The five most influential TV shows in Repman’s life

Since AdWeek just saw fit to name their 100 most influential TV shows in history, I thought I'd cull from their favorites to tell you the five programs that have had the greatest impact, positive, negative, or otherwise on me.

They are (in chronological order):

1) "Leave it to Beaver" (CBS and ABC. Original air date: October 4, 1957). Wally and the Beav ran for six or seven seasons, long enough for me to become positively addicted to the cool ways in which Beav always got in trouble, Wally always got the girls and evil Eddie Haskell cheated and scammed his way through Mayfield High. I also developed my first, serious crush on Beav's second grade teacher, Ms. Landers.

2.) "The Twilight Zone" (CBS. Original air date: October 2, 1959). Submitted for your approval, TTZ was unlike any other show on TV. It simultaneously scared, mystified and intrigued me. I still watch the re-runs. Favorite episode of all? 'Willoughby', which featured a harried, Ed Moed-type ad executive whose regular Metro North commuter train somehow becomes a time machine that enables him to escape to a fictional Victorian town named, you guessed it, Willoughby.

3.) "All in the Family" (CBS. Original air date: January 12, 1971). The first, real counter-culture sitcom, AITF featured the quintessential racist, Archie Bunker, his 'dingbat' wife, Edith, 'meathead' son-in-law Mike Stivic and Mike's wife/Archie's daughter, Gloria, whom Archie always called 'Little Girl.' (Note: That's what I've always called my Catharine. Talk about influence).

4.) "Seinfeld" (NBC. Original air date: May 31, 1990). Hands down, the most influential show in this blogger's life. I often find myself copying Jerry's mannerisms and speech, and constantly referring to previous episodes in my everyday business life. Just yesterday, for example, Peppercom's Teddy Birkhahn scared the bejesus out of me when he sidled up silently behind me. I stuck a tin of Altoids in his pocket to prevent any such future ambushes.

5.) "The Sopranos" (HBO. Original air date: May 31, 2000). Incredible show with an incredible cast. Mediocre final episode, but such is life. My world stopped every Sunday evening at 9pm when T, Carm, AJ, Meadow, et al, took center stage. Favorite episode: the botched murder of a Russian mobster in the New Jersey Pinelands.

Honorable mention: "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men." I adore both AMC series (note: neither made Ad Week's list).

So, how about you? What TV show(s) had the most influence on you and why? Inquiring bloggers want to know.

42 thoughts on “The five most influential TV shows in Repman’s life

  1. I was wondering why our resident soap opera expert had yet to weigh in. Thanks Sam. ‘The Hooneymooners’ loomed large (pun intended) on the original AdWeek list but, truth be told, Ralph Kramden never really resonated with me. I’d definitely add ‘Curb’ to my honorable mention list, though. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. An interesting post and question, Mr. Cody. As far as the most influential shows in my life…Top of the list for me is Friday Night Lights: in terms of capturing the feel of everyday life, small town community, and a community of compelling and real characters, there’s never been a show like it.
    Other than that, when it comes to personal impact, there’s “As the World Turns” (wish I was a member of the Hughes family, and a Guinness Record holder in terms of the number of actors who were in the same role for 50+ years).
    There’s WWE Monday Night RAW, and its predecessors (the regional “weekly wrestling show” back in the network days)–no fictional entertainment show has been that kind of mainstay staple on cable television.
    And, when I think about the shows that my mind often goes back to and draws from, there’s Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm; Breaking Bad and The Sopranos; The Shield and Dexter and West Wing…and so many others that run close seconds.
    But, as others say, the base of that go back to Rob Petry and Mary Richards; Archie Bunker and the crazy Tates on Soap; and don’t think I’ve seen any reference to Det. Columbo, Ralph Kramden, Dick Loudon, or…my personal favorite, for reasons I can’t even explain…Thelma Harper.

  3. Good stuff, Dan. That said, I’m definitely not familiar with a couple of these. Seinfeld seems to be the great equalizer among generations.

  4. Nice, Julie. Nice. I guess my role model of that era was Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees. He showed me that even truly mediocre talent can take one to the top.

