Thursday, September 01, 2016

Forgotten sitcoms

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, it occurred to me that there are a lot of long-running sitcoms that, for whatever reason, you never see anymore. Or if you do, they’re on some obscure channel that only Indiana Jones can find.

And I’m not talking about short-lived programs that lasted a year or less. I’m talking about network stalwarts that lasted years. And yet, they’ve slipped under the radar.

Meanwhile, other shows like REBA air seventeen times a day.

Here’s a partial list. And to be fair I’m only starting at 1980. No, you don’t see THAT GIRL much anymore but it had its day. A bunch of these shows were in syndication for a while and now are on the shelf. And you won’t find THE COSBY SHOW anymore, but that’s because the son of a bitch deserves to be in jail.

Also, I’m not suggesting these were all masterpieces. Some I’m happy to not ever see again. But they all did have large fan bases for a long time. And some I would like to revisit.

Okay, so from memory (a very dubious source), here are some forgotten former hits. Feel free to add to the list.



Jim S said...

You left out "Coach and the biggest of them all "All in the Family." My 24 year old nephew has never se""en that show. A lot of Norman Lear's 70s work has disappeared. Previously mentioned nephew has never heard of "Maude" or "Good Times".

"Malcolm in the Middle" is gone and that's despite Bryan Cranston being hot because of "Breaking Bad". It's not just sitcoms. ER was on for 15 years. I defy you to find any channel running it, even with the help of Indiana Jones.

Now there all these shows on Netflix and Hulu that I read about but have never seen and no one I know has seen them - "Transparent" etc. I suspect the road to being forgotten is getting a lot easier to travel.

Peter said...

I would add:

THE POWERS THAT BE. I love love loved that show! A truly wonderful cast. David Hyde Pierce, John Forsythe, Holland Taylor, Peter MacNicol and Joseph Gordon-Levitt among others. I wish it would get a DVD release.

HERMAN'S HEAD. I loved this too. Yeardley Smith was wonderful in it.

Modesty obviously prevented you from listing BIG WAVE DAVE'S. WHEN will we get a DVD release?!

SMALL WONDER. OK, this one was probably really bad but I have vaguely fond memories of this cheesy sitcom about a family whose scientist dad builds a robot daughter.

From the list:

CAROLINE IN THE CITY - I liked this a lot.
KATE & ALLIE - Great show.
GROWING PAINS - Kirk Cameron. Puke. All copies of every episode should be destroyed.
ALF - I LOVED ALF. Way overdue a return/movie.

Loretta Tortelli said...

I intensely disliked "Mad About You", and I was a newlywed in 1993 (still happily married to the same person)... The show just annoyed me!

It's hard to conjure up the "forgotten sitcoms". I can only seem to crab/wonder WHY THE HELL shows like "Mama's Family" are still running on some channels...

Jim Grey said...

The one on that list I really miss is Night Court.

The Drew Carey Show ran in syndication for a long time, or so it seemed to me, but yeah, it's gone now. I liked it better in syndication than I did first run. I don't know why.

Carol said...

I'd love to see Night Court.

Remington Steele was on ME TV for awhile. I miss that one.

Oh, and the A Team. Is that anywhere?

Does anyone besides me remember Wizards and Warriors? It aired for like a minute in 1982, I think. I loved that show.

VincentS said...

WKRP in Cincinnati! I would put it right up there with THE HONEYMOONERS and CHEERS.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

I wonder how many of them look awful in HD? And that's why they aren't on?
MURPHY BROWN - Very Dated with topics and hair and shoulder pads
ALICE - first couple of seasons were very good. Much better than 2 Broke girls!
DAVE’S WORLD - A classic of course
BECKER - Wish this was on.
CAROLINE IN THE CITY - 1 of those ThursdayNite NBC shows that was on because of its lead-in
NEWHART - Still on syndication. Watched it last week
CYBILL - meh
KATE & ALLIE - LOVED this show, especially first 3 seasons.
EVENING SHADE - enjoyable
GROWING PAINS - still on...but nowhere near as good as Family Ties
NIGHT COURT - STill on syndication somewhere. Very very funny
DEAR JOHN - also on somewhere...saw it in Phoenix the other week while travelling...
WEBSTER - this show came up short.
ALF - Surprised not on. Millennials still talk about it.
WHO’S THE BOSS? - Tony Danza is the bomb
WELCOME BACK KOTTER - first 2 seasons were terrific.
EMPTY NEST - not as good as golden girls but enjoyable
LOVE AND WAR - huh?? never heard of it
HEAD OF THE CLASS - Dan Schneider is a Nickelodeon Icon and created his own excellent sitcoms.
ELLEN - at times very funny
THE NAKED TRUTH - first couple of episodes were terrific
THE DREW CAREY SHOW - Maybe Mimi doesn't like syndication anymore?
MAD ABOUT YOU - First 4 seasons were terrific. For a while was in heavy syndication rotation.
NEWSRADIO - very clever but never high ratings
SUDDENLY SUSAN - Thursday Dreck!
SPIN CITY - still on TV
STEP BY STEP - friday dreck
JUST SHOOT ME - had some moments
VERONICA’S CLOSET - blech blech. A waste of Alley's talents
YES DEAR - cast was likable. Scripts were not.

