For the eighth year in a row I’m publishing a special birthday blog post on my birthday.
In the past I’ve written about the best things I ever created, lessons I’ve learned about life, and memories of the house I grew up in, and more (you can read all the previous posts here).
For this year’s post I found myself thinking about all the time I’ve spent watching TV over the years (it’s a LOT) and which shows have stuck with me. But rather than just list my favorite shows (which seemed kind of boring), instead I focused on which shows are most memorable to me.
These aren’t necessarily my favorite shows and they’re certainly not all the best shows I’ve seen, but they all resonated with me, inspired me, influenced me, and are memorable to me for one reason or another.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the 42 TV Shows that mean something to me on my 42nd birthday…
This Jay Mohr series didn’t last long, but I loved it. When it came out in 1999 I was barely two years into a fledgling entertainment industry career and I couldn’t get enough of this over-the-top look at the movie business which I later discovered turned out to be surprisingly accurate.
It was Entourage before Entourage…if Entourage was actually good.
2. Arrested Development
The entire series was basically an inside joke that just kept building on itself which is probably why it was never able to grow its ratings despite its brilliance. It also became the basis of a million inside jokes between me and my hermano.
3. The Bozo Show
When I was real young – too young to fully remember – I attended my first live TV show taping in Chicago and it was the Bozo show. I think I’ve blocked out the memory because apparently when I wasn’t picked to play the bucket game I got more than a little upset.
The greatest sitcom of all time (probably). There wasn’t a Thursday night growing up that my family wasn’t tuned in to NBC and Cheers was the highlight of the night. It also wasn’t a bad way to learn comedy.
5. The Cosby Show
Speaking of Thursday nights on NBC, The Cosby Show was a big enough deal that all the kids in the neighborhood would stop playing sports early to go home and make sure they didn’t miss it. Of course, back then none of us had any idea Dr. Huxtable was also busy distributing his own “medicine” to ladies in his personal life.
6. Curb Your Enthusiasm
There are two things Curb Your Enthusiasm contributed to my life. First, it made me realize Larry David was the real genius behind Seinfeld.
Second, it inspired the team name (“Crazy Eye Killaz”) for my rec basketball team that eventually won the championship in a 6’2″ and under Asian basketball league (90% of our team wasn’t Asian by the way, but that’s another story for another day).
I don’t know when I started watching Dallas, but it had to be when I was around five or six years old. It’s tough to say exactly what influence that had on me, but it probably made for some interesting conversations around the elementary school lunch table.
8. Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
We can all hate on Guy Fieri as much as we want but the bottom line is this show is responsible for inspiring thousands of meals I’ve eaten over the years. When I don’t know what I’m hungry for, this show’s always there to remind me I’m hungry for something that’s as delicious as it is terrible for me.
Plus, the show tipped me off to what might be my favorite Mexican restaurant.
9. Dukes of Hazzard
Growing up in Chicago I had no idea what life was like in some place like Hazzard County, but it sure seemed like a fun place filled with cars that could jump over things, dumb cops, crazy uncles, and (most importantly) Daisy Duke.
Combined with Dallas, it formed the first must-see TV night of my life and the only time must-see TV for me involved CBS.
10. Family Guy
In 1998, my roommate worked for an agent who represented a lot of animators. One of them was an unknown guy named Seth MacFarlane who had created a 7-minute pilot for a show that featured a talking dog and evil genius baby.
He brought home a copy which was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen – I remember bringing it home at Thanksgiving and showing it to family members and telling them it was going to be huge. Turns out I was right.
11. Friday Night Lights
I never watched it when it was on network TV, despite hearing how great it was. Then, years later, I got laid off from a job, signed up for Netflix, and it became the first show I ever binged. Turned out to be a great choice – clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.
12. Game of Thrones
I’m not sure if it’s my favorite show of all time or the greatest show of all time, but I’m 100% sure it’s the most impressive show of all time. It took me a season and half to get to the point where I had any clue what the hell was going on (sometimes I’m still not sure I do), but it’s absolutely blown me away ever since and there’s no show I look forward to returning more than Thrones.
