Top Five (and Ten) TV Shows of All Time

Sure, I could have gone with Omar for ‘The Wire,’ but I’m going with my man Bubbles, who doesn’t get enough credit.

One nice thing about a Top Five list of TV shows is that you can bill it as “all-time” and still stick to stuff you know from your own lifetime. You don’t feel like you have to go back and pull in “Greensleeves” or “Veni, veni, Emmanuel” to make up for neglecting Top Songs before Elvis.

Sure, there was some TV before my time, like “Your Show of Shows,” which went off the air about eight months after I was born. But while I’ve heard people rave about it, I suspect I didn’t miss all that much. I mean, I’ve seen some of Sid Caesar’s stuff, and he was good, but to me, Imogene Coca was the cavewoman on “It’s About Time” — which I assure you isn’t going to make my Top Ten.

I thought at first that I wouldn’t have the discipline to stick to the Top Five format, since this is a pretty broad field — All TV Shows, ever. I figured I’d do 10, and then go back to the Nick Hornby standard when we do top sitcoms or something narrower like that.

But after I’d made a list of 10 and started trying to rank them, I realized the Top Five were very clear, and stood out well above 6-10. So I did five, and then another five. I hope Barry will be proud.

And yes, this is inspired by what I mentioned a couple of days ago — the Rolling Stone list that outrageously didn’t include “Band of Brothers” in its top 100. Bud already reacted with his own Top Ten list, which I urge you to peruse as well.

Anyway, here goes:

  1. The West Wing — If not for streaming, I would not even be a fan. I never watched my first episode until years after the show ended. I’m so glad I was able to watch it on Netflix. I regret that it’s only available now on a service I don’t subscribe to. Why do I love it? It makes me feel happy about the world I live in. (It makes me actually appreciate human beings, and have hope for the species.) Not many things do that out there in the media universe. But someone who understands America as well as Aaron Sorkin does can do that.
  2. Band of Brothers — You should understand that I felt invested in this from the beginning, long before the first episode appeared on HBO. I had been thinking for some time about what an awesome TV series Stephen Ambrose’s book would make — if it were made by the right people. Specifically, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who brought us “Saving Private Ryan.” (I was also thinking about “From the Earth to the Moon” as a model, so I should probably mention Ron Howard as well.) I even thought about writing them to suggest the idea, but I’ve never done fanboy stuff like that. As it worked out, I didn’t have to. They went ahead and did it anyway. You might say I wished it into being — and it was everything I had wished for. I need to figure out how I did that, so we can finally get that Jack Aubrey series
  3. The Wire — Wow. This was just so awesome on so many levels. It’s a newspaperman’s fantasy — an amazingly high-quality production that shows exactly what things are like in his city. And of course, it was written by an unusually gifted newspaperman, former cops reporter David Simon. He switched careers for a very newspaperman reason: “I got out of journalism because some sons of bitches bought my newspaper and it stopped being fun.” Well, it was often intensely painful to watch, but The Wire was also fun. I will end by simply naming some favorite characters: Omar, of course. Major Rawls. Kima Greggs. Beadie Russell. Jay Landsman. Brother Mouzone. Tommy Carcetti. And most of all, Bubbles the snitch.
  4. Firefly — I’m not going to go into the horrible thing that happened, and how all the people in charge at Fox network are a buncha gorram idiots. Although obviously they are. I mean, come on! It’s the only series ever that’s about space cowboys — something that previously only existed in the imagination of Steve Miller. That made it automatically better than any show that was merely a space opera or merely a western. And then, the characters and the writing took that advantage and blasted it clear across the known ‘verse. The use of language alone — “‘verse,” “shiny,” and the odd bits of Chinese thrown in — made it irresistible. Not quite on a “Clockwork Orange” level, but way up there. Favorite characters? Well, I guess Kaylee was my true favorite, but my publicly admitted favorite (so I don’t seem to be a dirty old man) is Jayne. Third would be Mal. Sorry, captain…
  5. The Andy Griffith Show — Yep, I’m a sentimentalist. If I wanted to be critical and judge it by Golden Age of Television standards, I’d object to the flaws. Like, how come only about two characters beyond Andy have Southern accents? Or how come, if he’s the sheriff, he seems to work for the mayor of Mayberry rather than being a separately elected county official? Why did Andy go from being the main comic figure to being the straight man in later seasons? But never mind all that. I love it, and I’ve loved it almost all my life (it wasn’t around for my first few years). If you want to love it as well, remember the main rule: Never watch an episode that’s in color. The good ones are all in black and white. Favorite character? Ernest T. Bass. Second fave is Floyd the barber. But I love the others as well. Except some of those who came along after Barney left.

