The Light from the TV Shows: TGS: 30 Great Shows (That Don’t Actually Exist)

With “30 Rock” departing the airwaves after a not-unrespectable seven seasons – a particularly incredible achievement when you consider what an incredibly off-the-wall, insider-y sort of sitcom it was throughout its run – it seemed only appropriate to offer up some sort of tribute to the show in this week’s column. Unfortunately, since everyone else seems to have swiped all of the good angles that are 100% show-specific (indeed, I actually wrote a piece on the 30 best “30 Rock” guest stars for the “Today” blog, The Clicker), I had to think a little bit outside the box, but since a key aspect of the series was its show within a show, “TGS with Tracy Jordan,” it seemed like a perfectly reasonable concept to spotlight 30 of TV’s great fictional TV series. Lord knows these aren’t all of them, of course. Hell, even limiting myself to a one-fake-TV-series-per-real-TV-series rule…with the only exception being “30 Rock,” which seemed only fair, given the reason for the list in the first place…there are still thousands of omissions, so feel free to offer up your personal favorites that didn’t make the cut, “Family Guy” fans. (There’ve been so many on that show, I didn’t even know where to start.)

1. TGS with Tracy Jordan (“30 Rock”)

For those who can remember back to the pilot of “30 Rock,” Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) was originally in charge of a not-terribly-great sketch comedy series called “The Girlie Show,” but when GE’s new Head of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming, Jack Donaghy made an executive decision to add the completely unpredictable Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) to the show, the comedian’s ego necessitated a change in the show’s title to feature his name more prominently. 136 episodes later, we’ve scarcely seen a single “TGS” sketch in its entirety, and what bits we have seen have rarely been funny (at least not intentionally), but the shenanigans surrounding the series have been consistently hysterical.

2. The Alan Brady Show (“The Dick Van Dyke Show”)

Dick Van Dyke has discussed on many occasions how many TV writers have come up to him over the years and told him that the biggest reasons they decided to break into the business in the first place was because Rob Petrie and his cronies on Alan Brady’s variety show made it look like one of the most entertaining occupations in the world. Strangely, he hasn’t spoken nearly as much about how many of those writers finished their comments by yelling, “Thanks for nothing, you big liar!” I’m betting it’s about 50/50.

By the way, although “The Alan Brady Show” wasn’t real, the folks at MeTV talked Carl Reiner into doing a promo for the addition of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to their line-up where he reprised the character. Funny stuff.

3. Invitation to Love (“Twin Peaks”)

If you’re not a David Lynch obsessive, you may not remember this soap opera, but those with keen eyes will recall that it turned up at least once in each of the first seven episodes of “Twin Peaks.” It’s also worth noting that “Invitation to Love” pointedly features identical-twin characters played by the same actress, which – in no way coincidentally – was more or less what Sheryl Lee did as Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson.

4. The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy (“Spongebob Squarepants”)

The best bit about this cartoon-with-a-cartoon was the fact that the “Spongebob” show runners reunited former “McHale’s Navy” co-stars Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway to prove the characters’ respective voices. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

5. The Terrence and Phillip Show (“South Park”)

Disproving a longstanding theory that Canadians can’t be funny while cementing the not-really-in-question suspicion that farts are always funny, it need only be said that Terrence and Phillip are a stone-cold gas. Sadly, this clip is from their movie, “Asses of Fire,” rather than their series, but it’s basically the same thing. Y’know, except filthier. Much, much filthier.

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Bullz-Eye’s 2012 TV Power Rankings

So…where were we?

Oh, fine, let’s go ahead and deal with the elephant in the room: it’s been nine months since Bullz-Eye doled out its last TV Power Rankings. What can we say? There were a lot of good shows on the air between May 2011 and February 2012, and somewhere around late October, it just kind of reached a point where we said, “You know what? It’s way more fun to watch TV than it is to write about it.” Eventually, though, the powers that be pried us off the couch (there’s still an indentation where we were sitting), set us back in front of the computer, and said, “Look, the readers demand to know Bullz-Eye’s take on the best shows of the past year* and, frankly, they’re starting to get a little belligerent about it.”

(*Rounded up for statistical purposes.)

So here we are, ready to offer up our list of the 25 best shows on television** as well as several shows bubbling just under our list, plus a new section called “Still Too New to Call,” where we praise shows that seem pretty damned good after their first few episodes but simply haven’t been around long enough for us to feel comfortable including them in the other two lists.

(**Okay, technically, it’s the 24 best shows on television plus one show that hasn’t been on since 2010, but we’re so excited about that particular show coming back that we included it, anyway.)

All told, we hope you’ll walk away from this piece either nodding your head in agreement or wondering why you haven’t been watching some of these shows. If not, however, there’s a perfectly good Comments section that’s just waiting for your opinions about what’s good on TV.

Everybody ready? Then let’s get this thing started…

25. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

No, it’s not quite the same show it used to be, owing to the fact that the cast now consists of almost as many women as it does men, but with the series now in its fifth season, the trio of Kaley Cuouo, Melissa Rauch, and Mayim Bialik have probably infused “The Big Bang Theory” with more laughs than the it would’ve had at this point if it had stuck strictly to the original four geeks. The only question now is how much longer we’ll have to wait for Raj to come out of the closet…because, seriously, you don’t need to possess gay-dar to see that that’s what they’re leading up to.

