5 Great TV Shows that Changed the World

These iconic programs made us safer, healthier, quippier, and more tuneful.

from Mental Floss from Reader's Digest Magazine (February 2013)
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    The Simpsons Transformed How We Talk

    University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor Mark Liberman wrote in 2005, “The Simpsons has apparently taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our culture’s greatest source of
    idioms, catchphrases, and sundry other textual allusions.” Liberman’s assertion sounds crazy—at least until you remember there’s a Milhouse quote for every occasion. Even the gatekeeper of language, the Oxford English Dictionary, has found a spot for Homer Simpson’s trademark “D’oh!”

    Glee Helped Boost the Record Industry

    Fox scored a sleeper hit with the musical series in 2009. But the show’s real impact came between airings. As most of the record industry flailed, the Glee recordings found staggering success on iTunes. By the end of 2011, the cast had sold more than 11 million albums and another 36 million single tracks. Meanwhile, the 2011 concert tour grossed more than $40 million. Lea Michele and her Glee castmates are the fastest act to earn 20 top-40 hits, surpassing even Elvis.

    America’s Most Wanted Cleaned Up Our Streets

    The show has helped capture over 1,100 fugitives since its debut in 1988.

    Sex and the City Encouraged Teens to Communicate

    A 2011 Ohio State University study found that undergraduates who viewed an episode of Sex and the City were more than twice as likely to talk to their partners about sexual-health issues. This is especially important considering that, in 2008, a Rand Institute study reported that girls between 12 and 17 who watched the show and other shows with “high sexual content” were more than twice as likely to become pregnant—a ringing endorsement for enforcing the Mature Audience rating.

    ER Made Us Healthier

    ER did more than make George Clooney a superstar. It also changed the way America ate. In three 2004 episodes, the show focused on the doctors’ orders for a teenager with high blood pressure: exercise, and eat more fruits and vegetables. While the plot sounds humdrum, it scared viewers straight. In 2007, researchers from the University of Southern California’s medical school found that viewers who caught these episodes had started walking or exercising more, eating more fruits and vegetables, or getting their blood pressure checked. How can anyone say watching TV is bad for you?


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    Your Comments

    • GizzyG

      Well, as you sit there typing on your personal computer, possibly interrupted by your cell phone and use your bluetooth, you may want to take a break and use the senors on the bathroom sink to wash your face. While you do that, think Star Trek, because senors, cell phones, bluetooth and personal computers (and so much more) all came to be because people inspired by the TV series became doctors, engineers and scientists and they continue to change our world because of it. It even helped change racial and cultural views. And then there’s I Love Lucy, which changed television itself. How about All In The Family, which threw the ignorance of racism in our faces? One could argue even argue Beverly Hills 90210 for influencing teens or MASH for our views on war, but the only one you seem to recognized that qualifies is The Simpsons.

    • WesliJones

      All of these shows do contribute to society and how we interact with one another. The fact that media can shape our opinion or perspective of certain issues is insane…….but I think it’s important to watch programs that benefit society in some way. Even if it is only by making us more open to discussing crime, sex and health.

    • Jay Cox

      I don’t think anyone of these are “great”.  Glee? The made-up drama? The sex among teens?  I tried to watch it once. It really lacked a sense of meaning to me.

    • Jersey65

      America’s Most Wanted is the only show worth watching, the others were all junk,garbage ….

    • Woofpup87

      I would disagree with all of them except America’s Most Wanted. Sex and the City helping people??? Seriously?