Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Glee and Vampire Diaries: Opposite Ends of the Teen Spectrum September 11, 2009

Somewhere in Ohio, high school misfits find a common purpose in a revamped glee club, while somewhere in Virginia, a sad and isolated high school student finds a reason to be gleeful when she hits it off with the “new boy at school” vampire. I had to think really hard to work “vamp” and “glee” into both of those sentences, which just goes to show you how far apart the worlds of these two shows are. One is all inspiration, comedy, and fun; the other is all doom, gloom, and a love that spans centuries. One is more comedy for everyone than teen show; the other is a drama mostly for teens, mostly supernatural, and not funny at all. (Well, I was amused by the cawing blackbird and spontaneous fog, but I’m not sure that’s what was intended.)

I highly anticipated the premiere, post-pilot episode of Glee, and I was cautiously intrigued by the approach of Vampire Diaries. Now that I’ve seen both of these shows, I am prepared to share my initial reactions and opinions.

Overall Impression

  • Glee – While the second episode didn’t have the absolute, joyous perfection of the pilot, I was still thoroughly entertained. Some stand out moments included anything involving the principal, anything involving Jane Lynch’s cheerleading coach, and the glee club’s two performances – Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” and Salt n Pepa’s “Push It.” I am not as interested in Rachel’s pining over Finn, or Terri’s spontaneous decision to fake being pregnant rather than telling Will it was a false positive. But if the show continues to find humor in the high school social strata, and if the glee club continues to grow and improve, I’ll keep tuning in.
  • Vampire Diaries – I was entertained enough by the pilot that I will watch the second episode, but I’m not yet convinced that this is “must see tv.” While I was watching the pilot, I kept thinking to myself, “I’m too old to be watching this.” I was so not interested in the melodrama of what’s his face wanting to get back together with Elena, or of Elena’s brother Jeremy being all wounded when his summer fling Vicki stopped paying attention to him. And the spooky parts weren’t very spooky. I wasn’t scared during the opening scene when the college kids had a bloody encounter with Damon, nor when Vicki was attacked in the woods. Really the only things I did like were Elena’s narration and diary entries, her friendship with possibly psychic Bonnie, Stefan’s mysterious past and desire to finally return home, and Stefan and Damon’s history as brothers, including their involvement with Elena’s Civil War-era look-alikeĀ  (Damon mentioned that he vowed to make life difficult for Stefan a long time ago, but we don’t really know why yet.).
Jane Lynch is my favorite thing about Glee.

Jane Lynch is my favorite thing about Glee.

The Acting

  • Glee – Overall, the acting is excellent on this show, which means that the casting was well done, too. The very best thing about Glee is Jane Lynch as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. Lynch has always been fantastic in any role, but she is so completely hilarious and spot-on here, that every expression, every glare, every word out of her mouth is golden. If she isn’t nominated for supporting actress in a comedy category at all the tv awards shows this year, then something is very, very wrong. Matthew Morrison plays idealistic do-gooder very well, and I also love Jayma Mays as germaphobic guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury. So far the teen cast are too caricaturish to evaluate, but given time I imagine we’ll see some sort of development with them as well.
  • Vampire Diaries – I observed some rather atrocious acting during the pilot. I hate to name names, so instead I’ll just give credit to those who impressed me or seemed well cast. Well, that just leaves me with the three who received top billing: Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, and Ian Somerhalder. Dobrev brings a quiet confidence and a no-nonsense air to Elena, Wesley plays “I’m the good one” vampire Stefan as well as one can, and Somerhalder brings some much-needed comic relief (I’m not sure it was supposed to be funny, but I laughed) and passion to the whole proceedings. Somerhalder just has that creepy, evil eye look about him, similar to Cillian Murphy, that makes him well-suited for a role such as this. He will be entertaining as Damon, and will probably be the main reason I’ll keep watching, if I do.

The Soundtrack

  • Glee – The music is probably the main reason I watch this show. I enjoy hearing choral interpretations of popular songs, plus I like the quirky, Bobby McPherrinish harmonies that provide atmosphere for many of the scenes.
  • Vampire Diaries – In the tradition of many CW shows that have come before it, this vampire love saga is chock full of barely known music from current bands. At least, it’s barely known to me. But I am all for promoting the little guys. In fact, I like how the CW often advertises the music at the end of its shows: “Tonight’s episode featured music from…” That being said, I didn’t absolutely love any of the music in the pilot episode enough to go download it. Maybe next week. Click here for a list of the songs from the pilot.
Vampire Diaries is the land of lost teens, with almost no adults to be found.

