Steve Eighinger

'Knots Landing' was no Dale Earnhardt, but still memorable

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 15, 2017 8:15 am

Remember the line from the movie "Talladega Nights" when Will Ferrell's legendary Ricky Bobby character appealed to that inner NASCAR voice in all of us?

"If you ain't first, you're last."

There's a sort of unwritten code in racing -- even with its fans -- that finishing second is little more than being the first loser. Finishing second can be a forgettable accomplishment. I know Kurt Busch won last month's Daytona 500, but without looking up the results, I can't tell you who was right behind him.

There's a different kind of thought process with, say, our favorite TV programs. Being No. 1 isn't a prerequisite to a fond remembrance.

Most of us who were born before Watergate and grew up without a smartphone attached to our hands can remember programs like "All in the Family," "Happy Days" and others that dominated the top of the Nielsen ratings. In a racing sense, those kind of shows were the Dale Earnhardts and Richard Pettys of TV programming.

Unlike NASCAR, our favorite television shows do not have to finish No. 1 to make a lasting impact. I used the decades of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to put together my own personal top 10 list of TV shows that never received a checkered flag -- errr, reached No. 1 in the Nielsens -- but were still memorable in their own right.

1. "Knots Landing" (1979-93), CBS: I have a theory that if this show had come along a couple of decades later, it would have been more embraced by critics and fans alike. "Knots" made a prime-time star of Donna Mills, but I think much of its subject matter (infidelity and other disreputable activity) left hardly any "good guys" to root for. But the show's plotlines were well ahead of its time, probably too far ahead.

2. "Cagney and Lacey" (1981-88), CBS: Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly provided the first platform for an all-female detective team.

3. "ALF" (1986-90), NBC: There was no funnier show on TV during its first couple of seasons, but then the jokes and overall writing took a southward turn.

4. "WKRP in Cincinnati" (1978-82), CBS: Dr. Johnny Fever. Venus Flytrap. Herb Tarlek. This is another of those old shows that is screaming for a remake.

5. "Mission: Impossible" (1966-73), CBS: At one time, Leonard Nimoy and Sam Elliott were part of the MI team.

6. "F Troop" (1965-67), ABC: Larry Storch as Cpl. Randolph Agarn often stole the show in this wacky western parody.

7. "My Three Sons" (1960-72), CBS: Fred MacMurray made those button-up sweaters popular way before Mister Rogers.

8. "The Avengers" (1961-69), ABC: Emma Peel and John Steed made secret agents stylish before James Bond.

9. "Mister Ed" (1961-66), CBS: Ed was a talking horse. Think about the possibilities.

10. "Rawhide" (1959-65), CBS: The cowboy series that gave us Clint Eastwood.

And for the record, Ryan Blaney finished second in the Daytona 500. I looked it up.