By Mr. Black
It’s that time of year. No one wants to do any real work so hack writers turn out never-ending “Top XXX” lists for clickbait. Variety recently released their own list, “The 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.” This list is chock-full of dogshit shows like Top Chef and Will & Grace and they even had the gall to place Sex In The City in the number six position. Conspicuously absent were all-time greats including Magnum, P.I., Jake and the Fatman, The Walker’s Cay Chronicles or even The A-Team. Based on their choices, it doesn’t appear as if Variety had a single straight male on their selection committee.
To correct this injustice, I created my own list for Field Ethos. For the record, this wasn’t an official FE staff collaboration; my brother-in-law and I simply came up with our own Top 10 last night over several bottles of red wine. Fortunately, we had the sense to write it down. Both of us dedicated the bulk of our childhoods to researching this topic so our opinions should carry some weight.
To narrow it down to only 10 shows, we had to make the criteria strict. Only episodic series from the drama, action and comedy categories were selected—no outdoor shows, no talk shows and, for God’s sake, no reality shows. So, here it is, this hack writer’s contribution to the year-end garbage.
This would be a decent, even watchable, cop show but one X-factor elevates it to an all-time great: Tom Selleck. Bolstering the show’s stock even further is the fact that Selleck’s character, NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan, carries a “Fitz Special”— a Colt Police Positive .38 revolver customized by the late John Henry Fitzgerald. The gun is a true Fitz, not a fake, and is part of Selleck’s personal collection.
Though it’s really too early to call this one an all-time great, it shows incredible potential. This show combines two of my favorite locations, Montana and Africa, in what is perhaps my favorite historical period— the 1920s. Throw in some cowboy shootouts, dangerous game hunting and multiple smokeshow blondes, and you’ve got my attention. If you let me sit down and sketch out my perfect tv series, it would look a lot like this one. It’s basically Legends of the Fall with hotter chicks and more gunplay. I can’t wait for Season Two.
Though I watched M.A.S.H., it was only because we had three channels and it was the best option available in its time-slot. Though probably overrated, it just feels like one of those shows that you have to put on your list— like Citizen Kane or The Wizard of Oz if we were ranking films. I’ve checked that box, time to move on.
This show’s inclusion on the list may surprise you but stick with me here. Not only did the show display some fairly strong talent in future cougars Jennifer Anniston and Courtney Cox, it was pretty damn funny. This show’s run overlapped with my college and 20-something years and many an aspiring Mrs. Black tried to pull off the “Rachel look.” All of that is trumped, though, by the fact that the show’s management had the great wisdom to cast Tom Selleck in the role of Monica’s love interest Richard Burke. My friend, Mr. Blue, who still has a poster of Anniston in his locker at work, credits her tight shirts and low set temperatures with getting him through the U.S. Air Force Academy. He reminded me that, though Selleck initially appeared in the series sans mustache thanks to a film role, he rocked it in later episodes. The ‘stache even became a plot device with Joey and Chandler—may he rest in peace—growing mustaches to be more like Selleck/Burke. This character helped remind America how damn good Selleck’s acting chops were.
8. Da Ali G Show
This just might have been the funniest TV show of all time, introducing us to Sasha Baron Cohen and his alter egos: Ali G, Borat Sagdiyev and Brüno Gehard. This show and its characters permanently changed my vocabulary and cemented Cohen’s spot on my comedic Mount Rushmore. It takes balls to try and sell Donald Trump an ice cream glove or to ask a University of Alabama running back whether he is allowed to date other members of the team. Cohen very nearly received a well-deserved beating for asking a gun show patron how far up the “poopenshaft” he was able to stick his seven-mag. I could watch this show on a loop and never get tired of it.
I’m pretty hungover right now so I’m going to copy and paste my comments on this show from a previous FE submission. https://fieldethos.com/top-5-80s-tv-handguns/ Hey, at least I wrote it— maybe I should be the president of Harvard? Hunter was one of my favorites. Sgt. Rick Hunter killed so many criminals that I used to joke that for every week he worked, he got two weeks off for the LAPD’s mandatory post-shooting administrative leave. Played by former L.A. Ram’s player Fred Dryer, Hunter carried a variety of firearms throughout the show’s five seasons, but the coolest was his Heckler & Koch P9S. A futuristic-looking, double-action and single-stack 9mm made during the 1970s, the P9S is but a footnote today. Hunter’s P9S wore an aftermarket compensator and he carried it in a vertical leather shoulder rig. Does it get any more 80s?
