Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Sitcoms

Here's an article about Bravo's reality show about pitching a sitcom. This show is something, like just about everything else on tv these days, I forgot to watch. But the article brings up an interesting point about the health of the American sitcom. It ain't good. I think we're in a comedy lull this decade but I don't think it's dead. Some decades are just stronger than others. If you look at the decades you get some great ones like:

The 50's (GOOD):
Honeymooners
The Phil Silvers Show (Sgt. Bilko)
Jack Benny
Your Show of Shows
Burns and Allen

All classics I would watch this minute. A lot of people mention I Love Lucy but personally I found it a bit annoying.

The 60's (NOT SO GOOD):
All I can think of is the Dick Van Dyke Show

Everything else is a guilty pleasure, like Get Smart, Gilligan's Island, the Munsters, Batman (let's face it, it WAS a sitcom), the Brady Bunch, et al. Kind of a silly time for sitcoms. Not a whole lot of believability in this decade. Maybe that's why the sci-fi of the Twilight Zone and Star Trek was so good.

The 70's (REALLY GOOD):
the Bob Newhart Show
Taxi
the Muppet Show
WKRP in Cincinatti
All in the Family
Saturday Night Live
the Odd Couple
Barney Miller

Not to mention some great stuff from outside the US like Monty Python's Flying Circus and SCTV. Norman Lear made sitcoms gritty and we love him for that. Even the guilty pleasures like Sanford and Son or the Happy Days franchise were a cut above My Mother the Car. There's a lot of people that love Mary Tyler Moore too. I'm not saying they're wrong.

The 80's (REALLY NOT GOOD):
Cheers

What else you got? Most 80's sitcoms don't hold up today. Nick at Nite shows Night Court and Family Ties, Newhart and the Cosby Show. Go watch them. They don't live up to your memories. Moonlighting was funnier than most shows of its time and it was considered a romantic detective show. Different Strokes outright DEFINES this decade. Lots of smart ass kids and stupid parents. Good stuff in England like Black Adder and the Young Ones but here? Oh yeah, we had ALF.

The 90's (REALLY REALLY GOOD):
the Simpsons
Seinfeld
Kids in the Hall (Canadian)
Mr. Show
Frasier
Everybody Loves Raymond

People seemed to like Friends a lot too. There are some history making shows here. Just look at the first two. Made Home Improvement very easy to ignore. Over the pond we had Father Ted. Man, was that a good show.

The 00's (NOT GOOD):
Curb Your Enthusiasm

All the shows I like get cancelled or threatened. Arrested Developmentis wonderful and nearly dead all the time. Cancelling Andy Richter Controls the Universe was like drowning a puppy. Pamela Anderson has a sitcom now. That's cause for worry. The only hit on the air is Two and a Half Men. I swear I watched that show for a month only because it was broadcast in widescreen.

The point is there's a pattern. Sitcoms will get good again. Luckily movies are getting funnier. The 40 year Old Virgin was the funniest movie I've seen in years. We will be fine.

BTW, I'm only counting sitcoms in this list so really funny stuff like You Bet Your Life, Conan O' Brien and Late Night with David Letterman were left out. I counted sketch shows because I liked them. I counted a Canadian show once because I'm cheating. I 'link only to the good' because Albert Brooks once said so. I want you to argue with me because I like to see high numbers on the comment threads. Go to it.

2 comments:

Cromely said...

Unlike today, though, 80s sitcoms were commercial successes. Must see TV was born in the 80s.

You know, I have to take issue with the criticism on the 80s sit come. Especially shows like Night Court, Family Ties, Newhart, and to a lesser extent Cosby.

Night Court had some of the funniest lines; Newhart was brilliant, but probably about a season or two too long. Family Ties was very much a product of its time, but never failed to entertain. Again, it may have gone on a season to long (the ongoing theoyr about any show that adds a new child late in the run instantly starts to suck.

I've been watching Cosby on nick and DVD and it hold up surprisingly well. Again it probably went on too long.

Don't forgot, that decade also brought us Murphy Brown, Perfect Strangers, The Wonder Years, Golden Girls, Designing Women, etc.

Murphy Borwn really gaves us some cutting edge and in your face satire. How many sitcoms have actually become major political issues where the Vice President actually stirs of contraversy discussing plot lines?

Perfect Strangers brought about a revivival of well done slapstick (which Three's company tried and failed to do).

There was definitely plenty that sucked like Charles in Charge, Alf, Gimme a Break

I was never a Rosanne fan, and Full House didn't hold up as well.

Andrew Torres said...

My friend, I agree with you on all points but one. I must defend "The Cosby Show." Not only was it funny, but the parents were smarter than the kids. And the sitcom world needed that.