Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our third calendar year!|
Number 95 (Vol 3, No. 3). This edition is for the week of January 14--20, 2002.
This week's nuttiness and New Top Ten List
George Dubya vs pretzel.....Tony Dungy fired as Bucs' Coach.....N' Sync not N' Star Wars
You just never know. There were the usual doom prophets screaming about the "Zero year curse" when President Bush took office. (You remember that one? That no president has entered office in a year ending with a "0" and lived---or at least had his life extremely threatened.) I, myself, was incredulous
that these same folks were crowing about Sunday afternoon's event.
According to the initial reports, seems Prez George Dubya was relaxing on the sofa watching an NFL playoff game when he choked on a pretzel and fainted. He managed to bruise his cheek and bust his lip on the way down. He was only out a few seconds (reportedly) because, when he came to, he noticed his dogs hadn't moved from their spot in front of the TV. He was examined by the White House doc and deemed to be OK.
Now it's too bad he passed out and everything, and I'm glad he's OK, but I couldn't help thinking the only reason we're even hearing about this is because of the facial marring. Otherwise why would this even be reported? We don't hear about every attack of diarrhea or vomiting do we? (Well, occasionally, if it's in front of another national leader or something...) But he was expecting to appear at a midwest function the next day and, obviously, would have to field
questions like "what happened to your face?" Spin doctors to the rescue.
To be fair, in a later encounter with the press he clarified that it was his eyeglasses that cut his cheek. And his doctor says (and I love this) that "the president didn't exactly choke...the pretzel went down the wrong way and it pinched a nerve that made his heart slow causing a momentary loss of consciousness." (Italics mine.) Whew--damn those pretzels! You never know when they're gonna turn on you!
Nolan's take: while watching the NFL playoffs, he probably lept up out of the sofa to yell at the referees (like, ya know, we all do) and when he went to draw a breath--OOPS--sucked down a pretzel bit. Combined with getting up too quickly, combined with the fact that he told people he thought he was coming down with a cold....well, there you go. How embarrassing. The fate of the free world hinged on a bad reaction to a football game and some errant pretzel bits. But how very American.
Tony Dungy fired
This is very rare sports talk from me, because I'm not a big sports fan. However, if you're a football fan, a Tampa Bay Bucs fan, or simply a resident of the Tampa/Tampa Bay area (my category), it's inescapable news and a very big deal. And, the fever is, to an extent, infectious (my fellow sports-haters would no doubt disagree with that last one). I am a sympathizer, tho.
Buccaneer coach Tony Dungy was fired from his position as head coach in the early evening hours of Monday night, 1-14-02. Citing reasons of lackluster performance by the team owners, the Glazers, is somewhat ironic seeing as Dungy was the Bucs most winning coach with an outstanding record. Talk about being a victim of the expectations you yourself created...
Bill Parcells was named as Dungy's replacement, altho contract-signing won't happen until week's end.
(UPDATE, 1-18-02: Parcells officially declined the Bucs' offer. As of this writing, the position is still open.)
"Daddy, daddy, can N' Sync be in your movie, pleeeeeeeeeeezzz?"
This is another hoot I heard over the weekend. And it also has various spins. Originally reported, the boy band N' Sync was drafted to be in the already iffy "Star Wars: Episode 2--Attack of the Clones" because George Lucas's teenage(?) daughters pestered him to include them. Then, after their scenes were shot (a VERY brief appearance), and after the press was notified, a fan outcry against the move forced Lucas to withdraw the idea and cut the boys from the film. One of the band members, all
sullen and depressed, relayed to the press his melancholy that the fans outcry had had that effect. That was then...
This is now....according to a Lucas spokesperson, the decision about N' Sync will be made at final edit and not before--and that no final decision has been made one way or the other. And that George Lucas does what he wants, when he wants to. So nyah! (As further evidence of Lucas's resistance to common sense, the spokesman reminded everyone that Jar Jar Binks is returning in Episode 2.)
About the Mike/Matt fantasy football challenge: I actually meant to mention this weirdness in the year-end PCR. Folks, I don't know any more about this than you do. There hadn't been a Matt's Rail in months that failed to mention this oddball item obviously aimed at Mike Smith, and yet Mike, in his Rant or otherwise, has never addressed or even acknowleged it. I don't know what the game is, what the rules are, or if Mike's even listening, but it seems to be real important to Matt. This "contest" or whatever, finally ended in PCR #93. So, Mike, please, did any
of that make any sense to you? Please comment. (UPDATE, 1-17-02: He comments in the current "Mike's Rant".) And, speaking of Mike...
|MIKE'S CHALLENGE. This has been a long time in coming, but I'm glad it's finally here. All the way back in PCR #82 and #83, Mike Smith tried to get us going on what seemed obvious and long overdue: a challenge to staff and readers alike for their lists of the Top Ten TV Shows of all time.
