Iconic TV Shows That Changed Pop Culture Forever

Disney+, Stan

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Television has always been a huge part of our lives, providing endless entertainment and creativity. But some iconic tv shows go beyond just being popular — they change the game completely.

Each groundbreaking show did something that hadn’t been done before, whether it was through innovative storytelling, addressing taboo topics, or creating entirely new genres. These series didn’t just follow trends; they set them. After these shows aired, everything else seemed to take cues from their success, trying to capture the same magic.

Let’s dive into the iconic TV shows that have left a permanent mark on pop culture and transformed the TV landscape. From the high school dramas that defined a generation to the fantasy epics that made nerd culture mainstream, these are the series that changed television forever.

TV Shows That Shaped Pop Culture, and How

I Love Lucy


I Love Lucy isn’t just a classic sitcom; it’s the blueprint for the genre. Debuting in 1951, the show starred Lucille Ball as the hilarious Lucy Ricardo, and it revolutionised TV comedy. It was the first to use a three-camera setup and to film in front of a live studio audience, techniques that became industry standards. I Love Lucy also broke new ground by featuring a pregnant woman on TV and exploring more realistic portrayals of marriage. Its impact on sitcoms is still felt today, proving that good comedy is timeless.

Where to watch: Paramount+

The Sopranos


The Sopranos revolutionised TV storytelling, breaking away from traditional narratives and blending genres in a way that felt groundbreaking at the time. This iconic series, premiering in 1999, mixed crime drama, family dynamics, psychology, and humour, creating a richly layered story. The show centres on Tony Soprano, a key figure in the Italian-American Mafia, who grapples with mental health issues, making him a deeply complex and relatable character.

What set The Sopranos apart was its hyper-realistic portrayal of life, where problems weren’t always neatly resolved, blurring the lines of morality and creating a world that felt raw and authentic. Tony Soprano was one of the first major TV antiheroes, setting the stage for future complex characters like Walter White in Breaking Bad.

Where to watch: BINGE, Apple TV+

Star Trek


Star Trek brought a whole new world of storytelling to TV viewers. Premiering in the late 60s, it quickly became a massive cultural phenomenon. The show offered impressive world-building and featured a diverse cast exploring the vast universe, perfectly aligning with the public’s growing fascination with space exploration.

The creators took bold steps, going where no show had gone before. One of the most groundbreaking moments was the kiss between Captain Kirk and Nyota Uhura, breaking racial barriers on-screen. Star Trek didn’t just inspire fans to dream about the future; it also made significant strides toward racial equality. Its cultural impact is enormous, inspiring generations of fans and creators and paving the way for future sci-fi series and movies.

Where to watch: Stan

The Simpsons


When The Simpsons first aired in 1989, it changed the animation landscape forever. It took the familiar dysfunctional family sitcom and turned it into a satirical, animated masterpiece. The Simpsons live in the fictional town of Springfield, where they tackle everyday issues with a humorous twist. It wasn’t common to see adult-oriented animated shows back then, but The Simpsons proved there was a huge market for it. Its success opened the door for shows like South Park, Family Guy, and American Dad, making animated comedy a staple in adult entertainment.

Where to watch: Disney+



Running from 1994 to 2004, Friends didn’t just air on TV; it moved in, grabbed a coffee from Central Perk, and became part of the family. This iconic show about a group of pals living in New York City wasn’t just popular; it was a full-blown cultural phenomenon. Friends influenced everything from fashion trends (hello, “The Rachel” haircut) to everyday slang (“We were on a break!”), its impact on pop culture is immense. With its loveable characters and unforgettable catchphrases, Friends paved the way for a slew of ensemble comedies that tried to capture the same magic. Whether you’re more of a Ross or a Rachel, one thing’s for sure: TV was never the same after Friends.

Where to watch: BINGE



Dubbed “a show about nothing”, Seinfeld redefined the sitcom genre. Created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the show aired from 1989 to 1998 and focused on the mundane yet hilarious aspects of everyday life. Unlike typical sitcoms with clear story arcs, Seinfeld often featured multiple storylines that cleverly intersected by the episode’s end. Its characters weren’t always likeable, but that was part of the charm. Seinfeld proved that a show didn’t need to follow conventional rules to be wildly entertaining and successful.