Vampire Diaries is the land of lost teens, with almost no adults to be found.

Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?

  • Glee – Well, all the grown-ups are hanging out in the halls of the high school, because most of them are teachers and faculty. The only parent we’ve seen is Finn’s mom, when he flashed back to their fun times on the front lawn with the lawn care guy. And the only spouse we’ve seen is Will’s crazy, self-centered wife Terri (played very well by Jessalyn Gilsig. And for a show about a high school, this is as it should be. Since most of the action takes place at school, there’s no reason to develop the parents at this point.
  • Vampire Diaries – Now that is a good question for this show – where are all the grown-ups? We saw one older teacher, who was put in his place by Stefan when he gave the class some misinformation about Mystic Falls’ civil war civilian casualties. And then there was that secretary who Stefan glamored into enrolling him at the school without proper paperwork. But Elena and Jeremy live with their grad student aunt, who doesn’t look much older than 25, and none of the other kids seem to have any sort of parental guidance. (Am I forgetting anyone?) I haven’t figured out the relationship between Stefan and his “uncle.” I’m guessing that’s just a living descendant of the family who is aware of his family’s bloodsucking past. It seems awkward to just ignore all the parents. I mean, a simple mention would do, or a wave goodbye as Bonnie and the gang head to their coffee shop hangout. I am surprised that we aren’t seeing more parents since this show is from Mr. Dawson’s Creek himself, Kevin Williamson. I always enjoyed the parents’ subplots on that show, since real teenagers’ lives are usually mixed up, rather than totally separate from, their moms and dads, grandparents, guardians… Maybe the show will introduce more adult characters in the coming weeks. If not, I’m calling this out as a flaw.
Vampire Diaries reminds me of Roswell, specifically Max and Lizs relationship.

Vampire Diaries reminds me of Roswell, specifically Max and Liz's relationship.

Reminds me of…

  • Glee – It’s hard to think of any shows like this one. It reminds me more of Christopher Guest movies, such as Best in Show or A Mighty Wind. Unlike most of what comes on tv these days (lots of revivals, remakes, and spin-offs), this one seems very original.
  • Vampire Diaries – This show has nothing in common with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except that a vampire falls in love with a teenage girl. But I don’t see Elena picking up a sword and vanquishing Damon in the season finale. No, Vampire Diaries is more reminiscent of Roswell. On that show, alien Max Evans fell in love with Liz Parker, and Liz wrote in her diary about how her world was turned upside down the moment she got involved with him. Like Elena, Liz had a friend with psychic connections – as I recall, Maria was somehow in touch with that kind of thing. Aliens, vampires… while there are many differences, both Liz and Elena are drawn to Max and Stefan because they aren’t like the other boys.

In the Great Scheme of Things

  • Glee – I am thrilled to have a musical comedy on tv. Amidst all the melodrama of teen romance, the mystery of criminal investigations, and the depressing cases of medical shows, Glee is a breath of fresh air. I just hope the showrunners and cast can keep up with audience expectation for a long time to come.
  • Vampire Diaries – This, my friends, is no Joss Whedon show. Buffy or Angel it will never be. The love triangle was always just a part of the story on those shows, with a more epic story arc taking center stage. I’m not sure this show will ever rise above the Stefan-Elena-Damon love triangle and the mayhem that Stefan will try to prevent Damon from inflicting on Mystic Falls. Do I sound skeptical? Well, I am. Perhaps if I continue watching, then after several episodes I will compare Vampire Diaries to other vampire shows of the past, to see how it stacks up. I should at least give it a chance.

So obviously, if I were forced to choose between these two shows, I would immediately select Glee. Vampire Diaries pales (pun intended) in comparison to the more magical, zingier Glee. What did you think of these two shows?

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Retro Weekend: Best One-Hour TV Show Theme Songs (Instrumental) July 18, 2009

Last weekend I listed the Best Instrumental TV Sitcom Theme Songs. This week, I’m sticking with the instrumentals, but moving on to one hour shows. I couldn’t just say “Best TV Drama Theme Songs” because some of these shows don’t fit into that genre. Remember that these aren’t all necessarily great shows – they just happen to have some of the most memorable, most show-appropriate, or catchiest theme songs. Once again, rather than try to list a top ten, I’ve just organized them in roughly chronological order. Thanks again to Television Tunes, for taking me on a trip down tv theme song memory lane.

