Welcome to the third installment of This Was Television’s Hall of Fame!
As you may recall, we introduced a new format last month, where we adjusted the voting system and expanded the pool of nominees to gather insights from all TWTV writers.
We are thrilled with how this revamped structure has worked and are delighted to induct Fawlty Towers, Freaks and Geeks, and The Office (UK) into our Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Twin Peaks, I Love Lucy, and Sesame Street.
We would like to express our gratitude to all the contributors who joined the discussion last month, our appreciation to Sidant for adding an additional level of statistical analysis, and our thanks to all the voters who helped us select the inductees.
Moving on to this month’s theme: while the previous month focused on series with 30 episodes or fewer to make their case, this month, we are taking the opposite approach by examining shows that have amassed 200 episodes or more.
While 100 episodes are often seen as the standard for syndication and long-lasting success, a show exceeding twice that number signifies a remarkable level of popularity and cultural significance.
However, does longevity alone guarantee a place in the Hall of Fame? That is the question we aim to address.
As with the previous month, each of our members will nominate one show and present their arguments for its induction.
Afterward, the decision will be opened up to the voters.
You have the opportunity to vote for as many shows as you like. By the end of the voting period, any show that receives more than 60 percent of the vote will be granted entry.
The same rules for inclusion apply: shows are eligible for consideration only if they have been off the air for at least five years unless an undeniable case can be made for their worthiness.
Furthermore, any show that previously failed to pass a ballot cannot be reconsidered until three months have passed.
(In this particular instance, All In The Family and Saturday Night Live are both ineligible this month, despite having 208 and 729 episodes, respectively.)
So without further ado, here are the nominees for This Was TV’s Hall of Fame for November 2012.
Sidant: NBC was preparing to bid farewell to one of its most successful sitcoms to date.
After over a decade on the air, the cast, some of whom were poised to make their mark in movies, decided it was time to bring the show to a close.
While the show’s ratings had slipped slightly, it remained a top ten hit, though no longer at the number one spot it had enjoyed just two seasons earlier.
However, due to the immense buzz surrounding its finale, which ultimately became one of the top five highest-rated finales of all time, the network was not ready to part ways with this beloved show.
Fortunately, one of the stars, along with a team of writers, was willing to carry on.
In a spinoff named after the star, the character would relocate to the West Coast after having lived on the East Coast for a while.
He would move in with his family, offering the audience a fresh perspective.
NBC had good reason to be optimistic about the spinoff’s success.
Just one week after the parent series, Friends, ended its run, a similar spinoff wrapped up its own 11-year journey.
What made Frasier particularly remarkable was its ability to stand out from Cheers, its predecessor.
In many respects, it set itself apart from most other sitcoms, with clean, titled act breaks, the end-of-season montage featuring guest callers’ headshots, and the silent tag scenes in which Kelsey Grammer sang the nonsensical “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs.”
Kelsey Grammer delivered a brilliant performance as Dr. Frasier Crane, earning four Emmy wins and ten nominations over the course of the series.
He also received two nominations for Cheers and another for a guest appearance on Wings, making him the sole actor to earn Emmy nominations for portraying the same character on three different shows, in leading, supporting, and guest-starring roles.
David Hyde Pierce received Emmy nominations in each of Frasier’s 11 seasons, matching Grammer’s four wins.
Jane Leeves and John Mahoney also received nominations, as did numerous guest stars.
Frasier was never a massive hit, but it spent four years in the top ten, reaching its peak in its sixth and seventh seasons.
It managed to be both a workplace and family show, a “smart” and witty comedy, and a multi-camera series filled with puns and slapstick humor.
The show featured relationships seldom seen on television, such as the dynamic between two adult sons and their polar opposite father, as well as the common “will-they/won’t-they” relationships found in many sitcoms.
In summary, Frasier was truly one-of-a-kind, while Joey was canceled midway through its second season.
Roshan: That ’70s Show serves as a prime illustration of the concept known as “Changing Eras,” which suggests that works of fiction, regardless of their time setting, inevitably mirror the values of the period in which they were created.
While it’s not the first sitcom to employ this approach—Happy Days preceded it, coincidentally with the ’70s reflecting on the ’50s—That ’70s Show, more so than Happy Days, is preoccupied with the interplay between the past and present, especially concerning the sociopolitical concerns of their respective eras.
Initially taking place in 1976 and spanning a mere three years of in-show time across its eight seasons, That ’70s Show effectively encapsulated some of the most significant cultural transformations of the era.
These included the 1973 oil crisis, the monumental release of Star Wars in 1977, and how they influenced the lives of contemporary teenagers.
While these issues weren’t always tackled in the traditional “Very Special Episode” manner, they undeniably left their mark on the characters’ lives.
