January 18, 2019

Around the dial

I'm not really sure just how much stock to put in lists, and that includes—perhaps especially—my own. They're always fun to read, though, which is why the Classic TV Blog Association, to which I proudly belong, recently polled its members on the 25 Greatest Classic TV Series of all time.

Part of the challenge with contributing to a list like this lies in the guidelines. In this case, programs were limited to those that aired in prime time, and debuted prior to 1990. We were also asked to consider criteria such as enduring popularity, social impact, and influence on other TV series. In other words, this isn't simply a list of favorite television shows.

  1. The Twilight Zone
  2. I Love Lucy 
  3. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  4. Columbo
  5. All in the Family
  6. Dragnet
  7. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
  8. Star Trek
  9. The Prisoner
  10. M*A*S*H
  11. The Dick Van Dyke Show
  12. The Fugitive
  13. Dallas
  14. Doctor Who
  15. The Andy Griffith Show
  16. The Defenders
  17. The Golden Girls
  18. Perry Mason
  19. SCTV
  20. The Honeymooners
  21. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
  22. Hill Street Blues
  23. The Odd Couple
  24. The Outer Limits
  25. The Avengers

For the record, I believe two of my choices made the top 10, and there are perhaps a half-dozen in the top 25 that I definitely wouldn't have put on any list. A couple of them are shows that I didn't have, but heartily approve of; likewise, I grudgingly included two that I don't particularly like, but had to acknowledge their cultural and/or historical significance. Some of you might be taken aback by shows that I omitted, or equally surprised by those I included. (Being a coward at heart, I'm refraining from being any more specific than that.)

The Last Drive In, Comfort TV, and Classic Film and TV Café have particularly good takes on the results. Ultimately, though, television is, or at least was, something very personal to people—as I've written before, the most personal of all communications media. A particular program may bring back memories of where you were, what you were doing, or what was happening when you watched it, and something like that is impossible to quantify. If there's any program here that you've never seen before but are encouraged to check out because it's on the list, then we've done our job as curators of the past. What are your thoughts—where do you agree or disagree?

In other news...

It was 67 years ago this week that The Today Show premiered on NBC, and at Garroway at Large, Jodie gives us a look at what the critics had to say on the morning after. Hint: I doubt many of them thought we'd be having this conversation 67 years later.

The Hitchcock Project moves on to writer James P. Cavanagh, as Jack at bare-bones e-zine looks at the first season episode "The Hidden Thing." I'm afraid  I'll have to agree with Jack that what was most hidden in this episode was a satisfying resolution.

It's Bart Maverick's turn to lead on Maverick Mondays at The Horn Section, as Hal reviews the fifth-season episode "The Golden Fleecing." James Garner's long-since left Maverick, but Jack Kelly does his best in a good, but not quite great, evocation of the show's past.

At Cult TV, the emphasis is on the late '70s and the British police drama Target. As John points out, Target was a series known for its violence, and the episode "Blow Out" is perhaps one of the most violent, along with some suspect police methods.

The Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland links to this provocative article at Dazed on how Soul Train was "the most radical show on American television." Never watched it myself, so I appreciate this kind of serious analysis as to its cultural weight.

At Television Obscurities, Robert is once again taking on the task of documenting a year in TV Guide, from beginning to end. This time it's 1989, and since that's not a time period that I generally write about myself, I'm very much looking forward to these weekly recaps.  TV  


  1. Mitchell,
    Was the list of 25 programs an average of what all the bloggers input? Do you care to share your own top 25 list? While I'm sure I could create a list of 25 of my favorite programs, I don't think I could factor in cultural significance as well. Like you, I don't think I even like some of the shows on that last and haven't seen all of them.

  2. Now I'm really curious about your top ten list!

    1. I may well have to reply to you and Jon and publish my list. But I'll have to make some explanations... wait - I bet I can get another blog post out of it!

  3. The list includes some mediocrities, excludes some classics. Not much credibility.

  4. Let's not forget St. Elsewhere....the show that took us from Medical Center and Marcus Welby, MD to something that actually resembled the daily chaos of a real hospital..


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