The Real World
MTV made history when it debuted in 1981 as a 24-hour music video channel. It's changed a lot since it aired its first music video, but one of the most significant shows it ever produced was The Real World, the granddaddy of all reality shows. Without The Real World, which first aired in 1992, there would be no The Bachelor, no Dancing with the Stars, and definitely no Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Thanks, MTV. You've made your mark in more ways than one!
The TV show featuring Jack Bauer as a counterterrorism agent debuted only two after the 9/11 attacks. Not only did it give us a hero who could solve all the world's problems whether done ethically or not, but the show also reinvented the cliffhanger with its many twists and turns that kept everyone guessing whether Bauer would be successful in his latest mission. 24 also raised the bar for other shows with its slick Hollywood-style production values and its innovative split-screen storytelling device.
Roots - 1977
Although Roots wasn't the first mini-series ever to air on television (that distinction goes to Rich Man, Poor Man which aired the previous year), it was the most influential and most watched mini-series in television history. The mini-series featured many big names including Quincy Jones, Cicely Tyson, John Amos, and even OJ Simpson and the show was used as a history lesson in many schools. Unfortunately, it didn't open the door for more African-American representation on TV (that really didn't start until The Cosby Show in 1984), but Roots remains an important part of television history.
House of Cards
It's hard to imagine life without Netflix or any streaming service for that matter. I remember when Netflix was a DVD only services. How times have changed. Although it wasn't Netflix's first original series (Lilyhammer was the first), House of Cards opened the door for the streaming service to become a powerhouse in original programming. Netflix successfully outbid major outlets like AMC, Showtime, and HBO for rights to the series and the rest is history.
Twin Peaks broke all the rules when it debuted in 1990. It was moody, surreal, and one of the most stylistic shows of its time. It paved the way for many shows to come including The X-Files, Lost, Bates Motel, and even Stranger Things. It broke ground not only in its cinematography but also in the way it told its story. "Who Killed Laura Palmer" may have been the essence of the mystery, but the quirkiness and bizarreness of its characters are truly what defined it.
Perhaps the best line in television history came out of Det. Andy Sipowicz's mouth not even five minutes into the pilot episode of this groundbreaking show. "Ipso this, you pissy little bitch," he said, and thus began a 12-year journey of one of television's greatest cop dramas. It was also network television's first R-rated show due to language and nudity. What was shown seems tame by today's standards, but in 1993, it was unlike anything anyone had ever seen on television.