Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Thursday Thirteen #350

MY 13 Favorite TV Shows of All Time. Last week I did a TT based on the list of the 100 best shows appeared in Variety last year. I only listed the top 13 because, after all, this isn't the Thursday 100. 

Below is the list as I would have compiled it, with Variety's rank in parens. PS If you still have questions about the Variety list, I'm including the link again.

13. The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. NBC, 1962 to 1992. I grew up believing that this is how affluent adults behaved. Johnny dressed well, smoked, was articulate and very, very funny. In fact, he was funnier when he ad libbed after a joke bombed. BTW, for all you whiners who insist Kimmel and Colbert are "too political," as though picking on the POTUS is anything new or unique, watch the Carson reruns on Antenna TV. Johnny's monologues were full of derisive Watergate references, yuks aimed at Jimmy Carter's economic policies, and jokes about Reagan's acting career. Why do y'all insist on pretending Trump is a victim? Oh well, that's another post for another time. (Variety rank: 52 of 100)

12. Magnum, PI. CBS. 1980 to 1988. I love Tom Selleck's man-child with his pranks, his giggle and that rubber chicken. I wish he would return to comedy. On a more serious note, I appreciated that Vietnam vets were shown as loyal, functioning/recovering and productive -- not messed-up victims. I've been to Hawaii twice and enjoy how lovingly it's portrayed. It's like another character. (Not in Variety's 100)

11. M*A*S*H. CBS. 1972-1983. In a way, this one is like Magnum in that it used humor to deliver a very serious message about how war affects the combatants. While I had a mad crush on Hawkeye in real time, when I rewatch, my favorite character is Col. Potter. He was so wise and multi-faceted. (Variety rank: 24)

10. Saturday Night Live. NBC. 1975 to present. From Gilda and Chevy to Michael Che and Colin Jost, this show makes me laugh. Some casts have been better than others, but still, when something happens in the news I often wonder, "What will SNL do with this?" (Variety rank: 15)

9. Columbo. NBC.1971-78; ABC 1981-83. I'm new to this and I don't think I've seen all of them yet. Following Columbo as he figures out what we already know is a delight. As a lover of mystery novels, I wonder if this reverse story-telling would work as well on the page as it does on TV. (Variety rank: 85)

8. Will & Grace. NBC. 1998-2006. I love my friends, including the gay ones, and this show is about loving the people in our lives, regardless of who they love. No one on this show is anywhere near perfect and everyone is over the top, but I see them in my friends and me -- like Grace, I am tone deaf, unable to resist saying "I told you so," and I love TV waaaaay too much. After all, I've now done two consecutive TTs about it! (Variety rank: 93)

7. I Love Lucy. CBS. 1951-57. At a time when it was unusual for beautiful women to do physical comedy, Lucille Ball was fucking fearless as Lucy Ricardo. She was the very definition of "all in," stomping grapes, shoving chocolates into her bra and hawking Vitametavegamin. I also loved how much the four main characters loved one another. What good company the Mertzes and Ricardos are! (Variety rank: 1)

6. The West Wing. NBC. 1999-2006. I'm still a believer. I don't accept the paranoid notion of The Swamp and I consider politicians both public servants and my employees. This show recalls Washington DC before MAGA made it acceptable to storm the Capitol while waving the Confederate flag, and the Bartlett administration is balm for the aching soul of this idealistic Kennedy girl. (Variety rank: 25)

5. Sex and the City. HBO. 1998-2004. Last week I mentioned that I hate, loathe, despise and abominate Seinfeld and this show is everything Seinfeld isn't. The characters are three-dimensional and they actually like one another. Yes, they get on one another's nerves and of course, they can be snarky, but without the full-throated cynicism and contempt of Seinfeld. At one point, Mr. Big tells Miranda, Charlotte and Sam that they are the true loves of Carrie's life. Friendship: that's what this show is about. (Variety rank: 6)

4. Law & Order. NBC. 1990-2010 and 2021 to present. See my comments on The West Wing. While I know rogue cops exist and that policing is often unfair, I also believe being a policeman is very hard and most of them are heroes. While I know the justice system is imperfect and can be improved, I also respect it. I can hold all these thoughts in my head at the same time. I love how Law & Order reflects that. I also have my favorite cast members and named my cat after Det. Reynaldo Curtis. (Not in Variety's 100)

3. The Dick Van Dyke Show. CBS. 1961 to 1966. I think Dick Van Dyke may be the most extravagantly talented American ever. Really. At physical comedy he's as good as Lucille Ball and at delivering a line, he's as good as Johnny Carson. He can sing, he can dance, he can romance his lovely wife Laura as well as any leading man. There is literally nothing he can't do. The scripts are timeless and sophisticated. I like Laura's clothes, too. Very White House-era Jackie. I never tire of this show. (Variety rank: 45)

2. Mad Men. AMC. 2007-15. I know this show. I lived this show. It is, to borrow from All the President's men, both accurate and true about advertising, capitalism, and sex and romance. (Variety rank: 2)

1. Friends. NBC. 1994-2004. "Miss Chanandler Bong." "He's her lobster." "Pivot! Pivot! Pivot! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" "We were on a break." Oh. My. God! Could this show be any more quotable? I love Friends. I just do. Of course much of it has to do with the writing. But my enduring affection is also for the cast. Like SATC, this show is the anti-Seinfeld in its legit affection for the characters. (Variety rank: 29)

Please join us for THURSDAY THIRTEEN. Click here to play along, and to see other interesting compilations of 13 things.