Ok – we’re back live…sort of…so let’s continue with the list of my twenty all time favorite TV shows.
In case you missed it – we’ve listed numbers twenty through sixteen here and numbers fifteen through eleven here. Now it’s time to crack the top ten.
10 – Mission Impossible (1966-1973) – What was not to love about Mission Impossible? A team of secret agents working for an unknown government agency trying to maintain the delicate balance between world peace and world war – how cool is that? To top it off – said government agency would “disavow any knowledge of (their) activities” if they were caught or captured. Damn. At a time when we were all expecting nuclear war to break out at any minute, the missions of the I.M.F. (Impossible Missions Force) seemed like the difference between life and death. Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) led a team of selected operatives (played by a regularly rotating cast) on missions to save the free world every week – and even though they were always an inch away from being caught, they always pulled it off. Throw in the coolest theme song EVER…and you can’t lose. One thing for sure – Mission Impossible did not self-destruct in five seconds.
9 – The Man from U.N.C.L,E. – (1964-1968) – At the height of The Cold War what could be a cooler concept for a TV show than an American and a Russian working together against an evil organization bent on world domination? American Napolean Solo (Robert Vaughan) and Russian Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum) were tasked with said mission. With some creative help from Ian Fleming, (that’s right – the James Bond guy) U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) sent Solo and Kuryakin on weekly missions to combat the forces of THRUSH (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity). Thanks to cutting edge technology, the world was always safe from the threat of evil. There were also some great guest stars ranging from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy to Werner Klemperer and Barbara Feldon. Needless to say, Solo and Kuryakin never failed to make THRUSH cry U.N.C.L.E. (Come on – don’t tell me you didn’t see that coming!)
8 – All in the Family – (1971-1979) – Norman Lear probably should have had his head examined for asking network officials to air a television program whose “hero” was a loud-mouthed, blue collar bigot – but he did…and they did…and none of them could have imagined how successful it would be. The first show actually aired a disclaimer before going on the air…”The program you are about to see is All in the Family. It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices, and concerns. By making them a source of laughter we hope to show, in a mature fashion, just how absurd they are.” I don’t know about you – but from the first episode, I got that. Even today, there are people who don’t understand that concept, which is something that escapes me. Using laughter to drive home a point about an issue which is not funny at all seems perfectly natural to me. If that doesn’t make sense to you, you’re a meathead.
7 – Kung Fu – (1972-1975) – A peaceful man, with deadly skills, is wanted for murder and must live a life of exile – with no help from anyone, all the time helping strangers with problems of their own. According to legend, the role of Caine, in Kung Fu, was originally written for Bruce Lee, but David Carradine was chosen. A decision which was probably for the better. Although Lee was a legitimate martial arts master and Carradine had to be trained, sometimes off camera before shooting, I think Carradine’s personality was more suited to the role. The program was more than a “beat ’em up” karate show – the emphasis was on peaceful solutions and the power of spiritual thinking – then if that didn’t work, kick their ass. The flashback sequences always appealed to me because I would look forward to the ways Caine’s Masters would teach him valuable life lessons from seemingly ordinary events. Of course, it goes without saying that the show inspired me to study martial arts, for that I will always owe Caine a debt of gratitude.
6 – The Wild Wild West – (1965-1969) – Cowboy spies, need I say more? The concept of this show intrigued me, even as a child. I loved the “what if” element of it. What if there really was a secret government agency back in the wild west? Of course we all know there wasn’t, don’t we? Anyway – the show was intended to be “James Bond on horseback” in order to give the flagging western genre a fighting chance against the increasing popularity of spy shows at the time. Jim West, the handsome, tough as nails but charming gun slinger (played to perfection by Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon, genius inventor and master of disguise (with Ross Martin nailing the role) travel the country in a luxury train thwarting the nefarious plots of megalomaniac villains out to destroy or conquer the world. Along the way, Jim usually saves the life of a woman, who then falls in love with him. Nice work, if you can get it. In my opinion, this show was ahead of its time (as evidenced by the popularity of the 1999 Will Smith movie) and would hold up well, even today.
Don’t touch that dial…we’ll be back with the top five shows on my list of Twenty Shows That I Really Miss.