In the past few months, I’ve done columns on good TV (“Breaking Bad”), bad TV (“16 and Pregnant”) and a year-end list of people I enjoyed meeting in 2013.
My all-time favorite show is the “Larry Sanders Show” which is surprising because I really don’t like any other of Gary Shandling’s work. But his portrayal of a spoiled egomaniac talk show host is outstanding.
Throw in unforgettable characters as the buffoonish Hank Kingsley and Artie, Larry’s wisecracking manager, plus some pretty famous guest stars showing up and it was quite a funny show, that you can watch over and over and still laugh out loud.
The episode of “Hank’s Sex Tape” is the funniest show I’ve ever seen on TV but as you can deduce by the title, I can’t describe it too much. I can say Henry Winkler and Norm MacDonald have guest roles in this classic without having the newspaper shut down. Ginger and MaryAnn from “Gilligan’s Island” are paid a homage, but that’s all I can say….
The next 11 are in alphabetical order because they are all great and it’s hard to choose and rank them.
All in the Family
Comedy writing doesn’t get more creative than the “Everybody Tells the Truth” episode in which Archie Bunker and his meathead son-in-law, Mike Stivic, tell different stories about a broken refrigerator incident.
The first four of five years was great television and broke a lot of barriers for language and controversy that may seem tame today. But the storylines are still hysterical.
The Andy Griffith Show
Yeah, it’s old but it’s still very funny.
I’ve seen so many of these episodes dozens of times involving Sheriff Taylor and the Mayberry gang but the humor still holds up in 2014 as it did 50 years ago. The episode in which Floyd and Barney are kidnapped by female prisoners still makes me laugh out loud.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
“Seinfeld” does not make my dandy dozen, but “Seinfeld” creator Larry David’s “Curb” makes it easily. You never knew how Larry would mess up a situation but he never failed to deliver. Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman and Wanda Sykes are as good as it gets when it comes to a bang-up supporting cast.
Friday Night Lights
I hate, HATE!, inconsistencies in storylines (Whatever happened to Chuck in “Happy Days”? Did he die? Did he go into the Army?) and FNL was full of them. Why was East Dillon High school never mentioned until the end of season three?
Despite all of that — and the fact that some of the actors were in their late 20s playing high school kids — this show was dramatic and funny. Sometime just one look on coach Eric Taylor’s face said a million words. Priceless stuff.
The classic 39 episodes first aired before I was born and the adventures of Ralph, Ed, Alice and Trixie are still great.
Jackie Gleason was so talented in many different ways and people may forget he was a fine dramatic actor. But he will always be Ralph Kramden in my heart.
Art Carney? He was one of the great improvisers of all time and it’s been said that he and Gleason rarely followed a script when they performed on “The Honeymooners.”
Not to be confused with the show currently running on HBO, this is a show from Canada that lasted just three seasons. The first was 1996-97 and the second and third came in 2004 and 2005.
The show has a “Larry Sanders Show” vibe to it as it features the innerworkings of a TV newsroom in Canada. The anchorman, Jim Walcott, is a shallow piece of work who has no shame. George Findlay is a self-absorbed unlikeable, likeable character who makes Sanders seem humble. It’s a little slow at times but it’s wicked.
It’s not easy to find this show on DVD, but it’s a good one to seek out.
Not to be confused with the NBC show with Steve Carell (very good in its own right, but not top 12 material), this is the British show that inspired the NBC version. Once you get used to the thick accents and subtle humor, this show is gold.
It was smart enough to last just a couple of seasons — 12 episodes in all — and pull out. But the brilliant part is that there were a couple of episodes that came out after the series was over. Remember how in the NBC show that this was supposed to be a mock-documentary? That’s why they have those cutaways and people looking funny into the cameras. Well, the British version follows the gang and their fame and misfortunes after the so-called documentary aired. Great stuff.
Denis Leary is really funny. So when you put him in a show about New York firemen and some of the characters are funnier than he is, you really have something here.
The drama is solid but some of the ghost scenes and dream sequences dragged it down. But overall, it was a must-watch series while it was on.
This blows all of the cop shows that I’ve seen — including the excellent “NYPD Blue” out of the water.
The star of the show is Michael Chiklis who plays Vic Mackey, a rotten cop who you actually root for. All of the other characters are stained or have baggage, too, so it’s not always easy to figure out who the good guys are.
Sons of Anarchy
Don’t get me wrong, I loved “Breaking Bad” but the first season of SOA makes that show looks like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
Like with “The Shield” there are some bad people in this motorcycle gang here that make you root for some of them. The violence is intense. Look, I know it’s not real, but when a guy is getting a large back tattoo removed by a blowtorch…Ouch!
Funny. Dramatic. And, again, like with “The Shield” and “Sons of Anarchy,” you end up rooting for the bad guys.
But I still want to know whatever happened to those Russians whom Paulie and Christopher were shooting at in the woods.