Category Archives: TV SHOW

TV Show: Arrested Development

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“Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.  It’s Arrested Development.”

So began each episode of one of the funniest, smartest, and most unfairly treated shows in the history of television. That intro, spoken by executive producer and narrator Ron Howard, fairly sums up the premise of the show. With his father in prison for “light treason,” Michael Bluth (played by professional straight man Jason Bateman) must run the family company while trying to keep his spoiled family in line. It’s a premise ripe for comedy, and one that creator Mitch Hurwitz exploited to great effect. He was aided by one of the best comedic ensemble casts since Seinfeld, including star-making turns from Michael Cera and Will Arnett (whose character GOB remains one of the funniest sitcom characters of all time).

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However, despite Hurwitz’s best efforts and almost universal critical acclaim, Arrested Development never gained much of an audience during its original run. The show certainly wasn’t helped by its network, Fox, which regularly changed the night it aired, put it up against Monday Night Football, and even aired episodes of the mostly serialized comedy out of their proper order. During its third season the show saw its episode order cut from 22 to 13, and Fox unceremoniously dumped the final four episodes opposite the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

While rumors that the show would be picked up by another network never came to pass, the series has gained a second life on DVD and via Netflix instant streaming, and now has a massive cult following. A movie script is in the works, with all of the main cast said to be interested in returning.

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TV Show: Bonanza

The cast was together for less than half the show's episodes, and yet it remained in the top 20 of the ratings its entire run. Uploaded by serietele.com.

First, let me say that if this show took place today, Ben Cartwright would probably be the subject of an investigation on Dateline. Three wives, all of whom somehow died? In fact, anytime one of the Cartwrights got interested in a gal, she either got sick, died, or took off with some undeserving fella.

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The Cartwrights lived on the Ponderosa, a ranch said to cover 1,000 square miles. Really. They made their money by selling timber and livestock, though it seems that occupied less of their time than solving their own and their neighbors’ problems.

The cast of Lorne Greene (Ben), Pernell Roberts (Adam), Dan Blocker (“Hoss”), and Michael Landon (Little Joe) were all together for fewer than half of the show’s 431 episodes. Roberts decided he was disenchanted with series television, and Blocker died following surgery. Even so, Bonanza remained a huge ratings hit throughout its run, spending three years at number one, nine years in the top four, and never finishing out of the top 20. TV Guide ranked Bonanza #43 on its list of the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.

TV Show: The Office

It's either the pride or the shame of Scranton, Pa. The Office has won many awards, including four Emmys and an untold number of Dundies. Uploaded by tvbreakroom.com.

Adapted from the original British series, the American version of The Office is no less brilliant. Though it’s lost some of its original radiance (it jumped the shark when Jim and Pam married), at its peak it made you cringe, and snort, and wince, and laugh in equal measure.

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None of us has actually had a boss as spectacularly clueless as Michael Scott, but we’ve all known a supervisor who’s close. Michael teaches respect for women in a way that demeans them, promotes racial equality with unrecognized insults, and destroys office morale even as he endeavors to enhance it.

The Office has a large cast, almost all of whom are fantastic. Worthy of special note are John Krasinski as Jim (especially when getting under the skin of) Rainn Wilson as Dwight, Creed Bratton as Creed, Ed Helms as Andy, and of course, Steve Carell as Michael. The show, which is either the pride or the shame of Scranton, Pa., has received 26 Emmy Awards and won four, including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing, and Outstanding Directing. (And untold Dundies.)

TV Show: Your Show of Shows

Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca headlined Your Show of Shows, a live variety-comedy show that ran from 1950-1954 and set the stage for such future programs as the Dick Van Dyke Show and the Carol Burnett Show. Uploaded by upi.com.

Things were very different in the early years of television. Most programs were broadcast live, which requires a level of performance discipline that’s unnecessary when tape is available. One of the first blockbuster shows that brought Americans together around their new black and white televisions was a great sketch comedy show that’s become legendary.

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Your Show of Shows starred Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca along with a great supporting cast that included Carl Reiner and Howard Morris (whom you probably remember better as Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show). That’s a terrific cast, and it was supported by some equally amazing writers, including Neil Simon and Mel Brooks. The program was created by one of the greatest creative forces in TV history, Sylvester L. “Pat” Weaver – Sigourney’s dad. With that kind of accumulated talent, it’s no wonder that the show is so fondly remembered as a major stepping stone in the new medium’s development.

