Monday, October 19, 2009

How to tell a bad sitcom

Charlie Hauck is a terrific comedy writer (FRASIER, MAUDE, etc.) and a hilarious author. His comic novel about a writing team launching a sitcom starring the diva from hell is both hilarious and all-too-real. The book is called ARTISTIC DIFFERENCES and well worth reading.

On one page he explains how you can tell a bad sitcom. Simple rules, worth repeating here.

1. Any show in which any character at any time during the life of the series says the words “Ta da!” is a bad sitcom.

2. Any show in which one character says to another, “What are friends for?” is a bad sitcom.

3. Any show in which a character says “Bingo!” in the sense of “Eureka!” is a bad sitcom.

4. Any show in which an actor or actress under the age of seven says cute things in close-up is a bad sitcom.

5. Any show in which an actor or actress over the age of seventy-five says vulgar things in close-up is a bad sitcom.

6. Any show that resorts to the use of Dr. Zarkov dialogue (named for the villain in the FLASH GORGON series, where one character tells another character something they both already know, for the benefit of the audience) is a bad sitcom.

7. Any show in which a character, in the closing minutes, says, “I guess we’ve all learned a lesson,” and then goes on to explain what that lesson is, is a bad sitcom.

And if I may add a few of my own:

8. Any show where the studio audience says “Awwwwww” and the producers leave it in is a bad sitcom.

9. Any show that makes a Willard Scott joke is a bad sitcom.

10. Any show with opening titles that show close-ups of the cast and then freeze frames to catch zany expression on each is a bad sitcom.

11. Any show with Jim Belushi is a bad sitcom.

75 comments:

Mike Barer said...

Any show where I'm not laughing my head off is a bad sitcom.

Tommy H. said...

G.O.B. Bluth offers a hilarious "Ta da" when he "escapes" prison in Arrested Development. That entire list was invalidated by the first "rule." Ouch.

Jaime J. Weinman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Pearley Huffman said...

So, does this mean you don't think Sherwood Schwartz is a genius?

Patrick said...

Any show where the lead actor makes grunting, ape-like sounds as the go to line every other episode is a bad sit com. But Tim Allen still became filthy rich. And Fran Dresher?!? Her mess of a show came to mind like three times while reading that list.

Gawain said...

Any show which violates every single one of these rules is an absolutely execrable sitcom -- and will probably run at least 7 seasons.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

3. Any show in which a character says “Bingo!” in the sense of “Eureka!” is a bad sitcom.

"Bazinga!" is working well on The Big Bang Theory, then, as it stays far away from that.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

More:

8. Any show where the studio audience says “Awwwwww” and the producers leave it in is a bad sitcom.

Perfectly describes Full House. Sadly, my sister happily owns the complete series set.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Damn, I need to read this fully before commenting at length:

10. Any show with opening titles that show close-ups of the cast and then freeze frames to catch zany expression on each is a bad sitcom.

Early "Night Court" refutes this, though they didn't go for zany expressions.

Patrick said...

... and I'm still trying to understand how Jim Belushi is still on the air. It would appear that bad sit-coms are good bussiness.

Mary Stella said...

5. Any show in which an actor or actress over the age of seventy-five says vulgar things in close-up is a bad sitcom.

I liked Golden Girls

(Rollins just won the game for the Phillies. Woot!)

Rory L. Aronsky said...

5. Any show in which an actor or actress over the age of seventy-five says vulgar things in close-up is a bad sitcom.

I liked Golden Girls


At the time of its debut, 1985, Estelle Getty was 62, Bea Arthur was 63, Betty White was 63, and Rue McClanahan was 51.

WV: prosse - What prose fans form.

David Schwartz said...

My word verification is "pasangst." That's when you're able to say something to someone that stops you from worrying about a situation and starts them worrying about it.

gottacook said...

How about, "Any series that dedicates at least one episode to the cast's wacky interactions with a pop music act (who appear as themselves) is a bad sitcom"? This probably doesn't happen much anymore but was once relatively common (e.g., Davy Jones on The Brady Bunch, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart on I Dream of Jeannie).

