As I was waiting in the checkout line at the supermarket today, I looked at the cover of People magazine with it's chief article about the 100 most influential TV shows and characters/actors/actresses over the past 40 years. I suspect this month or the next their is some 40th anniversary milestone for TV, but that would place it in the year 1970, and that leaves out two great decades of TV shows. Maybe 1970 was when People magazine first hit the newstands and the supermarket checkout lines.
The tag line for the cover article was: Top 100 TV shows and actors who have changed our lives over the past 40 years. There were memorable photos on the cover: J. R. Ewing, Captain Kirk, Ron Howard, and at least two dozen more.
Honestly, no TV has "changed my life" in any meaningful way. Although I enjoyed watching "Dallas", the burning question of "Who shot J. R.?" did not and has not changed my life. Although I remember when ABC ruled the airwaves with shows like "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley", Fonzy jumping the shark hasn't had a major impact in my life. I remember fondly the double header of "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" that crushed all competition on Saturday nights (or was it Friday?).
Over the decades there have been plenty of TV shows that have entertained, and either through cable/satellite channels or Netflix, we can re-watch those old favorites. Right now I am watching "LEXX" that used to be on the SciFi (now SyFy) channel in the late 1990s. I do not remember ever seeing the first two seasons, so thus far every episode is fresh and new.
I think back to the great shows of years gone by, and it seems to me that at least half the shows we have at our disposal nowadays are some sort of reality shows. While some are quite good, they are a far cry from the shows we had on the airwaves even ten years ago. Reality shows are basically cheap and inexpensive ways for the networks to crowd their lineup each week. Most written shows are rarely given the chance to develop an audience or work out the kinks that most new shows exhibit the first several episodes. This impatience is quite disheartening, because shows like "Newhart" and "Seinfeld" were just awful their first few episodes and even their first season, but the shows plugged along and were given the time to shake out the kinks and blossomed into fine shows.
Two shows that I really enjoyed recently were not given that chance. "Knight Rider" got cancelled after about a dozen episodes and "FlashForward" was axed after its first season. I thought "Knight Rider" was a good 21st century update of the classic from the 1980s. Although "FlashForward" started slow and the story line plodded along for several weeks before everything started to come together and make more sense, I enjoyed its slow pace, causing thought about what was going to happen. It was refreshing to have such a pace when most things are so fast to accomodate for a dwindling attention span in the public.
I am sure there will be a lot of clunkers this new fall season, but hopefully the networks will give these new shows a fighting chance of becoming good shows. It doesn't happen overnight.