Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Great (film) Debates vol. 61

Americans are big into recycling, at least they are with sitcom stars.

There are actors who are permanent fixtures on sitcoms (like Ted Danson), who is your favorite?

Panelist: ScottDS

I'm not much of a sitcom guy nowadays but my answer would have to be Kelsey Grammar, hands down. He's one of our most dependable actors and can do both drama and comedy with equal aplomb. I don't think about Frasier that often but when I do, I realize how much I miss it.

Panelist: AndrewPrice

I am not a fan of sitcoms anymore, so this is a hard one for me. But I'm going to reach into my bag of blah and pull out John Goodman. He's just hard not to like and I think he does a heck of a lot better "fat guy" than any of the guys who replaced him over the years.

Panelist: BevfromNYC

The permanent fixture I miss the most is Bob Newhart. I was just watching a marathon of The Bob Newhart Show, the one where he is the psychologist and what a great show that was. It was entertaining and funny with classic quirky characters and situations that the whole family can watch and with the extra added bonus of being timeless. Of course, now that I am able to revisit old sit-coms on stations like Antenna TV, it is interesting how many of the old shows are timeless and still as funny and entertaining today as they were when they were originally broadcast.

Panelist: T-Rav

I haven't watched many sitcoms in several years, so this is going to be a little '90s-centric. Within those bounds, I would have to go with Jerry Stiller (Seinfeld, The King of Queens, probably some others I don't know about), although Everybody Loves Raymond's Doris Roberts would be a close second.

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

Art Carney as Norton on the Honeymooners.

Comments? Thoughts?

60 comments:

El Gordo said...

Haven´t watched a sitcom in decades. I declare it a premature BS boycott. How convenient!

Floyd R. Turbo said...

I agree with Kelsey Grammer... add Michael J. Fox to the mix also.

Tennessee Jed said...

another favorite, maybe even more so than Carney would be Ken Osmond who played Eddie Haskell on the late '50's early '60's show "Leave It To Beaver." For a while there was a huge (no pun intended) rumor that he was porn star/murderer John Holmes.

"Helloe Mrs. Cleaver, hello Mr. Cleaver; is Wallace at home?"

T-Rav said...

I have the feeling this will be a low-comment thread.

Tennessee Jed said...

T-Rav thought: there is nothing funny about Barrack Obama

Tennessee Jed said...

Oh, and Andrew needs to re-publish his comments regarding the current sitcoms and the template that they all use. After he did that, I was amazed at how accurate those statements were, even though "Modern Family" is saved by brilliant writing.

BevfromNYC said...

TennJ - Actually Ken Osmond is retired LA police officer who was wounded on duty.

T-Rav said...

Of course there is, Jed. Unfortunately, the joke just happens to be on us.

ScottDS said...

I'm heading out in a bit, but...

No love for sitcom killer Ted McGinley? :-D

(Apparently, any time he's cast on a sitcom, it's the beginning of a downward spiral - Married with Children being an exception).

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, I'm with you! I frankly despise sitcoms and if I never saw another one, I wouldn't miss them. I did like the older ones which were clever, but nothing has been good for decades.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Good call on Michael J. Fox, he was always very entertaining to watch. I was particularly surprised that I enjoyed Spin City as much as I did.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think I only know Ken Osmond from Leave It To Beaver?

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I have that feeling too, but you know what? I'm totally fine with that! It does my heart good to think that people aren't out there watching sitcoms!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, This one: Why I've Quit Sitcoms?

In my opinion, if there is such a thing as a Golden Ages of Sitcoms, we are the point farthest from it. Right now, we are in the Sitcom Dark Ages. In 20 years, not s single moment of any sitcom currently on TV will be remembered.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav and Jed, Isn't that the truth... the joke is on us. Hopefully though, the punch line will hit the right people.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That must help him get roles! LOL!

tryanmax said...

I like Patrick Warburton. He just has an enjoyable presence on screen, even when he's not onscreen if you you count the considerable voice work he does. I've even caught myself watching Rules of Engagement b/c of him--but only for a few minutes.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I keep being told by people "oh, just give it a try" on all the recent sitcoms and they just suck. They are the same show, same jokes, same-looking cast. The only creativity is in the names, which have nothing to do with anything.

Rules of Engagement is a great example of a show which spent more time on the name than the idea.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - That would be all anyone would remember him from, although he had a few acting credits as a child actor on Lassie and other shows in the 50's. He was so typecast by the Eddie Haskell role, his career as an actor went down the toilet after 1963 when "The Beav" finished it's original run.

As Bev pointed out, he became a cop. However when Johnny Holmes first "burst" onto the scene (so to speak) in Deep Throat, it became a great urban myth that Osmond was Johnny Holmes. That whole period was beautifully satirized in the excellent film "Boogie Nights" in which Holmes was fictionalized as Dirk Diggler (played by Maarkie Mark Wahlberg.) The murder incident was alluded to in Boogie Nights, but also more realitically recounted in the mesmerizing yet disturbing "Wonderland."