13. G.I. Joe
My favorite cartoon as a kid – both to watch and to spawn action figures I could play with. Not sure why I loved it so much, but maybe it had something to do with guns that fired lasers, caused explosions, and somehow never actually killed anybody.
14. HBO Standup Specials/Bring The Pain
As a huge standup comedy fan I could just list all the HBO comedy specials, but instead I’ll highlight Chris Rock’s Bring The Pain, which is probably the best of the best. It was watching these specials that ultimately led me down a path to working in the comedy business.
15. Howard TV
There’s no single entertainer whose creations I’ve spent more time consuming than Howard Stern. I’ve been obsessed with his radio show for decades, and the various incarnations of that show that have surfaced on Channel 9 in New York, E!, and on demand have all been incredible.
16. In Living Color
Nothing makes me think of high school as much as this show. Besides being hilarious and a launchpad for an incredible collection of talent, as a huge hip hop fan back when that was unusual for a white kid, this show was one of the driving forces of hip hop culture’s takeover of the mainstream.
Anybody that thinks Jeopardy! is only for old people never saw me and my 20-something roommates competing against each other as we watched the show and ate cheap take-out chinese food every night.
18. The Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones Shows
If it was 1 pm on a weekday in 1994, here’s where you could find me: Sitting in a University of Maryland dorm room with friends eating a dining hall cheesesteak while watching the Jerry Springer show and the Jenny Jones show back to back.
It’s also worth nothing that meal was technically my “breakfast” since I had likely just woken up around noon to start my day.
19. Late Night with David Letterman
In his prime he was the best, he was a nightly watch for me, and was a huge influence on just about every comedian I’ve ever loved. No other late night host has come close.
20. Married with Children
I loved the show and remember how it (along with In Living Color) helped establish the FOX network.
But in a twist I never could have seen coming, the first house I lived in when I moved to Los Angeles was actually owned by the ex-wife of the show’s creator. So in some ways that show also paid for me to have an incredible entry into Los Angeles.
21. Masters of the Universe
I must have really liked this He-Man cartoon since my brother and I decided to name our pet cat after the female character on the show – Teela. Of course that was when we thought the cat was female (it wasn’t), but the name stuck so whatever.
22. MTV Video Music Awards
Growing up this was the most important awards show to me since I loved music so much and it was a LOT cooler than the Grammys.
I’d watch it, tape it, and watch it again and again. Never cared about who won since even then I realized that was meaningless, but I was in it for the performances and bizarre moments only the VMA’s could provide.
23. The Muppet Show
It was like an adult show for kids and there’s never been anything else like it. The theme song still puts a smile on my face every time I hear it and Statler and Waldorf have only gotten better with age.
24. New Year’s Rockin’ Eve
This has always been an awful show whether it was hosted by Dick Clark or Ryan Seacrest.
However, it’s been on a TV just about wherever I was every New Year’s Eve for most of my life so I guess technically it’s provided the background to some memorable moments.
Plus, growing up, if this show was on it meant there was a spread of excellent food prepared by Mom nearby as well.
25. Northern Exposure
The best show nobody ever talks about. Northern Exposure somehow managed to work philosophy into a broadcast TV show and was the kind of thing that nowadays would be a Netflix show the world would obsess over.
Back then, it was a just a show that I obsessed over and made me think about things in new ways – you know, like the role of technology in our lives:
26. NFL Red Zone Channel
This is a broadcasting innovation that has changed every Fall Sunday of my life – no biggie.
27. The Office
Not the British version, which I’ve never really watched. I’m talking about the American version, which might be my favorite sitcom of all time.
I loved it when it was on, watched re-runs all the time, and am now in the process of re-watching it all with my wife who had never seen it (and has now also become obsessed with it). Long live Dunder Mifflin.
28. The Oscars
I watched it every year growing up and then spent most of the past six years of my life working on it. It’s safe to say no TV show has had a bigger impact on my life than this one.
