1. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
Ran: Seven seasons, 1997-2003
Even if you could buy the premise — a SoCal cheerleader becomes the Chosen One, destined to destroy demons and bloodsuckers — there was the movie's name, which suggested a sort of cut-rate novelty comedy along the lines of Killer Klowns from Outer Space or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Thankfully, writer Joss Whedon didn't give up on his idea, and thought that maybe, just maybe, he might sell the concept to the fledgling WB Network. The result was a masterpiece: seven seasons of a Joseph Campbell-esque hero's journey as filtered through Whedon's knowing voice (he captured real teenspeak as few have), pop-culture-savvy approach, genuine sensitivity and seamless melding of comedy, drama and horror-fantasy elements.
He'd do formalistic goofs like a musical episode ("Once More, With Feeling"), an almost dialogue-less episode ("Hush") and a gut-wrenchingly real look at death ("The Body"). But this was about the characters first and foremost: good/bad romantic interests Angel and Spike, nerd-to-witch Willow, nerd-to-slightly-more-handsome-nerd Xander, the father-figure Giles — and Buffy, the role Sarah Michelle Gellar was born to play.. You could argue that modern geek culture and the now-taken-for-granted TV renaissance starts here; you can assuredly prove that this was ground zero for the wave of strong female heroines that followed. The movie was a one-joke wonder. The series was a chronicle of teen life in which the emotional ups and downs of high school and college life nestled side by side with monsters, vampires, werewolves, mummies and every other ghoul out there. It continues to have one hellmouth of a bite.
Success rate: 10