Your Show of Shows lasted just four seasons, the pressure of doing so many live broadcasts took its toll. Carl Reiner acknowledges that his experiences as one of the show’s writers/performers were the basis of another Great American Thing – The Dick Van Dyke Show. Also in the early years of the industry, Your Show of Shows won Emmy Awards in 1952 and 1953 as Best Variety Show.

TV Show: Law & Order

Through 21 seasons and numerous cast changes, Law & Order stayed relevant by having many of its stories ripped from today's headlines. Uploaded by nypress.com.

Many television shows – most? – don’t last for 21 episodes. The original Law & Order has been around for an astounding 21 years. Through many cast changes, several spin-offs, and many Emmy Awards, Law & Order has remained one of the most watchable cop shows in TV history. And its trademark sound effect, which I’ll call DOINK DOINK, is one of the medium’s most memorable.

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If you’re one of the seven people in America who’ve never seen even one episode of the show, the first half hour “solves” the crime, and the second half hour is when the judge throws out the evidence and the prosecution has to scramble to convict the defendant(s). Unlike Perry Mason, this team doesn’t always get a conviction, which made the show so much more intriguing. And the show prided itself on being “ripped from the headlines” – taking a current event and changing it just enough to avoid libel.

Law & Order is a Dick Wolf creation, and Wolf has stayed hands-on in production since the beginning. Though there have been many characters over the years, here are my favorites: Chris Noth as Detective Mike Logan… Jerry Orbach as Detective Lennie Brisco… S. Epatha Merkerson as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren… Sam Waterston as District Attorney Jack McCoy… Angie Harmon as Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael… and Fred Thompson as District Attorney Arthur Branch.

DOINK DOINK

TV Show: Mad Men

Mad Men depicts life in an advertising agency during the early 1960s. They drink, they're bigoted, they have affairs, and man, do they ever smoke. Uploaded by dvdsetshop.com.

What was it like to work in an advertising agency in the early 1960s? Chances are, it’s a lot like the environment portrayed at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce on AMC’s Mad Men. The producers have been meticulous in reproducing the era’s office appearance, clothing, even its props. And something significant to the show’s time frame – smoking. The show’s creator, Matthew Weiner, said, “Doing this show without smoking would’ve been a joke. It would’ve been sanitary and it would’ve been phony.”

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Weiner not only conceived of the premise and wrote Mad Men’s pilot script, he’s its head writer and executive producer. He hasn’t shied away from the controversial aspects of the turbulent sixties – dealing with sexism, feminism, homosexuality, and racism. But the show isn’t an excuse for revisiting that period; it’s not The Wonder Years in advertising.

Mad Men got off to a slow start in ratings, but has continually grown during its four seasons. Critical reception has been mostly laudatory from the beginning, however. The Television Critics Association named the first season as its show of the year. It won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Drama each of its first three seasons, and 12 other Emmys as well. It has also won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Series the same years, as well as the American Film Institute selection as one of the 10 best series of the year.

TV Show: Sports Night

 

Sports Night was created and written by Aaron Sorkin. It only lasted on ABC for two seasons; the show could have moved to another network, but Sorkin chose to concentrate on another little project he had in the works - The West Wing. Uploaded by jetblack.thebebop.net.

I suppose I have to explain this selection more than most. After all, Sports Night isn’t one of those beloved TV classics, like The Andy Griffith Show (Great American Things, Feb. 12, 2011). Nor is it a cult favorite, such as Lost (Great American Things, Jan. 27, 2011). In fact, Sports Night only stayed on the air for two seasons (1998-2000), and never made the higher echelons of the Nielsen ratings.

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But I really love this show. As is usually the case, one of the reasons it’s so good is its cast. While Robert Guillaume was well-known thanks to such shows as Benson, Sports Night was my first exposure to some outstanding actors who are now more familiar in other roles. Peter Krause, for example, who had great success on Six Feet Under. Felicity Huffman, enjoying a long run on Desperate Housewives. And Josh Malina, who had a great part on The West Wing.

But the real reason to watch Sports Night was the writing, done by one of my favorites, Aaron Sorkin. He based the series in a fictional sports network, which was very smart. Unfortunately, by naming the series Sports Night, he inadvertently signaled to women that this was a show for guys. In reality, it was a funny and poignant series about friendships, and romance, and work, and appealed to both sexes equally. But as I used to mention it to female friends, most had never watched it – because the name put them off.

