Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Who's the Best... Half Hour Sitcom?


William said...

The Simpsons.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

If we're not limited to sitcoms from the US, I'd have to say FAWLTY TOWERS. It was the perfect blend of character and situation. Plus, it only had 12 episodes, leaving us forever wanting more.

For US sitcoms, my pick would be THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. Some of the best comedy writers of all time, playing comedy writers. The show deftly played with convention, moving easily from workplace to domestic sitcom and vice versa. It could be considered the godfather of some of the best sitcoms of all time.

J.A. Morris said...

Does 'The Simpsons' count as a sitcom? I'd probably rate it at the top. Honeymooners is near the top of my list.

Otherwise, I'd say 'All In The Family' was the best, if not the most important & influential. But it should have ended when Michael & Gloria moved to California. Archie and Meathead embracing would've been a perfect ending to the series.

I was a big fan of all those CBS sitcoms of the 70s. Mary Tyler Moore, M*A*S*H,Jeffersons,Bob Newhart Show, Maude (I'm pretty sure they all aired on CBS). The Bronze Age of sitcoms was as good as the Bronze Age of comics.

Digressing a bit, 2 sitcoms I loved as a kid that haven't aged well:
Happy Days is pretty weak after they switch to a single camera (season 3, I believe). It turned into a 30-minute collection of catch phrases and got pretty maudlin.
An even worse case of "how many catch phrase can will cram into an episode" was Welcome Back Kotter. I tried watching it in the 90s, didn't find myself laughing too many times.

david_b said...

Ohhh, yes, Simpsons is definitely a sitcom, like most being the strongest in it's early years when Conan O'Brien wrote for it.

There's always 'The Best'.. then there's favorites.

I'd definitely put Fawlty Towers near the top, same for Gilligan's Island, Frasier, Mary Tyler Moore, and either Newhart series (nooo, I don't count the mercifully brief run of the '90s one where he's a cartoonist).

Two distinct traits WILL keep sitcoms from ever hitting my favorites list..:

1) Any sitcoms with 'dumb dads'. Hate 'em, hate 'em, hate 'em. Granted I did like Raymond on occasion solely because they had such a great ensemble that it didn't whittle down to 'dad's in trouble again' schtick (and Patricia Heaton's pretty hot..). The 'parents as morons' route for generations has caused so much harm to families, don't get me started. Give me My Three Sons ANY.. DAY.. OF.. THE.. WEEK.

2) Guilt-trips. I never liked sitcoms like Good Times or Family Affair (dad's always gone..) or at times Chico and The Man because half the jokes were always about how poor they were. It always got a bit sanctimonious, like Maude tended to be at times. A theme or message is good if not heavy-handed, but I like to laugh.

The Cosby Show was excellent at pace and material, and portraying a rich family heritage.

Case in point, the early episode where Theo gets a bad grade in school and goes into this long empathetic speech about how his Dad should just love him for who he is..

Then, in perfect Bill Cosby humor, Cliff Huxtable tells him 'That is the STUPIDEST THING I've ever heard..!!'

That, my friends, was the sound of a typical sitcom-kid cliche 'body-slammed'.


Anonymous said...

In no particular order I would go with Red Dwarf, Frasier or Black Adder.

The Prowler

Edo Bosnar said...

Hmm, never thought of Black Adder as a sitcom, but if it is, I'd count that as one of my favorites. Fawlty Towers, too. Simpsons as well.
And, insofar as they can be considered sitcoms, the criminally short-lived Police Squad and Quark.

And J.A., sorry, but I never understood the appeal of the Honeymooners. Granted, I've only ever watched about 2-3 whole episodes (the reruns were never shown regularly on any channels where I was growing up), but I never saw the humor in a guy frequently threatening to slap (punch?) his wife in the mouth. In that regard, I thought the Flintstones - basically a cartoon version of the honeymooners - was much better.

Humanbelly said...

Oh ho ho-- two that I would have mentioned turned out to be included right there in your photo examples.

While I don't think anyone can make a case for it being the "best" exactly, and possibly not exactly a sit-com (Sherwood Schwartz himself said that they always considered it more of a cartoon with live people), GILLIGAN'S ISLAND is still gonna sit atop the throne as my personal sentimental favorite. Anything else mentioned comes after that.

But geeze, the field is almost impossibly large and varied. Hmm-- is this a topic worthy of a non-comic Bracketology event, maybe? I mean, to be fair, you have to go back into the 50's and pick up some truly hilarious programs like THE JACK BENNY SHOW and possibly BURNS & ALLEN. The I LOVE LUCY-heads may even get violent if not given proper due respect (personally, I can't bear to watch that show any more-- as an adult I find the Lucy character impossible to like or respect or feel any empathy for).

DICK VAN DYKE SHOW in the 60's, Paul, is a solid choice. It's completely held up w/ the passage of time, and made the smart choice of having a finite run. . . coming to a planned end rather than waiting for ratings to drop and facing cancellation.

ALL IN THE FAMILY should indeed be a finalist, although it didn't know when to come to a graceful end, and as the core cast members left, the comic gestalt was sadly lost.

ODD COUPLE, MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, MASH, TAXI, BARNEY MILLER will certainly all have strong positive arguments. FRIENDS and SEINFELD could get some likely votes (although I never warmed to either). Hmm, CHEERS may be able to make a strong claim-- the final episode was a masterfully funny romp. FRASIER, I thought, managed to stay quite funny throughout its life. The only two I catch even occassionally now are HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER and BIG BANG THEORY-- both of which have terrific ensemble casts and can be unpredictably hilarious. . . but tend to be marred by an unnecessary reliance on easy, obvious, crass laughs-- which are unhonestly an unnecessary crutch for those shows.

I've kind of been returning to this post for about 3 hours, so my apologies if I've inadvertantly replicated others' commentary, eh?

HB (who watched WAAAAAAAY to much TV for a number of decades!)

Steve Does Comics said...

Off the top of my head, I would say (in no particular order):

Dad's Army.
Fawlty Towers.
Father Ted.

Gary said...

Archer or Seinfeld.

Anonymous said...

WKRP was pretty good...and didn't wear out its welcome like a lot of sitcoms.

Mike W.

Stephen said...

What's Happening!!


Humanbelly said...

Oh Stephen.
Oh. Stephen.
Ooooooooooooooooh Stephen.

What's Happening! and Three's Company are the shows that finally, FINALLY made me realize that NOT watching television might actually be a preferable & more enjoyable alternative to sitting through whatever seemed to be the least-bad alternative. . . yikes! (Those, and that show w/ Charlotte Raye & Mindy Cohn. . .)


Fred W. Hill said...

It's difficult for me to say which is my favorite out of all the half-hour sit-coms I've ever regularly watched, but to narrow it down, at least to those that come immediately to mind:
M*A*S*H; The Mary Tyler Moore Show; Bob Newhart; Barney Miller; All in the Family -- yeah, all '70s classics, which I remember watching regularly with my family, particularly my mom, who died at age 70 just a little over a month ago. We also watched some BBC comedies together, including Black Adder(one of my all time favorites), Are You Being Served, Fawlty Towers and Father Ted. Feeling a little misty-eyed just now.

Redartz said...

Mighty hard to pick a favorite, so I'll go by decades:
60's- Dick Van Dyke Show
70's- M*A*S*H
80's- Cheers
90's- Simpsons
00's- Frasier
10's- Big Bang Theory
All this being said, the Seventies really were a golden "Bronze Age" for television comedy...

david_b said...

I'd go with Mike W's WKRP entry.. It possesses the fine trait of actually getting better in the later years.

(Well..., maybe just Bailey Quarters...)

Another fun entry is 'Fresh Prince', Will and Carlton were always awesome.

Doug said...

Is there any love for the Brady Bunch? My wife and I will stop and watch an episode every now and then. Of course, we have the plots and many of the lines memorized after 40 years of viewing. It continues as an all-access, family-friendly slice of 70s life. White bread, yes, in more ways than one. But it's a treasured part of my childhood, in the first-runs and then of course in syndication.

However, once Oliver arrived, well -- you can have those. Jumping the shark, indeed.


Garett said...

Great call on Police Squad, Edo. I recently watched all 3 Naked Gun movies again, enjoyed all of them. I'd love to check out the tv show again.

Otherwise I'll go with Seinfeld. Fast paced, witty. I remember the last season or so going down a notch--thought the episode with Kramer creating his own talk show in his apartment seemed more like dementia than comedy.

Anonymous said...

I generally detest sitcoms, but I see a few that were actually pretty good.
Cheers, the Andy Griffith Show, WKRP, Barney Miller, definitely.
You can watch Barney on You Tube.
Best theme music!

jdh417 said...

How about some love for Community? It's about as clever, character-driven, and satirical as anything else.

Redartz said...

Doug- our family almost always watched the Brady's , although I rather preferred the show that followed them on Friday night: the Partridge Family. Loved the music ( we actually had several of the LP's), and was crazy about that bus!

Humanbelly said...

COMMUNITY is a big favorite of HBGirl's, too-- she feels it's very underappreciated.

Man, where's Matt Celis on this? Matt, you out there? I'm expectin' ya to take us to task on something, here, pal! (Dude, are you gonna put THREE'S COMPANY forward? Oooooo, I triple-dare ya-! Heh-heh. . . )(I am giving you the ol' affectionate business, of course-!)

FRESH PRINCE is a nice call because the show was so much funnier than it really should have been-- largely because the cast gelled so well, and because Will Smith's so remarkably talented and charismatic. Man, the writing was just AWFUL sometimes, though, if you took a step back.

Much of BEVERLY HILLBILLIES has surprisingly withstood the test of time-- it's just hard to believe. Again, a truly superior cast that somehow invested a tired, one-joke premise with years and years of life.

And GREEN ACRES had a subversive, genre'-mocking sensibility that was just years ahead of its time. An almost impossible melding of absurdism, hipster, and cornpone-- both fatalistic and brightly optimistic in tone all at once.


Anonymous said...

Most people will say that Cheers, M.AS.H and Seinfeld were the greatest sitcoms but I always had a good laugh whenever Sanford and Son came on the tube!

- Mike 'my whole life is a comedy' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Rip Jagger said...

The Andy Griffith Show comes to mind as perhaps the best written situation comedy I've ever seen. The scenes on that show play and play again and again and never lose their resonance.

I Love Lucy also comes to mind as a show that despite some real cultural gulfs these days (pre-Castro Cuba for instance) supplies solid raw comedy.

Some shows are the templates others are built on.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

HB - and jdh417 - good call on Community. Can't believe I forgot that one, in fact.
Also: Green Acres. I vaguely recall watching this as a very small child (well, I half watched it while scribbling in a coloring book or whatever - my mom actually loved the show). But I've subsequently heard/read many times that it had a bit of a subversive aspect to it, which really makes me curious...

Hoosier X said...

Is Bob's Burgers a sitcom?

Anonymous said...

I caught strep throat when I was in the army and in the hospital I had to watch reruns of Green Acres, Petticoat Junction and Gilligan's Island for three days.
My advice: Don't put yourself in that position.

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