WV: tripp, as in linda - oy...

Anonymous said...

Rule 10 reminded me of this video. It's a fake sit-com opening to a live improvised sit-com performed at iO in Chicago:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD9fa5Z2tZU

D. McEwan said...

Any show where jokes get cheers from the audience instead of laughs is a bad sitcom.

Any show that ends with hugs, is a bad sitcom. Special dispensation to the last episode of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.

Any show where the star plays the exact same character he played in an earlier successful sitcom, but with a different character name, is a bad sitcom.

Any show that has "very special" episodes, is a bad sitcom.

Any show with Lucille Ball made post-1960 is a bad sitcom.

Any show that has more than two different show runners in just the first season, is a bad sitcom.

Fran Drescher = female Jim Belushi.

Any show my mother loved, is a bad sitcom.

Felix said...

Will Arnett said Ta-Da on Arrested Developement and it was hilarious.

Ref said...

Any show that goes for a ratings boost by bringing in "beloved" major stars to play roles previously established by lower paid character actors is a BAD sitcom, no matter what its previous virtues.

Eric said...

Any show that has to have a "highlight" episode to show the jokes that weren't so funny the first time, but hopefully make people laugh and laugh the second time... since, y'know, junk gets cuter the second time around.

wv: wayvxwz - "Triple score! I am the GOD of Scrabble!"

The Curmudgeon said...

After the first three it occurred to me... my life is a bad sitcom.

Sean said...

- How about, "Any series that dedicates at least one episode to the cast's wacky interactions with a pop music act (who appear as themselves) is a bad sitcom"? This probably doesn't happen much anymore but was once relatively common (e.g., Davy Jones on The Brady Bunch, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart on I Dream of Jeannie). -

See also: the gang from What's Happening meet the Doobie Brothers.

- When said sit-com has cribbed a storyline from a classic sit-com so blatantly, you find yourself going online to find THAT old episode...It's a bad sit-com.

- If the show is built around a flavor-of-the-moment stand-up with a hot catchphrase and the producers are expecting THAT to carry the show rather than build a strong cast to help the novice lead...it's a bad sit-com (Ironically, not only are we channeling Jeff Foxworthy, we can use him as an example.)

- If the show is an attempt to cash in on the success of a raunchy R-rated movie with a sanatized half hour version. See pilots for "Revenge of the Nerds: the series" and "Black Bart" (based on Blazing Saddles). Honorable mention to Delta House.

WV: melned - A deep consideration of the Simpson's next door neighbor.

blogward said...

...in which the middle-aged protagonists are deeply in love and still have the hots for each other after 25 years and it isn't ironic in any way, is a bad sitcom

WV: shingent = sort of stringent; a strict rule you can safely ignore.

Jim, Cheers fan said...

Any show that has to have a "highlight" episode to show the jokes that weren't so funny the first time, but hopefully make people laugh and laugh the second time..

Oh god. "While locked in the basement, the family/gang reminisce about whacky adventures they've shared..."

It occurs to me that some of the more adventurous comedies, The Office or 30 Rock, could have a lot of fun satirizing that particular groaner.

Can it be that no one has mentioned the cute kid/wiseacre teenager/gruff but lovable elderly relative who comes to live with the main characters in Season 4?

Bonus question: How many of the sins mentioned here occurred, more than once, on The Cosby Show? ("This is your long lost grandfather!" "We already have five grandfathers." "But this one's a great jazz musician!" "They're all great jazz musicians")

Jim, Cheers fan said...

and.... when one character gets a huge round of applause with every entry. I remember this started with Kramer on Seinfeld, for a while. I always wondered if Larry David told the audience to stop it.
Married with children, every entry got whooo!s and applause. I think it started on Welcome Back, Kotter, when John Travolta started getting applause, and then they were doing it for every character from Horshack to Mrs Cotter. It probably got written into their contracts. "Applause signs will be lit for five seconds on character's initial appearance in each episode...."

