What’s the most influential TV show ever? It’s not as trivial a question as it may sound, especially when industry creative types weigh in with their perspective as they did in The Atlantic magazine’s June issue.
The magazine poses “The Big Question” in section of the same name on the back page of every issue, and given the lively debate this question could raise, we’d like to share what the industry insiders think and get your thoughts.
Of the 14 television show creators, hosts and execs whose answers were published in the magazine, two shows got two votes each—“All in the Family” and “Saturday Night Live.”
“All in the Family,” the longtime CBS sitcom of the ‘70s, gave us Archie and Edith Bunker, along with plenty of controversial subjects—racism, breast cancer, the Vietnam War—that weren’t addressed on television comedies at that time.
For that reason, the show has been proclaimed one of television’s most influential series, and it certainly had the ratings to justify that. “All in the Family” was ranked No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings for five years, the first show to reach that milestone before being matched by “The Cosby Show” and surpassed by “American Idol.” It even rated in the The Writers Guild of America’s top 10 of the best written television shows ever.
“Saturday Night Live” was another popular choice in The Atlantic’s poll. The comedy sketch show has been heralded for its parody of political and cultural events, while also launching the careers of multiple actors.
Mike Shur, the co-creator and show runner for “Parks and Recreation,” praised “SNL” for its ability to inspire writers and performers, while Greg Daniels, “The Office” creator and show runner, lauded it for its impact on “12-year-old nerds like me who made friends by repeating sketches verbatim.”
Other notable shows that made the cut in The Atlantic were “Hill Street Blues” and “I Love Lucy.”
David Benioff, co-creator and co-show runner of “Game of Thrones,” chose “Hill Street Blues” for its ambitious take on drama: “The cops were flawed; the story lines were not resolved in a single episode; characters you loved died while having sex.”
The popular ‘80s series received plenty of critical acclaim as well. TV Guide named it The All-Time Best Cop Show, as well as among its picks for 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and No. 1 on its list of The 60 Greatest Dramas of All Time.
The iconic “I Love Lucy” was Bravo executive vice president Andy Cohen’s pick—and not just for its continued relevance and timeless comedic popularity. The show was among the first to be shot using three cameras. TV Guide ranked it No. 2 on its list of television’s greatest shows and Time included it on its list of “100 Best TV Shows of All-Time.”