Ten Criminally Overlooked and Under-rated Television Series, Part One

by coop-16 | created - 03 Jun 2013 | updated - 11 Jul 2013 | Public

These are shows that usually lasted a single ssason ( or less) that were, and are, sadly under-rated, and , in several cases, almost unknown.

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1. Channing (1963–1964)

60 min | Drama

8.1
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The series depicted life at fictitious Channing College.

Stars: Henry Jones, Jason Evers, Tyler McVey, Ed Nelson

Votes: 28

The Brainy Show That Died. The first- and last- serious television drama, other than The Paper Chase, to be set in a liberal arts college. It starred two excellent actors, the fellow with the piercing eyes, Jason (The Brain That Wouldn't Die, The Green Berets, The Guns of Will Sonnett) Evers, and the fellow with the unforgettable voice, Henry (The Bad Seed And Vertigo) Jones, as, respectively, Joseph Howe,English Professor, Korean War veteran, and would-be great novelist, and his mentor and friend, Fred Baker, wise and sensitive Dean of the College. The episodes varied in quality, but the best featured stupendous acting, both by established legends(Agnes Morehead, Leo G. Carroll, David Wayne.)), and a galaxy of future stars (Michael Parks, Peter Fonda, Keir Dullea, James Caan, Dawn Wells, George Segal, James Earl Jones, and Suzanne Pleshette, among others, as well as John Casavettes, Robert Stephens, Leslie Nielsen and Susan Kohner. The literate scripts often dealt with edgy, complex issues; sexual harassment, Capital Punishment, political corruption, Jewish Identity, black on black racism, and the responsibility of artists and intellectuals for the rise of Hitler. One superb episode, A Bang And a Whimper, starred Robert Stephens as doomed Irish poet, Paddy Riordan, who a star-struck college student (Susan Kohner), becomes infatuated with.

2. Nichols (1971–1972)

60 min | Western

8.1
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In 1914, Nichols, a soldier, sick of killing, returns to his Arizona home town, named after his family, and is strong-armed into serving as sheriff by the Ketcham clan, who run the area. ... See full summary »

Stars: James Garner, Margot Kidder, Neva Patterson, John Beck

Votes: 161

James Garner's forgotten masterpiece. Brilliantly written, wonderfully acted revisionist western, set in a small Texas town in 1914. Nichols drives not a horse but a motorcycle, and the town he tries to protect really does want his protection, but he does the best he can. The first-and last TV series to kill off its leading character. Margot Kidder and Stuart Margolin are excellent in this as well

3. It's a Man's World (1962– )

60 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

8.5
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Wes and Tom-Tom are friends going to college and with musician Vern share a houseboat. Wes also watches out for his younger brother Howie and the four of them deal with girls, jobs, and ... See full summary »

Stars: Glenn Corbett, Ted Bessell, Michael Burns, Randy Boone

Votes: 84

Three and a half men-on a houseboat. This quirky, low-key 'dramedy' has its detractors, but they are heavily out numbered by its fans and admirers, all over the world. The shows producer, Peter Tewkesbury ( My Three Sons And Father Knows best), wanted to create a new kind of television show, that would dramatize the aspirations and anxieties of young people. Randy Boone, Ted Bessell, and Glenn Corbett played three young men from very different socioeconomic backgrounds and diffrent parts of the country. Michael Burns played Corbett's twelve year old nephew. The quartet shared a houseboat called The Elephant , which was anchored in the Ohio river not far far from the small mill and college town, Cordella, Ohio. With the exception of Jack Gould at the New York Times, almost all the critics loved the show, and it developed a cult following. When NBC announced its cancellation, the Peacock Network was deluged with protest letters that did not save the show. However, when it was rerun in foreign countries, it was a major hit, and still boasts admirers in countries ranging from Australia to Zambia.

4. The Great Adventure (1963–1964)

60 min | Drama

8.9
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A filmed series of one-hour dramatizations of the lives of famous historical persons, as well as important historical events.

Stars: Russell Johnson, Van Heflin, Kent Smith, Eddie Little Sky

Votes: 83

The Greatest Adventure: I was five years old in 1963, and every Friday evening at 7.30, I would be gazing at the 'idiot box', watching something that was far, far, from idiotic: The Great Adventure. The show offered stirring, sometimes comic, more often dramatic, wonderfully acted and superbly written, true tales from American History. The show had stirring music from Richard Rogers and compelling narration, first by van Heflin, and later by Russell Johnson. One episode offered a faithful account of the Wounded Knee Massacre, another told the story of the doomed Confederate Submarine, The Hunley. Every episode would end with the narrator , sitting in a book - lined study, pointing at the audience and saying , "Remember! Learning is the great adventure." NOTE: Not on DVD, and not likely to be for a hundred years.

5. Call to Glory (1984–1985)

60 min | Drama

7.9
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Colonel Raynor Sarnac has to balance his family and his duty as head of a flight group facing the political tensions of the early 60's. Actual historical events are part of various stories as are the activities of three active children.