  • Dallas – No, I didn’t just include this long-running primetime soap because I live in Dallas. This show was a bit too before my time for me to be a fan – plus I simply don’t care too much for soaps. But the theme song has that special 70s vibe, mixed with a bold, clean brass section reminiscent of old TV westerns. It’s a nice blend of city and country, and perfectly fits the show.


  • The Price is RightMaybe I’m weird for throwing in a game show theme song to this list, but hearing this song transports me right back to my babysitters’ house, or to summers at home, when I was growing up. It is the epitome of ’70s-’80s game shows with its happy go lucky tune and hip horn section.
  • Knight Rider – Please let me emphasize that I am talking about the original show, not the feeble attempt at a remake last year. Back when David Hasselhoff was still cool, he had a show with a really cool theme song. The guitar, the uber-80s synthesizer, the beat track… it’s all good. There’s a voiceover on the opening credits, but I think it still counts as an instrumental.


  • Twin Peaks – I have recently been rewatching this series on a cable network called Chiller. It is at times bizarre, at times disturbing, but almost always fascinating. The opening theme is beautiful and melancholy, and sets up the strange contrast of a small town with quirky inhabitants and the sinister forces at work in their midst. All the music on this show was excellent, from the distinctive musical score for each character (I liked Audrey’s jazzy song), to the songs performed by a musician at The Roadhouse.


  • Law & OrderI lost interest in this show long ago, and never even watched a couple of the spin-offs in the franchise. My favorite was always SVU, but the original had the best version of the theme song. The tone is melancholy, gritty, and hints at the seedy underbelly that the criminal justice system deals with. I like how the music changes when the opening credits shift from the police to the district attorneys.
  • The X-FilesThe whistling, the spooky chords. What’s not to love about this theme song? I used to whistle along to the opening credits. I guess it counts as an instrumental since there aren’t any actual words.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer This is a theme song that I didn’t like at first, but after years of listening to it, it’s one of my favorites. The funky rock sound is perfect for a show about an epic hero who is sometimes more interested in making the cheerleading squad than in slaying vampires. Plus, it’s just fun to listen to.
  • DexterI wish I could have found a video of the actual opening credits, because that really enhances the experience of the song. A healthy dose of Cuban guitar, mixed with some violent images of bacon frying, shoelaces being tied, someone shaving, etc. The song, combined with the opening credits, are perfect for a show that has a sociopath posing as a regular guy.
  • Friday Night Lights – I’ve fallen behind in watching this show, but I still love it and its theme song. The video below contains the song, but not the actual opening credits. The pictures that are included of the characters give you an idea of the heart of the show: a small town community, a coach who is dedicated to his family and his team, flawed high school kids doing the best they can with their circumstances, etc. The guitar-driven theme has a slow and steady pace that is fitting for the small town setting of this show, with just a hint of an edge to it, since there are bad boy characters like Riggins and Smash on the show.
  • Fringe – This was my favorite new show last season, and it has a brief but perfect theme song. Like the X-Files theme that came before it, this song, penned by J.J. Abrams himself (what can’t he do?), is mysterious and haunting. The string-heavy melody hints at the show’s main focus – scientific occurrences just on the fringe of possibility.

So, which iconic theme songs did I leave off of this list? Which ones do you agree/disagree with? Next weekend I’ll move on to Best TV Sitcom Theme Songs with Lyrics.

 

Best Scifi/Fantasy TV Series on Hulu January 27, 2009

A vampire with a soul turns private investigator to make amends for his past evil deeds… A fleet of humans search for a home and form shaky alliances with the Cylons who were once their sworn enemy… A cheerleader turned vampire slayer saves the world time and again with help from her enthusiastic gang of Scoobies… A ragtag band of space cowboys stays one step ahead of the Alliance while also welcoming others who are on the run into their family… An FBI agent, a genius, and a mad scientist work together to investigate strange occurrences with the ultimate goal of unraveling the mystery of The Pattern.