Tennessee Jed said...

That's the one Andrew; thanks!

tryanmax said...

In response to "Why I've Quit Sitcoms," the last two sitcoms that were appointment viewing for me were That 70's Show and 3rd Rock from the Sun, six and eleven years gone, respectively. Nowadays, I just watch reruns of M*A*S*H when I get home from work.

Curse you, M*A*S*H, for always drawing me in with your irreverent wit, then piercing me with your poignant sentimentality!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, You're welcome. It has a great image too with all kinds of famous sitcom starts.

I didn't know that about Haskell! That said, there seem to be a lot of stories about child stars ending up in pornos. Some of them are true, some aren't.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, The last sitcom that I made sure to watch, believe it or not, was Wings, which ended in 1997. In the 1970s/1980s, there were bunches.

AndrewPrice said...

Is that line about M*A*S*H from Futurama?

tryanmax said...

No, it's just how I feel about M*A*S*H.

AndrewPrice said...

I think Bender from Futurama said something very similar.

Koshcat said...

I liked your essay on the death of sitcoms. I used to really like them but probably the last one that I enjoyed was Seinfeld. It doesn't follow either the Friends or Rosanne model and NO KIDS! I think why it works for me is all of the 4 have their faults and there is no message. The actors and writers are all accomplished comedians so the writing is very good. And some of the situations are just a little too real. The "Whip it out" episode to me seemed completely unlikely until multiple different women, including my wife, told me about similar stories.

Today, much of the better writing and risk taking is in the animation world. Where would we be without the Simpsons? I love South Park and I also like Archer. Family guy, sometimes. Robot Chicken, Seth Green really has some issue but can be really funny.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Koshcat! I liked Seinfeld, though I had a hard time liking the characters at all. But I liked it for the reason you mention -- it was very well written. Most sitcoms today are nothing more than plug and play on tired sex jokes and "I'm so stupid" jokes. You could literally swap scripts between most of them and no one could tell.

In fact, what would be an hilarious experiment would be if three or four of them shot the identical script one week and then we asked their fans if they noticed anything wrong with the episode. I'll bet no one would notice that it had been a generic script.

Personally, I think the best writers have drifted to places like HBO and Showtime. They're shows really are way above the rest.

T-Rav said...

It does sound like something Bender (or the professor) would say.

Yeah, I have never watched Rules of Engagement because even the previews made me feel like my brain cells were dying. I don't know if it was the idea itself, or David Spade in particular. Maybe David Spade.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I feel that way about the ads for most sitcoms. Seriously, the ads really feel like they are aimed at very stupid people.

Outlaw13 said...

Phil Hartman (RIP) was awesome in Newsradio and the voice of various numerous characters on The Simpsons.

I find the sitcom Don't Trust The B... In APT 23 to be rather weird and funny. But I also enjoy Archer and The Office (at least the first 4 years of it), so your results may vary.

AndrewPrice said...

Outlaw, Hartman was excellent, as was Newsradio. I was shocked when he died!

BevfromNYC said...

OutLaw13 - Yes, Phil Hartman. He was great and Newsradio was excellent! I just watched the entire series again on Netflix and it was eerie how many references to death he makes throughout the series.

K said...

Rik Myall, particularly in the Brit political sitcom "The New Statesman".

If you are unfamiliar with the show, it obstinately satirizes conservatives, but in fact it goes out of it's way to show both sides as venal and corrupt. The main character is Clintonesque and actually says he has no heartfelt political orientation and actually changes to the labor party in an episode near the end.

If you want to check it out, this is a good bit:

LINK

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I remember thinking that too when I caught Newsradio in reruns. It's one of those strange moments.

AndrewPrice said...

K, I've never heard of that!

T-Rav said...

I think I've heard of that. Can't remember where, though.

Night Court was kind of funny. I don't recall much about it, I watched it at an age waaaayyy younger than I should have been watching anything like that.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Night Court was a lot of fun. That was, again, a sitcom with a unique setting... not a family or 4-6 friends.

BIG MO said...

Howdy, all - A favorite: Bob Denver. Yes, Gilligan himself, who before that was Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Grew up watching Gilligan's Island, and watched Dobie Gillis regularly in college when it was on Nick at Nite.

Another favorite: Mel Blanc. Not just the voice of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Yosemite Sam, he was also various supporting characters on The Jack Benny Show (radio and TV) such as Benny's violin instructor, a store clerk Benny drives nuts during Christmas shows, etc.; the long-suffering postman on Burns & Allen (radio and TV); and many other bit-parts and one-off characters in other shows. He was truly the "Man with a Thousand Voices."