Vermonter17032 said...

Any show in which a lead character has a baby is a bad sitcom (or a formerly good sitcom that's now running out of steam).

Tom Quigley said...

Rory L. Aronsky said...

"8. Any show where the studio audience says 'Awwwwww' and the producers leave it in is a bad sitcom.

Perfectly describes
Full House. Sadly, my sister happily owns the complete series set."...

That rule, as well as most of the others could apply to almost any Miller-Boyett sitcom, along with pretty much everything on the Disney Channel...

Max Clarke said...

Very funny, although I might be willing to see a single episode in which ALL those mistakes were made. That could actually be funny, once.

rgre2457 said...

Any show where the female character turns an innocuous comment from the her male counterpart into a punchline about either his a) lack of sexual stamina or b) penis size, is a bad sitcom. Extra credit if either occurs in the pilot.

Rock Golf said...

- Any comedy series where the audience goes "woooOOOOOOOoooooo" when two characters kiss is abysmal. (Futurama excluded)

- Any comedy series where the children are discernibly 20 IQ points smarter than their parents is unwatchable.

- Any series where a studen character cheats on a test or assignment but is rewarded for their "creativity" is immoral.

- Any series where the audience applauds the speaking of a character's catchphrase is vomitous.

Al said...

8. Any show where the studio audience says “Awwwwww” and the producers leave it in is a bad sitcom.

I would agree, except for the Pilot of the Cosby Show in which the crowd says "Awww" after Theo's tirade about loving him because he's his son.

Only because Bill Cosby then completely undercuts the moment by reading the kid the riot act and telling him that was the dumbest thing he ever heard. It's the moment we all realized that this wasn't going to be like all the other sitcoms on the air at the time.

Eric said...

How about any sitcom built around a celebrity who is not known for his or her acting skills or comedic chops? NBC's thankfully short-lived "Emeril" is a perfect example of this.

Emily Blake said...

"9. Any show that makes a Willard Scott joke is a bad sitcom."


Whoa whoa whoa.

The Soup is NOT a bad sitcom.

The Soup is a GREAT sitcom.

Rob said...

Some more:

Any sitcom based on an advertisement.

Any sitcom that incorporates year old hip hop slang.

Any sitcom where you have to turn the volume DOWN after commercial breaks.

Any non animated sitcom set in the future.

Any sitcom starring a former sports legend.

Any show starring twins.

John said...

Any show where the main character's real first name is the same as the actor/actress actual name while the last name isn't -- post "I Love Lucy" -- may not start out as a bad sitcom, but it's a 100 percent dead solid lock it's going to become one if it makes it past the first season.

(And I'd put a caveat on the above shot at post-60 Lucy -- Anything done in color by Miss Ball is going to be a bad sitcom. The B&W first season of "The Lucy Show" is actually pretty decent. But then we get to Season 2 and both the above rule about stars who use their real name in sitcoms and the color film kick in, a double-whammy if there ever was one.)

bruce miller said...

ANY sitcom that explains the joke after the punchline!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Richard J. Marcej said...

"Any show that resorts to the use of Dr. Zarkov dialogue (named for the villain in the FLASH GORGON series,"


Dr. Zarkov wasn't the villain in FLASH GORDON (the movies and the comic strip) he was one of the good guys.

Ming the Merciless was the villain.

Demetria said...

Any show where an entire episode is devoted to covering up a minor deception that any good British sitcom would expose and deal with in less than 20 seconds.

rob! said...

Any show where one character says to another something along the lines of "______, you're my sister" is a bad sitcom. PEOPLE WHO ARE RELATED ALREADY KNOW THEY ARE RELATED!

GG said...

Rory, Sheldon says "bazinga" when he thinks he made a good joke, not as a "Eureka"-style moment.

Scott said...

I think almost all great sitcoms have had something on this list.

Does it make them bad? no. But it may foreshadow jumping the shark.

