The Greatest Television Shows of All Time, According to Me
My favorite television shows when I was a kid weren’t very sophisticated. I liked Batman and Get Smart, Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. I loved variety shows like Sonny and Cher, The Donny and Marie Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. I still like The Carol Burnett Show, not that you see it anymore except for in late night infomercials for DVDs from Guthy-Renker. I loved The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Marlo Thomas in That Girl, because they represented, for me, single career women who were independent, happy and fabulous. I looked up to them and wanted to be them one day when I grew up.
I didn’t care for The Dukes of Hazard or A-Team, but I loved The Bionic Woman and Charlie’s Angels. I had Barbie dolls of Cher, Marie Osmond, and The Bionic Woman growing up. When detective shows were everywhere I loved Hart to Hart and Remington Steele. I loved both The Cosby Show and Family Ties. Don’t get me started on Michael J. Fox. I’ll never stop. And then when I was in high school there was a revelation of what might be the greatest TV show of all time.
I remember my first viewing of Moonlighting. The pilot. It was greatness. The writing was great. I was too young and unsophisticated to realize they were ripping off the screwball comedies of the 1930s that I also loved. I just knew that it was wildly funny and entertaining and imaginative. And the sexual tension was palpable. Ah, Bruce Willis with hair in Ray Bans and a suit, in a BMW. His impression on my formative adolescent years was so strong that that image is like sex on film for me. When they finally got together to Ronnie and the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” it was thrilling. Even when I viewed the entire series on DVD as an adult a few years ago I still thought it was marvelous and fresh. There’s never been anything on television like it, before or since.
After Moonlighting, nothing really caught my imagination to the same degree until Ally McBeal came along. And I loved that show. People had a hard time with that show to some degree. There were criticisms and articles about how she brought back feminism by several years. How? Because she liked to wear mini-skirts and look attractive? Because she was obsessed with her married ex-boyfriend, Billy? Because she saw hallucinations of Dancing Babies accompanied to B.J. Thomas’s “Hooked on a Feeling”? Because she represented independent career women who still wanted to find love and raise a family? How very offensive! Everyone knows that true feminists should look and act and feel and have all the same opinions as Norman Lear’s Maude.
I liked a show called Christy that was based on a book by Catherine Marshall about a young woman who volunteered as a missionary teacher in the Appalachians. But like so much TV that I find watchable and worthy of praise even, it didn’t last.
The next show to hook me was Felicity. Over the years, it evolved into more of a soap opera, but in the beginning it was really wonderful. Felicity was about a freakishly intelligent woman with a famous head of curly hair who moves to New York from California to run after a boy from high school that she had a crush on. She does this because he “encourages” her by writing in her yearbook that he always wished that he knew her better. This show also had a lot of great writing and great actors. It was one of Jennifer Garner’s first acting roles of any consequence, and John Ritter and Chris Sarandon both had lengthy guest roles. It introduced us to Keri Russell and Scott Speedman and Scott Foley. It was created by J.J. Abrams, the man who brought us Lost, my favorite television show of the present.
I didn’t watch Lost for the first season. I caught on in repeats that were shown during that first summer hiatus. I loved it for the mystery and the characterizations and the fantastical plot that seemed to almost rival anything that Days of our Lives has ever done. My favorite characters are not Jack, Sawyer or Kate, although I like them okay. My favorites are John Locke and Sayid, followed by Desmond, Rose, Hurley and Ben. They are much more interesting to me. And I think that both Sayid and Richard Alpert are sexy as hell.
I could go on, but these are the stand outs in my mind. With the possible exception of Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, the British show Keeping Up Appearances, and the super funny Arrested Development I think I’ve made an almost exhaustive list. But maybe I’ll think of some others later.