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
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?