For someone who bemoans television, I certainly have absorbed enough of it in 34 years of living.
Like everyone else, I’ve got my favourite shows: the ones I’ll leave on if they’re filling broadcast space, or the ones I’ll set the PVR to tape if I’m not around to watch.
There’s a quote by George Sanders in the film All About Eve that sums up my perspective of TV nicely: “That’s all television is my dear, nothing but auditions.”
Still, TV is a part of pop culture. I grew up loving ’70s and ’80s detective shows like The Rockford Files, McCloud, Banacek, McMillan and Wife, Remington Steele, Magnum P.I., Hart to Hart and The Equalizer. Then that progressed to a show that sated paranormal yens, The X-Files.
During my university days, I would catch an episode of Law and Order here and there, try to watch Third Watch or witness the show I did like disappear because reality television was decimating society’s creativity.
But that’s a rant for another time. Here are my Top 25 TV shows (cartoons excluded). An honourable mention should be given to the Canadian show E.N.G. with Art Hindle, Sara Botsford and Mark Humphrey. It played a small role in my media interest.
|25.||Show: Two and A Half Men
On TV: 2003-Present
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Angus T. Jones, Jon Cryer, Conchata Ferrell, Holland Taylor, Ashton Kutcher
Why: Let’s get one thing straight, I only liked the show when Charlie Sheen was on it. Why? Well, he kept Alan Harper’s neuroses in check with his insolent ways. Kutcher’s character just enables Alan’s shenanigans.
On TV: 1970-1977
Cast: Dennis Weaver, J.D. Cannon, Terry Carter
Why: Before I was introduced to McCloud, I had no idea where Taos, New Mexico was. Admittedly, I wasn’t even a forethought in my parents’ eyes when this show first aired, but during the Summer of ’93, I was introduced to it on the A&E network.
|23.||Show: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
On TV: 1990-1996
Cast: Will Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro, James Avery, Karyn Parsons, Tatyana Ali, Joseph Marcell
Why: When a room is quiet, and you feel a hankering to fill the dead air, it’s not uncommon to hear a Gen-Xer or Gen-Yer let out a boisterous, “Now this is a story …” Things were so much easier in childhood.
|22.||Show: The Following
On TV: 2013-Present
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Natalie Zea, Shawn Ashmore, Valerie Curry, James Purefoy, Annie Parisse
Why: Every now and again there’s a show that restores my faith in television, albeit riddled in tired tropes and cliches. Still, The Following caught my attention long enough to watch a new Manson family go down the rabbit hole.
|21.||Show: The Walking Dead
On TV: 2010-Present
Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Steve Yuen, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Sarah Wayne Callies, Jon Bernthal
Why: Zombies. On television no less. That pretty much sums it up. That, and they disturbed me with the death of a horse in the second episode. The only scene in The Ring that creeped me out was the horse jumping off the boat. No different here.
On TV: 1972-1983
Cast: Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Jamie Farr, William Christopher, Harry Morgan, Mike Farrell, Gary Burghoff
Why: I don’t think it’s possible to get closer to combat medics without being in Korea during the war than with this show. From beginning to end it jabbed us in the funny bone, without ignoring the fact there was a war going on.
|19.||Show: American Gothic
On TV: 1995-1996
Cast: Gary Cole, Lucas Black, Paige Turco, Brenda Bakke, Sarah Paulson
Why: The Gothic horror charm of the mid-’90s story was what attracted me to it. It didn’t have a bad cast. I guess it was a tad too much for the mid-’90s crowd.
|18.||Show: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
On TV: 1999-Present
Cast: Mariska Hargitay, Chris Meloni, Richard Belzer, Dann Florek, Ice-T, B.D. Wong
Why: Gritty and rugged with a side order of disturbing, SVU is the bastard child Law and Order didn’t want. Detectives Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler made the show. John Munch and Fin Tutuola are great characters too.
On TV: 1971-2003
Cast: Peter Falk, John Finnegan, Bruce Kirby
Why: The old glass-eyed detective in the rumpled overcoat. You know just one thing, and it’s probably silly, but I like the way Colombo always made the criminal second guess their alibis. Especially when he duped Johnny Cash.
On TV: 2009
Cast: Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, Courtney B. Vance, Gabrielle Union, Jack Davenport, Dominic Monaghan
Why: FlashForward was another victim of a viewing public that has had its brain whittled away by reality television. Anything remotely creative, and not following the reality tropes gets canned. I liked the foresight this show had.
