March 5, 2012

Please Stand By...

Lately, Steven and I have had several conversations about the dumbing-down of television. It seems that smart TV is becoming more difficult to find. I'm not talking about shows that delve into the meaning of life or that explore the deepest of scientific theories. I'm simply talking about programs that give the audience credit for being intelligent enough to pick up on subtle clues or facial expressions without having it explained minutes later or telegraphed seconds before. As we say in writing -- show, don't tell. (We won't even talk about the atrocity that is "reality" TV.)

So when I come across a TV show that gets it right, I'm excited and become a devoted fan. The shows I feel warrant making it onto my list is sadly short.


Forget the fact that we're keeping up with four versions of the same characters living in their respective universes. Let's focus on the fact that the writers know they don't have to explain everything or explicitly point out every nuance. And they aren't in-your-face things. They're subtle. Example: Walter, a main character, was at one point considered the most hated man in the world. He was taken out in public wearing a protective vest in a quick scene. They didn't linger on it and no one mentioned it. It was a subtle reminder of his status.

All in the Family 

This was without a doubt a ground-breaking show. It was a comedy that dealt with serious real world issues without apologizing or trying to soften the message. The audience was given credit for being able to handle what they were offered. I'll never forget the episode where Edith opened the door to a man who raped her. What other comedy would do that to a beloved character? It was a tough episode to watch. I'm not sure a show like All in the Family could be done on network TV now. We'd have to watch it on HBO or Showtime.

The Twilight Zone 

It's a shame this one didn't last longer. It often managed to deliver a social message, masked as sci-fi; something that was done quite a bit in the 1960s and 70s. Each episode led us down a twisting path, keeping us guessing about what was really going on, and giving us credit to understand it in the end. Sometimes what we didn't see was more important than what was on our screen. At times, not hearing dialogue at all was extremely powerful. If you've never seen an episode called The Invaders, you should. Not a word is spoken until the end.

Prime Suspect 

Alas, this one was just canceled. It's a shame because it featured a smart female cop who wasn't trying to look like a supermodel in hooker heels and a low-cut shirt while chasing bad guys (I'm talking to you, Poppy Unforgettable Montgomery). Maria Bello played Detective Jane Timoney, and was my favorite female cop since Cagney and Lacey. She was blunt, dedicated, and had a realistic relationship with her male counterparts. I wish more people had given the show a chance.

Mad Men 

The 1960s were an interesting time in American history, and Mad Men gives it to us in all its ugly glory. They don't try to pretty it up by playing down racism, sexism, alcoholism, smoking, homophobia, etc. Instead they embrace it, and tell us this is what was happening during the times and the characters are flawed. They've made me appreciate what the women before me did to make my life in the work world better. It's been fun watching Peggy rise through the ranks of a male-dominated business. Somewhere there are more than a few real Peggys that deserve a thank you.


Those who know me knew I had to comment on my favorite. Even if it weren't my favorite, it had to be on this list. On September 24, 2004, millions watched a plane crash on an island. Before the end of the program, it was clear this was no ordinary island. We were given mysteries to unravel and debate. Titles of books seen on the show became must-reads, just in case they contained clues about our Lostees or The Others (Watership Down, A Wrinkle in Time, Of Mice and Men, Fountainhead, The Third Policeman, and many more). The creative team rarely made mistakes. But when they did, they copped to it and were quick to correct by, for example, giving James (Sawyer) Ford glasses or swiftly and diabolically killing two very unpopular new characters (buh-bye Nikki and Paulo). Theories in science were introduced, and fans argued the possibilities. Religious themes set off more debate, as did questions of morality and the ever-fun choice vs. destiny. Viewers paid attention to all the details and the creative team paid attention to the viewers. Both were rewarded with a show that was fun, interactive, and had excellent writing, acting, and directing. It remains, as you can probably deduce, my number one show...for now.

