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Old 08-18-2019, 09:52 AM
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Most Revolutionary TV series


Looking for those shows that basically broke all the rules, turned the tropes on their heads, and made it so that, from here on, nothing was the same. Discuss, and I'll be back with my entrant.
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Old 08-18-2019, 10:09 AM
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Pushing Daisies. It was sweet, quirky, unique and doomed to only 1 1/2 seasons thanks to the 2007 writers' strike. I still miss it.
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Old 08-18-2019, 10:10 AM
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All in the Family -- Moved away from the genteel middle class sitcom

Hill Street Blues -- introduced story arcs to non-soap-opera TV. They were usually about four episodes, but the idea of a continuing story was a big change. It was expanded on by Babylon 5, with a full-series arc, and later Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which cut it into the one-season form that's common today.
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Old 08-18-2019, 10:14 AM
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Babylon 5 was the first series to go into production with an ending already planned out--threats of cancellation required that the series be twisted around a bit in order to give a proper ending to the show before its planned finale. Network people were flummoxed to be dealing with a show whose writer had already planned how to put himself out of work before the network could do it for him. Took a while, but series tv now often comes with an exit strategy and a defined end point.
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Old 08-18-2019, 10:24 AM
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Married... With Children did wonders to take us away from the sappy family sit-coms of the 80s
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Old 08-18-2019, 10:26 AM
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The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. First show to portray a less-than-perfect family. The son goofed off in school, ducked work, and did nothing but chase girls. The father had a real job as a store owner and had to work all the time. Instead of a wonderful relationship with his son, he kept muttering "I gotta kill that boy." The best friend was a beatnik who liked actual jazz. From the second season on, the regular girl was brainy. Teachers were worshiped and so underpaid they went on strike.

It debuted in 1959 but was a time traveler from the late 60s.
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Old 08-18-2019, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Hill Street Blues -- introduced story arcs to non-soap-opera TV. They were usually about four episodes, but the idea of a continuing story was a big change. It was expanded on by Babylon 5, with a full-series arc, and later Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which cut it into the one-season form that's common today.
And you hit all three that immediately came to my mind. Hill Street Blues also pioneered the use of over-lapping dialog.
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Old 08-18-2019, 10:56 AM
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From a business standpoint, I might offer Star Trek: The Next Generation.

ST:TNG was a big-budget show that elected to forgo network processes and go into first run syndication to maintain control over its production standards. That's a bold move.
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Old 08-18-2019, 11:13 AM
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The Larry Sanders Show pioneered the "behind the scenes" type show and really changed how characters were written on sitcom. "Nobody is always stupid/bad, nobody is always smart/good" was a guiding principle.

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Old 08-18-2019, 11:15 AM
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How about Twin Peaks. They basically turned each episode into a movie. This concept was expanded on greatly by other shows like Six Feet Under, Sopranos and Breaking Bad.
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Old 08-18-2019, 11:15 AM
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Married... With Children did wonders to take us away from the sappy family sit-coms of the 80s
As did Roseanne.
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Old 08-18-2019, 11:42 AM
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Great choices here. But the observation of SmartAleq aside, Babylon 5 was not the first series to start with the end already planned. Nor were Pushing Daisies or Twin Peaks the first quirky shows. Both those attributes were shared by a series from back in the late sixties. I would nominate a show that had only 17 episodes (much longer seasons were the thing back then), was so planned from the beginning and was so quirky that it inspired many a WTF before WTF was even a thing. Specifically, I'm talking about "The Prisoner".
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Old 08-18-2019, 11:46 AM
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We've been watching Seinfeld reruns, but I think Dobie Gillis wins. Even as a little kid, I LOVED the show, and it felt like something new*. The breaking the fourth wall, the characters, the family and school situations, and the fact that the G. stood for Walter.

*I expected a slew of "new" shows that were like this, but it seemed to be a one-off. We got something fresh, then it was back to regular sitcom fare.
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:07 PM
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Sea Hunt (1958--1961) was a first-run syndication series that reached No. 1 in the ratings. It was rejected by the major networks who thought a series filmed underwater could not be sustained.

