August 26th, 2010

My Top 10 Favourite Sitcoms

I have thought of several nice litsy posts I could write, but the last one inspired me to think about sitcoms all the time for the past couple days, and I love them, and I do think they were very formative for me. You’ll see on the list below that all my faves were on, new or in syndication, between 1987 and 1997, my prime tv watching years. Maybe the reason I am fine with almost never seeing any tv now is that I had my fill before I graduated high school–I think I saw almost every non-cable half-hour show at least once in those years. And it was great! These are the highlights:

1. M*A*S*H I had to put this one first, because it was probably the best show, artistically and dramatically, that I’ve ever. It was, as far as I can tell, pretty accurate and gory in its depiction of the Korean conflict, though occasionally the racial depictions of actual Korean folks got a little hokey (it was the 70s). But in truth, it was Hawkeye Pierce sneaking around in his red velour bathrobe, about to play some crazy joke on Charles Winchester the 3rd that really got me. I loved the show to such an extent that the movie didn’t floor me as much (it wasn’t the same as the show!), nor did the book. Although I’m sure both are actually very good.

2. WKRP in Cincinnati Like I say, M*A*S*H was the best show, but WKRP probably holds the most tender place in my heart. I really really loved Johnny Fever, and in lighthearted moments still occasionally address my friends as “fellow babies.” The episode where John and Venus do the drinking-and-driving reflex game is probably my all-time favourite episode of anything ever. And the “With God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly” one is a close second.

3. Twitch City According to Wikipedia, this one aired in a time when I didn’t even have a tv, but I know I saw all of the first season, which just goes to show how special it was. Don McKellar being crazy and antisocial in Kensington Market made my impression of of Toronto long before I ever lived here. And there was a cat! There was a second season a few years later, but though I by then had a tv, it didn’t get CBC very well (what?) and though I tried to watch it anyway, it was so fuzzy I really have no idea what happened.

4. Sports Night Again, this seems to have been on during a period I didn’t have a tv–I think maybe my parents video-taped it for me??? (We were a tv loving family back then, what can I say?) It was Aaron Sorkin’s first television show, and it had a perfect first season of tight banter, high anxiety and even somehow made sports interesting. Then it had a second season where Sorkin gave in to his lady-hating demons and made Dana (Felicity Huffman) a big flake, but even then, there were still more hits than misses.

5. Murphy Brown Much as I loved the tart dialogue and Murphy’s sniping at her rotating crew of secretaries, what I remember most about his show is how *warm* it was. Murphy and Frank and Jim were old-guard friends and really cared about each other, in a gruff snarky way. Oh, then there was Elden, the housepainter–I hearted him, too. Dan Quayle was crazy to attack this show.

6. Newsradio Are you starting to sense a theme here? I like newsroom shows. But seriously, Phil Hartman and Dave Foley could have been alone in a canoe and this would still have been funny, and with the supporting cast it was pretty unstoppable. Andy Dick is a very very annoying actor, but the first few seasons even he was funny, due to being extremely tightly reined in. I have heard that John Lovitz was also very funny when he replaced Phil Hartman, but after Hartman’s death I didn’t have it in me to continue watching.

7. The Golden Girls I don’t care what anybody says, this show was revelatory. Imagine that women in their 60s could have a show all to themselves: no husbands, very little screen time for the kids (maybe once a season), not even any Important Social Issues for them to Face Bravely. Just hijinx and cheesecake. I distinctly remember Dorothy hitting Rose in the face when she said something dumb–ha! For proof of this show’s historical appeal, ask any woman in North America what Golden Girl she’s going to be like when she gets old. She might not tell you, but you’ll be able to see in her eyes that she knows.

8. Mad about You It is very hard to make a sitcom about just a couple–the only other example that is even close that I can think of is Anything but Love (yes, Richard Lewis and Jamie Lee Curtis, what the hell, I Know). But Paul and Jamie were genuinely sweet together, and yet a realistic scrappy couple with jobs and parents and a dog (Murray!) I loved the scenes were they discussed the problem of the day/episode while sniffing things out of the fridge to see if they could eat them. And Hank Azaria as the dog walker–heart heart heart!! (I did not watch the final seasons with the adultery and the baby and the high drama–blech!)

9. Roseanne Didn’t see this one coming, did you? If you go back and watch the early episodes and try to clear your mind of prejudice, you might just be stunned at how good it was. Seriously, John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf are first rate actors; Sarah Gilbert too. And Barr was pretty funny on the show (I am told she’s actually a horrible person, but in tvland, who cares?) And the later seasons had Billy Galecki and Glenn Quinn (who is now dead, so we need to cherish what footage we have of him)! Again, I didn’t watch the very late seasons, when they won the lottery, or some such nonsense. Also, there as a character named Becky on the show, always the weakest character, as protrayed by 2 different actors. All this annoyed me.

10. Friends Say what you will about their massive, impossible to afford NYC appartments and Jennifer Aniston’s hair–this show gave teenaged me something realistic to aspire to: life in a city with lots of friends and an interesting job and witty banter, and not necessarily a desperate striving to be married off and settled in the suburbs. The people on this show were happy to goof-off and it didn’t always make total sense (the duck and the chick?) and the Ross-Rachel plotline was laaaammmme, but tell me you didn’t chuckle when Joey put on all of Chandler’s clothing at once to punish him for hiding his underwear!!!!

11. Ok, we’re over the limit, and way past my tv years, but someone gave me a few DVDs of Arrested Development and it’s brilliant enough to overcome my anti-family-sitcom prejudices. I even liked when Buster’s hand got eaten by that seal, and I’m not usually one for violence.

This is a pretty favourite topic of mine, so I would love to hear anyone else’s list, if you have some time to kill and feel like sharing.

4 Responses to “My Top 10 Favourite Sitcoms”

  • Kerry Clare says:

    The Facts of Life was my favourite. And because I’m partial to family sitcoms, Family Ties. You’re so right at Golden Girls. I also loved watching reruns of All in the Family. The summer I was a waitress, I watched Laverne and Shirley every night at 3 in the morning. You know what else, I even liked Full House. And the theme songs to these and many other shows I could sing for you on command. I would also know what you were talking about if you said, “Who’s the boss will be back in a moment. Stick around.”

  • Rebecca says:

    Oh my gosh, good list! I watched Facts of Life every day at 4 for *years* and did like Full House for a while too (that show had a Rebecca, too–Uncle Jesse’s wife–and she was an ok character). I think *Family Ties* was my fave of the traditional family shows–Alex P. Keaton will do that (did you know that the actress who played Elise turned out to be a lesbian?) My parents liked *All in the Family* but I was actually scared of Archie and wouldn’t watch it too much. And you know, I don’t think I’ve seen a single episode of *Laverne and Shirley.* I am also familiar with the “Who’s the Boss?” tag you mention!

  • AMT says:

    i heart this post very much. you and i have SHOCkingly similar sitcom taste — except that i put Arrested Development at the very top of every such list, every time. that show is the best thing ever, ever, ever. other than that, we are completely in synch, and this makes me very happy.

  • Patrick McEvoy-Halston says:

    I really liked Roseanne; I’m grateful for it. I felt like you never really new what was going to fly, on any given episode. Something of the same could be said about KRP and MASH. Agree with you about Hartman and Foley (but how could Foley later turn so uninteresting?, and will this be Cera’s fate too?). My insertion would be Family Ties.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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