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Monday Night Raw vs. The World: How does Raw stack up to other episodic classics?
In just a few weeks, Monday Night Raw – already the longest-running, weekly episodic show of all time – will secure its place in television history with its 1,000th episode. But as WWE’s flagship show continues its march toward immortality, WWE.com takes a moment to acknowledge its competition, and see how the red brand stacks up against some of the longest-running, influential or memorable television shows in history. Granted, not all of these shows ran close to 1,000 episodes, and some of them have long since ended, but each carved out its own place in the annals of TV lore. So, how do these classics measure up against the juggernaut that is Raw? Well …
The premise: The various adventures of an ageless family of yellow-skinned, middle-class Americans in the small town of Springfield.
Number of episodes: 508 and counting
What made it great: We could go the easy route and say Homer Simpson, but the long-running sitcom has a lot more going for it than just its breakout character. “The Simpsons’ ” blend of subtle humor and outright pop culture parody, coupled with an army of supporting characters makes it one of the most diverse shows in television history. It added the word “D’OH!” to the American lexicon. The show is so influential it has featured guest spots from (among others) three Beatles, two Rolling Stones, the Ramones, Johnny Cash, Stephen Hawking, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, the Manning brothers, former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Michael Jackson.
“The Simpsons” vs. Raw: We added the word “smackdown” to the American lexicon. None of the “Simpsons” guest stars ever executed a textbook crossbody or broke a gold record over Heath Slater’s head. Oh, and they got the PM, but we got the “Queen.” And unless Homer snaps and smashes C. Montgomery Burns with a chair (it’s still in play, Groening), we think it’s safe to say our “breakout bald guy vs. evil, rich boss” rivalry had a better payoff.
"Law & Order"
The premise: New York detectives hunt down bad guys in the first half, then work to get them convicted in the second.
Number of episodes: 456
What made it great: The cases were ripped from the headlines, which gave the show an air of realism that didn’t happen too often in scripted procedurals. “Law & Order” also proved a show could survive with a rotating cast, as several actors weaved in and out of the investigative team throughout the course of the show’s 20-year run. For example, Jerry Orbach is one of the most commonly-associated actors with the show, yet he was only on it for 11 of the 20 seasons. The show also spawned two spinoffs, “Special Victims Unit” and “Criminal Intent.”
“Law & Order” vs. Raw: No incarnation of “Law & Order” has made it to 1,000 episodes. Raw is still going strong.
The premise: Four buddies get into various awkward situations involving soup merchants and pirate bibs around New York City.
Number of episodes: 180
What made it great: The show’s plots were often tangential and only mildly related to the one that came before it, but thanks to the witty scripts, “Seinfeld” was water cooler TV at its best. The various quips and platitudes unleashed by Jerry Seinfeld & Co. quickly made their way to the apex of ’90s pop culture, and in some cases, still managed to stay there (we’re still afraid to double-dip around these parts).
“Seinfeld” vs. Raw: Thus far, we’ve avoided the “controversial finale” syndrome that befell the iconic “Seinfeld” in its final episode.
The premise: A working-class, Illinois family struggles to make ends meet, with good humor and pratfalls along the way.
Number of episodes: 222
What made it great: The show was unusually unflinching in its realistic portrayal of American life, incorporating a host of social issues into its plotlines and playing them up with appropriate gravitas instead of mining them for easy jokes. It gave the blue-collar demographic a family they could relate to, and its depressing ending aside, lent an optimistic tone to a life of middle-class struggles.
“Roseanne” vs. Raw: Once that final season rolled around, a charming optimism led to a shockingly morose final episode that left viewers divided. And well, let’s just say Mr. McMahon never turned out to be a figment of Kelly Kelly’s imagination.
The premise: Oceanic Flight 815 crashes on a mysterious island in the Pacific, and the survivors are forced to band together against the island’s shadowy dangers and uncover its secrets. Uh, we think.