Justin Russo said...

I'm going to add "Family Matters." Oof.

Ed said...

I can't find WINGS on anywhere in re-runs (that show delivered huge laughs every week, had an awesome cast and for some reason was never in the conversation of great NBC shows from the same era).

It never had a huge audience, but SPORTS NIGHT was great for its 2-year run.

Paul Duca said...

A number of them are running on a fairly new subchannel called Laff!

Mitchell McLean said...

Some of the shows on your list are still around.









Glenn said...

Good list, though where I live, Mad About You, Spin City and Newsradio are in a non-stop syndication loop every morning.

DrBOP said...

Off-Topic Kid with a great collection of Mistah Scully's tales:

And the NYTimes are preparing a devoted section about the man and his career, just not sure where EXACTLY it's going to appear, nor on WHAT platforms, nor IF YOU HAVE TO BE A MEMBER OF FACEBUUUK to be able to even SEE it......OY, they're makin' things WAY too complicated ;^)

And just as I'm typing this, it's beginning to hurt....SCULLY, SAY IT AIN'T SO!

Bud Wilkinson said...

Some of those shows are not MIA, rather found on digital channels Antenna TV and Cozi. I watch Newhart, Night Court and Empty Nest on a regular basis. Evening Shade and Ellen are there, too, along with Adam-12, It's About Time, My Mother The Car and many, many more. I cut the cable when I discovered I could get 18 channels over the air for free.

Boomska316 said...

Some of these are on the various streaming services. I loved ALF back in the day, but I haven't been able to bring myself to try watching it again.

Boomska316 said...

I would also add Different Strokes to that list.

Jake said...


KOTTER is (or was) on ME-TV. NIGHT COURT is on LAFF.


Tim G said...

Becker has become one of my all-time favorites. I remember being disappointed when Terry Farrell left and Nancy Travis replaced her. Thanks to Ken's columns, I've developed an appreciation for Nancy Travis and now enjoy the whole run of Becker (even with the strange transition from Bob to Hector as counter stalwart).

Ted Danson did a masterful job of being curmudgeonly at the same time as he was compassionate. It was always fun to watch his BS detector go off. And he was pretty deft with the physical stuff too when the occasion called for it, usually in a moment of frustration when he'd take his aggression out on an object, like a phone.

Some of the episodes were haunting. Very early in the run one of his young patients was HIV positive and there was an unforgettable moment when the doctor was offering the boy as much reassurance as he could about the future. An episode with the cat named Harry who ran away showed Becker preparing for his return just in case. Another favorite is when Reggie panicked on the Empire State viewing area and turned to a reluctant Becker for comfort. There was a lot of humanity in the show. Margaret's faith was taken for granted and provided fodder for humor with making it the butt. Even Linda would have veered too much into caricature except for some of the vulnerable touches of sweetness that came through. They used Bob judiciously, and gave him s few other facets than horndog.

In an earlier column, Ken mentioned the grimy feel of the Taxi set as a reason for the show's lack of life in syndication. Cheers of course had a welcoming set. I think Becker did too. The diner was a wonderful place for interactions and although Reggie made many health inspector jokes, it was not really dirty.

I'm not sure why but I always had the feeling CBS took Becker for granted. It replaced the interesting Brian Benben Show, which flopped after a month. Becker was built for endurance, not speed. It had such a specific sense of place and the characters were so familiar that it was a pleasure to watch. Every episode has at least 1 laugh aloud moment.

Does this qualify as a cult show?

Steve Bailey said...

Other than maybe NEWHART, there's not one sitcom on your list that I'm dying to see again. Even the ones that I liked, I've had my fill of them. Maybe that's why shows come and go in syndication the way they do.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

ALF is not forgotten. He just had a major cameo on MR. ROBOT, courtesy of Elliot's bizarre sitcom mindtrip.

Nick from NJ said...

To add to the list:


I'm sure there's more. Again, not all remembered fondly but I'd still rather watch a block of these than 2 hours of HOPE & FAITH.

