I admit it-over my life course I have watched way too much TV. However, in my defense, with the advent of premium channels and streaming services with the ability to binge, TV is about as good as it’s going to get, which means I probably won’t be watching less.
Anyway, there’s only one ground rule for this blog-if a show aired in more than one decade, it can only be my favorite for one of those decades, but it can be any decade it aired, even if it only aired for one season in its first decade (you’ll see what I mean down the road). If I know a show is available for streaming, I’ll note that. So, stay tuned, here we go…
The ’50s: We got a TV in 1951 or thereabouts. Later, in the 50’s when I could stay up late enough to watch “grown-up” shows my parents, I watched “You’ll Never Get Rich” (The Phil Silvers Show). Silvers portrayed Sgt Ernie Bilko, in charge of the motor pool at the fictional Fort Baxter, Kansas. The character was a scam artist, and each week he and the enlisted men under him would engage in some scheme that would ultimately backfire. I want to rent some episodes and show them to my granddaughters, who are now about the same age I was when I first began watching the show. A reasonably close second was “Topper,” another comedy. This one concerned a man who was “haunted” by ghosts who were husband and wife, and their St. Bernard, Neal.
The ’60s: One of my favorite memories of college was Friday nights the spring semester of my senior year. That was the night we gathered at a friend’s apartment, made a big pot of mac and cheese, bought some red cream soda, imbibed in another substance, and watched “Star Trek” and “Mission Impossible.” Although I enjoyed “MI” (as we called it), “Star Trek is easily my favorite show of the ’60s. I always enjoyed science fiction in the abstract-I loved the ideas, but the shows and movies were usually pretty weak.
“Star Trek” changed that. The dialogue was sharp, and the storyline for each episode was fresh. I watched reruns in the ’80s, and I enjoyed it almost as much. I watched some of the spin-off series, but they never took with me.
The ’70s: One of the 70’s movies that I enjoyed was “M*A*S*H,” so when, two years after the film was released, they made it into a TV show, I was skeptical.
I didn’t watch the first season, in part because I didn’t have a television. During that summer, my roommates and I bought one second-hand. I watched a couple of the reruns (remember when TV had pretty much only reruns during the summer?). I got hooked. I watched just about every episode from season two to the finale. It’s a wild and crazy sitcom set in a field hospital during the Korean War. For those of you who did watch and enjoy M*A*S*H, do you know why there is asterisk between the letters? There aren’t in the title of the movie. Anyway, my favorite show in the ’70s, M*A*S*H.
The ’80s: “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd”-there wasn’t much I liked on TV during the ’80s, and as I said in the beginning, that’s just personal taste. However, I enjoyed watching this quirky sort of comedy about a woman, divorced, who moonlights as a jazz singer with (I think I remember this right) her ex-husband’s band (and works a series of deadening day jobs). The characters are semi-weird, the storyline is strange, and for whatever reason, it resonated with me. I’ve been trying to find a way to re-watch some of it, but it’s not on any streaming service. It’s not available on DVD because it turns out, the producers never secured the right to use the songs she sang on the show, and apparently, the rights are now too expensive to obtain; thus, no way to rent or buy episodes. Bleh!
The ’90s: Remember my one ground rule? My favorite show of the 90 runs only one season in the 90′ s-1999-but that counts as the ’90s. This is one show where the critics and I are on the same page: “The Sopranos,” one of the greatest, if not the greatest, show ever on TV. The writing was superb, the storyline fascinating, the characters developed, and the dialogue, despite all the F-bombs, well written. Is there anything I can say about the Sopranos that folks don’t already know? For those who missed it the first time around, it’s available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime. I think it’s true that all shows that run multiple seasons have at least one weak season. Not the Sopranos. I cannot remember even one episode that wasn’t, at the least, very good.
The 2000’s: Even if I could have chosen the Sopranos as my favorite in two decades, I wouldn’t have done it. That’s because my all-time favorite show was my choice for the ’90s, HBO’s “The Wire.” “The Wire” followed an ad hoc unit of the Baltimore police who set up wiretaps on a set of criminals or suspected criminals.
Each season there was a different focus: season 1 was based around a particular drug gang; season 2 focused on corruption in the Port of Baltimore; seasons 3, 4 and 5 the drug trade again but with a lot of subplots, such police department politics, the ins, and outs of a mayoral race and the politics of the city, the personal lives of some of the characters; a pretty big dose of death, torture, and mayhem (and many, many f-bombs). I guess as in real life, it was not the hero overcomes every obstacle type of show a lot of ambiguity. It was gritty, well written, and it sucked me in every year. Also, like the Sopranos, there were no weak seasons or episodes. My wife and I re-watched all five seasons. It’s streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
The 2010’s: This was the “Game of Thrones” (aka GOT) decade. However, GOT kind of ran out of steam at the end. My favorite for the decade never ran out of steam, humor, or compelling stories. “Justified,” which took off from a book by crime novelist Elmore Leonard, was my number one show for the 10’s. The centers around Raylon Givens (Timothy Olyphant) are Deputy US Marshall, who is a little bit trigger happy.
Each season has a story arc featuring some of my favorite actors, i.e., Margo Martindale plays a rural crime family boss in one season, Patton Oswalt, a sheriff in another (Martindale is also featured in my second favorite show of the decade, “The Americans”). Walton Goggins, another exceptional actor, plays Raylon’s main foil, Boyd Crowder, in each of the six seasons. A bonus is the theme song, a rap/bluegrass fusion by a band called Gangstagrass. You can stream all six seasons on Hulu.
In conclusion, if I only had a dollar for every television hour, I’ve watched over the past 68 years.
– Edward from McMinnville, Oregon, a FAR customer who is finding purpose in this new stage of his life.
Edward writes for FAR and is also a customer. He is 73-year-old, born and raised in and around New York City. After college and a little graduate school, he took Horace Greeley’s advice and went west. Edward lived in several cities throughout California and currently resides in Oregon. He practiced law for a few years as part of a law collective doing what they called “people’s law,” but spent most of his career working as an internal organizer for the unions.
When Edward’s career ended with the unions, he was determined to become an advocate for older adults. He enrolled at Portland Community College studying Gerontology. He learned a lot about aging and how it applied to his own life experiences and my own aging process. Much of Edward’s writing is related to what he learned in his Gerontology studies.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Finance of America Reverse (LLC).