The Untouchables (1959--1963) was an unusually violent show for its time (though nary a drop of blood was seen). It was also criticized for its "surprisingly frank depictions of drug abuse and prostitution." It had a film noir period feel that was reinforced by Walter Winchell's narration.

Star Trek (1966--1969) was an adult science fiction series more or less grounded in reality (in contrast to shows like Lost in Space). It had a continuing cast and a permanent locale (the Enterprise), unlike anthologies such as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Its stories were often allegories used to explore contemporary social issues.

Crime Story (1986--1988) was a Cops vs Mobsters series based on actual events. It had a serialized format with stories that spanned an entire season. It was also incredibly violent, and the Good Guys didn't always win in the end.

The Sopranos (1999--2007) was a Mafia-based soap opera about the family life of mobsters. Its depiction of crime and violence was far more realistic than on earlier shows. The characters were about as low as could be, but you could usually empathize with them.
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:08 PM
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Batman — which Wiki says took up two Top 10 spots of the Nielsens — was enjoyed unironically by kids while adults enjoyed it ironically, sparking Emmy nominations for “the only situation comedy on the air without a laugh track.”

A quick look at TV Tropes cites the famous quote that, when people try to explain ‘campiness’, the best they can often do is "sort of like the Batman TV show." You know: absurdity played absolutely straight, even as it gets stagey to the point of leaning on the fourth wall, exaggerated and artificial and zany but still earnest; and audiences said, Produce A Big-Screen Movie Version, Right Now!
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:18 PM
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All in the Family -- Moved away from the genteel middle class sitcom

Hill Street Blues -- introduced story arcs to non-soap-opera TV.......
Of course, All In The Family was the US version of Til Death Us Do Part - so credit where credit's due.

Absolutely agree with Hill Street Blues. I occasionally muse about how difficult it would be to explain to a young person just what an effect it had. That young person would say, But it's just like every other cop show? Nope - more like, every other cop show is just like it.

j
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:30 PM
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Monty Python's Flying Circus. "And now for something completely different."
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by terentii;21812378
[B
Star Trek[/B] (1966--1969) was an adult science fiction series more or less grounded in reality (in contrast to shows like Lost in Space). It had a continuing cast and a permanent locale (the Enterprise), unlike anthologies such as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Its stories were often allegories used to explore contemporary social issues.

.


I was coming in to say Star Trek, too, but there was another non-anthology "adult" science fiction series that preceded it :

Men Into Space was "hard" sf -- it all took place in the solar system, with rockets and space stations, but no faster than light drive, time travel, or aliens. It was not written for kids, but portrayed astronautics in about the 1970s-80s as it was imagined in 1959.

I recall watching the series as a kid, but I don't recall it ever being syndicated in the US, run o cable, or on VHS. It's now available on DVD. For years it was practically impossible to find information about the show. Books on TV and TV SF pretty much ignored it, or mentioned it only in passing. It wasn't until the dawn of the internet that I even saw an episode listing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men_into_Space
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:35 PM
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Of course, All In The Family was the US version of Til Death Us Do Part - so credit where credit's due.

Absolutely agree with Hill Street Blues. I occasionally muse about how difficult it would be to explain to a young person just what an effect it had. That young person would say, But it's just like every other cop show? Nope - more like, every other cop show is just like it.

j
I've seen "Til Death Us Do Part", "All in the Family" was inspired by it but completely eclipsed it.

That Girl followed by The Mary Tyler Moore show were big steps forward at the time in the portrayal of women. Way more for MTM but That Girl made a fair contribution also.

I absolutely agree Star Trek & The Sopranos made for big changes.

Roots shouldn't be overlooked. I'm not sure anything compares to the impact of this mini-series.
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:36 PM
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Great choices here. But the observation of SmartAleq aside, Babylon 5 was not the first series to start with the end already planned. Nor were Pushing Daisies or Twin Peaks the first quirky shows. Both those attributes were shared by a series from back in the late sixties. I would nominate a show that had only 17 episodes (much longer seasons were the thing back then), was so planned from the beginning and was so quirky that it inspired many a WTF before WTF was even a thing. Specifically, I'm talking about "The Prisoner".
No. McGoohan was winging it; there was no arc other than the two-parter at the end. The shows were standard "back to square one" endings and nothing carried over until the last two.
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:37 PM
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Mission: Impossible (1966--1973) was groundbreaking in that its elaborate plots took precedence over dialogue and characterization. Its stories were told almost entirely through pictures and depended on timing and editing to build tension.

