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CinemaInternational

When Was TV at Its Best?

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Another thought post, but when it comes to the world of TV series, what was the best time for them. Obviously the 50s are regarded as the Golden Age of TV, and the last few years of it have been praised immensely, but yet there are many other interesting periods of TV history, and I think it seems only fair to pick a period that you feel that TV was at its peak. Reminisce about favorite series too whie you are at it, or about how films used to dot the late night schedules or in the afternoons.

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I think it depends on genre. And specific eras.

Family sitcoms that reflected conservative values peaked in the late 50s and early 60s.

Westerns were hugely successful from the mid-50s to the mid-70s.

If we're talking about police procedurals, then the 70s with all those Quinn Martin productions probably is tops.

Subversive sitcoms that reflected liberal values peaked in the 70s. Particularly all those Norman Lear shows like All in the Family and Maude.

Miniseries ruled the airwaves in the 70s and 80s with such notable offerings like RootsThe Thorn BirdsThe Blue and the Gray, and The Winds of War.

Social message dramas peaked in the 80s, especially with TV movies like An Early Frost and The Day After. 

Reality series took off in the late 90s and carried into the 2000s with great fanfare.

Some game shows, talk shows and soap operas were broadcast for decades. Guiding Light originated on radio in 1937 and transitioned to television in 1952, where it aired on CBS until 2009.

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6 hours ago, TopBilled said:

If we're talking about police procedurals, then the 70s with all those Quinn Martin productions probably is tops.

Subversive sitcoms that reflected liberal values peaked in the 70s. Particularly all those Norman Lear shows like All in the Family and Maude.

Miniseries ruled the airwaves in the 70s and 80s with such notable offerings like RootsThe Thorn BirdsThe Blue and the Gray, and The Winds of War.

TV was "cute" in the 60's and "pop" in the 80's, but in the 70's, TV was EVERYTHING.

We couldn't go to movies, since most were too gritty for the early part of the decade, hit songs were for your car radio, and nobody would dare go to NYC to see a Broadway show.  Sitcoms reflected both "relevance" and Neil Simon stage-wit, game shows emphasized Consumerism to the last generation of housewives, talk shows preserved an image of celebrity Hollywood back when real Hollywood thought it was doomed, dramas were self-contained, Monday night turned pro-football into a corporation, movies (especially 007 movies) were a one-night-only event for popcorn and pajamas, variety shows brought Las Vegas spectacle into the living room (back when nobody would dare go to Vegas either), and with no live CNN footage, we trusted Walter Cronkite and Harry Reasoner to help explain Vietnam and Watergate to us.

Check out CNN's first two pop-history series, "The Sixties" and "The Seventies":  They both deceptively start with a nostalgia-rundown episode of What Beloved TV Icons America Was Watching Back Then, and then proceed to explain all the pivotal events of the decade through clips of the network news coverage, back when it was film of David Brinkley and his microphone following Nixon over the Great Wall of China.  
That gives you some idea  of how we depended on TV to unite the country, back when everybody watched the same show on the same night, and knew we did.

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9 hours ago, EricJ said:

...That gives you some idea  of how we depended on TV to unite the country, back when everybody watched the same show on the same night, and knew we did.

Yep, back before there was...

 

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57 channels?   Is THAT all?  :D 

Anyway, that's a hard one to nail down.  NIP claims it was the 1960's, but others( particularly African-Americans)  will disagree with that, due to the overwhelming amount of Caucasian  centric programming of that era, and the 1950's as well.    But that factor aside, what made the "cusp" years( late '50's-early '60's) best was the variety of genre.  There were cop shows, sitcoms, westerns,  and programs like "Playhouse 90" and  General Electric Theater and such.  And some sci-fi and  "other worldly" shows too.  As well as general human interest.  How many out there remember YOU ASKED FOR IT?  ('50-'59)  It started before I was born, but did run until I was 8, so I remember some episodes.  

There's a lot of variety in TV programming these days too,  but not much of general interest it seems.  Often, when some new show is being plugged, I'm not sure if it IS a TV show, and not maybe some kind of video game.  And maybe it's just me( and a possible few others), but some of the "comedies" that find a large audience and go on for several seasons never strike me as funny at all.  Like----

I never found anything funny on THE BIG BANG THEORY, and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, but apparently, they ran long enough for enough reruns in syndication to clutter up one channel or another for years after they quit making new episodes.   And, IMHO,  SNL  quit being funny 20+ years ago.  But too, that's the subjective nature of comedy.   And too, I'm one of those "old schoolers"  who doesn't access ANY television show through an "app".

