Ever since the medium called “television” started to program content that was worth viewing here in the USA, folks that eyeballed this device had started their own list of the best TV programs to tune to. These lists of course, was based on one’s personal tastes in programming.
Rolling Stone magazine has been presenting article listing their “Top 100 Shows of All Time” for a number of years, the last time was back in 2016. They recently revised that list to create another Top 100. The list itself was compiled by asking those folks that wrote about television (“the critics”) as well as those working in the industry including actors, creators, show-runners, writers, directors, producers, along with the for noted critics with the question “Give us your top 50 shows of any genre — no restrictions — defining “best” as whatever it means to you.”
According to RS, only 46 entries were replied to from the others that were sent. RS never stated how many inquiries were send, how they were sent (electronically one can assume) as well as who didn’t necessarily reply. The ones that did are listed through this link, https://www.rollingstone.com/tv-movies/tv-movie-features/best-tv-shows-all-time-voters-1234599937/ and the 100 list can be found at https://www.rollingstone.com/tv-movies/tv-movie-lists/best-tv-shows-of-all-time-1234598313/
This writer never received the inquiry to place my two cents worth. (Maybe they were limited on how many to ask, or maybe I just lost the entry form!) However, I did compile such a listing for another medium source–not so much a top 100, but a number of “top fives”. Here’s how that call began…
In 1977, William Morrow & Company published a book called The Book of Lists that was compiled by writers David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace (his father), and Amy Wallace, Irving’s sibling. This book consisted of lists that dealt in subjects that were historical in nature, as well as unusual and downright amusing and hilarious. Their list consisted of such topics of “Those people of interest that died while on the toilet” or “Most common (and not so common) breed of dogs used as domestic pets”. It was a book that could be read in one sitting, or a book that can be read on a realized basis. It was a best seller through the latter part of the 1970’s. It was first a hardcover book, later becoming available in paperback.
Three other volumes were released shortly after. The second one came out in 1980, the third book of list was leased in 1983, as well as a revised paperback version sometime around 1993. More unusual facts and figures were published and were used by many folks. Radio station DJ’s used selections of the facts as part of their “morning drive” pieces, and newspapers and magazines played their part of points made through these lists for news articles. In short, it was the get-go source to discover these lists that were just as serious as they were funny!
In the 1983 version and on its last page, there was an open solicitation for readers out there to compile their own lists to submit to the publisher. The editors would pour over the submitted lists, and if they found something that would be suitable, that list would be included in the next edition to be published within a few years time. The solicitation included the mailing address to the publisher based in New York City.
When yours truly first glanced through the 1983 edition while browsing through the book at the Waldenbooks outlet once located with the Southdale shopping center in suburban Minneapolis (and later finding the same book in the reference section of the Hennepin County Library, located not too far away from the Southdale shopping complex), I wanted to take advantage of this offer. All I had to do was to jot down my personal list(s) on paper, seal that paper into an envelope, and mail it off to the editorial team at William Morrow & Company when it was part of the Hearst Corporation at the time. Then I would have to wait for an unspecified amount of time to find out if my list would become part of the forth edition of The Book of Lists. I just did this to prove to the book world that I can become a contributing editor of some kind. I never knew if they would even pay be for my entry should it become published. I assume that they would.
So what list could I can compiled that would be of interest to those far beyond my social circles? I knew I could not compose a list of the top five annoying habits of member of my “gang” that I once hung around with. I had to think of some subject that would be of interest to the masses.
Of course, I did find a subject to speak about that was centered around what I did as a job–my identity so to speak! And that subject was television!
Since I was an avid TV watcher from the moment I discovered this magic machine when I was a wee tot, I thought it would be fun to list the top ten favorite TV shows. It was somewhat hard to break that list down, so I condensed it with a top five. Then I realized that my taste for television came and went based on various factors. Mostly, from stages in my own life. I knew that a show (or shows) that were a favorite of mind didn’t hold out through the test of time, while other titles I discovered became my faves long after the fact. So I broke down the lists (more than one list) based upon my own age in life. Since I was starting to compile that list in 1984, I divided my life based upon my age broken down in six year time stretches as I was twenty four at the time. So my lists consisted of my top five TV shows when I was at the age of six, twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four.
So rambling behind my Smith-Corona portable electric typewriter, I typed up my list with this ever-so-important entry. After that list was typed up, I placed that list along with a cover letter, and addressed to the address placed within the book. Now all I had to do was wait for a reply, if I was even going to get a reply. (For the record, I never heard from them!)