Stars: Craig T. Nelson, Cindy Pickett, Elisabeth Shue, Gabriel Damon

Votes: 172

For the Greater Glory:Little known, short-lived and utterly magnificent. Like certain other great, short lived shows- Home Front, I'll Fly Away, Sons and Daughters, this was a drama set in the American past. In this case, it was the nineteen sixties, and it was originally designed to follow an Air Force family, The Sarnacs, from Camelot, through the upheavals of the sixties, up to Watergate and perhaps beyond. Sadly, it only lasted one year.

6. Homefront (1991–1993)

60 min | Drama, History, Romance

8.9
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World War II is over and the boys from the town of River Run, Ohio, are coming home. It seems that life is slowly back to normal, but war has changed everything and they will never be the same again.

Stars: Kyle Chandler, Sammi Davis, Ken Jenkins, Mimi Kennedy

Votes: 913

No Place Like Homefront: If this was not one of the ten greatest drama series in television history, (excluding Westerns and science fiction fantasy, which deserve separate categories,) I do not know what qualifies. A great cast and superb writing recreated small town, post World War Two, America with intelligence, compassion, and not a single drop of fake sentimentality.

7. Wojeck (1966–1968)

60 min | Drama

8.7
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A coroner searches for truth and justice with the help of his friends, while trying to hold his family together.

Stars: John Vernon, Patricia Collins, Ted Follows, Carl Banas

Votes: 32

Canadian Gem: Sometimes considered the first great dramatic series in the history Canadian television, or to be precise, one of the first two. The other was Quentin Durgens, MP, in which Gordon Pinsent rocketed to fame (in Canada), playing an idealistic, crusading member of Parliament, fighting for his 'people'(his constituents back home), while intereacting with a different set of "people", his fellow members of The House of Commons. (Gee, I wonder where they got that idea. )Wojeck was a very different show. John Vernon played, not a handsome, idealistic and crusading, member of parliament. but instead a not very handsome, but still idealistic and crusading, medical examiner. Just as Sixty Minutes was largely inspired by the remarkable Canadian weekly news show, This Hour Has Seven Days, Wojeck helped inspire American shows such as Quincy, M.E. Since then, of course, Medical Examiners have frequenty been heroes on Canadian Television. ( De Vinci's Inquest, Murdoch.) Needless to say, it is not on DVD and the CBC apparently has no plans to release it or Quentin Durgens, or This Hour, or anything else from their library, on DVD.

8. The Westerner (1960– )

30 min | Action, Western

8.3
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Laconic cowboy Dave Blasingame wanders the Wild West with his faithful dog Brown and the occasional companionship of pal Burgundy Smith.

Stars: Brian Keith, Hank Gobble, Jimmy Lee Cook, Michael T. Mikler

Votes: 101

A Cowboy and His Dog: Sam Peckinpah's first flash of genius was this short lived, but brilliant, "realistic" western. At that time (1960) the Airwaves were full of Westerns. Many were excellent( Gunsmoke, Maverick,, Wagon Train, etc.), some were horrific. However, very few even tried to portray the west realistically. Peckinpah wanted to change that, and, in this critically acclaimed show, he did so. Brian Keith played Don Blassingame, a perfectly ordinary saddle tramp, illiterate and possessed of mostly ordinary skills (At the beginning, and at the insistance of the network, he was a marksman who owned a rifle with a telescopic sight. Peckinpah eliminated that nonsense by the third episode.). What made Blassingame different was his dog, a loyal and brave mongrel named "Brown" (Played by the dog from Old Yeller.), who was sometimes much smarter than his ostensible master. Blassingame also had a "frenemy", a gambler and con-artist named Burgundy Smith, played by the great John Dehner as a sleazier version of Maverick. ( Dehner, of course, had played the crooked banker who is conned by Bret, Bart, and their fellow rogues in the greatest of all Maverick episodes-one of the greatest TV episodes, period,- Shady Deal At Sunny Acres. ) The show, needless to say, is not on DVD though the Western Channel apparently reruns it every other decade. The show is still well remembered enough for Keith to have made a brief appearance as Blassingame in one of those Kenny Rogers "Gambler" movies. Kenny and his sidekick (played by Reba McIntire ) run into old Blassingame, no longer wandering but sitting on a porch, an old dog half asleep beside him.

9. Coronet Blue (1967– )

60 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

9.0
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Michael Alden is an amnesiac, who must discover his real identity before the operatives of a mysterious group locate him and kill him. The key to his past might be "Coronet Blue" - a meaningless phrase he for some reason remembers.

