Newsmax presents the 50 best television shows promoting American traditions and family values. Besides sparking endless debate about what shows should displace some of those on our list, we hope it causes some to ponder how their own values and beliefs have changed as TV morphed through the years.
If your TV watching goes back to when there were just three networks and maybe one or two independent stations, you’re right to think there’s been a drastic shift from when TV almost always reflected homogeneous American values, beaming just wholesome family entertainment into our living rooms every evening.
If you came of TV age with 300 channels on cable 24/7, digital video recorders that let you watch shows when you want, and streaming options that challenge the very definition of what a television show is, it’s more difficult to discern in the constantly flowing content those shows that you think reflect American values.
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In the beginning, when TV was black and white, so were our values — at least as determined by the networks’ standards departments with the help of ever-vigilant watchdogs. Certain words couldn't be uttered and married couples slept in separate beds. Violence and social taboos simply weren’t depicted. In short, if a show was on television back then, it probably was wholesome. All you had to do was pick out your favorites.
Control of TV content loosened as American norms eroded and changed. The number and kinds of shows exploded, driven by ratings, demographic targeting and profits to be made with niche content. Though TV content has gone downhill, many believe, quality shows are still there. You just have to apply your own standards to find them.
Taking into consideration subjective criteria, such as critical acclaim and popularity, along with quantifiable measurements like the duration of shows and series, awards won, and viewership statistics, following is our humble list. Let the arguing begin.
But first a caveat. Don't let your opinion of otherwise solid efforts like "The Cosby Show" or "7th Heaven" or many other shows be influenced by revelations of behind-the-scenes scandals or a star's indiscretions. Remember, it's all acting.
1. "Little House on the Prairie"
(1974-1983) — Based on the Laura Ingalls Wilder book series, the show featured a big, close-knit family learning large- and small-life lessons together in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the 1870s and 1880s.
2. "The Waltons"
(1971-1981) — This program showed the struggles of a Depression-era family living in the rural Virginia mountains and clinging together to help each other and neighbors survive the tough times.
3. "The Lawrence Welk Show"
(1955-1971) — Running on ABC and then in syndication, the show featured the "champagne music" of Welk's orchestra, based around wholesome family songs, patriotic themes and, as always, polka and Midwestern values.
4. "Leave it to Beaver"
(1957-1963) — This program portrayed the idealized American suburban family with a strong, hard-working father, a supportive and loving mother, and two growing boys in the fictional community of Mayfield.
5. "The Adventures of Superman"
(1952-1958) — Fighting for "truth, justice, and the American way," Superman, played by George Reeves, battled criminals and always emerged victorious.
6. "Wagon Train"
(1957-1965) — This show depicted brave pioneers on a trek from Missouri to California struggling to settle the frontier in the early West. It starred Ward Bond as wagon master Major Seth Adams.
7. "Home Improvement"
(1991-1999) — Featuring a strong, if sometimes wacky, father figure (a rarity in modern TV), "Home Improvement" chronicled Tim Taylor, the host of a home improvement show and a father of three boys in a solid, stable family.
(1954-1973) — The fourth-longest running series in TV history, "Lassie" featured a beautiful collie wonder dog, who rescued his owner and a host of animals from threats as the pet of a war widow struggling to raise her son and run a small farm.
(2001-2011) — The show followed a young Clark Kent as he grew up and learned little-town values of compassion, caring, and bravery, and struggled to accept his future heroic role.
10. "The Lone Ranger"
(1949-1957) — A pillar of American values like courage, justice, and doing the right thing, "The Lone Ranger" featured Clayton Moore as the Masked Man and Jay Silverheels as his "faithful Indian companion" Tonto. The duo battled the bad guys while never killing them — only shooting the guns out of their hands with silver bullets.
11. "Full House"
(1987-1995) — After his wife died in a car crash, widower Danny Tanner called on his brother-in-law and best friend to help raise his three daughters. Together, they built a supportive and wholesome family.