  5. Hey Rep just thought of another All Time Influential Show…1970 Monday Night Football…I don’t think I missed a Monday Night game the first ten years that it aired…it took the nation by storm and made the NFL the successful business that it is today. I will never forget the on air chemistry of Howard, Dandy Don and my least favorite Frank.

  6. Superb list, Ghost. Moed belongs on the train to Willoughby, though. Also, I’d pick Fawlty Towers over Python. Cleese was absolutely amazing as Basil Fawlty.

  7. Many of the folks here have indicated their favorite TV shows in addition to the most influential ones. For me, my favorite for the past 5 years has been “Mad Men” (and AMC had better not screw it up!).
    The most influential show, however, would have to be THAT GIRL. As a kid growing up in front of the tube in the 1960s, my only role models with June Cleaver and Donna Reed. Ann Marie showed me an alternative where I could be single, live in the city, have a career and a boyfriend, and still have a full life. And for that, I will always be grateful to Marlo Thomas.

  8. 1.) The Sopranos. During the show’s heyday, I found myself at tense meetings uttering things like, “You got a problem with that?” That said, I disagree that the finale was mediocre; while I certainly felt let down when viewing it, with time the lack of closure now feels like a stroke of creative brilliance…much like everything else in the show.
    2.) The Twilight Zone. I don’t know if anyone has influenced me more as a writer than Rod Serling. It wasn’t just science fiction — it was the underpinning of a social message within the story. “Willoughby” is one of my favorites, as well, although I always pictured the train diver to be Penchansky, not Moed.
    3.) Monty Python’s Flying Circus. My first dose of truly high-brow humor. They really set the stage for the comedy troupes that followed. Absolute brilliance. And, unlike other comedies, has aged very well.
    4.) The Brady Bunch. To me, the Bradys were the microcosm of America: The straight-laced parents and the Astroturf backyard we all longed for. Our embracing of them, when we knew damn well they were neither realistic nor something worth admiration, says so much about us as a society. Imagine how the show might be different if developed today.
    5.) The original SNL. Groundbreaking and incredibly hip. Much the same way the Sopranos reconfigured your Sunday night, SNL had a similar impact on Saturdays. Also, much the way the Sopranos captured the essence of New Jersey in the 1990s-2000s, SNL from 1975-1980 was the quintessential New York show of that era.

  9. 1)Samurai Jack
    By far my favorite show. Wasnt able to watch it that much growing up because I didnt get cartoon network at home but when I first moved to NY I watched every episode like it was my first time. Its a perfect mix of serious ninja fighting and goofy childish humor. Highly recommended.
    2)South Park
    Even though I didnt understand much of what was going on in this show many of the one liners my friends and I would use came from South Park. I would sneak in a couple of episodes a month at friends’ places or late night when everyone was sleeping because of the mature content that Im sure my parents would still not approve of to this day. I have very fond memories of laughing a lot with friends when we spoke about this show.
    3)Seinfeld & 4) 3rd Rock from the Sun
    These shows were especially memorable for me not so much because of the content but more because it was a show my whole family liked. I remember a lot of laughs and smiles when these shows came on.
    5)The Screen Savers
    Im sure no one in NY heard of The Screen Savers on TechTV but for me it was a pivotal part of my interest in computing. It was about a half a dozen computer geeks talking about anything having to do with electronics everyday for an hour. I remember taping shows and getting super excited when it came on.

  10. Thanks Lunch. I’m amazed Carson was left off the list. His humor definitely influenced my own take on the absurdity of life. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Thanks Lunch. I’m amazed Carson was left off the list. His humor definitely influenced my own take on the absurdity of life. Thanks for sharing.

  12. 1. Magnum P.I.
    What a lifestyle; lived in Hawaiian mansion with access to a Ferrari, a butler and carried a gun legally. Plus, he always got the girl – at least for a night. Bonus: one of his best friends had access to a helicopter.
    2. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
    Not a one will ever match his dry sense of humor on TV. Conan is close, but no cigar.
    3. The Price is Right
    Playing hooky from grade school to stay away from math and pre-algebra, Bob and his girls were a late morning must-watch.
    4. 24
    No other show got the blood pumping like this one. Crazy plotlines sure, but the flow of the show was unreal.
    5. Modern Family
    It’s funny because its real!