Amidst the typical high school themes of cars, dating rituals, and extracurricular activities, the show also addressed the conclusion of the hippie era and the advent of punk, disco, and the George Lucas phenomenon.
This backdrop was accompanied by a palpable distrust of government, a sentiment fueled by the relatively recent Watergate scandal.
The show’s theme song wasn’t just an anthem of youthful enthusiasm; it represented an ideal to aspire to, the wildest fantasy of a Baby Boomer child amid the very real struggles of the lower-middle-class existence they aimed for (to borrow a phrase from Keith Mars).
In terms of its formal approach, the show was quite inventive.
While officially a multi-camera sitcom, That ’70s Show was always willing to break away from convention in favor of better storytelling or humor.
Reflecting the psychedelic atmosphere of the era, transitions between scenes often featured ’70s-themed imagery and cast members engaging in satirical or parodic scenarios from the era.
On numerous occasions, the show adopted a character’s point of view, making use of handheld camera techniques.
The most famous formal technique was “The Circle,” where a camera would be positioned at the center of a group of characters and pan around to capture each of their close-ups sequentially as the conversation flowed.
The Circle was predominantly employed in the basement, where the teens were strongly implied to be smoking pot, and this technique helped convey the idea despite the absence of explicit drug paraphernalia in the scene.
However, it could be used whenever characters were seated in a circular arrangement, such as around a dinner table.
Reaching the 200-episode mark was once considered quite attainable, but That ’70s Show did so during the rise of serialized dramas and the era of predetermined series finales.
Achieving this milestone is a testament to the show’s genre and the era it portrays, and it managed to do so without undergoing significant shifts in its execution.
Moreover, the show played a pivotal role in launching the careers of virtually all its main cast members.
Yet, above all, it excelled on its best days by seamlessly blending personal narratives with political and social issues.
Kriti: The X-Files took over the “shows we can obsess about” mantle from Twin Peaks and proudly flaunted one of the earliest Internet-era fandoms.
Its debut in 1993 occupied Fox’s Friday 9 p.m. time slot for three seasons, a placement that would likely spell doom for a show today.
Initially, The X-Files was a modest cult hit, but it found its true stride as the online community grew, gaining popularity and a dedicated audience.
In many ways, it was the perfect show for the nascent Internet era: it featured mystery, conspiracy, and two lead characters often credited with popularizing the term “shipping” in the TV viewing lexicon.
The series commenced with a believer and a skeptic. The partnership of Mulder and Scully delved deeply into the clash between science and faith.
The dynamic that made these two characters so compelling was the tension stemming from their contrasting belief systems and their approaches to achieving results.
This foundation was laid out in the pilot, as Agent Dana Scully was assigned to debunk Agent Fox Mulder’s paranormal theories.
Despite their differences, they formed a formidable team.
Mulder’s unwavering commitment to “the truth,” a truth constantly referred to as “out there” in each episode, became one of The X-Files’ instantly recognizable catchphrases.
Numerous elements of the show, from its iconic theme song to Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster, have become an integral part of pop culture.
Over its nine seasons, the show transitioned from a ratings sensation to a gradual decline.
The drop in ratings was not a mystery, particularly after David Duchovny left as a full-time cast member.
The central partnership between Mulder and Scully was a cornerstone of the show’s appeal.
The fact that they never had strong love interests outside their relationship underscored its significance.
The palpable chemistry between the leads led to fervent discussions about “shipping” among the audience online.
The show’s writers astutely capitalized on these moments (notably the buzzworthy episode involving bees).
The online frenzy a few months ago when rumors circulated about Duchovny and Gillian Anderson’s real-life relationship attests to how much people, myself included, still care about this couple.
Regarding awards, The X-Files performed exceptionally well compared to most genre shows.
Both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny received numerous major nominations and wins (Anderson outperformed Duchovny, claiming one Emmy, two Screen Actors Guild awards, and one Golden Globe, as opposed to his single Globe win).
The show itself earned 21 Emmy nominations, including four for Best Drama Series.
In 1998, during The X-Files’ peak of popularity, the franchise expanded with a theatrical movie that raked in $30 million domestically in its opening weekend (the less said about its 2008 follow-up, the better).
The movie ranked 23rd in the box office chart that year and successfully continued the storyline.
The X-Files excelled at striking a balance between serialized storytelling and stand-alone episodes, which ranged from spine-chilling and humorous to deeply moving.
“The Post-Modern Prometheus” serves as a prime example of the show’s finest episodes, weaving a bold and captivating narrative while staying true to the science fiction and horror elements that influenced it.
Abhishek: Cheers (275 episodes on NBC from 1982–1993)
The reputation of Cheers as one of the greatest sitcoms to ever grace the screen is now a widely accepted fact, and deservedly so.
For those who consider historical significance and influence when evaluating Hall of Fame worthiness, this series offers plenty of compelling reasons for its inclusion.