Originally, Mike excluded Saturday/Sunday morning cartoons and that sort of thing. I then realized that simply saying "shows" would also include holiday specials, special news reports, and one-time football games. Regardless of whatever special memories may be tied up in any if these, I don't believe that was the intent of the challenge. So, to clarify: send in your list of the Top Ten TV Series of All Time. We'll save cartoons, specials, and Super Bowl games for another time.|
|Special add'l disclaimers and cop-outs: Like always (top ten albums, guitarists, movies, etc. from past lists), I have trouble mix/matching my favorites from the best crafted. They only overlap about half the time. The former involves guilty pleasures, the latter reflects my judgement of taste and artistry. OK, that being said, I decided to bail on a separate column for "The Best" (temptation for hypocrisy--did I really watch all of "Rich Man, Poor Man"?), but will save some honorable mentions for the end.---Nolan|
|THE TOP TEN TELEVISION SERIES OF ALL TIME Nolan Canova|
10. DOCUMENTARIES. First cop-out, I have to put a class of program here at 10, because I love them all equally. Mostly science and show-biz docs. From PBS's "Nova", to Carl Sagan's "Cosmos", to an obscure Walter Cronkite-narrated "The 21st Century" short-run PBS series (which likely nobody but me remembers), to all the wonderful "behind-the scenes of movies" docs, to the current Discovery/Learning Channel ones about cavorting with dinosaurs, I never find these boring and have learned much.
9. THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL. Better than "Don Kirchner's Rock Concert" I thought, brought hard-to-see rock acts to center stage. For all its commerciality, I found it very progressive, even scoring rare "raps" with Chuck Berry and Frank Zappa (who pronounced the program "loathsome at best"---ha ha, he slays me).
8. SAT NITE LIVE/THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW/LUCY SHOW. Tied for 8th place, you may be surprised to see these comedy shows on my list at all, let alone at the same tier. I never missed a Carol Burnett Show in all its 9-year run. Remarkably consistent, with outstanding writing and performances from Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Dick van Dyke for a while. The Vicki Lawrence characterization of "Mama", begun on Burnett's show, spun off into its own series.
Saturday Night Live was incredibly progressive in its first few years and it started countless comedians on their way to greater success. The show seems to have stalled and the current bunch can't seem to lift off. Arguably, Michael Myers may be the most successful ex-cast member, with Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray not far behind.
I grant the original "I Love Lucy" the classic status it deserves, but found the sometimes excessive slapstick more scary than funny. (It won't surprise anyone my favorite one was where Lucy dressed up as Superman and George Reeves shows up.) I much preferred "The Lucy Show" from the '60s. I think it was the way big stars would wind up being neighbors or something.
7. MASH. Alan Alda and company survived numerous cast and staff changes over the years and, miraculously, wound up stronger. A period piece about army surgeons surviving the Korean war that is timeless. "Dramedy" at its finest.
6. THE X-FILES. The only entry from the 90s, and the only series here still in production. Chris Carter, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson took the paranormal and made it a palatable ratings hit like hadn't been done in ages. Spawned one major motion picture to date. May self-destruct soon without Duchovny.
5. STAR TREK/STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION. I wouldn't be an official baby-boomer without a nod to Captain Kirk, now would I? Ha ha. William Shatner and company were heroes for the space-age, replacing the cowboys vs Indians who came before them. Many of my colleagues may put this much higher on their lists, but I was never as enamored of the original series as I was "The Next Generation" (Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner). However, it would be ridiculous to minimalize the original's TREMENDOUS influence on sci-fi fans and fandom in general. An argument could be made that modern sci-fi fandom began with--or was at least was homogenized by--Star Trek.
4. THE OUTER LIMITS. ('60s version, but the '90s one wasn't too bad). This was a killer show. The major difference between the series from the '60s and the one from the '90s? In the former, the "moral" to the story is that science MUST move forward, even tho people got hurt, maimed, deformed or killed by the experiments. The latter series took a disappointingly "PC" approach--as soon as someone stubs a toe, PULL THE PLUG, science stops here. The latter series had improved effects (naturally), but the former was more exciting for breaking ground.
3. THE TWILIGHT ZONE. ('50s and '60s version, altho the '80s one wasn't that bad). Rod Serling is a hero on so many levels as to defy categorization. A modern Renaissance man, he wrote some of the most groundbreaking television of his day and, some would say, ever. Then he stood under a boom microphone and hosted the show himself in a way that is widely imitated, but never surpassed. If I catch an episode today, even halfway thru, I watch it to the end. And it's still good. Amazing stories, amazing performances.
2. THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. ('50s version). George Reeves' Superman, to me, will always and forever be the truist version. (Christopher Reeve (no relation) is a very close #2, and his Clark Kent was actually superior.) Altho reruns don't play in the Tampa area anymore, I can tell you that up until a few years ago, I was still watching this show and became 10 years old again every time. When I was a kid, I wanted to fly so bad I could taste it, but I never jumped off a house to try it. If a gangster faced George Reeves' Superman, he was totally f&*kd. You knew it and he knew it.