24. Weeds (Showtime)

When we first picked back up with Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) for the seventh season of “Weeds,” she’d spent three years cooling her heels in the clink while the rest of the Botwin clan had been chillin’ in Copenhagen, but with Nancy being shifted to a halfway house in New York City, a family reunion was only inevitable. Big shock: Nancy started selling pot again. Possibly bigger shock: even going into its eighth season, “Weeds” is still reliably entertaining.

23. New Girl (Fox)

When it comes to watching “New Girl,” one’s level of appreciation is directly proportionate to how one feels about the concept of “adorkability,” which Zooey Deschanel brings to the small screen in seemingly limitless quantities as Jess, a too-cute twentysomething who moves in with a trio of guys on the heels of an excruciatingly bad breakup. As with most ensemble comedies, it’s taken time for the chemistry of the cast to find its feet, but it’s coming along nicely.

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Unnecessary Liaisons: 15 TV Couplings That Never Should Have Happened

The “will they or won’t they?” dynamic has been a staple of television since the very beginning of the medium, but just because two people can get together doesn’t mean that they should get together. Bullz-Eye decided to take a look back through our favorite TV series and consider some of the more ill-begotten romances that have taken place over the years. Have we missed any? Or do you disagree with some of our selections? Let us know in the comments!

1. Rachel & Joey, “Friends”

Given that just about everyone has had a crush on a friend at some point in their lives, it made sense that a show called “Friends” would make use of that concept, and in addition to the long-running “will they or won’t they” of the Ross and Rachel relationship, Monica and Chandler proved to be a surprisingly effective combination as well. But Rachel and Joey…? That’s just taking things a step too far.

Actually, the two never took their relationship to the toppermost of the poppermost, if you will, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The storyline began with Joey (Matt LeBlanc) suffering through a major crush on Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), one which she ultimately decided was worth risking their friendship to expand into something more. When they tried to get down and dirty, however, Rachel kept finding herself instinctually slapping Joey’s hands back, and Joey found that he’d lost his gift for unstrapping bras. Attempts to loosen each other up with champagne failed just as miserably, and in the end, the two decided that the problem was that they’d become better friends over the years than Monica and Chandler were when they became a couple.

Some have questioned whether the awkwardness between Aniston and LeBlanc during their romantic scenes was behind the decision to stop the Rachel / Joey relationship dead in its tracks, but let’s chalk that up to acting, as it seems far more likely that the writers just wanted to have a bit of fun with the characters. But thank God the fun ended when it did. – Will Harris

2. Ray & Jenna, “Dallas”

“Dallas” is a series overflowing with mismatched couples and people who are just altogether wrong for each other. As it’s a soap opera, that sort of stuff goes with the territory. So it of course stands to reason that the “Dallas” coupling ending up on this list is actually rather harmonious, all things considered, anyway. Farm hand and rancher Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly) hooking up with and marrying little miss screw loose Jenna Wade (Priscilla Presley)? Gimme a break.

Jenna had a nearly lifelong attachment to Ray’s brother, Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), which mercifully crumbled – mercifully, I say, because this woman was batshit crazy. Given the sheer hell Bobby went through with her – nearly all of which Ray was witness to – it made no sense after his marriage to the rock that was Donna (Susan Howard) ended, that he would fall into the arms of this emotional basket case. Worst of all though is how the couple was eventually written off the series: They moved to Europe. Ray Krebbs leaving Texas to move to Europe is a piece of off-screen character development that has to boggle the mind of even the most forgiving “Dallas” aficionado. Ray Krebbs was Texas.

Man, I hope he at least found a flock of sheep to keep him busy on those cold European winter nights, because one thing’s for certain, that nutty woman had to have had another breakdown, probably near the border of France and Germany. – Ross Ruediger

3. Sayid & Shannon, “Lost”

For a show that prided itself on great characters and the various relationships they forged during their time on the island, “Lost” still had its share of questionable partnerships, especially of the romantic variety. But while we were never big fans of the ongoing love triangle between Jack, Kate and Sawyer, the relationship that rang the most untrue was undoubtedly Sayid and Shannon.

Though it might have made sense on paper – Shannon needed someone to fill the protector role after Boone was killed, and there wasn’t a better candidate (no pun intended) around than Sayid – the whole romance came out of left field, forcing the audience to blindly accept that they had fallen in love within a matter of days. Thankfully, it didn’t last long, as Shannon was the next major castaway to bite the dust when Ana Lucia accidentally shot her. But it wasn’t the last we saw of the couple, as they were reunited in the season finale to spend eternity together in the afterlife.

It was a revelation that threw most viewers for a loop. After all, wasn’t Sayid’s one true love supposed to be Nadia? Then why did he end up with the blonde bimbo? It certainly left a sour taste in our mouths – one that not even a cold Dharma beer could cure. – Jason Zingale

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