September 27, 2002
The very best of television
By TOM WILLIAMS
The summer season ended last week and the new television season is
underway. Before you get too involved in planning your viewing schedule for
2002-03, lets take a few minutes to look at the greatest television has ever
We're going to give you the 30 Greatest TV Shows of All-Time and some other
lists of achievements. But how do you decide the greatest. If you go by
popularity, just look at the Nielsen ratings. If it's quality performances, check
out the Emmys. What we want here are the shows that had the greatest overall
So, here we go with The Top 30.
1. The Tonight Show - from Steve Allen through Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and
Jay Leno, this program has been part of our lives for almost 50 years.
2. All in the Family - it broke new ground for sitcoms and led to four spin-off
3. ER - the greatest TV drama of all-time, it has survived many cast changes to
hold its audience and maintain its quality.
4. Mary Tyler Moore Show - a classic cast assisted by classic writing.
5. I Love Lucy - two great stars and two strong supporting actors made it TV's
first gigantic hit. Desi Arnaz played a bigger role in the show's success than is
6. 60 Minutes - a news program with success levels only top entertainment
programs have achieved.
7. Ed Sullivan Show - he brought us Elvis, the Beatles and much more every
Sunday night for 23 years.
8. The Honeymooners - Gleason and Carney at their very best.
9. Saturday Night Live - some of our finest comic actors got their first major
10. Dick Van Dyke Show - the star was backed up by a comedy cast as good
11. Today Show - like the Tonight Show, this early-morning program
maintained its excellence throughout many changes.
12. Dallas - for over a decade, America was hooked on the Ewing Family, its
friends and enemies.
13. Andy Griffith Show - it started as a small town story about a man and his
son and took off with unforgettable comedy performances.
14. The Simpsons - the greatest of all animated shows, featuring cutting-edge
comedy and fabulous characters.
15. M*A*S*H - a funny look at war which, like other great shows, survived
major cast changes.
16. Seinfeld - the show about "nothing" was really all about Manhattan, as told
through the eyes of the star and his strange group of friends.
17. Playhouse 90 - this dramatic program from the 1950s introduced viewers to
great plays and even greater actors.
18. Late Night with David Letterman - both very late on NBC and just plain late
on CBS, Dave has taken the medium to new levels.
19. L.A. Law - great drama and comedy set in the courtroom, the boardroom
and the bedrooms of a major law firm.
20. Friends - this might be the last year for these six wacky friends and their
mixed up lives.
21. Sesame Street - no program has had as great an educational impact on
kids - while entertaining them.
22. The Cosby Show - one of TV's great stars brought together an
extraordinary cast of young actors.
23. Cagney & Lacey - the dramatic story of two female cops, including the
always terrific Tyne Daly.
24. Cheers - another great comedy that survived cast changes and never lost
25. The Twilight Zone - Rod Serling's great anthology of unusual stories has
been imitated but never duplicated.
26. Gunsmoke - the longest running drama of all-time was a western with a
27. Dragnet - Jack Webb and his sidekicks made good police work interesting
and entertaining, with very little gun play.
28. Frasier - the only spin-off on our list, it follows Frasier Crane from Cheers to
talk radio success.
29. The Rockford Files - James Garner at his classic best, with a strong lineup
of guest stars and supporting cast.
30. Your Show of Shows - Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca and others performing
skits written by one of the greatest writing staffs ever assembled.
Now, lets see if we can put together The 20 Greatest TV Stars.
1. Mary Tyler Moore
2. Lucille Ball
3. Bill Cosby
4. Michael Landon
5. Bob Newhart
6. Johnny Carson
7. Carroll O'Connor
8. James Garner
9. Jackie Gleason
10. Dinah Shore
11. Red Skelton
12. Steve Allen
13. Dick Van Dyke
14. David Letterman
15. Perry Como
16. Larry Hagman
17. Jack Benny
18. Andy Griffith
19. Carol Burnett
20. Danny Thomas
Most people pick Lucy at No. 1 but Mary Tyler Moore did everything Lucy did
Here are The 20 Greatest Supporting Characters.
1. Barney Fife (Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show)
2. Ed Norton (Art Carney on The Honeymooners)
3. Radar O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff on M*A*S*H)
4. Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler on Happy Days)
5. Kramer (Michael Richards on Seinfeld)
6. Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman on Cheers)
7. Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver on Gunsmoke)
8. Ted Baxter (Ted Knight on The Mary Tyler Moore Show)
9. Rev. Jim (Christopher Lloyd on Taxi)
10. Benny Stulwicz (Larry Drake on L.A. Law)
11. Dan Fielding (John Larroquette on Night Court)
12. Lenny & Squiggy (Michael McKean & David L. Lander on Laverne and
13. Dr. Niles Crane (David Hyde Pierce on Frasier)
14. Louie DePalma (Danny DeVito on Taxi)
15. Grandma Walton (Ellen Corby on The Waltons)
16. Woody Boyd (Woody Harrelson on Cheers)
17. Nick Belker (Bruce Weitz on Hill Street Blues)
18. Margaret Pynchon (Nancy Marchand on Lou Grant)
19. Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne on Bewitched)
20. Artie (Rip Torn on The Larry Sanders Show)
Now The Top 15 Teen or Child Performances.
1. Ron Howard (The Andy Griffith Show)
2. Fred Savage (The Wonder Years)
3. Patty Duke (The Patty Duke Show)
4. Sally Field (Gidget)
5. Jerry Mathers (Leave it to Beaver)
6. Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser)
7. Johnny Crawford (The Rifleman)
8. Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie)
9. Paul Petersen (The Donna Reed Show)
10. Danielle Brisebois (Archie Bunker's Place)
11. Lance Kerwin (James at 15)
12. Tempestt Bledsoe (The Cosby Show)
13. Billy Gray (Father Knows Best)
14. Malcolm Jamal-Warner (The Cosby Show)
15. Alyssa Milano (Who's the Boss)
These are The 10 former movie stars who had the most success in TV.
1. Robert Young
2. Barbara Stanwyck
3. Shirley Booth
4. Loretta Young
5. Donna Reed
6. Robert Stack
7. Rock Hudson
8. Fred MacMurray
9. Buddy Ebsen
10. Jane Wyatt
And finally, The 10 greatest opening themes.
1. The Twilight Zone ("you're traveling through another dimension")
2. The Andy Griffith Show (you can all whistle the tune!)
3. Dragnet (dum-de-dum-dum - it became part of our language)
4. Davy Crockett (a giant hit record by Bill Hayes)
5. All in the Family (Archie & Edith at the piano)
6. The Jeffersons ("movin' on up...")
7. Hawaii Five-0 (another big hit record)
8. The Lone Ranger ("a cloud of dust and a hearty hi-ho Silver!")
9. Chico & The Man (great song by Jose Feliciano)
10. Dukes of Hazzard ("Good Old Boys" by Waylon Jennings)
(Special mention to The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island
and The Patty Duke Show, whose themes all told you the entire story of the
There you have it. Do you agree with our best of television? At least you now
have some basis for comparison as you get ready for the new shows. And, if
you don?t like the new shows, most of these are available on Nick at Nite or