Changed you. Changed me. This is not some sort of thing TV Guide or Entertainment Weekly puts out -- the best, the brightest, the most wonderful, most popular etc. Some of these shows may be, in fact, demonstrably not very good -- though in most cases, they are very good.
Another proviso: I set aside most news programs. Of course they were influential ("Evening News," "Meet the Press," "CBS Sunday Morning," "SportsCenter," "Nightline," and so on). "Today" and "Good Morning America" are on this list only because they are pan-cultural -- not simply news, but simply everything.
As I put this list together, here was the common denominator: Impact. In each case, this show might have spawned other similar shows, or even spawned an entire genre, or movies, or lingo, or fashion. The show had deep tentacles into popular culture, and to an extent, still does. The show had "stickiness" -- no matter how hard we tried, we just couldn't forget. It was like a song that looped continuously through our imagination -- the lower or higher reaches of our imagination.
So please, do get mad if your favorite show isn't on this list. But I would bet it is.
100. "The Walking Dead": Real impact remains to be seen, but if in a few years, you see wall to wall zombie shows on every network ("The Zombie Diaries;" "Teen Zombie;" "True Zombie") you kinda know who to blame or credit.
99. "Twin Peaks": David Lynch oddity that utterly transfixed a nation for a few weeks long long ago, as they puzzled over Laura Palmer and why a character spoke backwards.
98. "Homicide: Life on the Street": The idea that a cop show could go deep into the lives of its characters had never really been done before on this scale. Plus, this launched Andre Braugher.
97. "Sports Night": One of those so-called "single camera" comedies and in fact one of the first - that established that audiences were smart enough to know when to laugh without the aid of a laugh track.
96. “The Vampire Diaries": Culture's hundred-year-old obsession with fangs reached a level of obsession quite ever seen with Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec's Gothicc soap. Could the Stephanie Meyers' vamp empire (“New Moon,” “Twilight” and so on) have reached its heights with the Salvatore bros? Hard to imagine...
95. “The View": Barbara Walters' decade-old talk show expanded the idea of what the talk show should be notably a show about the stuff the average viewer might be thinking about at that moment on any given day, from politics to sex. It also mastered the art of controversy -- because feuds, after all, are very good for business.
94. "Moonlighting": Launched the career of a guy who ended up killing more "bad guys" on the big screen than anyone since Clint Eastwood. We speak here of course of Bruce Willis.
93. "Playhouse 90": Great 90-minute teleplay series on CBS that offered a promise of what TV could do if TV put its mind to it. One of the best of a group of anthologies that fronted live plays; this one was produced by TV's most famous producers of the era -- Martin Manulis, John Houseman, Russell Stoneman, Fred Coe, Arthur Penn and Hubbell Robinson -- and established the career of John Frankenheimer, who directed 152 live TV plays during the '50s.
92. “Spongebob SquarePants": Probably the smartest, most sophisticated, and above all funniest kids series since “Rocky and Bullwinkle” (Sandy in fact is in homage to Rocky...) And about a sponge, for cryin' out loud.
91. "Saved by the Bell": Late '80s hit that cornered a difficult to corner demo -- teens.
90. "Total Request Live": MTV afternoon habit for a generation; huge impact on music biz.
89. "The Rockford Files": Long-running cop show that was pretty much Stephen Cannell's first huge success -- he co-created with Roy Huggins, another major figure in the early cop serial world. And just one of James Garner's many successes.
88. "The Office" / "30 Rock": Monuments to post-mod-irony-in-TV-comedy; dazzling smarts.
87. "South Park" / "Family Guy": Tie! Active contributors to the destruction of American youth -- maniacal, subversives that have contributed mightily to the declension of modern culture. At least they're funny.
86. "The Shield": Pretty much launched FX, now one of TV's most successful destinations. Oh right, great show too.
85. "Beverly Hills 90210": Created or at least super-charged the teen soap. Aaron Spelling does it again! Figures out exactly what millions of Americans want to see, giving them both t heir guilt and pleasure in equal dollops.
84. “Glee": TV's most successful and -- whether you are a Gleek or not -- best musical in history. Many have tried, most (“Cop Rock”) haven't quite hit the high notes. A terrific cast executed Ryan Murphy's theater-based musical tastes week after week.
83. "Soap": The Campbells and the Tates, and certain type of odd, post-mod humor that had never really been seen (to this degree) on TV ever before, though by the naughts, it would be everywhere -- and what a cast: Katherine Helmond, Richard Richard Mulligan, Robert Guillaume and some guy named Billy Crystal.