Just barely got in one comedy, because the list needed it, and because I love me some Mayberry. Here’s the next five:

  • The Sopranos — I didn’t mean to disrespect you, Tony. Really. The show was awesome, and probably launched the whole Golden Age. I respect Rolling Stone‘s decision to make it No. 1 on their list. And I had it in my Top Five, truly. But then I realized I had completely forgotten “Firefly.” Anyway, fave characters: Paulie Gualtieri (played by an actual Wise Guy), Silvio Dante (possibly the most inspired casting decision in TV history), Adriana La Cerva, Artie Bucco.
  • Seinfeld — This came just about as close as you can get to being the perfect sitcom. And there was never another one like it. It did not fit in any kind of category. I could say much more, but do I really have to convince you? The only way I can imagine you disagreeing is if you get on my case for not having it in the Top Five.
  • 30 Rock — And this one may have been THE perfect sitcom. It took the same foundation upon which Carl Reiner based “The Dick Van Dyke Show” — in his case, his experience writing for “Your Show of Shows” — and expanded upon it and went wild with it. So many great characters, from Liz and Jack down to guest stars like Al Gore playing themselves (“Quiet!… A whale is in trouble! I have to go.”) But the one who amazed me the most, and could alone have put it on this list, was Kenneth Ellen Parcell.
  • Hill Street Blues — Kind of dated now, but wow was it impressive at the time. We had a sort of minor cult following at the paper in Jackson, Tenn. I remember one night watching it over at the publisher’s condo. He and his wife, who was our business reporter, served nachos. I had never heard of nachos. Of course, I couldn’t eat them anyway. But we all enjoyed “Hill Street.” Capt. Furillo was my ideal leader. As news editor at the paper, I wanted to be just like him in dealing with my reporters. But my favorite character? Renko.
  • Mad Men — One of the most glittering examples of Golden Age TV — brilliant in writing, direction, cinematography and acting. Like entering another world — one in which we got to see Christina Hendricks way more than we did in “Firefly.” For some reason though, once we got way into the 60s and people started dropping acid, I stopped watching. I need to go back and finish. I suppose I’ll have to start from the beginning, dagnabbit. Favorite character? Not sure. Maybe Joan. Or maybe Roger, the acid-dropper. Now I’ll do something different and list by far my least favorite: Pete Campbell. What a creep and a half.

There were a lot of other great shows out there, some of which didn’t even get a mention from Rolling Stone. So here’s a random bunch of honorable mentions:

  • Key and Peele — I suppose this is the thing on this list that I got into most recently — like, within the past decade. These guys are incredibly brilliant, and there’s no one else like them. However they first met and teamed up, we’re lucky they did. Best bits? Well, I love the obvious choices, such as “Obama’s Anger Translator,” “Substitute Teacher” and “I Said (I quickly look around before continuing) Biiiiiiiitch.” But my fave might be “Retired Military Specialist.”
  • The IT Crowd — For years, I saw this available on Netflix, and ignored it, having no idea what it was. Then my younger son talked me into watching one episode — and now I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched the whole three seasons. It’s hard to describe how funny it is. Now, I’ll watch pretty much anything that has the players in it. Fortunately, Chris O’Dowd has gotten a lot of work, and if I need a Richard Ayoade fix, I can always watch some “Travel Man” on Prime. But my greatest frustration is that it’s hard to find my favorite, Katherine Parkinson, anywhere. Last time I saw her was in “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” and it really wasn’t all that funny. Best episode is either “The Work Outing,” “The Dinner Party,” or “Are We Not Men?”
  • Breaking Bad — Are you thinking it’s kind of weird that this didn’t make either the Top Five or the next five? I sort of am, too, but I just kept thinking of things I liked better. It might be that this was the most stressful TV show I have ever watched, and the stress has lingered. But it still seems worthwhile to have watched it all, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have appreciated the last episode, and that was really good.
  • Green Acres — I have mentioned a number of times that the possibly the most amazing night ever on television (from an 11-year-old’s perspective) was Sept. 15, 1965, the night that “Lost in Space,” “Green Acres” and “I-Spy” all debuted. We had returned to America — and to television — five months earlier after two-and-a-half years in Ecuador, and I was already overdosing on popular culture, and loving it. But that was the biggest night. At the time, my fave was probably “Lost in Space,” but “Green Acres” was definitely the one that aged the best. As was written in my favorite reference work, The Catalog of Cool, “To be truly cool, one must genuinely understand the uselessness of logic and reason in a world gone mad. ‘Green Acres’ understood it better than any other show.” I’d never seen anything like it before, and I haven’t since. Favorite character? Eb, of course.
  • The Office — The real one, the British one. Absolutely brilliant, although admittedly sometimes hard to watch, because David Brent. Favorite character? Probably Gareth.
  • Friday Night Lights — I’m sort of putting this here as a way of thanking Bryan for getting me to watch it. But I’m also putting it here because it was really, really great. Even though it was about, you know, football…
  • The State — I loved MTV when it started, when it knew its job was to show music videos, and have them be introduced by people like Martha Quinn or Daisy Fuentes. And it was wonderful. Then it got into other stuff. I will never forgive it for launching the scourge of reality TV. But I can almost forgive “The Real World” when I consider “The State.” If only it had lasted. And if only I could find the old skits online somewhere. Best one ever? “Prison Break.” (But that’s “off-limits”…)
  • Life on Mars — OK, this show was really uneven, and sometimes the writing was shaky. But it was a lot of fun, and I’ve watched the two seasons (the two series, since it’s British) several times. And not just to see Liz White as Annie. When I saw it on The Guardian‘s 21st-century list, I decided I had to mention it. A warning, though: Do not try to watch the American imitation. I couldn’t even make it through the first episode. Sure, it’s got Harvey Keitel in it, but he couldn’t save it.

