TV: How Far We’ve Come?

Every autumn, as sure as the leaves change colour and the crisp air re-invigorates your senses, a slew of new TV shows make their television debut or return.

To mark the beginning of the fall season, we decided to take a look at the debuts of some TV classics and see how they hold up to modern counterparts returning this autumn. Click through the slideshow to see our picks.

-Mike Crisolago

The Jetsons/The Simpsons

The Jetsons Series Debut: September 23, 1962
The Simpsons Season Debut: September 30, 2012

Why they’re alike:

They’re both animated, primetime comedies. While the original run of The Jetsons consisted of a mere 24 episodes (this year The Simpsons, coincidently, returns for its 24th season), it “was the first show ever broadcast in color on ABC.” The series was rebooted in the 1980s for a second run.

Both shows revolve around traditional, middle class American nuclear families (well, traditional if you ignore the Jetsons’ robot maid, Rosie). It’s also interesting to note that, while The Simpsons acts as a reflection of modern society, The Jetsons‘ futuristic world was set in 2062 – which seemed a long way off back then, but is now only 50 years away. Somehow, though, the notion that we’ll be living in space and driving flying cars by then seems even more far-fetched now than it did back then.

Does the modern equivalent hold up?:

Absolutely. A quick Internet search for The Simpsons will tell you all you need to know: “The Simpsons is the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program, and in 2009 it surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running American primetime, scripted television series.” And, it’s still going.

While The Jetsons was ahead of its time, The Simpsons are timeless.

Gilligan’s Island/Survivor 

Gilligan’s Island Series Debut: September 26, 1964
Survivor Season Debut: September 19, 2012

Why they’re alike:
Well, there’s the whole being stranded on an island bit. They each revolve around the idea that a group of strangers are stranded in a remote and inescapable locale and the struggles they endure trying to govern amongst themselves. Both are variations on themes and ideas put forth in books such as Lord of the Flies and Robinson Crusoe, though neither tale had an obnoxious character who liked to walk around nude, much to the disgust of his fellow castaways.

Gilligan’s Island played for laughs, while Survivor generally strives for drama and suspense. It’s unlikely the title character of the former would last very long on any season of Survivor, as it was all the beleaguered Skipper could do to restrain himself from knocking Gilligan in the head with a coconut.

Does the modern equivalent hold up?:

One is a sitcom and one is a reality show. The former lasted three seasons (and a few made-for-TV films) and the latter is going on its 25th. The character of Gilligan became a pop-culture icon, and the sense of dread that accompanies the phrase “a three-hour tour” is felt by generations of television viewers.

Survivor, meanwhile, became the standard-bearer for North American reality television when it premiered in the year 2000 and in many ways remains the archetype of such shows to this day. Twelve years and 25 seasons prove that the show isn’t a flash in the pan. We just pray that, once the show goes off the air, the Survivor producers don’t try any of the spin-off ideas that Gilligan’s Island did. That means, no:

Survivor TV movies where the cast is rescued from the island, then re-stranded, then rescued again, before opening a resort on the island.
– Specials that see the Harlem Globetrotters descend on the island to save the castaways from evil-doers
– Musical theatre versions of the show

The Love Boat/The Bachelor Canada

The Love Boat Series Debut: September 24, 1977
The Bachelor Season Debut: October 3, 2012


Why they’re alike:

Though one is a reality show and the other a sitcom, both feature attempts by lonesome hopefuls to secure true love. The major difference is that one is supposed to be played for humour, while the results/fallout of the American version of The Bachelor often end up playing out more like an absurd comedy than the Don Juan-inspired romance producers hope for. With The Bachelor Canada about to make its debut, we’ll see if ex-CFL football player Brad Smith has better luck in love than his American counterparts.

