Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Great (film) Debates vol. 42

All the world’s a sitcom writ large. . . or something like that. But hey, who hasn’t enjoyed a good sitcom now and then?

What is your favorite sitcom?

Panelist: AndrewPrice

This is a tough one. I generally have stopped watching modern sitcoms because they're all the same. But I did like a lot of the older ones. Probably the one which stands out the most for me, strangely, is Barney Miller. It was depressing, it had that 1970s "the world is breaking down" sense, and it wasn't particularly zany like a WKRP, but it was just a truly enjoyable show. Brownies anyone?

Panelist: BevfromNYC

My all time favorite sitcom is Sports Night though I have to throw in The Big Bang Theory for current shows. However now that there are a plethora of cable stations that broadcast television shows from the 70’s, 60’s and even the 50’s I get the opportunity to revisit some really great television – The Jack Benny Show and the Burns & Allen Show – now those were great sitcoms!

Panelist: T-Rav

Technically, I’m not sure it qualifies as a “sitcom,” but I absolutely love The Office. Or at least, I really loved the early and middle seasons. Nowadays it’s not as great, but most of the Steve Carell era had good storylines, strong chemistry between the actors, and some memorable jokes. After all, if not for Michael Scott, we would never have the phrase “That’s what she said,” and where would we be without that?

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

Cosby Show. Second place Mary Tyler Moore. Positive fun prior to the slutty young adult meme of today.

Panelist: ScottDS

Of all-time? Probably Newsradio which edges out Seinfeld by a hair. I truly believe it's the last great three-camera workplace sitcom, the ensemble cast was pitch-perfect, and unlike Seinfeld, there were no bad episodes. I don't know how I managed to follow it across five different time slots (at least!) over five years. My favorite current sitcom is Community.

Comments? Thoughts?


AndrewPrice said...

For those who haven’t heard, Without A Hitch will be FREE on Tuesday.

If you don’t have it yet, get it free on Kindle and PLEASE leave me a review. I need lots of reviews. And for those who have already got either book, I would greatly appreciate a review before Tuesday if you could, even if it’s only a partial review.


(Click on the book covers on the left to take you to the books!)

shawn said...

I would have to say "The Simpsons" with a qualifier: first 9 seasons or so, after that it lost a lot of steam.

Runners-up would include:
Black Adder
"Married with Children" had moments of brilliance.
Parker Lewis Can't Lose.

Tennessee Jed said...

I tend not to watch sitcoms that much anymore, but all those mentioned are among the elites. As a little guy growing up in the 50's, whenever I was home sick, I liked My Little Margie, The Real McCoy, Bob Cummings, and Leave It To Beaver. Of the crop today, the writing and Acting for Modern Family is far and away the best on t.v.

Rav - The Office is typical of comedies after All in the Family, where it is not always played strictly for laughs.

Bev - Those oldies like Burns and Allen were priceless. My brother always said Sports Night was great, and I loved the ones I saw, but for some reason, I never got to watch it on a regular basis.

Andrew - your descriptions of modern comedies is spot on. I've had a house full this weekend, but will get my reviews done before Tuesday :)

AndrewPrice said...

Why is everybody up so late? LOL!

Shawn, I agree 100% on the Simpsons. The first several seasons were great, and I still remember most parts of most of the episodes and quote them regularly ("nobody who speaks German could be an evil man"), but then the show just fell off a cliff and it lost me completely.

Black Adder -- awesome! I love that show!

Newsradio was another of my favorites.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed!

You know what old sit-com I really liked? My Favorite Martian. I could watch that all the time.

Other oldies, but goldies in my book include Hogan's Heroes, Leave it to Beaver, Bewitched, I Dream of Gennie, Gilligan's Island, Get Smart, the Addams Family, and more. Good times!

Backthrow said...

Easily WKRP IN CINCINNATI... Perfect cast, great writing, excellent right out of the gate and steadily got even better as it went along, never declining or wearing out its welcome. Too bad its inherent music rights issues have virtually murdered it on DVD and in post-1980s reruns.


