48     Three’s Company

          ABC 1977-84

As a red-blooded American pre-pubescent boy I had an appreciation for “jiggle TV”, a term which makes me laugh now. The explicit, craptastic vulgarity so pervasive on television today makes this show seem like religious programming in comparison. In an early season of the 90’s hit Friends the characters are watching an old rerun and someone sardonically says “Oh…I think this is the episode of Three’s Company where there’s some kind of misunderstanding.”, which pretty much encapsulates the show perfectly. It wasn’t exactly Shakespeare, but I think maybe it flies under the radar when looking back at past great comedies.

 

 

47     The Waltons

          CBS 1972-81

The vast majority of this show’s original run came when I was too young to appreciate good quality television, but reruns were plentiful throughout the 80’s. One would not think a family drama about a large family’s triumphs & tragedies during The Great Depression would be all that entertaining, but I must say, television would be much better off if more family friendly, morally upright, well written shows like The Waltons were still around.

 

 

46     The Golden Girls

          NBC 1985-92

Here we have another premise that would seem to fly in the face of conventional wisdom but proves that maybe all that mumbo jumbo about target demographics and appealing to a younger audience isn’t always accurate. Who would think that a teenage boy would enjoy a show about a group of female seasoned citizens relishing the autumn of their years with the vitality (and libido) of women half their age??

 

 

45     Batman                                  

          NBC 1966-68

Spiderman is okay. Superman is…well…super. But for my money the coolest superhero of all time is Batman. He’s not from another planet. He isn’t the result    of some lab mishap. He doesn’t have any super powers. He’s just an ordinary guy that happens to be filthy rich, psychologically damaged, and dresses in a cowl & cape to exact vigilante justice on bad guys. And while the big screen versions of the story (both the 90’s Tim Burton flicks and Christopher Nolan’s gloomy vision) are more in line with the gritty tone of the comic books, I really love the campy, kitschy cheesiness of the 60’s TV show starring Adam West & Burt Ward (with the well-known rogues gallery of villains played by folks like Burgess Meredith, Caesar Romero, Eartha Kitt, and Frank Gorshin). It was on before I was born of course, but when Burton revived interest in The Caped Crusader two decades ago old reruns started showing up on television and I was instantly hooked.

 

44     The Love Boat

          ABC 1977-86

I’ve not been on a cruise…yet. But when the time comes how cool would it be to find love with another passenger, have dinner at the Captain’s table, and get drinks from a bartender as cool as Isaac?? Love Boat served as a side job for many past-their-prime TV & movie stars, who played passengers. This concept kept the show fresh for a few years longer than it otherwise may have been since the main cast were actually just supporting players on a weekly basis. And let’s talk about the disco infused theme song!! I’ll admit publicly that I still…25+ years later…randomly belt it out (badly) on occasion.

 

43     Full House

          ABC 1987-95

Cute babies?? Check. A saccharine sweet TV Dad no real father could ever live up to?? Check. A lil beefcake for the ladies?? Check. Conflicts that were all easily solved and wrapped up with a very special life lesson in less than 30 minutes?? Check. This wasn’t anywhere near the cutting edge, but rather a show that knew exactly how to push all the right buttons and did so with reasonable success for nearly a decade. It’s what we all seemed to prefer back in the day.

 

42     Newhart                                 

          CBS 1982-90

Some from an older generation might prefer comedian Bob Newhart’s previous effort, the 1970’s sitcom The Bob Newhart Show, in which he played a Chicago shrink hilariously interacting with co-workers and patients. However, I lean toward Newhart’s second foray into TV in which he played a Vermont innkeeper & author hilariously interacting with employees and townsfolk. This show produced undoubtedly one of the greatest series finales in the history of television on May 21, 1990 (less than 2 weeks before my high school graduation).

 

41         Coach

          ABC 1989-97

In 1983 Craig T. Nelson played a hardnosed high school football coach in the film All the Right Moves, one of Tom Cruise’s early stops on the upward climb to superstardom. Six years later Nelson would again play a football coach, this time at a fictional Minnesota college in quite possibly one of the more underrated sitcoms of the 1990’s. Curmudgeonly Coach Fox’s interactions with his two blundering assistant coaches, Luther & Dauber, were the centerpiece of the amusement, as was the relationship with his classy, way out of his league girlfriend.