12. "The Cosby Show"
(1984-1992) — The Huxtables dealt with the question of race by ignoring it. They were not a black family, just a family, with deep love and support for one another, setting an example for America to follow.
13. "Duck Dynasty"
(2012-present) — Conservative, deeply Christian beliefs ground the Robertson family, and they stand up for America's wholesome values while working their duck call business.
(1957-1961) — This show starred Will Hutchins as a non-drinking, largely unarmed tenderfoot lawyer who fights for justice in the Old West.
15. "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet"
(1952-1966) — America watched as the former bandleader and singer raised their two sons, David and Ricky, in a close-knit family setting in the suburbs.
16. "Highway to Heaven"
(1984-1989) — Michael Landon starred as an angel who came back to Earth to help people in this strongly religious, powerful, and values-oriented show.
17. "7th Heaven"
(1996-2007) — A Protestant minister helped guide his family, including seven children, through issues such as alcoholism, bullying, drug abuse, and racism in this coming-of-age favorite.
18. "Daniel Boone"
(1964-1971) — Set in Boonesborough, Kentucky, before, during, and after the American Revolution, this show told the story of the legendary frontiersman, played by Fess Parker.
19. "Davy Crockett"
(1954-1955) — The miniseries, also featuring Fess Parker as its star, related the legend of Crockett, the frontiersman, congressman, and settler who died defending the Alamo against the Mexican army. The show kicked off a Davy Crockett frenzy in which every boy in America wanted a coonskin cap.
20. "Walker, Texas Ranger"
(1993-2001) — Martial arts legend Chuck Norris played Ranger Cordell Walker, who always upheld a positive view of law enforcement. He also conveyed a strong moral message along with some good karate kicks.
21. "The Andy Griffith Show"
(1960-1968) — Andy Griffith played Sheriff Andy Taylor, who raised his young son Opie with the help of his Aunt Bea and wacky deputy Barney Fife (played by Dan Knotts) in the fictional rural town of Mayberry, North Carolina.
22. "Touched By An Angel"
(1994-2003) — With Roma Downey as an angel and Della Reese as her supervisor, the series showed how angels can bring troubled people powerful messages from God and lead them in the morally right direction.
23. "Happy Days"
(1974-1984) — The Cunningham family enjoyed small-town American life, while teenagers, even the leather-jacketed, duck-tailed Fonzie, led clean-cut and innocent lives.
24. "Band of Brothers"
(2001) — An HBO miniseries, "Band of Brothers" told of the heroism of "Easy Company" of the 506th Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, from their training, participation in the invasion of Europe, Bastogne, and eventual triumph, displaying American courage, brotherhood, and patriotic sacrifice.
25. "The Brady Bunch"
(1969-1974) — Often considered the textbook on how to make blended families work, the show featured a family in modern suburbia with six kids, three from each former marriage, dealing humorously with the foibles of growing up in America.
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26. "Death Valley Days"
(1930-1975) — A series of short stories of the Old West, often with a moral theme, "Death Valley Days" ran on both radio and television and was helmed by Ronald Reagan from 1964 to 1965. Can it get any more American than that?
(1959-1973) — Set in the 1860s, "Bonanza" told the story of the Cartwrights, a family living on a ranch called the Ponderosa in Virginia City, Nevada. Widower Ben Cartwright always fought for the right thing as he raised his three sons, Adam, Little Joe, and Hoss.
28. "The Rifleman"
(1958-1963) — Starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, the show told the story of a Civil War veteran raising his young son Mark on a New Mexico Territory ranch. Much of the show centered on the premise that everyone deserves a second chance.
29. "Life is Worth Living"
(1952-1968) — Charismatic Catholic Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen infiltrated American homes with inspirational discussions on the moral and religious approach to handling the issues of the day.
30. "Father Knows Best"
(1954-1960) — This show gave America the picture-perfect image of the ideal family, held together by love and mutual respect. Insurance agent Jim Anderson, his homemaker wife Margaret, and their three children — Bud, Kathy, and Betty — grappled with moral issues in nearly every episode.