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, I have a lot off good will for Gilligan.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I think Kelsey Grammer is the most recent one I can think of. He's simply brilliant in comedy and drama.

Also, the always funny Bob Newhart comes to mind.

Don Knotts also comes to mind. There really isn't very many actors who have been successful in more than one sitcom, especially not as the stars.

But there are more supporting actors who add to the success of sitcoms.
The ones where I recognize their faces but always seem to forget their names.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I agree. Supporting actors tend to make shows work, not the stars.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Andrew, indeed. My favorite sitcoms are the onmes where I like or care about most if not all of the supporting actors.

Some have even gotten picked up as regulars because they did bring such a great performance plus they add something unique to their characters that most average actors can't.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Tony Shalhoub is another one with Wings and Monk.
Monk isn't a sitcom but it is very funny.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Ah yes... Phil Hartman... damn I still miss him.

I do like The Big Bang Theory -- sex jokes are old but the writers nail the academic environment and so a lot of the dialogue is brilliant and wicked satire.

I also liked the first few seasons of The Office and a few episodes of 30 Rock. Damn you Alec Baldwin for having horrific politics but a wicked sense of humor.

K said...

Big MO: Yes! The Jack Benny Show with Mel Blanc! I liked his Christmas show appearance the best.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I agree, it's the supporting actors who matter the most. All the stars are fine, but it's the supporting cast that makes or breaks a sitcom.

I like Tony Shalhoub alot and he was great on Wings.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I think Scott will agree with you about 30 Rock.

T-Rav said...

If you're an Office purist, you love seasons 1-3, the others not so much. If you watch it frequently or care about it at all, you agree that anything after Season 6's "Niagara" episode was pretty much crap. Not universally, but almost.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, In my opinion, most sitcoms burn out after about 3 years. That's usually the point where everything the characters can do has been done and they end up becoming caricatures of themselves.

T-Rav said...

Which bodes well for Community. (not)

shawn said...

Rowan Atkinson. The awesome Black Adder series. The Thin Blue Line and Mr. Bean. Great stuff.

Ed O'Neill- Al Bundy himself. I really grew to love that sad oaf.

John Larroquette- Best known as Assistant D.A. Dan Fielding on Night Court, but his self titled show was fairly entertaining as well.

ScottDS said...

To nobody in particular -

Yes, I agree about 30 Rock, though I admit it can be a little too "inside baseball" at times and their jokes often have the same improv-based pattern, not unlike a typical joke on Family Guy: "It's just like the time I [blank]."

And man do I miss Phil Hartman. NewsRadio might be the last truly great three-camera workplace sitcom and, unlike even Seinfeld, there really are no bad episodes. Hell, they even made Andy Dick likable! I put the show on a pedastal partly because it premiered when I was 12 years old and it was the first non-family sitcom that I kinda discovered on my own. Nobody told me about it, there was no cute kid, no Urkel - just a bunch of loons at a radio station.

Mr. James is still IMHO one of the best sitcom characters.

rlaWTX said...

I loved the beginning of TVLand - it had great old shows like Dobie Gillis (and Black Sheep Squadron, and other nonsitcoms).
Reruns of The Nanny make me laugh. I like Big Bang Theory most of the time.
I grew up with the Bob Newhart in Vermont (and the other brother Daryl). The ending of that show was classic!!
As for repeat actors, IDK. Mary Tyler Moore?

Floyd R. Turbo said...

rla and all... check out Me-TV Network if you have it on your dial... great classic TV

http://metvnetwork.com/index.php

MASH, Cheers, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore plus Mission Impossible, Combat!, Rockford Files, The Rifleman, etc., etc. Great stuff.

rlaWTX said...

Thanks, Floyd!

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good recommendation, Floyd!
I watched Combat! yesterday on that channel. Love that show.

EricP said...

A day late, but much Ted McGinley love here. His rep as the “Jump the Shark” kick-starter a bit overrated in this fan’s book, too. Even though hard to deny the coincidence with The Love Boar, but Happy Days was already on a downward spiral, and Sports Night had also lost its way before he joined the respective casts. McGinley’s alleged anti-Midas touch didn’t stop Married with Children from going on for 8 seasons – some great, some downright awful – after he came on-board, plus he and Faith Ford were the only good things about Hope & Faith and its 3 seasons. If anything, blame him for agreeing to do so many Revenge of the Nerds or Major League sequels.

He’s since made the deserved leap to movies, but typically followed Jason Bateman to whatever show had him – Silver Spoons, the severely underrated It’s Your Move, Valerie/The Hogan Family, Chicago Sons, George & Leo, and Arrested Development.

EricP said...

Love Boar? Though that animal definitely would have helped Love BoaT in its swan-song years, what the hell, spell-check? :-(

AndrewPrice said...

Eric, "Love Boar" was one of the greatest sticoms of all time if you're into that sort of thing. And it was much better than "Night Goat."

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