Anonymous said...

I've always had a soft spot for Perfect Strangers..I'd like to see Lateline again...

Brian said...

Married...With Children
My Little Margie
I Married Joan

gottacook said...

One or another of the various rerun networks (Cozi, Antenna TV, et al.) does show Newhart and also, very late at night (perhaps only on weekends), Dear John. I can't believe Dear John had a long run in the first place; I tried watching it a few weeks ago and it is simply dire.

Bill said...

Most of these fall into 4 categories in my mind:

1. Shows that I would guess skewed older, whose potential audiences may be, to put it morbidly, dying off (Empty Nest, Evening Shade).
2. Shows that benefited from great timeslots (Caroline in the City was between Seinfeld and ER, The Ropers could have been a hit there).
3. Shows that were, in some way or another, of their time (like Murphy Brown with the early 90s politics references).
4. Not actual hits (Newsradio was almost cancelled every year it was on, and... Ned and Stacey could not have ever been a hit, despite the brilliance of that episode where Christopher Hewitt played a deranged version of himself).

A few actually puzzle me, like Drew Carrey or Night Court, which seemed successful, of reasonable quality, enjoyed by not-too-old people, and not completely dated.

Mike Barer said...

Room 222 was a favorite of mine although it would be seriously dated now. Partridge Family, Gidget (also dated, The Real McCoys, F Troop, The Odd Couple, The Munsters, The Adams Family, The Danny Thomas Show, Gomer Pyle USMC, and Mad About You. By the way, one of the Partridge alumni, Danny Bonaduce, has a radio show here in the Seattle area, although I rarely listen, as it's never promoted.

Mike Barer said...

Just saw, you listed Mad About You. Sorry, I'll hit you with Maude, Good times, Rhoda, Phyllis, and Lou Grant.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I've actually seen some of these shows on TV quite often, whether on channels like TV Land, or other retro niche channels. BECKER, NEWHART, NIGHT COURT, ALF, WELCOME BACK KOTTER, they've gotten some love in recent years - I think BECKER was on WGN for the longest time. WHO'S THE BOSS? was on very frequently for a while, on Hallmark Channel and TV Guide Channel (for whatever reason); and I think some markets are actually playing THE DREW CAREY SHOW right now on their digital subchannels - but again, I know THE DREW CAREY SHOW at least has a large cult following among Whosers.

And once again, had to sit through three CAPTCHA tests - this is kind of becoming a drag.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Taxi (1978-1982) if only for Reverend Jim's Driving Test scene at the DMV. Golly, that's such a winner... Makes my teeth hurt.

Jason said...

My Tivo just picked up a Mad About You episode the other day as a "suggestion", so I know it's still on *somewhere* at least..

Mark P. said...

Not only has ALF vanished, but also MORK AND MINDY and THIRD ROCK. The only way to see E.T.s on TV these days is on BRAINDEAD.

Gary said...

Ken, this post leads me to a Friday question: Do you remember the sitcom "He & She," with Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss? It ran for only one season in 1967-68. Benjamin played a cartoonist who created the character Jet Man, which had been turned into a TV show. Jet Man was played hilariously by Jack Cassidy as a total egomaniac and buffoon, much like Ted Baxter. I remember this series as very funny and sophisticated, reminiscent of the Dick Van Dyke Show and sort of a prequel to the Mary Tyler Moore Show. It has never been released on DVD and was rarely shown in syndication. There are some episodes on YouTube but I haven't watched them yet -- slightly afraid of spoiling a fond memory. When this show was cancelled many regarded it as a huge mistake by the network, just as when they cancelled the Van Dyke show after one season (only to have it spared at the last minute). I'd love to hear your thoughts on He & She if you have any memories of it.

Barry in Portland said...

I see nobody has mentioned "Hello, Larry", with good reason.

Still, I would like to see it once, just for the opening sequence, emerging from the highway 26 tunnel into downtown Portland, for the view of Mt. Hood that was permanently eradicated by the construction of the KOIN building.

Peter said...


While it's not quite the same as watching it on TV, there are lots of full episodes of My Little Margie on Youtube. I don't see the appeal personally, but hey, I still have a soft spot for the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon from the 80s, so we all have our particular tastes.

Ryan P said...

I would also add:

Gimme A Break!
It’s Garry Shandling’s Show
Punky Brewster
Silver Spoons
And, of course, AfterMASH.

Arthur Mee said...

MURPHY BROWN - Hasn't dated well -- the political references (and they're in *every* episode) are usually tedious and unfunny.

DAVE’S WORLD - A respectable sitcom starring someone who had a bigger hit sitcom previously. If Dave's World is on, you're probably thinking "Hey, you know what I'd really like to see? Night Court!"