31. "Dog the Bounty Hunter"
(2004-2012) — Duane "Dog" Chapman and his family hunted down criminals, often with a prayer before the chase. They often lectured the captured bad guys, urging them to turn their lives over to Christ.
32. "Faye Emerson's Wonderful Town"
(1950-1951) — The singer, a daughter-in-law of Franklin Roosevelt and wife of Skitch Henderson, presented memorable songs associated with U.S. cities in this American favorite.
33. "The Six Million Dollar Man"
(1974-1978) — Starring Lee Majors, the show praised U.S. scientific and military superiority by featuring the rebuilding of a crippled test pilot with nuclear-powered artificial limbs and a bionic eye, which give him super powers.
34. "Family Ties"
(1982-1989) — In the role that perhaps jumpstarted his career and won him three Emmys, Michael J. Fox played Alex P. Keaton, a staunch conservative teen being raised by two liberal, hippie-ish parents, but who always emerged triumphant.
(1985-1992) — This show highlighted good old American ingenuity as its star, intelligence agent MacGyver, came up with ingenious solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems, aided by his trusty Swiss Army Knife.
36. "Mission Impossible"
(1966-1973; 1988-1990) — Teamwork, ingenuity, and native skills always overpowered the opposition in this show, which was also missing much of the vicious violence that often fills the airwaves today.
37. "The Dick Van Dyke Show"
(1961-1966) — This wisecracking sitcom about a comedy writer, Van Dyke, and his wife, Mary Tyler Moore, won 15 Emmys for its portrayal of strong, loving family values in the suburban New York area.
38. "The Donna Reed Show"
(1958-1966) — Reed played a middle-class housewife with a pediatrician husband and two teenage children. "That's what the show was really about, the importance of family," actor Paul Petersen, who played son Jeff Stone, said in a 2008 interview.
39. "Sing Along With Mitch"
(1961-1966) — American living rooms rang with happy voices as families gathered to "watch the bouncing ball" on the lyrics at the bottom of the screen and sing along with bandleader Mitch Miller's ensemble.
40. "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show"
(1956-1961) — The show featured the deeply religious Ford, a likeable singer and folk humorist, and an array of guests, and America always chuckled at Ford's favorite line, "Bless your little pea-pickin' hearts."
41. "Hee Haw"
(1969-1997) — Hosted by country singers Buck Owens and Roy Clark, "Hee Haw" brought cornpone humor to American TV, and every show featured a salute to a tiny American rural town
42. "The Apprentice"
(2004-present) — The brainchild of billionaire businessman and presidential candidate Donald Trump, "The Apprentice" promotes the classic American values of hard work, entrepreneurial skill, and capitalism.
(2001-2014) — Kiefer Sutherland starred as counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer, thwarting foreign plots to destroy the country.
44. "The Kate Smith Hour"
(1950-1954) — The show featured the "Songbird of the South," Smith, whose strong contralto voice catapulted her to popularity with patriotic songs during World War II.
45. "Step by Step"
(1991-1998) — Starring Suzanne Somers as a widowed beautician and mother who remarries, this program was a virtual primer for raising a blended family with solid American values.
46. "The West Wing"
(1999-2006) — This show pictured life in the White House under the liberal reign of President "Jed" Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, and gave Americans an insider's look at the inner workings of the presidency.
(2006-2008) — In this classic portrayal of American true grit, residents of the small town of Jericho, Kansas, had to pull together to survive after a nuclear attack on 23 American cities, using their values of cooperation, family, and struggle against adversity.
48. "Army Wives"
(2007-2013) — The lives and struggles of military wives on a fictional Army base as their men are sent off to war took center stage in this emotional show.
49. "Turn: Washington's Spies"
(2014-present) — This program shows the adventures and struggles of a group of farmers in New York who formed the Culper Ring of spies during the American Revolution.
(1972-1983) — This show told the story of a group of surgeons and nurses at a medevac hospital during the Korean War and, though the "dark comedy" was anti-war, it was very much pro-soldier and pro-America.
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