Angel, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Fringe. These are the nominees for Best Scifi/Fantasy TV Series on Hulu. For me, choosing one of these shows as the proposed winner is a nearly impossible task. I’ve seen every episode of these shows at least once (and have seen many episodes of Buffy and Angel multiple times), and consider myself a loyal fan of Angel, Battlestar Galactica, and Buffy. While I enjoyed Firefly, I never became attached to it in the same way as Joss Whedon’s previous shows, yet there’s no denying that it was a unique and well-executed concept. And Fringe is my favorite new show this year. It is consistently fascinating and entertaining. All five of these nominees are worthy of winning in this category. Deciding on one will require me to break it down a bit:

  • AngelMy favorite things about this Buffy spin-off were its fantastical story arcs and the evolution of its characters. Cordelia, once a shallow actress wannabe, transformed into a warrior of the people and, literally, a higher being. Wesley went from being a prissy bookworm to a smooth talking, motorcycle riding, James Bond type of hero. (I miss him most of all.) All the main characters faced great crises at some point, and things were rarely resolved in a nice and neat way. (I still am deeply saddened when I think about Fred’s horrible fate, and the way it affected all of her friends.) As for the story arcs, one of the best ones was at the end of season two when the gang found themselves in Lorne’s home world of Pylea. I loved everything about these episodes, from Angel’s true demon appearance being unleashed, to the Pyleans calling humans “cows” and enslaving them. Angel was one of those rare shows that got better with age. The final season was my favorite one. It was sad to see it go when it was at the top of its game.

  • Battlestar GalacticaI love the scifi aspects of this epic show, but it is the human drama that makes it truly memorable. President Roslin was thrust into the role of leader of the human race, fresh off of the news that she was battling cancer. Admiral Adama struggles to maintain his military authority while also trying to make up for lost time with his son Lee. Gaius Baltar may be insane, he may be brilliant, or he may be somewhere in between, but he is definitely guilt-ridden over his part in the near-extinction of the human race. Every character has a well-developed personality and believable struggles. And no one can say that the story is predictable or formulaic. So much has happened, and there’s so much time between seasons, that I feel like I need a refresher course just to keep up with the mythology. Once the series comes to an end, I plan to rewatch it from start to finish, in a relatively short amount of time, so that I can fully appreciate the connections and the ongoing trials and triumphs of the characters. I should also mention that the special effects are always impressive – this is an important aspect to a scifi/fantasy show.

  • Buffy the Vampire SlayerThis is a show that grew on me over time. My initial impression of it didn’t amount to much more than a “those demon costumes look silly and fake.” Of course, I came in late in the game – in the middle of season five. Once I started from the beginning (which was easy to do when FX was showing two episodes a day), I quickly grew to appreciate the fast-paced dialogue, the unusual happenings on the Hellmouth, and the way that the show combined fantasy with real life issues. The show had its ups and downs over the years (Once More with Feeling and the season with Glory = up, Slayers in Training and the Adam story arc = down), but once I got to know the characters, it didn’t really matter where they went or what they did. I was happy to be along for the ride.

  • FireflyA Western in space. As far as I know, this idea had never been made into a tv show before this little scifi western that could came alone. Well, it only kind of could, since it didn’t last a full season on Fox. But it has had a healthy and successful afterlife on DVD. Like all of Joss Whedon’s shows, this one features distinctive characters that we either love, or hate to love. There was fearless Mal, loyal Zoe, comical Wash, opportunistic Jayne, enigmatic River, etc. In addition to the crew’s ongoing run-ins with The Alliance, Whedon created another truly frightening enemy in the Reavers, a group of cannibalistic nomads that wander the outer reaches of space. This show barely had time to get its footing before it was canceled, but it managed to create a loyal (and well-deserved) following in that time.

  • Fringe – I started singing this show’s praises right after the pilot aired. It’s smartly written, well-acted, has interesting special effects, and seems to have unlimited possibilities with where the story could go. I actually like Joshua Jackson more in his role as Peter Bishop than I liked him as Pacey on Dawson’s Creek (pause for the customary “gasp!” from all the Joey/Pacey ‘shippers). Lance Reddick is appropriately mysterious as Agent Broyles, Anna Torv plays Olivia Dunham as a determined but slightly stressed young agent, and the rest of the cast rounds out very well. John Noble is the stand-out as Walter Bishop. He has so many great moments on the show, and I love his basement lab at Harvard, complete with a dairy cow and plenty of gadgets and gizmos. The search for The Pattern is a mythology-in-the-making worthy of the X-Files, and perhaps we will even receive more answers than the X-Files ever gave us. I hope this show is given at least a few seasons to take us to new places.