THE SIMPSONS (the first 8 seasons only)

Anonymous said...

Most of the sitcoms mentioned were just before my time but I'm eternally grateful that I managed to grow up at a time when a lot of this stuff still aired on TV in one form or another. As a kid in the late 80s/early 90s, I got to watch I Love Lucy and Gilligan's Island (Mary Ann, to answer that question!) and The Munsters, and of course, Get Smart.

Bev - Sports Night has been on my Netflix cue since I first started subscribing to it almost 10 years ago. I think it's available on Instant now so I have no excuse!

Backthrow - Great call on The Simpsons (I stopped collecting the DVDs at season 10). I also like Spaced but I think Black Books and The IT Crowd are even funnier. And Police Squad! is perfection.

"Who are you? How did you get in here?"
"I'm a locksmith. And I'm a locksmith."

Andrew - I submit this article which I sent to BH a while back. The author suggests that we need a Turner Classic Movie channel for vintage television.

T-Rav said...

I actually used to watch a lot of the old '60s sitcoms when I was a kid, because my mom always had the channel on TV Land. Gilligan's Island, The Munsters, The Dick Van Dyke Show, they were all good. I think Dick Van Dyke was my favorite comedic figure from those shows, because he could do lots of slapstick and other antics without being over the top.

BevfromNYC said...

Scott and Backthrow, have you ever seen Corner Gas or Robson Arms? Both are Canadian and really great. Canada humor is a wonderful hybrid of British quirky IT/Black Books/Monty Python humor and American sitcom humor. I highly recommend both.

And one more that's not necessarily a comedy, but just great especially if you like Shakespeare - Slings and Arrows
You can get all of these on Netflix or Amazon.

DUQ said...

Oh, so many to choose from! Mork and Mindy, Soap, Gomer Pile, Wings, Night Court, Cheers. Too many... too choose!

Ed said...

Happy Father's Day everybody!

I choose.... Friends... no, I kid. I hate that show. I choose Seinfeld.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, How could I forget Taxi? "What does a yellow light mean?" Everyone I know knows that line and laughs at it!

Great list, by the way. I'm a big fan of Police Squad and wish they had done more episodes.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I saw the late 1970s stuff live, but all the rest I saw in syndication.

Yes, Police Squad is perfection! LOL!

As for a TCM for sitcoms, that's sort of what TV Land is supposed to be, though they do show a lot of B-material as well.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I liked Dick van Dyke as well for the same reason. He was funny without getting stupid. I'm not a fan of Lucy precisely because her show always ended up with things going not-credibly wrong and then her whining and screaming about it. Not my thing.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I haven't heard of any of those?

I know I've seen some Canadian sitcoms, but I can't remember them. One I do not like played on PBS for years, called the Red and Green show. Blech.

On British stuff, I love Black Adder, Red Dwarf, and my ALL TIME FAVORITE (for British) Are You Being Served. I love that one!

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I liked Wings as well. I avoided it for years because it looked stupid, but it was fun.

T-Rav said...

Andrew, TV Land is an example of what tends to happen to specialty cable channels over time. First they stuck to their stated goal of showing exclusively '50s, '60s, and '70s shows--going retro and all that--then modern stuff started creeping in. Now, they have "TV Land Original Programming!" with that Betty White sitcom and all. Cable channels have a tendency to start resembling each other, I think, and that channel in particular has really fallen prey to it.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, That's not funny. Friends almost destroyed the planet and people are still dying of blandness today. Seinfeld is good though.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Yeah, that seems to be the trend. Believe it or not, I remember when the Sci-Fi Channel actually showed things like TOS Star Trek and old science fiction films. Today it's all original programming or recently-made films about giant snaketopuses. Last night was Piranaconda... no, I'm not kidding.

Ed said...

Andrew and T-Rav, I am not ashamed to admit I watched that and enjoyed it. :D

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Yeah, I watched it too. LOL!