I'm afraid I found the 90's version, "Lois and Clark" very lame. Very romantic, but very lame. Altho Lois was and is a knockout (Terry Hatcher is currently successful in commercials), the guy who played Superman--Dean Cain--was too short, too sensitive, and too Asian-looking or something. And I hated the shiny costume.
1. LOST IN SPACE. There, I've said it for all the world to see. Altho very dated-looking now, this Irwin Allen production was pretty much life-changing at the time (I was 10 when it premiered). I had already had my appetite whetted by The Adventures of Superman, the occasional Creature Feature, and comic books galore when this came along and knocked my socks off. I will debate anybody on how that first season has yet to be topped by anything similar since. Space fiction/fantasy at its finest. The portrayal of Dr. Zachary Smith by Jonathan Harris is in a league of its own, and the Robot's constant knee-jerk "Danger, Will Robinson" has become part of the Americana lexicon of pop phrases.
The big-budget 1998 movie with a new cast sucked dog balls and I found it insulting.
The original came under some controversy when it arose that Irwin Allen may have...er...accidentally...lifted the idea for Lost in Space from Ib Melchoir's "Space Family Robinson". I, myself, believe he likely did, but it remains in dispute. Honorable mention: any other Irwin Allen shows from the '60s (Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants) rate very highly with me. I also liked his kitchy movies, but that's another subject for another day.
Very Honorable Mentions: anyone who knows me knows I'm a fanatic about weird '60s television, so this was an exceptionally hard list to put together. Along with those mentioned are some other notable and influential productions, namely Sherwood Schwartz' "Gilligan's Island" (still compulsively watched...best episode: Phil Silvers as Harold Hecuba), Paul Henning's "The Beverly Hillbillies" ("Petticoat Junction", et.al., too), ABC's "Batman" (Adam West, Burt Ward), "My Favorite Martian" (Ray Walston, Bill Bixby), "My Living Doll" (a pre-Catwoman Julie Newmar), "Blondie" (Jim Backus as Mr. Dithers--lasted about 6 months; does anyone else remember this?), "My Mother, The Car" (Jerry Van Dyke, Ann Southern, Avery Schreiber---yes, I thought it rocked), "Captain Nice" (Alice Ghostley and a pre-St. Elsewhere William Daniels), "Mr. Terrific" (similar to Captain Nice, but I don't remember the stars' names, sorry), "The Good Guys" (Herb Edelman and post-Gilligan's Isle, Bob Denver and Alan Hale, Jr.), "Get Smart" (Don Adams, Barbara Feldon),
I'm gonna sneak two cartoons in here: "The Flintstones" and "Johnny Quest". Back to live action: "It's About Time" (comedy about 2 astronauts sent back in time--used Gilligan's Island props and sets. Starred Imogene Coca and the guy from Car 54 who said "Ooh..ooh"), "The Addams Family" (do, do, do, do...snap...snap. John Astin and Carolyn Jones), "The Munsters" (with Fred Gwynn in a role he grew to hate. Also Yvonne de Carlo in what was arguably her last role. Al "Grandpa" Lewis is still rocking today in his 90s!), and "Dragnet" (Jack Webb and Harry Morgan). A few that made it into the 70s were "Hawaii, 5-0" (How did Jack Lord get his hair to stand up like that?), "Kolchak: the Night Stalker" (starred Darren McGavin; based on the outstanding TV-movie of the same name), "All in the Family", and I loved the miniseries, "Roots". The only thing I remember from the '80s was "MASH" as I already said. "Cheers" didn't thrill me like everyone else, but it certainly wasn't bad. I seem to remember getting more into cable-only television programs in the '80s. That was a cool time.
The 90s? "Nowhere Man" (lasted one season, but I thought it rocked), "The X-Files" of course, "Dark Angel", "Boston Public", and "The Simpsons".
One show that spanned all 3 decades I rarely missed was "The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson". It was the last of the great Hollywood class acts. TV became...I dunno...smaller after Carson left.
"A" for effort: "Second Noah", because it was filmed in Tampa.
Biggest disappointment: "Twin Peaks".
UPDATE, 1-17-02: I just knew I'd overlook something obvious after the first edition of this week's PCR was out. Gratefully reminded of more shows by all the other PCR contributor's lists post facto, number one, please add "Dark Shadows" (I don't know HOW I overlooked that), "Night Gallery" (Rod Serling vehicle, usually rated lower than Twilight Zone, but better than most TV today), Mr. Ed, and the TV version of "Planet of the Apes" to my Very Honorable Mentions list. In Mike Smith's list below, I'm chastised for not including "The Monkees", and his point is well-taken as far as weird '60s television goes. When the series' repeats played in Tampa last year, I didn't think they held up very well, and I found them kind of sad. But the music is still fun.