Of course there are so many more...
  • M*A*S*H*
  • Person of Interest
  • The Good Wife 
  • Firefly 
  • The Killing 
  • Hill Street Blues 
  • Flash Forward (canceled way before its time) 
  • Mad About You 
  • White Collar 
  • Frasier
  • Modern Family 
  • Once Upon a Time
  • House (until it jumped the shark) 
  • The X-Files
  • Castle
  • The 4400 (also canceled before its time) 
  • Star Trek (the original series)
  • The Big Bang Theory 
  • Lie to Me (another canceled too soon)
A few new ones could make the list eventually. I'm sure I've forgotten several, and as soon as I post this, I'll want to add them. But these are the shows that came to my mind first. They're the ones that have left an indelible impression on me. I wish the entertainment industry would give me more new shows to add to the list. Sadly, they seem intent on feeding me reality silliness and scripted TV full of plot holes, but I'm not going to bite.


  1. Great post! You listed a lot of my favorite shows! I wish Prime Suspect hadn't been cancelled. I really liked it.

  2. Thank you for including Person of Interest. It is an intriguing and innovative (at least as far as plot is concerned) storyline. I never miss it.

    1. Hubby and I like it too. We think it's very well done!

    2. Fingers crossed that it keeps getting renewed! It's one of my favorites.

  3. Good list. I agree with @Frank. I never miss Person of Interest. Also agree with you on most of your others.

  4. There are some on here I'm going to have to watch. I've heard of them but haven't seen them. I'm happy you included Once Upon A Time. I love that show!

    1. We love OUAT! (That's how we abbreviate Once Upon A Time.)

      Nice to you see you, sweetie! :-)

  5. I just canceled my cable last week for this very reason. Luckily my favorites can be caught on Netflix and Huluplus, or even on the station website. I checked first, lol.

    Lost. Ever since that show ended, I've been bored of virtually everything on tv. Castle and Bones entertains me, and Grimm intrigues me. Everything else just doesn't measure up.

    Reality tv has ruined tv. I can't pay all that money for cable to have it crowded with mindless desperate attention whores anymore.

    1. I'm not sure I'll ever forgive Hollywood for creating an situation that basically gave birth to modern reality TV. If the writers hadn't threatened a walkout (and then not followed thru), the networks wouldn't have had to scramble for unscripted content. Not that the writers didn't have a legitimate beef, but the fallout was that half of all primetime programming is now unscripted dreck. Reality shows are cheap and easy to produce. You get what you pay for. Yeesh.

    2. Lost was the best! We didn't miss an episode! We've thought about getting rid of cable @TL Jeffcoat, but we just can't do it yet. I think it's in our future though.

      @Steven reality TV is the worst! Especially things like the Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars. Why do people watch that stuff?

    3. For me, Lost is the gold standard right now. I'm such a big fan, I can't help but compare the quality of other shows to it.

      I completely agree with you @TL Jeffcoat about reality TV. @Steven is right. The writer's strike did us in, especially after they realized how cheap and easy the people who want to be on the shows are...I mean the shows are to produce.

      More and more people are giving up cable in favor of other options. Why have hundreds of channels of "stuff" that you never watch, when you can go cheaper or free online?

  6. I discovered a few years ago that I don't watch any - ANY - sitcoms. I even tried Big Bang and Modern Family, but the telegraphed punchlines bug the crap out of me. I guess I'm stuck in the 70s with The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show. Classy, understated humor, and not mean-spirited. I'll stick with the likes of Fringe and Person of Interest for the time being.

    I'll also add The Walking Dead to the list. (I know, it's not my list. But still...) Who knew am aggressively gory show about zombies could actually be character-driven? LOL!

    Great post, baby!

    1. No sitcoms? At all? Hawow! But there are some really good ones on now! How I Met Your Mother is good. Have you tried it? The Walking Dead rocks! Hubby and I watch it too.

    2. You know I love the sitcoms from the 70s too. They were the best! I want a TV channel that plays only my favorite 70s sitcoms, nothing else.

      The Walking Dead is well done and should be on my list. Proof that it doesn't matter what the subject is if the show is well written and the characters are developed.

  7. Love this post! That's a great list @Christy! I really like your writing style. Just wanted to let you know. :)

    1. Thanks @Michelle! It means a lot to me. :-)

  8. Nice article. You listed a lot of really good shows.

  9. I like the new photo page! Very cool.

  10. This was a great post! I miss you posting on here regularly like you used to. Please start writing and posting again. You and @Steven. It would just be nice. I miss the old days.