Kelly said...

Benson and Spin City. Politics back before they got nasty!

T-Rav said...

Ed and Andrew, but did you enjoy Sharktopus?

AndrewPrice said...

Kelly, I liked Benson a lot and, yeah, I miss the days they could be entirely apolitical in a show.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Uh, yeah, I did actually. I'm a sucker for these kinds of films.

Doc Whoa said...

Family Ties! And my guilty pleasure sitcom, if there is such a thing, is Saved By the Bell.

Doc Whoa said...

Andrew, I love Are You Being Served! "Mr. Humpries, Are you free?"

Unknown said...

I was a big fan of the Mary Tyler Moore show, but apparently I was pretty much alone in loving the spinoff Phyllis.

I dialed past Piranhaconda just long enough to see the wounded snake-fish get attacked by the other snake-fish. That was enough. I moved on.

Floyd said...

YES Scott... NewsRadio...

Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor DAAAAAAMN!

Love Mary Tyler Moore Show; Barney Miller too...

Trapper John era MASH was long on fun and short on "lessons".

As a kid I loved Gilligan's Island (reruns of course). Great show -- silly with a lot of heart.

As a parent... I like iCarly and one called Victorious. The jokes are 1950/60s sitcom retreads and updated (for Twitter, Internet, etc.) and the kids are funny (and some of them can really sing -- on Victorious.

Floyd said...

That's Floyd R. Turbo... Google beheaded me... Allahu Akhbar!!!!!!!

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, I liked both and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

What's funny about Being Served is that they used the same jokes over and over in each episode, but they always made me laugh.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Clearly you missed the nuances of Piranhaconda! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, LOL! Sorry to hear Google has gone jihad on your avatar!

I liked Gilligan's Island a lot too as a kid. It's not earth-shattering, but it's fun and good-natured.

I love Newsradio! I liked MASH a lot too, except they got too preachy too often. And even as a kid, I knew they were being liberal-political and I rarely bought their point.

Outlaw13 said...

Currently I enjoy Modern Family, The Office was very funny in the beginning but has tapered off as of late. I also like Archer, although I really don't know if that can be called a Sitcom. Almost forgot the foul rude very funny, "Don't Trust The B.... in Apartment 23.

Older stuff I enjoyed, The Bob Newhart Show (with Larry, Darrel and Darrel), Seinfeld and Fawlty Towers.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, I still remember the line: "This is my brother Darrel, and this is my other brother Darrel." LOL!

DUQ said...

That's a good question if cartoons count as sitcoms? I'd say they don't because they have their own category?

ellenB said...

Anybody remember "Alice"?

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Good question. Something like the Simpson's certainly fits the mold of both. Something like Futurama really doesn't.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, I know of it, but I never watched it.

Anonymous said...

Comments for the room...

I also managed to catch some Benson reruns at some point when I was younger. Funny stuff. I think it's safe to say Parks & Recreation has done a good job with non-partisan political comedy.

The only joke I remember on Benson was Ethan Phillips' character explaining how he crashed his car into a piano. "I saw a cat, I swerved, and went up the ramp of a moving van!"

Bev -

I've heard of both Corner Gas and Slings and Arrows and both have been recommended to me. I recently reviewed The Newsroom, another Canadian show (not the Sorkin show).

T-Rav -

I totally agree about TV Land. Niche channels seem to become more all-encompassing (and more bland as a result) over time. It's a damn shame, too. There's so much more that could be on TV and if I were running one of the studios, I'd be making deals with Netflix and Hulu for the back catalog!

Doc -

I know you said it was a guilty pleasure but... Saved by the Bell? Really?! I say this with a smile but I absolutely loathe that show. And for a kids show that was supposed to teach a moral/ethical lesson every week (including the always popular "Be yourself"), they seemed to go out of their way to portray smart kids as socially-inept retards.

Social Inept Retards said...

Are you saying we can't be smart? You bigot!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, You know that Rene Auberjonois was on Benson, right? I remember him the most.

