by Julian Spivey
NBC is celebrating its 90th anniversary as a network, starting out as a radio network and later television, this year and the Paley Center for Media paid tribute to the network with a three-hour retrospective on Sunday, Feb. 19. The milestone had me thinking of my all-time favorite NBC shows, and you could argue the network is the greatest of all-time based on its terrific output.
Here are my 10 favorite NBC shows of all-time:
10. “Late Night”
‘Late Night’ has seen four terrific hosts (David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers) in its 35-year history on NBC who all have brought their own style and brand of humor to the show. It’s often been an edgier, funnier version of “The Tonight Show” that has led its hosts to often brighter and bigger careers in late night television.
Basically, any sitcom that has succeeded in the last 25-30 years owes a debt of gratitude to “Cheers,” which essentially took a group of completely different strangers, tossed them into one location and made a family out of them. The sexual tension between Sam and Diane in the show’s first seasons essentially created the “will-they-or-won’t-they” aspect we’ve seen in numerous sitcoms ever since.
8. “Mad About You”
“Mad About You” is probably the most underrated sitcom on NBC’s acclaimed “Must-See TV” comedy lineup of the ‘90s. It doesn’t have the legacy of a “Friends” or “Frasier,” but the show featured one of the most realistic relationships in television history with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt having one of the best chemistries of any duo on television.
Frasier Crane was honestly not one of the more interesting character on “Cheers,” but lo and behold the spinoff featuring his character actually made for a funnier show, in my opinion. “Frasier” featured Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce in terrific roles as sophisticated know-it-alls, who cracked us up with their one-upsmanship.
6. “Friday Night Lights”
On the surface “Friday Night Lights” might just seem like a show about football, but it truly captures the realities and hardships of small town life, relationships and friendships in a realistic way that hadn’t been seen often on network television. At the center of the show was the fantastic relationship portrayal by actors Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton.
“Parenthood” brought realistic family drama to NBC (and network television in general) that it hadn’t seen in many years, and perhaps had never been done as well. The Braverman family instantly melted our hearts on a weekly basis and is likely the reason why NBC’s current hit “This Is Us” is what it is.
4. “30 Rock”
If you like absurdist and witty humor than “30 Rock,” from the brilliant and wacky mind of Tina Fey, is definitely for you. Fey took her time spent on “Saturday Night Live” as that show’s head writer and imagined what it would be like as an absurdist sitcom. The result became one of the most critically-acclaimed sitcoms in television history.
For a show about nothing “Seinfeld” was really quite something. Focusing on a group of four friends in New York that weren’t the greatest people in the world the show based on Jerry Seinfeld’s brand of stand-up about the little things in life became the most critically-acclaimed sitcom in television history.
2. “Saturday Night Live”
For more than 40 years “Saturday Night Live” has been at the center of pop culture on NBC. The greatest sketch comedy series of all-time has seen legends of comedy born on its stage and created numerous memorable sketches and moments that we will never be able to forget.
1. "The West Wing"
“The West Wing”In my opinion, there has never been a better or smarter drama on television than Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing.” “The West Wing” succeeded in making both politics and smart writing/television cool, something that many didn’t think was possible. The stellar performances all-around likely make the show’s cast the greatest ensemble in TV history.