Saturday’s Den: My 13 favorite TV shows

In couple days, I’ll remember that I forgot a show from long time ago, and I’ll have to re-do this list, but this is the list for today

13) In Plain Sight— Show about a US Marshal’s unit that relocates federal witnesses; show ran for four years, but it was on USA Network, and it ended when the show’s star got a role on a show on regular network TV, which obviously was more lucrative.

Not lot of TV shows are set in Albuquerque; this was a very good show.

12) Ray Donovan— The most violent program on this list; just about everybody on this Showtime series that isn’t related to the Donovans eventually winds up dead.

Ray Donovan is a fixer for rich people, but he can’t fix his own family; his wife passes away from cancer, his father is a creep, his daughter seems destined to follow in her dad’s footsteps. 

Live Schreiber plays Ray, Jon Voight plays his father (a genuine creep); they’ve had guest stars like Susan Sarandon, James Woods, Wendell Pierce, Hank Azaria. Alan Alda, C Thomas Howell. 

Very good show but also very violent.

11) M*A*S*H— Years later, after watching re-runs of this show on our local channel 10 and the Boston channel for hours at a time, it dawned on me that this was actually a very sad show, with humor/jokes masking the grotesque sadness of wartime Korea.

The McLean Stevenson episodes were the best; he was Colonel Henry Blake for the first 75 episodes, and a lot of them were classics, just funny as hell.

10) Green Acres— As a kid, I spent lot of hours watching Green Acres re-runs; my dad would walk into the room, say “Why the hell are you watching this?”, but within five minutes, he’d be sitting there laughing harder than me and would leave the room before my mother came in and saw the both of us laughing. She wasn’t a big fan of Hank Kimball or Arnold Ziffel.

9) Billions— Showtime series about rich hedge fund traders who push the boundaries of the law while New York prosecutors  try to catch them in the act of doing illegal stuff.

Chuck Rhoades is an attorney who claims to be the moral compass of New York, but he is also into S&M- his ex-wife was his dominatrix, and she is also the psychiatrist for the hedge fund company. Small world.

This show is really well-written, especially since the main hedge fund character had to be written out of the show because his wife died in real life- they’ve successfully changed the tenor of the show with the new hedge fund guy, a less sketchy trader.

Trivia: Paul Giamatti plays the prosecutor; he is the son of former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti. I suggested a cameo role for Pete Rose, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

8) West Wing— Martin Sheen plays the President in this show; his cabinet included Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, John Spencer— great cast.

Actor Duke Hill was in both West Wing and Suits; Mary Louise Parker was in this and is also in Billions. Alan Alda was in this, Ray Donovan and of course, M*A*S*H

Jimmy Smits, Mary MacCormack, Tim Matheson, Gary Cole, just a ton of excellent actors. 

In one episode, President Bartlet has to throw out the first pitch at an Orioles’ game, but he never played ball, so one of his aides has to teach him how to throw a baseball in a hallway in the White House, where an errant toss breaks an expensive vase.

7) Without a Trace— Show about the FBI Missing Persons Squad that finds missing people by applying advanced psychological profiling to reveal the victims lives.

Anthony LaPaglia was great as Jack Malone, the squad’s leader. Like a lot of main characters on TV, he is better at his job than he is at managing his own personal life. 

6) White Shadow— Ken Howard plays a washed-up NBA player who becomes a high school basketball coach in Los Angeles. Show only lasted three years, because well, high school kids graduate so they would’ve had to turn most of the cast over every other year. 

The basketball scenes were really well-done; Gwyneth Paltrow’s father was the creator of the show. Lot of the issues they tackled in this show were issues that real high school in the inner city had to deal with. Ken Howard was great as Coach Reeves; he wasn’t some all-knowing guy; he had flaws but he fought for his kids and they respected him for it (most of the time).

5) Mr Ed— This show ran on network TV from 1961-66, so I never saw it until the re-runs came on at 4:30 weekdays on a local channel in the early 70’s.

Mr Ed was a talking horse, but he only talked to Wilbur Post, an architect who worked at home but never seemed to actually work. 

Mr Ed was a big Dodger fan; his favorite player was OF Willie Davis. In one episode, the horse takes batting practice against Sandy Koufax, and hits a ball off the wall at Dodger Stadium, with the bat held in his mouth. A fun show, not necessarily a realistic one.

4) CSI— I spent a good chunk of my work career searching fingerprints and working for the NY State Division of Criminal Justice, so I enjoyed all the CSI shows, but especially the one set in Las Vegas— the actors seemed to have a chemistry working together.

The episode where Warrick Brown gets murdered and Gil Grissom gives his eulogy in church is just horrendously sad, but a great scene.

I have this idea (a teacher friend of mine scoffed at this) that CSI should be taught to all high school kids, so they realize how difficult it is to get away with crimes, so maybe there would be fewer crimes. What could it hurt?

3) Odd Couple— As a kid, Oscar Madison was one of my heroes; a sportswriter who always spilled food on his clothes but was a good natured guy who somehow dated a doctor, one of the Pidgeon sisters, or the princess of some obscure country (“You bought her a salty pretzel!!! Oh boy!!!”). 

To this day when I see my cousin’s husband, we recite lines from Odd Couple episodes; when they owned a greyhound racing dog, or appeared on Password (a game show). Great stuff.
(Trivia: they played against Betty White on Password; White was married to Allen Ludden, the host of Password)

Never, ever say the word “assume” to me, or I’ll recite the scene where Felix is in court, writes “assume” on a chalkboard, then says, “When you assume, you make an ass of u and me”

Even the judge was impressed with that one. 

2) Law and Order— 20 years, 456 episodes, a great launching point for lot of acting careers, not to mention the spinoff shows that branched off this original show. 

Take Billions; there are 32 actors who have appeared in 12+ episodes of Billons; 14 of those 32 actors appeared in at least one episode of Law and Order, and two others were in Law and Order SVU, and that doesn’t count Eric Bogosian, who was in Law and Order: Criminal Intent for 61 episodes, but was only in 10 episodes of Billions (so far).

1) Magnum PI— I’ve never been to Hawai’i, but if I ever went, would like to visit Robin Masters’ estate; I’m told you can visit there, it is a museum or something. 

One of the best episodes was when Frank Sinatra played a retired New York City cop whose granddaughter was murdered— this was near the end of both the series and Sinatra’s career. 

The overriding themes of the show were that great friends will do all kinds of stuff for each other, and if you’re really good looking and drive a Ferrari, women will like you 🙂