Sunday, October 19, 2008

My thoughts on your favorite sitcoms

Thanks to so many of you for sharing your favorite sitcoms. Also, thanks to those who did mention shows I was associated with (even though you didn’t have to). It’s a great feeling to know something I did years ago is still being enjoyed today. And now if I ever write something that’s really a piece of shit I can always say, “Hey, at least once I wrote for CHEERS.”

I agree with most of your choices… although in a few cases I thought, “Are you kidding me??!” I won’t say which shows because I don’t want to embarrass the commenters. But holy shit! I’d put AfterMASH up against some of those clams.

Most of your choices were as I had imagined. But there were some surprises. The big one was THE BOB NEWHART SHOW getting such love. I have always loved that show but at the time it originally aired it was always in the shadow of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW. Although both were produced by the same company (MTM – duh!), THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW received all the Emmys and attention and THE BOB NEWHART SHOW was the amusing lead-out. What I responded to with Newhart was that there was a nuttiness and irreverence that Mary’s show never had. It was a little rougher around the edges, the stories weren’t as cleverly told, and the issues tackled were not as substantial. But I generally laughed harder at THE BOB NEWHART SHOW than THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.

And interestingly, as time has passed I think Newhart’s show holds up better than Ms. Hat-in-the-air’s. Its subversive quality feels more in tune with today’s comic sensibilities. Although those 70s fashions – what the hell we were all thinking? Clowns don’t even wear ties that wide these days.

I was heartened to see so many people list BARNEY MILLER. There was a subtlety to that show you sure don’t see in today’s sitcoms. The comedy came strictly out of character and behavior. Imagine a show like that on Fox? It would star Pamela Anderson and be renamed BARNEY MELLONS. I wish one of those bizarre cable networks at like 600 on the dial with names like AMERICAN LOGO LIFE TRIO would rerun BARNEY MILLER. How many times can we watch Susan Lucci peddle her damn Malibu Pilates?

WKRP IN CINCINNATI is getting a lot more respect now than when it was on. ROSEANNE is getting less.

A number of you listed SEINFELD but not as many as I would have thought. Same with ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. On the other hand, more voted for FRIENDS than I anticipated.

Some of you were very specific, breaking down series into seasons. I agree with all those who said the best years of MASH were the Larry Gelbart years. They were the best by light years. And there's a decided preference to the Diane years of CHEERS over Rebecca's. Each era had it's pluses, but I do think the first season of CHEERS was extraordinary.

The big surprise was the huge outpouring for NEWSRADIO. At the time it aired it received very little buzz. I always liked it because it had a radio theme and Phil Hartman was a comic genius. But it always fell in that WINGS/BECKER/ODD COUPLE/NEWHART category of good shows that never got the recognition they deserved. And if they were ever nominated for an Emmy it was just to fill out the category.

The first vote for I LOVE LUCY came around comment 60. That threw me a bit.

Among the vintage shows, THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW and THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW rated the highest but I think that’s also a function of them being rerun so often. THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW and THE HONEYMOONERS deserved more votes but you can’t see them. Although I did love the guy who said his two favorite sitcoms were THE HONEYMOONERS and GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. It makes perfect sense. In so many ways they’re the exact same show.

A few regarded NORTHERN EXPOSURE as a comedy even though it was an hour, yet no one mentioned ALLY MCBEAL.

And a few of you reached way back for the JACK BENNY SHOW and the BURNS & ALLEN SHOW. (Does it seem like every great retro comedy was named for the star? Too bad that didn’t work for the KEN BERRY “WOW” SHOW. )

Some of your choices were from out in left field. DOCTOR DOCTOR, FRANK’S PLACE, HERMAN’S HEAD, DAYS AND NIGHTS OF MOLLY DODD. One person added GOODTIME HARRY – a lost gem created by the great Steve Gordon (who wrote the movie ARTHUR).

And other big shows sort of fell between the cracks. COSBY, TAXI, FAMILY TIES, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND got a few mentions but not many.

It’s amazing how many truly exceptional sitcoms come from the UK. THE OFFICE certainly, but also FAWLTY TOWERS, BLACK ADDER, ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, COUPLING and at least five others. A few you mentioned I will be trying to track down. CORNER GAS, RED DWARF, and SPACED top the list.