Finally, I know I’ve forgotten something. Maybe several somethings. The way I was almost done when I remembered “Firefly.” But you’ve got to start a discussion somewhere…

Yes, I am a sentimentalist.

45 thoughts on “Top Five (and Ten) TV Shows of All Time

  1. Barry

    I can answer a bit about Andy Griffith. I am an addict. I was in Mt. Airy last weekend and went by Andy’s house and the museum (again). I’ve also talked to Don’s brother in law, a writer, about some behind the scenes things related to Don and Andy- both personally and professionally.


    The reason you see the change in Andy’s approach on the show was two-fold:

    First, Andy and the writers felt that they could not develop enough stories to keep interest if he was always the goofball he was in the early shows- who was essentially the same guy he was in No Time for Sergeants.

    Second, Andy realized that his best friend- Don Knotts – was a much better comedy foil and Andy was the better straight man. This approach also had the added benefit of allowing writers (The Griffith show used a small stable of them) much greater freedom to develop many more story possibilities.

    The Mayor issue is one that crops up – but I think it can be explained if you try a bit. Andy is elected. The Mayor is as well. But Andy’s personality on the show is one that tries very hard to make other people close to him look good in the eyes of everyone (Andy always saving Barney, Andy saving Gomer, Andy saving Goober, Andy saving Floyd, Andy saving Aunt Bee, Andy saving Malcom Merriweather, etc) So while the Mayor doesn’t have the power to fire him, Andy realizes the position of Mayor is elected just like he is by the people and he respects the position and he’s going to defer to him as much as possible because he’s the Mayor.

    and I do disagree with you. There are some good episodes in color- a few have Barney returning to town. One such episode, “A Visit to Barney Fife” has Andy going to see Barney in Raleigh. It’s not as good as the better black and white episodes. but the interplay with Andy and Don in this episode is pure magic.

    The color episodes also have Andy and family going to Hollywood where we get to see a bus ride down the Sunset Strip and old Hollywood (Dino’s, Whiskey a Go GO, etc) as well as some great character actors.

    and two of my favorites of the entire series are in color

    1) – Howard Sprague tries his hand at comedy on a nearby town’s local tv station only to see Mayberry residents get mad at a misunderstanding. This is a color episode that sees Jack Dawson play a milquetoast Howard Sprague to perfection and the story of how of how Howard wants to be recognized for something, but he doesn’t want to do it at the expense of hurting the feelings of his friends is a really good, underrated episode of a man caring about his friends.