Where to watch: Stan

Beverly Hills, 90210

Apple TV+

If you grew up in the ’90s, chances are you remember Beverly Hills, 90210. This iconic TV show wasn’t just a hit; it set the stage for every teen soap that followed. Think Gossip Girl, Dawson’s Creek, and One Tree Hill — they all owe a nod to 90210. Running for 10 seasons, it turned its young cast into overnight celebrities and became one of Fox’s first major successes. The show tackled real issues like sex, pregnancy, and addiction, making it a cultural touchstone for a generation and influencing teen TV for decades.

Where to watch: Apple TV+

Buffy the Vampire Slayer


Enter Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that did more than just slay vampires — it slayed stereotypes, conventions, and expectations. This era-defining supernatural drama took the tired vampire genre and injected it with a potent blend of action, camaraderie, grace, and radical empathy. Created by Joss Whedon, “Buffy” wasn’t just a show about vampires; it was a coming-of-age story, a feminist manifesto, and a cultural touchstone all rolled into one.

Despite its monumental brilliance, Buffy was often overlooked by award ceremonies, but its impact was undeniable. It spawned a dedicated fanbase and inspired a new field of academic study known as “Buffy studies”, where scholars analyse its themes, characters, and cultural significance. Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn’t just break new ground; it paved the way for a new era of television storytelling.

Where to watch: Disney+, Stan



Lost changed the game for TV, with its intricate and captivating storyline that kept viewers glued to their screens until the very end. It pulled audiences in with its mix of mystery and intrigue, making them think and feel deeply.

What really set Lost apart was its top-notch production quality. Everything from the set design to the special effects and the music was done at a level that TV hadn’t seen before.

Even though its plot could be pretty complex and sometimes confusing, Lost found huge success. Both critics and viewers loved it, showing that people were hungry for rich, layered, and thought-provoking stories.

Where to watch: Disney+

Desperate Housewives


Before The Real Housewives franchise took over reality TV, there was Desperate Housewives. Premiering in 2004, this primetime soap about a group of friends living on Wisteria Lane became an instant hit. Its mix of drama, mystery, and humour captivated audiences, and its success inspired Bravo to create the now-famous Real Housewives series. Thanks to Desperate Housewives, we now have a plethora of reality shows centred around glamorous and dramatic lives.

Where to watch: Disney+

Game of Thrones


Fantasy and sci-fi TV shows were often niche genres until Game of Thrones came along. Premiering in 2011, this iconic TV show based on George R.R. Martin’s novels brought dragons, knights, and magic into the mainstream. For eight seasons, it captivated a global audience and became a cultural phenomenon. Game of Thrones proved that fantasy could be cool and commercially successful, paving the way for other high-budget fantasy series like His Dark Materials and Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings show.

Where to watch: BINGE

Stranger Things


Although it’s a newer addition to television, Stranger Things has quickly become a household name. This sci-fi series serves as a nostalgic tribute to the 1980s, appealing to both Gen Xers and Millennials alike. Set in the ’80s, it nods to iconic movies, shows, and media franchises, blending elements of sci-fi, horror, and coming-of-age themes into an enthralling storyline.

What makes Stranger Things stand out is its embrace of diversity — a departure from the norms of ’80s media. The series introduces queer characters, delves into themes of tender masculinity, and highlights female leadership, which were often sidelined in traditional ’80s media. As one of Netflix’s flagship shows, Stranger Things played a significant role in popularising the streaming platform worldwide. It’s proof that combining nostalgia with fresh perspectives can create a winning formula

Where to watch: Netflix

These iconic TV shows didn’t just entertain us; they reshaped the television landscape. They pushed boundaries, sparked conversations, and left a lasting impact on pop culture. From setting new trends to inspiring countless spin-offs and adaptations, these iconic series have forever changed the way we watch and appreciate TV.

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