Stars: Frank Converse, Joe Silver, Brian Bedford, Robert Burr

Votes: 102

A Riddle Wrapped Inside An Enigma. Some people still insist that a summer replacement show from 1969- a little British offering called The Prisoner- was the greatest television show of them all. They have a point. However, two years earlier, an almost equally bizarre show had an cult following all its own. In 1964, CBS , the Tiffany network, cancelled the critically acclaimed flop Slattery's People, which was being crushed by The Man From U.N.C.L. E. in the ratings wars. When James Moser's and Richard Crenna's masterpiece was cancelled, the powers that were at the network, led by that Prince of Darkness, "The Smiling Cobra" ( As Great Adventure creator John Houseman called him.), James T. Aubrey Jr. , thought they knew what would replace it the next year. It was a strange spy drama called "Coronet Blue", created by B-movie maverick Larry ( "Q", "It's Alive","The Private Files of J.Edgar Hoover.) Cohen. Oddly, the basic premise of the show, and the name of its enigmatic hero , were first introduced in another excellent show that has been sent down The Memory Hole, The Nurses. In the episode, an amnesiac "man with no name" is fished out of the East River, and named "Michael Alden", for the fictitious " Alden Hospital" were the "nurses", Shirl Conway and Zina Bethune, (Yep, the same Zina Bethune who played "the Girl" in Scorsese's first feature,"Who's That Knocking At my Door.?") toiled. And what was Coronet Blue? Two things, apparently,. For one thing, it was a phrase the amnesiac( Frank Converse). kept uttering as he was fished out of the river. For another, it was the name of "Alden's' only belonging, a book of matches. 13 episodes were filmed, but by that time , something incredible had happened . Slattery's People had been saved! The "flop" had hundreds of thousands of fans, and they showered the network with remarkably literate letters of protest. In addition, Aubrey was forced out at CBS, in part for greenlighting The Baileys of Balboa, in part for some rumors of misconduct almost worthy of Caligula. So the network granted the "prestige " show a temporary reprieve,only to see it crushed in 13 weeks by Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kurakin. ( For some unexplained reason, the brilliant minds at CBS thought a serious, civic minded show exalting democracy was just the right show to lure the young fans of Solo and Kurakin away.) Then , instead of replacing it with Coronet, CBS substituted Slattery's People, with ANOTHER show in which an Italian American actor pplatyed an Irish American lawyer, The Trials Of O'Brien, starring a fellow named Peter Falk as a mystery solving , down at the heels, attorney. Finally, CBS introduced Coronet Blue as a summer replacement show. Though it was initially panned by many critics, it becamce a hit. The shows enigmas, and the search of its hero for identity, resonated with viewers. Alden had two allies in his search for his true identity,a beatnik nightclub owner, (Joe Silver) and a Thomas Merton-like monk, played by that superb character actor, Brian Bedford. A guest star in the first episode was none other than Susan Hampshire, before The Forsyte Saga made her, for a time, a near celebrity the world over. There was just one problem. In the interval, the handsome, unconventional Converse had become a star on the excellent police procedural NYPD, and so Coronet Blue could not make the 1967 CBS Fall lineup. So the world will never know just who Michael Alden really was.

10. Stoney Burke (1962–1963)

60 min | Drama, Sport, Western

8.3
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Stoney Burke is a rodeo rider who wants to win the Golden Buckle, the award to the world's champion saddle bronco rider. He didn't win it, but he encountered a considerable amount of ... See full summary »

Stars: Jack Lord, Warren Oates, Robert Dowdell, Bill Hart

Votes: 113

The Quest For The Golden Buckle. I know all of the "obvious' choices: Bus Stop, Slattery's People, I'll Fly Away, The John LaRoquette Show, Sapphire, He And She, Buffalo Bill, East Side/West Side, The Richard Boone Show, Freaks and Geeks, Sons And Daughters, Q.E.D, and, above all, My World And Welcome to it. Those are all wonderful shows, almost all of them undeservedly forgotten However, this forgotten masterpiece, has a valid claim to be considered the most under-rated show in television history. Leslie Stevens, the underappreciated near genius who also created and produced The Outer Limits, devised a modern day western which was an extraordinary allegory with mythical and ethical symbolism. Inspired by such wonderful films as The Misfits and Lonely Are the Brave, Stoney Burke told the story of A modern day cowboy's quest for the near mythic "golden Buckle". Long before he ever said "Book em' Dano", Jack Lord offered the performance of his life as the knight errant rodeo star Burke. The show also featured superb performances by two actors who were to fashion even greater careers than Jack Lord: Warren Oates and Bruce Dern. Dern was extraordinarily subtle as one of Burkes squires, while Warren Oates showed that he was probably the most under-rated American actor of the century as Burkes roguish, sometimes unscrupulous, but loyal and lovable, best friend and sometimes rival, Ves Painter. To use the language of role-playing games, Burke was "lawful good', while Painter was "chaotic good". The show featured great theme music by Dominic Frontiere, excellent direction by the likes of Tom Gries, path breaking cinematography by people like Comrad Hall and Haskelll Wexler and guest stars ranging from James Coburn to Sally Kellerman. Finally, the whole thing is on DVD. I plan to buy it, together with The Prisoner, when I am prosperous