Most of us watch television to be entertained. We may not agree about what’s good and what isn’t—which explains why there’s room on the tube for both Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Downton Abbey—but as a general rule, it’s all about settling back and taking an hour or two off from life.
But sometimes a television show has effects far beyond killing time. Sometimes a show really changes things. Take Star Trek: The Next Generation, for instance. When it came out in the late 1980s, the networks wouldn’t touch it. So Paramount bypassed the networks, and in so doing, created a whole new model for broadcasting. A slew of new action shows followed—but not on the major networks.
There are more unexpected and interesting stories like this in “TV Matters: The Most Unexpectedly Influential Shows of the Past 25 Years,” a Mental Floss feature hosted on The Atlantic. Check it out—some of the shows are from overseas—and prepare to be influenced!