BECKER - A respectable sitcom starring someone who had a bigger hit sitcom previously. If Becker is on, you're probably thinking "Hey, you know what I'd really like to see? Cheers!"

CAROLINE IN THE CITY - A timeslot hit...was anyone really into this show?

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT - The farther away this show is from me, the more comfortable I an.

NEWHART - I'm probably the only person who prefers the first videotaped season, though this is still a classic all-round.

KATE & ALLIE - Nosedived in quality towards the end, but gently funny before that. Perhaps too 'soft' for modern tastes?

DEAR JOHN - A somewhat anemic sitcom starring someone who had a bigger hit sitcom previously. If Dear John is on, you're probably thinking "Hey, you know what I'd really like to see? Pretty much anything else!"

LOVE AND WAR - Okay-but-not-great to begin with, then the cast change just derailed any momentum it had.

HEAD OF THE CLASS - Haven't seen this in almost 30 years. Can't imagine that it holds up well, despite Howard Hesseman and (later) Billy Connolly.

ELLEN - Have seen this in syndication within the last month.

THE DREW CAREY SHOW - Have seen this in syndication within the last month.

MAD ABOUT YOU - Good first season; couldn't sustain itself. Both leads quickly went from quirky to actively annoying.

NEWSRADIO - Still funny, but the public didn't even like it the first time 'round. Plus, the post-Hartman episodes just have an unavoidable tinge of sadness.

SUDDENLY SUSAN - Timeslot hit.

VERONICA’S CLOSET - Timeslot hit.

YES DEAR - Inexplicable hit.

cd1515 said...

Friday Question:
why were spinoffs so big back in the day but almost nonexistent today?
even on 1 of the Seinfeld DVD extras I remember Jason Alexander saying they missed a big spinoff possibility with Jerry & George's parents in Florida.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

If you're going to list NED AND STACY, why not ALMOST PERFECT? Both were cancelled after one and a half seasons. NED AND STACY is out on DVD), and the second season was pretty godawful. It was in any case a sort of prototype of WILL AND GRACE, which you also don't see much of (and it's dated terribly, given the amount of social change even in just the 10-15 years since it ended). CAROLINE IN THE CITY also dropped off quality-wise pretty fast.

NEWSRADIO and BECKER, though...makes no sense. And the relationships on MURPHY BROWN hold up very well even if the topical jokes have dated. EVENING SHADE I liked (despite some rather twee characters). They've only put out one season of those two on DVD, I guess testing the water before deciding the market wasn't sufficient to do more.

MAD ABOUT YOU is also an odd one. I loved it, and think it (or at least the first three seasons) holds up very well: it's about a couple trying to navigate a marriage. How can that possibly date?

I can only guess that for some reason these shows are too expensive to syndicate and the others are already bought and paid for, so...


MikeN said...

Family Ties
The Practice
Picket Fences

Is it a coincidence that Cosby Show reruns go off the air and Malcolm Jamal Warner shows up on Suits?

thomas tucker said...

Speaking of Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss, remember Bridget Loves Bernie?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Peter: I loved THE POWERS THAT BE, but it wasn't a long run at all. David Hyde Pierce prototyped Niles as a suicidal Congressman, Holland Taylor, Valerie Mahaffey, John Forsythe, and Robin Bartlett were all perfectly cast, and could anyone have been funnier than Peter MacNicol with his kidney stones?

I am fortunate enough to have the entire series on old videotapes.

Agreed re the captchas: Google's obsession with street signs and store fronts is getting longer and longer by the day. You would think that the same IP address posting every day would count for something...

Covarr said...

I'd always assumed THE DREW CAREY SHOW was because of rights issues. The theme song from season 2 onward is too expensive to be worth licensing (this has been confirmed as why it's never gotten a DVD release) and not feasible to replace (because the cast lipsync'd it).

Peter said...


If you ever decide to have your videotapes of THE POWERS THAT BE transferred to DVD, you have at least one customer who'd happily pay you for a copy!

Terence Towles Canote said...

Newhart is available on Netflix, but that seems to be the only place one can find it! That makes me sad, as I remember really liking that show.

Eric J said...

Just finished two of my favorites from the early 90's, The Adventures of Brisco County and Northern Exposure, both on Netflix DVD. Both character driven, both still enjoyable 1 hour shows.

But there are very few sitcoms I would sit through more than a few episodes, even the ones I was hooked on when they were first broadcast. I'll always stop for MASH if I click onto it. Same with Night Court, Cheers, Wings and a few others. Mostly, the shows from the past were great fun at the time, but only a few episodes a season are really all that special.

