all in the family
Everybody loves lists, even MENSA members.
Jim Werdell, the chairman of the brainy group, has picked what he considers the ten smartest TV shows of all-time. While some of the shows are no-brainers (ha!), I'm not quite sure why he picks some of the shows he does. The full list is after the jump, along with my suggestions for other shows that should be there.
I mean, seriously...Mad About You?!
A roundup of TV people from in front of the camera and behind the scenes who have passed away.
- Evel Knievel: He was the most famous motorcycle stunt artist, and he seemed to be on ABC's Wide World of Sports every other week in the 70s. His most famous jumps were his Caesar's Palace jump and his Snake River Canyon jump in a rocket. Though he made more than he missed. He died of complications from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis at age 69. Oddly, just two days ago he settled a lawsuit with Kanye West.
Welcome to TV Squad Lists (formerly 'The Five'), a feature where each blogger has a chance to list his or her own rundown of things in television that stand out from the rest, both good and bad.
Even before "Must-See TV" networks made an attempt to capture a particular demographic with a killer lineup of TV shows. (Bob's done one of these lists in the past.) What follows is a list of the best TV lineups in history.
1. CBS Saturday, 1973: All in the Family, M*A*S*H*, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Carol Burnett Show. All classics. If this lineup were on today, it would still get huge ratings. It's hard for most folks to remember when these shows were originally on and it's even harder to believe that they were once all on in the same night. It makes me wonder what the other networks were showing or why they even bothered.
A new weekly feature here at TV Squad, as we list some recent deaths of those involved with TV, on screen and behind the scenes.
- Roscoe Lee Browne: The veteran actor appeared in a number of TV shows, including All in the Family, Benson, Columbo, Mannix, The Invaders, Will and Grace, and a voice actor in cartoons. He was a classically trained film and theater actor as well. He died April 11 in L.A. of cancer at age 81.
- Stan Daniels: He co-created Taxi and won several Emmys for that show and his writing on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He died of heart failure on April 6 at age 72.
I have often said that all television falls into two categories, good and bad. However, I have recently discovered that television can also be categorized as classic and non-classic. But there's a catch.
When I was growing up, there wasn't a lot of good TV due to the fact that there were only three networks (four if you count PBS, which I certainly didn't). Consequently, local affiliates had no choice but to fill their daytime schedules with reruns of popular sitcoms like The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island and The Monkees. These shows and shows like them have become classics almost by default. Bottom line: when an entire generation can sing the theme song of a show, it's a classic.
Former President Bill Clinton said even though 24 is run by "an uber right-wing guy" (referring to producer Joel Surnow), he thinks the show is fair in making both Democrats and Republicans look equally evil, according to a Reuters article.
Of other contemporary programs, Clinton said he's fond of Boston Legal and that his McFavorite is Grey's Anatomy. (Wonder where he stands on the Callie-Izzie contretemps?)
The Hollywood Reporter also said Clinton likes watching TV Land -- I Love Lucy, All in the Family and Bonanza -- because his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is frequently away campaigning and it gives "me something to do at night."
You'll remember Evans from his role as Lionel Jefferson on All In The Family and the spinoff show The Jeffersons. He died of throat cancer last week in California.
Besides his role as Lionel, Evans also appeared in The Streets of San Francisco, Rich Man, Poor Man, Love, American Style, Match Game, and Walker, Texas Ranger. He was also one of the creators and writers of the sitcom Good Times.
I had forgotten this, but he was actually replaced as Lionel Jefferson on The Jeffersons for four years, in the late 70s. He was replaced by Damon Evans, then returned to the show for the last couple of years.
Modern TV, according to Newsweek, has lost its edge. "The most popular shows are still crime procedurals (CSI) or soaps (Grey's Anatomy) - slick and sexy, but not about much. The reality shows American Idol and Dancing with the Stars are so retro, they're practically The Lawrence Welk Show. When The Unit or 24 does dare to focus on something like the war on terror, their take is uncritically gung-ho - no network today would risk satire on the level of M*A*S*H."
If everyone was nice, life would get pretty boring, wouldn't it? The television landscape is full of characters who made shows more interesting by doing what they do best: annoying the living hell out of everyone else. There's a lot to choose from, so share some of your favorites in the comments. Below are some of my personal faves:
Major Frank Burns: Alan Alda gets a lot of credit for his acting chops and his portrayal of Hawkeye on M*A*S*H, but Larry Linville deserves just as much, if not more, credit for his role as Frank Burns during the show's early years. Yes, he was a jerk, and yes, he was self-centered and only cared about doing what was in his best interest, but beneath it all was a very real vulnerability, a man who still held on to the childhood notion that the world owed him something. Maintaining that balance is not easy, but Linville did it perfectly.
The journey to get a television show from concept to eventual broadcast is a harrowing one. You have an idea, you prepare a spec summary for the network; they review the proposal and ask for a script. You (with help from others, most likely) prepare a script to send back to the network; they review the script and ask for a filmed pilot. You blow a big was of cash to create that pilot. Through a miracle of God the show gets picked up by the network.
At this point you're probably thinking Emmy and a juicy syndication package. Everything is going your way. Well, actually, no. You see, there's one more stop on the road to getting your show onto the big picture box. One stop that producers dread, but need to make in order to ensure some sort of chance to have their show stay on the air longer than two weeks. It's the small theater with people off of the street; pencils in their hands, a survey sheet nearby. I am talking about the neighborhood market research panel.
In this case, ASI Entertainment, Hollywood's oldest and most frequently-used audience testing location. Established back in 1966, ASI gages the reaction of regular folks for any number of television pilots that make it to the precipice of network pickup. From those reactions producers of those pilots make determinations on whether or not anything should be changed or if it is good to go for broadcast.
2. ABC, Friday nights, 1970s: The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. Yeah, that's right, The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family! You got a problem with that? My sister and I would go down to the corner store and stock up on candy, chips, and ice cream, and then race home to watch Marcia get hit in the nose with a football. Good times.
He is now homeless and living in a shelter in Los Angeles.
Part of it is because of a bad crack addiction he had (he's clean now), but a lot of it was because of a series of strokes he had, plus a lawsuit he filed against Norman Lear, Bud Yorkin, CBS, and ABC for stealing his ideas for Good Times, What's Happening, and other projects (he got a million dollar settlement, years ago).
This is also, as Lee Goldberg says, a cautionary tale about the world of self-publishing. Monte spent thousands of his own money to publish and market a book, but no one was interested in it.
- 1st & Ten - Season 1; Season 2
- Alien Nation - The Complete Series
- All in the Family - The Complete 5th Season
- Gunsmoke - 50th Anniversary Edition - Volume 1; 50th Anniversary Edition - Volume 2; 50th Anniversary Edition Giftset
- Have Gun Will Travel - Season 3
- Hunter - Season 3
- Silk Stalkings - Season 4
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