Along with various PBS Programming past favorite television shows and others that I have enjoyed include…
I Love Lucy (1951-1957) – Lucy Ricardo isn’t your typical 1950s housewife. Ever in pursuit of her lifelong dream to break into show business, she’s always up to some kind of scheme or hijinks, dragging along her best friend Ethel Mertz for the ride. The interplay between Ricky and Lucy, and the two couples (Fred & Ethel) is where the show shines brightest. To say that this classic television sitcom is groundbreaking would be an understatement as its unmistakable charm continues to endure through time.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1963-2001) – There is a great deal of programming, apps and video games vying for our childrens’ attention, but among the most deserving of those is this seminal public television program that remains timeless in so many ways. Fred Rogers doesn’t treat children like little idiots but rather more appropriately like young people with developing minds, capable of grasping a variety of concepts. The more you watch the show the more you can appreciate the sophistication behind each expertly crafted production. Not only is this a joy to watch along with a child but can even feel like restful therapy after a rough day. Still available for streaming on your local PBS station.
Charlie Brown Television Specials (1965-2011) – Based on the popular and beloved comic strip by Charles Schulz each animated short follows poor, awkward Charlie Brown, his faithful dog Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang through the cultural and social nuances of American holiday traditions. The original “classic” specials are far and away the most endearing, having been produced throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Columbo (1968-1976) – A great character that could only have been brought to life by one man, Peter Falk. This famous detective show offers a fascinating glimpse of how things worked before internet and cell phones were ubiquitous. Some of the best acting you’re likely to see in television is done by the actors who had the distinction of playing the villain on this groundbreaking detective series.
Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983) – Based on the classic books penned by Laura Ingalls Wilder, recalling her childhood memories of life in 19th century midwest. Produced by Michael Landon the series follows the life and hardships of a family who find strength in each other, while meeting and making friends with a wide cast of characters. Michael Landon’s portrayal as Charles Ingalls is probably one of the best depictions of what it means to be a “father” who looks after his family and people who genuinely care about their friends and neighbors.
The Rockford Files (1974-1980) – Fun, entertaining; nothing too heavy. Jim Rockford is a private investigator who must rely on wit, guile and his charming ways (with decent people and all manner of shady characters). It’s one of those television shows that are fun without being goofy, yet engaging in a way that doesn’t ask too much of you. Something to wind down with. James Garner is unforgettable in the title roll and brings his character to life with endearing humor. One thing’s for sure; it’s no great mystery why the girls like him so much.
The Good Life (“Good Neighbors”) (1975-1978) – When Tom and Barbara Good decide to make a go at self-sufficiency in their small suburban home all manner of absurd and oftentimes hilarious scenarios unfold, much to the delight and consternation of their friends and neighbors Jerry and Margo. It would have been difficult to imagine anyone besides these four actors for each endearing and memorable character, all of whom bring such life and laughter to this timeless British sitcom. Even the character actors who come and go through the various episodes are a delight. The show is better appreciated after the first episode.
All Creatures Great and Small (1978-1990) – A delightful and uplifting series that follows recently qualified vet James Herriot as he settles in to his new post in the English countryside (1930s). I’ve written more at-length on this one in a dedicated blog post.
Family Ties (1982-1989) – With three teenagers, each with very different personalities, there’s always something going on in the Keaton household. Episodes are hit and miss, mostly due to inconsistent writing…but the good ones are a lot of fun.
Charles in Charge (1984-1990) – Scott Baio is an upstanding college student who helps look after the Pembroke family in exchange for room & board. It’s a premise that worked in the days before pornography was all over the internet, and therefore in everyone’s minds. Probably one of the last goofy sitcoms that, despite all its silliness, still attempted to convey valuable lessons about family and school life. The first season is my favorite… and summed up perfectly in the final shot of the final episode.
Murder She Wrote (1984-1996) – The producers of this beloved series seem to have arrived at a winning recipe, creating one of the greatest television shows of all time. By deliberately avoiding true-to-life grit and texture this light-hearted murder mystery instead offers up something whimsical, even comforting, and a joy to puzzle through. Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher does her sleuthing while a rotating cast of talented character actors provide the feeling of an original stage play with each episode.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) – Aside from the expertly crafted characters in this seminal television show is the heart and craft of the storytelling that gives it such a magical feeling. The stories and scenarios presented throughout the series masterfully transcend the usual trappings of science fiction and adventure genres, a sentiment that has no doubt been expressed by fans and critics alike. As with the best shows the characters evolve in meaningful ways throughout the overall arc of the series.
