E.R. (1994- 2009)
Chaotic by nature, most emergency rooms contain endless drama made possible by trauma, death, sadness, waiting rooms, and code blues, but that’s usually where it ends. NBC’s long-running drama ER saw its share of explosions, emergency evacuations, criminals exacting revenge on patients and doctors alike, and more romance than any ER in history. For 15 seasons as many as 25 million people tuned in every Thursday night to see what would happen next. Watching doctors and nurses jump on gurneys to perform CPR on a patient who suddenly lost a pulse gave us a continued rush. Indeed George Clooney, Noah Wyle, Eric La Salle, Anthony Edwards, Juliana Margulies, Sherry Stringfield, Maura Tierney, Goran Visnjic, Mekhi Phifer, Eric Palladino, John Stamos, Parminder Nagra and countless other ensemble cast members are why ER garnered 23 Emmys and 124 nominations.
The Wire (2002- 2008)
‘Who done its’ are a favorite of viewers hoping to solve the case before the cops do. Although it only ran for 5 seasons, this Baltimore drama focused on two things: each season highlighted a different facet of the city of Baltimore, be it its drug scene, the port system, city government, and there were no big name actors on the series. A risky move by creator David Simon, but it paid off. Viewers loved the realistic camera shots, story lines and use of characters. Nominated for not only mainstream awards such as the Emmys, The Wire was nominated for 15 NAACP Image Awards. It is one of the few episodic dramas that cast majority African Americans in key roles, other than just drug dealers, but as members of the police department, attorneys, and politicians.
Lost (2004- 2010)
Oceanic Flight 815, originating in Sydney on its way to Los Angeles makes a crash landing on a deserted island somewhere the Pacific Ocean. For 6 seasons, the survivors encounter everything on this island from polar bears, smoke monsters, dead relatives and the hostile ‘other’ people living on the island. Complemented by flashbacks of the survivor’s lives before being stuck on this Twilight Zone version of Gilligan’s Island, people tuned in every Wednesday, dying to know what mysterious events would befall Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, Sayyid, Sun, Jin, Clare and the others. A commercial success and critically acclaimed for its acting, writing and directing, the Lost pilot was the most expensive in ABC’s history costing between $10- $14 million dollars. But that gamble paid off and its monumental series finale became an international event, broadcast simultaneously in the U.S., U.K., Spain, Italy, Portugal, Israel and Turkey.
NYPD Blue (1993- 2005)
Saying damn on TV might have gotten a rise out viewers in the 1960s, but the cursing and drinking Detective Andy Sipowicz of the 15th Precinct took that to a whole new level. That was all creators Stephen Bochco and David Milch would need to make NYPD Blue the second highest-rated drama in television history. Personal trials intertwined with criminal ones, NYPD Blue boasted an all-star cast that included Gordon Clapp, James McDaniel, Jimmy Smits, Rick Schroeder, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Sherry Stringfield, Dana Delany, Nicholas Turturro, Henry Simmons, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Gail O’Grady, Charlotte Ross, Andrea Thompson, Esai Morales, David Caruso, Bill Brotrup, Amy Brennemen and countless others. In its 12 years on the air, NYPD Blue took home 7 Emmys, dozens of nominations, 5 Golden Globes and 3 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The Sopranos (1999- 2007)
Forget the cops and the doctors- the only thing Americans can’t get enough of is the Mafia. After The Godfather, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, and The Untouchables, about the only thing we hadn’t seen was a mobster who suffers anxiety attacks, sees a psychiatrist and cries. In 6 seasons, we watched Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, visit his ‘shrink’, give orders to Christopher, Sil, Paulie Walnuts, and Big Pussy, and attempt to be a family man to his wife Carmela, and their two children. Tony’s stuggles within his own family, rivals and with the Feds, is told through his therapy sessions and oftentimes through dream sequences. These mechanisms allow the audience to see the man behind the ‘tough guy’ persona. After receiving a mass of critical praise and awards, The Sopranos finale ensured the show’s mystique would live on long after the show’s end.