Thanks again to everyone for participating. Tomorrow I list my top ten, which includes one that only a couple people mentioned and another that none of you brought up, and still a third that you probably never heard of. See ya manana.

43 comments:

Chris L said...

Corner Gas is Canadian, and a real surprise hit. I can't even think of another Canadian sitcom that went anywhere, except maybe Little Mosque on the Prairie. The situation may be different in Quebec. French-language music, movies & TV are very popular there and totally unknown to the rest of us.

Rich Baldwin said...

In Canada, Trailer Park Boys is another great example of a sitcom-like comedy show. This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Talking To Americans are also great fun, but neither are sitcom-like at all.

If you want Quebec stuff, I like Dans une galaxie près de chez-vous (a funny sci-fi show). The best Quebec comedy is stand-up (very popular around here). The closest very popular sitcom-like show would be Têtes à claques, which consists of a pile of online skits that are *hilarious* if you understand French and like Quebec humour (which is more ridiculous than Monty Python could ever be).

Anonymous said...

Rich, you have to hand it to Rick Mercer during the first year of Made In Canada. I happened to have been working for Alliance during the years Atlantis bought us out. Every bit of the code names for dealmaking that was used in the show happened in real life, only they were characters from Greek Mythology not Zodiac signs. Hysterical if you worked in the biz at the time. Very risque of him to write that in given his hatred of Atlantis bosses, so it came as no surprise a year later when Alliance Atlantis bought This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Made In Canada, and Mercer went on his merry little way.

Chris, Corner Gas is all Canadian. That's why most Canucks can't stand the show... aside from my in-laws and their NASCAR-lovin' son's family. Yikes!

Ken, there have been so many sitcoms over the years that I simply forget them all, but Murphy Brown, All In The Family, Maude, MASH and Cheers w. Rebecca are standouts for me. Always will be.

Stacey

Chris L said...

How could I forget Trailer Park Boys? Maybe I don't think of it as a sitcom, for some reason. It's funny as shit though.

Corner Gas and Little Mosque seem utterly bland and inoffensive... the recipe for success.

D. McEwan said...

Ken,

You can Netflix RED DWARF. There are 8 seasons. seasons 1-6 are 6 episodes each. The last two are 8 episodes each, so all told, there are only 52 episodes.

I really LOVE that show, and had the whole series on VHS, and now have the whole series on DVD, and I've watched the whole series at least 7 or 8 times.

The first two seasons are good. They are what I fell in love with, yet it was with season 3, i.e. episode 13, that it really jelled. Seasons 3, 4, and 5 are just brilliant: funny, extremely smart, and wildly creative.

But with season 6, the bloom was off, although ironically, the episode which won an Emmy (GUNMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE) is from season 6. It had become repetitive in its far-out plots, and the characters descended into formula, so you always knew just exactly what sort of gag would come from each of their mouths.

But seasons 7 and 8 you can skip (Except season 7's TIKKA TO RIDE, where a botched time travel excursion results in President Kennedy having to assassinate himself. I'm not making this up. Amazing episode.) unless you've become a slave to the cast and characters (As I am). It went to pieces, and the last two seasons are mostly just terrible.

And the amazing thing is, those first six seasons, all 36 episodes, were written by just two guys, Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, and NO ONE ELSE. There was no writer's room, no hoard of "Producers" and rewrite men. Just those two brilliant guys. Rob Grant left after season 6, since he could feel as well as see the creative fatigue that had set in. Doug hung on, and brought in some other writers for the first time ever, and tried taking the show in new directions, but it fell apart.

It was between seasons 4 and 5, when the show was at its peak, that the pilot for an American version, which featured Jane Leeves, was made. The season 5 DVD bonus disc contains a documentary on the nightmarish experiences Rob and Doug had trying to make this show, confronted by the insane American network system after years of having complete creative autonomy. The story of how they fought, and won, getting THEIR script shot, instead of the ghastly one the American writers, producers, and network dickwads had hacked together is quite an scary tale.

The episodes BACKWARDS, CAMILLE, and MELTDOWN (My favorite episode. Winnie-the-Pooh is executed by a firing squad. Honest!) are as good as anything ever made, on a par with Bilko's THE COURT MARSHALL (The chimp episode), FAWLTY TOWERS's THE KIPPER AND THE CORPSE, and MTM's CHUCKLES BITES THE DUST, as among the finest sitcom episodes of all-time.

