It's hard to imagine life without television.
There are so many shows available on cable, network, and streaming services, we can spend our entire life in front of the small screen and still not see all the shows there are to watch.
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The quality of television programming has come a long way, too, and it's ever-changing. It's exciting to think about what lies ahead on the television landscape.
From I Love Lucy to The Simpsons, there are many shows that have left an indelible mark on television. This list is a very small smattering of those influential shows.
Which shows do you think have had the most impact on TV? Hit the comments and share your thoughts!
The original Star Trek was way ahead of its time. Debuting in 1966, Gene Roddenberry's series transformed sci-fi television from cheesy one-dimensional characterizations to multi-layered characters with thought-provoking storylines. It featured one of the first multiracial and multicultural casts during a time of extreme racial tensions in the country and showed racial and cultural differences in a positive light. It also featured the first ever interracial kiss on American TV when Lt. Uhura and Capt. Kirk kissed Star Trek Season 3 Episode 10, "Plato's Stepchildren."
Star Trek was also the first show ever to be saved from cancellation by fans through letter writing campaigns and college campus protests. Considering the lasting enthusiasm for the original and all Star Trek series and movies to come after, there's no doubt that Roddenberry's show was more influential than he could have ever anticipated.
I Love Lucy
Not only did Lucille Ball pave the way for future women in comedy, but the show itself was also groundbreaking in many ways. The network originally wasn't going to allow Desi Arnaz to portray her husband because they didn't believe the American public would be accepting of Ball having a Latino husband even if he was her husband in real life. Ball pushed, the network relented, and the rest is history. In addition, I Love Lucy was the first scripted show to be shot on film using the three-camera format in front of a live studio audience and was the first ever show to feature an ensemble cast. One more interesting factoid: even though audiences loved Lucy's real-life pregnancy storyline on the show, the word "pregnant" was not allowed to be used at the time. CBS thought a better word would be "expecting." Go figure.
Who says cartoons are for kids? And yes, we know The Simpsons isn't really classified as a cartoon, so save the negative comments. The longest running animated series to air on prime time, The Simpsons paved the way for all other animated series that followed including South Park, Family Guy, Beavis and Butthead, and any other adult-oriented animated series you can think of. Former President Bush might have thought that The Simpsons didn't reflect proper family values, but thousands of viewers over the past two decades didn't let that deter them from enjoying the dysfunctionality of the animated family.
Hill Street Blues
When Hill Street Blues debuted in 1981, it was unlike anything else on American television. Created by Steven Bochco, the cop show changed everything about dramatic television. It introduced continuing storylines and used cinematic techniques that brought us up close and personal with the fictional cops and their personal lives. The cases they were working on were almost secondary which made this show unlike anything that had ever been seen on TV before and paved the way for shows like The Sopranos, NYPD Blue, Law & Order and many others.
While the storylines weren't the best, the fashion and music Miami Vice brought to the small screen are why it's on his list. In addition, the episodes were filmed in a way that made them seem more like a music video than a dry cop show. Miami Vice had attitude, and proved that TV shows could be vibrant on every level!
Sesame Street has been around for 50 years and it's sure to live on for another 50. The show revolutionized children's television and made learning the alphabet a whole lot of fun. It was ahead of its time when it first debuted in 1969 featuring a diverse cast that hung around an inner city neighborhood teaching kids about everything from social skills to academics to problem-solving and more. On Sesame Street, everything is A-OK.
The Real World
MTV made history when it debuted in 1981 as a 24-hour music video channel. It's changed a lot since it aired its first music video, but one of the most significant shows it ever produced was The Real World, the granddaddy of all reality shows. Without The Real World, which first aired in 1992, there would be no The Bachelor, no Dancing with the Stars, and definitely no Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Thanks, MTV. You've made your mark in more ways than one!
The TV show featuring Jack Bauer as a counterterrorism agent debuted only two after the 9/11 attacks. Not only did it give us a hero who could solve all the world's problems whether done ethically or not, but the show also reinvented the cliffhanger with its many twists and turns that kept everyone guessing whether Bauer would be successful in his latest mission. 24 also raised the bar for other shows with its slick Hollywood-style production values and its innovative split-screen storytelling device.
Roots - 1977
Although Roots wasn't the first mini-series ever to air on television (that distinction goes to Rich Man, Poor Man which aired the previous year), it was the most influential and most watched mini-series in television history. The mini-series featured many big names including Quincy Jones, Cicely Tyson, John Amos, and even OJ Simpson and the show was used as a history lesson in many schools. Unfortunately, it didn't open the door for more African-American representation on TV (that really didn't start until The Cosby Show in 1984), but Roots remains an important part of television history.
House of Cards
It's hard to imagine life without Netflix or any streaming service for that matter. I remember when Netflix was a DVD only services. How times have changed. Although it wasn't Netflix's first original series (Lilyhammer was the first), House of Cards opened the door for the streaming service to become a powerhouse in original programming. Netflix successfully outbid major outlets like AMC, Showtime, and HBO for rights to the series and the rest is history.
Twin Peaks broke all the rules when it debuted in 1990. It was moody, surreal, and one of the most stylistic shows of its time. It paved the way for many shows to come including The X-Files, Lost, Bates Motel, and even Stranger Things. It broke ground not only in its cinematography but also in the way it told its story. "Who Killed Laura Palmer" may have been the essence of the mystery, but the quirkiness and bizarreness of its characters are truly what defined it.
Perhaps the best line in television history came out of Det. Andy Sipowicz's mouth not even five minutes into the pilot episode of this groundbreaking show. "Ipso this, you pissy little bitch," he said, and thus began a 12-year journey of one of television's greatest cop dramas. It was also network television's first R-rated show due to language and nudity. What was shown seems tame by today's standards, but in 1993, it was unlike anything anyone had ever seen on television.
The Sopranos opened the door for viewers to embrace an antihero, a bad guy you couldn't help but love. Tony Soprano was conflicted and complex and no matter how flawed he was or how horribly he behaved, we were always rooting for him. The Sopranos also featured an ensemble cast made up of unknown movie actors and was the first cable drama to ever receive an Emmy nomination.