So with that being stated, I will reprint that top five list of my favorite TV shows during those landmark stages in my life. I placed them in alphabetical order since I didn’t necessarily have a title I enjoyed better that the other. It was a program I would watch for whatever reason I did. And within this reprint, I will explain in detail toward my reason why I enjoy this program–something I didn’t include to those at William Morrow and Company.
What I will do for this article, I will list my favorite titles from age six, twelve, eighteen, twenty-four, twenty-eight, and so on right up to the age that will be an even number of my six year age cycle. That will end at age sixty. I have yet to reach the age of sixty-six, an age where I can “retire” to live out my life in one of those 55+ active adult communities where I can play golf and pickelball during the day, drive my golf car(t) around the community, and do other things that domestic retirees do when they have nothing else to do but keep busy for the sake of keeping busy!! (Sorry about the editorial there! Perhaps that may be an idea for a future TV series??)
Anyway, for those that are TV history and trivia, one can guess the eras these programs were around and in production. It may give my age away, but that is the way these things seem to work out!
RICH B.’s TOP FIVE FAVORITE TV SHOWS OVER THE YEARS
(Listed in their alphabetical order)
The Danny Kaye Show
The Jackie Gleason Show
The Red Skelton Hour
I enjoyed Batman because it came out of comic books as my elder brother became a comic book collector when the modern era of comic book collecting started in c.1964. I was also like a live action cartoon. Ditto for The Monkees as the four Monkees consisting of Peter, Mickey, David, and Mike were just as comical. Besides, they played songs that were rock ‘ roll that I heard on my local top-40 radio stations. I also enjoyed the Danny Kaye Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, and The Red Skelton Hour as my folks also tuned into those shows. I found Danny Kaye and Red Skelton very childlike as they were grown-up kids. And Jackie Gleason and Red also did skits done in pantomime, something I enjoyed as some of the jokes and gags presented may have been too “grown-up” for me. Jackie did some pantomime, especially when he played his character known as “The Poor Soul”. Red made an effort in appearing in skits without words. In fact, the last skit of the program was called “The Silent Spot” where announcer Art Gilmore would introduce each skit with David Rose and his Orchestra providing the underlined music score while Red was doing his thing. (Jackie’s music score was supplied by Sammy Spear.) In spite of my parent’s interest in these variety shows, they were still my favorites.
All In The Family
The Dean Martin Show
The Flip Wilson Show
Love American Style
Sanford and Son
Variety shows of the musical variety were still part of my favorites, but for different reasons. As a “tweener”, I controlled what I wanted to watch without my folks getting in the way, if not controlling the actual TV set! So everything I was watching was picked by me. However, there was influence such as the case with All In the Family.
That program because the hottest show around dealing in subjects where only a scant few years before, was too “taboo” to speak upon, especially in a situation comedy! Granted, I didn’t necessarily understand the entire scope of subjects that went out in around the Bunker residence located in Queens, New York–even through each episode was introduced by a CBS staff announcer as “From Television City in Hollywood”. (And for the record, that “Television City” wasn’t in “Hollywood”, but on 7800 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles California 90036 as Johnny Olson would say if I wanted to write in for tickets to see The Price Is Right in person–another favorite show of mine that didn’t make the list!)
I enjoyed The Dean Martin Show and Love American Style for different reasons. Dean-o would play the sexy (if not drunken) tux donning host with a bevy of young women that would appear in scantly clad outfits. This bevy of “girls” was billed as “The Golddiggers” that danced and sang on occasion. They were very sexy as well. And Dean would appear in skits and comic routines that played upon their sex appeal that appeared on that NBC program each Thursday night. Love American Style was a program that consisted of an anthology of comical skits and stories that dealt with love, marriage, romance, divorce, and sex based upon the standards and practices that ABC dictated. These two programs were the ones where I learned my lessons in sex education. They didn’t talk about “the birds and the bees” per se, although some skits in LAS hinted on those facts.
I liked The Flip Wilson Show because of the characters he played on the program, very akin to Red Skelton’s collection of characters as well as Jackie Gleason’s. My favorite character the Flip portrayed (and everyone else’s favorite for that matter) was Geraldine Jones, a sassy liberated woman that knew what she wanted using catchphrases such as “The Devil Made Me Do It’ and “What You See Is What You Get”-terms that eventually fell within the American English lexicon. (WYSIWYG is still used by computer programmers and graphic arts designers to this very day!) And I also enjoyed recreating the Flip Wilson “handshake” that consisted of multiple hand slappings, elbow bumps, and butt knockings.
Sanford And Son was a program that took a while for me to get into. I enjoyed Red Foxx playing the childlike Fred Sanford (the “fall guy”) while Demond Wilson played his son Lamont as he was the “straight man”. It was a whole lot better than what The Brady Bunch presented that played opposite of S&S every Friday night. (And no offense to Sherwood Schwartz!!)
