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Crossposted at Daily Kos
Give me 30 minutes of Seinfeld, Mad About You, M.A.S.H., Fawlty Towers, All in the Family, Happy Days and watch out Healthcare Reform Summits, Reconciliation bills, filibuster, cloture, and politics in general. I’ll abandon you in a second.
George, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer in Seinfeld
What makes for a good television sitcom? What elements combine to make a sitcom successful as well as popular? The criteria are many, the judgments all too subjective.
A few guidelines
Characters. Acting. Writing. Plot. Directing. Timing. Edginess Factor. Cultural and social significance.
PLEASE READ THIS
When I posted a previous diary a couple of weeks ago — Snowy TGIF: What is Your Favorite Classic Rock Song — some of you with dial-up, older pc’s, slower processors, not enough RAM, and the like complained that you could not easily scroll through the comments as way too many videos had been posted. If you’d like to post a few favorite videos just don’t go overboard. Embed just one YouTube video and if you couldn’t restrain yourself, post links to the others.
Example: This is a YouTube link to the famous ‘Soup Nazi’ episode of Seinfeld.
To me, the characters are what make a sitcom memorable. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites characters
Archie Bunker (Caroll O’Connor) in All in the Family. George Jefferson (Sherman Helmsley) in The Jeffersons. Sybil Fawlty (Prunella Scales) in Fawlty Towers. Ted Baxter (Ted Knight) in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. George Costanza (Jason Alexander) in Seinfeld. Suzanne Sugarbaker (Delta Burke) in Designing Women. Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt) in Mad About You. Schneider (Pat Harrington, Jr.) in One Day at a Time. J.J. (Jimmie Walker) in Good Times.
And, a very personal favorite of mine which only lasted a few seasons
Molly Dodd (Blair Brown) in The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.
I’ve listed some of the best and/or most popular tv sitcoms ever. This is not a complete list but rather reflects my choices. You’ll probably have several other favorites and, if so, list them in the comments section. What did you like about the shows? What appealed to you the most? Which ones made you laugh out loud?
Share your memories about these sitcoms. Do you think the sitcoms today are as good or better than in years past? If so, why? If not, why not?
I Love Lucy
A daffy woman constantly strives to become a star along with her bandleader husband and gets herself in the strangest situations.
Cuban Bandleader Ricky Ricardo would be happy if his wife Lucy would just be a housewife. Instead she tries constantly to perform at the Tropicana where he works, and make life comically frantic in the apartment building they share with landlords Fred and Ethel Mertz.
Seven men and women are stranded on an uncharted island following a torrential storm.
In Hawaii, Gilligan and The Skipper are giving out tours. Five passenger: A movie star from Hollywood, a General Store Sale’s clerk in Kansas, a professor, and the millionaires aboard the SS Minnow for three hour tour. A storm comes in and the crew are unable to handle the boat. The castaways wake up on a deserted Island. They live in huts made from sticks and leaves. They eat plants and fruits found in the island. They will encounter many adventures while trying to make it back to civilization.
All in the Family
Archie Bunker was a working-class family man who held bigoted, conservative views of the world. His viewpoints clash with nearly everyone he comes into contact with especially his liberal son-in-law Mike Stivic (or, as Archie delights in calling him, “Meathead”).
A few quotes from Archie Bunker, the show’s main character:
The only thing that holds a marriage together is the husband being big enough to step back and see where the wife is wrong. I never said a guy who wears glasses is a queer. A guy who wears glasses is a four-eyes; a guy who’s a fag is a queer. Crowtins? What the hell are crowtins? (looking at Edith’s grocery list: croutons) Man was put on this earth to eat meat…The Bible says so dumbbell…I mean look it up will ya? All them old bible peoples, they was always eating meet; soon as they found out eating apples was wrong…It’s true, on special occasions: goats and lambs. Who the hell ever hear of sacrificing a head of lettuce? You?
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Mary Richards moves to Minneapolis after a relationship goes bad. She finds work as an associate producer in a small television newsroom where the characters include Lou Grant, her gruff boss, Murray Slaughter the humorous writer, and Ted Baxter the Anchor Man who spends his time mispronouncing country names. Mary continues to hope for romance, but finds that her friends are more dependable.
The staff of an army hospital in the Korean war find that laughter is the best way to deal with their situation.
The 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital is stuck in the middle of the Korean war. With little help from the circumstances they find themselves in, they are forced to make their own fun. Fond of practical jokes and revenge, the doctors, nurses, administrators, and soldiers often find ways of making wartime life bearable. Nevertheless, the war goes on.
A nouveau riche African-American family who move into a luxury apartment building develop close, if occasionally fractious, relationships with other tenants.
