This week's passing of Robert Hegyes, best known for his role as Epstein on the 1970s TV show 'Welcome Back Kotter,' got me to thinking about iconic TV this morning. So much of what is on TV today is pretty formulaic, with the crime and court procedurals, the family comedies and all the reality TV crap.
Shows like Kotter, which you can still catch on local channels in syndication or can pick up at Amazon, still play well 25 years later. Yeah the hair and clothes scream 1977, but the jokes are still funny, the stories are still interesting and you can still relate to the characters even in the social media age. It's probably not a top 4 iconic show, mostly because there was only so much you could do with a story line largely centered on a high school class, but it's still a show that broke some ground.
What are the four most iconic TV shows of your lifetime?
- The Simpsons - still fresh, funny and making a statement after all these years. I know not everyone is a Simpsons fan with the low brow and slapstick stuff that the show sometimes relies on. But each episode is saying something in a way that is accessible across generations. proved a prime-time animated show could be a winner and inspired dozens of copy cats.
- The Rockford Files - Everyone probably already knows I am a big Rockford fan, but TRF really was a different kind of show for its day. It made it ok to be a TV detective who wasn't a tough guy, made the careers of many of new faces (Tom Selleck and Sopranos creator David Chase among the most notable), and has the best opening sequence of any TV show ever.
- M*A*S*H - I think everyone watched the last episode, but if that's all you remember, then you missed how much this show changed TV. It was anti-war, created the 'dramedy' genre, showed the blood and dirt of war right on your living room TV. As the Vietnam era ended, M*A*S*H lost a bit of its edge, taking on other social issues before going out with the most watched TV episode ever.
- Seinfeld - The show about nothing that dominated TV in the 90s, Seinfeld was never really one of my favorites. I do recognize how thoroughly it became part of the culture and remains so today. Like Friends, the 4 person cast was huge together, but never really had as much reach as individual actors.