10. Celebrity Deathmatch
In the wake of the 1990’s pro wrestling boom, MTV sought to capitalize by airing some “wrestling” of their own. The maverick cable network began showing clay “celebrities” fighting, while Stone Cold Steve Austin officiated the mayhem. At its best, “Celebrity Deathmatch” was hilarious, if not a bit macabre.
As the legend goes, this show was a bit “too real” for the old NFL. As the story has it, the league (not the show) thought that “Playmakers” touched upon real problems within football and allegedly told ESPN to nix the show. “Playmakers” was rough to watch at times, as it portrayed gritty realism rarely seen on cable, but was also quite poignant.
8. Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper
Mr. Cooper would’ve been an amazing teacher to have growing up. He’s wise, funny, but what was with that living situation? It was like a semi-platonic “Three’s Company.” So that was a bit weird, but nonetheless, I’d like to hang with Mr. Cooper.
7. The White Shadow
“The White Shadow” was a show way ahead of its time, about a white professional basketball player who takes the job as head basketball coach at a predominantly african-american school. The show is all about breaking boundaries to come to common understandings that cut across race.
An often overlooked HBO masterpiece, “Arli$$” was the story of an unscrupulous sports agent, who gets himself in all kinds of trouble. The show is littered with hi jinx and well…sex. Robert Wuhl is fantastic in the title role, but Sandra Oh steals the show.
5. Friday Night Lights
I felt the movie was kind of underwhelming, to be honest. The TV show of the same name showed a bit more depth. The best part about this one is the incredible character development. The writing’s pretty spot-on too. The total package is pretty impressive for today’s broadcast TV.
4. Sports Night
Like most Aaron Sorkin shows, Sports Night takes some getting used to. Also like a Sorkin show, your patience and persistence pays off big time! While the show is at heart a comedy, Sports Night tackles (see what I did there) some incredibly controversial issues (steroids, racism, legalized marijuana). The end result is a balanced dramedy before it was cool to be one.
3. Eastbound and Down
The story of Kenny Powers is one of the best and most hilarious comedies in decades. Danny McBride is phenomenal as the washed-up pitcher, who must return home and makes his bones in Mexico to get one more shot at the majors and the woman he loves. Steve Little is fantastic as well.
Coach had an amazing 9 season run, but is largely forgotten as many ABC sitcoms seem to be…for whatever reason. The trio of Craig T. Nelson, Jerry Van Dyke, and Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick the starfish for those under 30) was phenomenal. I’d still love to know how many students applied to Minnesota State in 1990.
1. The League
From Krampus to Bobbum Man. From Kegel the Elf to Mr. McGibblets, “The League” is one of the finest comedies in the history of television. The characters are utterly deplorable, but in an extremely hilarious way. The show has its peaks and valleys, but the peaks are some of the most memorable in TV history.