NBC’s Saturday Night Live (on occasion)
“Old movies on TV”
The Tomorrow Show
Weekend with Lloyd Dobbins
This is where the list becomes interesting. It appeared that I was beginning to “grow up” as I was turning into the shows that were geared toward an audience that was far older than me. I started to shift from sitcoms and variety shows into news and information programs, as well as a program I tuned into to based on having no choice, followed up with a show that wasn’t a show at all! It was mostly content airing within a time slot.
The Tomorrow Show was a talk program hosted by Tom Snyder that aired Monday through Thursday nights on NBC right after The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and was part of the trio of shows that NBC offered with Today as its first entry, Tonight as its second, and Tomorrow as its third. (There was no “Yesterday” show on NBC’s schedule!) The subjects and guests that Tom had on ranged from topics in the news to those that only can be discussed after 12:00 AM central time, and 1:00 AM eastern/pacific. And many of these topics were sexual in nature. They spoke about the rising porn industry, wife swapping, homosexuality, and where I first heard about transgenders. But they also dealt with lighter topics including those involved in vintage television with guests as Ted Mack who once hosted Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour, Shirley Dinsdale who was a ventriloquist active in the late 1940‘s-early 1950‘s that was the first female to win an Emmy with her dummy Judy Splinters, as well as a program dedicated to NBC’s first late night show, Broadway Open House. And as an adolescent, I did have an interest in vintage TV–an interest I still hold to this very day!
60 Minutes was a program that CBS first aired in 1968 and consisted of a weekly news magazine that resembled a physical magazine complete with article sections, opinion pages, as well as a comical column written and reported by Andy Rooney. It was rather hard to tune in at first as it floated around the CBS schedule that bounced on every other Tuesday nights, Friday nights, and late Sunday afternoons if it wasn’t preempted by professional sports coverage! After the cancellation of the family friendly melodrama series Three For The Road, CBS plunked in to its time slot at 7:00 PM eastern/pacific (6:00 PM central) in December of 1975, where it has remained on the CBS program schedule to this very day. (I didn’t like Three For The Road as I found it as rather silly and stupid!!)
Weekend with Lloyd Dobbins was a “hipper” version of 60 Minutes than only aired once a month on Saturday nights, usually the last Saturday of the month when Saturday Night Live took a break. Many of their segments on Weekend were lighter in nature, some slightly tongue in cheek with subjects never taken seriously. It has the same humor level as SNL, but without using a repertory cast of players and having a studio audience to laugh and applaud with all of the action.
Old movies consisted of time slots that featured old theatrical movies that were released from the 1920s (soundies mostly) through the 1960s. I discovered old movies a few years before, and now I was really taking them seriously rather that watching something that was old and creaky looking, if not having seeing them as black & white. I was lucky enough to live in a major city (Chicago) that has many local channels in my disposal that programmed old movies on their many times slots. CBS affiliate WBBM (channel 2), ABC’s WLS (channel 7), and independent station (and my old movies-on-TV “god”) WGN at channel 9 programmed old movies on Saturday nights from 10:30 PM until its conclusion. Sometimes one channel had a movie that I had an interest in looking at. Sometimes two did, other times all three had a good movie on, while at some time, nobody has a movie that I wanted to watch. They is why I tuned into SNL. It served as a place mark when channels 2, 7, and 9 weren’t “putting out”. Besides, some of the skits and players were indeed funny enough to hold my interest.
(Age Twenty Four)
“Old movies and new(er) movies on the pay channels”
This list has shrunken over the years as many of my faves from the previous years were either gone or took another direction. 60 Minutes was still informative, but I wasn’t devoted to it was I used to be. Old movies still kindred my interests, but I became tired to see them chopped up so the local stations could cram in more commercials. And by then, such cable channels as HBO, Showtimes, Cinemax, and The Movie Channel would air recent (one year after its theatrical release and older) titles without cuts or interruptions, meaning if there were cussing or extreme violence depicted within the movie, the viewer heard and/or saw it as originally intended. Of course, one had to pay for the privilege to see such movies on those channels as they were not advertiser supported. But since I worked for a cable company, I was able to get access to those channels either as free or for a reduced monthly price. Since I now had a VCR at my disposal, I would record those movies off-air to watch them later. That is, if I could find the time to watch my videotapes, let alone TV itself.