Anonymous said...

Car 54
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

John Hammes said...

Jim Grey said...

The one on that list I really miss is Night Court.

I second that emotion... Night Court and The Odd Couple were literally comfort food at one time, syndicated during the dinner hour. Nice to know these shows are still around, granted sometimes a little harder to find.

Reinhold Weege knew how to combine the sublime and slapstick. Everyone in the cast was allowed to shine, not always the case with an ensemble. There were ecletic guest stars ranging from Mel Torme to Brent Spiner (before Data) to cameos from Johnny Carson and Wile E. Coyote (!)... no kidding.

Then again, to use a Night Court catch phrase, you are probably now saying "...what's your point...?"

Carson said...

It seems in general that shows on film have stood the test of time better than those on videotape. All in the Family and the Golden Girls are certainly exceptions. Of course, it's also possible to get an HD print off of the filmed shows and not off the videotaped shows. I'm not sure if that matters or not, but I certainly enjoy watching Dick Van Dyke and Andy Griffith in HD.

andy215 said...

I forgot all about "The Head of the Class" I loved that show and "Just the Ten of Us"

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Peter: email me for advice. (The address is on my linked website.


Buttermilk Sky said...

You might look around for these cable channels:

LOGO: "Golden Girls" and "Bewitched"

Ovation: "Two Girls, a Guy and a Pizza Place" and "Dharma and Greg"

MyTV: "Mary Tyler Moore," "The Bob Newhart Show" and "Taxi"

Antenna: "Maude," "The Addams Family," "Bewitched," "Mork & Mindy," "All In the Family," "Barney Miller," "Newhart," "Dear John," "Burns & Allen," "Jack Benny," etc.

Now if only someone would resurrect "Frank's Place."

LinGin said...

I see there's some disdain for MAD ABOUT YOU which I liked on its original run and have come to love it in syndication. And I have some good company because I believe that it's the only show (outside of the Dick Van Dyke Show and any of the specials related to it) where Carl Reiner reprised his Alan Brady character. He must have had a lot of respect for the show and creators to have done that.

SharoneRosen said...

Just bring me BARNEY MILLER and BUFFALO BILL and I'll be a happy, happy girl

Oh yes, I see Buttermilk Sky mentioned FRANK'S PLACE!!! That one, too.

Andy Rose said...

I had forgotten all about Alice until Marvin Kaplan died recently. In the 80s, that show was on TV in an almost endless loop, counting new episodes, CBS daytime reruns, broadcast syndication, and cable.

The Drew Carey Show had one of the strangest track records of any TV program. It had a very slow start, but suddenly picked up steam in the second season. It tapered off again, but was still doing okay at a time when the networks were becoming increasingly short on big hits. ABC took the nearly unprecedented step of renewing it for two more guaranteed seasons. The next year, the ratings started to tank. ABC ended up pulling Drew off the schedule during Season 8, burning off most of its episodes during the summer. But they were still contractually bound to buy one more season, at a reported price of $3,000,000 per episode. That last season never made it to the fall schedule and was burned off the following summer, ending its run in 2004 at 150th in the Nielsen prime time rankings.

Jason said...

"Just finished two of my favorites from the early 90's, The Adventures of Brisco County and Northern Exposure, both on Netflix DVD. Both character driven, both still enjoyable 1 hour shows."

Both great shows, imho.

Stephen Marks said...

Bill Cosby said...

Youuuuuuuuuuu have no reason to sayyyyyyyyyyyyyy I should be in the jail. If you say I should be in the jail you are saying I committed a crime. NOW! There is no proof I committed a crime and should be in the jail. Camille is in the kitchen stirring the pots and the pans and making the lunch and she hears a "fuck" and a "shit" and a "damn" from me after I read that the Ken Levine of the MASH and The Crane Show and the sports bar in Houston show says I should be in the jail. Shes stirring and I'm cursing and shes stirring and I"m yelling. NOW! If you have no proof other then I shared a jello pop with some young ladies who were auditioning for the I Spy show then please don't write in your electronic diary that I did something wrong.

Camille and I still watch the show you did about the big wave and we would love it if you could send us Jack Lord's picture, and if he could sign it "To Camille love Magnum." Regards, Bill Cosby.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I've also noticed that way back when, THE BILL ENGVALL SHOW was one of the first in a long line of really crappy original sitcoms produced for TBS that ended up being a short-runner (seriously, just about all of TBS's original sitcoms last only a season or two); however, in recent years, it's become retroactively popular only because a then-unknown Jennifer Lawrence (who's now the most overrated actress in Hollywood) played his teen daughter.

