Party of Five
This is easily the most personal one on my list and the one I feel most guilty about including. Yeah, there were moments of unrealistic melodrama, and yeah, everyone was just a little too good-looking. But it had a lot of things going for it.
For one, it was set in SF, always a plus. And it had a cool premise: Parents die in a car wreck, five siblings of varying ages left to take care of each other. It also had some pretty dark storylines. Neve Campbell's character decided to have an abortion before the producers caved and gave her a miscarriage before she could go through with it. Matthew Fox's newish girlfriend ditched him as soon as he was diagnosed with cancer, which I thought was more realsitic than most shows would had the balls to depict.
But the absoulte piece de resistance (sorry, I don't know how to do accents) was the "Bailey's an alcoholic" arc during my senior year of college. Every Wednesday night at 9 pm, my future best man Charley and I would gather ourselves in front of the tv in my dumpy college house in Davis, two 32 ounces of King Cobra in hand from the liquor store across the street. Why only two? It was a school night! If you think this makes us sound sort of gay, the fact that we referred to the show only as "POF" probably seals the deal in your mind.
Anyway, when Bailey's ongoing issues culminated with an intervention led by his siblings, who explained to him that his dad was an alcoholic also, so the disease was in his blood and must be fought, we thought the usual after-school special solution was coming. I can still recall, almost verbatim, what Bailey said: "It's ok, I understand now. I'm an alcoholic. That's what I do. I drink." Then he drunkenly staggered out the door to his car, chased by Jennifer Love Hewitt, who managed not to stop him but only to hitch a ride which culminated in...yep...a drunken accident. Well, that was maybe some of the finest television I'd seen up to that point in my life. Charley and I quoted it for weeks.
Also, this show gave the world JLH's massive breasts. 'Nuff said.