Today we have an unfathomable number and type of TV shows available on a variety of screens. From talk shows to documentaries to comedies and skit shows to reality TV, we’ve never had a bigger selection of things to watch. But, if it weren’t for these pioneers of television we wouldn’t have many of the programs we enjoy today. Have a look at the 10 most revolutionary of the classic TV programs which the format forever.
10) The Honeymooners
Never before had such impoverished people been seen on the screen living the daily grind of the average worker and housewife- the public actually felt sorry for them. Alice and Ralph Kramden didn’t always get along, but they always got by. Jackie Gleason had based parts of the show on his own humble Brooklyn upbringing, even making the apartment to mimic the one he grew up (right down to the address).
The 1955 show did not prove to be the most popular at the time owing to variety shows which displaced the sitcom in the ratings. However, today we know that this more realistic interpretation of daily life would pave the way for other beloved shows, like All in the Family and Good Times.
9) The Carol Burnett Show
Never before had a female comedian led a sketch comedy show and never before had audiences related to a show so universally. The comedy cut across lines of age and gender to make it one of the shows a family could easily watch together and this is also the reason why the show continues to be funny to young and old alike today.
While Lucy was the forerunner of female comedy for television, at the time that Carol Burnett was getting her own show, The Lucy Show was still on air. Lucille Ball was a mentor Carol Burnett as they were the only two female head of casts on at the time. At the time, network employees attempted to dissuade Burnett from doing a variety show since they were always hosted by men. Later shows like The Facts of Life, Living Single, 30 Rock, (and many more besides) would focus on women, but at the time it was a rarity on TV.
8) All in the Family
In keeping with the theme the The Honeymooners had set, All in the Family showed a slice of life where Dad’s ratty old chair was the best seat in the house and the changing world was a blur to someone as old fashioned as Archie Bunker. While Edith played the role of the accommodating and long-suffering wife, her innocence made her a champion instead of a martyr. Nothing was perfect on the show, but that’s what made this 1970s sitcom a classic.
The program attempted to tackle tough issues like race, religion, and sexual orientation through the lens of the overly-cautious Archie. The show has been aired in syndication since before the last season in 1979 and some have argued that the racial slurs Archie used actually helped race relations in the U.S.
7) The Jeffersons
Like All in the Family, this spin off show was another glimpse into the American household, this time depicting an African American family with wealth, a rarity in real life as well as on TV. The dry cleaning business which made them so much money proved they worked hard and the premise usually revolved around the family trying to balance the world they came from with their new-found wealth and perceptions of them.
The Jeffersons aired from 1975-1985 and spawned a new era of inclusive television shows like The Cosby Show though few shows would ever match the popularity of the Jeffersons.
6) I Love Lucy
This classic debuted in 1951 to rave reviews, a sentiment which most of America held for until well after the show ended in 1957. We can’t imagine TV without Lucille Ball nowadays, but back then the female lead, who was far funnier than her husband, was a novel concept. Other shocking aspects of the show were the appearance of Lucy pregnant, with all the cravings that brings and the birth episode (a new concept on TV), and the mix-ethnicity marriage portrayed on screen with husband Desi Arnaz (another first).
It wasn’t just what the actors were doing: how I Love Lucy was shot also changed TV forever. The 3-camera system filmed 3 different angles at once for a more dynamic TV viewing experience. And, the Desilu production company made sure that syndicated airings of the show earned them money, a novel of aspect of TV at the time. Check out the hilarious scene where they try to get Lucy to the hospital in the video below.