@Mark 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN has been on TV Land within the last eight years, as has [scrubs], back when TV Land began adding more and more modern sitcoms to their line up and phasing out true classics.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the deal is with NewsRadio, a great show that SOMEONE should be airing or streaming or otherwise putting into ciruclation.

I'm glad someone else mentioned Third Rock From The Sun, which was solidly entertaining and as I recall won its share of awards, then vanished and has been rarely mentioned since.

Las said...

I've seen both Night Court and Murphy Brown fairly recently on premium movie channels...maybe Showtime but I could be wrong.

I had completely forgotten about Head of the Class, and I loved that show as a kid.

Igor said...

About Murphy Brown, a reason you've mentioned for it not aging well (politics of that moment) remind me of what's interesting about Johnny Carson's Tonight Show that's now running daily: His monologues are real time-jumps back. Now that I think about it, that could make Murphy Brown a good lead-in or afterwards. They're now running Newhart afterwards.

VP81955 said...

Someone mentioned "Small Wonder," which never did much for me. I much preferred its fellow syndicated contemporary sitcom, "Out Of This World." It concerned an earthwoman (Donna Pescow) who had a daughter by an alien; he then left to return to his home planet. The daughter Evie, now a teen, inherited many of the alien's supernatural powers, but kept them a secret to everyone but mom. (Burt Reynolds voiced the alien, who kept tabs on his daughter via an orb in the living room.) The series was sort of a late-'80s precursor (1987-1991) to the live-action "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" a decade later, and Maureen Flannigan, who played Evie, had much the same likability as Melissa Joan Hart; one wonders whether MJH was a fan of the series while growing up. Not a brilliant series, but charming and funny.

And does anyone recall "She-Wolf of London," a syndicated drama with comedic overtones that aired at about the same time? I thought Kate Hodge, who played the title character, was going to become a big star, but while she later landed roles on a few U.S. sitcoms, she never gained that sort of success.

Some series were brilliant the first year, but were tampered with in the second and lost their momentum; "The Naked Truth" and "She Spies" are two examples. And while "Sabrina" ran for seven seasons, it was never as funny as in its first season, after which creator Nell Scovell was eased out.

Stephen Robinson said...

I presume there are initial syndication deals for most sitcoms. Many seem to get a shot in the prime post-news (7 p.m.) and after news (11 p.m.) slots and then vanish after six months or so. The ones that live forever -- like MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, which turns 30 next year -- are harder to peg. I've heard it argued that these are the ones that play like radio shows -- fewer visual gags, easy to follow if you're in the next room making dinner. It also helps if there's little to no continuity. Even a series like SPIN CITY was somewhat burdened with continuity due to cast changes ("Why is this character not on? And why is this character doing this job?").

Earl Boebert said...

Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

Fernwood 2 Night. One of Norman Lear's best, now sadly forgotten. Spawned the whole genre of fake talk shows, right up to Larry Sanders.

Johnny Walker said...

Shows that leap to mind that aren't on your list:

DREAM ON - Sitcom with tits, from the makers of friends
HERMAN'S HEAD - Neurotic guy with characters in his head
FLYING BLIND - Neurotic guy with Tea Leone as a girlfriend
NURSES - Golden Girls spin off
WINGS - I still watch it!

Is NORTHERN EXPOSURE playing anywhere? I guess that was an hour show, though. Not really a sitcom.

Unknown said...

I forget which channel (maybe Antenna TV), but WINGS was scheduled to return at some point.

Hulu has all but about 20 episodes. I wish they would get the remaining episodes. The DVD set does not have subtitles and/or closed captioning, so I refuse to pay it. I'd rather buy it for $100 with than $20 without.

Rod said...

Recently was flipping channels and coma across "Sports Night." Talk about a great show! I would watch a sports show with Dan Rydell and Casey McCall as the anchors anyday!

Barry Traylor said...

I would not mind at all having Newhart on some channel I get.

Will Hansen said...

I have watched at least a few of these shows recently on the various rerun channels now out there. "Dear John" I liked originally but don't find it as funny now. But seeing Jere Burns then and having been binge watching "Justified" on Netflix currently (and he is hilarious on the oddball "Angie Tribeca")shows what an underused talent he was back then.
Please someone find an outlet for "Becker"!

Grombach said...

I'm shocked nobody has mentioned Perfect Strangers. May not have been the most well written but still have a fondness for the show. Haven't seen it years and may be terrible. But from my childhood it's up there with Mr Belvedere and the Greatest American Hero.

Anonymous said...

