While critics over the years have cited laziness, obesity, and a deterioration in intelligence as pitfalls of tuning in to television, recently the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that binge-watching a TV series is as restorative as a walk in the woods. Who needs Vitamin D? Not us! Another win in TV's battle against its reputed redundancy includes policy change. No kidding; after an episode of ER was shown to U.S. Congress members, the Patient Navigator Act was passed. Other benefits cited include providing company for lonely people and, depending on what you watch, it can make you smarter. (Thanks Stephen Colbert!) TV can also break down barriers of stereotype and race; one example was the groundbreaking "Black on Black" documentary about what it meant to be black in L.A, following the 1965 Watts Riots. And finally, believe it or not, TV has been credited with saving lives. Studies indicate a huge potential for TV to serve as a health educator and the Sentinel for Health Awards recognizes achievements of TV storylines that "inform, educate and motivate viewers to make choices for healthier and safer lives" (think: Elizabeth Banks' heart attack ad).
Today, with an evolving television industry more competitive and reactive than ever before, television shows are darker, smarter, funnier, more controversial, artistic, candid and pivotal. But while there is much to celebrate among the creators of this new TV revolution, it didn't begin here. The road has long been paved for shows like Matthew Weiner's "Mad Men," Jenji Kohan's "Orange is the New Black," Shonda Rhimes' "Grey's Anatomy," and Lena Dunham's "Girls", to name a few. The list below highlights some of the most influential TV show creators and writers who started it all and brought the show creators and the TV lovers to where they are today.
10 Ed Sullivan
9 Norman Lear
8 Chris Carter
7 Darren Star
6 Joss Whedon
Teen angst with a twist. Joss, who called his show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" a cross between "My So Called Life" and "The X-Files", was a beloved leader of 90s TV with his massively popular series that set the pace for today's shows like "Vampire Diaries." Whedon began his TV career as a writer for "Roseanne," before developing the movie script for Buffy, which was the same storyline but with different characters than those who would eventually feature strongly in the TV cult classic. Whedon has admitted he was unhappy with the original movie, which had been greatly re-written and made lighter in tone than he intended. In 1997, when the opportunity arose to create Buffy for TV, he took full artistic control.
5 Aaron Sorkin
4 Dave Chappelle
3 Michael Crichton
ER ran for a gobsmacking 15 seasons and set the stage for all hospital dramas to follow, including "Grey's Anatomy," and "House." John Michael Crichton, who passed away in 2008, was best known as an author who has sold over 200 million copies of his books. In 1994 the writer was the only creative artist ever to have his work charting at No. 1 in TV, movies and book sales all at the same time with "ER," "Jurassic Park," and "Disclosure."
2 Matt Groening
Matt Groening set the bar for what is now a multitude of adult-only bobble-heads including "Family Guy," "American Dad," "Bob's Burgers," etc.... The Simpsons has become an indelible part of television, making a 25 year impact on the industry. That's a quarter of a century with one good-hearted, sometimes a little bit immoral, yellow family. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Matt Groening eventually used his hometown's street names for his show's characters. Starting in the mid-80s he made a name for himself with his comic strip "Life in Hell," that became a favourite of Tracey Ullman who eventually called him up to do a series of animated shorts for her show. The shorts became "The Simpsons."
1 Larry David
Larry David, the man behind "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm", created a new kind of comedy from both, utilizing an autobiographical element that led to shows like "Arrested Development," a cult classic that referenced "Seinfeld" several times over the course of its short lived three seasons. It, in turn, led to a comedy that saw a more intricate plot line with fast-paced flashbacks and cutaways used heavily in newer shows like "30 Rock." With "Curb Your Enthusiasm," this real-time mostly improvised comedy show probably lent a helping hand to what we know today as realty TV. Originally airing as a special, its enormous popularity resulted in a weekly HBO series that went on to win a Golden Globe in 2003 for Best Comedy Series. The series lasted until 2011. But let's start from the beginning. David was initially hired in 1982 as a writer for Saturday Night Live until 1989 when Jerry Seinfeld asked for his help to develop a sitcom. The resulting "Seinfeld," an epic "show about nothing" brought together four unknown actors who all played a part in one of the most successful and influential shows in television history. One of its main points of genius was its ability to uncover the comedy in real life. The show didn't shy away from social commentary but it brought a new perspective to topics like, for example, a lesbian wedding. The subject matter was way ahead of its time, but it was able to break down social barriers by helping the audience see the universal humour that is present in life's odd, every day adventures. "Seinfeld" received an Emmy for "Outstanding Comedy Series" in 1993, a Golden Globe for "Best TV Series (Comedy)" and a Screen Actors Guild Award for "Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series" in '95, '97 and '98. In 2013, TV Guide ranked in one of the greatest shows of all time. And while it wears little in terms of bells and whistles, its simplicity is perhaps its greatest gift, as it remains as timelessly funny today as it was 20 years ago.
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