Sepiatone

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I'd say the 80's, 90's and early 2000's. Classic shows like:  "St. Elsewhere," "LA Law," "Hill St. Blues," "Picket Fences," "West Wing," "Star Trek, Next Generation," "The Practice," "ER," and "Gilmore Girls," just to name a few.  Those were the days!

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70s

Sitcoms were at their peak with classics like "The Jeffersons", "Alice", "Sanford and Son", and "What's Happening!" 

 

Dramas were at a peak too with shows like "Emergency!", "The Mod Squad", and "Chips". 

 

90s would be 2nd

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In the 1950s you had the excitement and thrill of live television.

When it had the top talent in every genre of entertainment, Live original Theater, a good representation of the Fine Arts, excellent public affairs documentaries, a plethora of classic films--

And best of all-- it was all free.

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It may be cheating, but I'd say right now is the best time, since everything that came before is still available, and more accessible than ever. If you wanted to only watch stuff from the 50's or 60's or 70's, you still have that option, and it's easier to see everything from then now than it was then, thanks to video/discs/cable/streaming.

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T.V. is enough...
It is providing artificial friends
And relatives for lonely people
What it is is recurrent families
The same friends and relatives come back
Week after week after week after week
And they're wittier and they're better looking
And they're much more interesting and they're richer
Than your real friends and relatives :wacko:
 

 

 

 

 

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19 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

It may be cheating, but I'd say right now is the best time, since everything that came before is still available, and more accessible than ever. If you wanted to only watch stuff from the 50's or 60's or 70's, you still have that option, and it's easier to see everything from then now than it was then, thanks to video/discs/cable/streaming.

This is kind of how I feel as well. I feel like each decade brought something new to the TV game.  I love I Love Lucy and of course the 50s were when television was at its infancy.  Aside from Lucy, I loved Alfred Hitchcock and Twilight Zone.  However, I don't have nostalgia for the 50s.  I wasn't alive then.  I do have nostalgia for the 50s-70s shows (Though I really only liked The Brady  Bunch, Mary Tyler Moore, and Rhoda.  I hated All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and Taxi). But I wasn't alive during those decades either. However, I grew up watching Nick at Nite every night in the 90s-early 00s, and that's where I discovered and loved those shows.  I also love The Golden Girls from the 80s, but I didn't watch the show when it was new.  I was only 5 in 1989, I don't think I would have understood the Girls' humor at that time.  I do have nostalgia for the 90s, because that's the time when I was old enough to watch and understand TV.  I loved the primetime soaps: 90210 and Melrose Place.  Do I think these are the end all, be all of television? No. 

I like this answer of "now is the best time" only because yes, I can watch almost anything I want via streaming or even the library with almost everything being available on DVD/Blu Ray.  I have most of my favorite shows on DVD.  However, I can also watch the entire series of The Golden Girls, Mary Tyler Moore, and Dick Van Dyke on Hulu.  A majority of I Love Lucy and The Brady Bunch is available as well.  I just discovered that Alfred Hitchcock Presents was on Hulu.  I was watching it on Me-TV, but got irritated by the commercials.  I wanted to purchase The Time Tunnel but the DVDs are really expensive.  I found it on Amazon Prime streaming for $10 and now own the series.  Amazon Prime is also streaming newer shows that I'd like to watch (but haven't started yet), like Downton Abbey and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

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22 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

In the 1950s you had the excitement and thrill of live television.

When it had the top talent in every genre of entertainment, Live original Theater, a good representation of the Fine Arts, excellent public affairs documentaries, a plethora of classic films--

And best of all-- it was all free.

I agree with you,   but if I had to pick a 10 year period,  instead of a decade,  it would be from 1955 to 1965.

As for top talent;   spot on observation, and there is,  of course,   those experienced and much loved movie actors from the 30s - 40s,   as well as up and coming ones who made a name for themselves on T.V. before the movies.

 

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5 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

It may be cheating, but I'd say right now is the best time, since everything that came before is still available, and more accessible than ever. If you wanted to only watch stuff from the 50's or 60's or 70's, you still have that option, and it's easier to see everything from then now than it was then, thanks to video/discs/cable/streaming.

Exactly.

Though if I had to break it down the 50-60s were Crime, Westerns, and Comedies. The only TV I saw in the 70-80s was limited and one of the three channels  we got was CBC British Columbia and that's when I got to see British Comedies and Drama, Monty Python, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf, Fawlty Towers. The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, I, Claudius,  Poldark, etc., etc.