So now comes the hard part. Separating the great from the… great:

  • I will eliminate Fringe first, because with as new as it is, it hasn’t had a chance to prove that it is as deserving of the award as some of the heavyweights in this category.
  • For a similar reason, I will take Firefly out of consideration, because it’s hard to value one season of it as much as the many seasons of Angel, Buffy, or BSG.
  • This is where it gets really hard. I have trouble deciding whether I liked Buffy or Angel better, but in the end I guess I would go with Buffy – if I had to choose one or the other. Angel was a great show, but when I go back and watch it now, it doesn’t feel like as much of a classic as Buffy still does.
  • So, that leaves me with two super worthy contenders: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica. I am leaning toward Battlestar Galactica, as its production values are slicker (I’m sure it has a bigger budget), and it tackles slightly more grandiose themes concerning the human condition, questions of what makes life worth living, etc. (Buffy held its own in the thematic arena, though, but on a smaller scale.)

As of this moment, I stand ready to cast my vote for Battlestar Galactica as the best Scifi/Fantasy tv show on Hulu. If you believe one of the other four nominees is more deserving, please make an argument on its behalf. I just may change my mind!

 

The Top Five TV Comedies on Hulu November 20, 2008

I’ve already discussed an expanded definition of “comedy” and have established what characteristics, in my opinion, a comedy must exhibit to be considered great. Now it is time for me to unveil my proposed nominees for Best TV Comedy on Hulu. So, without further adieu…

  • Arrested DevelopmentThis is my top, top pick. Everything about this little show is greatness. It’s a travesty that it did so poorly in the ratings, but at least it garnered all the critical praise that it deserved. And we have a movie based on the series to look forward to. Given all the attention this show deserves, it is terrific that the entire series is available to watch on Hulu, plus hundreds of clips of classic Bluth dysfunction. What makes this show perhaps the best comedy to ever grace the small screen? Hmmm… let me count the ways. Insanely funny characters. Ridiculously spot-on actors. Perfectly timed voice-over narration. Wacky serialized storylines. Buster’s hook hand. Gob’s endless attempts at magic tricks gone wrong. George-Michael’s name. George Michael’s awkward infatuation with his cousin. Maebe’s career as a movie producer. Tobias’ wearing of jean shorts under his other clothes. Michael’s level-headedness amidst the madness of his family. I could go on and on. I spent almost as much time rewinding episodes of this show as I did watching it, because I was constantly laughing and would have to go back to see what I had missed. The jokes come fast and furious from the opening narration to the ending faux preview of the next episode. In every way, this show is pure comic genius.

  • 30 RockNothing came close to the tone and style of humor of Arrested Development until Tina Fey left Saturday Night Live and started a quirky little show called 30 Rock. 30 Rock displays the same irreverence for anyone and anything, so you never know who the joke will be on from week to week. While Arrested Development revolves around a dysfunctional family, 30 Rock focuses on a similarly dysfunctional cast and crew of a variety show, TGS with Tracy Jordan. It is interested to me that the show was initially marketed as a Tracy Jordan vehicle, because his character is marginal to me at this point. In the first season, there were also differing opinions about whether Jane Krakowski’s character added or detracted from the show. Now in its third season, these problems have been ironed out, and the result has been a consistently clever and funny show. The show’s strengths (and funniest aspects) include the interaction between Jack and Liz, Liz always babysitting the cast and staff, Tracy always coming up with a new scheme with Dot Com and Grizz, and the brilliant roles created for the guest stars. On this show, celebrity guest stars aren’t just a gimmick. They actually work within the context of the show. My favorite is, without a doubt, Will Arnett as Jack’s (Alec Baldwin) professional nemesis. Edie Falco was also perfect as Jack’s liberal Democrat lover (he’s a staunch Republican), and more recently, Jennifer Aniston played the part of Liz and Jenna’s crazy friend in very believable and entertaining fashion. One final attribute that makes 30 Rock one of a kind in the current television landscape: it pokes fun at anyone and anything in politics, entertainment, etc. All the other current sitcoms, that I know of, stay firmly entrenched in their fictional worlds, but 30 Rock draws limitless rich material from our culture, whether it’s Oprah’s Favorite Things or NBC’s “Go Green” week.

