Television has expanded from a few major networks to thousands of options available on demand at any time, anywhere. While the way we consume television may have changed, the sense of wonder and community that forms around a good show remains as enticing as ever. Early classics on NBC, ABC and CBS drew in tens of millions of viewers per episode, setting up formats ranging from variety hours to westerns. Over the years, television genres have expanded to include reality show dating competitions, science fiction epics, sitcoms and more. With bigger budgets, more famous actors and some of the best directors in the business, TV has a bright future ahead.
The average American still watches an average of two hours of television a day, meaning that it is an important facet in most people's lives. Have all those hours put you in a position to name the most famous shows of all time? See how well you know the television classics of the last 70 years by adding the missing word to the title. Are you a casual television enthusiast who just knows the contemporary lineup, or can you go back and name some of the hallmark shows of the genre?
Let's find out.
Larry David can never win on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," a show where he plays himself and navigates the sometimes absurd customs and manners of polite society. His hair-brained schemes include sending an accidental text on purpose, to pretending to be Orthodox to avoid donating an organ.
Michael Bluth has his hands full trying to manage the developmentally crippled members of the Bluth family. Whether it's putting up with Job's magic shows or sister Lindsay's spendthrift ways, Michael can never outrun his family.
It turns out brilliant chemists also make for nefarious meth kingpins. "Breaking Bad" is the story of Walter White's transformation from a mopey family man into a murderous drug manufacturer, burning bridges (and meth labs) along the way.
This lighthearted mockumentary series centers around the noble Leslie Knope and her efforts to beautify her town of Pawnee, Indiana. The town's quirky residents and the members of her office make for a never-ending series of complications.
Taking a turn away from idealized versions of police life, "Hill Street Blues" attempted a realistic depiction of life on the force. The gritty police procedural paved the way for other great shows like "NYPD Blue" and "The Wire."
The definitive portrayal of what it meant to grow up as a baby boomer, "The Wonder Years" captured tender and trying moments in the life of a middle school student named Kevin. Small personal moments, like a first kiss, are set to the backdrop of serious geopolitical affairs, such as the explosion of Apollo 13.
Few shows deliver as many bloody twists and turns as "Game of Thrones," a gripping fantasy story about the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and the people who live there. While the characters plot and squabble, a deadly force amasses itself in the North that might destroy them all.
"The Twilight Zone" delved into the American subconscious, playing off societal paranoia and superstitions with eerie and mysterious stand-alone episodes. What would you do if you were the last person on earth? What happens to an aging movie star who cannot come to grips with her mortality? Find out on "The Twilight Zone!"
The television comedy, "The Big Bang Theory," leaned into geek culture to deliver its punchlines. Sheldon might be one of the most brilliant astrophysicists in the world, but he has a hard time understanding humans.
Buffy is the original slayer, a mystical being who can defeat evil vampires and demons with supernatural powers. Oh, and she also has to go to school and navigate adolescence while she tries to save the world.
A hallmark of American television, "I Love Lucy" followed the exploits of married couple Ricky and Lucy. Ricky was a Cuban bandleader and Lucy only wanted the best for his career, but inadvertently caused him one headache after the other.
"Leave it to Beaver" was the quintessential portrayal of the idealized American family in the 1950s. The wholesome show provided a place of refuge watching the innocent adventures of Beaver and his brother Wally.
Don Draper and company smoke cigarettes and drink martinis in 1960s New York City, all while trying to woo over big-name clients to their advertising agency. The series exposes the deceptive glamour of the era and picks at the underlying societal problems of the day.
Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge took a satirical swing at everyday life in Texas with his hit series, "King of the Hill." Hank is the patriarch of the family, selling propane and propane accessories by day and drinking beer in the alley with his pals in the afternoon.
"Orange is the New Black" heralded in a new era of TV, proving that shows from newcomer streaming services could compete with the best prestige shows of the traditional networks. We join career woman Piper as she ends up in prison for past misdeeds. Along the way, we meet a colorful cast of characters with names like Crazy Eyes and Porn Stash.
