I can't say that my television diet as an adult has been all that much better. Dallas, Cheers, St. Elsewhere, etc., did little more than pass the time when you think about it. Certainly not as life-enhancing as visiting a museum or historical site. I suppose I watch less than I did, but it's still too much.
Still, I'm not knocking the invention. Downtime is important. And every once in a while, television reveals itself as a medium that indeed can contribute something wonderful to your life. There were moments when it was and is terrific and there are a handful of programs over the last fifty years that seem eminently worthwhile. Watched even today, they still have to power to move me, to entertain me, and cause me to reflect. Here's a list of ten favorites, in no particular order. 1977 was a great year.
1. I Claudius
This 13-part series from the BBC first appeared on US television as part of Masterpiece Theater in 1977. Steeped in Roman history it's narrated by an elderly Claudius, and covers a good chunk of Augustus' rule up to the deformed Claudius' rise to power and death, about 80 years. Augustus' wife, Livia, is evil personified as she manipulates her husband and knocks off his heirs one-by-one to elevate her own son, Tiberius, for emperor. Double dealing, incest, murder, and brutal politics have never been as fun.
2. Eleanor and Franklin
The story of the Roosevelt's as told through Eleanor's eyes appeared in two ABC mini-series in 1976 and 1977. Edmund Herrmann played the president, and Jane Alexander, his wife, Eleanor. Nominated for 17 Emmys, it won eleven and was also awarded a Golden Globe for best TV Motion Picture. The timing could not have been better, as the nation's bi-Centennial brought interest in American history to the forefront. The story follows their courtship, his paralysis, through his presidency and death. Terrifically acted with wonderful production values. Maybe not always historically accurate, and perhaps too slanted toward the wife, it is still one of the best programs the Big Three networks ever presented. Five-time Oscar winner John Barry wrote one of TV's best musical scores.
3. Mad Men
|Robert Duvall as Gus McCrae|
Newt: How come?
Gus McCrae: Well I was, too young and pretty and the whores wouldn't let me alone.
|The thrill of victory -- 1980.|
"Do you believe in miracles?"