Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ten On Tuesdays: Ten Best TV Freshmen Classes

The fall network television season officially kicks off next week (although FOX and The CW are getting a bit of a headstart) and each new show will be under the microscope. The pressure is always higher for new shows since they have only 13 episodes or less to win viewers or produce a strong enough product that may win some favor from the network execs and allow a stay of execution. There is no telling which of this season's new shows will become the next sensation or even if there will be one, but it's always exciting to follow, at least to me.

In honor of the upcoming fall tv season (one of my favorite events of the year), I've decided to do a top ten list of what I feel are the seasons that had the best freshmen line-up. I based this on the ratings success of the show, longetivity, quality, importance to the history of television and its lasting impact on pop culture. This list is also not limited to just shows in the fall line-up, but shows that were midseason replacements as well. I also didn't include every new show for each particular season, mainly because they didn't fit the criteria. Any shows not on the fall line-up are noted with an asterisk (*).


The A-Team*
Family Ties
Knight Rider
Remington Steele
Silver Spoons
Square Pegs
St. Elsewhere

The A-Team, Cheers, Family Ties and Knight Rider are cornerstones of 80's television and shows that people will often remain nostalgic for, but the enduring quality of St. Elsewhere and Newhart, not to mention Square Pegs' groundbreaking look at adolescent life is what earns the 1982-83 crop a spot on this list.


7th Heaven
Buffy The Vampire Slayer*
Everybody Loves Raymond
The Jamie Foxx Show
Just Shoot Me!*
King Of The Hill*
The Practice*
Spin City
The Steve Harvey Show

Raymond went on to become one of the best sitcoms of all-time. Buffy revived a network and re-ignited serial storytelling in primetime. The Practice was definitely one of the best dramas on television for at least its first three or four seasons. King Of The Hill continues to remain consistent to this day. Those fours shows alone are impressive enough, but once you add the importance of the Jamie Foxx and Steve Harvey-led sitcoms in an era where FOX was slowly phasing out African-American centered programming from their schedule and 7th Heaven's longevity, you have one of the most well-rounded group of freshmen in this season.


Charles In Charge
The Cosby Show
Highway To Heaven
Miami Vice
Mr. Belvedere*
Murder She Wrote
Punky Brewster
Who's The Boss

Another case of a surprising amount of shows showing longevity and a select few having a lasting cultural impact (The Cosby Show, Miami Vice, Murder She Wrote). What really helped to elevate '84-85 was Moonlighting with its unique mixture (at the time) of comedy and drama.


Chicago Hope
Due South
My So-Called Life
New York Undercover
Party Of Five
Star Trek: Voyager
Touched By An Angel

There are the obvious ratings juggernauts like ER, Friends and Touched By An Angel, eventually, but Chicago Hope, My So-Called Life, New York Undercover, Newsradio and Party Of Five made primetime television very worthwhile 12 years ago.


All In The Family*
The Flip Wilson Show
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Odd Couple
The Partridge Family

Whenever the greatest tv shows are mentioned amongst critics or publications, All In The Family and MTM usually fall in the top 10 or 20. The Flip Wilson Show and The Partridge Family are still referenced in pop culture to this day and The Odd Couple has managed to still be remembered, despite not being a ratings success in its initial run.


Freaks and Geeks
Judging Amy
Law & Order: SVU
Malcolm In The Middle*
Mission Hill
Once And Again
The Parkers
Third Watch
The West Wing

The critics must have loved their job this season. The only show that wasn't a critical darling on this list was The Parkers, but few would debate that it was the funniest show on UPN's Monday night line-up for at the time.


The Bob Newhart Show
The Waltons

Just imagine Seinfeld, Friends, Fraiser and Law & Order debuting during the same season and you kinda get the idea of why a season with only four shows is ranked so high.


Boy Meets World
The Critic*
Dave's World
Living Single
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
The X-Files

Fraiser, NYPD Blue and The X-Files are defining shows of the decade and are pretty much the faces of 90's television. Living Single, The Critic and Lois & Clark may have only had modest success, but are still fondly remembered to this day.


Barney Miller*
Chico and The Man
The Jeffersons*
Little House On The Prairie
The Night Stalker
Police Woman
The Rockford Files

I'm sure it was hard to predict the impact that some of these shows would have back in 1974. Police Woman was one of the first successful dramas to feature a woman in the lead role for future female cop shows like Charlie's Angels and Cagney & Lacey. The Night Stalker could be credited with making the sci-fi genre more darker. Barney Miller featured a multi-racial cast and Chico and The Man included the first Hispanic lead in a sitcom. The rest brought in their fair share of awards and viewers.


F Troop
Get Smart
Green Acres
Hogan's Heroes
I Dream Of Jeanie
I Spy
Lost In Space
The Wild Wild West

You look down this list and nearly every show is still a part of today's pop culture. Not only are most of these shows still popular to this day, their impact on television can still be felt. Get Smart allowed a place in the world for witty comedies with nontraditional premises. I Spy was the first show to feature an African-American in a non-stereotypical lead role. Batman has set the precedent for all things camp. Green Acres combined surreal comedy with live action. Even one of the least popular shows in this group, The Wild Wild West was bold in its mixture of genres.

And a little added bonus, number "11". When I first came up with the concept of best freshmen batches, the 2001-02 season immediately came to mind. It included three of my favorite shows, 24, Alias and The Bernie Mac Show. It was a good starting point and I was even more surprised when I saw there were other great shows that debuted that season as well, but I was shocked and saddened that when it came time for rankings, I just couldn't find a spot for '01-02 in the top ten. It's definitely a worthy #10, but its inclusion would be based more on personal preference instead of overall impact. Still, it was a great time for television.


Law & Order: Criminal Intent
The Amazing Race
The Bernie Mac Show
The Tick

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