6. Boardwalk Empire
As great as The Sopranos was, my favorite New Jersey organized crime saga was Showtime’s Boardwalk Empire. Beside the near-constant nudity, my favorite element of the show was Richard Harrow. Harrow was a World War I veteran who wore a prosthetic face because half of his had been shot off by a Hun. A former sniper, Harrow becomes a loyal enforcer for the show’s main character— wielding a variety of classic firearms as he stacks bodies. He even mentions owning a Smith & Wesson Triple-Lock, perhaps the only ever TV shout-out to that piece of Americana. To the lost…
5. Strike Back
According to our drunken scribbles, Hill Street Blues was supposed to occupy the #5 slot. I’m sure it was a good show but, to be honest, I never watched it. My mom was a fan of it and I remember hearing the theme song as I marched-off to bed. If 1923 was the show that I would create as an adult, Strike Back was the show that I would have created as a teenager. It’s basically soft-core Skinemax porn combined with violent depictions of close combat. The main characters, a pair of ex-special operations guys, will stop in the middle of a gunfight to lay pipe. I’m serious. If you don’t care about plot but love gun battles and sex scenes that you can pass off to your wife as actual television, this is your show. You might call it sophomoric; I call it awesome.
4. Simon & Simon
Simon & Simon came on right after Magnum, P.I. on Thursday night. Simon & Simon was like a visual post-coital cigarette easing us back into reality after 60 minutes of small screen ecstasy. The show followed a pair of brothers, Rick and A.J. Simon, who were private investigators in and around San Diego. Rick sported a cowboy hat, carried a big N-frame Smith and drove a beat-up Dodge Power Wagon. A.J. was a smooth-talking pretty boy who no doubt influenced my affinity for Polo shirts. It was The Odd Couple meets The Rockford Files. The brothers’s personalities clashed as they solved crimes, fought bad guys and chased a little tail. They also had a crossover episode with Magnum, P.I. in 1982. The only greater collaboration that I can think of would have been when AC/DC, Van Halen and Motley Crüe all appeared on the Monsters of Rock Tour together two years later.
3. Tour of Duty
Tour of Duty was the first really great TV depiction of the Vietnam War. The show followed a platoon of infantrymen, regular Joes from every walk of life, as they did their best to survive that brutal conflict. The platoon eventually evolves into a detachment of MACV-SOG commandos, a factual stretch but a cool depiction of some of America’s most unsung heroes. The show’s pilot aired the night before I started fifth grade, and I never missed an episode during the three-season run. It was an honestly great show that did its best to honor the sacrifices made by American soldiers in an unpopular war. Tour of Duty also had one of the coolest theme songs ever, The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black. I’ll never hear that song without thinking about guys seating mags and racking charging handles in the back of a Huey.
2. Miami Vice
Miami Vice was a classic that changed television forever. In hindsight, it was the first-ever prestige tv show, combining the cinematic elements of a feature film with the episodic format. Vice was the brainchild of Michael Mann, who superbly depicted 1980s South Florida. The show changed American culture and James “Sonny” Crockett, played by Don Johnson, redefined “cool”. No self-respecting male has worn loafers with socks since the show’s first season. Despite the neon colors that people associate with the series, Vice’s theme was dark and gritty. Underneath the Ferraris, cigarette boats, leather shoulder holsters and Bren Tens was a serious drama that holds up to this day. If you think I’m blowing 80s nostalgia smoke, go watch both parts of “Calderone’s Return” and get back to me. If watching Jim Zubiena execute a perfect Mozambique from concealment doesn’t do it for you, you’ll probably love Sex in the City. This show is a serious contender for the number one spot and there’s no shame in placing it at the top of your list.
1. Magnum, P.I.
I don’t even know where to start. Honestly, do I even need to justify this one? Our mutual love for this show is the glue that holds the Field Ethos family together. I’m pretty sure that a job interview with Schoby would consist of one question: what’s your favorite tv show?
Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, portrayed by the great Tom Selleck, was the epitome of the American male. T.M. didn’t take himself too seriously but he always got the job done and could be a total pipe-hitter when the need arose. Magnum, P.I. combined action, drama and comedy into a single masterpiece. The show was so good that, when CBS had Selleck’s character killed in the final episode of Season 7, the public outcry was so strong that they brought the show back for a final season. It should be noted that, in those days, you couldn’t tweet at the network, you had to physically mail a letter to express your outrage.
So many life lessons were handed-down to our generation during those eight glorious years. Magnum taught us that chests should be hairy and that shorts should be short. That handguns should be 1911s and that Russians get shot in the face. I’m wearing a Pepsi Rolex GMT Master on my wrist as I write this, praying that Santa will bring me a Ferrari 308 GTS for Christmas. I keep checking the tidal pool for stewies.
I gotta go, I need a Bloody Mary…
Editor’s Note: This is Mr. Black’s story and he’s allowed to have his own opinion … and be wrong. The editorial staff cannot abide the inclusion of Friends and the exclusion of The Wire.