Television Series Anniversaries

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The cast of Facts of Life from left: Nancy McKeon, Kim Fields, Lisa Whelchel, Mindy Cohn, Charlotte Rae (Photo courtesy of NBC)

Tons of television anniversary milestones are going on this year. And while Long Island Weekly has either created special issues for certain shows (The Brady Bunch, Sesame Street) or dedicated specific articles to shows in this very issue (Seinfeld, The Simpsons, SpongeBob SquarePants, The West Wing, Friends, The Dukes of Hazzard), a number of other series should be acknowledged. (Although the less said about Saved By the Bell, Baywatch and Family Matters, the better.)

50 Years

Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969-1976)

Starring former Father Knows Best lead Robert Young, this hour-long medical drama also starred James Brolin as Welby’s younger medical partner, Steven Kiley. The plots concerned a professional conflict between well-meaning physicians, with Welby’s unorthodox way of treating patients going up against Kiley’s more strait-laced approach.

40 Years

The Facts Of Life (1979-1988)

A spin-off from Diff’rent Strokes, this show featured Charlotte Rae’s Edna Garrett leaving to become the housemother for an all-female boarding school. And while producers decided the glut of characters necessitated axing a number of cast members after the first season (including Molly Ringwald), the nine seasons the show ran introduced the world to Kim Fields, Lisa Whelchel, Nancy McKeon, Mindy Cohn, George Clooney and Pamela Segall.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981)

The success of Star Wars may have spurred the television adaptation of the 1920s comic strip, but cheesy special effects doomed this vehicle that starred Gil Gerard, Erin Gray and the talents of master voice-over legend Mel Blanc. Producer Glen A. Larson, who was having success with Battlestar Galactica on rival network ABC, spearheaded this NBC show. Unfortunately, his recycling of props, costumes and effects shots from his other show helped doom Buck Rogers to a two-season run.

Trapper John, M.D. (1979-1986)

A spin-off of the 1970 film MASH (and not the CBS series), this hour-long medical drama starred Pernell Roberts (sans toupee) as Dr. “Trapper” John McIntyre, 28 years after his Korean War discharge, working as the chief of surgery at San Francisco Memorial Hospital. Among the series regulars were Gregory Harrison, Madge Sinclair, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Timothy Busfield and Lorna Luft.

Benson (1979-1986)

The late Robert Guillaume, who played a wise-cracking butler named Benson DuBois in the sitcom Soap, had his character spun off into this series that found him as the head of household affairs for a widowed governor. Guillaume wound up winning a 1985 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. Fun fact: Jerry Seinfeld played a role as a delivery boy named Frankie for three episodes in 1980 before he was asked to leave because of creative differences.

Hart To Hart (1979-1984)

Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers played the jet-setting namesake couple Jonathan and Jennifer Hart. Created by novelist and television writer Sidney Sheldon, this hour-long mystery television series found the duo globe-trotting and solving crimes with the aid of their butler Max in a premise not unlike the classic Hollywood Thin Man movie series.

30 Years

Quantum Leap (1989-1993)

This science fiction series starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist who time travels, replacing specific people with the intention of correcting historical mistakes. Aided by wise-cracking buddy Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), Beckett’s travels meant each episode took place in a different time and setting each week.

Tales From The Crypt (1989-1996)

HBO ponied up the money for this horror anthology inspired by the 1950s EC Comics series of the same name. Executive producers included Hollywood big shots Richard Donner, Walter Hill, Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis. Its success spawned a series of spin-off films, a Saturday morning cartoon, a Christmas album and even a radio series.

Coach (1989-1997)

This sitcom starred Craig T. Nelson (The Incredibles, Poltergeist) as Hayden T. Fox, head coach of the fictional NCAA Division I-A Minnesota University Screaming Eagles football team. Also rounding out the cast were Jerry Van Dyke, Shelly Fabares and Bill Fagerbakke, nowadays known as the voice of Spongebob Squarepants’ Patrick Star.

Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989-1993)

Created by Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues) and David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal), this hour-long medical drama starred Neil Patrick Harris in his pre-How I Met Your Mother days as the teenage title character who was a teen physician. The show has blazed the trail for future hospital dramas, including the ABC series The Good Doctor and Fox’s The Resident.

25 Years

ER (1994-2009)

This hour-long medical drama was set in Chicago’s fictional County General Hospital and is the second-longest running primetime series of this sort behind Grey’s Anatomy. The show was based on a screenplay written by author Michael Crichton, based on his own experiences as a medical student in a busy hospital emergency room. The show won 116 awards in total, shot 331 episodes over 15 seasons and grossed more than $3 billion in television revenues as of 2014.

My So-Called Life (1994-95)

Created by Long Island native Winnie Holzman, the teen drama introduced America to now-household names like Claire Danes and Jared Leto, who was an instant teen heartthrob. My So-Called Life dealt with heavy social issues, including child abuse, homophobia, teenage alcoholism and drug abuse, school violence and homelessness, without taking up the condescending tone of an after school special. Though it lasted only one season, it has received wide critical acclaim and become a cult classic in years since.