29. Pardon The Interruption
The only ESPN talking head show that’s actually good and that I’ve ever actually taped to watch.
Plus, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon have always been like a bit of Washington that I was able to take with me when I moved to California.
30. The Playboy Channel
In college I lived in a house with five guys who split the cable bill five ways. That meant the effective cost to each of us to add the Playboy Channel to our cable package was about $2 a month.
So, of course we did, and it aired on a loop on every TV in the house 24/7. Because…college.
31. Politically Incorrect
I always loved watching Bill Maher’s original ABC show, but when I moved to Los Angeles I discovered it was also a great show to attend live because it was entertaining and taped in real-time as opposed to sitcoms that are actually awful to watch live because they take forever.
It became the show I’d take everybody that visited me to go see.
32. Pump It Up
A syndicated show that aired late night on weekends, Pump It Up was hosted by Dee Barnes (most famous for allegedly getting punched by Dr. Dre) and featured hip hop music videos and interviews.
Nobody ever seems to have heard of it, but I loved it and it’s a big part of how I fell in love with hip hop.
33. Remote Control
Back before MTV knew what it was doing they put on a game show that featured Adam Sandler, Colin Quinn, and a bunch of assorted nonsense.
Plus, it was all about TV which in retrospect probably helped fuel my own TV obsession.
34. Saturday Night Live
The Oscars may be the show that’s had the most impact on my life since I’ve worked on it, but SNL has to be the show that’s influenced me the most without having actually worked on it.
Even as a kid I was obsessed with watching it – and reruns of it – over and over again. It taught me about comedy and the world, plus its sketches are the basis of an entire language of inside jokes I share with my brother and friends.
It’s always on and it’s always worth watching – again. If you’re my age and don’t cite Seinfeld as a major influence on your life, you’re doing life wrong.
36. The Selection Sunday Show
For as long as I can remember, the March Madness brackets reveal show has been a great moment when anything seems possible (except for the couple years when my alma mater Maryland didn’t make the tournament in which case those Selection Sunday shows were REALLY depressing).
Plus, one year this show marked the beginning of a national championship run for the Terps and another year it marked the beginning of me winning a bunch of cash in a huge NCAA tournament pool – which was kind of like my own personal national championship.
37. Sesame Street
Like most people my age, I watched it a lot growing up and probably underestimate how much it influenced the rest of my life.
38. Showtime at the Apollo
Another staple of my late night Saturday night viewing habits when I was in high school and college. This show had it all – Steve Harvey, a 13-year-old Lauryn Hill getting booed, the most ridiculous crowd on TV, and fun performances from some of my favorite musical acts at the time.
Plus, it had this Fugees performance.
39. The Simpsons
The longest running TV show in history has been there for me in every different phase of my life. In high school, it was there to teach people how to do the Bartman and inspire black Bart Simpson t-shirts, in college it was there to show how to create amazing ancillary characters and smart social commentary in a cartoon, and as an adult it’s been there to remind me some things can still be great even long after they’re taken for granted.
I’ve always been into time travel stories and that started with this short-lived NBC series that only ran from 1982-1983.
That means I was about 7-years-old when I was watching the main characters travel through history and ensure it unfolded the right way.
Based on this clip, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t hold up but I remember thinking it was great at the time!
41. The Wire
I have a complicated history with this one. I watched the first season when it aired, didn’t love it and bailed. Turns out, I bailed right before it got amazing.
Years later, I went back and watched it (and loved it), and then for some reason bailed again at the beginning of the last season. So, it’s still a work in progress for me and one that I’ll finish…some day.
42. Yo! MTV Raps
Turns out there are a lot more MTV shows on this list than I would have thought when I started to write this (and The Real World didn’t even make the cut!). But Yo! MTV Raps definitely deserves a spot as I watched it constantly after school and think the world would be a better place if it still existed.
Plus, what better way to end this epic post than with a video featuring this clip from the last episode of the show.