One big "Jump the Shark" moment for all good sitcoms to watch is when one or two characters get dumber and dumber as the seasons go on.

It's all lazy writing looking for a cheap easy joke.

Think Mallory on Family Ties.
Or Potsie on Happy Days.
Think every character on the Fresh Prince
Several folks on Night Court
Roseanne, etc.

there's nothing funny about people getting dumber.

this does not count folks that were 'dumb' when they started, such as Coach, Woody from Cheers or Joey from Friends or the Rev Jim.

Grant said...

12. Any sitcom that has a Voice Input Child Identicant robot is not funny.

Kirk Jusko said...

John said any show post-I Love Lucy where the main character has the same first name as actor/actress playing her.

John must be unfamiliar with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Seinfeld (whose main character had both the same first and last name) and Everyone Loves Raymond.

john brown said...

Does No. 10 include Barney Miller, or can we give them a break on this?

Chalmers said...

Grant, I was thinking along your lines: a sitcom is awful when the premise is described in the lyrics such as "She's fantastic/made of plastic/microchips here and there."

However, if they ever spun off "The Lovematic Grandpa" from "The Simpsons," it might have broken the rule.

"Happy Days" also degenerated into the state where every character got extended applause on their entrance, even Mrs. C.

rgre2457 said...

Any sitcom where, during the opening credits, the actors turn to the camera and 'smile'. Even worse when it's an african-american sitcom and this occurs while dancing.

Anonymous said...

Any sitcom where the lead actor takes too much of the spotlight & the supporting characters are boring enough to warrant it. Present season example: "Hank"

Frasier Fan said...

"John must be unfamiliar with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Seinfeld (whose main character had both the same first and last name) and Everyone Loves Raymond."

I was thinking this as well. Also, the first one that came to mind "Roseanne".

D. McEwan said...

"Sean said...
- If the show is an attempt to cash in on the success of a raunchy R-rated movie with a sanatized half hour version. See pilots for 'Revenge of the Nerds: the series' and 'Black Bart' (based on Blazing Saddles). Honorable mention to Delta House."

Does M*A*S*H get a pass on this one also?

"Jim, Cheers fan said...
Bonus question: How many of the sins mentioned here occurred, more than once, on The Cosby Show?"

Probably a lot, which Is why I stopped watching THE COSBY SHOW after the third episode. I never got all the praise for that show. I found it unwatchable.

"Rock Golf said...
- Any series where a studen[t] character cheats on a test or assignment but is rewarded for their 'creativity' is immoral."

You just described STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KAHN. And who watched sitcoms for morality?

"Emily Blake said...
The Soup is NOT a bad sitcom.
The Soup is a GREAT sitcom."

Emily, THE SOUP, which I also love, is NOT a sitcom at all.

"Demetria said...
Any show where an entire episode is devoted to covering up a minor deception that any good British sitcom would expose and deal with in less than 20 seconds."

You've just condemned all farces. And the best Brtcom ever, FAWLTY TOWERS, took the full 30 minutes to clear up the minor deception lie 12 times.

"rob! said...
Any show where one character says to another something along the lines of '______, you're my sister' is a bad sitcom. PEOPLE WHO ARE RELATED ALREADY KNOW THEY ARE RELATED!"

Not always. If it's cheap exposition, then it's bad, but if it's a plot revelation, it may be good. If they just noticed their identical birthmarks seconds before marrying each other, and it's "Oh my God, you're my sister!" it's legitimate.

Anyone who has ever seen the hilarious movie START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME, can never again hear the phrase, "You are my sister!" without at least smiling, and probably laughing uot loud, as they use for a great runing gag.

"Scott said...
One big "Jump the Shark" moment for all good sitcoms to watch is when one or two characters get dumber and dumber as the seasons go on."

You mean like Sam Malone?

"Anonymous said...
Any sitcom where the lead actor takes too much of the spotlight & the supporting characters are boring enough to warrant it. Present season example: 'Hank' "

Man, does that show stink up the room. Did you hear Letterman the other night, describing THE MENTALIST by saying, he's so observant, he can spot the subtle diffferences in the 'different' characters played by Kelsey Grammar"?

