Classic Television Shows With Massachusetts Ties
Television has been around for a hundred years, but it wasn't until the 1950s, after World War II, that TV became a staple in American homes.
Black and white TV sets became the rage, launching the careers of legends such as Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason, Lucy and Desi, Sid Caesar and many others.
Through the years, television has provided countless hours of entertainment and information.
Many viewers watched classic programs such as Howdy Doody, American Bandstand, Sesame Street, The Ed Sullivan Show, Happy Days, The Tonight Show, MTV and more.
The Vietnam War was the first conflict to dominate the evening news on television. TV brought assassinations, moon landings, political conventions, terrorism, and royal weddings into our living rooms.
Some popular television formats have included half-hour situation comedies (sitcoms), hour-long dramas, variety shows, serials (soaps), talk or interview programs, and others.
Comedies and dramas have generally featured a recurring cast of characters and an identifiable location where the action takes place. For some of the more popular television shows, that location has been Massachusetts.
Boston, Salem, Nantucket, and even New Bedford have been the central location for these programs or are featured prominently in the plot.
I posted recently about the 1960s program Here Come the Brides, which featured characters who traveled from New Bedford to Seattle to become the brides of some lonely loggers in post-Civil War Washington.
Other shows in which Massachusetts featured prominently include Cheers, about a Boston bar and a zany crew of regulars. Cheers ran on NBC from 1982 to 1993 and starred Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kirstie Alley, George Wendt and Woody Harrelson.
St. Elsewhere was another Boston-based NBC hit. The medical drama ran from 1982 to 1988 and included Ed Flanders, Howie Mandel, Cynthia Sykes, and Christina Pickles among the cast.
Boston Legal ran on ABC from 2004 to 2008. The legal drama featured William Shatner, James Spader and Candace Bergen. A spin-off of The Practice, Boston Legal was about a Boston-based high-end litigation law firm.
The sitcom Wings premiered on NBC in 1990 and lasted until 1997. Wings was set at a fictional Nantucket airport where a pair of brothers operated the fictional Sandpiper Air. New Bedford got a few shoutouts in the program, which featured Tim Daly, Steven Weber and Crystal Bernard.
Robert Urich starred in Spenser: For Hire on ABC from 1985 to 1988. The crime drama based on Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels also featured Avery Brooks and Barbra Stock. Much of Spenser: For Hire was shot on location in Boston.
Dawson's Creek was a teen drama set in the fictional town of Capeside, Massachusetts. The program aired on WB from 1998 to 2003. Dawson's Creek featured James Van Der Beek and Katie Holmes.
Many other television programs had Massachusetts connections, real or fictional, including Park Street Under, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Secret Life of Max Bickford, Boston Common, and Harbourmaster, to name a few.