This television sitcom stars George Jefferson, who has become wealthy and successful in the dry-cleaning business. This affords him the opportunity to move into a ritzy high-rise in New York City. George is stingy, but means well, while his wife Louise (Weezy) is kind and generous. The show also features the Jefferson’s wise-cracking maid, their interesting neighbors, and the building’s officious doorman.
The Bob Newhart Show
The professional and personal misadventures of a psychologist and his family, patients, friends and colleagues.
Bob is a successful Chicago psychologist who shares secretary Carol with Dentist Jerry. Part of the show revolves around his (usually comic) dealings with his patients. The rest involves his school teacher wife Emily and others in their apartment building.
A few quotes from Bob Newhart
I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means ‘put down.’ This stammer got me a home in Beverly Hills, and I’m not about to screw with it now.
The show focuses on the employees of the fictional Sunshine Cab Company, and its principal setting is the company’s fleet garage in Lower Manhattan. Among Sunshine Cab’s drivers only Alex Rieger, who is disillusioned with life, considers cab-driving his profession. The others view it as a temporary job that they can leave behind after they succeed in their real careers. Elaine Nardo is a receptionist at an art gallery. Tony Banta is a boxer with a losing record, and Bobby Wheeler is a struggling actor. John Burns, who was written out of the show after the first season, was working his way through college. The rest of the drivers take pity on ‘Reverend Jim’ Ignatowski, an aging hippie minister, who is burnt out from drugs, so they help him become a cabbie.
Sanford and Son
Sanford and Son stars Redd Foxx as Fred G. Sanford, a 65-year-old junk dealer living at 9114 S. Central Ave. in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California; and Demond Wilson as his 30-year-old son, Lamont Sanford.
Redd Foxx played Sanford as a sarcastic, stubborn, and argumentative antiques and junk dealer, whose frequent money-making schemes routinely backfired and created more troubles. Lamont dearly would have liked to enjoy independence but loved his father too much to leave him to his devices and schemes. Although each owned an equal share in the business and technically Fred was the boss, Lamont often found himself doing all the work and having to order his father to complete tasks and duties. Often, Sanford can be heard insulting his son, usually calling him a “big dummy”. Lamont insulted his father also, sometimes referring to him as an “old fool”.
The captain of a city police station and his staff handle the various local troubles and characters that come to the building.
Barney Miller is the kind of cop we’d all like to run into. He is always sensible. He maintains order over a squad room of detectives who gamble for a hobby, get hit on by anything in skirts, go to renaissance philosophy conventions for fun, and would really prefer to be writing. Nearly all of the action takes place in the squad room where the citizens and criminals are brought in to complicate the mix.
The Cosby Show
The goings-on in the life of a successful African American family.
Long-running popular comedy television series about the Huxtable family. Doctor Heathcliff Huxtable and Clair Huxtable, a happily married couple, are raising their children (Sondra, Denise, Theodore, Vanessa, and Rudy). The two oldest daughters eventually live successful adult lives and get married (Sondra to Elvin and Denise to Martin). As the children get older, the family gets larger and, to the chagrin of Cliff, keep on coming back home when he wants them to move out and live on their own for good.
The regulars of the Boston bar Cheers share their experiences and lives with each other while drinking or working at the bar.
Sam Malone, a former baseball star, is the head of a nice little bar where Norm, Cliff, Dr. Frasier and all the other regular customers spend together a few hours every day, talking about their problems, laughing at each other’s flaws, trying to be there when someone else needs them. “Cheers” is the place where everybody knows your name.
The continuing misadventures of neurotic New York stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his equally neurotic New York friends.
One of the most watched television shows of the 1990s, “Seinfeld” is a true-to-life comedy series that follows the events of a group of friends. The group consists of Jerry Seinfeld, a stand-up comedian who questions every bizarre tidbit about life; George Costanza, a hard-luck member of the New York Yankees organization; Elaine Benes, a flashy woman and book editor who is not afraid to speak her mind; and Cosmo Kramer, an extremely eccentric, lanky goofball. Another very notable member of the show is Newman, a chubby mailman, friend of Kramer, and, almost always, nemesis of Jerry. Other sources of comedy appear in the form of the parents of both Jerry and George.
The satiric adventures of a working class family in the misfit city of Springfield.
The Simpsons is an animated sitcom about the antics of a dysfunctional family called the Simpsons (surprise surprise). Homer is the oafish unhealthy beer loving father, Marge is the hardworking homemaker wife, Bart is the ten year old underachiever (and proud of it), Lisa is the unappreciated eight year old genius, and Maggie is the cute, pacifier loving silent infant.
I’ll get criticized for leaving out so many other good ones on the poll. So many difficult choices. But, choose I must. So must you.
So, bring it on!