 

 

Person of the Month – January 2010

Better late than never, right??

I mentioned in The State of The Manofesto Address awhile back my intention to revive a feature that was a part of the old blog on MySpace in 2008. My intention was to post this over the weekend, but obviously that didn’t happen. I could lie and say I was busy, but that’s simply not the case. At any rate, I find myself with a small burst of creative energy (something I have been lacking the past few weeks) and some free time at the moment, so you’re welcome.

The decision of who would receive January’s honor (which comes with no cash prize but the distinguished privilege of receiving attention from my dozens and dozens of readers) was fairly easy. On January 10 NBC announced the “cancellation” of The Jay Leno Show, which had aired weeknights at 10pm for four months. The plan was to put Leno’s show in a 30 minute format at 11:35pm and push back The Tonight Show, which had been hosted by Conan O’Brien since June, to 12:05am. What NBC did not count on was the defiance of O’Brien, who flat out refused to host The Tonight Show at a time when, as someone amusingly pointed out, it would no longer technically be tonight. Conan showed he had a set the size of basketballs and most definitely made of brass. That kind of strength of character is more than enough to make Conan O’Brien our Person of the Month.

It might behoove us at this point to briefly go back in time, first to 1992 then to 2004. In 1992 Johnny Carson shocked the masses by suddenly retiring from The Tonight Show after 30 years. What should have happened was that David Letterman would become Tonight’s new host and Leno, who had been Carson’s regular guest host for several years, get his own show at 12:30. Instead the geniuses at NBC wrung their hands and let both men twist in the wind before ultimately choosing Leno for the gig, which then lead to Letterman getting ticked off and bolting for his own 11:30 show on CBS. To take over their 12:30 show NBC chose a complete unknown, a writer for The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live who had absolutely no on air experience. That unknown was of course O’Brien. The first few years of his show were, if I am being kind, subpar. But something funny began to happen…literally. By 2004 Conan’s contract was almost up and he was suddenly quite popular and in demand. NBC was desperate to hold on to him, so they brokered a deal in which he would take over The Tonight Show in 2009. Leno, perfecting his nice guy act, went along with that plan. There is really no logical reason.

Now let us flash ahead to last year. Leno was the reigning King of Late Night and the idea of pushing him aside for Conan began to look silly to anyone with a brain. However, the powers-that-be at NBC apparently don’t have much going in the brain department, so they forged ahead. The network geniuses began to formulate a plan for keeping both Jay and Conan. The solution was to give Leno a show at 10pm. Not being a big fan of the normal cops and lawyer shows or hospital dramas typically seen at that hour, I personally liked the idea. Unfortunately the masses disagreed, the ratings tanked, and the show was given the heave ho after 4 months. Meanwhile, Conan’s Tonight Show ratings were also less than stellar. That’s when then aforementioned plan…Jay for a half hour at 11:30, The Tonight Show at midnight…was hatched and subsequently crapped on by Conan.

The fallout from all this has been interesting. Leno is returning to Tonight after The Olympics are over, and Conan was given a boatload of money by NBC to go away. Other late night hosts, most notably Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel, have interjected themselves into the situation and had a ton of fun at NBC and Leno’s expense. Most agree that Leno has shown his true colors, that he is not the innocent nice guy he usually portrays himself to be. Conan, on the other hand, comes out of all this smelling like a rose. He is the scorned victim who did nothing wrong but lost his job anyway. He received millions of dollars to sit on the sidelines for the next several months, and presumably will land firmly on his feet with an 11:30 show on ABC or Fox in September. And he stood up for something bigger than himself. He did what so many people don’t do these days…..he stayed true to his principles and beliefs.

Some may say that Conan was foolish, that he should have accepted the proposed time slot change and kept his mouth shut. Apparently he felt that such a change would be harmful to the success of both his show and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Who knows whether that is the case or not?? No one does really. But I respect a man who not only talks the talk but walks the walk. It is certainly a stark contrast to Leno, who now seems like a used car salesman or a televangelist…someone who will do or say anything to get what he wants and fool the masses into thinking he is a much better person than he is in reality, just another disingenuous poser. In the grand scheme of life late night television does not really have any measurable impact on the importance scale, but for all the laughs the situation provided the past several weeks and because he really does seem like the only honorable player in this dramedy, Conan O’Brien is our Person of the Month.