Television. It has been called the scourge of humanity, it’s been accused of was turning our children into zombies, it was dubbed the opiate of the masses, told that it would make us lazy and obese, but all in all, television seems pretty innocent.
Even when you’ve had the worst day ever when you swear there is nothing that can save this day, even when your best friends let you down, you always feel better after you watch your shows, and if that makes it the “opiate of the masses,” well, it’s a lot better than hard drugs.
Over the years, there have been certain TV shows that have really captured the hearts of viewers. The ones with characters we grow to love, and plots that we follow avidly. Soaps that are the subject of talk around the water cooler, and sitcoms that make us feel like part of the family.
Here are some of the shows that earned their places not only in our living rooms but also in television syndication.
The name said it all. Whenever we went home, no matter how bad our days were, our “friends” were always waiting for us, and most of them were having worse days than we were.
Every time we put “Friends” on, we could count on Rachel to be having relationship problems, Joey to have no filter, Ross to have too much of one, and Chandler to sort of take the middle road in his naïve, but well-meaning sort of way. We loved Monica for trying to cover her mistakes, and we loved Phoebe for failing so fabulously and emerging so gracefully. But most of all we loved them all for their purity of heart.
No matter how many blunders or mistakes, the Friends made, they were always able to see wrong from right, even though they sometimes didn’t choose what was right, that’s what made them just like us.
Add to that the fact that they were great looking, funny, and fashionable, and you have a show that will never fall out of favor.
The main reason we loved Seinfeld is that the characters were more screwed up than we were.
George Costanza had no morals – he lied to his parents, his girlfriends, his best friends and his boss without remorse, he was selfish, underhanded, and miserly.
Jerry was juvenile was always finding problems with his girlfriends, as if he was such a prize.
Elaine seemed nice enough on the surface, but really couldn’t play well with others (remember the Racquel Welch episode?)
Kramer was a pod, but he was also the one with the most heart on the show.
Why else do we love Seinfeld? Because the casts’ lives were going nowhere. The show was about nothing, just the simple minutiae that the characters end up calling their every day, and Seinfeld was ok with that.
Seinfeld suggested to us that maybe there is no meaning of life, and if we all chose to act like overgrown children for the rest of our lives, we might just get away with it, and even if we didn’t all believe it, it was nice to know.
If Archie Bunker were still around today, in animated version, he would probably be Homer Simpson. Homer and Archie are the everyman, the backbone of the working class. They are hot-tempered, oblivious to rules, clumsy and ignorant, yet fiercely devoted to their families. They are the anti-heroes.
The thing about the Simpsons is that it “goes there.” It dares to be disrespectful. In fact, there’s nothing too cool for the Simpson’s to turn inappropriate.
Even Paul and Linda McCartney were willing to take one for the team when they did their Simpsons cameo: “Linda and I both feel strongly about animal rights. If you play “Maybe I’m Amazed” backward, you’ll hear a recipe for a really ripping lentil soup.”
The Simpsons is sacrilegious, its offensive, its unapologetic and despite the fact that it’s a cartoon, its real. The Simpsons are not negatives so much as they are exaggerated examples of reality, and we love them for it.
The Big Bang Theory
If the friends in “Friends” were geeks, they would be Sheldon and his crew on “Big Bang Theory.”
The thing about the Big Bang Theory gang is that they know everything about life scientifically, but nothing about it socially. They may be able to give you the exact location of every chemical on the periodic table, but when it comes to relationships, they don’t a thing about chemistry.
Sheldon is so socially awkward that some viewers say he could be the poster boy for Asperger’s. Leonard is an experimental physicist with an IQ of 173 and an obsession with Dungeons and Dragons. Howard fancies himself as a womanizer but lived with his mother until he was well out of college, and Raj is unable to talk to women unless he drinks alcohol.
When the gang does form relationships, they are quirky at best. But we love the “Big Bang Theory” all the more for it.
In “The Big Bang Theory,” we see people fighting against their oddness, even though it is probably their best quality. They are unique and beautiful in their outsider status, and that is what endears us to them. After all, aren’t we all outsiders to one thing or another?
What began as a product of the genius of Ricky Gervais turned into a nighttime office for millions.
What better way to come home from a day at the office than a bizarr-o night at the office? The great thing about this show was that it simplified the typical 9-5 day at the office into what it really was, a whole lot of incompetent people who really weren’t quite sure of what they were doing, the worst offender, of course being the CEO of the company, Michael Scott.
