A whimsical look at life growing up in the small town of Waldron, Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s, plus occasional observations from the present. Want to start at the very beginning? Click HERE.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Five Best TV Shows Ever

The much celebrated blogger Suldog has produced another classic; his five all-time favorite TV shows.  You can read Sully's choices here.  In addition, he has challenged other bloggers to do the same.  Well, since watching TV is one of the things I do best, here is my list of the all time best TV shows ever.  Sully has specified that this list is only for shows not in current production, so that means excellent shows like Mad Men, The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and New Girl are not eligible.  But you should watch them.  They're really good.

So, without further ado, here is my list of the Greatest Television Shows of All Time:

Number 1:  The Andy Griffith Show

Many people of my age are convinced that we grew up in towns identical to Mayberry.  That may be largely a figment of our imaginations, but The Andy Griffith Show was so carefully crafted with bits of realism that it seemed there was always something we could relate to.  That is why this show has stood the test of time.  It was originally developed with the idea that Andy Griffith would be the source of the comedy, but after it became apparent that Don Knott's character of Barney Fife was particularly humorous, the direction of the show changed and it all began to come together, with Andy playing the straight man to Barney's foibles. 

With the rich characterizations of series regulars Gomer Pyle, Thelma Lou, Helen, and the outlandish Earnest T. Bass and the Darling Family, and the wonderfully crafted scripts from the likes of Everett Greenbaum and Jim Frizzell among others, the show became a big hit for CBS in the early and mid 60s.  It's a show that I always watch when I see it on TV today.

Number 2:  The Twilight Zone

Quirky, original, and sometimes scary, The Twilight Zone was perhaps the most well-written television show ever.  Rod Serling, the chain-smoking host and creator, introduced each episode.  It's fun to watch the show today and see several well-known stars who were probably very thankful to get to star in an episode of The Twilight Zone when they were just starting out. My favorite episode is "The Hitchhiker," and I still get a chill up my spine when Inger Stevens looks in her rear view mirror and discovers the hitchhiker in her back seat.  What really made the series stand out was the clever twist that occurred at the end of each episode, something that you never saw coming but that would inevitably explain the events that had unfolded.  Great, great writing.

Number Three:  Are You Being Served?

A BBC show from the seventies, Are You Being Served? chronicles the hilarious exploits of the staff of Grace Brothers Department Store in London.  Slapstick, outrageous farce dominates each episode, with particular humor coming from Mrs. Slocum and the extreme difficulties she has with her cat.  My favorite character was Mr. Grainger, the elderly senior salesman.  The show poked fun at the British class system, with the employees expected to follow specific rules of dress and behavior based upon their ranking.  This show never fails to make me laugh.

Number Four:  Fawlty Towers

And speaking of slapstick, Fawlty Towers does that better than any other show.   Another BBC show from the seventies, the show features John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, the owner of a hapless hotel called, naturally, "Fawlty Towers."  The humor comes from the interplay between Basil and his domineering wife Sybil.  Since Basil lives in complete fear of Sybil, it results in his bullying of his employee Manuel, who comes from Spain and encounters many hilarious problems because of his unfamiliarity with the English language. 

The outrageous, improbable disasters that befall Basil on a regular basis are responsible for the hilarity of this series.  Another one that I never miss when I find it on TV.

Number Five:  Our World

I must include one show that you've probably never heard of.  Our World was produced for about one season in the 1980s by ABC News.  It was hosted by Ray Gandolf and Linda Ellerbee, and each week took the viewer back in time to a specific time period in the 20th century.  In depth stories about the events going on in America at that time were presented, such as the development of Levittown or the panic that ensued after Orson Wells convinced radio audiences that we were being invaded by Martians. 

The show never took off, which is unfortunate.  It was really interesting TV.

Honorable Mention 1:  All Creatures Great and Small

This BBC series was based on the books by James Herriot, the British veterinarian and author (real name Alf Wight).  The stunning beauty of the Yorkshire region of England was the series backdrop, and young James traveled around the countryside treating the animals of the farmers of the region.  I still have a strong desire to go to England and see Yorkshire after watching this show.  I also recommend the books by James Herriot. 

Honorable Mention 2:  Newhart

Bob Newhart was able to perfect the character of the everyday man who seemed to be humorously at the mercy of the loony people around him.  The humor came from his attempts to maintain calm in the face of the improbable events that unfolded around him.  The show's opening scene of a drive through the beautiful forests of New England set the tone for this show, and it never failed to deliver some good laughs. 

So, there's a look at my favorites.  How about yours?


  1. Bunch of great shows you chose here. I like all of them, and three (Andy Griffith, Are You Being Served, and Twilight Zone) were among those on my short list that I winnowed to the five I finally chose.

    I have a very fond spot in my heart for Linda Ellerbee. She was the host of an overnight news broadcast on NBC during the late 70's or early 80's, and I watched it (while on night shift as a security guard) mostly for her delivery, wit, and humanity. I think she's one of the most underrated TV personalities of our time.

  2. I left my list (more like a rambling bag o' reminiscence) over at Suldog's.

    Good list, and thanks especially for the stuff from the Beeb. I haven't seen as much of 'Fawlty Towers' as I'd have liked; now you make me remember how much I've wanted to give it a more thorough look. Cleese is hilarious. . . Our local PBS station ran 'All Creatures' and 'Are You Being Served?' back-to-back for years, and I'm familiar with both of them. I thought 'All Creatures' was wonderfully done.


  3. I'm surprised you left off "Uncle Zeb's Cartoon Camp"!

  4. Commercials normally occupy almost 18 minutes of every prime time hour. For a typical 20-episode 1-hour series, a whopping 6 hours can be saved by watching it on DVD.

  5. AnonymousJune 03, 2015

    Beverly Hillbillies. Watching it as a child, I didn't really connect with the idea that my one set of grandparents came from the Hills of Arkansas, which explained their speech patterns. My grandfather actually sounded like Jed, but he was just Grandpa. I don't think he had a high school diploma, but when he retired from auto body work, he was seldom seen without a book in his hand. He watched TV news faithfully every night and dinner had to be on the table in time to facilitate that. The family joke was,
    'Roy! Come Quick! Little Timmy fell in the well, you've gotta Save him! and Roy saying "not now; I'm watchin' m' News program." ("I am Walter Cronkite and this...is the News")

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