Rob said...

The Cosby Show is one show that I find unwatchable in reruns, and one that I watched week in and week out and realized I don't remember a single episode beyond the pilot and the one where they do the Ray Charles song.

-bee said...

*I* would say recycling the same basic plot elements for EVERY SINGLE EPISODE is the sign of a bad sitcom.

And yet there are people who consider "Everybody Loves Raymond" to be a some sort of classic.

Mary Stella said...

At the time of its debut, 1985, Estelle Getty was 62, Bea Arthur was 63, Betty White was 63, and Rue McClanahan was 51.

But wasn't Estelle Getty's character in her 70s?

Ken -- Question for Friday. During the Phillies playoff games on TBS, TNT is heavily promoting the upcoming new series "Men of a Certain Age". It stars Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher.

When original series like this show up on TNT, does it mean that they ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX all passed, or is TNT aggressively shopping for original programming and backing it up with big bucks?

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Rory, Sheldon says "bazinga" when he thinks he made a good joke, not as a "Eureka"-style moment.

That's why I said...

""Bazinga!" is working well on The Big Bang Theory, then, AS IT STAYS FAR AWAY FROM THAT."

Meaning, far away from using "EUREKA!" Capiche?

How about any sitcom built around a celebrity who is not known for his or her acting skills or comedic chops? NBC's thankfully short-lived "Emeril" is a perfect example of this.

Hey Padma Lakshmi! See this? NOW STOP DEVELOPING THAT SITCOM FOR NBC!

Rory L. Aronsky said...

But wasn't Estelle Getty's character in her 70s?

Ken said "actress," not "character."

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Or, rather, Charlie Hauck did. My apologies.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Emily, THE SOUP, which I also love, is NOT a sitcom at all.

(Sorry for the quadruple-post.)

Douglas, you're kidding me! What about the suspense in Matt begging Joel not to shoot him? What about the conflicted relationship between Joel and Mankini? Dammit, man, this is most certainly a sitcom! ;)

VP81955 said...

And Fran Drescher?!? Her mess of a show came to mind like three times while reading that list.

Just turn the sound down and focus on her legs -- it works for me. (To be fair, in other, non-"Nanny" vehicles, I think Fran is a pretty capable comedic actress; her exaggerated New Yorkish voice is used for comic effect, though at times it got over the top. She rarely uses it now.)

wv: "binal" -- no, not the Dodger reliever who went to the Nationals and then the Rockies; this is "banal" times two (think ping-pong balls on a stereo demonstration record circa 1958).

wv2: "unanitio" -- every tio agrees.

te said...

Any show that includes a variation on:

"I'm not a waiter; I'm an actor."

-- "Then act like a waiter and bring me my soup!"


I once saw three shows in a row on the WB (first episodes of new series) include it (probably collusion among the writer/producers), and any number since.

Shows that use current real-life cliches: I'm hearing a lot of "man Up," recently. Also "How's that working out for you?"

For a while, it was "not so much."

As far as first real first names used on characters: Mary Tyler Moore/Mary Richards?

Eric Lyden said...

Any sitcom where a character says "I've got a plan that's so crazy... it just might work." which then leads to a scene with said character whispering their plan to their cohorts as the camera fades out.

D. McEwan said...

"Eric Lyden said...
Any sitcom where a character says "I've got a plan that's so crazy... it just might work." which then leads to a scene with said character whispering their plan to their cohorts as the camera fades out."

That's every episode of I LOVE LUCY. ""Ok Ethel, here's my plan..." fade-out. Fade up on Ethyl wearing a mustache, carrying Lucy into the Copa, disguised as a bass fiddle.