Dallas (1978--1991) was a nighttime soap opera centered on the rich and powerful, who were still just plain old folks. Until Tony Soprano came along, there was probably no other TV villain as beloved as JR Ewing.
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:42 PM
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No. McGoohan was winging it; there was no arc other than the two-parter at the end. The shows were standard "back to square one" endings and nothing carried over until the last two.
Actually, it has been argued that you can see The Prisoner gradually gaining more control, although this is only true if you re-order the episodes. "Hammer Into Anvil" and "A, B, and C" definitely shows him in more control than many of the others. "Chimes of Big Ben" is obviously an early episode -- probably the second, as broadcast. McGoohan himself had a list of the "essential" episodes (apparently regarding many of the others as "filler", which could take place at almost any time), and I think he had a preferred order. (See The Prisoner Companion).
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:51 PM
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Let's go way back, to I Love Lucy. Shot on film, using three cameras (one had been standard previously), first ensemble cast and pioneered the syndicated rerun.

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Old 08-18-2019, 12:53 PM
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I cast my vote for "Married with Children".
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:56 PM
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It should be noted that both Star Trek and Mission: Impossible owe a lot of their impact to the music they featured. This is especially true for Lalo Schifrin's 5/4 M:I theme, which is one of the most distinctive tunes of the 1960s (if not of all time).
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:06 PM
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Hill Street Blues -- introduced story arcs to non-soap-opera TV.
No, it didn't.
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:09 PM
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And I Love Lucy also had story arcs earlier than those shows. (The Hollywood arc in one series, the Europe trip in another, and then the move to Connecticut.)
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:10 PM
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Actually, it has been argued that you can see The Prisoner gradually gaining more control, although this is only true if you re-order the episodes. "Hammer Into Anvil" and "A, B, and C" definitely shows him in more control than many of the others. "Chimes of Big Ben" is obviously an early episode -- probably the second, as broadcast. McGoohan himself had a list of the "essential" episodes (apparently regarding many of the others as "filler", which could take place at almost any time), and I think he had a preferred order. (See The Prisoner Companion).
Wait, there's a way to watch that show where it actually makes sense? I wish I knew that when I watched it.
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:12 PM
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"Small Wonder" made all other shows about adoreable, precocious little cyborg girls passing as human children who are secretly adopted into a typical yet wacky middle-class American family headed by a befuddled and bighearted Ph.D in robotics look unrealistic by comparison.
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:20 PM
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The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. First show to portray a less-than-perfect family. The son goofed off in school, ducked work, and did nothing but chase girls. The father had a real job as a store owner and had to work all the time. Instead of a wonderful relationship with his son, he kept muttering "I gotta kill that boy." The best friend was a beatnik who liked actual jazz. From the second season on, the regular girl was brainy. Teachers were worshiped and so underpaid they went on strike.

It debuted in 1959 but was a time traveler from the late 60s.
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We've been watching Seinfeld reruns, but I think Dobie Gillis wins. Even as a little kid, I LOVED the show, and it felt like something new*. The breaking the fourth wall, the characters, the family and school situations, and the fact that the G. stood for Walter.

*I expected a slew of "new" shows that were like this, but it seemed to be a one-off. We got something fresh, then it was back to regular sitcom fare.
Agreed. Ten year old moi loved Dobie Gillis. It was funny and intelligent.
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:35 PM
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The influence of Hill Street Blues, with its ensemble cast and multiple story arcs, extended to other genres as well. By the mid-1980s, we had St Elsewhere and LA Law , the latter being pitched as "a Hill Street Blues--type show about lawyers." The format has pretty much become a standard one for hour-long dramas.