I saw every episode of NEWSRADIO when they originally aired, and always enjoyed it, yet I've never looked at it since. It didn't stay with me. I agree that Hartman was magnificent. (He was murdered on my birthday, which I could have done without, as could he.)

When I think of BARNEY MILLER, I always think first of Jack Soo. What a swell guy. So damn funny, so seemingly effortlessly. "Mushie, mushie, mushie." I would watch it again for him. A lady friend of mine (The one from the Jim Backus story a few threads back. A naturally bawdy lady) worked for a while in the box office of a Pussycat straight Porn theater. (I travel in sophisticated circles.) She said Jack Soo was a regular patron, always alone (This was before BARNEY MILLER), and that he was just a sweetheart of a man. She found him always a pleasure to chat with.

I think that it was because you asked for favorite sitcoms, rather than "The Greatest Sitcoms," that I LOVE LUCY scored so low. No one can deny its importance, but Lucy is hard to love, though the folks who do love her, LOVE HER! My friend Gilmore's bedroom is a Lucille Ball shrine, with thousands of Lucy collectables crowding the shelves, and every inch of wall space covered with I LOVE LUCY stills and posters. (The only sitcommy thing on my walls, is a signed AfterMASH script.)

I had an odd love for DOCTOR DOCTOR, and still retain one spisode I could never bring myself to tape over. I can't defend it as a great series, but I never missed it, and I developed an embarassing crush on Tony Carrera, who played the gay brother. (Later a lover of Daphne's on FRASIER.)

Bob Newhart, in all his serieses, but especially in NEWHART, was Jack Benny all over again, playing straight man to a crowd of crazies, and with his always superb timing. I would watch him in anything. "Emily, you should wear more sweaters." Of course, NEWHART also had tom Poston, and I venerate Poston, a comic genius.

I stll watch occasional ROSEANNE repeats. It holds up, but Roseanne, like Lucy, is hard to love.

I don't think I've ever seen an entire episode of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. Hicks, warmth, a cute kid, everything I hate in a sitcom. Give me Andy Griffith in A FACE IN THE CROWD, where he is brilliant, and scary as all hell.

But BURNS & ALLEN, BILKO, and JACK BENNY are still my first loves. Bless DVD for bringing their episodes back into my life, and showing me that, half a century later, they are still funny as all hell.

Say good night, Gracie.

Gridlock said...

the story behind RED DWARF is peculiarly British too, in that they basically had to sell the Beeb a show set in space but for a miniscule budget, so most of the first series uses 2 or 3 model shots over and over, along with numerous corridors at the studio decked out with sound deadening and other futuristic textures.

DrBear said...

Sorry I missed the poll...

And I agree Barney Miller is an underrated classic. My mother never watched it when it was on ABC, but when the local station started running it nightly and she started to understand the characters and how they interacted, she loved it. It was a show that rewarded close viewing.

impworks said...

Worth remembering you get the best of our sitcoms just as we tend to get the best of yours. You won't see the run of the mill or not aged well variety sitcoms. However our channels buy shows just to fill airtime sometimes - when Friends was first shown over here before it broke either side of the Atlantic as a phenomena it was in a bad slot. The moment it became obvious it was going to be a big hit it was moved to the biggest prime time slot and they started at right back at the start.

I've been wondering about the dramas that use sitcom, comedy and surreal elements. I didn't include any on my list but I've noticed it more since reading a book on writing comedy. Northern Exposure is obvious as is Ally Mcbeal and its descendant Boston Legal going back a bit there is Moonlighting and Northern Exposure's near neighbour Twin Peaks (which NE references in at least one episode). I'm sure there are more.

The ones that really tickle me when I spot them though are the straight dramas that pull it off with real subtle work in the dialogue. My all time favourite for that has to be the West Wing which not only regularly does it (most blatantly in the pre-credit sections) but also has the nerve to have lead character's explain the techniques when describing speach writing.

Oddly its not something we see in the UK much these days. Dramas are dramas and comedies are comedies even when the drama is so light as to almost be comedy.

Jayne said...

I actually prefer the Rebecca years of Cheers. Though season 5 does carry several of my favorite episodes.