And finally, I, myself, remembered I neglected to bring up my at-one-time favorite series of specials: Hallmark Hall of Fame. If memory serves, the Rogers and Hammerstein version of "Cinderella" with Leslie Ann Warren was featured here.
|THE TOP TEN TELEVISION SERIES OF ALL TIME Will Moriaty|
1. MIAMI VICE. Producer Michael Mann captured the spirit of South Florida, and particular the South Beach of Miami better than anyone before and after him. In this NBC cop/music video hybrid, Mann's artistic use of pastels, reinforcement of Tropical Streamline Deco themes, neon, chrome, colors, lighting, music, and slow-motion produced a show that while not a literary masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, was one of TV's most visually stunning and exciting series. Memorable scenes/episodes: Discovery by Crockett and Tubbs of the mummified remains of drug lord Tony Arcaro that were hidden in a wall by a former vice cop six years earlier in the episode "Out Where the Buses Don't Run" (featured song "Brothers in Arms" by Dire Straits). The corpse is seen still clutching an edition of the Miami Herald with its bony fingers. Arcaro was seen carrying that same newspaper while filmed by a TV newscrew as he was leaving the Dade County Courthouse shortly before he became a "missing person." The incredible natural color of the final beach scene in "Definitely Miami" (featured song "Cry" by Godfrey and Creme). And, slow motion scenes of gunfire in "Cool Runnin".|
2. KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER. This 1974 show starring Darren McGavin had two strikes against it. It was too far ahead of its time, and it was on ABC on Friday nights. This show was what inspired Producer Chris Carter to create the much more successful "X-Files" series in 1993. Dan Curtis, producer of Kolchak and daytime spooky soap opera "Dark Shadows" had produced two highly-rated "Kolchak" made-for-TV movies in 1971 and 1972, both with actor McGavin. Carl Kolchak, decked out in his permanently unpressed white suit and straw hat, was a brave and even noble news journalist who covered stories no else would touch---zombies, werewolves, UFO's, headless motorcycle-riding ghosts, and out-of-control robots. The show was almost exclusively filmed at night, adding to the at times dream-like quality of the show. The eerie music by Gil Milee, coupled with wonderfully choreographed scenes could absolutely put you in the highest state of suspense possible. One element of this show that I treasure above its predecessor, the "X-Files" was the incredible humor interspersed throughout the series (i.e. Kolchak's news editor Tony Vincenzo- "You know I thought one time of going to the priesthood" Kolchak- "Yeah, but then they ended the Crusades and that would've taken all of the fun out of it for you." Memorable scenes/episodes: Kolchak stumbling and bumbling around the house of Jack the Ripper. The closet scene is terrifying and hilarious at the same time. Check out "The Ripper". Kolchak, in an abandoned hearse, sewing shut the mouth of a zombie who suddenly awakens in "The Zombie".
3. THE TWILIGHT ZONE. This black-and-white anthology classic by Rod Serling from CBS was a ground breaking series in bringing poignant, shocking, and rarely pretententious episodes involving the supernatural to mainstream television. Serling's all-consuming control of the production always resulted in an absolute quality episode.Noted writers such as Ray Bradbury contributed to this incredible series. Memorable scenes/episodes are almost countless, but William Shatner removing the window curtain to stare right into the face of the "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" absolutely terrified me as crumb cruncher! There was also the giant Canamits from outer space who after creating world peace and ending starvation heared us earthlings off of the planet to become--- dinner! After deciphering a manual that one of the Canamits left with a member of the U.N., it was determined that "To Serve Man" was actually a cookbook! There was also the classic "Eye of the Beholder" where disfigured Beverly Hillbilles sex-kitten Donna Douglas is revealed to look beautiful to us but "ugly" to her doctors as most everyone on her planet has horribly disfigured faces. There were wonderful musical themes and introductions to this most notable of television shows. God bless and rest the soul of Rod Serling for bringing me and so many others such wonderful T.V. memories.
4. ALL IN THE FAMILY. I will never forget watching the premier episode of this, possibly the most ground-breaking show on television. Its impact was as dramatic as watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan for the first time (been there done that). "All in the Family", featured on CBS, broke all the rules. It dealt head-on with items formerly taboo by the big three networks-- sex, racism, homosexuality, politics, and even the flushing sound of a toilet (the first time ever on T.V.). The late Carroll O'Conner did an incredible job as blue collar conservative Queens resident Archie Bunker. With his "dingbat" wife "Edith" (Jean Stapleton), liberal daughter "Gloria" (Sally Struthers), and "meat-headed" liberal hippie son-in-law Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner) living in the same house, and having black neighbors (the Jeffersons) down the street, daily life for Archie was a challenge, to say the least. Memorable scences/episodes: My favorite scene features an argument between Archie and Mike which went as follows: Mike- "I don't believe you Arch-- you think the Japanese are "Nips", the Italians are "WOPS", the Jews are "Hebes", and the Irish are all boozers" to which Archie considers for a brief moment and then responds "...And you Pollacks are meat-heads." Sadly, by today's oppresively politically correct climate, a show of this type would never even be considered.
