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Applying my movie list idea to TV shows before the movie list is even released! One show for each year of my life. Unlike movies, there have only been a few years of my life sans much television. Those busy times were great, and so were the dinners mixed with TV and bits of family conversation from the 70s to present. Here, a nod to different program genres so as not to overwhelm or monotonize the brain. Roughly, the first twenty-five were viewed in my younger years, the second group viewed in my older, more adult years.

I’ll add a new one every year and maybe tinker by adding links and other stuff as the weeks pass.

Newhart: My favorite show as a kid, especially the first few seasons before the characters descended into parody as happens to all shows when ideas don’t fly as thick as before. Besides Bob Newhart, one of many highlights was two seasons of Steven Kampmann as Kirk Devane.

Romper Room: An early memory with Do-Bee and a magic mirror and earnest regard by motherly figures of an era that was ending.

Captain Kangaroo: Another show from another era with great puppets and people.

Ray Rayner and His Friends / The Bozo Show: Chicago magic. I’ll never forget Ray and his writing (in chalk) weather reports on the wooden frame of the chalkboard and the many joys of Bozo and his friends and games.

Gigglesnort Hotel: More Chicago magic with a most memorable dragon. One of a handful of shows enjoyed on Sunday mornings when it is assumed many were in church, and the likes of The Magic Door and The New Zoo Revue took over.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Celebrated for the man himself, his home, and his Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Endlessly wonderful.

Sesame Street: One of the great highlights of childhood. Countless great characters and memories that can never be driven from the brain even if I wanted to. And, if Elmo’s fraught relationship with Rocco is any indication, still going strong at least now and then.

Wild Kingdom: Specific memories are dim, but fondness for the adventures of Marlon Perkins, Mutual of Omaha, and put-upon man in the field “Jim” will never die. Landmark, along with Jacques Cousteau’s specials.

All in the Family: Limited and even slight in some ways now, but it and what it spawned was greatness and very funny.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Wears ever so well upon re-reviewing. This along with the above were the two staples of the ’70s and I’m happy I got to see many of their episodes in original broadcast!

Alice: Among a ton of other sitcoms of the era, this one stands out for surprisingly snappy jokes.

The Brady Bunch: For me all re-runs, but each episode seemingly stamped line-for-line in my brain. Thankfully one can live with this as it was a good show for all its silliness.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Speaking of silliness. Worshiped by me and many of my peers. Gold standard TV.

Saturday Night Live: Despite a lot, lot of awfulness, it’s accumulated an amazing amount of still-standing hilarity, not to mention launching many careers good for a follow-up or two.

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle & Rocky Show: Big brother to another great show, George of the Jungle/Super Chicken/etc. This and all its featured cartoons were excellent.

Gumby: Adorable weirdness from another era and dimension all its own. Catchy theme too.

Peanuts specials: The ’60s and ’70s was full of them. Christmas rules, with Halloween a close second (“I got a rock”), but many golden moments throughout them. And don’t forget their first couple of films.

Rankin-Bass specials: Just as emblazoned on the mind as anything else listed above. Rudolph is the best, but then there’s misters Snow and Heat Miser, Nestor the Donkey, The Little Drummer Boy, and on and on.

Star Trek: Captured the imagination way back when and still a model for thoughtful, less action-heavy adventure drama.

The PBS NewsHour: JIm Lehrer, Robin MacNeil, and the great big gang of excellent journalists. A staple throughout my life, although there are periods where one just gets sick of the news!

The McLaughlin Group: My relatives enjoyed this one too, and despite all the shouting there was humor and something to be learned from watching this one.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse: Madness.

The Simpsons: Streotypes, yes, but also an unmatched investigation of American culture of the 80s and 90s. Stopped watching after that.

Fawlty Towers: Short-lived but oh so sweet.

Law & Order: Beats all the other old dramas I used to watch, hands down. A formula that worked splendidly despite cast changes, plus a “fun” way to see NYC.