As of this writing, many of the episodes are available (in two or three parts) on YouTube. I’m going to link to one of my favorites, “Eli’s Coming.” If you enjoy it, another you’re sure to like is “Dear Louise” (Season 1, Episode 7).

TV Shows: Goodson-Todman Productions

 

Among the many game shows Goodson-Todman created were What's My Line, Family Feud, Password, I've Got a Secret, The Price Is Right, To Tell the Truth, Card Sharks, and Tattletales.

To watch television today, you’d believe that the daytime hours have always been dominated by talk shows and judge shows. But for most of the medium’s history, the day was dominated by soap operas and game shows. And the people who produced many of the most memorable game shows were Mark Goodson and Bill Todman.

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The pair began their careers producing radio game shows in 1946. While the pair also created dramas (The Rebel, with Nick Adams and Branded, with Chuck Connors were the most successful), they will always be remembered for producing some of the best game shows of all time. Their creations include:

  • Beat the Clock
  • What’s My Line
  • I’ve Got a Secret
  • The Price Is Right
  • To Tell the Truth
  • Password
  • Match Game
  • Tattletales
  • Family Feud
  • Card Sharks

The two men worked the same way throughout their careers: Goodson would develop the game, then Todman would refine the rules and work out the financial aspects. While Todman died in 1979, Mark Goodson lived to receive an Emmy for Lifetime Achievement in Daytime Television in 1990, and a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

TV Show: The Andy Griffith Show

Everyone has a favorite episode. Mine is "My Fair Ernest T. Bass," in which Andy tries to change the wild Ernest T. into a presentable gentleman. The mountain man courts the lovely "Romeena" and says to the hostess, "How dew you dew Miss-us Wi-lee?" Uploaded by tvsquad.com.

Start with Barney Fife, only the best sitcom character ever. Add the sweetness of Aunt Bea, the innocence of Opie, the absentmindedness of Floyd, the foolishness of Gomer and Goober, and you get — well, you get the most grounded, most heartwarming sitcom in TV history.

Of course, the show would have gone nowhere without the down-home wisdom and  ever-genial personality of Andy Griffith. A native of nearby Mt. Airy, NC (which styles itself as the model for Mayberry), Andy is the father/friend we all wish we had. I know he later played Matlock, but I don’t think of them as the same person. I think Andy’s dad came along to play that role.

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Everyone has a favorite episode of the show. Mine is My Fair Ernest T. Bass, in which Andy tries to change the wild Ernest T. into a presentable gentleman. The mountain man courts the lovely “Romeena” and says to the hostess, “How dew you dew Miss-us Wi-lee?” Hard to believe, but Ernest T. only appeared in five episodes of the series.

Wait — I think I hear the theme song being whistled. Time to catch another episode. Maybe I’ll hear Ernest T. wail, “She called me a creachter!”

Originally posted April 20, 2009.

TV Show: Lost

Lots of characters, lots of plots, lots of twists, lots of head-scratchers...Wait. Lots is an anagram of Lost. Coincidence? I don't think so. Uploaded by co.terra.com.

It all started with Survivor. In 2004, the show was in its prime, drawing huge audiences and helping CBS devour the competition in the ratings. ABC in particular was feeling the crunch, and was desperate for a show to siphon off some of the viewers Survivor was drawing. They contacted J.J. Abrams, who was fresh off his success with his show Alias, in the hopes that he would write a script for a series that was essentially a dramatized version of Survivor. Abrams said he would, with the condition that he could include supernatural aspects to the show. ABC agreed, and Lost was born.

The risk that ABC took on creating Lost, and the support it gave the show when its hit status was far from guaranteed, cannot be understated. The two-hour pilot episode, filmed on location in Hawaii and including a plane crash sequence that would rival many big budget films’ special effects, was the most expensive episode the network had ever produced. It premiered Sept. 22, 2004 to a huge audience and critical acclaim, and quickly became a water cooler phenomenon the nation hadn’t seen since “Who Shot J.R.?”

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Where did the polar bear come from? How can the bald guy suddenly walk? Where is the signal coming from? What is the smoke monster? Who are The Others? Viewers asked these questions and many, many more, as the show’s writers seemed to take twisted pleasure in keeping their audience guessing. By developing an unusual format of storytelling (each individual episode focused on a particular character in the story, and through flashbacks gave backstory that was often relevant to the action occurring on the island), the writers were able to create one of the most fully characterized casts ever seen on television.  These characters (and the superb actors who played them) were often stretched to the limits by the genre-toying exercises indulged in by the writers, but it was the connections felt by viewers to Jack, Kate, Sayid, Sawyer, Hurley, Claire, and the rest that kept the show fresh week after week, cliffhanger after maddening cliffhanger.