5. GILLIGAN'S ISLAND. Childish-- yes. Stupid-- yes. Enjoyable-- ABSOLUTELY! This CBS show was the ultimate escapist show. We had seven castaways on a deserted tropical island-- no phones, no lights, no motor cars, not a single luxury-- once in a great while I pontificate that maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing. As for me, I'm a Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) fan... Most enjoyable were guest appearances by Vito Scotti: the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) looking right at the camera after Gilligan (Bob Denver) did something stupid: Sped up scenes and Skipper hitting Gilligan with his hat. Memorable scenes/episodes: Two featuring Ginger. One where she is seducing Vito Scotti who is playing a lost World War Two Japanese soldier who exclaims that "...oooooh. You are steaming up my grasses", and the other where she tries seducing a robot in order to get off the island, but instead the robot begins to catch on fire from Ginger's advances!
6. THE PRISONER. This incredible British spy-show starring Patrick McGoohan (from another former British spy show "Secret Agent" ) shown as a summer sries on CBS featured a former spy who awoke one day in a small community of former and current world spies known simply as "the Village". In the Village, no one had a name, but was addressed solely by a number ("We've given you a number but taken away your name). McGoohan was simply known as Number 6 ("I am not a number I am a free man!"). If you tried to leave the village, a giant balloon known as "Rover" would track you down, and smother you into unconsciousness or death!
7. BATMAN. As y'all should already know, I was a Batman fan extraordinaire. I will never forget visiting my grandfather's house in the Christmas of 1965 and seeing previews on ABC for the first time of "Batman". The ads alone were my favorite gift as my favorite hero was getting his own t.v. show. But the ads did not belie what an insidiously campy program this would turn out to be. Actually I came to love the show and its campiness as a young adult. But I nevertheless loved the show both in youth and adulthood. In addition to camp, "Batman" (Adam West) was possibly the first "hyped" Hollywood production. Memorable scenes/episodes: Batman talking to a Western dude criminal known as "Shame"(Doug McClure)- "You're a shame, Shame!" "Shame" reponds- "Oh yeah, well your mother wears army boots" Batman responds- "Yes Shame, and she finds them quite comfortable!": Batman reading out a riddle by the Riddler (Frank Gorshin)- "Riddle me this, Batman, what sits in a tree and carries a machine gun?" Robin (Burt Ward) responds-"A 225 pound canary!" Batman then responds- "Right again old chum!": Lastly, Batman to Catwoman (exquisitely played by the alluring, cat-like, and beautiful Julie Newmar)- "You can change Catwoman, you can give up your life of crime!" Catwoman- "Would you marry me then?" Batman- "Yes Catwoman! But what about Robin?" Catwoman- "Who?" Batman- "You know--- Robin!" Catwoman- "Oh, him....We'll kill him!" Batman- "Catwoman, have you learned nothing?"
8. THE FLINTSTONES. This Hanna-Barbera adaption of Jackie Gleason's "The Honeymooners" brought animated cartoons to prime time on ABC. It was followed by other shorter lived prime time cartoons such as H-B's "the Jetson's" on NBC. There was Fred Flinstone (Ralph Cramden), his wife Betty (Alice Cramden), friend Barney Rubble (Ed Norton) and his wife Betty (Trixie Norton), living in a modern version of the stone age. The had pets, Dino, and Hoppy, and eventually children, Pebbles and Bam Bam. My personal favorite character was "The Great Gazoo", a floating small space alien whose voice furnished by wonderful actor/comedian Harvey Korman. Gazoo was fond of calling Flinstone and Rubble "Dum-dums".
9. THE SIMPSONS In 1987, when we all thought that the prime time cartoon was long gone (the Flinstones went off the air in 1966), a several-minute long cartoon appeared on the "Tracey Ullman Show" on the fledgling and brand new Fox network. By 1989 this cartoon had its own show on Fox and propelled its way to being the longest-running, most beloved prime time animated cartoon in history. Incredibly, Matt Groening's (known in the 80's for his underground strip "Life in Hell") series is still strong today. The topics and sense of humor are much more adult and fast paced than the Flinstones. This seemingly dysfunctional family consists of Homer, his wife Marge, his son Bart, and his daughters Lisa and baby Maggie. Favorite scenes and episodes are literally too numerous to even mention. The great thing about the Simpsons is that it can get away with so many things because it is a cartoon!