For me there’s really only one, but Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001) does have the potential to grow on you. I should point out that while The Next Generation is a show worthy to be enjoyed by the whole family, content in Voyager is generally appropriate only for adults. As with most television shows the first few seasons are superior to the latter ones.
What is there to say about the original Star Trek (1966-1969) …other than it being hopelessly sexist and eminently humorous in ways they never intended. I suppose I’d say that it was certainly original and, I can understand why people like it.
The Incredible Adventures of Wallace & Gromit (1989-1995) – An honorable mention. Three stop-motion animated shorts from Aardman studios. For all ages. I love it!
Poirot (1989-1995) – With stories and a lead character from the mind of Agatha Christie, supported by the production value of the best of BBC period pieces, this is likely to be the murder mystery series by which all others must heretofore be measured.
Home Improvement (1991-1999) – Tim Allen is Tim ‘the Tool Man’ Taylor in a family sitcom that’s great for when you just need something light and comical. The first two seasons are the best.
As Time Goes By (1992-2005) – Thirty-eight years after first falling in love Jean and Lionel are reunited by a stroke of fate. Will they be able to reconcile the time (and a misunderstanding) that has separated them all these years? It’s a romantic sitcom with a cast of characters that are easy to grow fond of, as this delightful British television show reaches well beyond its premise to provide countless moments worth enjoying time and again.
Mulberry (1992-1993) – Karl Howman plays the unforgettable title role as the affable but quirky newcomer to the Farnaby household. This light-hearted comedy centers around Mulberry’s growing friendship with the aged Miss Farnaby (played by Geraldine McEwan) and her long-time domestics Alice and Bert. The dynamic between these four highly original characters is something not to be missed and filled with humor in each delightful episode. If you’re looking for a heartwarming comedy that can lift the spirits this is the one. For those on Netflix, do yourself a favor and avoid actually reading the description or user comments. You’ll appreciate not having the story spoiled ahead of time.
Frasier (1993-2004) – The titular character, portrayed by Kelsey Grammer, is a psychologist with a call-in radio show who has recently returned to his hometown of Seattle. But this one is really all about the people in his life from his quirky brother Niles (also a psychologist), Frasier’s snarky producer Roz Doyle, to his no-nonsense father Martin along with live-in therapist Daphne, and of course Eddie the dog. Referring specifically to Season One and Two (I can’t speak quite the same to the rest) it’s the perfect blend between laugh-out-loud American comedy and topics that sometimes hit home. The balance between each of the five or so main characters is so delicate it’s difficult to imagine the show being even remotely as good without any one of them.
My So-Called Life (1994-1995) – Superbly written and directed, this family drama focuses mostly on young Angela Chase while touching on themes relevant to teenagers and “grown-ups.”
Ballykissangel (1996-2001) – I suppose there are two typical reactions to this show along with a third, less common one. There are those who, unable to fit it into a genre, won’t see the appeal (it defies genres) and those who will appreciate the mix of drama, romance, endearing characters and light-hearted comedy. And then there are those who will begin watching (I’m thinking of Series 1-3 in particular) and slowly realize how truly brilliant this show really is. Everything from writing, staging, direction, costume, casting… It’s probably the one show I’ve ever watched that features an all-around cast that, across the board, is top-notch in their respective performances. I could write at length on the talent of the handful of directors. But you don’t really need to analyze it at that level of depth to simply be able to enjoy the production that came together at a special place and time.
Monarch of the Glen (2000-2005) – Light fare revolving around the lives and mishaps of the Glenbogle Estate, set in the Scottish Highlands. Likable characters, each with their own little quirks, find themselves confronting slightly absurd though enjoyable situations, making it a fun experience that places little demand on the viewer. Just sit back, relax and enjoy. Even some of the heavier topics are treated gently. Around about Series Three or so the show undergoes a kind of transition into a low-calorie soap opera, but manages to retain some of the original charm of the earlier series. Intended for an adult audience.
Monk, Season 1 & 2 (2002-2009) – Excellent writing, off-beat situations that almost never spill over the top, and a Great cast of characters really pulls this one together. Be forewarned of the occasional disturbing moment or plot device. Not for children.
Do you like any other shows? Oh yes, many. I could list so many more but that’s not really what this list is about.