I spent a good share of the weekend watching season 4 of NewsRadio.

God I miss Phil Hartman!

smacklab said...

awe!! cant believe i missed out on this... so im gonna throw mine in late...

Father Ted!! u have to watch it Ken... u will love it... by the Black books and IT crowd writer... and personally my favourite of them...

If u feel like a more "office"
approach i love the Aussie show frontline... my fave all time Australian comedy... those guys did the movie the castle and now have a new show called hollowmen... i love it to death...

JGC said...

Reading through this post and the comments jogged my memory for a couple of others I wanted to toss in for consideration:

Grand (the first season): Unfortunately, at the time it was on, I was too poor to own a VCR so I only have my memories. Wikipedia fills in some blanks -- that it was doomed for cancellation at the end of the first season, so they pretty much blew everything up (via tornado), then it got picked up and they had to try to piece it back together. Had a very Soap-like quality, which makes sense for a Carsey/Werner production.

Parker Lewis Can't Lose: Malcolm in the Middle owes much of its cred to this one, although as its high school-age cast aged it got a little odd to watch (cf 90210), but the jump cuts, asides, in-jokes and mugging made it one of the classiest early-90s Fox shows. NBC even tried to copy it with a TV version of Ferris Bueller, to not much success.

And from Canada, Seeing Things: My little PBS outlet ran this among its UK import shows. It was an hour-long story about a reporter who could glimpse the future. Very dry humor, fish-out-of-water stuff.

Dana King said...

I agree about how and why the BOB NEWHART SHOW has held up over the years. Same thing with ALL IN THE FAMILY. I thought it would age as the politics became dated, then I saw one a couple of years ago and realized the show was never about the politics. It was about the people, and people don't change that much.

I write a lot of crime fiction, and you might be interested to know that when cops are asked which TV cop shows give the most accurate depiction of a cop's life, the almost universal replies are THE WIRE and BARNE MILLER.

SharoneRosen said...

How could I have forgotten FRANK'S PLACE and MOLLY DODD????

I loved those shows!!!
and Jack Benny
and Black Adder
and AbFab
and...

anybody remember GRAND??? It was a fabulous, funny flop with an amazing cast..

Dan Coyle said...

"ROSEANNE is getting less."

That's interesting. I still love the show, but I think those last two seasons left a VERY bad taste in the fans' mouths.

sherman said...

It's so interesting to think about this list and how many shows were not-t0-be-missed at the time, yet they're not so high on the list now. I was a different person 15 years ago....most don't stand up to time...and also times have changed. I couldn't wait for Seinfeld each week, yet I never watch the repeats. Although I'd still rate it very highly. Early Murphy Brown is still in top 10, and I still watch the reruns. I wasn't a big fan of Just Shoot Me when it was on, but watching reruns makes me reconsider it; same thing for Becker. I liked Wings when it was on, but the reruns now make me laugh out loud. Mary Tyler Moore was a stand-out, but it shows it's age, although of course there are brilliant bits here and there and exceptional episodes. MASH is always amazing, though it should be watched without the laughtrack, then you see how brilliant it truly is.
Cheers still stands up to time, Diane was hilarious, and I'm not a big Rebecca fan, but most episodes with her were still really good.
As soon as I sign off, I'll think of a couple more!

The Hulu Man said...

I run a fansite for Hulu, and I was wondering if you would like to be a member of a panel for our Hulu Awards Ceremony.

You would be one of 20 panel members who would be asked to suggest and vote on the best Hulu content in a variety of categories.

Please let me know if you are interested. Either email me at uictoday@homtail.com, or leave me a comment here: http://thehulureview.blogspot.com/2008/10/hulu-awards-ceremony.html

Be sure to include your name, website, and email address if and when you respond (and I really hope you do).
Thanks!
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jbryant said...

d. - I'm not saying you'd ever grow to love The Andy Griffith Show, but for what it's worth, I don't think "warmth" was a huge factor in the series' overall tone. A lot of it actually played at a rather realistic level, and I don't recall much in the way of cloying sentiment.

As for "hicks," I suppose some of the characters are, but many of them are simply people with Southern accents. Do we have a similarly dismissive term for the less sophisticated characters on Barney Miller, Roseanne, Bilko, Taxi, ad infinitum?