  13. I’d have to say ‘Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In’ trumped all of those shows for me, Greg. But, I did enjoy Bud and Lou (and Hillary Brooks).

  14. Chappelle deserves an honorable mention for sure, Ray. Stay tuned for another blog on a similar theme next week.

  15. I see some folks here have named their favorite shows in addition to the ones that have had the most influence on their lives. Under favorite shows, I’d say “Mad Men” tops the list. (AMC had better not bite the hand that put that network on the map).
    As far as TV shows that had a profound influence on my life, I’d have to say the major one would be THAT GIRL. As a little girl growing up in front of the TV in the 1960s, the only role model I had was June Cleaver and Donna Reed. But Ann Marie opened me up to the possibility that I can live as a single woman with a career in NYC and still be ok. And for that, I will forever be grateful to Marlo Thomas.

  16. I’d have to say ‘Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In’ trumped all of those shows for me, Greg. But, I did enjoy Bud and Lou (and Hillary Brooks).”

  17. Interesting list. I wasn’t a big fan of ‘The Carol Burnett Show’, but it did have it moments. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was much edgier, if less successful.”

  18. What’choo talkin’ ’bout, RepMan? Diff’rent Strokes didn’t make the list? Well, it definitely made mine!
    While no industry influencer, Diff’rent Strokes (‘78-‘86) truly spoke to my generation – albeit through reruns – as I was growing up in New York City. Its plot usually involved comedic digression when raising awareness about real-life issues such as cultural diversity and economic disparity, amongst others. Every episode, I believe, served a moral objective.
    In Living Color and Perfect Strangers also stand-out for me, primarily due to sentimental reasons.
    In Living Color (’90-’94) was just hysterical. The show launched careers for Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few. One character in particular, Fire Marshall Bill, played by Jim Carrey, brings back memories for me and my family. And, Homey the Clown sure didn’t mess around.
    I watched Perfect Strangers (’86-’93) with my grandmother. She thought Balki Bartokomous, played by Bronson Pinchot, was great. For that reason I mention this show.
    Chappelle’s Show (’03-’06) is an all-time favorite of mine. I find his comedy still relevant and his critiques on racism unparalleled.
    Television has definitely influenced my sense of humor, as I continue my attempts to make light out of every situation. Also, TV can serve as a medium to discuss issues that aren’t addressed in every household.
    REPMAN: TV seems to be a popular topic… how about a sub-category for best theme song?

  19. Hey Abbott! Abbott & Costello, of course. Like the episode on how the boys are going to Phoenix and have everything you can imagine packed on top of the car with roped strung from front to back, criss-crossed, etc. And then two minutes they are down the block to the Phoenix Coffee Shop.
    Three Stooges. Lord only knows I met my share of stooges along the way. Think they only prepared me for the realities in life.
    I Love Lucy. Just trying to understand Ricky prepared me for today’s society.
    Laurel & Hardy. This is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into. Hey, it was never me, but let’s point the finger at someone else.
    This seems to fit with your comedy team RepMan.

  20. 1) “The West Wing”
    This was the most influential show for me because it turned me onto writing and wanting to work in public relations. After religiously watching every episode, I wanted to someday work in a fast paced environment and create campaigns that would someday influence the way others thought.
    2)”The Carol Burnett Show”
    I would watch it with my grandparents when I visited them, and it taught me to not take life so seriously. I also think Carol Burnett was a stand-up woman that has no parallel on television today.
    3) “The Office”
    I have to agree with Ellie.I was shocked to see it didn’t make the list. It brilliantly captures the office atmosphere. I love it.
    4) “Mary Tyler Moore Show”
    A young, single woman dealing with work and life…Do I need to explain this one?
    5)”Modern Family”
    Sometimes I am surprised by the issues this show gets away with addressing on television. They are able to tackle major issues in society with humor. As Ellie says, it doesn’t necessarily solve the problems, but it does shed light on them.