10. THE X-FILES In 1993 we all thought that the weekly monster show was also a thing of the past, "Kolchak: the Night Stalker" having been cancelled almost twenty years earlier in 1975. But David Duchovney as FBI Agent Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as skeptical FBI agent Dana Scully did an incredible job with this fine series of the supernatural. In many ways, this is one of the shows that put the Fox network on the map.Producer Chris Carter can also be credited for being the Rod Serling of our time, bringing us wonderfully scripted and acted episodes of unwavering high quality. My only criticism of the show has been the long running Mulder-sister-smoking man-alien subterfuge that started to get out of control after the second season. Otherwise, this is a superb classic which will live on for years as after its prime time run.
|THE TOP TEN TELEVISION SERIES OF ALL TIME Drew Reiber|
1. DOCTOR WHO - A time traveling alien and his adventures throughout the universeÖ for 30 years. The only thing more amazing than that, is the series ability to adapt over the years. It took about 10 years to finally reach a conclusion as to the definitive origin of the character, but all that effort eventually lead to the most expansive tapestry of time and space ever created for a science fiction television series. Running through eight completely different leads in the role of The Doctor, the series eventually moved to audio drama in the last two years. Many other sci-fi/fantasy projects over the decades owe their inspiration to this show, with the latter Star Trek spin-offs being the most obvious.|
2. BABYLON 5/ IN THE BEGINNING - The most well-crafted genre series to date, the five-year long show managed to hold true to a storyline crafted at its inception. Unlike recent sci-fi space-based programs, B5 dropped the more episodic nature of Star Trek and went for something closer to a soap opera. The entire tale actually spans 37 years when you figure in the TV film prequel, In the Beginning. After it ended, it spun off several other telefilms and a second series that were all cut unfortunately short by TNTís senseless speculation that WCW was worth more money. A new spin-off pilot, Legend of the Rangers, debuts on Sci-Fi channel next Saturday night that may be picked up as a regular series to launch within the next year.
3. V: THE ORIGINAL MINI-SERIES/THE FINAL BATTLE/TV SERIES - Though the eventual series left much to be desired, the two initial mini-series were the greatest telefilms ever. The original mini-series alone is probably the best thing I have on this list. Starting off as an allegory for the rise of Nazi power in Europe and a statement on the struggle of rebel fighters, V has become one of the most memorable science fiction programs of the last 20 years. Recent films like Independence Day and the Arrival owe much of their ideas and visuals to it.
4. BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES - Simply the greatest adaptation of Batman to date, this series ran from the fall of 1992 (shortly after the release of Batman Returns) all the way until the spring of 1998. Starring a cast of voice actors including Mark Hamill (Star Wars, The Flash) and Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes, Fright Night), it told stories ranging from the standard detective tale to more bizarre tales of science fiction adventure. Marketed as a kids program, it was clearly developed to appeal to more mature audiences, allowing it to outlive every other cartoon from that time. The people involved in the creation of the series are still producing shows based out of the Batman continuity in Batman Beyond, The Zeta Project, Static Shock, Justice League and several related direct-to-video spin-offs.
5. THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS/EXTREME GHOSTBUSTERS - These two animated series were adaptations of the feature films created by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis. The first series started in 1986 and continued through the early 90ís, while the second lasted one season in 1997. Each episode was extremely well characterized and featured fun and well thought out genre adventures with a dash of black comedy. Both series were filled by an incredible array of writers including J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5 writer/creator), J.M. DeMatteis (Captain America, Superman & Batman comics), Keith Giffen (Justice League comics), Linda Woolverton (Disneyís Beauty & the Beast), Michael Reaves (Full Eclipse, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm), David Gerrold (Star Trek) and Pat Allee (Taxi TV series).
6. STAR TREK/THE ANIMATED SERIES/THE NEXT GENERATION - Gene Roddenberry is Star Trek, period. I refuse to believe that the franchise ever really grew past his foundations, as I always felt each new spin-off just pushed the concepts back into the void. As I walked away from the franchise 8 years ago, I really donít feel like turning this into what I dislike about it now. So what I will say is thisÖ Roddenberry pushed television sensibilities into the modern age. People were respected for their accomplishments and identities, not their race or gender. His stories fought for the rights of the individual and more importantly, the freedom to live life as we see fit. His genius is sorely missed.
7. TWILIGHT ZONE/NIGHT GALLERY - Rod Serling and his cadre of writers produced some of the best genre programming ever seen on television, or film for that matter. The Twilight Zone was relaunched, copied and remade several times over in the next 40 years, guaranteeing its place in entertainment history. While Night Gallery was not as strong as its predecessor was, it still managed to produce enough fascinating, disturbing imagery to keep me happy.
8. MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS - An awesome collection of comedy sketches and complete insanity, launching the careers of entertainment greats such as writer/actor John Cleese and writer/director Terry Gilliam. Thatís all youíre getting out of me. Now go and watch it!
9. SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE - Launched the in the fall of 1975, this live comedy sketch series is the longest running comedy program on television today. Of course it has had itís fair share of good and bad seasons, but the classic moments seen over the last 27 years have been more than worth it. The rotating cast has featured comedy greats from Bill Murray to Will Ferrell. Now if I could only find the Spider-Man/SNL issue of Marvel Team-UpÖ
10. HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS - One of the few evening hour-long dramas to maintain a truly respectable consistency throughout its entire run. The realistic portrayal of the characters and their investigations were played with an intensity that was magnified by an even fiercer directing style, using double or triple takes of the same reaction albeit somewhat different each time. Every person introduced in the series received some kind of resolution by the end, which included a TV movie starring just about every member of the cast, no matter the season.