Designing Women, Frank's Place, Just Shoot Me, and(Non-sitcoms)thirtysomething, St. Elsewhere, ER, Crime Story. Janice B.

Astroboy said...

Another one I would add to the list, though it only lasted one season, would be "My World and Welcome To It," starring the wonderful William Windom and based on the works of James Thurber. It was a great mix of fantasy and reality. If you saw it it's a show that sticks in your mind.

Newsradio should certainly be seen more, I recently watched all five seasons of it and laughed as much as ever. And every episode of the first four seasons made me love and miss Phil Hartman all the more. Great show and cast. And my favorite Mike Post theme song.

thomas tucker said...

Okay, well since people are going back before 1980, how about Love That Bob?

Charles H. Bryan said...

My God, it's like walking through a tv graveyard. And when I find myself standing in front of YES DEAR's headstone, I can't resist the urge to dance, and dance, and dance ...

That show was freaking horrible. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

I would choose Perfect Strangers..I thought Pinchot and Baker had great chemistry and their broadway flair made the show stand out...

DwWashburn said...

Sometimes I'm surprised at shows that I watched in original run that I can barely sit through today (Three's Company, Newhart, One Day at a Time, and yes All in the Family). However some that I enjoyed I am liking even more since I found them on DVD (Barney Miller, Kate and Allie). Strange what time will do.

And one you didn't list that I still enjoy -- Third Rock from the Sun.

Andrew Wickliffe said...

That Ken Levine just gave love to Ned and Stacey warms my cold heart :)

DMK said...

One of the sitcoms that perplexed me - hitting 100 episodes- was RULES OF ENGAGEMENT. Which basically was heir to the YES DEAR "phenomenon."

Friend of mine worked on TIL DEATH- the Brad Garrett show done post-Raymond. There was some real lawyerin' on that deal. He said they shot almost two seasons worth of shows and that he wasn't sure if they ever aired. (Me either)

Once when people from out of town visited, I lucked upon a taping of BOSTON COMMON. How that got two seasons was beyond me.

For me, the show I'd love to see again is POLICE SQUAD! IN COLOR. My mom used to tell me that I was probably one of the 12 people in the world who watched it. My other "older" fav shows- Bosom Buddies, Greatest American Hero, It's a Living (and of course, the original Battlestar Galactica)

Michael said...

HOME IMPROVEMENT was a top-ten show it's entire 8 year run, but I haven't come across it anywhere in years.

Bill O said...

Of all mentioned, St. Elsewhere was the only one that, perversely, deliberately, killed any syndication chances.

Anonymous said...

The Wonder Years
Brooklyn Bridge


Sergio said...

I would love to see "The John Larroquette Show".

Ralph C. said...

I bought and watched on DVD the entire series Soap recently. I had fun watching it though the 4th season was kind of rough. I'm currently reading a book about Soap and it's been interesting to find out the stories about the creation of the show and such. Also, I seem to remember THE DAYS AND NIGHTS OF MOLLY BROWN as being a sophisticated comedy that I enjoyed but hasn't been released on DVD or is showing anywhere I'm able to watch it.

Johnny Hy said...

CPO Sharkey with Don Rickles
It's Your Move with Jason Bateman only one season but I remember it being very funny
Bosom Buddies
Chico and the Man
The Duck Factory with Jim Carrey
The Slap Maxwell Story with Dabney Coleman

Stephen Robinson said...

Fernwood 2 Night had a good run on Nick at Nite in the early '90s. I recorded the bulk of them on VHS, which are now gone. It also had a little too much continuity for syndication (running gags that were best appreciated if you saw them in order).

Andrew said...

I miss HEE HAW!
Heh, just kidding. But it had its moments.

michael said...

Not enough episodes to be shown on rerun TV but I would love to see how I would react today to HOT L BALTIMORE and UNITED STATES.

Anonymous said...

Sergio: Season 1 of THE JOHN LARROQUETTE SHOW was utterly brilliant in its portrayal of a newly sober alcoholic trying to put his life back together as the night manager of a bus station (St Louis or Kansas City, I think). In one memorable episode, they cast June Lockhart against type as his con-artist mother (they were wonderful together). The show went rapidly downhill after the first season, I think under network pressure to lighten the mood. Again, a show I have old tapes of.


Jeff Boice said...

A DIFFERENT WORLD- I think that airs on Bounce TV.

Of the shows on your list the only one that I would watch again is Newhart.

Mike Moody said...

I saw Drew Carey once said the reason the show isn't on DVD is because the producers don't think there is enough of a market to acquire the music rights. Could that also explain syndication of the show?

Arthur Mee said...


dolittle said...

