This is from the Boston Phoenix and was a fairly presumptious attempt to list the most influential TV series of all time. Why did the Phoenix entrust me with that duty? Nobody else wanted it! (Plus, I came up with the idea.) This was before The Sopranos and the turn of the century, both of which prompted some serious list-making in a media that hadn't been deemed worthy of it before.
The full article, and the complete list of 55 shows, is here. The fact that I picked MTV's Austin Stories as 1997's most influential series, proves that I'm a better historian than prognosticator. Here is the intro:
Like Play Doh, television is easy to reshape but impossible to return to its original form. Thanks to quick production turnover and the ability to beam a program instantaneously to nearly every household in America, television changes, bit by bit, on a daily basis. Half as old as film, TV has created many more artistic genres.
The television series began roughly 50 years ago, with the first regular drama program (Kraft Television Theatre), the first sit-com (Mary Kay and Johnny), and the first national news program (Meet the Press, still running today). A successful TV series walks a tightrope: it must have enough familiar elements to build viewer loyalty, but it must be different enough each week to hold their interest. The reward for managing this feat is a dozen copy-cat shows aiming for the same audience.
Below, in chronological order, are some of the most influential television series during the medium's first half-century — along with a few that should have been influential. Most are worthwhile viewing; a few are regrettable. The most frequent genre on the list is the sit-com, which is the most popular form of TV programming. In fact, the literate sit-coms of the early '70s won the television series new-found respect as an art form. More recently, the once-reliable sit-com format has become stale (the few exceptions include Frasier), whereas adult dramas like Homicide: Life on the Street are considered superior to Hollywood films.
As for the future, television fans should rejoice that the medium's hold on viewers has weakened in recent years, thanks to competition from videos, the Internet, and maybe the lower crime rate (though TV does its best to frighten people from going out). More so than at any time since the 1950s, television must work at attracting audiences, and that could mean more innovative programs.