I sure don’t watch much television anymore.
And when I do, it’s invariably shows like Pawn Stars or Storage Wars, which require no season-long commitment or even much attention.
If I miss the end, I still sleep OK that night.
It’s also why shows like Property Virgins or House Hunters are great. People look at three houses and pick one at the end. It’s hard to beat that concept for simplicity.
It didn’t always work that way for me.
If I was home, I was probably in front of the TV. And in fact, while compiling this list, I’m surprised that I found time for school and sports.
The TV started early.
(I’ve included the years that each show ran because I was stunned by how old some of the shows were.)
I would come home after school and watch reruns of Get Smart (1965-70), The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-71), Hogan’s Heroes (1965-71) or Batman (1966-68).
We watched All In The Family (1968-79) as a family. Sanford and Son (1972-77), with the curmudgeonly Redd Foxx perpetually about to have the “big one” and join his late wife Elizabeth, was an early favourite.
M*A*S*H (1972-83) remains one of my all-timers, and it’s held up surprisingly well. I wish that more than just one season of the five-year run of WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-82) was available on DVD because I would happily rewatch that series.
Happy Days (1974-84) was must-see TV before Ron Howard left and the show literally jumped the shark.
Mork & Mindy (1978-82) and Welcome Back Kotter (1975-79) both entertained with a pair of future superstars, Robin Williams in the former and John Travolta in the latter.
I recently found a DVD for the first season of Quincy, M.E., and it has become a little musty. But any show that makes a sex symbol of Jack Klugman deserves some credit.
I was a faithful watcher of the detective mystery show Ellery Queen in 1975 and was crushed when it was cancelled. Along similar lines, I was fan of The Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-79) and Charlie’s Angels (1976-81).
If you liked lots of car crashes, you watched Erik Estrada in CHiPS (1977-83), Rockford Files (1974-80) with the irrepressible James Garner or The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-85).
If you wanted to watch people clean up after crashes you watched Emergency! (1972-77).
I liked Richard Thomas’s John-Boy character in The Waltons (1972-81), never dreaming that I would follow him into journalism from our shared love of writing.
Watching Steve Austin (Lee Majors) fight Bigfoot on The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-78) was a two-episode highpoint of 1976.
The basketball show The White Shadow (1978-81) lasted just three seasons but I loved the story about a white former pro player taking on a coaching job in mainly black and Latino neighbourhood.
Fans of the current Saturday Night Live cast would be well served to watch the early shows after its 1975 debut. The cast of Dan Ackroyd, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase and soon Bill Murray was comedy gold. And back in those pre-Internet days, the appearances by rock bands might be your only chance to actually see them play.
Perhaps the funniest show ever made had to be the British sitcom Fawlty Towers, which filmed six episodes in 1975 and six more in 1979. John Cleese is unforgettable as the buffoonish Basil Fawlty.
As life got busier, my TV viewing dropped off considerably. I loved Law And Order (1990-2010) Hill Street Blues (1981-87), King Of The Hill (1997-2010) and that enduring hit, The Simpsons.
I also discovered the joy of watching TV series on DVD. If you want to watch four episodes in one night and then take a month off, the DVD will be there waiting for you.
My all-time favourite TV show was viewed in that manner. Six Feet Under (2001-05) was alternate bits comedy, drama and soap opera with a macabre twist, but it was wonderful.
Centred in a funeral home, every show began with a death. The reflections on life that resulted in this beautifully written show were challenging but believable.
I loved Goodbye, Farewell And Amen, the final episode of M*A*S*H that still has the second highest viewership and the overall highest percentage of viewers. But I think the finale of Six Feet Under, an episode called Everyone’s Waiting, left me more satisfied. I was utterly drained when I finished watching it.
I won’t give away what makes it so wonderful, because I’m hoping that others might find their way to this quirky little series with the big ideas. And to spoil the ending would be to spoil the majesty of a really great TV moment.
I don’t expect to be touched again by a series the way that I was with that one.
Maybe that’s why I watch what I do now. It’s easier to skim the surface then face the inevitable loss of something you love.