T-Rav said...

Outlaw (and also Jed), the first three seasons of The Office are by far the best; I don't think there's a bad episode in them. Four and five are a bit more hit-and-miss; and since six, I'd say they've been of significantly lower quality. But those first three are just great, so if you should watch or buy any seasons of the show, make sure it's them.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I think it's the rare show which can go more than four years before it gets stale.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

Yes, I know. But I don't remember much else about the show.

When it comes to movies and TV, as grateful as I am that I was born in the early 80s, sometimes I wish I had been born 10 years earlier!

And re: Saved by the Bell, my point was that a show that was supposed to teach good values still managed to make a mockery of one group of kids. Not to go on a political tangent but that's the one thing that bothers me about all the gay bullying stuff. Straight kids get the shit kicked out of 'em, too! And this show probably didn't help in that regard.

"Zach Morris makes fun of nerds so it must be okay!"

Individualist said...

Let's see .. in no particular order

The Andy Griffith Show
Gilligan's Island
Are you being servered (BBC)
Barney Miller
Big Bang Theory
Northern Exposure
I Dream of Genie
Gomer Pyle

These are some of the shows I liked the best. If I have to pick a best I would have to go with I Love Lucy.

Individualist said...

Oh alm osst forgot

Mary Tyler Moore and Dickk Van Dyke show

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Yeah, that's true. They definitely played right into stereotypes and did their best to make nerds seem like they should get beat up. So much for teaching kids good lessons!

Early 80's/late 70's television was pretty good, with lots of quality sitcoms and shows like Battlestar Galactica and The A-Team. Plus, you still had a lot of originality because TV producers were looking for new angles to win people over rather than just trying to do the same old thing over and over.

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, That's a good list.

K said...

The "Phil Silvers Show" aka "Sgt. Bilko. Blows anything done today away. Only became available on DVD in the last couple of years and only the first season. Still as entertaining as heck with a not in your face anti-authoritarianism.

AndrewPrice said...

K, I've never seen his show. I've seen him appear in some movies and as a guest on various other shows or game shows, but I never saw him in his own show.

tryanmax said...

Late to the party. I'm a bit fickle when it comes to comedy and sitcoms especially. I should nod to Bewitched as Daren Stevens set me on my career path; Get Smart for my unabashed love for all things Mel Brooks; and The Honeymooners because they did better back then many jokes that are still being retreaded to this day.

As a child of the 80s, I will admit a continuing soft spot for some of the TGIF sitcoms like Full House and Family Matters, though both of those have definite jump-the-shark points and I don't care for what came afterward. (i.e. Robot Urkel was cool, but Stefan Urquelle was too much.) Also, I don't know if there was a name for the lineup, but I always watched Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Blossom on Monday nights. (Mayim Bialik still holds a strange draw for me, and I occasionally find myself watching The Big Bang Theory as a result, though I really dislike that show.)

For more recent fare, I really like the British series Misfits, though it presses the boundaries of what might qualify as a sitcom. It's ~1 hr/episode runtime might rule it out, actually.

Also, does anybody else have MeTV in their areas? It is a digital-auxiliary broadcast network that does what TV Land set out to do, only much more faithfully. It's about all I watch anymore.

(Also, in defense of The Red Green Show, I would say that it seems to want to appeal to a very niche sense of humor, that being rural outdoorsy do-it-yourself middle-middle class males of primarily Scandinavian descent.)

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, It's definitely niche. I'm not entirely sure what the audience is, whether it's for "heartland types" who like to laugh at themselves or if it's meant for the sophisticated who like to laugh at the heartland types, or something else entirely. In truth, it makes me think of the kind of "country" humor you get out of guys like Jeff Foxworthy.

I may have MeTV, but I haven't checked... too many channels to keep track.

tryanmax said...

I find the humor on Red Green familiar enough to take it as good-natured self-deprecation rather than anything elite. If it were the latter, the tone would be all wrong and they wouldn't be able to resist injecting a sophisticated city-slicker to condescend directly to the hicks. (This is a tacit admission to being "in the demo" as they say.)