"VP81955 said...
And Fran Drescher?!? Her mess of a show came to mind like three times while reading that list.
Just turn the sound down and focus on her legs -- it works for me. (To be fair, in other, non-"Nanny" vehicles, I think Fran is a pretty capable comedic actress;"

Oh please. One of my closest friends was a writer on THE NANNY for 5 years. Fran is a psychobitch.

You give the butler a funny bit. It gets a big laugh at audience run through. Fran to writers: "That bit was very funny. Give ME that bit."

Writer: "But it would be out of character for you to do it."

Fran stares at the writer with the dead eyes of a shark.

Writer: "We'd have to rewrite the whole episode to even motivate you to be doing it."

Fran: "and your point is...?"

Cece gets a laugh with a physical piece of business

Fran: "I'm the funny physical comic on this show. Give me that bit."

Writer: "It would make no sense for you to do it."

Fran: "Do I look like I care?"

The cast, particularly Daniel Davis, took to deliberately tanking bits until the actual taping, so Fran wouldn't steal their bits and their lines.

She hired professional audiences after a couple seasons, so she had an audience she could ORDER to laugh (only way she could get a laugh), and could fire if she felt like it.

Fran is evil - EVIL!

Darshan said...

Hey Ken, love the blog and I'm a huge fan of Frasier and Cheers. I have a question that I hope you can shed some light on...

How do writers generally feel about show creators who barely do any writing? Any animosity or resentment, after all the creators are generally the one who gets the attention, awards and pockets the bulk of the syndication cash.

Take a look at Seth MacFarlane- he created or co-created 3 shows but has only 6! writing credits attached to his name (3 of those were the pilot episodes). Matt Groening is the same. I'm sure they are involved with rewriting but it seems odd.

Also are you a fan of Arrested Development and do you think a film will finally eventuate?

Sean said...

D. McEwan said...
"- If the show is an attempt to cash in on the success of a raunchy R-rated movie with a sanatized half hour version."

Does M*A*S*H get a pass on this one also?"

M*A*S*H gets the pass because of it's quality. If anything, the success of M*A*S*H is what inspired studios and networks to try and cash in with TV versions of "R" features. "Cash in" being the operative term. M*A*S*H the series took elements from the the film and had a production team that was focused on producing the best show they could rather than expanding a franchise. The "Honorable Mention" I gave Delta House was by no means a pass, but it did try to stay as true to the original film as it could, had a number of the film's people involved and was the best of three network attempts to cash in on Animal House that season. (One getting canned after the first episode.) I can't say it was a BAD show as much as it was a BAD
idea.

VP81955 said...

Oh please. One of my closest friends was a writer on THE NANNY for 5 years. Fran is a psychobitch.

Hey, if Hollywood ever decides to remake "Death Becomes Her," I sense Ms. Drescher and Cybill Shepherd should be cast in the Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn roles, if only so a lot of sitcom writers can savor the final scene (where the characters literally are broke up)..

wv: "resseco" -- a firm owned, or started, by a Mr. or Ms. Resse. (Sorry...couldn't think of anything more imaginative.)

Buttermilk Sky said...

Small correction: Any show with Jim Belushi OR Tom Arnold. Or are they the same person?

We also don't need any more "special holiday" episodes that turn out to be variations on "A Christmas Carol."

Add to list of overworked phrases: "Ya think?" and "Welcome to my world."

Anonymous said...

"10. Any show with opening titles that show close-ups of the cast and then freeze frames to catch zany expression on each is a bad sitcom."

30 Rock does that and is not a bad sitcom.

Yes?

Rory L. Aronsky said...

30 Rock does that and is not a bad sitcom.

Yes?


Close-ups, not freeze frames. The actors are in motion during those introductions.

Sacul said...

You folks are all disrespecting the genre. Sitcoms have a lot in common with sex. When you have that craving, nothing else will do. We all fantasize about Frasier and Seinfeld, but will really settle for According to Jim or The Nanny if nobody will find out. The glow or guilt afterwards depends on the selection. And we swear we won't but we know we'll do it all over again.

When you NEED some sitcom, no reality show will ever do.

WV: aillity - When being sick means you can do things!