Reactions to the series finale of Lost were mixed, but those who would complain are the same people who ask “Are we there yet?” during every road trip. It will be a very long time before television sees another show that challenges and delights its audience in such a myriad of ways, and when that show comes, it too will surely be a Great American Thing.

TV Show: The Larry Sanders Show

 

Garry Shandling was the headliner of this show, but Jeffrey Tambor as Hank and Rip Torn as Artie were the real stars. Uploaded by maximumfun.org.

Each time I watched The Larry Sanders Show, I had the same thought: I wonder how close this is to reality? And I always concluded: Pretty doggone close. Garry Shandling portrayed Sanders as a vain and insecure late night talk show host, complete with neurotic sidekick Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor) and  world-weary producer Artie (Rip Torn).

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Each week, Sanders had to deal with the eccentric world of Hollywood celebrities and an ambitious production staff. Real celebrities were the guests on this fictional talk show, giving the show impressive verisimilitude. Larry would often hide in his office, using his producer to deal with employees and guests. The show ran from 1992 to 1998 on HBO.

Some of the major accomplishments of the show include being listed at number 38 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time… 56 Emmy Award nominations… Six Writers Guild of America awards for comedy writing… and making the execrable Janeane Garofalo almost likable. Hey now!

TV Show: New Year’s Rockin’ Eve

 

New Year's Rockin' Eve has been on since 1972 with this formula: prerecorded performances cut in with (usually) Dick Clark doing the countdown in Times Square. Uploaded by dip-ld.com.

If you’re old enough to remember New Year’s celebrations prior to 1972, then you remember the hideous music of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. Lombardo was a long-time New Year’s Eve institution, dating back to his first NYE radio broadcast in 1928. Fortunately, Dick Clark (Great American Things, December 14, 2010) had a better idea, and put the word “Rockin'” in his show’s title so a younger generation would know there was a new kid on the block.

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New Year’s Rockin’ Eve has been a fixture since then, with the exception of December 31, 1999, when the networks were anticipating that computers would go kerflooey and airplanes would start falling from the sky due to the Y2K bug. The first couple of years found the show on NBC, but it then moved to ABC where it’s thrived ever since. That first year, the musical guests were Blood, Sweat & Tears, Three Dog Night, Helen Reddy, and Al Green. Just as now, much of the music and the studio celebration was prerecorded, cut in with the live festivities and countdown in Times Square (Great American Things, December 31, 2009).

The show hasn’t quite been the same since the unflappable Dick Clark had his stroke in 2004. Regis Philbin took host duties for a couple of years, but now Ryan Seacrest is the show’s executive producer and co-host. He does a fine job, and in time the show will feel like it belongs to him. In the meantime, whether you like the musical guests or not, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve is the place to see the new year arrive in New York City – and regardless of what they show in Sydney or Paris or wherever, it’s not the new year until it comes to Times Square.

Holiday TV Show: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rankin/Bass created this stop-action animation version of Rudolph in 1964. It's now the longest-running animated Christmas program, which is just holly jolly with me. Uploaded by tvworthwatching.com.

Rudolph started life in a poem, written in 1939 by Robert L. May. His brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, liked the poem and turned it into the popular song we all know. Then in 1964, it took on new life as an animated television special on NBC. It’s now the longest-running animated Christmas special, and one of only four from the 60s still on. (The others are A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman.)

The TV special’s plot is necessarily a bit more complex than the song’s. There are additional characters, including prospector Yukon Cornelius, a reindeer

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babe named Clarice, a new reindeer named “Fireball,” and the arch-enemy — the Abominable Snowman. And there’s the narrator, Sam the Snowman, who just happens to resemble Burl Ives. How else would we have been able to hear “A Holly Jolly Christmas?”

The version we see now (on CBS) has been digitally remastered for enhanced clarity. The folks at Rankin/Bass created this stop-action animation classic. It looked clunky when it first appeared, and it looks positively antique in the age of Pixar. And yet, somehow, that’s part of its charm. That, and the music, and the story of Rudolph the underdog (underreindeer?) who saved Christmas. For many families, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a viewing of Rudolph.