Michael Scott may be the big boss at Dunder Mifflin, but he has the intellect of a child. He lies all the time, blatantly and not even intelligently. His interactions with co-worker are shallow, ignorant, and nonsensical. He has an inflated ego, and he still can’t seem to understand why his colleagues don’t have fun at work.
He uses goofy terms, unintentionally offends people, and then cries when he’s learned he’s offended them. The question of how he manages to keep the company afloat never seems to arise, and it’s all the better because the answer would end the magic.
However, inappropriate as Michael may be, there is a redeeming sincerity to him that his co-workers and the viewers can appreciate. They are overjoyed when he finally finds love with Holly Flax, and as he leaves, Jim Halpert called him “the best boss he ever had.”
Saturday Night Live
Not only did this show never go out of syndication, it never got canceled!
After 40 years, SNL is still the alternative for people who have nothing else to do on a Saturday Night, and still providing jobs to New York comedians who don’t either.
Is it the legend of Saturday Night Live that makes us love it so much? Is it the fact that the comedians are still performing on the very stage Eddie Murphy first introduced us to “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood’ or that the backstage area might still have some of the traces of cocaine left from the “Blues Brothers Days?”
Of course, nostalgia is part of the reason we love SNL, but it’s also because of the sass. There was no president SNL didn’t disparage, no political event that “Weekend Update” didn’t put into perspective, and no celebrity that was beyond deprecation.
Although Saturday Night Live is a comedy program, there was one part of it you can always take seriously, and that is the musical performance. Every episode after the second skit, you could be sure to find the latest musical talent laying it down for the SNL viewers. No musician had arrived until he or she shed sweat on the floor of the SNL stage.
The best thing about Saturday Night Live though is that it’s live. That means that there are no second chances, no edits, and no take two’s, and if those performers are brave enough to pull it off on live camera, we can do it in real life. Besides, what would we do in a world without Saturday Night Live?
“They don’t put me here because I’m beautiful, they put me here because I’m smart.” That’s how every episode of “Judge Judy” begins, and a truer statement may never have been made.
If ever there was a self-deprecatory boast, the beginning of “Judge Judy” is a prime example. Judge Judy has handed down more rulings than we can count. She’s topped the May Sweeps syndication ratings for the ninth consecutive year this year, marking the show’s widest margin of victory for eight years.
What is it about this no-nonsense, tough-talking, tell-it-like-it-is Jewish grandmother from New York city that makes us watch this compelling legal show, day after day?
- Judge Judy always gets the real story.
- Judge Judy always knows when you’re lying. Judge Judy has a sixth sense of honesty.
- Judge Judy lays down the law in every sense of the phrase. She has no sympathy for crooks, no matter how good looking or sophisticated they appear.
Why does this relatively unattractive, cranky judge find her way into our hearts, and television sets every day? Because Judge Judy cares. No matter how bizarre the cases or how motley the crew seeking justice, Judy has a lesson for us all.
She’s not just deciding cases, she’s trying to educate humanity and that is something that is rarely seen these days.
They may not have put her there because she’s beautiful, but maybe that’s why we keep her there.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
If your heart is forever singing, “In Weeeest Pennsylvania, I was born and raised or “Yo, Homes, to Bel-lair, you know what it’s like to be a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fan.
You will know what it’s like to sing The “Fresh Prince “theme song at karaoke and perform the goofy dance moves that go with it. You will know what it’s like to cringe when Will tries to pull off some of the most awkward pickup lines. (“Hey girl, you look so good, I would marry your brother just to get into your family.”) You will be familiar with fist-pumping, and you will be familiar with Will Smith.
The “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” has often been described as Will Smith playing himself, and if that’s true, Will Smith is a pretty likable guy. He’s down to earth, funny, and always willing to be the butt of the joke, but Will’s charisma is not the only thing that makes the “Fresh Prince” so fresh.
One of the main attractions of the Fresh Prince is that it’s not about race. The fact that the cast is predominately black is never brought to attention, and that’s where “Fresh Prince of Bel- Lair is such a “teachable show.
It approaches the minority issue by ignoring the minority issue, and in doing so, it models a vision of the future where the differences between us don’t get in our way of friendships, and that’s why it deserves to be in syndication for a very long time. Perhaps it will last long enough for the comedy to become the reality.
Do you have a show that you can’t bear the thought of life without it? We all do. We’d love to hear which shows you are watching now, and which ones you hope will never run out of syndication.