On TV: 1990-1998
Cast: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander
Why: There are so many reasons to like this show from its characters to its lack of plot. Still, the hijinks that four folks in New York City can get up to is unforgettable. Yo-Yo Ma!
|14.||Show: Seaquest DSV
On TV: 1993-1996
Cast: Roy Scheider, Jonathan Brandis, Don Franklin, Peter Deluise, Stacy Haiduk, Marco Sanchez
Why: It’s ironic a guy that is afraid of deep water liked a show about a submersible exploring the depths of the ocean. Regardless, I watch Seaquest DSV, and even bought a T-shirt in a Detroit, Mich. mall back in 1994.
|13.||Show: The A Team
On TV: 1983-1987
Cast: George Peppard, Mr. T, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz
Why: I ask myself why I liked this show growing up, but there’s something about a plan when it comes together. Often times, this quartet of military misfits would come together to help a poor soul who is being assailed by baddies.
On TV: 1995-2000
Cast: Jerry O’Connell, Cleavant Derricks, Kari Wuhrer, Sabrina Lloyd, John Rhys-Davies
Why: Maybe I actually like science fiction. But there has to be some sort of catch. With me it’s Michio Kaku’s string theory. The idea is our realm of reality isn’t the only one.
|11.||Show: Blue Bloods
On TV: 2010-Present
Cast: Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes
Why: Magnum PI’s return to the small screen, but as the patriarch of a cop family. Some may interpret the family dinners at the end of each episode as some sort moral smugness, but I find them refreshing.
On TV: 2004-2012
Cast: Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard, Jesse Spencer, Lisa Edelstein
Why: Admittedly, House got a little long in the tooth. I think it jumped the shark for me, when Dr. House started singing and dancing in his dreams. Still, when the show was in its early stages, House’s misanthropy was the show’s foundation.
On TV: 2006-2008
Cast: Skeet Ulrich, Ashley Scott, Lennie James, Gerald McRaney, Pamela Reed
Why: This show started out with a bang, and then heaped on the conspiracy theories and the disarray of human civilization. It had great writing, which led to its demise. Fans however, spoke up and CBS brought it back. Unfortunately it was so watered down in order to catch a wider audience.
|8.||Show: Law and Order
On TV: 1990-2010
Cast: Jerry Orbach, Angie Harmon, S. Epatha Merkerson, Sam Waterston, Steven Hill
Why: It was another high-breed crime drama that combined both the detectives who investigated crimes, and the lawyers who who prosecuted the criminals. I know I’m borrowing from the show’s intro, but from it’s memorable theme, written by Mike Post, to the segue music, this show was class.
|7.||Show: The River
On TV: 2012
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Leslie Hope, Joe Anderson, Eloise Mumford
Why: Since Oren Peli broke into the horror world with Paranormal Activity, he’s had his hand in pretty much anything synonymous with eerie, terrifying and disturbing. The River tried to push the envelope on what TV audiences could handle, and unfortunately after eight episodes, it was cancelled.
|6.||Show: Third Watch
On TV: 1999-2005
Cast: Coby Bell, Skipp Sudduth, Jason Wiles, Molly Price, Kim Raver, Eddie Cibrian
Why: Cops, firefighters and EMS attendants might be tired themes in the TV world, but I liked this show. The characters were quite intriguing and when they wrote someone out, they wrote them out.
On TV: 2003-2005
Cast: Michael J. Anderson, Clancy Brown, Clea Duvall, Nick Stahl
Why: The battle between good and evil was not as clear cut as one would have expected in this HBO series. It was only on for two season, but it’s biblical allusions set against a Dust Bowl backdrop with carnies as the players was refreshing.
|4.||Show: The Rockford Files
On TV: 1974-1980
Cast: James Garner, Noah Beery, Jr., Joe Santos, Stuart Margolin, Gretchen Corbett
Why: Well, I wasn’t very old when this show was airing on television, but during my summer vacations (while still in school) A&E would air old detective shows, and I liked the anti-hero shenanigans of Jim Rockford.
On TV: 2004-2010
Cast: Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Jorge Garcia, Terry O’Quinn, Michael Emerson
Why: For years the networks tried to bring a paranormal-themed show back to the small screen, yet it failed because viewers were too … well … unimaginative. Then came J.J. Abrams’ to the rescue.
|2.||Show: Magnum P.I.
On TV: 1980-1988
Cast: Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley, Larry Manetti
Why: Obviously I didn’t start watching the show from its inception, but as a five year old, I watched it with my mom and got hooked. The film noir narrations were great.
|1.||Show: The X Files
On TV: 1993-2002
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Robert Patrick, Annabeth Gish
Why: During my high school years I was interested in the paranormal. One classmate, back in grade 9, asked me if I watch The X Files, and that’s what drew me to the show. The first episode I saw was “Squeeze”. After that, I watched every single episode until its conclusion in 2002.