  • The OfficeI have always enjoyed the mockumentary (i.e. Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, Drop Dead Gorgeous), so I was thrilled when the genre made its way into the tv comedy landscape. I actually prefer the American version over the original one. I guess I’ve never been a fan of dry British humor. The Office is a show that thrives on the adventures of its characters: Michael’s quest for a healthy relationship, Angela’s manipulation of fiance Andy in the midst of her continued relationship with Dwight, Jim and Pam’s long distance engagement, etc. Most of us know people like Stanley, Phyllis, Kelly, and the rest. Sure, they are exaggerated versions of stereotypical co-workers, but there is still a lot of truth to be found. In this case, where there is familiarity, there is humor. The show’s format also adds to its entertainment value. We, the viewers, get extra insight into the situations when the characters talk on camera, and we “get it” when one of them raises their eyebrows or sneaks a smile at the camera over something that happens in the office. So while this show isn’t as smart and quick with the jokes as my previous two nominees, there is still an endless supply of laugh-inducing material.
  • Buffy the Vampire SlayerSome people may argue that this show isn’t a comedy – that it should be categorized solely as horror/fantasy. I disagree! During the years it aired, I’d argue that Buffy was consistently funnier than most of the half hour comedies most people were turning to for laughs. Joss Whedon is a terrific writer and director, and he kept the witty banter going for seven seasons. Some stand out comedic episodes: “Band Candy,” in which the grown ups reverted to their teenage persona after eating some drug-laced candy bars; the fantastic musical episode “Once More, with Feeling,” which had everyone singing and dancing about things like dry cleaning and parking tickets; and “Tabula Rasa,” in which Willow’s memory spell goes awry, making everyone forget who they are (Buffy thinks her name is Joan, Spike thinks Giles is his dad, Xander and Willow think they are dating, etc.). All three of these episodes are on my list of the Best of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

  • Family GuyUnlike the other shows on this list, which I’ve seen every episode of and count among my all time favorites, I have only seen a few episodes of this animated comedy. So why is it worthy of this final nomination spot? Quite simply, it is hilarious. Sure, it is unabashedly irreverent, and it features some potentially highly offensive scenes, but the cleverness of its dialog and its pop culture/political/social satire more than make up for it. I recall some brilliant Broadway-style musical numbers in one episode I watched. More recently, I was introduced to the way Stewie says “Cool Whip,” and it proves that something as simple as that can be very funny on this show.

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From Sesame Street to 30 Rock: A TV Viewing Timeline June 1, 2007

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My earliest memories of watching TV include images of Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and Snuffleupagus (back when he was Big Bird’s “invisible” friend). I’ve waded through many shows since then, of varying degrees of quality and appeal. Here’s a glimpse into what my TV viewing was like at various stages of my life. I am sure I will leave some things out, but these are the shows that left the biggest mark in my mind. And a special thanks goes to wikipedia for having such clear and detailed information about every U.S. network television primetime schedule since 1946. Craziness!

Click here to peruse Wikipedia’s Primetime TV Schedule Pages

Early 1980s

  • Sesame Street – I loved the time I spent on Sesame Street with The Count, Oscar the Grouch, Maria, Bob, and the whole gang.
  • Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – The Land of Make-Believe. The trolley. The fish tank. Need I say more? Mister Rogers was a great tv neighbor for kids everywhere. There is no one like him for today’s kids.
  • Today’s Special – Remember this one? The concept sounds disturbing, but somehow I loved it as a pre-schooler: a mannequin in a department store comes to life at night when a magical hat is put on his head. He is joined by a store employee named Jodie, a puppet security guard, a giant mouse, and a talking computer, and together they have fun and learn new things. If you would like to do some more reminiscing, check out this very thorough fan site devoted to the show: Today’s Special Fan Website

