Today I came across an article on CNN Entertainment written by Barry Garron titled, “Which TV Shows Were Most Influential”. Being a long-time television aficionado, I was extremely interested to see what this column had to say. It seems CNN polled a panel of a dozen professional TV watchers on which programs had the biggest influence in altering the direction of television programming. In all, 46 different shows were mentioned as having a strong impact on TV but none was mentioned as often as “Hill Street Blues”.
The panel of experts consisted of Robert Blanco - USA Today, Matt Roush – TV Guide Magazine, Matt Dawidziak – Plain-Dealer in Cleveland, Neal Justin – Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Maureen Ryan – AOL, Ken Tucker – Entertainment Weekly, Glenn Garvin – The Miami Herald, Dave Walker – Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Mary McNamara – LA Times, Elayne Rapping – State University of New York, Robert J. Thompson – Syracuse and Max Dawson – Northwestern.
In the article, Garron mentions that “Hill Street Blues” never finished a season among the top 20 programs in the Nielsen ratings. Surprisingly, series like “ER” and “CSI”, both huge hits that were the most popular shows in several seasons, failed to garner even one mention from this esteemed committee.
The experts cited the diverse cast of “Hill Street Blues” at a time when this was a rarity and that it laid the groundwork for dramas to be more complex. The fact that it paved the way for TV drama to be adult was another reason mentioned.
Elayne Rapping, a professor of American studies and media at the State University of New York, called it “the prototype for a serious complex view of inner-city crime”.
All of these qualities are very evident in two of my all-time favorites, The Wire and The Sopranos.
Speaking of The Sopranos, here is the list of the most influential shows chosen by the panel:
1. “Hill Street Blues”
2. (tie) “I Love Lucy”
2. (tie) “The Sopranos”
4. “The Tonight Show”
5. (tie) “All in the Family”
5. (tie) “Survivor”
7. (tie) “The Cosby Show”
7. (tie) ”60 Minutes”
7. (tie) “Friends”
10. (tie) “The Today Show”
10. “American Idol”
Honorable mention: “M*A*S*H”, “The Simpsons”, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “Law & Order”, “Lost”, “Your Show of Shows”, “The Milton Berle Show”, “Sesame Street”, “The Shield”, “American Bandstand” and the UK original version of the “The Office”.
Some of these choices startled me a bit, but hey, these are veteran TV critics and college professors who study the media. Who am I to question their expertise?
Well, I do watch a boatload of television and have my definite favorites. This is evidenced by the list of “My Favorite TV Shows” located on the right side of the blog just below the ad for my book.
While I might not be a “professional”, three of my favorites were among the top five on the list of the so-called experts. Two more of mine also made the honorable mention list.
Maybe I do know a thing or two about TV programs after all.
Not to worry, I’m not going to turn “pro”. For the time being I am content writing the Official Survivor Recap Trilogy with Mary Beth and Jamie. If I were to become a professional it would mean that I would have to watch shows like “American Idol” and “Glee”. Heaven forbid.
Until next time…from the booth.