On Today’s incarnation of Jack & John’s Tuesday Top 5, we rank our favorite TV shows that show or showed reruns in syndication. Now, to be clear, this is a different animal than a simple list of “favorite TV shows” in several ways. Obviously, the shows on our lists must be currently or previously have reruns shown in syndication on a regular basis. More importantly, however, in order to be successful, the show not only needs to be good, but must also have a long shelf-life. In other words, it can’t feel dated even if it the episode originally aired 10 or more years ago, and you’ve got to be able to watch the same episodes of these shows over and over again without boredom setting in. So it should be clear, the best TV shows don’t always make the best syndicated TV shows. So…to the lists
John’s Top Five:
This one was a lot tougher to come up with than last week’s. While my taste in cereals has remained relatively unchanged in 30 years, television viewing habits have not. I’m really not into watching a lot of network television anymore unless it is live sports. That’s mainly because of the dung heap that is “reality” television and the dramas are all “CSI”, “Law & Order” or some repackaging of lawyer/cop formulas from days gone by. With that said, there are some classics that stand the test of time and freshness that Jack layed out in the above formula.
1) The Sopranos. My all time favorite television show. I miss it badly. Though it ran only 86 episodes, I can still watch each one again and again. Even the edited version that runs on A&E. It’s that (edited) good. With so few episodes, I have to go in and out of watching the series. I am torn as to if I want HBO to make a movie (ala “Sex and the City”) because it was so different in how they crafted the storyline. And I am one of the few that had no issue with the abrupt ending because this wasn’t a story that can wrap things up in a nice, tidy package.
Oh, and it also gives me a chance to share this clip of Ralphie Cifaretto and his unique pronunciation of the word “whore.“ And this clip of Phil Leotardo. ***LANGUAGE WARNING***
2) The Office. The only other show in syndication that is on my DVR. This was one that I actually started watching in syndication before moving over to the network version. I haven’t yet seen every episode, which is even better because once the show dies after this season (with the departure of Steve Carell), I’ll still have a show that seems fresh.
3) Seinfeld. Prior to The Sopranos, my favorite television show. Best comedy ever. Cannot tell you the number of times I have quoted or relived scenes with fellow co-workers on this show. Best supporting characters of any program. Kramer. Newman. Jackie Styles. Mr. Peterman and my personal favorite, George’s parents – especially Frank Costanza (played by Jerry Stiller.)
4) Hogan’s Heroes. The original run ended just before I was born, but after school during my grade school years, this WWII comedy ran after school every day (Channel 3, I think.) Unlike M*A*S*H*, which took a much more serious turn after the departure of Trapper John, Hogan’s Heroes never betrayed its comedy roots. To this day I will quote Sgt. Schultz, Col. Klink and Major Hochstetter. This is a show that needs a movie remake, but the key is who plays Klink and Schultz, they were the glue. John Candy would have been great, God rest his soul.
5) Barney Miller. Now here’s a wild card entry. This cop comedy (along with M*A*S*H*) was a regular staple of our dinner time viewing back in the early 80′s. It was mostly humorous, but would occasionally delve into serious subjects – not nearly as many as M*A*S*H*. It’s been so long since I saw these episodes, that they would be fresh again. It narrowly beats WKRP in Cincinnati due to the fact there are more episodes. That and I practically live WKRP every day, so the freshness factor isn’t as great.
Jack’s Top Five:
1) The Muppet Show. Laugh if you will, but this is one of the most successful syndicated television shows of all-time, and if I’m truly gauging which of these shows generated the most enjoyment in my life, there’s no doubt it was the Muppet Show. This was the kids show that was enjoyable for adults before Disney and Pixar had mastered that technique on the big screen. Plus, this show seemed to integrate relatively prominent stars more impressively than any kids shows do now (yes, and I’m aware of when that guy from Devo was on Yo Gabba Gabba)
2) Friends. I feel like I need to apologize for this, but if I’m being honest with myself, I probably spent ten times the hours watching reruns of Monica, Chandler and the crew as compared to any other show ever in syndication. While 15 years out, some of the episodes have the occasional uncomfortable cheese factor, I’m still not ashamed to say I still get caught up waiting for lines like “There was definite cuppage” and “We were on a break!”.
3) Dukes of Hazzard. Again, going back to my childhood a bit here, but this show seemed to translate to syndication in a way that was so smooth that I’m surprised it’s never really been able to get the run that inferior shows from the same era like Matlock and Magnum P.I. have enjoyed. While Bo & Luke’s adventures often made for formulaic plots, that kind of reliability is often something that actually makes a show in syndication more desirable.
4) America’s Funniest Home Videos. Don’t look now, but not only is this show on in syndication a LOT, but it’s also about to kick off its 21st season of new programming as well. That’s nothing to sneeze at, so something’s obviously working. Now, that said, the hosts and in-studio commentary has almost been unwatchable over the years, whether it was Bob Saget, Daisy Fuentes or Tom Bergeron. Nonetheless, I still just don’t get tired of watching little kids hit men in the groin with baseballs, golf clubs and other various items. It’s also nice, because it’s probably the only show on television right now that I my son and I can sit down, watch together, and both enjoy.
5) Blind Date. This is a little deeper cut. Perhaps you didn’t ever see this show, which hit its syndication stride in the late 90s/early 2000s. It was hosted by Roger Lodge, and it was staple late-night viewing while I was in college. Again, it was incredibly formulaic, but reality TV was still in its infancy, and this was before the Bachelor, Joe Millionaire, and all of the other scads of romance reality series, so there was something pretty fresh about cameras following an unscripted date–and the potential for the date to end up very, very well or very, very badly were equally compelling.
What did we miss? Post your top 5 in the comments below.