Back in the day (1980), Miami Vice created quite a stir when it debuted. Another ensemble cast with stylish undercover cops living the high life, driving fast cars, combating the lowest of the low in slow-motion shootouts, all backed with hot rock music---this show had it all!
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:42 PM
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Agreed. Ten year old moi loved Dobie Gillis. It was funny and intelligent.
Tuesdays were always special for me because Dobie Gillis was the lead-in to Combat! My mother hated the series, which made it especially delightful for me to watch.
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Old 08-18-2019, 02:19 PM
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Question: Did "Dobie" initiate the whole character talking to the audience thing?
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Old 08-18-2019, 02:32 PM
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I've seen "Til Death Us Do Part", "All in the Family" was inspired by it but completely eclipsed it.......
Inspired by?

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The show came about when Norman Lear read an article in Variety magazine on Till Death Us Do Part and its success in the United Kingdom.[17] He immediately knew it portrayed a relationship just like the one between his father and himself.[18]

Lear bought the rights to the show......
(Wiki)

It was the US version.

We can argue the toss about which was better - I have only ever seen clips of All In The Family, so I would need to do my research. But given that the brief was "....those shows that basically broke all the rules, turned the tropes on their heads, and made it so that, from here on, nothing was the same" - as I said, credit where credit's due.

j
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:03 PM
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Question: Did "Dobie" initiate the whole character talking to the audience thing?
No, that goes back to Burns & Allen. George Burns use to talk directly to the audience every show. Also would watch the others on the show on his TV sometimes. Burns & Allen was actually a really amazing show, like nearly no other sitcom. It started back in 1949 and is still funny today.
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:08 PM
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Inspired by?



(Wiki)

It was the US version.

We can argue the toss about which was better - I have only ever seen clips of All In The Family, so I would need to do my research. But given that the brief was "....those shows that basically broke all the rules, turned the tropes on their heads, and made it so that, from here on, nothing was the same" - as I said, credit where credit's due.

j
OK, to me, "Inspired by" as the characters and the story were not the same. Where Threes Company was just the US version of Man About the House. If you would prefer the term "Based On", I'll go with that.
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:27 PM
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The Monkees was less like anything before on television than almost any other show ever. It should have led to tons of other shows breaking all the rules, but it was one of a kind. Same for Batman.

Monty Python, however, not so much. It grew directly out of many earlier British sketch shows. It was simply better than them. And it was the only one to get rebroadcast in America at the time. The movies made it more than just a tv series, the same way that movies made Star Trek more than just a tv series.
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:48 PM
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...
Monty Python, however, not so much. It grew directly out of many earlier British sketch shows. It was simply better than them. And it was the only one to get rebroadcast in America at the time. The movies made it more than just a tv series, the same way that movies made Star Trek more than just a tv series.
At Last the 1948 had half* of the Pythoners and was very similar in many style. It is turn was inspired by The Goons I believe. Many episodes of At Last the 1948 are available on Amazon Prime currently. Not up to Monty Python level but some funny stuff, especially Marty Feldman. One area where Python was different, no punchlines. They may have been the first to do this regularly.


* Graham Chapman & John Cleese as performers and Eric Idle writing.
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:49 PM
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From a business standpoint, I might offer Star Trek: The Next Generation.

ST:TNG was a big-budget show that elected to forgo network processes and go into first run syndication to maintain control over its production standards. That's a bold move.
Maybe we should now mention HOUSE OF CARDS: sure, content-wise it was just an adaptation; but the idea of Netflix hiring Oscar-caliber talent for some streaming show that folks can binge-watch? Like, is this even eligible for primetime Emmys instead of daytime ones, since it never actually aired?
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:51 PM
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Don't know if I'd call The Rockford Files revolutionary, but it certainly turned a lot of PI tropes on their heads. Jim was a loner and an ex-con (though he'd been wrongfully convicted). He lived in a mobile home, was close to his father, and was constantly getting screwed over by his closest "friends." He got beat up a lot, was seldom paid for his services, and was always in hock. It was still one of the best series of the 1970s.

Both CSI and 24 were different from anything that had come before (or has since).

The former was remarkable for its science-based forensics and graphics, along with its bizarre crimes and unassuming leading man (an entomologist, of all people). I wasn't surprised at how fast the series went downhill after he left.

