The Top Ten Moments In Scripted Television
The Top Ten Moments In Scripted Television
10. Sammy Davis, Jr. visits Archie Bunker (1972)
All in the Family was groundbreaking in and of itself. The number of classic episodes in the long running 70s series would fill a list. Davis is known for guest appearances on shows ranging from Charlie’s Angels to The Carol Burnett Show to Batman, but the appearance on Norman Lear’s staple sitcom set the bar even higher, as Davis planted a kiss on the lovable Archie, as the two were photographed together.
9. Nuclear-holocaust depression for everyone (1983)
ABC’s ultimate preachy action-drama, The Day After was highly publicized and promoted. Millions tuned in to watch and were dragged down to a level of fear and misery that audiences simply didn’t accept. The preachy, hopeless show was widely watched, then quickly dismissed as a new era of hope in the 1980s replaced the politicized debate that Hollywood helped promote.
The TV movie was the most watched in history and the results had very little impact, like most of the ideology of Hollywood’s statements on what the rest of us should believe. Even low points make history.
8. “…a little seltzer down your pants.” (1975)
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the preeminent sitcom of the 1970s. Moore had already proven she could change the way women were portrayed on television, she had changed the network format for equality, fashion, and comedy. Her approach to character and the way an ensemble should relate stands alone.
The episode that stands apart, though, is the greatest moment in sitcom history. “Chuckles Bites the Dust” is the standard and highlights the best one-liners in television, as the eulogy for Chuckles goes from somber to side-splitting. In his own words, “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”
7. Big Bird learns about death (1983)
In episode 1839 of the classic PBS series for children, Sesame Street, the beloved Mr. Hooper (Will Lee) has passed away and Big Bird doesn’t understand why he’s no longer around. In a way that is both emotional and perfectly explained for young and old alike, Sesame Street chose to face the issue.
Big Bird’s inner voice, Caroll Spinney, said discussion ranged from saying he retired to actually dealing with the passing. Instead of using the words “passing away” Bob (Bob Johnson) used death, to make sure children understood that it saying, ”You’re right, Big Bird. It’ll never be the same without him. But you know something? We can all be very happy that we had a chance to be with him and to know him and to love him a lot, when he was here.”
6. Johnny Carson’s final bow (1992)
Late night television is a hit-or-miss industry, with more misses than hits. The Tonight Show’s Johnny Carson had made history with some of the greatest unpredictable moments on television, with the wedding of Tiny Tim, the ridiculously funny animal guests, interviews with heads of state, Academy Award winners and the average American with a peculiar story. The final episode was a send off with a night that played like a personal page from his diary, ending with a ‘thank you’ from the King of Late Night, as he said, “It has been an honor and a privilege to come into your homes all these years and entertain you. And I hope when I find something I want to do and I think you will like, you’ll be as gracious in inviting me to your home as you have been. I bid you a very heartfelt good night.”
Carson, after 30 years, left the spotlight and quietly enjoyed his retirement from the public view, with very few exceptions.
5. The Fugitive two-part finale (1967)
The Fugitive was a 120 episode thrill ride of action. Dr. Richard Kimble’s search for the one-armed man who murdered his wife, though Kimble himself was accused of the murder, was not going to disappoint fans as Kimble finally tracked down the killer, as Lt. Philip Gerard – the officer who was on the case – tracked down Kimble.
:The Judgement” was the highest rated TV show in history to that point and one of the most shocking.
4. “I saw it in the window and I just couldn’t resist it.” (1975)
The Carol Burnett Show remains unchallenged when it comes to comedy. No other sketch comedy series, including Saturday Night Live, comes close to the level of laughs from a studio audience. When Carol parodied Gone With the Wind with her classic “Went With the Wind,” the bar was set tremendously high.
Burnett’s ability to bring humor to one of the most classic of movies could not have been accomplished without her co-stars (Korman, Lawrence, Conway) and their ability to play off of each other. When Burnett, fitted by the great Bob Mackie, came down the staircase with curtains draping her shoulders, her classic line, “I saw it in the window and I just couldn’t resist it.” turned an already classic moment into the all-time most iconic moment in comedy.
3. Roots (1977)
Mini-series was a word synonymous with 1970s and 1980s network TV. The pinnacle of that success was the Alex Haley book, “Roots” being translated to ABC television.
The number of stars who took part in the series was amazing. The concern over ratings in a time when America was still coming off of a decade of racial division was real, but series attracted a huge viewership as more than 80% of households watched some portion of the series.
2. Who shot J.R. (1980)
The days of cliffhangers have long been a perfect end to a season, as fans would discuss their ideas of what happened over the summer months until the next season would start.
J.R. being shot on CBS’s hit nighttime soap drama Dallas, was perhaps one of the most incredibly powerful moments in primetime, as “Jock’s Trial”, another two-part finale (season three), left Larry Hagman’s character on death’s door, after being shot.
M*A*S*H says farewell (1983)
A program that never glorified war and never diminished the heroism of the enlisted men and women of the U.S. military, M*A*S*H gave us the closure to an 11 year series in an 135 minute epic conclusion, with “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”
The series finale was viewed by more households than any finale in history, with 125 million viewers, meaning 77% of people watching TV that night were watching CBS’s Korean War comedy/drama series. It is unsurpassed to this day in scripted television.