Last year TV/Media blog South Dakota Dark undertook a massive effort to rank well, all U.S. television series, ever. Todd, the author, scares me a little; dude’s watched a shitload of television. But scary in a good way, because he’s able to speak intelligently about that huge morass of content and give the history of television some context. He states you have to decide if you’re going to rate based on favoritism, sheer greatness or level of influence. I decided to throw all of that out and rate everything by some weird combination of the three. With that as a starting point, he’s written an entertaining and verbose treatise on well, all the television shows, ever.
You can certainly jump to number one and see who “won.” But the point of it all is really his discussion of these landmark television shows, why they worked, why some failed, and why they mattered. It’s about how one show influenced many others and shaped the entire medium of television. I actually liked the bulk of the list more than the top, because there’s not many surprises or overlooked gems at those lofty heights.
I’ve head of the Dick Van Dyke Show, but I’ve never seen it. Todd’s explanation on how it was structured, and why that lead to so many story possibilities is the first time I’ve actually given a shit. Lists like this so often devolve into “blah blah blah, I liked it.” Like any critic, Todd’s giving his personal opinion, but he can back it up with why it worked from a critical point of view. He talks intelligently about how SportCenter (a show I’ve never watched) contributed to the style of The Daily Show. Naturally, The Muppet Show was a variety show, but I’d never realized it had a bit of sitcom mixed in until he was pointed out.
And lots of behind the scenes stuff too. Northern Exposure had David Chase as a show runner? Rod Sterling almost wasn’t the host of Twilight Zone? Early Sesame Street now comes with a not safe for children sticker?
Also: Each series is also accompanied by a youtube clip of the series in question, doubling or tripling the time-wasting potential of this blog series. (note: I didn’t watch many clips, can’t comment on quality). Like losing days of my life to reading much of this wasn’t enough, I’ve now got a whole bunch more television shows on my never ending to-watch list.
The supplemental lists are also worth perusing. I especially enjoyed the discussion of Cable Networks. It’s a bit more than “HBO make good drama”.
If there was one thing lacking from this all it was a clear entry point into the massive text. Thus was born this article. We’ve spent enough time reading the forward, let’s get to the list: