O.K., since almost everyone in my blogging universe has tackled this, it’s (past) time for my 10 favorite sit-coms. My rule: I’m not picking anything still on the air. That means no Scrubs, no Simpsons.
10. Sports Night: watched religiously. Would have ranked higher if it could have stuck around a little longer.
9. All in the Family: groundbreaking stuff. But it went on too long, as Logan noted.
8. Frasier: erudite humor mixed with occasional madcap fun. (Miles ironing his pants is one of the great pieces of TV, all sans dialogue.)
7. Barney Miller: the first year, they tried for Barney to have a home life, complete with a wife (Barbara Barrie), but it never jelled. After that, it found its own voice. I never was a big Fish fan (BTW, to the best of my knowledge, Abe Vigoda is still alive,) but it was the guest stars and their reaction to the cops that really worked for me.
6. Taxi: Reverend Jim was my favorite character, but it was a great ensemble, with Judd Hirsch’s Alex holding the center.
5. WKRP in Cincinnati – is this show as funny as I remember? As much as I appreciated Venus Flytrap and Johnny Fever, and, O.K., Bailey Quarters, my great appreciation was for Les Nessman, he of the imaginary walls and flying turkeys. If the rights to the great music originally associated with this show could somehow find clearance, I’d buy the season DVDs in a minute.
4. Cheers – I wasn’t quite as fond of it after Diane left, but I warmed up to Rebecca in time.
3. M*A*S*H – probably would have ranked higher, maybe even #1, if it had gone when Radar did. I watched those first seven or eight seasons even in reruns, but not the last three or four, which start repeating itself. B.J. falling off the fidelity wagon – touching. B.J. THINKING about falling off the fidelity wagon a few seasons later – boring.
2. The Mary Tyler Moore Show – it wasn’t Mary so much as Lou “I hate spunk” Grant, Murray’s savaging Ted Baxter (often without Ted knowing), full-of-moxie Rhoda, and the sweet-seeming yet savage Sue Ann Nivens, played by Betty White.
1. The Dick van Dyke Show. This is why the show is the gold standard: it lasted five years, not too short, not too long. It had a near perfect mix of work life and home life. It had Richard Deacon of Binghamton, NY, my hometown, as Mel Cooley. It had the superb Carl Reiner, the original choice for Rob, BTW, as the egotistical Alan Brady. It has segments I haven’t seen in decades I still can remember, such as son Richie’s middle name: Robert Oscar Sam Edward Benjamin Ulysses David, or ROSEBUD. It had an ottoman in the opening, which Rob either trips over or dances deftly around. And it had Mary Tyler Moore in capri pants.
Just missing the cut:
The Andy Griffith Show: Another show that went on too long. The first five years with Andy and Don Knotts as Deputy Fife were quite great. Strangely, broadcasting in color also hurt its appeal of the small town quality of Mayberry.
Seinfeld: I really liked this show early on, when REALLY was about nothing (getting lost in the parking garage, e.g.) Of course, it had classic episodes such as “The Contest.” Elaine’s bad dancing, Kramer’s entrances. But there was a point when I started finding it tiresome (the glee at Susan’s death, the whole NY Yankees thing).
The Bob Newhart Show: This is the one with Bob as the shrink, as opposed to Newhart, which was Bob as the Vermont innkeeper. The earlier show won out because of the better supporting cast (I found Julia Duffy’s character often shrill). Bob’s particular way of playing off people is a rare gift. Of course his latter show has the best TV ending ever, but it was inspired by the earlier show, and by Bobby in the shower on Dallas.
Arrested Development: I didn’t start watching it from the beginning. Actually, I tried and didn’t particularly enjoyed it. Then I tried again at the beginning of the second season and it clicked for me.
I Love Lucy: Probably saw it TOO often in my youth.
Soap: over the top zaniness. I loved the dummy.
Friends: it was rather uneven over the years, and there were periods I just gave up on it, only to be drawn back.
The Associates: a very funny comedy with Martin Short that was on for too short a time.
Almost anything with Dabney Coleman.
Any number of shows I’m probably just forgetting.
Daniel Schorr, who covered Watergate for CBS News, and delivered a eulogy at Frank Zappa’s funeral, turns 90 today. One of my media heroes, he is still a working journalist for NPR.