    2) Goober and Andy attend a car show where Goober runs into an old friend who seems to be the king of the hill as a self proclaimed automotive engineer at a car company. Goober feels inferior and pretends to have a chain of gas stations. Opie lets the cat out of the bag. Goober is embarrassed and feels sorry for himself. Andy tries to reassure him that being a business owner of one gas station is plenty to be proud of. Goober isn’t convinced. When Goober, Andy and family start back to Mayberry, they stop at a gas station near their hotel for some gas and “pop” and Andy spots the “automotive engineer” working under a car at the gas station, all covered in oil and grease. He points this out to Goober and they realize the man was lying. Andy offers Goober the chance to expose the guy, but Goober refuses because he doesn’t want to embarrass his old friend. A story that wouldn’t make much sense in today’s world. But a true lesson worth learning again and again. It’s a really good episode.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I never thought I’d say this, but maybe you love “The Andy Griffith Show” even more than I do.

      I’ve visited Mt. Airy, too, although I didn’t go to Andy’s house. That would have been nice, sitting there on the porch with Andy and Barney, and having a conversation that goes something like this:

      Barney: “You know what I think I’ll do?”

      Andy: “What?”

      Barney: “I think I’ll go down to the fillin’ station, get me a bottle of pop, go home, take a nap, go over to Thelma Lou’s and watch some TV.”

      Andy: “Hmmm.”

      Barney: “Yeah, that’s what I’m gonna do… Down to the fillin’ station, get me a bottle of pop, home, take a nap, and then go over to Thelma Lou’s and watch a little TV. (Yawn.)”

      Sometimes I think that’s what conversations in heaven are like. Andy and Barney had life figured out…

      Here’s the whole scene:

      1. Barry

        That was a favorite comedy sketch that Don and Andy did for the cast and crew behind the scenes and incorporated it into the show. (They also did their fair share of off-color sketches for the crew that would never be allowed on tv. Some of those were so good other actors and crew working on other 1960’s tv shows would come over to the Griffith set to watch them perform their bits off camera).

        They worked on material themselves, would sometimes workshop it a bit in comedy clubs and then would put it in an episode. Often their sketches had nothing to do with the story of the show- it was just filler material.

        They did a version of this skit in the episode Man in a Hurry (my favorite episode and I think the best one they ever produced. This one feels much like the Twilight Zone- a thought confirmed by Don’s brother in law in his book Andy and Don) where they did this sketch and it actually did fit in with the storyline.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You mean the “bottle of pop” routine? I think they did it on the show a number of times.

          I was remembering it as Barney saying he was going to go downtown — maybe to the drugstore — to get the bottle of pop. But I couldn’t find a video of that.

          Of course, I think this bit has another regional flaw in it, like the fact that almost no one buy Andy has anything resembling a North Carolina accent: “pop.”

          Maybe people in that part of NC do call it that, but it doesn’t sound right

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Of course, I can’t tell you what they called it in Bennettsville when I was a kid, although I can remember people saying “Co-Cola.” (Part of the problem, of course, is that even though that was the one place that was consistent in my childhood, I was only there in the summers and sometimes at Christmas. Most of the time, I was one of many, many other places. I think that kind of messes up my memory for regionalisms.)

            I have trouble with details like that in general — little details of daily life. It’s a big reason why I’ve never written a novel. A good novelist — the kind I like to read — has a facility for knowing and remembering such things…

            1. Barry

              My aunt from small town South Carolina would call it “pop” on occasion.

              I do think there probably is some small pockets that would call it “pop”

              Andy was pretty consistent in doing that so maybe from that area in Mt. Airy there were some that did that. Just a guess.

    1. bud

      There is a character from the very first episode of Days of our Lives, Julie Olson Williams, who is still on the show today. She is played by a different actress but a 57 year run for one character must be a record.

      1. Bill

        Julie has been an inspiration to everyone since 1968!
        So many of us have been through hell and back with those people..
        I was in hospital(UK-like) when Marlena Evans was murdered and they ran out of emergency personnel /meds for upset fans…Marlena wasn’t dead;she had a twin sister,;it was her twin sister in real-life,too..

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’ve never done much watching of soap operas, except for The Edge of Night. My high school in Hawaii was only a couple of blocks from my house, so I used to walk home for lunch every day. And that was on at that time, so I’d watch it as I ate. Of course, I think the shows were a week old, because they used to fly them over from the mainland and show them a week later — satellite technology was available, but only used on special occasions, I think.

          As the title suggests, The Edge of Night was sort of half soap, half cop show.

          That was in 1970-71.

          Years earlier, I was pretty much conversant with what was going on on As the World Turns, because that was my grandmother’s favorite…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I remember enjoying “Concentration.”