82. "Live with Regis and Kelly": Via glorious talents of Regis Philbin, creator of morning TV kaffee klatch, later exemplified by "The View."
81. "America's Most Wanted" (and "Cops"): Saturday Fox twofer busted more bad guys than any TV show(s) ever.
80. "Baywatch": The show that made the rest of the world think Americans lived on the beach and all looked like Pam Anderson or David Hasselhoff.
79. "The Adams Family": Wonderful '60s sitcom, and part of an era's preoccupation with utter escapism.
78. "Taxi": Classic that established half a dozen careers, and proved how smart -- and endlessly amusing -- the TV half-hour sitcom could be.
77. "The Colbert Report": Stephen Colbert goofed on Bill O'Reilly, and in the process created an indelible character.
76. "The West Wing": Aaron Sorkin's fever dream about the perfect White House with the perfect president, and some of the best dialogue to ever to appear on a TV show. Sorkin in a sense set a high bar for commercial network dramas, and one that has rarely been vaulted; "The Good Wife," which owes a huge debt, has tried, occasionally succeeds.
75. "M*A*S*H": Unbelievably popular -- yet surprisingly low impact on what was to come (except "After M*A*S*H").
74. “NCIS": TV's most successful drama is also TV's most overlooked -- yet “NCIS” is still the series of the silent majority. It's the meat-and-potatoes serial about terrorism where the good guys always win. Influential because more people in the U.S. Think this is how the war on terrorism is waged more than the the real war on terrorism.
73. "Deadwood": David Milch's masterpiece; the anti-Western, and taught a generation of TV writers that you could write complex, interlaced dialogue with deep meaning - as long as you embedded a cuss word in every other sentence. One of the best dramas in TV history.
72. "The Carol Burnett Show": Incredibly durable variety/comedy series by one of the great stars of TV history.
71. "The Phil Donahue Show" / "The Mike Douglas Show": Without both of whom, no "Oprah" -- nor maybe Nixon either, because Douglas's producer, Roger Ailes went on to run his media.
70. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles": Insanely popular late '80s fixture, that changed buying habits -- notably Halloween costume ones.
69. "NYPD Blue": One of the great cop shows -- that brought nudity and naughty words to the tube.
68. "Dallas": The granddaddy of the primetime soaps -- a major '80s trend.
67. "Miami Vice": Changed the whole look of TV -- notably TV fashion.
66. "The Bob Newhart Show": In a word, or two, Bob and Newhart, one of TV's comic masters, with timing as perfect as a Swiss watch -- a funny Swiss watch. Others have tried to copy. Others have failed.
65. "Happy Days": Birth of nostalgia, with Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham, almost a grown up version of Opie Taylor.
64. "Get Smart": Mel Brooks/Buck Henry gem that got smart humor into primetime TV.
63. “Mad Men": A classic that has expanded, and enriched the TV vocabulary -- a show with meaning, and psychological insight, and cultural analysis, and metaphysical, philosophical explorations... No wonder so many English majors employed by newspapers and websites have dissected this great series so endlessly. It reminds them of college lit class.
62. "Dragnet": Beat cop procedural with amazing resilience and endurance. ?
61. “The Wire":Seriously, I did not have this on my original list? Was I temporarily mentally incapacitated? That is possible, by the way. “The Wire” was one of those rare series that blew the doors off the TV drama format -- much as (for example) “Gravity's Rainbow” blew the doors off the novel one. Here anything was possible, notably the deep exploration of corruption and those who corrupt and are corruptible. “The Wire” held the standard higher for all to follow.
60. "The X-Files": Truthiness was out there.
59. "Perry Mason": Erle Stanley Gardner courtroom industry (AKA Perry Mason) comes to the small screen, CBS, and singlehandedly makes a bigger star of a noir film great, Raymond Burr.
58. "Lost": The melding of TV with the Internet with a fan obsession that was bottomless; still is.
57. "The Honeymooners": Never was so much wrought from so little -- 39 episodes over just one season (1955-56) that would play in an endless loop the next half century.
56. "The Hollywood Squares": Not just any game show but a game show that merged stars with established format, which would be adapted generation to generation -- starting in '65 and most recently in '04.
55. "The Jerry Springer Show": Father of trash TV, with an influence so vast that to this day the title could almost be used adverbially, like that "'Jerry-Springer-Show'-like-'Jersey Shore...'"
54. "The Cosby Show": Reverses nonsense stigma (as reflected in press at the time) that the Sitcom is Dead; lead NBC to overwhelming dominance; got Bill Cosby control of the entire Thursday night lineup, 10 p.m. excepted.
