Famous Influential TV Shows That Aren’t On the Air Anymore

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Do you know the theme tune to a show you have never seen and would never see? Can you name at least a handful of characters, give a basic rundown of the plot and at least identify some of the concepts? Has that show been off air for many years yet still you will recognise the actors? Congratulations, you may have identified an influential TV show. Here is a list of the top 10 most identifiable and influential TV shows


1. Star Trek


The most influential TV show of them all was on air from the 1960s and had a number of resurrections through the 1980s-2000s from The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager and finally Enterprise. With no series on air or in the works, Trek is finally off air. It remains one of the most influential shows of all time with even non fans knowing most of its characters and tropes. All is not lost though – JJ Abrams has made two films rebooting the original series

2. The Twilight Zone


The true sign of an influential show is when people who do not watch it know the theme tune and The Twilight Zone has arguably the most identifiable theme tune ever. The premise was simple: every week a different story with a paranormal or supernatural twist at the end. It was effectively a short story for the television and it worked well because it did not require long-term investment in the way that something like Lost required. A brief revival in the 1990s (along with its counterpart The Outer Limits) lasted a few years before it went off air for good

3. Lost


It took the world by storm in the early 2000s ‘ a character driven story about a group of people trapped on an island that just got weirder and weirder, even people who didn’t watch it were talking about it. Few of the characters were truly iconic in the way that was true of ‘ say ‘ Star Trek, but that didn’t stop amusing homages in unrelated shows being appreciated by practically everyone. It became over complex in the end and lost much of its core audience thanks to the lack of answers

4. Twin Peaks


Weird before weird got cool with Lost, it started out as a simple tale of the murder of a young girl in rural Washington State. Nobody was out of the eye from the jealous friend, the jilted boyfriend whom she cheated on, her father, the icy stepmother’¦ all of them were investigated by Agent Dale Cooper. The series started slowly and shed a lot of viewers until it shifted pace for the hastily reconstructed second series. Then it moved from whodunit drama to supernatural thriller as it turned out that a demon was on the loose in a town built near to a gateway to hell. It set the scene for later novel-on-screen series and has been mimicked in may ongoing crime dramas

5. The Office

the office

It made a superstar of Ricky Gervaise in a parody / mockumentary of typical British office life. Admin workers the country over immediately identified the bizarre range of characters and started comparing their colleagues to some of the characters in the show. The most iconic figure was Gervaise’ inept David Brent. It last just two seasons and finished on an impressive Christmas special. It dripped irony, divided audiences but the characters stuck in the mind. A US version followed starring Steve Carell

6. Grange Hill


Before the 1970s, most school dramas aimed at children were humorous or focused on the more well to do schools. Few dared to handle the complications of growing up and taboo subjects such as drug abuse and teen pregnancy. Grange Hill began in 1978 and revolutionised school drama as we know it. Set in a British state school, it featured fine acting and writing. Most people remember it fondly and mourned its demise in 2008; it launched the careers of many iconic British TV actors of the 1980s and 1990s

7. The X-Files


Another iconic show that most people will have heard of and known the theme tune, characters and tropes whether they watched it or not, it ran for nine years and had two spin off films. It was about two FBI agents investigating the more bizarre criminal reports to ‘The Bureau’. It made stars of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as they chased aliens, atavistic humans, reawakened ancient insects and the nemesis Cancer Man. It wormed its way into every walk of life ‘ Catatonia’s song Mulder and Scully was about a weird patch in a relationship that had turned so complicated that it ‘Could be a case for Mulder and Scully’

8. Only Fools and Horses


‘Lovely Jubbly!’, ‘Rodney you Plonker!’ the iconic British comedy had everyone repeating those Del Boy phrases to all and sundry. Though not as popular in the USA, it is one of the most successful comedies of all time in the UK, a country known for world-class comedy. Roger Lloyd Pack who played the dopey ‘Trigger’ died in 2014 and in honour of the character, internet culture created a ‘Call everybody Dave Day’. This was because Trigger called Rodney ‘ younger brother of Del Boy ‘ ‘Dave’ for reasons nobody could ever figure out

9. Life on Mars / Ashes to Ashes


Nostalgia for the 1970s and 1980s began roughly in the mid-2000s and it was thanks to the surprisingly popular success of the tale of first one Detective (Sam Tyler) and then another (Alex Drake) being critically injured and ending up in previous decades (1970s for Tyler and 1980s for Drake). A revival of 70s and 80s music followed in its wake and the other main character Gene Hunt became iconic for the next few years. He is considered one of the greatest characters ever created by the BBC. A US version of Life on Mars had a completely different ending and was not well received

10. Walking With’¦


The first of the modern wave of ‘edutainment’ documentaries came in 1999 with high production values, animatronics and the then modern CGI. The first was Walking With Dinosaurs and was produced like a modern documentary observing the creatures in the wild. Walking With Beasts (the great age of mammals), Walking With Monsters (before the dinosaurs) and Walking With Cavemen (human ancestor species and the arrival of anatomically modern humans)



TV as a modern media is hugely influential, as much so as books, iconic films and other forms of entertainment. Sometimes we do not appreciate the importance of television to our modern life. Some of the shows above will be remembered for decades to come. Who knows what influential shows the next few decades will give us?

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