The iconic relationship between Sam and Diane stands as one of the most memorable in TV history.
Moreover, Cheers’ laid-back setting, which prioritizes the characters’ casual hangouts over extensive world-building, has left an indelible mark on numerous recent sitcoms, including Happy Endings, Cougar Town, and New Girl.
The show’s strength also resides in its unforgettable characters, who rank among the most iconic in television history.
Running gags like Norm’s unwavering passion for beer, Cliff’s regular “little-known fact” anecdotes, and Carla’s vehement dislike of Diane contributed to the distinctiveness and humor of each character.
Additionally, the ensemble cast of Cheers is considered one of the finest in television history.
Remarkably, the show’s brilliance endured uninterrupted even after two significant cast changes due to the passing of Nicholas Colasanto and Shelley Long’s departure.
In fact, one might argue that Long’s exit was a positive development for Cheers, as Sam and Diane’s interactions had become increasingly tiresome after the initial seasons.
Finally, the series boasts an exceptionally high average quality, likely surpassing that of any other network sitcom in television history.
Although I’m currently in the midst of season eight as I write this, Cheers has almost certainly already outpaced my beloved The Van Show in terms of delivering classic episodes.
Even its weakest and most inconsistent stretch, spanning from the end of season three to the conclusion of season five, contains numerous hilariously memorable installments (such as the brilliant “Thanksgiving Orphans”).
While Cheers is not without its imperfections, it stands as one of the closest contenders to flawless television programming that network television has ever seen.
In my view, it undoubtedly deserves a place in the Hall of Fame.
Reesav: The announcement that TNT would revive a nighttime soap opera from over two decades ago, not as a mere remake but as a continuation of the original story, appeared to many as a recipe for failure from the start.
However, there was little debate that if any show could navigate such a transition, it would be Dallas.
What began as a five-part miniseries soon evolved into a television spectacle of epic proportions, becoming the fourth-longest-running drama in network TV history.
This show also boasts the second-highest rated television episode of all time (more on that later).
The feuds between the Ewing and Barnes families played out like the modern-day Capulets and Montagues of CBS Friday nights, with the Texas oil and cattle industry serving as the backdrop for an array of unscrupulous activities: adultery, blackmail, kidnapping, and murder.
In the realm of primetime soap operas, Dallas reigned supreme, taking timeless themes such as good vs. evil, brother vs. brother, and the pursuit of wealth, and weaving a sprawling narrative set deep in the heart of Texas.
Larry Hagman’s portrayal of J.R. Ewing, a character both ruthless and amoral, resonated with audiences as the businessman willing to do whatever it took to advance his interests, frequently clashing with family members such as his alcoholic wife, Sue Ellen, and his altruistic brother, Bobby, just as fiercely as he did with his professional rivals.
Like any compelling soap opera, Dallas featured an expansive cast that could be easily expanded or trimmed, and it navigated through storylines with confidence while never losing sight of the family dynamics that anchored the show.
Dallas was a true cultural phenomenon, consistently ranking as the number one or number two show for five of its 14 years, dominating the public discourse because it was the show that everyone was talking about.
In addition to its impressive ratings, Dallas delivered two of television’s most iconic moments.
The season three finale left audiences pondering “Who shot J.R.?” for months, making it one of the most memorable cliffhangers in television history, garnering a 53.3 rating and a 76 percent share for the reveal episode, “Who Done It?”—figures eclipsed only by the M*A*S*H series finale, making it a staggering achievement by today’s standards.
Furthermore, Dallas pulled off an audacious retcon, which stands as the most remarkable in television history.
This unprecedented move involved showrunner Leonard Katzman and star Patrick Duffy returning to the show in the tenth season after their departure at the end of the eighth season.
An entire season in between had been helmed by a different creative team. In the season ten premiere, Katzman revealed that the entire ninth season had existed as a dream of Bobby’s wife, Pamela, effectively invalidating 31 hours of television.
While this twist may seem absurd in retrospect, Dallas was confident it had garnered enough goodwill to pull it off and continued successfully for years afterward.
The new iteration may not have replicated the same level of success, but it is a testament to the enduring appeal of the show that, two decades later, J.R. and Bobby could reignite their feud seamlessly.
Naveen: It might sound peculiar for someone nominating a show for a Hall of Fame, but I must admit, I don’t particularly like Dragon Ball Z.
In my view, it doesn’t qualify as a very good show.
The writing leaves much to be desired, the storyline for each of the seasons is remarkably predictable, and after a certain point, you begin to realize that the show predominantly consists of characters standing around discussing their powers, charging up for significant attacks, and then engaging in brief bursts of combat.
This can become quite monotonous, especially after enduring 50 episodes, not to mention enduring all 291.
The series revolves around Goku, his circle of friends, his family (most notably his son, Gohan), and adversaries who eventually become allies.