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The 60's - 70's was the best era.  There were only a handful of TV shows I liked through each decade afterwards.

Knight Rider and Airwolf during the 80's

Babylon 5, Star Trek Voyager & DS9  - 90's

Keeping Up Appearances - 2000's

The short lived Sleepy Hollow - 2010's

Now Live Rescue, Live PD and Highway Through Hell  (OMG has TV gotten this bad? :()

 

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As we run a gamut of many different age groups( and locales) what some view as "classic" is too new to be considered so.  Throw in the fact of differing tastes, and you'll never get a definitive  answer to the question.   And to further elaborate on something JAMES touched on.....

In my youth, TV shows not only had appearances by many "up and coming"  eventual big stars, but several were starring and also cast many who STARTED OUT doing movies.  Example;

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was DECEMBER BRIDE, starring SPRING BYINGTON and with HARRY MORGAN .  At the time, I was unaware M.s Byington had a film career before the TV show, as did Morgan too.   Just as I was eventually surprised to learn of ROBERT YOUNG's film career before "Father Knows Best".   As did the BACHELOR FATHER ---JOHN FORSYTHE .    And, (you'll get a kick out of these) The vicarious pride I felt when a favorite of mine, WALTER BRENNAN of "The Real McCoys", showed up in the western RIO BRAVO!  Finally!  The BIG TIME!  :D   Same goes when FRED MacMURRAY from "My Three Sons"  got a big movie break in THE ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR.    ;)  :D  Well......

THEN I started eventually seeing some of THEIR old flicks on TV during weekend matinees and late shows.  I think the first MacMurray movie I saw on TV was THE EGG AND I ('47) sometime in the near mid '60's.   

And those are to mention but a few.

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13 hours ago, UMO1982 said:

I'm still waiting.

For what better sitcoms, shows? You may be in  for a l-o-n-g wait.

ft949.jpg

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6 minutes ago, UMO1982 said:

Addison Richards once said that TV was nothing but auditions.

Addison DeWitt said that to Miss Casswell. 

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My opinion on this subject:

Every decade, from the earliest broadcasts during television's infancy to this present day, as had both extremely high quality fare presented to us the viewing public, and some of the lowest of lowbrow junk productions offered to us.

(...and so for anyone to claim one particular decade was superior to all or any others, would in my view be both shortsighted and as subjective as it comes)

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I think the best thing that TV ever came up with is I LOVE LUCY.  There was some great writing in the 1950s into the 1960s.  I think a lot of classic '60s shows, though beloved, are truly non-nutritive.  Socially conscious shows of the '70s have not dated well.  There were some great shows in the '80s and '90s that polished the formula of earlier decades.  Now, I only watch Jeopardy every day. 

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All I know is that television has come a long way from a handful of snowy, rollly, black-n-white, remote-less, bunny eared, tube-guy choices of yesterday to virtually an endless selection of sharp, clear, colorized, high-definition, streaming, big screen or mobile handheld choices of today – looking back, television entertainment was a heavenly period of rapid growth and development to experience…a true blessing for any life form to appreciate. ❤️

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"You and me and ABC..."

Yes, I remember first seeing The Poseidon Adventure on Sunday-night TV.  Parents didn't take me to the theater for that one.  And not for "Paper Moon", either, but I always watched the series.

I still like SEINFELD

Even though that's WHY we no longer have sitcoms.

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21 hours ago, JeanneCrain said:

All I know is that television has come a long way from a handful of snowy, rollly, black-n-white, remote-less, bunny eared, tube-guy choices of yesterday to virtually an endless selection of sharp, clear, colorized, high-definition, streaming, big screen or mobile handheld choices of today – looking back, television entertainment was a heavenly period of rapid growth and development to experience…a true blessing for any life form to appreciate. ❤️

 

What good of all those channels, streaming if one has seen, have everything  they want and is not interested in the remainder.  Now it's 500+ channels and nothing is on (like last night). 

That's why I dropped Starz several years back, constant reruns.  I might get lucky and find a movie with the free on occasion  HBO / Starz holiday weekend.  My HD TV is simple with no bells and whistles - don't need that internet interface.  My Directv  has it and not connected.  Stream what...reruns? :angry:

 

While helping to clean out an office someone vacated, left behind a practically new old school portable AM/FM/TV receiver.  Cleaned it, took it home and hooked it up to a spare  Suddenlink SD converter box to test. Tiny 5" B&W low res screen, so cheap it didn't have a brand name.

Classic-Portable-5-Inch-Black-White-TV.j

 

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