Muppet Babies - The quintessential 80ís cartoon series for children, Jim Hensonís Muppet characters reached simple genius. Look people, Lon Chaneyís Phantom of the Opera lived inside the closetÖ need I say more?
Kolchak: The Night Stalker / The Night Strangler / TV series - The first two telefilms, despite using the same formula, were two of the most well done horror productions for television ever. Unfortunately, I was never able to catch anymore than two single episodes of the TV series, making this mention inappropriate for this list.
Dark Shadows - Another TV series I missed out on, but was lucky enough to catch several reruns and the mini-series remake in the early 90ís. I still canít believe that producers had the balls to make a soap opera about gothic horror, but it is definitely the kind of show I wish was still being made today.
|THE TOP TEN TELEVISION SERIES OF ALL TIME Matt Drinnenberg|
10. THE FUGITIVE. Being too young to catch this when
it first aired (my bedtime was about 7pm those days) I
had to discover this on channel 44 in the 70's. Anyone
familiar with TV nostalgia knows this is the plight of
Dr. Richard Kimble falsely accused of killing his
wife, on the run to find the one-armed man. Possibly
the most-anticipated "final" episode in TV history can
be claimed by this show, if not for....|
9. MASH. As stated by our host and editor, the amazing
thing about this show is that it got better as the cast
changed. An un-noticed transition until you see a
first-year episode right before a last-year episode.
MASH began as a campy comic endeavor and ended up
being political and thought provoking, yet still
funny, just not insane, as it started out to be.
8. HOGAN'S HEROES. Imagine the difficult task of
writing a comedy about not only World War II but the
Nazis, specifically. Not too difficult when you hand
the script to Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer (Col.
Klink), and John Banner (Sgt. Schultz -"I know nothing,
I hear nothing, I 'SEE'....NOTHING!!!!") I'm still
mortified that Bob Crane was murdered by some sex-
7. TWILIGHT ZONE. You're traveling in another
dimension. A dimension of sight and sound. A road
block up ahead. Next stop...the Nolan zone. This show
is the antithesis of life we all come to know after
meeting Mr. Canova. Imaginary and unforgettable, each
episode had you thinking "WOW". (I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone now!---Nolan)
6. GET SMART. Don Adams starred as Maxwell Smart,
secret agent 86 for Control, along with his lovely
wife, Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) trying to foil the
stupid exploits of Kaos. One of my favorite gags was
the "CONE OF SILENCE" which made certain 86 and the
Chief (Edward Platt) could never communicate.
5. KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER. Was I ever gaga over
this show. Nolan will be pleased to learn that I
passed up an opportunity to see the BEE GEES live at
the Jai-Ali Fronton because it was on a Friday night
and I couldn't pull myself away from this show and....
4. PLANET OF THE APES. I just could not believe that
someone was smart enough to turn this into a TV show.
The first time I heard of the apes saga, I was a kid
watching a commercial for the CBS FRIDAY NIGHT AT THE
MOVIES, which was "Planet of the Apes". I was
immediately bummed as I remembered Channel 13, for
whatever reason, always pre-empted this CBS showing
with their own "BIG 13 MOVIE", which as I recall was
always some stupid movie from the 50's. Go figure.
Anyway...the show only lasted 14 episodes of which 13
were shown. This entire series was just released on
DVDd, including the lost "liberator" episode, and I can
report the transfer to digital is incredible. Most
certainly a WORTHY INVESTMENT! (Definitely pleased about the BEE GEES thing...---Nolan.)
3. STAR TREK. Even now, after I've seen each episode a
kazillion times, it still entertains. The best scenes
are always between Kirk, Spock and Bones. Of course,
certainly you know that!
2. BATMAN. As with Will, I just love this show. The
campiness and straightforward acting by Adam West turned
this into one of the hallmark classics in television
history. I also fondly recall Newmar's Catwoman
proclaiming Robin's intended demise so that she and
Batman could have wedded bliss. What a riot. Newmar is
"sorely" missing from the Batman movie. My favorite
episode (or scene) would have to be the first
cliffhanger where the Riddler kidnapped Robin and was
protected from Batman with the see-through wall.
1. DARK SHADOWS. Yes, it's true. My favorite TV show
of all time is a soap. Ah, but what a soap it was. I
would bolt from school and run 3 miles home just so I
wouldn't miss the beginning credits. The plight of
Barnabas Collins and his vampirism is chronicled
throughout this classic, as is the treachery done to
the Collins family from the likes of Angelique. You
can catch this classic on the Sci-Fi channel. Check
your area for times.
(NOTE: out of all our lists, this was possibly the
most difficult. As Nolan stated in his closing
remarks, there are numerous shows that could easily be
listed here, but I went for my personal favorites.