Number of episodes: 121
What made it great: Although it only ran for six years, its non-linear storytelling devices changed the way a TV show was created and watched. As confusing as the show was (and oh boy, was it confusing), it spawned arguably the most rabid fan following since “Star Trek,” launched the careers of several of its actors and has been name-dropped on shows as diverse as “30 Rock” and “How I Met Your Mother.”
“Lost” vs. Raw: We’re fans of this show, but we’ll say this for Raw in comparison: It’s a lot less confusing. Let’s be honest here, the closest thing we ever had to a hatch was the Little People’s Court, and nobody had to push a button. Also, Ryback could totally take the smoke monster.
The premise: A group of bafflingly attractive lifeguards save lives and work out interpersonal relationships amid the California beach culture of the 1990s.
Number of episodes: 242
What made it great: It made Pamela Anderson a household name, as well as David Hasselhoff. Also popularized the slow-motion running technique and proved that soap opera-style storylines can exist respectably on network television.
“Baywatch” vs. Raw: What’s that now? Sorry, we looked up the intro and forgot what we were talking about.
The premise: A group of close-knit 20-somethings bumble through life and love in New York City.
Number of episodes: 236
What made it great: Like “Seinfeld,” the show’s quirky lexicon quickly bled over into American culture at large (if you ever see someone dressed as a “holiday armadillo” at a costume party, now you know why), and the relationships between the characters became major pop culture talking points. And while no New Yorker could EVER afford such a nice apartment on these people’s salaries, the show’s charming, fantasy-world version of life in “The Big Apple” echoed throughout television for years after it went dark.
“Seinfeld” vs. Raw: What would you rather see? Ross-Rachel-Chandler-Monica? Or AJ-Punk-Bryan-Kane?
The premise: A snarky British time traveler gets into temporally displaced adventures while roaming around in the TARDIS, a time machine built to resemble a payphone booth.
Number of episodes: 784 (includes one TV movie) and counting
What made it great: In a word? Tenacity. The vast mythology of this cult hit allowed its creators to keep the story going for close to 50 years, adding new twists and quirks to the show’s rules (The Doctor himself can re-generate his body each time he dies – there have been 11 incarnations and counting, each played by a different actor). Plus, with the entirety of human history at their hands, the show runners have never been short on ideas for new stories.
“Doctor Who” vs. Raw: It’s true, William Regal can’t regenerate, but we’d never presume we could cast anyone to replace him anyway.
The premise: A bunch of Average Joes work through life’s hardships and forge lasting friendships at their favorite Boston bar.
Number of episodes: 275
What made it great: A diverse cast of characters and a relatable setting made it an all-time favorite for the duration of its 11-year run. The series took great care to develop all its characters and storylines, and put a strong emphasis on character over plot. As a testament to this, one of the show’s characters, Dr. Frasier Crane, got his own spinoff that ran for 11 seasons of its own.
“Cheers” vs. Raw: Three things. 1) Cheers never bought Gary’s Old Town Bar. 2) “YES!” is the new “NORM!” 3) Even Cliff didn’t know our “Did You Knows.”
The premise: A lot like Raw, but everything is blue.
Number of episodes: 671 (as of tonight) and counting
What made it great: Well, not to be self-congratulatory here, but it was a revolutionary moment in WWE history when SmackDown premiered at the height of the Attitude Era. The high-octane “blue brand” helped WWE win the Monday Night War, solidified The Rock as a pop icon (the show was named after him, after all), and also earned a significant place in American history at large by being one of the first entertainment shows to carry out a broadcast in the days following September 11th, 2001 ( WATCH: MR. MCMAHON ADDRESSES THE WWE UNIVERSE). Recently, SmackDown has been ruling the roost in its new home on SyFy.
SmackDown vs. Raw: More blue. Although, we’ve got to say, SmackDown hasn’t reached 1,000 episodes … yet.