  21. You’re right Rep, as for influence, my choices would still be those with women who did something with their lives and didn’t have to rely on men. MTM springs instantly to mind as does Marlo Thomas. Maude too. Soap was the first show and acceptance of gays (I thought I was nuts that I did not see anything wrong with it as others did). Even Little House on the Prairie influenced me as valuing school, family and others. Too bad TV today has those high rated shows such as Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, and “Real” Housewives. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

  22. I’d agree that ‘Men of a certain age’ beautifully captures, well, men of a certain age and what we go through. I find it interesting that I positively detested Ray Romano before he wrote and starred in ‘Men.’ Now, I totally relate to his and Scott Bakula’s characters. Thanks Gaetano.

  23. Great stuff, Michael. I’d forgotten all about the Louds but, you’re 100 percent right. It was breakthrough reality TV circa 1969. Knowing you as well as I do, though, I would have guessed ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom’ would have made your top five list.

  24. Ended as you’d expect. Held on to both of them for as long as possible; feeling like I was living a double life. Then within a matter of a week, both relationships ended. Neither in hostility, so I’ll take that as a victory. Or, as Charlie Sheen would say “winning, duh”.

  25. “James at 15” was the most realistic and well-written “teen angst” dramedy I can think of, and in my opinion paved the way for filmmakers like John Hughes and Judd Apatow. I think Freaks and Geeks got it better. But it has to pay gratitude to its precedent. “The Larry Sanders Show” gave us a trifecta of convincing a) global audiences that HBO could do original programming, b) investors that TV Series can be raunchy and politically incorrect without alienating viewers, and c) future writers that TV shows about TV shows are entertaining to watch. Conclusively – “An American Family,” the first reality series (how can anyone forget the Loud family) about an actual nuclear family and their extreme dramas, filmed for the world to see. The Louds came on the scene over 35 years before we had the Kardashians. Enough said.

  26. Thanks Josh. But, don’t leave us hanging. Re: falling in love with two women at the same time, how did it work? Also, FYI, been there, done that.

  27. Great picks…I have to agree with Seinfeld and Mad Men. For pure enjoyment some of my favorites would be Californication and the total coolness of Hank Moody…I also have enjoyed the series about the quirky Mr. Adrian Monk “MONK” (Tony Shaloub was fantastic in this role) and lately I have enjoyed the diverse comedy of Modern Family. HBO and Showtime often hit Home Runs with their original series…thumbs up to Six Feet Under, The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasam. And for us Old Guys…Men of a Certain Age has been knocking a few out lately.

  28. Outstanding additions, Ellie. You’re 100 percent right about ‘The Office’. The early seasons, in particular, were brilliant. Re: your love of the Kate Mulgrew version of ‘Star Trek,’ my brother-in-law played Neelix on the show and still makes tons of cash attending Trekkie conventions.

  29. These were not my favorites TV shows, Book, but rather the five TV shows that had the most influence on me. That was the gist of the original Adweek article. So, did those shows influence you, or did you just watch them for fun? The ones I listed did both.

  30. As a younger man the show that influenced me the most was…
    Boy Meets World (ABC)
    This show covered just about every single social situation I’ve gotten into in my life. Whether it be falling in “love” with two women, dealing with a best friend who has some issues, or battling myself to succeed in life. May not be a critically acclaimed show, or even generally respected by the population as a whole. But growing up along with the Matthews family was an experience that I wouldn’t be me without.
    P.S. I also second the Seinfeld pick.

  31. First off, you only listed your favs, no bad shows. Take Cop Rock for instance! I too loved AITF, MTM, That Girl. Loved Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, Soap too. LA Law was a fav even though it was no where near what a real firm looks like. Don’t know any of today’s shows. My TV stays dark for the most part. Great post!

  32. Thanks nick. And, how refreshing to interact with a TV-free Millennial. Re: “Band of Brothers” it, was, in fact, an outstanding mini-series (much, much better than “Pacific.”). My favorite character, Snow, reminds me a great deal of Peppercom’s Ted Birkhahn. Let’s hope Ted doesn’t end up a Section 8 like Snow.