Does the modern equivalent hold up?:

Captain Stubing and his crew are beloved pop culture characters who still receive play in syndication, decades after the show went off the air. Only time will tell if The Bachelor Canada franchise can follow in

The Beverly Hillbillies/Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

The Beverly Hillbillies Series Debut: September 26, 1962
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Season Debuted: August 8, 2012

Why they’re alike:

The theme of comparing sitcoms to reality shows continues with this, perhaps the most obvious fit of the bunch. The Beverly Hillbillies‘ Clampett clan struck it rich when oil was discovered in their swamp, allowing them to resettle amid the glitz and glamour of California. The Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’s Thompson clan from McIntyre, Georgia struck it rich when their seven-year-old daughter Alana, nicknamed Honey Boo Boo appeared on the television show Toddlers & Tiaras. Following that, the crass-mouthed child made Internet waves with her outrageous comments, leading to – what else? – her own reality show.

For further proof of how the Clampetts and the proudly redneck Thompsons are alike, consider that only ONE of the following three quotes are from The Beverly Hillbillies, while Honey Boo Boo uttered the other two. Can you guess which one’s are which (answer at the bottom of the page)?

1. “When my belly hurts, it’s usually gas. Or too many chicken nuggets.”

2. “That’s the thing about salted down possum, it’s just as good the second day.”

3. “I like to get in the mud, because I like to get dirty like a pig.”

Does the modern equivalent hold up?:


ANSWER: The Beverly Hillbillies quote is number 2.

The Brady Bunch/Modern Family

The Brady Bunch Series Debut: September 26, 1969
Modern Family Season Debuted: September 26, 2012

Why they’re alike:

They’re both immensely popular American comedies based around the uniqueness of the family dynamic. In the case of The Brady Bunch, it’s the union of two single parents and their children. In Modern Family, patriarch Jay Pritchett is also on his second marriage, but his extended family is slightly less conventional than the family dynamic the Brady’s would have encountered in their day. Modern Family doesn’t come equipped with a laugh track, but it tends to provide more laugh-out-loud moments than the Brady’s. That’s not a knock on the more squeaky-clean sitcom. The Brady Bunch is a beloved television classic and, for their respective times, both shows represent unique family dynamics that standout among the North American television landscape.

Does the modern equivalent hold up?

Both viewers and critics alike laud Modern Family. There’s no reason to doubt that, like its very Brady predecessor, long after the show goes off the air it will be replayed in syndication for years to come.

The Andy Griffith Show/The Walking Dead

The Andy Griffith Show Series Debut: October 3, 1960
The Walking Dead Season Debuts: October 14, 2012

Why they’re alike:

At first glance, these two shows aren’t very similar. But on second look-

Okay, we admit that there doesn’t seem much to tie these two shows together other than they each feature a sheriff/deputy officer as the main character. But, it does go deeper.

While single father Sheriff Andy Taylor raises a son and outwits the bad guys who attempt to undermine the peaceful town of Mayberry, Deputy Rick Grimes also attempts to keep his son (and wife, and a host of others) safe while attempting to survive what amounts to a zombie apocalypse.

Okay, so maybe Mayberry never had to deal with the undead. Still, when it comes to solving the problems they face, both Taylor and Grimes use logic and intellect to help make things better at the end of the day. It’s true that Grimes has more of an uphill battle ahead of him, but in the end these are two lawmen trying to do what’s right to keep the communities they serve safe. The fact that one of them occasionally uses a crossbow to impale a zombie on occasion is, well, drastic, but that’s beside the point.

Does the modern equivalent hold up?

Andy Griffith – the man and the TV show – are legendary. It’s tough to say whether The Walking Dead will have legs (no pun intended). Time will tell on this one.

The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson/The current Late Night Landscape
The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson Series Debut: October 1, 1962

Why they’re alike:

The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the list goes on and on; if the format of modern late night talk shows seems similar to The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, it’s because Carson’s show created the model that aforementioned shows still, for the most part, follow.

Does the modern equivalent hold up?

There’s a reason Carson is known as “The King of Late Night,” and why no one since he retired in 1992 has dared to misappropriate that title. Johnny was, and still is, the measuring stick by which all other talk show hosts are sized.

Among the current late night landscape, David Letterman is poised to inherit the king’s crown, though he’ll be the first to unequivocally deny that he deserves it. Though, there’s something telling in the fact that, after Carson retired, he made a few guest appearances on Letterman’s show, but not once on his successor, Jay Leno’s, Tonight Show.

While there’s no doubt that the current crop of hosts are extremely talented, and may go down as television legends, there always has been, and always will be, only one late night king.