Don't get me wrong: even though I was born in Kentucky, I'm not offended (don't have much of an accent either). I just get the feeling that Southern "types" grate on some people's sensibilities so much that they don't give that kind of comedy a fair chance.

Tezcatzontecatl said...

I'm quite pleased to see that 'Doctor, Doctor' got a vote or two. Another lost favorite of mine was 'Bakersfield, P.D.' Good god that show was funny. Giancarlo Esposito was perfect.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I saw yesterdays comments... are you writing on Mad Men with your partner?

KEN LEVINE said...

I'm not writing on MAD MEN. My Dodger commitment took up most of my summer. But all the good stuff you see on MAN MEN this year? That's my partner.

Ferret And Hound said...

Great post - I am a silent reader of your blog and always enjoy your posts.

Now, am I missing it, or really no one mentioned what is to me the best sitcom of all times - Frasier???? Hands down the best, follow by, why yes, Radionews! :-)

Peter said...

No one mentions that Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie are essentially the same show - kookie small town Canadians. Its a shame neither one of them is actually funny.

I'm going to second Made In Canada as the Canadian sit-com that was funny

Steven said...

I always liked Becker. I related to his character and I tend to rant about stuff like he did. I do think the show took a down turn after Reggie left. Nancy Travis' happy go lucky character felt too forced, like she was a necessary opposite of Becker, whereas Reggie just dealt with him like the rest of the characters.

David K. M. Klaus said...

In the early days of ABC World News Now, back when Aaron Brown was billed as the "Dean of Overnight Newsmen", the temperature crawl with the forecast highs for each city that day always included Cicily, Alaska and Twin Peaks, Washington, so Northern Exposure and Twin Peaks were somebody's favorites at ABC News, too.

Paul Duca said...

If it weren't for you, Ken, David wouldn't have to thought to reference Lyon's Dragstrip in this week's episode of MAD MEN (Don Draper is out in San Pedro, reconnecting with an old friend....the wife of the "real" Don Draper--the one killed in Korea, whose identity Dick Whitman took to become Don Draper. Think James Gatz to Jay Gatsby).

Paul Duca said...

I also have a message that Doug can forward to Tallulah...does she have any thoughts on the passing of Mr. Blackwell?

John said...

In a lot of cases with TV shows in reruns, you can love certain seasons and either be bored by others or just flat-out hate them, because of the direction the show has gone and what's happened to the characters (I believe the creators of the "Jump the Shark" website pocketed a nice chunk of change by capitalizing on the downhill slide of shows, but in some cases a show's early episodes may be weak, but it manages to hold on and finds its tone later in the year or even in Season 2 or 3).

Of the long-run shows (five or more years), I'd say "Cheers" probably stood up the best as a show where you don't tune in to, say, a Season 1 or a Season 9 episode and get disappointed, because either the characters/situations haven't gelled yet, or they've just run out of funny ideas but are going on and on because the ratings are still high and the network is willing to shell out the $$$ to the cast and the executives in charge.

Tallulah Morehead said...

Paul darling,

I never forgave Mr. Blackwell for his Worst Dressed List of 1966. I did NOT "Look even worse than she smells". I have signed affidavits from top French perfumer "Noses" that I officially smelt far worse than I looked. Is it my fault that the zebra skin I was wearing hadn't actually been completely dead when I put it on? After all, it didn't live long after I started wearing it.

(And I'm sending back that hand-made Moose-skin coat Sarah Palin made for me. She's shamelessly seeking my endorsement, and it will NOT be forthcoming. The woman just came out against gay marriage, and half of my marriages were to gay men.)

So good riddance to Blackwell. After all, in 1925, John Barrymore listed me as #1 on his "Best Undressed" list, and that was a man who knew his way around a woman and a cocktail. In fact, he knew his way around a woman TO a cocktail. Blackwell knew how to snipe at a woman's clothes, but give him a naked woman, and he hadn't a clue how to operate one.

But thanks for asking. Cheers darling.

steve macdonald said...

You didn’t say anything about 3rd Rock from the Sun and only one or two people mentioned it to begin with, so maybe it’ll make your Top Ten. It’s in mine, and I’m amazed at how forgotten it seems to be.

Anonymous said...