53. "The Price is Right": One of the cleverest ideas in TV history -- folding in sponsors to the very fabric of the program. A monster success that knew exactly what Americans love to do: shop for a bargain.
52. “Pokemon": The pocket monsters kicked off in '97 and are going strong still -- an industry that has led to a vast movie kingdom (though I forget which came first, the chicken or the egg) and a visual style that it certainly didn't invent or perfect (amine) but introduced to more kids than any anime-based show before or since (leading to questions such as -- could “Dragon Z Ball” and the like existed without “P?”).
51. "The Beverly Hillbillies": Endlessly castigated, unfairly, by high-brow low-brain TV critics who never saw it -- and which set the table for a banquet of other silly and wonderful '60s shows, from "Gilligan's Island" to "Batman."
50. "The Real World"Tap root of reality TV, still going strong. Sort of.
49. "Gunsmoke/Bonanza": Yes, this has to be a tie. Both were kings the westerns. But westerns did not endure, thoughhhhhhh "Bonanza" --'60s era NBC western with one of of TV's best known and loved jingles (da-da-da-da-da-da-daaaa-DAAAA) -- is arguably the more influential because it launched lead Michael "Little Joe" Landon.
48. "I Spy": Primetime pioneer, with black lead -- Bill Cosby. Hard to believe, no, that it would take until the mid-sixties for this to happen? Cos' career was launched by this, though he already had a massively successful comedy career -- and one that would only grow. He became in time, one of the two or three most important comedians of TV history.
47. "Soul Train": "American Bandstand" for black viewers, with great crossover appeal.
46. "General Hospital": Endlessly reinventing the lives of Port Charles, and taught the soap industry how to endlessly reinvent the soap itself; with real impact on primetime too.
45. "Sanford and Son": Short-lived "Sanford" (1972-77) hand long-lived influence on the medium; Norman Lear humor; black leads.
44. "The Monkees": Imagine "Glee" without this; nah. Impossible. Melding of music and comedy. Who'da thought? (Oh, right, the Beatles woulda.)
43. "The Jeffersons": Just by movin' uptown, the most successful "All in the Family" spin-off would the heart of black TV of the '70s-'80s, and set the table for "Cosby."
42. "Charlie's Angels": Forget about Farrah Fawcett... nah, don't forget about Farrah Fawcett, who sprang from this as the world's most famous female star for a brief and wild moment. This was the distillation of All That Was and Ever Will Be Aaron Spelling. He was, and will always be, the most influential TV producer in history.
41. "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation": And not just because it spawned other shows or that it convinced CBS to spin other shows based on other shows based on acronyms ("NCIS") but because it made bugs fun, and fronted state-of-the-art graphics that took viewers right into the guts of cadavers (ewwww).
40. "Rocky and Bullwinkle": Jay Ward's masterpiece, of irony, kitsch, and even social commentary. One of TV's first cartoons to appeal to kids and adults alike. And still funny/smart after all these years. (Aired from '59 to '64.)
39. "Entertainment Tonight": I would hardly classify this as "news" but as the show spawned a whole new industry: reporting on the stars! Happy reporting on the stars. There was no whiff of Louella Parsons here.
38. "Law & Order": Revived New York production company and the police/courtroom procedural. Of course, it survives to this day in some form or other.
37. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire": Completely took over ABC primetime -- well, almost -- and revived the somewhat moribund game genre.
36. "Guiding Light": Heartwood of the TV soap, for 75 years, and now, sadly, gone.
35. "Wheel of Fortune" / "Jeopardy": Unbreakable TV habits that have dominated syndicated TV for decades.
34. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show": The best sitcom in TV history, after "Seinfeld," and an influence so vast and sprawling as to be impossible to quantify.
33. "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In": TV viewers had never seen anything like it -- or maybe they had (Uncle Miltie) but just didn't remember. Helped soften the image of a future president, who said "sock it to me...?"
32. "The Flintstones": TV's first primetime animated; beginning of the Hanna-Barbera reign.
31. "Your Show of Shows": Alas, lost to the ages, when NBC wiped clean the kine-scopes of most of the programs, but still made major stars of two of TV's most incandescent lights: Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar. Also: Carl Reiner, one of the two of three funniest people in the history of television. The writing staff here? Fuggetaboutit: Reiner, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Mel Tonkin.
30. “Breaking Bad": People are still debating the impact, so singular was this TV achievement. I mean really, what could follow -- a spin-off, say? About Saul (say)? Oh don't be absurd; nothing can follow here. “Bad” the first show to catch the binge wave now washing over us -- it could be consumed like a novel, read at one's leisure. It was not tied to Sunday night at 9, and in fact, many millions didn't catch up until very late in this game. “Bad,” as a result, taught people how to consume TV differently. For that reason, it earns this top-third placement.