Holiday: Andy Griffith Show Christmas Episode

The Christmas Story is the title of this memorable and touching episode, the only one The Andy Griffith Show ever made with a Christmas theme. Uploaded by wikipedia.org.

This is the first time a single episode of a TV show has been featured on this list, but this one is a logical choice. The Andy Griffith Show (Great American Things, April 20, 2009) was in its first season, and this was just its eleventh episode. But all the attributes that would make it one of America’s all-time favorite shows were on display from the start.

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The plot – and I certainly hope this isn’t spoiling it for anyone, surely you’ve seen this episode – involved department store owner Ben Weaver insisting that family man Sam Muggins be put in jail for selling moonshine. Andy has no choice but to agree, knowing that it means Sam won’t spend Christmas with his family. Then he and Barney have the idea to move their Christmas celebration, complete with Barney dressing as Santa, to the jail and inviting the Muggins family.

Ben appears to be furious, but Andy soon realizes the miser has no one to celebrate Christmas with, and wants to join the celebration. Eventually, Ben has himself arrested so he can participate, but not before bringing gifts for everyone. Two interesting facts about this episode, titled “The Christmas Story”: It was the only one the show ever produced with a Christmas theme, and its cast included Margaret Kerry, the model for Tinkerbell in the animated classic Peter Pan.

As of now, the whole episode is available on YouTube:

TV Show: The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show

Burns and Allen appeared together in vaudeville, movies, 675 radio programs, and 291 TV episodes. It's a wonder they had any ideas left. Uploaded by dougquick.com.

George Burns and Gracie Allen were husband and wife who worked together in vaudeville, movies, radio, and finally, TV. Imagine, they did 675 episodes on radio, it’s a wonder they had any ideas left when they were one of the first radio programs to make the transition to television. (They did 291 TV shows in eight seasons!)

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The show was based on two constants: Gracie as a ditzy housewife, and George breaking the “fourth wall” and speaking directly to the audience, commenting on the action. The comedy emanated from Gracie’s off-kilter view of the world, and the mayhem that always ensued. One great running gag was the “hats in the closet.” A man would come in the Burns’ home, his hat would be put in the closet, and he’d be so eager to leave by the time Gracie got in his head that he’d forget his hat – and wouldn’t  dare go back for it lest Gracie start up again.

I realize that many who’ll read this have never had the opportunity to see this show. It’s been on the air from time to time, but the best I can tell, it’s not on now. The first two seasons (broadcast live) are now in the public domain, though, and you can catch full episodes on YouTube. Here’s one:

TV Show: The Red Skelton Show

 

Red Skelton's show was built around his cast of characters, including the Mean Widdle Kid, Klem Kadiddlehopper, and Freddie the Freeloader. Uploaded by tvpmm.com.

For twenty years, 1951-1971, The Red Skelton Show was one of the top shows on television, trailing only Gunsmoke (Great American Things, October 1, 2010) and The Ed Sullivan Show (Great American Things, August 25, 2009) in the ratings.

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The show featured Red performing his cast of characters, which included the Old West sheriff “Deadeye,” the crooked real estate agent “San Fernando Red,” the boxer “Cauliflower McPugg,” the hick “Clem Kadiddlehopper,” the brat “Mean Widdle Kid,” the seagulls “Gertrude and Heathcliffe,” and the hobo clown “Freddie the Freeloader.” The show usually had a musical act (the Rolling Stones made their first American appearance with Red) and a guest star. During the skits, it wasn’t unusual for the guest or Red to crack up, which was part of the show’s charm.

The show won a few Emmy Awards, but its greatest triumph was the loyalty its fans had during its long run. Red Skelton’s closing each week was the same, and is one of the most memorable in TV history: “Good night, and may God bless.”

TV Show: Columbo

Peter Falk presented Columbo as disheveled, quirky, and unassuming. Then he used his prey's overconfidence to his advantage in bringing them to justice. Uploaded to Photobucket by skjern 2007.

The TV classic Columbo was an “anti-whodunit.” Typically, we saw the crime being committed at the beginning of the episode, and knew who the “perp” was. The rest of the show was devoted to watching the wonderful Detective Columbo figure out the crime and catch the bad guy.

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The wonderful Peter Falk portrayed Detective Columbo as a rumpled, disheveled mess who was constantly underestimated by those he suspected of crimes. He didn’t usually carry a gun or need to resort to force, his unexpected wits and powers of observation being his main crime-solving tools. I’m sure he occasionally used forensic evidence, but Columbo is about as far from the CSI school of detection as it’s possible to get.