      Did you ever watch “Password?” I really liked that, too. It was hosted by Betty White’s husband, Allen Ludden…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        As I may have said earlier, when I was a kid, I used to watch everything on TV, all day and all night (that is, until the signoff each night). Unless it was interrupted by something stupid like going to school.

        I also remember reading pretty much all day and all night, so there may be a glitch in my memory.

        But at the very least — especially after we returned to the States after 2.5 years without TV in Ecuador — I watched so much that I was familiar with everything on the then-three channels. Talk about trivia, my head was crammed with it back then…

  2. bud

    My first reaction is just how much I agree with your 60s half hour comedies. Andy Griffith and Green Acres are great. My second thought was how very different our world view is regarding serious stuff. And that’s fine. I suspect you never read The Huffington Post or Mother Jones. Also fine. I think it’s great to have diversity. But let’s keep it civil.

    1. Barry

      The writing on Green Acres was superb. I watch it almost every night on MeTV.

      The dialogue drives my wife crazy but the references they make to popular culture and other topics speeds by at 100 mph and is often terrific. They also often made things so absurd on purpose, it’s quite brilliant.

      They had really good writers.

  3. bud

    I’ll take a quick crack at top sitcoms. No particular order:

    All in the Family
    Green Acres
    Leave it to Beaver
    Andy Griffith (black and white only)
    Big Bang Theory
    I Love Lucy
    The Good Place (first season only)
    Bewitched (Dick York seasons)
    Get Smart
    Young Sheldon
    The Guest Book
    The Russian Doll
    Mary Tyler Moore Show
    Gilligan’s Island

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Big Bang Theory” is very good. If we were doing 21st century only, it would make my list.

      In fact, I think it’s rather historic. It may be THE last really good, scripted TV show to be aired on one of the old Big Three networks.

      It really has no competition, especially among sitcoms, because “30 Rock” ended in 2013…

      1. Barry

        Take 2 minutes and 52 seconds to watch the clip.

        The 2019 Young Sheldon season finale last scene – foreshadowing Sheldon and his friends is one of the best tv episode finale scenes in the last 30 years.

        The season 2 finale show us a perfect scene when Sheldon thinks he will be all alone not knowing that in many years 6 more people will be there for him.
        8 Year old Leonard
        4 Year old Penny
        9 Year old Raj
        9 Year old Howard
        5 Year old Bernadette
        11 Year old Amy

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Remember how I said of “The West Wing,” my No. 1 show, “If not for streaming, I would not even be a fan. I never watched my first episode until years after the show ended?”

    I later realized I could say that — I think — about six shows on my expanded list. That one, and these five:

    The Wire


    The Sopranos

    30 Rock

    The IT Crowd

    I’m not entirely sure about The Wire and The Sopranos, but I’m pretty sure they were gone before I started. The others I’m sure about…

  5. Bryan Caskey

    As much as I love Band of Brothers, I have to object to classifying it as a “TV show”. I think it’s a proper mini-series, like Roots or Lonesome Dove.

    Other shows to consider:

    The Simpsons
    The Twilight Zone

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Judge Haller told me to tell you to make sure you have read the briefs and prepared yourself before you come into this courtroom again.

        And be sure to wear a suit made of some kind of cloth

  6. Doug T

    St. Elsewhere
    Homicide: Life on the Street
    The Wire
    Upstairs Downstairs
    Front Line
    Austin City Limits
    Red Skelton Comedy Hour
    Laugh in
    I Claudius
    Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
    Twighlight Zone
    Alfred Hitchcock
    …and Andy of course.

    1. Barry

      St. Elsewhere was a favorite of mine when I was in high school. I loved the flashback scenes to – what I guess- was the hospital in the 30s or 40s that they would sometimes show.

      I also loved David Morse on that show. My favorite episode (Cheek to Cheek) was when he raped in prison and had to deal with that along with the fact his wife had died. His “i miss you so much” plea for his deceased wife at the end was groundbreaking in the 1980s.

  7. Doug Ross

    [Here I edited out the paragraph that was about nothing but Doug being unpleasant to the rest of us — although I left in his slight sneer about “memory lane” in the next line.]