If you're looking for feel-good comedy, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is not the show for you. The Gang is a group of four sociopaths who have no qualms with breaking down taboos and screwing each other over for their own personal gain.
David Lynch created a show ahead of its time when he introduced the world to "Twin Peaks." The murder of Laura Palmer calls in FBI Agent Cooper to the small logging town of Twin Peaks. It doesn't take long to prove the show isn't just another murder mystery, as unexplainable events and eccentric characters deepen the intrigue.
Mayberry, North Carolina, is in good hands with straight-shooting sheriff Andy Taylor. The small-town exploits of Sheriff Andy and his bug-eyed deputy Barney are classic feel-good American television.
Zombie fans rejoiced to learn about "The Walking Dead," a big-budget series that follows a group of survivors as they navigate through a zombie infestation. The rotating cast of characters and frequent deaths of series mainstays means that any episode could have dramatic consequences.
Aaron Sorkin created the best drama about the American political system with his show, "The West Wing." Following the president and his cabinet, the show tackled tough cultural issues and contained compelling dialogue.
Unlike previous iterations of "Star Trek," the crew of Deep Space 9 does not have the USS Enterprise to help in their fight against alien species. We have a gruff Klingon named Worf, the relentless Dominion invaders and the stolid Captain Sisko.
Sometimes the family business is a car dealership. Other times it's a restaurant. In "Six Feet Under," the Fisher family runs a funeral parlor. The show is notable for its darkly comedic approach to mortality.
Eleanor Shellstrop wasn't exactly a good person when she was alive, which is why she is so surprised to have ended up in "The Good Place" in the afterlife. As she tries to keep her secret under wraps, she learns how to be a good person from an ethics professor and a philanthropist.
Even people who aren't fans of football fall in love with "Friday Night Lights," a compelling drama about a small town high school football team in Texas. Following the players, students and the coaches, the drama will leave you cheering or heartbroken.
Do you ever watch a film so bad that it's actually kinda good? That's the premise of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," a show where a human test subject is forced to watch terrible movies, like "Manos: Hands of Fate," and comments on them to keep his sanity.
This VH1 reality show combined two things people loved most in reality TV: celebrities and romance. In "Flavor of Love," rapper Flavor Flav invited 20 women to live in his mansion, with hilarious results.
Carrie Bradshaw writes an advice column called "Sex in the City," tackling the subject of modern dating in the Big Apple. She is able to glean plenty of material from her own life and the lives of her three best friends.
Whether they are running from the Galactic Federation or visiting an outer space arcade, Rick and Morty take the viewer on a mind-bending adventure in the animated series named after the two lead characters. The show's loyal fans enjoy a wide range of eccentric characters, such as the stoic Birdperson and the pedantic Gearhead.
Welcome to Downton Abbey, home to the noble Crawley family and their many servants. Taking place mainly in the gorgeous estate, the show tells the story of dynastic exploits against a backdrop of real-life events, such as WWI and the Spanish Flu.
Humanity finds itself on the ropes in "Battlestar Galactica," a sci-fi drama where humans are hunted by Cylons as they try to find Earth. The show shined for tense action scenes, compelling romances and tough ethical dilemmas.
Before the Chuck Norris memes populated the internet in the 2000s, the martial arts star was kicking criminal butt on "Walker, Texas Ranger." He portrayed an old-fashioned do-gooder out to serve up some serious round-house kicks.
The Monty Python comedy troupe was a shining example of dry, absurdist British humor, scoring major hits with feature films like "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Their TV show, "Monty Python's Flying Circus," introduced a series of shorter sketches that left the audience in stitches.
Before "Sex in the City," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" portrayed the comedic ups and downs of being a single career woman navigating the dating scene and a professional life. Here we see Mary trying to turn around the fortunes of a low-rated news station.
"Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County" invited you into the glamorous and sun-soaked life of Orange County teenagers. The hit reality show centered around Lauren Conrad, who later starred in "The Hills."
Learn a little geography while watching an intense reality show competition in "The Amazing Race." Since 2001, the show has pit teams of two in a race around the world where they must deal with puzzles and physical challenges.