The latter had its "real-time format" and an "I need a hacksaw" leading man who could be stabbed, shot, beaten, and blown up, but still managed to track down terrorists without stopping even to take a whiz or a dump.
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:57 PM
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:59 PM
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The Monkees was less like anything before on television than almost any other show ever. It should have led to tons of other shows breaking all the rules, but it was one of a kind.
On television, yes. But it was still a direct ripoff of the Beatles' movies.
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:00 PM
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Mister Ed.
A callback to Francis, the Talking Mule.
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:00 PM
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As one of my interests is history, I like to go for the old school trailblazers:

Ernie Kovacs's It's Time for Ernie (1951)

https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicag...nt?oid=3683334
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His 1950s broadcasts became the blueprint for satirical TV comedy, with their recurring oddball characters, their parodies of other programs, their fake commercials. Without Kovacs there would have been no Saturday Night Live, no SCTV, no David Letterman or Conan O'Brien.
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Nowadays, parodying TV shows and commercials may seem painfully trite—Saturday Night Live hardly does anything else—but we should remember that when Kovacs did this, TV as a nationwide phenomenon was only a few years old. Years before FCC chairman Newton Minow branded television a "vast wasteland," Kovacs was taking dead aim at cooking shows, game shows (Beat the Clock, What's My Line), kids' shows (The Howdy Doody Show), late-night horror movie hosts (his Uncle Gruesome was the direct ancestor of SCTV's howling Count Floyd), and the medium's all-around scurrilousness (with a weather forecast delivered by a purring, scantily clad babe on a divan). The idea of lampooning commercials was even more subversive because, at that point, real commercials were still routinely integrated into programming, and in fact were often performed live by the hosts—including Kovacs. His actual commercials could be as zany as his fake ones, which only blurred the line further.

Last edited by GIGObuster; 08-18-2019 at 04:00 PM.
  #45  
Old 08-18-2019, 04:00 PM
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Pushing Daisies. It was sweet, quirky, unique and doomed to only 1 1/2 seasons thanks to the 2007 writers' strike. I still miss it.
Great show. I loved it.
  #46  
Old 08-18-2019, 04:08 PM
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The influence of Hill Street Blues, with its ensemble cast and multiple story arcs, extended to other genres as well. By the mid-1980s, we had St Elsewhere and LA Law , the latter being pitched as "a Hill Street Blues--type show about lawyers." The format has pretty much become a standard one for hour-long dramas.

Back in the day (1980), Miami Vice created quite a stir when it debuted. Another ensemble cast with stylish undercover cops living the high life, driving fast cars, combating the lowest of the low in slow-motion shootouts, all backed with hot rock music---this show had it all!
The Bruce Willis episode is my favorite one. He plays an arms dealer whose communications are bugged by the Miami cops and the feds, and while listening in, they hear Willis's wife trying to find a hit man to kill him because he's abusive to her. Crockett steps in as the hit man. A really well done episode.
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:10 PM
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Candid Camera?
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:13 PM
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Don't know if I'd call The Rockford Files revolutionary, but it certainly turned a lot of PI tropes on their heads. Jim was a loner and an ex-con (though he'd been wrongfully convicted). He lived in a mobile home, was close to his father, and was constantly getting screwed over by his closest "friends." He got beat up a lot, was seldom paid for his services, and was always in hock. It was still one of the best series of the 1970s.
Rockford came a season after David Janssen in Harry O, who lived on the beach, owned a car that failed so often he had to go to cases on a bus, and had a bullet in his back so that he avoided fights. A great show that has seemingly vanished from memory.
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:17 PM
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At Last the 1948 had half* of the Pythoners and was very similar in many style. It is turn was inspired by The Goons I believe. Many episodes of At Last the 1948 are available on Amazon Prime currently. Not up to Monty Python level but some funny stuff, especially Marty Feldman. One area where Python was different, no punchlines. They may have been the first to do this regularly.


* Graham Chapman & John Cleese as performers and Eric Idle writing.
There are also episodes on Youtube.
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Old 08-18-2019, 04:31 PM
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Agreed. Ten year old moi loved Dobie Gillis. It was funny and intelligent.
It is way up on my list of shows. I heard it disparaged as "too talky," but I loved that. I really love the Dick Van Dyke Show's parody of Twilight Zone, but I love Dobie Gillis's even more.

Don't forget it also had Tuesday Weld and Warren Beatty in minor roles.

I think the actor who played Chatsworth Osborne Jr. died recently.
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