KING OF THE HILL is my king of the hill. I'll also second IT'S GARRY SHANDLING'S SHOW, 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN, DESIGNING WOMEN, and NEWS RADIO. Also, MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE had the kind of quirky humor that still holds up very well.

Richard John Marcej said...

I just read Ken's list and every post so I won't duplicate any shows that have been previously mentioned.
But I'm REALLY surprised that no one mentioned, from 1989:


It ran on CBS, starred Matt Frewer, was very funny and was created by Norman Sternberg (who also wrote "My Favorite Year", was a writer on "Blazing Saddles" and was a producer on the old Mel Brooks sitcom, "When Things Were Rotten")

It ran for three seasons (40 episodes) and no one remembers it.

Ralph C. said...

You're right and I knew that in my head...but my fingers had other intentions. lol :-)

Ike Iszany said...

The show I liked that vanished off the face of the earth was "The John Larroquette Show". Well mainly the first season. Not only hasn't it ever gone to syndication it's one of the few shows that's never been released on DVD. A few episodes are available on Youtube.

Ike Iszany said...

Some of these shows are on Laff and Antennae TV so they are not only on the cable but also broadcast and can be seen with plain old rabbit ears.

Diane D. said...

I doubt if many are still reading this thread, but thought I would just mention something I didn't see in any of the 93 comments above!! In my favorite 10 or 15 shows, I will watch them no matter what the set looks like, but I really enjoy the beautiful sets of shows like CHEERS and FRASIER---it just adds to their perfection. In shows than I don't love but would still enjoy, an ugly or dark or dreary set (no matter how appropriate) will keep me from watching them in re-run. It just affects me so much that it isn't worth it, and I wondered if there was anyone else who felt that way. If I didn't love BECKER, I would not be interested in re-watching it because I thought the set was so ugly and dreary. When I think of that show, I see it in my mind as in black and white, because it was so dreary---actually black and white movies were gorgeous---BECKER just looked gray and dark.

Hank Gillette said...

For me, the show I'd love to see again is POLICE SQUAD! IN COLOR.

The entire series is available on Amazon for $7.50. With only six episodes, that’s probably the only way you’ll ever see it again.

Hank Gillette said...

Newsradio should certainly be seen more, I recently watched all five seasons of it and laughed as much as ever. And every episode of the first four seasons made me love and miss Phil Hartman all the more.

News Radio was a favorite of mine when it first ran. I loved Phil Hartman, and I still mourn the loss of the man and his talent, but when I recently watched the first fours seasons again, all I wanted to do was punch his character in the face. I guess it’s from getting old(er). Not only do I not want to be around people like Bill NcNeal, I don’t even find them funny in a sitcom environment.

Steve719 said...

You include Growing Pains in list of forgotten sitcoms. But I'd just like to point out that it's running on television right now. Okay, it's on some "network" called UP, running on Saturdays at 4 AM, but still...

Ed Dempsey said...

How is it that no one's brought up the Love Boat or Fantasy Island! Or did I just miss them in the comments. Personal favorites were Designing Women, Evening Shade, Night Court and the Muppet Show.

Jeff Wilder said...

ALF is one of my favorite sitcoms. But I can understand how it might not work for people who didn't grow up with it. Same with Ghostbusters. It's one of my all-time favorite movies. But I know people who came to it decades later for the first time and they're not as enamored.

A lot of sitcoms, like a lot of comedy movies, were huge at one point. But have little to no staying power later on. This is mainly because a lot of comedy has an expiration date. The Golden Girls still pops up on a regular basis because there's something timeless there, even with the occasional topical references from the 80s.

I also agree with a previous comment that some of the older shows (even the good ones like Night Court and the aforementioned ALF) are considered more ancient than Julius Caesar by younger audiences. Some be they good (the aforementioned Golden Girls) or dreck (Full House) managed to maintain following with subsequent generations.

Someone mentioned Sports Night and that's one show I love. A while back I came across a used copy of the complete series and grabbed it.

Finally, one forgotten one that I was surprised didn't get mentioned was Dharma And Greg. It ran for five seasons yet left no real impact whatsoever. Sports Night was its lead-in at one point and when ABC ditched it, one of the reasons given was that it was losing DAG viewers. Today, Sports Night is a cult favorite while Dharma And Greg doesn't even make forgotten sitcoms lists.

Unknown said...

Soap, Bosom Buddies, Benson, Charles In Charge, The Jefferson’s, Archie Bunker’s Place, Will & Grace, Hunter, The Rockford Files, Saved By The Bell, Moonlighting, The Equalizer, MacGuyver, The Wonder Years, The Hogan Family/Valerie’s Family, A Different World and LA Law.