AndrewPrice said...

I agree with you, which is why I think it's similar to what Foxworthy does.

The reason I wonder about the laughing-sophisticates angle is because of the channel it's on -- PBS. PBS tends to cater to rich urbanites.

tryanmax said...

I confess, I have no explanation, except that they also carry Austin City Limits and they allow the Kochs to fund an awful lot of their science shows. Who knows?

AndrewPrice said...

That's true. Interesting.

tryanmax said...

No comments on the sitcoms I like?

AndrewPrice said...

I watched Family Matters when it was on (and of course Bewitched and Get Smart in reruns), but I never really watched the rest. I knew of them, but didn't watch. Ditto on Cosby -- knew of, but never watched.

I think I was falling out of love with sitcoms by the late 1980s, before I really came to hate them in the 1990s when it was all "incompetent husband and bossy wife" or "five slutty, jobless friends living in million dollar lofts". The originality was already vanishing.

tryanmax said...

Well, you saw how I had to reach for something recent to like. I forgot to list Cheers. Always a good standby. And Frasier as well.

tryanmax said...

Oh, and the Boston connection reminded me of Boston Legal, but again, that is straining the definition of sitcom.

AndrewPrice said...

I would say that the Golden Age of sitcoms was in the mid-1960s, followed by a Second Golden Age in the late 1970s through early-1980s. Since then, there have occasionally been great ones, but they are getting fewer and farther between, and there is much more crap surrounding them.

And frankly, I would credit Britain with much of the best sitcom work over the past 20 years.

K said...

(part 1)
This is one of the best episodes.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks K, I'll check it out.

Here's your link: LINK

rlaWTX said...

was MASH a sitcom?

Dick van Dyke reruns are genius.
Green Acres was funny.
I like Big Bang Theory.

Anonymous said...

tryanmax -

I used to watch Full House and Family Matters all the time and while there are a handful of good gags I remember, nowadays I can't help but cringe when I think about 'em! Neither show is a work of art but, man, something about them: the corny jokes, the manipulative "serious music," etc. Just my opinion. :-)

Fresh Prince was a blast and while Will Smith gets most of the attention, I think the cast is one of the better sitcom casts of the last 20 years. I don't think James Avery (Uncle Phil) gets the reconnection he deserves.

Seriously, does it get any better than this? :-)

I also watched Step by Step. Meh... I guess it had its moments.

Kit said...

<a href=">FAWLTY TOWERS. Don't Mention the War!</a>

I enjoyed HOME IMPROVEMENT, mainly because of the Tool Time scenes which were classic slapstick. Family scenes . . . not so much.

Fresh Prince, ah yes, West Phildalphia born and raised. . . must. . . resist. . . urge. . . to. . . finish. . . song. . .

I would give honorable mentions to Disney's brilliant Even Stevens starring Shia Lebouf and, though not quite as good, Wizards of Waverly Place. The former was probably the best live-action show to carry the Disney logo since Walt himself appeared on the screen. Shia Lebouf was pretty much the kid every kid idolized.
The show revolved around a family of five: 2 parents, 3 kids.
Since this was a Disney show the kids were the focus of it, with special emphasis on the younger 2. The oldest was a stereotypical dumb jock, the middle was a brainy, anal-retentive girl who had never gotten a C, and the youngest was Shia Lebouf, the exact opposite of his sister, constantly conning people into his various get-rich-quick schemes (which tended to fail miserably) and pulling pranks on his sister (which were usually successful). The cast was good, with Shia Lebouf dominating the show with his wit, dorky coolness, and ability to make even the show's most bizarre comedy gags funny. The sister was a bit more uneven but did a good job.

Waverly Place, though not one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, what I've seen of it was pretty fun largely due to Selena Gomez's incredible acting and comedic skills (for a young actor) and ability to pull of a character who was quite possibly evil (with a heart of gold . . . somewhere).