“Movies on pay TV” (on occasion)
As I got busy within my life, and with the ol’ VCR (and a mess of black videotapes) at my disposal, I was able to record these shows off-air to watch them later–or not! Sometimes it would take me weeks, months, and even years to “get around” to watching something I taped over the air a long time before. I started to limited my taping because I would have tapes from years before that still remained on my “to watch later” pile. Some of those tapes are still sitting on that same pile to this very day!!)
(Age Thirty Six)
60 Minutes (on occasion)
By now, my life got complicated that ever before. I stopped recording shows off the air knowing I would never look at them. So if I did watch anything on TV, it was something that was only for the moment. Around my thirty-six year age bracket, I recall watching the Golden Globe Awards on NBC because my girlfriend at the time was interested in seeing this awards show. I personally didn’t care for the Globes (something that also remains within my personal tastes), but I did so as an excuse to have her cuddled with me on her couch at her small condo with was slightly messy. She had a comforter thrown on her couch that was handy enough to snuggle up in!
(Age Forty Two)
60 Minutes (on occasion)
By now, “on occasion” meant I would tune in once or twice a season. It was only watched when I had access to a TV set. Then again, local CBS radio affiliate KNX-AM would air the audio portion of 60 Minutes for those that wanted to tune in but didn’t have access to a TV set. Most of what was programmed one can follow by its soundtrack and didn’t necessarily need pictures to follow the news story discussed. I believe KNX still offers this radio version each week.
(Age Forty Eight)
Thant’s right folks. During this age, I tuned into nothing. Following 60 Minutes each Sunday was too bothersome for me. Besides, I had a ton of videotapes as well as DVDs of content that I will yet to access.
(Age Fifty Four)
I had an interest in this series since I was involved in the production of this title that aired on AMC (formally American Movie Classics that programmed older titles and were the dominant source of uncut films before Turner Classic Movies took over the reins!) My involvement in MM was working with its first set decorator, Amy Wells providing props from the mid-century modern era of the late 1940’s through the 1960’s. Not only I enjoyed the stories and its characters, the “eye candy” was just too much and it was accurate to a “T”! (She knew how to dress the inside of a Catholic Church from its pre-Vatican II days!) My first involvement was to provide a sound clip of a telephone dial tone that was used in the early 1960’s. (It wasn’t a sound that was “hummmm” like today, but mostly as a sharp sounding “eehhhh”.) This entry morphed into providing physical props I would find in garage and estate sales I attended each weekend. I got a cheap thrill to see props and set dressings that I provided that may still have my fingerprints on ‘em! One prop I sold to the production crew that I regret doing so was a copy of the 1962 edition of the yellow pages as issued by Pacific Telephone for the San Fernando Valley. And I never saw that prop in any episode! Besides, what would the folks at Sterling Cooper Advertising do with a yellow pages directory for the San Fernando Valley area? (Amy, if you still have that phone book, please contact me!!)
I turned sixty about a month after the pandemic was rearing its ugly head where folks were forced to batten down the hatches because somebody big, bad, and unknown was out there ready to grab (and kill) you! Folks did hunker down, this time armed with the big-screen TV devices, as well as their laptops, electronic pads, and their smartphones. Streaming media was being introduced, and became part of the “new normal” that lives on today. I myself started to watch a massive collection of videotapes consisting of vintage TV programs that were recorded off the air by a person from the early 1970’s until he passed away in the middle 2010’s. One program I would watch again was The Tomorrow Show (see my list of favorites as age eighteen) that a TV fan recorded off the air. Many of these episode I recall watching back in the day when they first aired, in addition to a few I missed for various reasons now long forgotten. What made it interesting that I was watching these episode again with an “adult” mind, rather than as a younger kid that stayed up late at night (on a school night as that) just because I wanted to see such guests as Soupy Sales, or an episode that featured those involved in creating animated cartoons.
I did try some feeble attempt to watch some “newer” TV titles, only to discover that those titles may be the greatest thing to binge upon, but not for me! I personally watched the first ten minutes of the Netflix documentary series Tiger King after shutting the program off! After all, I knew this pandemic would be over soon so I can do out and do my normal stuff. One can only participate in Zoom meetings so many times!
So that is my list of favorite TV shows. It won’t be another four years until my next entry of six year apart will be due. But I don’t think it’s going to hold a list of titles. By then, TVs and the programming with it will be bigger, badder, and more accessible that ever before. As to being better? That’s another a subject limited to taste and accessibility. And the notion as The Book of List still remains. This time, it’s hidden and found through blog posts, podcasts, TikToc entries, and other portals that make up the world of social media. And yours truly entered that realm by placing this list in this edition of AccessiblyLiveOffLine.com found in cyberspace. I try to get within the flow!
And as the late Tom Snyder would say at the end of his program, “Goooood Night Everybody!!”
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