29. "Cheers" / "Friends": '80s landmark and '00 landmark, that so clearly and memorably reflected the style of co-creator James Burrows ("Cheers") -- a style that would take over TV because Burrows very nearly would -- and so clearly reflected what viewers best loved in their comedies over this period. "Friends" was also, quite possibly, TV's last mass appeal comedy. Even "Modern Family," TV's current standard-bearer can't amass the kind of audiences these two once did.
28. "American Idol": Can't imagine TV or culture or even pop music without it.
27. "Howdy Doody": Almost unimaginably popular, the babysitter for millions of boomers' moms.
26. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer": Many sundry impacts, notably the launch of a brilliant career (Joss Whedon) or two (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Modern vamp series owe a debt of allegiance, but so do smart sci-fi series, and horror series, and just about nay other kind of series you can think of.
25. "The Dick Van Dyke Show": Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Reiner. 'Nuf said.
24. “Twilight Zone": Coolest show in TV history, and benchmark for later sci-fi. Anthology was a '50s idea, but "Zone" -- each episode -- inspired generations of writers to expand their minds and creative landscapes. Without this, no "X Files."
23. "The Andy Griffith Show": Americana, reduced to the small screen, in as loving, gentle and wonderful a way as has ever been done on television. With some of the most memorable characters in TV history, though one would go on to become one of Hollywood's biggest directors.
22. "The Fugitive": A major audience fixation of the mid-60s, from Roy Huggins -- who died in 2002 -- and who played a major role in everything you pretty much saw on TV that had a cop on it, over a 25 year period. "Fugitive," with its on-going serial, was both a primetime novelty and a precursor to the day when other shows were to hop on the serial bandwagon (like "24").
21. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart": Fake news show and superlative media criticism; Stewart has defined what news is for a generation of viewers who never grew up with Uncle Walter.
20. "The O'Reilly Factor": Anticipated a big chunk of the TV audience's desire to vent. "O'Reilly Factor" established the Fox News Channel, and made O'Reilly TV's most famous commentator. Evidence of his influence? An entire comedy series, "The Colbert Report," is based on him.
19. "Good Morning America": The son of "Today" which has now surpassed the parent. "GMA" is a frothier mix of morning fare, and has impacted hundreds of similar local shows around the nation, for decades.
18. "American Bandstand": AKA "Bandstand." American TV would not be American TV without Dick Clark, but it's almost hard to imagine MTV would have even existed without "Bandstand." A vast cultural influence from 1952 on.
17. "The Brady Bunch: A Sherwood Schwartz masterpiece -- if that's the right word, and why not? Schwartz and Aaron Spelling had a clearer idea of what Americans wanted to see than any other human being.
16. "Late Show with David Letterman" / "Late Night with David Letterman": Dave has been around 30 years, and as the second-greatest late night talk show host, surely he must have had a little impact over this span of time. He did. Letterman was the avatar of certain type of snarky frat boy humor that smarter critical types called "post modern," a term no one really knows the meaning to. But Dave, darn it, was and still is our most post-modern late night comic.
15. "Oprah": Impossible to quantify the influence -- except to say, she got an president elected.
14. "Survivor": Gave birth to an entire genre, which became one of the most important (or vast) genres on the tube: Competition-reality.
12. "All in the Family": Without which there would be no modern TV sitcom.
11. "The Ed Sullivan Show": Introduced the Beatles to America. Almost 'nuff said. Also a vast taste- and trendsetter for decades.
10. "Hill Street Blues": Great cop show that redefined what cop shows were all about. ?
9. "Today": Genesis of morning TV, and so much more.
8. "The Sopranos": Made the major commercial networks go crazy trying to match. They couldn't.
7. "The Milton Berle Show": Launched in 1948, this show made an entire nation buy TV sets just to watch.
Judd Apatow, Will Arnett and others guest on "The Simpsons" Sunday.
5. "Seinfeld": Best TV comedy in history.
4. "I Love Lucy": Queen of TV comedy. Forever.
3. "Star Trek": How could something so brief (80 episodes) that aired so long ago (1966-69) have an impact so vast, so all encompassing? The movies, the books, the philosophy that is "Star Trek." Plus the spin-offs, which lasted far longer, and created a whole new generation of fans. It lives wide and deep and will forever.
2. "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson": Well? Any arguments with this choice? Didn't think so.
1. "Saturday Night Live": Put the "pop" in pop culture. "SNL" has done everything for 38-and-counting years, spawning careers, movies, empires, and of course, shaping political perceptions.