Happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all! And since it's St. Patrick's Day, we thought we'd mark the occasion in a thematically appropriate way. But rather than focus on great moments in Irish television, the luckiest TV characters, or an ode to televised boozing, we thought we'd take the most literal interpretation possible. And so we present the Greenest Moments in TV History. And when we say green, we mean green. Not green as in "environmentally sustainable." Not green as in "envious." We're not even including the premiere episode of Green Acres (not green enough). These are the twelve moments that represent the pinnacle of the color green in TV culture.
The Flintstones was in its fifth season when The Great Gazoo made his debut appearance, the first of eleven times the floating space alien would torment Fred and Barney. While many saw the late arrival and tonal shift of Gazoo to be a jump-the-shark moment for the series, the fact is that a TV show where humans and dinosaurs existed simultaneously and birds served as telephones wasn't exactly screaming for realism. Voiced by comedy legend Harvey Korman, Gazoo showed up periodically, got Fred and Barney into trouble, and called them both dumb-dumbs constantly, all while being brightly, resplendently green. An icon for all time.
In the January 3rd, 1969, episode of the original Star Trek series, titled "Whom Gods Destroy," Captain Kirk and Mister Spock are held captive by a shapeshifting alien who needs a passcode from Kirk. One of his attempts to coax it out of the Enterprise captain is by employing a slave girl, Marta, a green alien woman of the Orion people. As played by Yvonne Craig, Marta performs a seductive dance in an attempt to get Kirk to comply. Marta is eventually thwarted, with Spock's help, but the sexy green alien took a place among the great Star Trek lore, so much so that when J.J. Abrams directed the big-screen reboot movie, he cast Rachel Nichols to play a green alien to have sex with Chris Pine's Kirk as a nod to the original series.
Although Kermit the Frog began his TV career on the local Washington D.C. program Sam and Friends way back in 1955, it was the advent of Sesame Street and later The Muppet Show that brought Kermit into prominence. Today Kermit is a global icon, star of many movies, multi-time presenter at the Academy Awards, and, most recently, the surprise identity behind the Snail on The Masked Singer. But his best — and certainly greenest — pop culture moment was when he performed his signature hit "Bein' Green" with Ray Charles on Sesame Street.
Back on November 4, 1977, nobody could have en(wanda)visioned the future that lay ahead for superhero television. But long before Mark Ruffalo smashed his way through The Avengers, Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno teamed up to play Dr. David Banner and the Hulk for five seasons (and five more TV movies) on CBS. The iconic transformations from mild-mannered Banner to rage-fueled Hulk made green the color of primal fury, even if the visuals seem campily rudimentary from a 2021 perspective.
One of the fun things to look back on about Nickelodeon is that while they were branded as the one network purely for kids in the 1980s, they threw in a good dose of punishment with their entertainment. Their signature game show, Double Dare (one of the hidden gems of Paramount+) handed out prizes like a hundred dollars or a tape deck to its child competitors, but it also made them wade through pools of goo and dig through a giant nose's gross boogers to get it. No show punished its kids like You Can't Do That on Television, though. The Canadian sketch series had, among its many Laugh-In-esque bits, a rule where if anyone said the words "I don't know," a bucketful of green slime would dump on their heads from an offscreen source. Gross, yes, but hey, it probably taught those kids to know about stuff! The green slime became such a popular bit that Nickelodeon turned it into one of its signature pieces of iconography, everywhere from ad campaigns, to the Kids Choice Awards, to green slime you could purchase at a toy store and take home to ruin your parents' expensive wall-to-wall carpeting.
Beginning with the first Simpsons shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, matriarch Marge Simpson had her look down: blue beehive bouffant, pink pearl necklace, and an unadorned green tube dress that she would wear everywhere (with the notable exception of the country club episode where she buys the Chanel suit, the exception that proves the rule). And while it's never quite explored why a strapless, calf-length tube dress is the preferred day-to-day wear for a housewife, Marge's look is undeniably iconic, recognizable the world over, and improbably stylish-looking set against her yellow skin.
While M&M candies have been in production since the early 1940s, it wasn't until the 1970s that an urban legend began to emerge that the green M&Ms act as an aphrodisiac. A classic urban legend, preposterous but oddly plausible, this persisted without much in the way of comment from the parent company until 2001, when a TV ad campaign decided to get coy with it. "What is it about the green ones?" the ads cheekily wondered, while the Green M&M vamped around all seductively. Who knew we needed horny candy after all these years? M&Ms, that's who.
With the fifth episode of its second season, 30 Rock took a jab at parent company NBC's "Green Week" initiatives to trumpet their own environmentalism. Tina Fey's show rightly highlighted what an odd thing it is for a media arm of a giant multinational corporation to tout its commitment to a cleaner planet by … asking you to buy more energy-efficient versions of their own products. This was all done via the corporate mascot Greenzo (David Schwimmer), who turned out to be a vainglorious and uncontrollable maniac. The Greenzo plot is actually the less funny half of an episode that also features Kenneth Parcell's last party ever, but good Schwimmer is good Schwimmer.
Who knew that on October 10, 2012, when The CW premiered an action-adventure series based on DC Comics' Green Arrow that it would launch a superhero TV empire that would encompass seven TV series, two web series, multiple crossover events, and turn Greg Berlanti into TV's most ubiquitous super-producer? Previous to Arrow, The CW had introduced Oliver Queen and his superhero alias the Green Arrow on its superhero series Smallville, where he was played by future This Is Us star Justin Hartley. Arrow was a fresh start for the character, with Stephen Amell donning the signature green costume and defending Starling City from crime, both organized and otherwise. Arrow might be the single most unlikely influential TV show ever, and maybe we can thank Oliver's lucky green hue for part of that.
Poor Alexis Michelle on Season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race. She was probably always going to end up outshined by that season's legendary queens like Sasha Velour, Shea Coulee, and Peppermint, but she also took so many opportunities to put her foot in her mouth. None more spectacularly so than in the Michelle Visage Roast challenge, where Alexis — ever the theater queen — dressed up in Elphaba drag, green head-to-toe, in order to crack jokes at the expense of Michelle, famous hater of the color green. Alexis bombed hard with her set, and when guest judge Tamar Braxton wasn't feeling her decision to costume up for a roast, Alexis couldn't help but try to correct the substitute teacher: "But Tamar, have you ever seen the show?" Alexis asked of the guest judge who previously appeared on the Season 7 Snatch Game episode. Minutes later, Alexis was forced to lip sync for her life.
Not to be outdone in the green department by his more wistful castmate, Sesame Street resident Oscar the Grouch in his mangy green muppet fur held it down from the trash can for all the kids who just were not feeling your sunny optimism on the day's events, Maria. Oscar became an icon and, sure, often the antagonist on a show that was mostly about learning and being kind. But in this 2019 SNL parody of the film Joker, David Harbour donned the signature green color to play a garbage collector who'd had all he could take from a broken society and turned all his rage and cynicism into becoming … a grouch.
Disney+'s The Mandalorian had a lot going for it when it premiered on November 12, 2019: charismatic star Pedro Pascal, a lively supporting cast, the fact that it calls upon beloved Stars Wars ephemera building up in popularity over decades of the show ever-more-rabid fandom. And then it premiered, and the only thing anybody ever wanted to talk about was the cutest little creature in the galaxy, Baby Yoda, the perfect little green character with big eyes who had everybody reacting like the family at the first Christmas after your sister's baby is born. Yes, eventually the character got a name, but by then it was far too late. Baby Yoda then, Baby Yoda now, Baby Yoda forever. Our little green dynamo.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.