10 TV Shows That Completely Shifted The Balance Of Power In America

The watershed shows that transformed cable TV from low-grade to premium.

In recent years, American television viewing has changed dramatically: ratings for broadcast giants NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX have dropped substantially, opening the door for the once inferior cable stations to plant their flags and poach viewers at a clip that was long thought impossible. No longer do the major networks have a monopoly on all the critically acclaimed series, nor a dominant hold on prime-time viewing. From HBO and Showtime to FX and AMC, the landscape for original programming has shifted tremendously over the last 15 years. With the production of quality series, these cable networks were able to create enough buzz to change their identities and shift the way people think about television. Now, literally millions of people have flipped the remote from the old standbys to the channels a little further up the dial, thus leaving some of the highest rated network shows with numbers that would have got them cancelled in decades past. This change has spread the attention out so evenly across the spectrum that you'll now see movie stars popping up on cable for guest spots and it's the big network shows that are often now considered the lesser quality. That concept spits in the eye of 60 years' worth of television tradition. It's a whole new world out there, and it all really started with a certain New Jersey gangster...

10. The Sopranos (HBO: 1999-2007)

In 1999, HBO premiered The Sopranos, and the reaction was overwhelming. The story of a New Jersey mafioso with mommy issues and crippling anxiety quickly taught us that we could love a show even if the protagonist wasn't the good guy. The success of this format, the anti-hero lead, would open the door for most of the other shows on this list, and allow television to abandon the cookie cutter formulas that we'd all grown so accustomed to. The notion that the bad guy has to lose in the end was totally absent from the show's existence. For six seasons, we saw Tony Soprano (brilliantly portrayed by James Gandolfini) struggle to balance control of his spoiled family at home, all while running a major criminal enterprise at work, and never really paying the price for it all. Every time it seemed like he would finally prove himself likable, the audience would be startled back to the reality that he was just a bad dude, and people ate it up. Word of mouth traveled fast and popular culture was influenced all over the place: eery shop in the mall was suddenly selling Bada-Bing Strip Club t-shirts, posters of Tony Soprano hung next to those of Michael Corleone in college dorms, and most importantly HBO saw around a 50% increase in subscribers after the show's premiere. This was the true start of the change, but there was so much more to come...
Contributor
Contributor

Based just north of Detroit Michigan, Brian Kronner writes for Geek Magazine, and acts as their Managing Web Editor at GeekExchange.com Past web-works include founding of Grizzly Bomb, contributions to TvFanatic and a writer/editor at Bam Kapow...

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