AndrewPrice said...


Here's your link: FAWLTY TOWERS

I was on the fence about Home Improvement, some of it was good, most struck me as kind of dull.

I haven't watched the Disney shows you mention. I know of them, but I never watched them.

Koshcat said...

Difficult question as there have been some very good ones that have stood the test of time. I grew up watching MASH, so watching it reminds me of my childhood. I still find Seinfield episodes to be very good. I think my favorite is either the "Whip it out" or "Shrinkage". The former is funny because, believe it or not, I have talked to several women, including my wife, where that has happened to them. There are also old classics that I still enjoy such as Cheers, The Honeymooners, and Andy Griffith. I never really cared for The Lucy show. Most of them, though are quite forgetable and it seems that most of the shows today are crap.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, Agreed. There are some very good ones which had absolutely stood the test of time and then there are some which are completely forgettable. MASH reminds me of my childhood as well.

Firefly said...

Night Court. It was the icing on the original must see TV Thursday night block. All four incarnations of Blackadder, although II and ... Goes Forth were the best. I grew up with the original Bob Newhart (Saturday nights were magic then with All in the Family, MTM, Newhart, topped of with Carol Burnett).

AndrewPrice said...

Firefly, Those are all excellent choices. Blackadder in particular is hilarious!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Lots of good ones to choose from.

CPO Sharkey (Love Don Rickles).
My Three Sons (I always wished Fred MacMurray was my dad).
Addams Family/Munsters
The Beverly Hillbillys (Granny with a shotgun is always funny, lol).
All of Newhart's shows (not strictly sitcom and like Frasier lots of cerebral humor).
Sanford and Son
The Odd Couple
Gilligan's Island (I concur, Scott, Maryann) :^)
Sledgehammer and Police Squad
Benny Hill (a bit bawdy sometimes but all funny).
Early episodes of Married With Children.
Frasier of course (I'm still amazed at the quality because I laugh a lot during every episode even after repeated viewings).
Monk (although not a sitcom per se, it had lots of sitcom in it) and same with Psych.
Special Unit One (only ran for one season but it's still hilarious).

I concur, Andrew that there are far less original or quality sitcoms nowadays.
So much recycled stuff and it's almost always predictable.

I can think of lots of ideas the networks haven't tried (howabout a mob spoof?, or a modern day McHales Navy?), and I'm not a very creative guy.

It seems like the best creative comedy writers are doing shows other than sitcoms (Dexter, Breaking Bad, to name a few that have refreshing humor in the oddest situations).

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I forgot about "Benny Hill"! Early "Married With Children" was excellent as well, before they started playing to their studio audience.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Dexter is excellent!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I concur, Andrew.
I find it strange that I laugh more watching Dexter than I do at the vast majority of modern sitcoms.

I do intend to watch Modern Family someday to give it a chance.

Scrubs (and Malcolm In The Middle) was another pretty funny modern sitcom but it was hit n' miss (plus it just got too silly many times. King Of Queens had the same problems, but at least the wife, Carrie got them in funny and bad situations as often as Doug the husband did). However, the funny ones were very good.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Dexter has a wicked sense of humor. I find myself laughing a lot.

Malcolm in the Middle was pretty funny, but was a bit hit and miss. I never got around to seeing Scrubs.

Kit said...

Some others I failed to mention:

Yes, Minister: Classic British sitcom about politics and government.
Fawlty Towers: "Don't mention the war!"

There is How I Met Your Mother. "Legen. . . Wait for it . . . Dary!"
Big Bang Theory: Interesting how Howard has become the most mature guy in the group.
The Veep: Political satire, I enjoyed it.

Kit said...

How I Met Your Mother would probably be the most depressing sitcom in history given all the crap they put their characters through but, as someone at TVTropes pointed out, they can get away with it because you know everything ends happily.

They also use the frame narrative style brilliantly, often toying with it in clever and inventive ways.

Kit said...

Also, Lily/Marshall is probably the best couple on television right now.

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