17 Classic TV Shows from Four 'Televisionaries'
The Mod Squad (1968-1973)
Aaron Spelling's career took off with this highly stylized series about troubled young people who are recruited to become undercover cops. Its cross-cultural, age-spanning appeal and light take on crimefighting became Spelling trademarks.
Charlie's Angels (1976-1981)
Three pretty private investigators once again star in a Spelling hit — but this time, they're all women. Its ability to both empower and objectify women (it was dubbed ''Jiggle TV,'' after all) was oddly alluring.
The Love Boat (1977-1987)
This frothy romp defined Saturday-night TV: lots of guest stars, family-friendly romance, and countless trips to Puerto Vallarta aboard the Pacific Princess.
Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990-2000)
The first modern teen drama tweaked Spelling's nighttime soap formula for younger audiences — the pretty people and rich surroundings were there, but this time with social issues and a conscience.
7th Heaven (1996-2007)
Not just Spelling's longest-running hit, but also the longest-running family drama on U.S. television: The 11-year run followed the affable Rev. Camden and his endlessly sweet brood.
Sports Night (1998-2000)
Aaron Sorkin moved from feature films to television with his break-out vehicle Sports Night, which earned him his first Emmy nomination. (Director and frequent collaborator Thomas Schlamme picked up a win for the pilot, too.) Even though the series wasn't a ratings hit, it set a new tone for single-camera comedies, and primed Felicity Huffman and Peter Krause for their next — acclaimed — projects.
The West Wing (1999-2006, though Sorkin left after the 2002-2003 season)
In its first four years on the air, The West Wing won four Best Drama Emmys, seven acting awards, two Humanitas prizes, two Peabody awards — and Sorkin wrote or co-wrote 85 of the 88 episodes.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006-07)
Well, they can't all be winners, but this particular debacle seemed like an even bigger flop when compared with 30 Rock, which premiered the same season. Despite its weaknesses, Studio managed a few high points, particularly its Networkesque pilot.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Joss Whedon began his iconic TV career with this mash-up of teenage high-school soap opera and bad-ass horror monster movie — but, you know, classier. Adapted from the far cheesier (and Whedon-scripted) 1992 feature film, Buffy starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as the titular slayer, the show's literally-fighting-your-demons ethos made it a ripe and emotionally rich metaphor for high school and early adulthood. By the show's seventh and final season, it had more than one TV critic hailing it as the best scripted television series, ever.
This Buffy spin-off starred David Boreanaz as a private-eye vampire cursed to live his life with a soul, thereby morally incapable of embracing his inner demon, i.e. biting any human neck that came his way. Darker, harsher, and, at first, more episodic than Buffy, the show lasted five seasons until The WB rather unceremoniously cancelled it.
Number of Episodes: 14
Yet another Fox casualty, this sci-fi Western followed the renegade crew of the ragtag smuggling vessel Serenity. The brainchild of geek icon Joss Whedon, the show featured sharp-tongued dialogue and a wonderfully quirky ensemble cast — current small-screen stars Nathan Fillion (Castle), Adam Baldwin (Chuck), and Summer Glau (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), to name a few. Firefly lasted less than a season, but it spawned a feature film (Serenity), comic books, and a slew of DVD sales.
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008)
Whedon recruited Fillion, Buffy co-star Felicia Day, and Whedonverse newbie Neil Patrick Harris to star in this audacious project born out of the Writer's Guild strike: a three-part musical mini-series about a wannabe supervillain (Harris) made specifically for the Internet. It was an instant sensation.
Starring Buffy favorite Eliza Dushku, Whedon's latest series follows Echo, one of several ''Dolls'' who work for an underground company that implants them with specific personalities tailored to the desires of high-playing clients. The tricky premise won yet another cult following, but practically everyone (including Whedon) was surprised when Fox picked the show up for a second season (premiering Sept. 25).
In J.J. Abrams? Felicity, Kerri Russell starred as the titular character who passes up enrollment at Stanford to follow her high-school crush Ben (Scott Speedman) to the fictional University of New York. Dorm drama, life lessons, and an angst-filled love triangle followed.
Abrams' Alias starred Jennifer Garner as graduate student-turned-CIA super agent Sydney Bristow, who embarked on world-saving missions while tracking down artifacts tied to the mysterious 15th-century artist-engineer-architect-prophet Milo Rambaldi. Also, she wore glam outfits.
The most successful of Abrams? TV creations, Lost follows the adventures of a group of plane-crash survivors on a bizarre tropical island. The characters? stories also are told through flashbacks and flashforwards. Beware of polar bears, a nutty French woman, and time-travel flashes. Will we get all the answers to our burning questions when the show concludes in May? Fingers crossed.
Starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, and John Noble, this Fox drama chronicles the stories of an FBI division that investigates a burst of creepy events that are referred to as ?The Pattern.? Hope you can stomach skin-dissolving contagions and strange parasites wrapped around hearts.
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