Columbo began as a segment of the NBC Mystery Movie (other segments: McMillan & Wife and McCloud). Its primary run on NBC lasted from 1971-1978, though it aired infrequently on ABC a decade later. By the way, the first season premiere “Murder by the Book” was written by Steven Bochco and directed by Steven Spielberg (Great American Things, July 22, 2009), both relative unknowns at that time. That’s one way to kick things off the right way, wouldn’t you agree?

TV Show: Hill Street Blues

 

Its first season, Hill Street Blues received poor ratings. But then it received 21 Emmy nominations. It didn't have rating problems again. Uploaded by dvdtimes.co.uk.

From the moment the great Mike Post theme song came on, you knew you were going to see a different kind of show. Hill Street Blues wasn’t just a great cop show, it created the template for ensemble dramas to come. So N.Y.P.D. Blue, E.R., L.A. Law, St. Elsewhere – the least you can do is send Hill Street Blues a Christmas card each year.

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HSB ran on NBC from 1981 to 1987. Most episodes began at roll call, when Sgt. Phil Esterhaus would admonish his team, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.” The show usually went through a day in the lives of officers at a single precinct in an unnamed Midwest city. The language was gritty, as realistic as TV would allow at the time. And like most successful shows, the casting was outstanding, no small feat considering that the cast consisted of 15 or 16 regulars each season.

This is one of those times when network executives rewarded quality in spite of low ratings. The show’s first season would normally have let to cancellation, but NBC renewed it for a second season. Or at least, for 10 episodes of a second season. One factor that may have rescued the run is that it dominated the Emmy Awards. People wanted to know what was this program that got a record 21 Emmy nominations, and won eight. They tuned in, the ratings rose, and we got to have 132 episodes of the Blues.

TV Show: Gunsmoke

Gunsmoke ran for 635 episodes over 20 seasons, making it the longest-running prime time drama in TV history. Uploaded by britannica.com.

Did we just completely use up all the storylines for Westerns during the 1950s and 1960s? How can you explain that a whole genre of programming is completely absent from television today and yet was so dominant back then? And the most dominant of them all was Gunsmoke.

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The Western reached its zenith in the late 1950s, when as many as 40 were on at the same time. Remember, there were only three networks at the time. Gunsmoke began its run as a radio program, with portly William Conrad providing the voice of Matt Dillon. It’s said the producers wanted John Wayne for the TV version, but Wayne wouldn’t commit to a TV series. Instead, he recommended his friend James Arness.

Marshal Dillon dealt with typical problems of the West – cattle rustling, gunfights, brawls, and the rest. He had an assistant (first Chester Goode then Festus Haggen), a confidant (Doc Adams), and a, uh, well…”girlfriend,” Miss Kitty.

Gunsmoke ran on CBS for 20 years and, with 635 episodes, still ranks as America’s longest-running prime time drama. It was the top-rated show on TV between 1957 and 1961, and remained a top-rated show throughout its run. Entertainment Weekly ranked Gunsmoke as the number 16 show in its ranking of the Top 100 TV Shows of all time.

TV Show: House M.D.

He's a drug-addicted, misanthropic perfectionist. Which makes him the most interesting doctor in television history. Uploaded by wallpaperweb.org.

You have to admire any show that defies the stereotypes, and House accomplishes what many would have thought impossible – making the lead character a thoroughly rude and unlikable doctor. Gregory House’s mission is to “diagnoses the undiagnosable” – while being one of the biggest egomaniacs in television history.

It’s a great premise, and Hugh Laurie brings it to life brilliantly. He was unable to try out for the part in person because he was in Namibia filming a movie. So he made an audition tape in the hotel bathroom (the only place with enough light) and sent it to the producers. They were taken right away with this “quintessentially American person,” only to learn later that he was, in fact, British. Laurie credits his American accent to “a misspent youth watching too much TV and too many movies.”

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House is not only given a physical handicap in the show, but is also addicted to Vicodin. He takes only the cases he finds interesting, much to the chagrin of hospital administration and fellow doctors. And he comes within a breath of killing all his patients (who he treats with general disdain) before finally finding the amazing cure at the last moment.

House M.D. premiered in 2004, and has been a consistent favorite of both fans and critics ever since. It has been a top 10 show for several seasons, and a top 20 show the rest of the time. And it’s been the most-watched show on the Fox network.

Aside from American Idol, of course. As Dr. House said, “I’ve got to start pretending to care.”