  33. 1.) Star Trek (NBC) September 8, 1966
    When I was 5, my brother and my dad dragged me to the movie Star Trek Generations (November 18, 1994).My brother and dad were the controllers of the remote for the most part during my childhood, which explains my love for Star Trek. My favorite season is Star Trek Voyager with Kate Mulgrew playing Captain Janeway. As much as people make fun of Trekkies, this series is monumental.
    2.) The West Wing (NBC) September 22, 1999
    As a 9 year old watching this show with my parents, I think for a time I thought Martin Sheen was the real president.
    3.)Lost (ABC) September 22, 2004
    Last summer, when I was interning at Peppercom, I would go home every night after work and watch 3 to 4…to 5 episodes of Lost. See, if a TV series is on Netflix, all you have to do it click “next episode” to find out what happens. I simply cannot fathom how people watched Lost during its regular seasons. The suspense would be too much to handle.That being said, I watched all 6 seasons in about 2 1/2 months. I thought I was on the island for a good 2 weeks or so, getting freaked out at certain things around me (Desmond’s Tavern down the road from the office, the numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42 spray painted outside my apartment, John Locke telling me to open the hatch in my dreams,etc). Clearly this TV series had an impact on me.
    4.) Modern Family (ABC) September 23, 2009
    Not only is this show hilarious, but it faces stereotypes and social issues head on. I don’t think it solves any of these issues, but I think that to an extent it shows the gradual acceptance of social change.
    5.) Honorable Mention: The Office (NBC)
    I can’t believe it didn’t make the list! Every day I find myself quoting The Office or visualizing what Michael Scott would do in a certain situation. Sometimes I wish there was a camera I could give a “Jim look” to. I don’t even have words for the brilliance of this show.

  34. I am sorry to inform you, Steve, that I can’t contribute any additional shows that have played a part in my cultivation. I grew up mostly without TV. The closest thing I have is a mini-series: Band of Brothers. You have to admit, though… “hold your fire” really caught on as a cultural phrase circa 2005.

  35. Superb additions to the list. I always liked James Garner (especially in ‘The Great Escape’), but never got into ‘The Rockford Files.’ I agree about ‘The Odd Couple.’ It was outstanding.

  36. The Rockford Files (NBC, September 1974-January 1980), To a 12-year-old boy who hated “Good Times” “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley,” this show was the coolest — an ex-con private eye who lived in a trailer on a Malibu beach, had a loving but disapproving father, a hot lady attorney, a gold Pontiac Firebird, and constant trouble following him. 30-plus years later, its appeal is just as great. There was no good vs. evil here, and lots of gray areas. Rockford’s moral code was relative. Rockford was everyman, human and fallible. He lied, impersonated cops and authority figures and pulled cons when needed. He was a coward, lazy, always late with his bills, constantly set up by his clients (who didn’t always pay), sold out by his friends (especially Angel Martin), beat up, hated by all but one cop, and always had to end up using his wits, fists, or Firebird to get out of trouble. His wisecracks didn’t always work (To thug beating him up: “Does your mother know what you do for a living?”) To some that may sound grim, but there was humor and humanity in all this. James Garner is a terrific actor, and Jim Rockford is one of his greatest characterizations. If that isn’t enough, note that one of “Rockford’s” key writers was David Chase. You can see the roots of “The Sopranos” in the way Rockford has to deal with the mores and characters of the Mafia. None of the bad guys are one-dimensional or ever play it straight. I’d argue that without Jimbo, Angel and Rocky, I’m not sure T, Carm and “Chris-tu-fer” would have been such vivid characters.
    Hill Street Blues (NBC, January 1981-May 1987). In college, I had an emotional investment in those characters. The best ensemble drama I’ve ever watched. Even 25 years later, nothing’s come close.
    The Odd Couple (ABC, September 1970-April 1975). This show proved that two divorced man could not live together without driving each other crazy. Judged purely for laughs and repeat watching, the inspired “opposites” casting of Tony Randall and Jack Klugman was the best matchup since Laurel and Hardy. The setups and silliness just plain worked. Usually celebrity guest casting is awful, but that was the premise of some of their funniest episodes – especially those with Howard Cossell vs. Oscar Madison. It just worked.
    The Sopranos. There’s no reason to add to what you wrote.
    All in the Family – Again, I think you said it best. It was nothing like any sitcom that came before. Or really since, if you think about it.
    Honorable Mention: “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Taxi,” and “WKRP in Cincinnati” (first two seasons only).”