HONORABLE MENTION must go out to LAND OF THE GIANTS,
THE TIME TUNNEL, MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, GILLIGAN'S
ISLAND, MR.ED, MR. TERRIFIC, CAPTAIN NICE, IT'S ABOUT
TIME, and last but certainly not least....LOST IN
SPACE (which I'm now asking you, the reader, to insert
Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific deserve special
consideration as they were obvious Batman rip-offs, or
rather the studio's way to cash in on the campy crime-
fighter. I remember these two specifically as they
both had their debut on my birthday back in 1967.
For Mr. Terrific (CBS), It was Stephen Strimple that
starred as gas-station-geek-turned superhero Stanley
Beamish, whose powers would only last for about an
hour, always abandoning him when he needed them most.
His sidekick was none other than Dick Gautier ('Hymie
the Robot' from Get Smart).
The same night, but 30 minutes later, Captain Nice had
his debut on NBC. My favorite of the two, CN was put
together by the creators of Get Smart. Buck Henry, in
fact, wrote the premiere. Nolan neglected to mention my
favorite character from the show, Candy Kane, played
by Ann Prentiss (Paula's sister). (You have me there. I don't remember her character. And BTW, I always took Cpt. Nice and Mr. Terrific to be bad knock-offs of Superman more than Batman, but that's just me---N)
|THE TOP TEN TELEVISION SERIES OF ALL TIME Michael A. Smith|
Wow. I'd completely forgotten about this. So much so that I threw away my original list and had to brainstorm this past week. Here they are:|
10. AMAZING STORIES/TWILIGHT ZONE: Every Sunday night in the mid 80's was designated "Amazing Night" by my theatre manager friends and I who had to work Fri and Saturday nights. After work on Sunday evenings, everyone would head to my apartment for Dominoes Pizza and Cokes and we would watch the above shows, followed by a movie of our choice. Though the stories got less amazing as the show went on, there were still some goodies.
9. THE SIMPSONS: Probably one of the greatest shows ever...........if it was a live action show it would clean up at the Emmy's every year.(which it does in the Animated Category) Wisely turning the focus of the show from Bart to Homer, the show continues to be fresh and funny.
8. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: I can't tell you how many times I got yelled at in class for putting my pen to my mouth and saying, "Open Channel D" into it. Napoleon Solo was the MAN to me. I can remember having most of the toys, including my favorite..........a radio that turned into a rifle. Sadly, I don't have them anymore.
7. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL/SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: This is how we spent our weekends! Friday and Saturday nights were for us............to see our favorite musical groups and catch up on our comedy fix. Throw in Dr. Demento and Monty Python on PBS and we were some contented kids.
6. SEINFELD: When great writing and great performers come together you get this show. So many lines from this series have entered our vocabulary that I could write another paragraph. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
5. DARK SHADOWS: I had the good luck to get home from school just as this daily soap opera began. Barnabas Collins and company kept me entertained every afternoon.
4. I LOVE LUCY/DICK VAN DYKE SHOW: Two very different shows that had a lot in common. While "Lucy" was created for husband and wife Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz to work together, "DVD" was originally intended as a vehicle for creator Carl Reiner. In January 1961, Dick Van Dyke was given one week off from his role in Broadway's "Bye Bye Birdie" to film the pilot. The unlucky ticket holders had to settle for his stand in, Charles Nelson Reilly! Given great writing and a small, talented cast, both shows excelled in bringing laughs to it's viewers. The main thing that stuck out in my mind as that both Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and Rob and Laura Petrie had (2) single beds in their bedroom. In fact, I think the first time I saw a couple in bed on a series was "The Brady Bunch." While the Lucy/Ricky bedroom was believable, you KNOW Rob and Laura pushed those beds together a couple of times a week! Oh, Rob!
3. THE MONKEES: I can't believe Nolan left this off his list. (Point taken. See my note in Honorable Mentions.---N) Kids, this is where MTV came from. (Agreed. This and Hard Day's Night.---N) Four cool guys with their own beach house................and they were in a band. The HATS played their songs to death and those memories always flood back when I watch the show or listen to their music. (Which IS still fun.---N)
2. HILL STREET BLUES/ST ELSEWHERE/L.A. LAW/NYPD BLUE: The start of episodic television with large casts of characters that you actually cared about. To this day, I can name every character's name on these shows. The quality of these shows is highlighted by the Emmy Awards that were bestowed upon it. In fact, over a period of 17 years, these shows usually led the Emmy nominations, with lead actors Daniel J. Travanti (Hill Street), William Daniels (St. Elsewhere) and Dennis Franz (NYPD Blue) taking home the Best Actor Award NINE TIMES between them.
1. CBS' SATURDAY NIGHT LINE UP: Back when television was a reason to stay home on Saturday night, this was the night of nights to me. Starting with "All in the Family," M*A*S*H, "Mary Tyler Moore," "Bob Newhart" and ending with "The Carol Burnett Show," these shows still stand out in my mind as being part of the best part of television. All five of these shows have gone down in history as some of the greatest of all time. And who am I to argue?