I won’t pretend I’m not surprised that “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” beat “The Wire” in Round 3 of the Globe’s bracket competition for best TV series of the past 50 years. Along with the likes of “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” is a show that frequently lands at the top of best-ever TV lists. It’s the go-to title when people talk about TV’s Golden Age, and fans tend to mention it in tones of reverence. It is the subject of university courses and academic conferences.
But there it is. Globe readers gave 57.5 percent of the vote to the warm comedy that, like “The Wire,” had a great cultural impact in its day. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” gave us an unmarried working woman at a time when women on TV were largely defined by the men in their lives. Unlike most comedies of its day, it was written for adult audiences and found its humor in character. It featured one of the finest TV acting ensembles ever assembled, including Edward Asner, Valerie Harper, Betty White, and Cloris Leachman. And it pioneered the now-common trope of the workplace as family.
I’m pleased to see that the importance and excellence of Moore’s show hasn’t faded in the 45 years since it left the air.
1. Similarly, “All in the Family” is still alive in voters’ minds. It trounced “Veep” with 72.7 percent of the vote. That seems completely right to me, even while “Veep” remains one of TV’s greatest comedies in my book. Norman Lear’s historic series dealt with the most vital issues in Americans’ lives, issues of sexuality, race, politics, and gender that scripted TV generally ignored until that point.
2. “Friends” survived, even up against “ER,” a series that brought the medical drama to a new level of realism. It was extremely close, though; the victor took only 51.2 percent of the vote. The emotional connection “Friends” fans have to the show continues to impress me, as it thrives in its streaming afterlife and as interest in the six leading actors — most recently Matthew Perry, who is publishing a memoir this week — remains high.
3. “The West Wing” beat “The Office” with 55.8 percent of the vote, and I’m happy to hear it. “The West Wing” was flawed, with its sometimes robotic banter and its sentimentality, but it was also an intelligent and revelatory look at government and the people who work for it and us. For me, “The Office” is sly, funny comfort food, while “The West Wing” is one of TV’s most ambitious and distinctive efforts.
4. I’m glad “Mad Men” is still in the mix, even while I adore “Succession,” whose fourth season is due next spring. The scripting of the 1960s-set drama — which got 73.7 percent of the vote — may not have been as clever and serrated as that in “Succession,” but the series delivered a strongly literary portrait of the relationship between historical events and personal lives.
5. Phew. I was afraid that, this being Boston, “Cheers” would prevail over “Seinfeld.” I mean, we all know Boston is better than New York, and we all know that “Seinfeld” is sharper and far more original than “Cheers,” no matter how beloved it may be. Right? “Seinfeld” took 63.1 percent of the vote.
6. Again, I’m surprised anything going up against “The Sopranos” can get more than a smattering of votes. The powerhouse mob drama won, but it only got 53.7 percent of the votes against “Saturday Night Live” — you know, the sketch comedy series that everyone always complains about. “Saturday Night Live” is an institution, and a generator of talent, and a cultural mirror — but you’ll never convince me it’s better than “The Sopranos.”
7. I’m not surprised to see “Breaking Bad” — a nearly perfect series — continue to win, this time with 55.9 percent of the vote over “The Simpsons.” But I’m going to savor its victory now; in Round 4, it’s up against “All in the Family.”
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