Rory L. Aronsky said...

We all fantasize about Frasier and Seinfeld, but will really settle for According to Jim or The Nanny if nobody will find out.

I would never settle for According to Jim, not even if all 200 channels on my TV were broadcasting it all day and night, not even if all the books in my house were inexplicable filled with quotes from the show and useless behind-the-scene anecdotes.

The Nanny, I admit (sorry, Douglas), helped me through the sheer tedium of research for a book I'm co-writing. I also watched it every week when I was a kid (loved Eartha Kitt's appearance when Fran and Maxwell were in France and even worried sometimes about their perilous airline flight, over the summer before the next season, long before I learned that crew members stood outside airplane sets, shaking the damn thing. I knew it wasn't on a real plane, obviously, but wasn't well-schooled in various effects that make a scene what it is), so there was that nostalgia factor when I tuned in again.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Anal-retentive mode on:

...not even if all the books in my house were inexplicable filled with quotes...

"Inexplicably." I know.

Anal-retentive mode off.

WV: undera - Bridge? Table? Bench in a drunk tank? What? WHAT?! Don't leave me in suspense! I hate you for doing that!

Sean said...

Can't believe we haven't brought up the "Transplant a hit British show to the US, but (a) dumb it down or (b) make the lead characters more likeable for the American audience."

US versions of Steptoe And Son, 'Til Death Do Us Part and The Office kept enough of the original spirit that they worked despite changes.

US attempts at Coupling, Absolutely Fabulous, Reggie and Fawlty Towers...Not so much. (John Cleese > Bea Arthur)

WV: chara - How George W. Bush would have introduced Charo at the Kennedy Center Honors.

VP81955 said...

We all fantasize about Frasier and Seinfeld, but will really settle for According to Jim or The Nanny if nobody will find out.

I would never settle for According to Jim

I've watched only one episode of that series, the one where Julie Newmar (who'd had a publicized spat with neighbor Belushi before it was settled) guest-starred, simply as a favor to her. It was pretty dire, though for a woman in her 70s, Julie still looks pretty damn elegant.

wv: "mingl" -- was this one of the words in the old simplified Chicago Tribune stylebook, alongside "tho" and "nite"?

D. McEwan said...

"Sean said...
D. McEwan said...
M*A*S*H gets the pass because of it's quality."

Oh, I wholly agree with all you've written here about M*A*S*H.

I watched all those ANIMAL HOUSE rip-off series. Not a good one in the bunch, but, as I recall, DELTA HOUSE did introduce us to a stunning blond named Michelle Feiffer.

"VP81955 said...
Hey, if Hollywood ever decides to remake "Death Becomes Her," I sense Ms. Drescher and Cybill Shepherd should be cast in the Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn roles"

As long as I don't have to work on it or see it, sounds like a damn good idea. Who wouldn't want to see a hole blown through Fran Drescher?

"Sacul said...
You folks are all disrespecting the genre. Sitcoms have a lot in common with sex. When you have that craving, nothing else will do. We all fantasize about Frasier and Seinfeld, but will really settle for According to Jim or The Nanny if nobody will find out."

Sorry no. I'd rather - ah - pleasure myself. Besides, if you're jonesing that much, someone is rerunning FRASIER & M*A*S*H. And there are always DVDs of good show as well. I am never desperate enough to resort to a NANNY or a Jim Belushi anything.

"Rory L. Aronsky said...
The Nanny, I admit (sorry, Douglas), helped me through the sheer tedium of research for a book I'm co-writing. I also watched it every week when I was a kid"

Child abuse!

How does THE NANNY help one through tedium rather than inducing it? Because of my friend, I saw the whole damn series, every friggin' episode. I even went to one taping with said friend, and met a lot of the cast and production folks, though not Fran. (I did meet her beleaguered husband.) I paid my dues, and will never watch it again.

