My Top Five: Couples

It’s Valentines’ Day week so it seemed fitting I should turn my thoughts to romance. Of all the show we’ve aired on UNC-TV, many have featured loving couples. Some were for laughs while others ended in tears. So here they are -MY TOP FIVE COUPLES.

5) FREDDIE & STUART, VICIOUS. These two elderly gents might seem to the casual viewer as vicious as the series name suggests but throughout all the bitchiness and barbs there is never a single doubt that Freddie and Stuart do truly love one another.

4) JAMES & HELEN, ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL. The classic TV series is probably one of the best adaptations ever. The books are marvelous but Robert Hardy, Peter Davison and Christopher Timothy bring the vets of Skeldale House to vivid life, elevating the program over the source material. However, James and Helen Herriot were the heart of that series, affectionate and loyal and devoted to the end.

3) SUSAN & GORDON, SESAME STREET. They were two of the original human characters on the show and they have remained together as a couple, as part of a family, for five decades. Plus, it’s important to note that for many kids Susan and Gordon were the only example of a stable, loving relationship they had in their lives.

2) MARY & MATTHEW, DOWNTON ABBEY. Not every couple gets a happy ending but it’s the time together that counts. Yet for many episodes, this will-they-won’t-they twosome felt doomed from the start. So when Lady Mary and her beloved Matthew finally, amazingly, came together in that second season Christmas Special, oh the tears … pure tears of joy.

1) TOM & BARBARA, GOOD NEIGHBORS. Sure, it could be said they were doing nothing more than confirming the myth that everyone in Britain is a lovable, middle-class eccentric but they did it so well who would complain? The premise of a self-sufficiency experiment in the suburbs works so well because of these two main characters, Tom and Barbara Good (Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal). If only Tom could contrive the idea to turn their back garden into a real garden, complete with livestock, then only Barbara could have the vision and support and love to allow Tom to fulfill his dream. It works because we completely buy them as a 100% committed couple.

So there it is: MY TOP FIVE COUPLES. As always, this is my list, my personal selection. I stuck with loving couples, as seen on the many programs we’ve aired over the years on UNC-TV, and not just friends or colleagues (so no Holmes & Watson or Mathnet’s Monday & Frankly). I offer them up not as the best or greatest in any fashion. The list is simply that – a list. And it’s completely subjective. Feel free to make your own.

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My Top Five: Life-Changing Programs

UNC-TV has often used the slogan “life-changing television” because we believe the programming we offer can indeed alter a person’s life. It doesn’t have to be in a major way; the smallest thing can make a difference and change a life, whether it’s receiving a GED by watching telecourses, building something with your bare hands after viewing a how-to program or making the most of your Italian honeymoon after seeing Rick Steves show you how.

So I got to thinking: What shows have changed my life? There were more than a few that sprang to mind but I narrowed it down to the usual quintet. So here they are – MY TOP FIVE LIFE-CHANGING SHOWS. Continue reading

My Top Five: Masterpiece Theatre Shows

The series now known as Masterpiece started in 1971 as Masterpiece Theatre. Originally presented by Alistair Cooke, the program offered an incredibly diverse selection of British programming for American audiences. Over the years, Masterpiece has adapted classic literature and featured exceptional original series. I’ve been a fan since I discovered the series in college and have seen quite a few in my time with UNC-TV. But what are my favorites – MY TOP FIVE?

I’m limiting this to the original run of Masterpiece Theatre (the program splintered into Classic, Contemporary and Mystery! around 2008), otherwise you can bet Downton Abbey would make the list. I’ve also eschewed series that started on Mystery! and moved to Masterpiece Theatre (like Prime Suspect). That still leaves over 35 seasons from which to choose.

Lastly, keep in mind, I’m not suggesting these series are the “best” because such superlatives are subjective. These are simply my personal faves – MY TOP FIVE MASTERPIECE THEATRE SHOWS.

5) CASANOVA. Russell T. Davies’ story of the legendary Italian adventurer featured Peter O’Toole as the elderly Casanova recalling his younger exploits. David Tennant starred as the young Casanova in what was, essentially, a proto-Doctor Who. (Davies would go on to resurrect the classic science fiction series and Tennant would play the tenth Doctor.) Continue reading

My Top Five: Dogs

It’s now the Year of the Dog according to Chinese astrology and there have been loads of loyal canine companions on shows UNC-TV has broadcast over the decades. From Wellard on EastEnders to Barkley on Sesame Street, these memorable mutts have dug holes in our hearts and buried bones in our souls (if you’ll forgive the very disturbing and messy metaphor). But which pooches are my personal faves? I thought about it and came up with MY TOP FIVE DOGS from PBS shows and other public television fare we’ve aired here at UNC-TV.

5) MARTHA (Martha Speaks) Wagstaff City’s most vocal canine gained her power of human speech when she was fed alphabet soup and it went to her brain instead of her stomach. Not the most scientific of origins but it’s a dandy comedic premise for a kids show. Continue reading

My Top Five: Detectives

There are loads of private investigators to choose from on the many series UNC-TV has broadcast over the decades. One series alone (Mystery!) is pretty much devoted to the genre. So I started thinking: who are my personal favorite detectives?

I tried to gravitate towards characters that are sleuths first and foremost rather than police constables who utilize procedure to apprehend criminals. A fine line, I agree – but it narrowed the focus a bit.

As always, these are MY TOP FIVE. Not the best, not the most popular – just my personal favorites. Thus, without further ado, here are MY TOP FIVE: DETECTIVES…

5) The Gumshoes of ACME, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? – The sleuths of ACME come perilously close to falling under the “police” category since they are part of an organization, but they are gumshoes (it’s in their name) so I had to include them. Throw in Special Agent Greg Lee and Lynne Thigpen as The Chief and the WITWICS gumshoes will always be cool. Continue reading

My Top Five: Birds

It’s Thanksgiving week so I thought I’d ponder the birds of public broadcasting. There may be some pretty obvious ones from which to choose but I tend to gravitate towards the deeper cuts, so to speak. So here you go – MY TOP FIVE PUBLIC BROADCASTING BIRDS. Not the best or whatever superlative you fancy – simply MY personal Top Five.

5) X THE OWL – Voiced by Mister Rogers himself, X the Owl was one of the denizens of the Neighborhood of Make Believe. X lived in the old oak tree next to Henrietta Pussycat and was always eager and cheerful. 

4) THE “IT’S THE PLUMBER” PARROT – One of my favorite animated bits from the original The Electric Company featured an earnest plumber and a precocious parrot. “Who is it?” “It’s the plumber. I’ve come to fix the sink.” Continue reading

My Top Five: Superheroes

Superheroes are big business these days, what with movies and TV shows and, of course, the comic book adventures that have delighted fanboys for decades. But public broadcasting also has a history of superhero characters in various forms. So here are my TOP FIVE PUBLIC BROADCASTING SUPERHEROES.

5) SUPER GROVER – Super Grover (now Super Grover 2.0) is Sesame Street’s well-meaning but inept hero who is “faster than lightning, stronger than steel, smarter than a speeding bullet” (and cute too). Certainly Grover was one of my favorite Muppets as a kid so it’s only natural his superhero persona would be as well. And anyone who can rock a visored helmet and cape like he does gets a thumbs up in my book. Continue reading