They train and battle to safeguard the Earth and control the legendary Dragon Balls, a set of seven spheres capable of summoning a wish-granting dragon.
These battles entail confrontations with Saiyans (the alien race to which Goku belongs), ruthless alien despots, and androids, all of whom exhibit increasing strength, cunning, and capabilities.
The storyline further incorporates elements of space travel, time travel, and, naturally, characters dying and returning to life to fight another day.
However, it’s impossible to deny that Dragon Ball Z holds a significant place among shōnen anime series in recent memory.
The fighting and training regimens undertaken by Goku and his friends have given rise to a media franchise that continues to thrive through various means, including home video releases, web-based streaming options, live-action films, video games, trading card games, action figures, and, of course, the manga that served as the source material for the series.
DBZ is widely recognized as a major influence on three of the most popular action anime series currently in circulation: Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece.
In spite of the series’ repetitive elements and its emphasis on combat, Toei Animation injects vitality into the plethora of characters created by Akira Toriyama.
At its core, Dragon Ball Z is inherently optimistic, focusing on themes of willpower, self-improvement, and the importance of viewing differences in others not as weaknesses but as strengths.
Thus, I nominate Dragon Ball Z. I fully anticipate it will garner an astounding number of votes, perhaps even surpassing the mythical “OVER 9000!” mark!
Astha: Among all the TV comedies that endured for over 200 episodes, M*A*S*H stands out as one that made the most effective use of that extensive runtime.
This might be a somewhat contentious claim because the show tends to receive criticism from TV enthusiasts, primarily for two reasons: 1)
Its 11-season run significantly exceeds the actual duration of the Korean War, and 2)
What initially began as an absurd satire gradually adopted a more dramatic tone as it aged.
However, I believe that both these aspects are integral to its enduring popularity.
The extended run allowed the series to deeply explore the inner workings of its characters, a feat that appeared implausible in its early years.
During the initial three seasons, the show primarily aimed to satirize army life, and the characters were essentially caricatures.
The perpetually grinning Hawkeye was a blend of 60 percent Groucho Marx and 40 percent Bugs Bunny.
Major Frank Burns portrayed a bumbling, inept individual solely concerned with his status.
Colonel Henry Blake embodied a good-natured, oblivious buffoon. While the show was undeniably hilarious, this tone had its limitations.
Commencing with the fourth season, the supporting cast underwent various changes—wise Colonel Sherman Potter took over from Henry, laid-back wisecracker BJ replaced the Trapper John character, and eventually, the pompous yet talented Charles took Frank’s place.
Concurrently, Hawkeye himself evolved into a more grounded and human character, all while retaining his sense of humor.
The series shifted its focus away from mocking the army and towards exploring how these characters navigated their lives within this peculiar setting.
In those middle years, the show struck a delicate balance between comedy and drama, which ultimately became its most enduring legacy.
Within M*A*S*H, there’s also a third series, spanning the show’s final three or four seasons and commencing around the departure of company clerk Radar O’Reilly in the fall of 1979.
This segment of the show leaned even further towards drama than its immediate predecessor, but it continued to deliver remarkable character development.
Furthermore, the series-long evolution from “war satire with wacky antics” to “thoughtful examination of life during wartime” feels like a natural progression when viewed as a whole.
Our point-of-view character, Hawkeye, transformed over time much like real people do, and all 251 episodes trace the steps of that personal journey.
Simran: Gunsmoke (635 episodes on CBS from 1955–1975)
If you’re looking to select a show that surpassed the 200-episode mark, why not opt for the one that boasts the longest endurance?
Over a span of 20 years, Gunsmoke produced an astonishing 635 episodes, a record that seems unlikely to be surpassed by any scripted primetime series.
Gunsmoke achieved the remarkable feat of consistently ranking among the top 30 shows for 19 out of its 20 seasons (even holding the 34th spot in 1966-67, nearly facing cancellation, but reportedly saved due to the persuasive appeal of CBS’s president’s wife).
Impressively, only six of its 20 seasons fell outside the top ten in terms of ratings.
Although the show didn’t secure major awards, it is widely regarded as the finest television western ever (my apologies, Deadwood, but longevity does carry some weight).
Furthermore, Gunsmoke served as a launchpad for the careers of individuals both in front of and behind the camera, such as Burt Reynolds, Sam Peckinpah, Arnold Laven, and Jerry Goldsmith.
The series successfully navigated several significant transitions throughout its existence, including the shift from radio to television, black and white to color, and a transition from a half-hour to an hour-long format—none of which were straightforward achievements.
When considering shows in this category, it’s virtually impossible to overlook the one that, at least in terms of sheer episode count, outshines them all.
Gunsmoke’s exceptional longevity and its ability to maintain its popularity throughout its extensive run—SIX HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIVE EPISODES—certainly make a compelling case.