    My favorite shows are more recent than taking a trip down memory lane:

    Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is brilliant – acting, writing, direction
    Hacks is hilarious
    The Boys is profane, funny, always surprising
    Curb Your Enthusiasm (until the past few seasons when Larry David caught Trump Derangement Syndrome)
    Mad Men – watched it through all seasons at least 3 times
    Barry (the real one on HBO, not the fake one on this blog) is incredibly well written and season 3 has been a tour de force
    Modern Family had some great early seasons – the way they pack so much good comedy writing into 30 minutes is impressive
    Larry Sanders show was excellent
    Succession and Billions

  8. bud

    What the… Everyone agrees on something here? Hard to find fault with Andy. I wonder if a northern based blog would find a similar consensus about Andy Griffith?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, Doug would (find fault, I mean). But I cut out the part of his comment basically calling us a bunch of racists for loving it. Just, you know, in answer to your question.

      It was either that, or delete the whole thing…

      1. Barry

        My brother in law and nephew are African American. They love watching the Andy Griffith show right along with me.


        1. Doug Ross

          Some black people voted for Donald Trump and others served in his administration, thus Donald Trump was not a racist.

      2. bud

        To give Doug his due slightly, Andy was hardly cutting edge when it comes to diversity. That is perhaps a legitimate criticism of the color episodes. By the mid 60s several shows were featuring Black, Asian and women in more prominent roles. Star Trek, Twilight Zone, I Spy and others got away from the stereo types of the 50s while Andy remained pretty conventional. I recall a color episode where Helen introduced her niece to Opie. The young lady demonstrated she was more adept at a variety of athletic tasks. Opie’s fragile young ego was hurt by the experience and decided to ignore the girl. She asked Helen why Opie rejected her. Helen’s advice was to let Opie win so as not to hurt his male ego. That story line would never fly today. And even it the mid 60s that male dominant perspective comes across as highly chauvinistic.

  9. Bart

    Growing up in North Carolina and the only channel we could get clear enough to watch was WBTW, Channel 8. We could occasionally get WECT, Channel 6 in Wilmington if the weather was good and the antenna rotated until the signal come in clear enough to watch. Basically, we were a captive audience unless one lived in a larger city or had access to an expensive rotary operated tall antenna. Programming suited the times and as TV progressed, more and more diversity was offered and changing times reflected.

    The lists for the old TV shows are good ones and for the most part, most of us who grew up during that era remember them fondly. I still remember WBTW having a small orchestra that would play and fill in the gaps between programming. Ed Young had a Friday afternoon show for farmers and he would be shown driving to the studio in his white Ford compact and entering the studio where he did his half hour show. Channel 8 had Spaceship C8 hosted by Jim Player, then Dave Rogers, and finally, Ashby Ward. We never knew when someone would say something that would be aired before censors could get to it. One of the funniest was when a group of kids were laughing, and Captain Jim walked back to where they were and asked them what was so funny. One of the kids without hesitation pointed at another one and said, “Robert farted”. The look on Jim Player’s face was priceless and very quickly a Bosco cartoon was showing. Reminiscent of Art Linkletter’s, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”.

    I too still enjoy some of the old TV shows and the innocence of the times for most. But, as we grew up into adults and faced the real world, the ability to recapture some of those moments by watching tv shows of the past are moments to enjoy and remember our youth.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I thought WBTW was channel 13. But maybe before that it was 8 — which would explain the name of the spaceship.

      It was the only station we got at all clearly in Bennettsville, before cable. We could sometimes get a fuzzy image of WIS, but that would require turning the big antenna outside.

      I watched during the Captain Ashby era.

      I love that you brought up the “Johnny farted” story. We had a discussion about that awhile back. You might enjoy looking back at it. I think it was down in the comments of this post

      1. Bart

        WBTW was channel 8 before it was changed to channel 13. Never understood the change but they did it.

        Another comical occurrence was when the now Fox channel 43 was named after Ed Young, the first owner of the station. Due to a lack of local programming, the station played tapes from a service and ran them on a loop with several movies one after the other. One night when I was up working on a proposal, the tv was on the channel. I heard some “noises” coming from the tv and investigated. In the middle of the loop, someone had inserted a triple XXX movie with nothing held back. I almost hit the floor laughing. Tried to call the station to let them know but no answer. Kept trying to call the next day until someone finally answered. After telling the person answering about the “movie”, they couldn’t believe it. Later, someone from the station called back and apologized and promised they would review all of the movies on the loop from then on.

        Eventually, Ed Young sold his interest in the station, and it became FOX. Not sure about the call letters for the station originally but it did have Ed Young’s initials in it.

        Just another anecdote about the early days of television in the Florence area.


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