January 30, 1981

The Television Drama Championship Belt

HILL STREET BLUES | 1980-81 to 1983-84



[video]http://www.hulu.com/watch/61417[/video]

Cast | Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Conrad, Michael Warren, Charles Haid, Bruce Weitz, James B. Sikking, Joe Spano, Barbara Bosson, Taurean Blacque, Kiel Martin, Rene Enriquez, Betty Thomas, Ed Marinaro

Executive producer | Steven Bochco

Producers | Gregory Hoblit, Anthony Yerkovich, David Anspaugh, Scott Brazil

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Essential episodes | “Hill Street Station” (pilot), “The World According to Freedom,” “Trial by Fury” and “Grace Under Pressure”

Challenger | St. Elsewhere, which Bochco derisively called “Hill Street in a hospital.”

MIAMI VICE | 1984-85



[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HmuFuRPv6o[/video]

Cast | Don Johnson, Phillip Michael Thomas, Edward James Olmos, Saundra Santiago, Michael Talbott, John Diehl, Olivia Brown

Executive producer | Michael Mann

Executive producer | Anthony Yerkovich

Miami Vice wasn’t the best show on television. Just the coolest. It was pastel colors, Italian suits and rock music. It was that four-minute sequence in the two-hour pilot — Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas in a black Ferrari Daytona, wind in their hair and “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins playing in the background. It still works.

Johnson was a style icon. He wore T-shirts with linen suits, shoes with no socks and stubble. Thomas thought a lot of himself. Edward James Olmos won an Emmy for playing brooding Lt. Castillo. Musicians were the show’s most memorable villains. Frank Zappa played a drug kingpin, Gene Simmons another dealer, Miles Davis a pimp and Collins a slimy game show host.

Music was the show’s heartbeat. Jan Hammer’s theme was a No. 1 hit, and the soundtrack was the top-selling album for 11 weeks. Johnson and Thomas were on the cover of Rolling Stone. Both recorded albums. Johnson’s was a hit.

Essential episodes | “Brother’s Keeper” (two-hour pilot), “Smuggler’s Blues” and “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run”

Challenger | Cagney & Lacey, another buddy cop show — but with women in New York.

MOONLIGHTNING | 1985-86 to 1986-87



Cast | Bruce Willis, Cybill Shepherd, Allyce Beasley, Curtis Armstrong

Executive producer | Glenn Gordon Caron

Producer | Jay Daniel

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Essential episodes | “The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice,” “My Fair David,” “Atomic Shakespeare” and “I Am Curious … Maddie”

No. 1 challenger | L.A. Law won the Emmy for best drama four times. It was well written, well directed and produced by Steven Bochco — and no one cared. It was the Frasier of dramas.

No. 2 challenger | Crime Story, Michael Mann’s second series.

thirtysomething | 1987-88 to 1988-89



http://www.hulu.com/watch/191645

Cast | Ken Olin, Mel Harris, Timothy Busfield, Patricia Wettig, Polly Draper, Peter Horton, Melanie Mayron

Executive producers | Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz

Producers | Paul Haggis, Scott Winant

Essential episodes | “Therapy” and “The Mike Van Dyke Show”

Challenger | Wiseguy

TWIN PEAKS | 1990



[video]http://www.hulu.com/watch/278238[/video]

Cast | Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Joan Chen, Sherilyn Fenn, Warren Frost, Piper Laurie, Peggy Lipton, James Marshall, Everett McGill, Jack Nance, Ray Wise

Executive producer | David Lynch

Executive producer | Mark Frost

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Essential episode | “Pilot”

Challenger | none

NORTHERN EXPOSURE | 1991-92



Cast | Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin, John Cullum, Darren E. Burrows, John Corbett, Cynthia Geary, Elaine Miles, Peg Phillips

Executive producers | Joshua Brand, John Falsey

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Essential episodes | “Seoul Mates” and “Cicely”

Challenger | I’ll Fly Away, also produced by Brand and Falsey.

HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET | 1992-93



Cast | Andre Braugher, Ned Beatty, Melissa Leo, Kyle Secor, Richard Belzer, Jon Polito, Daniel Baldwin, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto

Executive producer | Barry Levinson

Executive producer | Tom Fontana

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Essential episode | “Gone for Goode” (pilot)

Challenger | none

NYPD BLUE | 1993-94


Cast | David Caruso, Dennis Franz, James McDaniel, Sherry Stringfield, Amy Brenneman, Nicholas Turturro, Gail O’Grady, Gordon Clapp, Sharon Lawrence

Executive producers | Steven Bochco & David Milch

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Essential episodes | “Pilot,” “True Confessions” and “Tempest in a C-Cup”

Challengers | none

ER | 1994-95 to 1995-96



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qVP7EcYHus

Cast | Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Sherry Stringfield, Noah Wyle, Julianna Margulies, Eriq La Salle, Gloria Reuben

Executive producers | Michael Crichton, John Wells

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Essential episodes | “24 Hours” (two-hour pilot), “Love’s Labor Lost,” “Hell and High Water” and “The Healers”

No. 1 challenger | Homicide: Life on the Street

No. 2 challenger | The producers of thirtysomething explored teen angst in My So-Called Life with Claire Danes as every 15-year-old girl and Jared Leto as the coolest kid in high school.

No. 3 challenger | Inspired by America’s obsession with the O.J. Simpson trial, Steven Bochco made Murder One, the story of a single high-profile murder trial told over 23 episodes.

THE X-FILES | 1996-97 to 1997-98



[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mDRZP4rrBs[/video]

Cast | David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson

Executive producer | Chris Carter

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Essential episodes | “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” and “The Post-Modern Prometheus”

No. 1 challenger | EZ Streets

No. 2 challenger | Ally McBeal was a divisive show among women, landing it on the cover of Time. Which means it was doing something right — or wrong. I’m not sure.

FREAKS AND GEEKS | 1999-2000



Cast | Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco, Samm Levine, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Busy Phillips, Becky Ann Baker, Joe Flaherty

Executive producer | Judd Apatow

Co-executive producer | Paul Feig

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Essential episodes | “Pilot,” “Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers” and “Discos and Dragons”

No. 1 challenger | The Sopranos

No. 2 challenger | The West Wing, which won the Emmy for best drama four times.