Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Favorite Sitcoms

I have had periods in my life where I spend a lot of time watching TV, balanced with long periods where I just don’t watch any (like right now).  However, in recent months, I have been watching some through NetFlix.

I’ve kind of always been a fan of Sitcoms.  But lately a lot of them have been hit or miss from what I have seen.  Still, when I think back, I can recall a few that really stand out as exceptional TV.  This list is by no means comprehensive.  It’s based on shows that I have watched whole seasons of, rather than just a few episodes here and there.

The Dick Van Dyke Show
Dick Van Dyke is arguably one of my all-time favorite entertainers.  He can go from goofy to serious to just plain normal in the blink of an eye.  His original show was in black and white, and co-starred Mary Tyler Moore (who was a total fox), and centered around an Army vet who was working as the head writer for a variety show.  Hilarity ALWAYS ensued.  It’s my go-to show on NetFlix when I need a good giggle.

This was the seminal show of the 90’s.  These people were hipsters before hipsters were cool.  I think the one thing that made the show work so well is that they were all very different from each other, yet they shared a bond that really couldn’t be fully explained.  It just was.  I have to say, Chandler Bing was my favorite character, with Joey coming in a close second.  I watched this a lot when I first separated from my ex-wife.  I needed those laughs, and this show provided them in spades.  I would still love to see a reunion special with this cast.

Home Improvement
Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor was the everyman hero.  He was a former tool salesman with a buzzsaw wit, who hosted his own home improvement show.  He was the man’s man, the guy’s guy, and he had all the imperfections that go along with that.  The cast of characters on this show was awesome, and everyone played their part so well.  But really, this show was about being a family.  At it’s core, it made you feel good, even while making you laugh out loud.

Three’s Company
The premise alone makes this show worth watching.  A guy shares an apartment with two hot chicks.  But, in order to convince the landlord that no funny business is going on, the guy has to pretend to be gay.  Man this show was hysterical!  John Ritter (God rest his soul) was at the top of his game, and the whole cast was so fun to watch.  Although I like Mr. and Mrs. Roper better than when Don Knotts came on, even he was pretty funny.  I’ve always wondered what the gay community thought of this show…

Laverne & Shirley
Everyone loved Happy Days, so who wouldn’t love a spin-off?  Two girls in the early 60’s making a living working at the fictional Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee, while sharing an apartment in a building with two iconic goofballs, Lenny and Squiggy.  I can recall watching this show a lot when I was a kid.  In the later seasons they moved to California, and although it was still pretty funny, it wasn’t quite the same.

George Lopez
Executive Producer Sandra Bullock approached stand up comedian George Lopez about doing a show based on a Latino family, without focusing on the stereotypical Latino culture.  What came of that was an amazingly funny show.  When my son was first born, and my wife was on maternity leave, we spent every weekday evening watching this show and Home Improvement on cable.  The theme song, “Lowrider” still makes me giggle when I think of how we used to make Connor dance to it as an infant.

Mork & Mindy
Another Happy Days spin-off, this show introduced the world to one of the funniest men alive, Robin Williams.  As an alien who understands nothing about humans, his childlike innocence combined with his childlike wisdom made Mork one of the most endearing characters on TV.  And the relationship with Pam Dawber’s Mindy was great, as it progressed pretty naturally through the show.  I liked all of the little alien details they added about Mork, especially that Orkans aged backwards.  Which was hilariously illustrated when their son was born, played by the hysterical Jonathan Winters.

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”  Honestly, it’s lines like this that just made this show so awesome.  The whole cast was funny as hell, and delivered this clever dialogue with perfect comedic timing.  Dr. Johnny Fever was my favorite, but Les Nessman always made me laugh too.  For a while, my wife and I would sit in bed and just watch episodes of this (and Ghost Hunters) on Hulu.  Good times!

One thing that I noticed is that, with the exception of Mork & Mindy, all of these shows had extremely memorable themes and theme songs.  I can actually still sing along with most of them.  Though I think WKRP is still my favorite of these.

Honorable mentions:
All in the Family
The Jeffersons
Family Ties
Married with Children

I know I am probably overlooking a ton of shows.  So, what are some of your favorites?


Paul R. McNamee said...

I don't recall ever really sitting down for a sitcom for its entire run. I remember regularly watching the last few years of M*A*S*H. And, the last few seasons of Seinfeld - which I got into because everyone at work was having water bubbler talks and I felt I was missing out.

I certainly saw Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, et al but looking back, I never watched the same show every week consistently. Or, maybe I just don't remember at this point :)

Keith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keith said...

Sitcoms are tough sell with me, but there have been a few over the years that have really worked for me.

Top of the list is WKRP. I even liked the reboot they did in the 90s, although it didn't last long.

My current sitcom watch is The Big Bang Theory. I went to school with most of those people, or at least their archetypes. Only they didn't have that much sex.

M*A*S*H was a favorite growing up.

So was Hogan's Heroes.

One of the smartest and funniest I’ve ever seen was Hidden Hills, about two young married couples (one white, one black) in suburbia. The show only lasted half a season somewhere around 2005 or thereabouts. Watching the show, I had one of two reactions: “Oh, god, this is my life.” “Oh, god, please don’t let this be my life.” The characters would talk directly to the audience a la Ferris Beuller. The episode where one couple went to a Def Leppard concert is one of the funniest I’ve ever seen.

I’ve watched a lot of British comedy on PBS over the years. Of course, Monty Python is on the list. But probably the funniest show I’ve ever seen, not to mention raunchy, was the British version of Coupling. It revolved around a group of singles and their love lives and was one of the most creative shoes I’ve seen. There was an American version that bombed, but I never saw it.

Pardon the lack of italics on titles. I can't get the HTML tags to work.

Tom Doolan said...

I can't believe I left M*A*S*H off my list! That was, and is an all-time favorite as well. My father-in-law owns both that and Hogan's Heroes on DVD, and watches them on a regular basis. Fun stuff.

PS - No worries about the formatting. I never concern myself with it in comments anyways. :)