“Rolling Stone” magazine recently compiled a listing of TV’s 100 greatest shows. It got me thinking about all the television shows I enjoyed as a kid. When I began gathering a list of my favorite shows, I realized I used to watch a lot of TV. Then again, back then we only had three channels to choose from.
I’ve listed my top five favorites, followed by many honorable mentions.
This TV show was probably my all-time favorite as a child.
Since I was only three in 1974 when the show began, I more than likely didn’t begin watching it until I was seven or eight.
What I took away from “Happy Days” was that it was cool to snap your fingers, throw your thumbs in the air and declare “Aaaaay” a la “The Fonz”. Motorcycles and leather jackets were fashionable and if you could jump and plant yourself on the sofa without killing yourself, you were as remarkable as “The Fonz”. As laid back as “The Fonz” was I still think the level of respect he showed to his elders, especially women (Mrs. C in particular), really said a lot about his character. Ever notice that Mrs. C was the only person who was ever allowed to call “The Fonz” by his real name of “Arthur”?
I’m sure that “Happy Days” board game we owned would be worth a lot of cash right now.
“Laverne & Shirley”
How could you have “Happy Days” without its spin-off “Laverne & Shirley”?
Another brilliant Garry Marshall creation, the show introduced us to Laverne De Fazio and Shirley Feeney, two single females living together in a basement apartment somewhere in Milwaukee, WI. The duo worked together at a brewery and were first introduced to us via a few episodes of “Happy Days”.
Besides living with Shirley’s Boo-Boo Kitty, they were also often greeted by their zany, somewhat perverted neighbors Lenny and Squiggy. Add Shirley’s sometime boyfriend Carmine Ragusa and Laverne’s family to the mix and you had a great backing sitcom to “Happy Days”.
The show did start heading south during the last years when the group moved from WI to CA but it still had its moments.
Actor Eddie Mekka (Carmine) originally hails from Worcester, MA. He is an alum of Burncoat High and was recently in Worcester to celebrate his high school reunion (class of 1970). He also attended Worcester State College.
A few years ago Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams appeared on the Nickelodeon TV show “Sam & Cat”. They played two former stars of a TV show called “Salmon Cat” who were at odds with each other.
“Mork & Mindy”
I was seven years old when “Mork & Mindy” premiered.
Like everyone else I first experienced Mork on “Happy Days”. Garry Marshall struck gold when he cast Robin Williams as Mork, a loveable, sensitive yet eccentric alien visiting Boulder, Colorado from the planet Ork.
He befriends Mindy McConnell, a mild-mannered journalist with an overprotective father. Mork moves into Mindy’s place and by season three, it’s apparent they are meant to be much more than just friends. By the fourth and final season, they not only are married but we experience the first earthly Orkan birth when Mirth, played by iconic actor Jonathan Winters, is born. Unfortunately adding Winters to the cast didn’t improve the series.
For me “Mork and Mindy” was one of those shows you talked to your friends about the next day at school. The lucky kids were the ones who owned the suspenders, lunchbox and other cool memorabilia. And yes, we did sit on our heads and tried to drink with our fingers. Nanu Nanu.
Mork challenges Fonzie to a “hallitacker”
“The Love Boat”
Considering “The Love Boat” debuted when I was six, I probably didn’t tune into it for another two or three years.
I have very fond memories of hunkering down in front of the boob tube at nine o’clock Saturday night with my sister and a bowl full of State Line potato chips. Each week we’d tune in to see who the guest stars would be. If any of our favorites were on the show that week, we’d definitely watch. Sometimes we’d watch even if our faves weren’t on. It was just a fun show to watch. We thought Gopher was hot. We both wanted to be like Julie and we would’ve loved to have traveled to Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco every week.
I didn’t realize until I was much older that on every show, at the half-way point, the couples were breaking up/having issues. Then by the end of the show they were back together.
BONUS TIDBIT: the theme song, sung by “Jack Jones”, is very memorable
“The Dukes of Hazzard”
What better way to spend a Friday night than watching two wild rednecks trying to weasel their way out of speed traps and run-ins with Boss Hogg?
While eight-year-old boys were fascinated with the General Lee and Daisy Duke, my eight-year-old self was fascinated with Bo and Luke Duke. We loathed Rosco. Enos was a joke. We all wanted an older relative as understanding as Uncle Jesse, as well as a 1969 Dodge Charger stock car with a horn everyone wanted.
Growing up I recall owning a Dukes of Hazzard plate and cup, as well as a lunchbox. I also learned how to climb in and out of the windows of the station wagon. Fun times!
BONUS TIDBIT: The theme song, sung by Waylon Jennings, kind of made country music hip for a while.
Honorable TV show mentions:
“CHiPs” – while all my friends seemed to have a crush on Erik Estrada, I had it bad for Larry Wilcox. As kids we would ride our bikes around town and pretend to be the cops on the show.
“The Greatest American Hero” – I grew up with a girl who had mastered Ralph’s take-off and belly flop. Don’t know how she did it without killing herself. Ouch.
“The Incredible Hulk” – I didn’t watch it all the time but saw it enough to know that you never wanted to piss off Bruce Banner.
“Knight Rider” – if we only knew what David Hasselhoff would become. Who wouldn’t want a car like KITT?
“Fantasy Island” – since it followed “The Love Boat”, we would stay up and watch the five-minute intro just to see Tattoo yell “Da plane!” and to see who the guest stars were going to be. Most of the time they were people we could care less about. And Ricardo Montalban’s voice was irritating.
“Little House On The Prairie” – I really liked the early years of the show. As Laura and the gang got older, the story lines became stale. Still a classic.
“Solid Gold” – It was like the mini-version of American Top 40 except it was hosted by everyone from Dionne Warwick to Andy Gibb and Marilyn McCoo to Rick Dees and featured scantily clad “Solid Gold” dancers.
“The Muppet Show” – you know a show is a classic when your own child loves it as much as you did
“Different Strokes” , “Family Ties”, “Gimme A Break”, “Silver Spoons”, “Alf”, “Benson”, “The Facts of Life” – I didn’t watch them every week but saw enough of them to know what was going on.
Shows I would grow to appreciate as a teen and adult:
These are shows my mother watched and that I would eventually see either in their final years or in syndication:
“All In The Family”
“The Golden Girls”
Shows I still occasionally watch and appreciate today:
“I Love Lucy”
“The Three Stooges”
Extreme honorable mention to my absolute all-time favorite TV show EVER: “M*A*S*H”
“Suicide Is Painless”
I own the entire series, have seen every episode and could watch it every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it.
I may as well, since in my opinion there really isn’t anything great on TV any longer.