Al TV: Occasionally, “Weird Al” took over MTV, much to its improvement, commenting on videos (thank you, Madonna) and other frazzled, madcap stuff he did, per usual. Just Say Julie was good too, as were 120 Minutes and Yo! MTV Raps, of course.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: In the vein of the above, but full-blown and exceptionally funny. Ridiculous old movies commented upon, with sketches galore between. A study in allusion and parody.

Seinfeld: My family could all quote this one extensively. A true landmark in entertainment history, plus that NY feel of the time.

Friends: Fewer iconic moments than Seinfeld, but a bumper crop of them, thanks especially to Ross and Rachel. Phoebe grew on me too, the second time around. Actually, I watched most of this one in reruns before the show wrapped up. An activity: keep stats on which character makes you laugh the most—could be applied to Seinfeld and other great comedies as well.

Clarissa Explains It All: Inventive escapism for someone in their 20s remembering their teens.

Are You Being Served? + Are You Being Served? Again! (aka Grace & Favour): Ridiculous in oh so many ways, but endearing and a laugh riot. Once told by a British professor that I would likely not appreciate it. He was wrong.

The Thin Blue Line: Matches Fawlty for hilarity in a short-run comedy.

As Time Goes By: A comic drama I guess, with a lot of heart and laughs. Another one that my family all enjoyed, which adds some charm to it.

Keeping Up Appearances: Formulaic to the extreme, but always generating laughs.

Prime Minister’s Questions: See above entry. Highlight: the Tony Blair vs. John Major years, with credit to Blair and William Hague for carrying forth most of that energy when Labour took over.

Joan of Arcadia: One of two shows from the time that employed “One of Us” by Joan Osborne to good effect, this one quite literally. The other was the also notable Homicide: Life on the Street.

Ballykissangel: A little hand-wringing perhaps, but a good portrait of small town life with a nice dose of British Isles atmosphere and more than a smidgeon of institutional skepticism.

Zoboomafoo: The first of a trio of PBS kids’ shows that kept me company while making dinner after work. Zoboo—both live and filmed—is hard to resist, as is the Kratt enthusiasm. You won’t believe your mind.

Arthur: Kind of a Simpsons for little kids with a lot of parody, dredging up childhood conflicts, and not unacceptable lessons.

Odd Squad: Makes me snicker more than I should admit.

Parks & Recreation: A comedy that turned into a drama, you started to care about the characters that much. Another good look at civic life with a lot of interesting cast members, both regular and guest.

The Office: Lasted much too long, but many, many moments make it one of the century’s best and Steve Carell tolerable despite his character being the opposite.

Big Brother: Shallow, sophomoric, and prone to at least a couple of -ists, but also one of the purer, cynical mind/power politics games out there.

Pureheart 19 / Soonjung 19: Whatever you call it, the finest vehicle for learning some Korean culture and language while laughing and having the heartstrings tugged a bit. Also had an interesting Roomba-type character.

Arrested Development: The first three seasons bear repeated study, unfolding layers with each newly-deciphered mumble or background action. A show where one would like to see all of the cut scenes spliced in for the grandest of comedy spectacles.

The New Adventures of Old Christine: You feel the angst (or agony?) of the main character, painfully, almost every minute of the show. Quite an achievement for something so funny and clever.

Extras: Has some of the funniest TV moments committed to film. Doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Wallander: The atmosphere was palpable, and the character’s mental plight inspired me to find and upload a replica of his ringtone, which was specially composed for the series.

Broadchurch: Just compelling, with the two leads acting up a storm.

Death in Paradise: The funnest mystery show I know, with ups and downs depending on cast changes. The “importing a white male English detective inspector” element is awful, but everything else compensates for it.

*New for 2023*
Jonathan Creek: Recently re-watched the earlier seasons and it’s just as good if not better than it once was; thank you Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin. Although everyone involved is sent up over the course of an episode, the downside is a certain amorality and sexism that very occasionally creep into the plots and jokes, most of which I attribute to the “male gaze” and Creek’s “chaotic good” nature. The specials add to the heft. And adding Season Four stamps the show’s immortality for certain, thanks to the inimitable Carla Borrego, played by the splendid Julia Sawalha.

What will be next? One of a couple shows currently running, or something else dredged from the past.

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