In the brilliant but cancelled category, something from the late 1960s (I think): He and She. Jack Cassidy as an egotistical smarter-than-Ted Baxter "star" (foreshadowing his later appearance on mtm as ted's brother); Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss as the "normal couple" with an orbit of zany friends and acquaintance, including Kenneth Mars as the firefighter neighbor (he walked across the plank from the firehouse to the Benjamin apartment), and Hamilton Camp as the handyman. Haven't seen it for many decades, but I remember much wailing and gnashing of teeth when it was cancelled after only a very short run on CBS.

Also: Always appreciated Barney Miller, but it always seems as if it were lacking something. (maybe it was because it was on video instead of film)
Same with Night Court (I think it's the same producers as Miller): funny moments, funny characters, but the parts didn't add up.
On Bob Newhart: the cbs show was not just overshadowed by MTM, but also by Mash, All in the Family (they were all on the same saturday night in at least one season), but all these years later, that is the rerun I would choose to watch. Funnier, without any of the social messages (the kind that cause the audience to "awwww" either audibly or not). Those may have worked the first time through on those other shows, but over time, they seem pretty manipulative.

Jim said...

On Newhart: Funnier, without any of the social messages (the kind that cause the audience to "awwww" either audibly or not).

I think my favorite behind the scenes story is when the producers told Newhart they had a great idea for the next season: Bob and Emily were going to have a baby! That's great, said Newhart. Who's going to play Bob?
And the older I get, the sexier Emily gets. RIP, Suzanne.

On Cheers, I kind of think of the Diane and Rebecca years as two different shows. Diane was a romantic comedy, Rebecca a screwball comedy. I especially love the last two seasons when all the rules got thrown out. John Allen Hill's heart attack, and Ma Clavin goes to a nursing home (and the Johnny Carson episode) are some of the best.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Interesting comments about The Andy Griffith Show. I was noting recently how few of the Mayberry residents had Southern accents. Andy did, but not Barney, Aunt Bee, Howard, Floyd the Barber, Helen Crump, Ellie, Otis, and Barney's girlfriend. Most guest stars/bit players were unaccented, too. Only Gomer and Goober had thick accents, and they were dumbasses, which I suppose reflects Hollywood's view of southerners--the heavier the accent, the dumber the speaker.

And I gotta add, the very idea of Roseanne or Kirstie Alley makes me want to vomit. Wouldn't watch them for all the oil in Araby.

sephim said...

A show I'd like to mention that probably didn't hit everybody's radar and unfortunately so, was a one season (that ended on a fucking cliffhanger ending) show on your ABC - IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. Jonathan Silverman, David Arquette, Greg Germain - all three probably not "leading man" material, but definitely capable in what can possibly be described as FULL HOUSE without the precocious fucking kids.

Okay, there's one kid, but unlike a show like TWO AND A HALF MEN isn't a ten year old made to talk like a 25 year old.

Simon H. said...

Just to throw one more out there before the polls close on this, the surrealist classic that is "Get a Life". The show went off the rails when it was badly revamped in it's second year, but the first season was one of the great years any show ever had. It gleefully violated every known rules of sitcoms, following the life of a immature, possibly psychotic 30 year old paper boy who lived with his parents, and spent every week participating in an almost ritual humiliation of said character against the backdrop of a "Leave it to Beaver" suburban universe. I always felt it deserved more respect then it gets, not the least of which for the reason that it helped launch the writing career of Charlie Kaufman.

D. McEwan said...

Oooooh. HE AND SHE. Good one anonymous. I'd compeltely forgotten it, but it was a great, doomed show.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of most of the country comedies from the 60's but Green Acres was the major exception. The premise was pure genius. Oliver Douglas lived in one universe while the rest of the cast dwelled in a parallel universe on the same set. They always understood each other but Mr. Douglas was never quite in the loop. Even Arnold the Pig was comprehensible to everyone except Oliver. Green Acres had a brilliant supporting cast and an underlying sophistication that belied its cornpone setting.

-bee said...

God bless you, jgc, for mentioning "Grand".

Like "The John Larroquette show, this one had a brilliant first season but on account of low ratings, it got defanged into something more 'upbeat' - still got lousy ratings, and was cancelled.