Ellen (1994-98)

Stand-up comedian Ellen DeGeneres starred as neurotic bookstore owner Ellen Morgan on this ABC sitcom that ran for five seasons. Shortly before DeGeneres came out as gay in real life, her character came out as gay in the fourth season, sparking a nationwide controversy that prompted ABC to put a parental advisory at the beginning of every episode. Times have changed. Now she is known as the kind and generous host of her NBC daytime talk show, aptly named The Ellen DeGeneres Show

20 Years

Futurama (1999-2013)

While the show’s run was broken up by a 2003-2007 stretch of reruns ran on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim before it was picked up for new episodes on Comedy Central for three years starting in 2010. This Matt Groening’s science fiction sitcom spawned four direct-to-video films, won seven of 17 Annie Awards (excellence in animation in film and television), six of 12 Emmys and included tie-ins to a comic book series, video games, calendars, clothes and figurines.

Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)

Even though the Paul Feig/Judd Apatow teen dramedy only lasted 18 episodes, this much-loved cult series served as a springboard for the likes of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Busy Phillips, John Francis Daley, Martin Starr, Samm Levine and Linda Cardellini.

The Sopranos (1999-2007)

David Chase’s hour-long American crime drama highlighted the trials and tribulations of a New Jersey-based Italian-American mob boss trying to balance family life with that of the leader of a criminal organization. Between the cast and writing, the show has a devoted fan following that endures to this day. The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel film written by Chase and Lawrence Konner and directed by Alan Taylor, is confirmed for release in September 2020.

Family Guy (1999-present)

Technically celebrating its 18th anniversary (the show was canceled from 2003 to 2005 until Fox resurrected it), Seth MacFarlane’s brainchild centers on the Griffins, a dysfunctional Rhode Island family whose exploits are the springboard for loads of surreal and dark humor framed by meta-fictional cutaway gags. It’s the closest rival to The Simpsons.

15 Years

Lost (2004-10)

Created by Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, this hour-long drama followed the survivors of a commercial jet airliner flying between Sydney and Los Angeles after it crashed on a mysterious island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean. While the primary storyline was set on the island, flashbacks and flash-forwards propelled the narrative, often with quite a number of supernatural and science fiction nuances.

Grey’s Anatomy (2004-present)

Another staple of ABC’s lineup of hour-long dramas, Grey’s Anatomy made a big splash when it debuted as a midseason replacement. Following the love lives of doctors and interns at Seattle Grace Hospital, the show introduced us to Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Derek Shepherd, aka Dr. McDreamy, (Patrick Dempsey) and a slew of other young physicians. Thus began showrunner Shonda Rhimes’ takeover of the network, which remains strong today with Grey’s in its 15th season.

Veronica Mars (2004-07, 2019)

Before Kristen Bell became Princess Anna in Frozen and began starring in numerous TV commercials with husband Dax Shepard, she was resourceful teen private investigator Veronica Mars on the UPN series of the same name. The cult series, created by Rob Thomas, made it through the UPN-WB merger, only to be canceled in 2007. A Kickstarter funded by fans raised $5.7 million for the Veronica Mars movie in 2014, and Hulu picked up a fourth season in 2019. 

10 Years

Modern Family (2009-20)

This year marks the final season of this mockumentary family sitcom that follows the exploits of patriarch Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill) and his blended family, which consists of nuclear, step- and same-sex variations. Over time the show won 22 Emmy Awards out of 75 nominations.

Archer (2009-present)

Inspired by the James Bond and Pink Panther franchises, this adult animated sitcom centers on the exploits of eight dysfunctional secret agents voiced by the likes of the stellar H. John Benjamin (Sterling Archer), Jessica Walter (Malory Archer), Aisha Tyler (Lana Kane), Judy Greer (Cheryl Tunt), Amber Nash (Pam Poovey), Chris Parnell (Cyril Figgis), Lucky Yates (Dr. Algernop Krieger) and creator Adam Reed (Ray Gillette).

Community (2009-2015)

Based on creator Dan Harmon’s own experiences attending a community college, this sitcom was situated in the fictional town of Greendale, CO. The ensemble cast of characters not only featured Chevy Chase and Joel McHale, but provided exposure for a raft of up-and-coming talent including Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong and Jim Rash.

Parks and Recreation (2009-2015)

Set in the fictional town of Pawnee, IN, this political satire sitcom starred Amy Poehler as perky mid-level bureaucrat Leslie Knope. Poehler led a crack ensemble cast that included Rashida Jones, Rob Lowe, Netta, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Paul Schneider, Jim O’Heir and Billy Eichner. Real-life politicians that had cameos throughout the series included Vice President Joe Biden, Senator John McCain and First Lady Michelle Obama.

—Additional information by Kimberly Dijkstra

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