My friend told me of how, when Dick Martin guested one week, nearly everyone on the show ignored this "old has-been". Only my friend sat with him to listen and listen. Dick had forgotten more about comedy than most of that NANNY bunch ever knew, but they couldn't see the gold sitting there alone in the green room.

You're a young whipper-snapper, aren't you? I was lucky. When I was a kid, we had these brand new shows: I LOVE LUCY, I MARRIED JOAN, DECEMBER BRIDE, OUR MISS BROOKS, THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE, TOPPER, and Fran hadn't been born yet.

Sean, there were three separate attempts to do an American FAWLTY TOWERS, the bizarre one with Bea Arthur was the only one that ran at all. I saw all three. The closest to being any good was the first, where they did the HOTEL INSPECTORS episode with almost exactly the same script, with Harvey Korman as Basil and Betty White as Sybill. They worked hard, but it didn't work. Betty was great (as ALWAYS), but Harvey was all wrong for the role. In fact, Bea Arthur was actually better casting than Harvey. Nothing against Harvey; he was just wrong for the part. In the most recent, a friend of mine did the Manuel role.

For sheer they-don't-get-it-ness, check out if you can find it the pilots for the American version of RED DWARF. Yow! Craig Bierko was a VERY different Dave Lister, although I kind of liked him. The Rimmer was blah. Cat was a good actor but hardly compared to the original, and in the second try Cat's gender was changed and she was Terry Farrell. Of course, our dear Jane Leeves was Holly, and she was just fine, though the pilot didn't offer her enough to do to make the role hers. They had sense enough to import the British Kryten, so Robert Llewellyn was the best thing about it. Doug Naylor's tales of working on it on one of the RED DWARF DVDs is a true nightmare recount. The American sitcom process observed by a brilliant British trying desperately to salvage his vision from the machine, involving secret rewrites, and scripts slid under cast member's doors at night, and a cast revolt to force the producers to use the creator's script instead of the garbage the giant team of American writers had churned out. Amazing, horrifying account.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

How does THE NANNY help one through tedium rather than inducing it?

Shockingly, and maybe sadly to some, some of my relatives are very much that Jewish. I'm used to Sylvia and Yetta types. Can't answer for Fran, thank god.

Can't believe we haven't brought up the "Transplant a hit British show to the US, but (a) dumb it down or (b) make the lead characters more likeable for the American audience."

It just got worse. David Fincher is working on an American remake of "House of Cards." These bastards don't get it. America doesn't have an Ian Richardson, for one. And I don't care if novelist Michael Dobbs and teleplay writer Andrew Davies are "involved." This is very dicey, considering what went on in the original miniseries.

(http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/television/news/e3ib38cebd2d45985dd0dc8a5ce27bb1f0a)

Oh, and this:

"MRC and Fincher's adaptation will be set in the U.S. but maintain focus on issues of political ambition and blackmail."

So, let's see. We've got a Senator who wants the presidency? How many times can this one trigger resignations? Has Fincher even LOOKED at our Congress lately?

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Media Rights Capital, which is funding this, also puts money into the sitcom "Rita Rocks" on Lifetime. I don't have much faith in this.

WV: colons - I've got one. You've got one. Everyone has one! YAAAAAYYYYYY!!!

Rory L. Aronsky said...

You're a young whipper-snapper, aren't you?

25 years old, but I happily own the entire "I Love Lucy" DVD set and that Sgt. Bilko set that came out some time back. Fortunately, so your head can stop shaking, Douglas, my sitcom of choice now is "Married with Children" at 1 in the morning on TBS because I absolutely refuse to buy the DVD sets. I was sent three of the later seasons for DVD reviews and the instrumental arrangement for the theme song in place of "Love and Marriage" (since they couldn't get the rights) is so monumentally stupid that it highlights the true importance of that song to the series.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

25 years old, but I happily own the entire "I Love Lucy" DVD set and that Sgt. Bilko set that came out some time back.

Oh, and M*A*S*H, my favorite sitcom. I love having that complete set.

WV: moghtea - Tea for moghs. Don't know what a mogh is? Neither do they.