Mid-1980s

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  • The Cosby Show – I watched the Huxtables through most of their tv lives, and enjoyed watching all the kids grow up while I did.
  • Who’s the Boss – This was one of my favorites during the ’80s. Who didn’t love Sam, played by cute little Alyssa Milano? I even had a poster of the cast hanging up in my room!
  • The Dukes of Hazard – Ah, the Duke boys. I don’t remember much about this show except for the General Lee (someone in my hometown had an exact replica that they proudly parked in front of their house) and the winding roads of the chase scenes. There was a winding, dirt road (at least that’s how I remember it) that we would take as a shortcut to my babysitter’s house, and often as we drove on it, I imagined that I was being chased by Boss Hogg. Based on what I have seen of this show in reruns, there wasn’t much more than cars and chase scenes to remember.
  • The Love Boat/Fantasy Island – I had to keep these two together here because they have always been linked in my memory. That makes sense, since they aired back-to-back on Saturday nights. As a 6 or 7 year old, I really didn’t know what was going on, yet I remember the opening sequence of each show very well: “The Love Boat” theme song playing while a cruise ship sails across the ocean, and Fantasy Island’s Tattoo shouting “the plane! the plane!” while ringing a bell. These were some of my very first television dramas, along with Simon and Simon, and Knight Rider. 24 and Lost seem so far removed from all of those – and so much better!

The Late 1980s

By the late ’80s, I was almost exclusively watching sitcoms – there were so many to choose from! I think I can safely say that I watched more tv during this phase of my life than I have at any time since, which is why I had to divide shows by days of the week. In my quest to jog my memory, I found a tribute to a fantastic collection of primetime sitcoms, with links to their opening sequences on YouTube. Enjoy!:

Click here for classic sitcom fun

Monday nights: ALF, The Hogan Family, Murphy Brown, Designing Women

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  • ALF – We watched a show about an alien who was played by a puppet? Maybe there’s hope for the new Cavemen sitcom after all…
  • The Hogan Family – My favorite thing about this show, besides the fact that it starred Jason Bateman (future star of Arrested Development), was that its name was changed so much. It went from Valerie to Valerie’s Family before settling on The Hogan Family for the rest of its run.
  • Murphy Brown and Designing Women – These shows marked the beginning of my viewing of a string of shows geared toward an older audience. I think the funny, distinctive characters drew me in. I even watched Newhart sometimes, for the same reason.

Wednesday night: Growing Pains, Head of the Class, The Wonder Years, Doogie Howser, M.D.

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  • Growing Pains and the Wonder Years have the two best theme songs of all time, in my opinion. They were both so catchy, and so in tune with the feel of the show. Growing Pains was another show where I enjoyed watching the actors grow up. And I still remember Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss on The Wonder Years. As for Doogie Howser – the adventures of a brilliant teenage doctor – there’s another ridiculous show concept that actually worked. It’s nice that after so many years, Neil Patrick Harris has finally found another memorable sitcom character to play. Now when I see him, all I think is “Barney” – not even a trace of Doogie is left.

Thursday night: The Cosby Show and A Different World

  • Of course I watched the Cosby Show spin-off!

Friday night: And so began TGIF – Perfect Strangers, Full House, Mr. Belvedere, Just the Ten of Us

  • And the catchy theme songs/opening sequences just kept on coming. I’m pretty sure now that none of these shows was really very funny, but those Olsen twins sure were cute, and I always found it a challenge to keep all eight of Coach Lubbock’s kids straight on Just the Ten of Us.

Saturday night: More “old people” sitcoms! – 227, Amen, The Golden Girls, Empty Nest

  • More catchy theme songs! To this day, I still break out in “Thank you for being a friend, travel down the road and back again…” from time to time. We are really going to miss those theme songs when we look back on today’s shows in 20 years. Theme songs and opening sequences are becoming obsolete.

The Early 1990s

As I moved into my pre-teen years, I moved away from sitcoms and toward hour long shows. I still watched some of my old favorites, and added a couple of new ones, like Night Court, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Blossom, but the early 90s shows I have the fondest memories of are the dramas.

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  • The Young Riders – Lots of cute guys riding around on horses delivering packages to people. I’m sure I wasn’t the only tween girl who watched this show.
  • The Commish – How interesting it is that when I watched this, I thought that Michael Chiklis, who played the title character, was like 45. In fact, he was only 28! He looks younger now, 15 years later, playing Vic Mackey on The Shield. The most upsetting thing that happened on The Commish is when my favorite character, police officer Stan, was killed in a car bombing. šŸ˜¦
  • Quantum Leap – My clearest memory of this show is the last image of the series finale: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” That caption appeared on an otherwise black screen, and I cried. That seemed like such a hopeless, sad ending.
  • Twin Peaks – My family being the strange people that we are, we would all sit down and watch this strangest show EVER together. Log Lady, One-armed Man, Dancing Dwarf, no problem. We were all fascinated by the bizarre characters, storylines, and mysteries.

