Next time you're out of conversation ideas at a cocktail party, business networking event or awkward first date, mention your favorite TV show from childhood — and ask the person you're chatting with about theirs. I can practically guarantee you a lively conversation, because almost everyone loves to talk about the shows that impacted them growing up. (Be careful though — you might end up singing the theme song to "Gilligan's Island," "The Facts of Life" or "The Golden Girls"!)
It's easy conversation, but unlike the weather, it's really fun to talk about the most ridiculous characters (I nominate Balki Bartakamous), strange plots ("Small Wonder"?) and off-the-wall humor ("Three's Company"!) that beloved television programs will bring up. Nine times out of 10, you'll end up smiling and laughing. That's because nostalgia, as the Association of Psychological Science reports, "...has positive impacts on how people feel about themselves and how connected they feel towards others."
And these nostalgic connectors not only build bridges between people, some studies have found that test subjects even become more optimistic after talking about positive memories from the past (it's because those memories remind you that you can feel that happy again). Put those two things together — connection and optimism—and it's no wonder old TV shows can be such fun to talk about.
So, in no particular order, here are 10 of the most crowd-most pleasing shows to ever grace the living room screen.
1. 'The Muppet Show'
"The Muppet Show" is one of the classics of late-'70s-early '80s television — and it's definitely still popular with both kids and adults today. (It helps that the show's stars will never age). This episode with Steve Martin as the guest star is just one of many of the funny, goofy, iconic and totally original moments in the TV show.
2. 'Gilligan's Island'
"Gilligan's Island" only ran for three seasons (1964-67), but it likely will be syndicated until the end of time. The show initially got good ratings when it was broadcast but it achieved cult status among kids when it was shown in reruns after school in the '70s and '80s. While the first season was shot and aired in black and white (it was later colorized), the second two were filmed in color.
3. 'Saved by the Bell'
"Saved by the Bell" is another show that ran for only a few seasons (1989-1993) but lives on, both in a second and third iteration of the original show; first "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" and then "Saved by the Bell: The New Class." The show was well-known for being pretty cheesy, but it also tackled serious topics like homelessness, drug use and parent-teen communications. And, as can be seen in the video above — it was definitely the first show to include cellphone use in school!
4. 'Little House on the Prairie'
"Little House on the Prairie" ran from 1974-1983, and retold the story of Laura Ingalls, who wrote a popular series of books by the same name. This episode of the first day of "real school" for the Ingalls girls, like many of the early episodes from the show, stays pretty true to the books, though later episodes covered events not depicted in the original memoirs.
5. 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'
"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" launched funnyman Will Smith's acting career into the stratosphere (he was already a successful recording artist). The show ran for six seasons, but the theme song is still a singalong favorite.
6. 'The Jetsons'
"The Jetsons" took all that '50s optimism about the future and packaged it in a space-age TV show, originally from 1962-63, that was the flip-side to the popular "Flintstones." Twenty years later (1985-1987), Hanna-Barbera brought the show back for another couple of years. They mostly got it wrong.
7. 'Pee-wee's Playhouse'
"Pee-wee's Playhouse" ran from 1986-1990 on Saturday mornings on CBS, and it was pretty weird (to put it mildly). The show was aimed primarily at kids, but there was plenty for adults to chuckle at too, including some (very mild) innuendo.
8. 'I Love Lucy'
"I Love Lucy" ran from 1951-57, but it seems to be a part of everyone's childhood at this point. What's amazing is that it was the first scripted television show that was filmed in front of a live studio audience, so it's not like the people who made the show had a lot of notes to go from.
"DuckTales" had just a four-season run (from September 1987 to November 1990), but it has stood the test of time so well that Disney recently announced that the show will be brought back for a 2017 premiere. Delving into history for story lines, the most popular episodes of this animated show involve Huey, Dewey and Louie traveling into the past and retelling stories from Greek Myths, Shakespeare, and more.
10. 'The Dukes of Hazzard'
"The Dukes of Hazzard" was all about awesome' 70s cars — and car-chase scenes. Cousins Bo, Luke and Daisy were always getting into and out of scrapes in their customized 1969 Dodge Charger, which made every kid who watched (from 1979-1986) want to grow up to drive one.
OK, so I'm betting that you feel that I've left out a favorite TV show of your own. Let me know what I missed in the comments!
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