Grand was a great show about the paradoxes of the American class system - really quite ambitious, a little bit like "The Wire" without the drugs and in a non-urban setting.

One of these days I'm going to have to mosey on over to the Museum of TV and Radio and see if they have any episodes of Larroquette or Grand - to see if they're really as good as I remember them being.

Stacey said...

Love me some first season of The John Larroquette show. Brilliant oddball cast ensemble.

Speaking of which, someone nailed on the head with pegging the Rebecca years as screwball vs. Diane years as romantic. That certain sums up why I can't stand Diane, the character. I'm not mushy enough to appreciate her flowery dialogue or grating voice.

Oh, and I'm totally adding the first few seasons of Third Rock From The Sun.

So... yeah, I guess what I'm saying is that I love me some screwballs comedies! :-) But, I also appreciate subtle, political, and pop culture comedy shows, too. I loved Barney Miller, but since it's been off the air for so long, I tend to forget more than overlook.

Over the years so many have come and gone. It's hard for me to really remember them all.

Stacerella

Mike McCann said...

AMOS AND ANDY -- because it's been unseen for more than 43 years, it's a show that's virtually forgotten. And that's a shame. As with most great sitcoms, it's all about the writing, direction and cast.

Tweak those characters into those from a different ethnic group -- "Larry and Lenny," "Gary and Gregg" -- and the political incorrectness vanishes. It's folks inside a community. Little Italy or the Lower East Side or Bushwick or Southie has corresponding wiseguys, slackers, kind-hearted souls, sensible ladies and ditzy women. Sadly, Amos and Andy lived a long subway ride away from the Ricardos, Mertzes, Kramdens and Nortons. Funny thing, there were more people, more real folks, who acted like the characters in Amos and Andy than I Love Lucy. A struggling Latin bandleader becomes a show biz superstar during the time Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Bill Haley were re-writing what contemporary music meant? Not likely. A wife who dressed up as Superman and nearly fell off the ledge of her apartment building. Those folks, whether in 1956 or 2008, get locked up.

It's too bad that the eye of history -- and the EYE that owns the rights to the show -- can't see through the superficiality into the relationships, the humanity and the warmth of living among friends and people with whom you shared a common background and common goals.

Anonymous said...

MAUDE!

D. McEwan said...

Gotta agree about AMOS & ANDY, which I included in my initial list. It was funny. There are lines I still remember, like Andy, testifying in court, is asked how he met the Kingfish:

"I was at a carnival and I wanted a hot dog. So I reached into my pocket to get my wallet, and shook hands with the Kingfish."

I never understood the argument that it made black people look foolish, as it was clear to me even as a chid that, for instance, I LOVE LUCY made white women look insane and Cuban men look like tyrannical husbands. (Why can't Lucy have a career?) Comedy comes from human folly. It never makes folks look good.

But then, in later years, on reflection, I noticed an instance of my own blinkered vision.

I grew up in a VERY all-white suburb. The only black people I ever saw in the flesh back then were maids and housekeepers. We had a black lady named Rosemary who came in and cleaned our house once a month. (Or rather, re-cleaned it, as Mother forced US to clean the house, end-to-end, the night before she came each month, because Mother didn't want her paid house cleaner to think her house wasn't clean. She sure didn't save ME any labor!)

Watching AMOS & ANDY, it seemed to take place on another planet. Where I wondered, were all the white people?

But it never occurred to me to look around my own world and wonder where were all the black people. When that concept finally dawned on me, I realized that for black kids my age, everything else they saw on TV looked like it was on a planet they were not on. The ONLY show that took place on The Planet of the Black People, portayed them as mostly con artists, fools, or shrews. (Except for Amos, the only balanced, intelligent character.)

I ended up choosing to go to a college that had more black students than white. In fact, adding the substantial Latino part of the student body, whites were very much a minority in my college. I did this to broaden myself, and break free of that insular white world I was raised in.

But I would still enjoy a chance to revisit Amos & Andy. And it could have been MUCH worse. They could have used Godsen & Correll in black face. It wasn't unthinkable in 1950.

smallville91505 said...

Police Squad! In Color.
Undeclared
The Famous Teddy Z

PALGOLAK said...

Now I regret not contributing. Did no one mention "Greg the Bunny"?

Eugene Levy, Seth Green, Sarah Silverman fer chrissake!