The Mid-1990s

In theory, my tv-viewing should have become drastically reduced during this time period, because this is when I got my driver’s license, which would have enabled me to find other diversions besides tv. Let’s have a look at what kept me glued to the tube:

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  • Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – Dean Cain was so cute as Clark Kent and Superman!
  • Party of Five – a pre-Lost Matthew Fox, and a cute teenaged Scott Wolf. Plus, this show made me cry every week. What more could a teenage girl ask for?
  • Friends and Seinfeld – It took me a couple of seasons to catch on to both of these classic shows. I preferred Seinfeld over Friends, and still think it is the superior show. But, during my high school years, they both gave me lots to laugh about.

The Late 1990s

By fall 1996, I was in college, which meant I had my very own TV and VCR on which to record my favorite shows while I was off studying or enjoying my newfound independence. So what shows were worthy of my VCR’s recording capabilities?

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  • The X-Files – This sci-fi procedural remains one of my all-time favorite shows. Mulder and Scully’s investigations into the paranormal were interesting, sometimes creepy, and always entertaining.
  • Ally McBeal – I was lured in by dancing babies, toilet flush remotes, and pet frogs – in other words, by the quirkiness of this show.
  • Dawson’s Creek and Roswell – And so began my love affair with the WB. Finally, a channel had arrived that catered to people my age! I would no longer have to depend on geriatric entertainment like Golden Girls and Empty Nest. Now I had shows about high school students. Sure, some of them were aliens, but I could still relate to them more than the previous characters I had been watching for so many years. Wednesday nights meant heading over to my friend Leah’s house to watch these two shows with a group of friends – a vanilla cream soda and popcorn in hand – with follow-up discussion of the episode always a given.

The Early 2000s

Now I had graduated from college and moved to Alabama to go to graduate school. I didn’t know anyone in my new city, so my tv kept me company. I added a few new show to ones like Dawson’s Creek and the X-Files that I was still watching.

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  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel – I actually started watching Angel about two seasons before I started watching Buffy, which is unusual, since Angel was a spin-off of Buffy. In the end, they both captured my heart, and I still enjoy watching them in reruns even now.
  • CSI – This original version is the only CSI I have ever enjoyed watching. And although I started watching it with an extreme case of skepticism (due to my dislike of producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s formulaic action movies), I quickly had to admit that Jerry had uncovered a gem with this one.
  • Smallville – The first season of this show was really interesting, but after the first few seasons I lost interest amidst the continuous “Lana in peril” storylines.

The Mid-2000s
And then came 2004, which as I recall, is when I received my very own TiVo for Christmas! With that gift came a golden ticket to any tv show I wanted to watch, and I took advantage of it.

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  • Arrested Development – There are so many classic moments on this show about the dysfunctional Bluth family, but one of my favorites is a scene where they give their various impersonations of a chicken. Who knew there were so many ways to do that?
  • Alias – This show was highly entertaining and had several likeable characters, including Francie and Will, Syd’s closest pals. The later seasons suffered from them not being there anymore, but I still watched to the lackluster end.
  • Everwood – I loved this show and still miss it.
  • Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars – Two shows focusing on young female heroines, and they both got cancelled this year. I enjoyed them while they lasted!
  • 24 – It’s like a rollercoaster that lasts for 5 months!
  • Battlestar Galactica – It’s not just for sci-fi geeks! It’s an excellent character drama that happens to take place on a space ship. The upcoming season will be its last, and I will savor every moment of it.
  • The Office and 30 Rock – I can’t think of any other comedies like them. They are both unique, quirky, and hilarious.
  • Heroes – Very epic. And I like the comic book touches.
  • Friday Night Lights – Love it. The characters seem so real, the story lines so touching. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!
  • Grey’s Anatomy – I have thoroughly enjoyed it until now, but it has gotten too soapy and annoying, so my plan is to not rejoin it in the fall.
  • Lost – The best show on television. It will be tough waiting until February ’08 for new episodes.

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So there you have it. Nearly 30 years of tv viewing. Some of it better or more memorable than others. Although this is an extensive list, it doesn’t even mention the after school and Saturday morning tv shows that I watched growing up. I’ll save those for another day. At some point I will also make a list of the best and worst shows I have watched over the years, but until then, I hope you have as much fun checking out the wikipedia primetime schedule pages as I did!

Click here to peruse Wikipedia’s Primetime TV Schedule Pages

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