The Ultimate TV Network Schedule

With 60 years of programming to choose from, here’s the ultimate schedule that would represent the best of an era


Here’s something that might be fun to argue about over the holidays.

We’re coming up on the close of 2010 and an era that has run roughly 60 years.  That is, the cultural domination of the broadcast networks via their prime-time schedules.

But with literally thousands of channels available to consumers via cable, satellite and the Internet, the idea of a few broadcasters deciding what Americans would watch and when they would watch it is starting to look almost quaint.

Still, the networks have provided lots of programming over the last 60 years that will live on in the cultural memory for decades more.  So, with 60 years worth of programming to choose from, I decided to create one ultimate schedule that would represent the best of an era (clearly I have too much time on my hands).

What I would consider the “best” may not completely conform with what critics would generally include and, of course, what you would include might not be represented here either. 

But, for people who grew on up on old-style network TV, now’s as good a time as any for a reflection on what we liked about network television in the first place.

So, here goes.

  8:00 – I Love Lucy (CBS, 1951-1957)
  8:30 – The Andy Griffith Show (CBS, 1960-1968)
  9:00 –  Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS, 1996-2005)
  9:30 – WKRP in Cincinnatti (CBS, 1978-1982)
 10:00 – Chicago Hope (CBS, 1994-1995 – early Mandy Patinkin episodes only)
A night of character. From Lucy Ricardo to Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, these shows represent some of the most-memorable characters the medium has ever offered.

   8:00 – JAG  (NBC/CBS, 1995-2005)        
   9:00 – The Fugitive (ABC, 1963-1967)
 10:00 – NYPD Blue  (ABC, 1993-2005)
Three of TV’s most solid dramas on one night.

  8:00 – Batman (ABC, 1966-1968)
  8:30 – Green Acres (CBS, 1965-1971)
  9:00 – Lost  (ABC, 2004-2010)             
10:00 – Quantum Leap (NBC, 1989-1993)
Surreal and just plain weird TV at its most original and best.

  8:00 – Barney Miller (ABC, 1975-1982)
  8:30 – Taxi (ABC/NBC, 1978-1983)
  9:00 – Frasier (NBC, 1993-2004)
  9:30 – Just Shoot Me (NBC, 1997-2003
10:00 – LA Law (NBC, 1986-1994)
Ultimate Must-See TV.

  8:00 – Get Smart (NBC/CBS, 1965-1970)
  8:30 – Hogan’s Heroes (CBS, 1965-1971)
  9:00 – The Rockford Files (NBC, 1974-1980)
10:00 – Star Trek (NBC, 1966-1969)
A night of quintessentials – the quintessential spy spoof, war comedy, private eye and sci-series all collected in one line-up.

  8:00 – All in the Family (CBS, 1971-1979)
  8:30 – The Honeymooners (CBS, 1955-1956)
  9:00 –  The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS, 1961-1966)
  9:30 –  M*A*S*H (CBS, 1972-1983)
10:00 – The Carol Burnett Show (CBS, 1967-1978)
Remember when the networks actually programmed Saturday nights. All of these classics (with the exception of The Dick Van Dyke Show which, for my money, was even better than The Mary Tyler Moore Show) actually aired on Saturday night.

 7:00 – 60 Minutes
(CBS, 1968-current)/The Amazing Race (CBS, 2001-current)
 8:00 – Touched by an Angel (CBS, 1994-2003)
  9:00 – Sunday Night Movie (Various)/Columbo (NBC, 1968-1978/ABC, 1989-2003)
10:30 – The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959-1964)
Comment:  60 Minutes represents the TV’s first and still-the-best newsmagazine but its reruns are really annoying.  That’s why I have it sharing its time slot with The Amazing Race (probably the only truly excellent reality series). Touched by an Angel , might be viewed as a controversial choice by some, but it connects with middle American values in a way that few TV shows do.  Also, no network schedule is really complete if not peppered by quality movies and miniseries. So, in the 9-11 slot I have room for those (sharing the slot with Columbo, the best of the old rotating  Mystery Movie franchise. And, sonce some of the best made for TV mo vies and Columbo  episodes ran only 90 minute, that leaves room for The Twilight Zone, TV’s all-time best anthology.

The Scoreboard:

Ultimate Schedule shows launched per network:  CBS (15), NBC (9) ABC (6) Fox/others (0)
Per Decade:  1960’s (10), 1970’s (7), 1990’s (7), 1950’s (3), 1980’s (2), 2000’s (2).

Two of the shows are currently still airing new editions (60 Minutes, The Amazing Race)

Almost every genre is represented, with the notable exceptions of family dramas and westerns.  There have been some good ones – but none that quite made the cut.

So, how does my Ultimate Schedule match up to yours? Was CBS really the best network? Was the ‘60’s TV’s  best decade?