Friday, September 30, 2011

Top 60 Sitcoms...In 30 Days! - Part I

Ever since my Emmy Award predictions (11 out of 20 correct, which is tied with some of Emmy's top pundits, Thank You very much!), I have been asked to talk about my favorite shows.  I do watch a lot of TV (more than I should, but I digress!), so anytime I'm asked to talk about my Favorite shows, I can't help but start making lists.  But as I was making a list of my current Favorite shows, I couldn't help but think of the shows I have loved over my many years of watching TV.  Then, I realized that my list was dominated by Sitcoms.

The Situation Comedy is that weekly half-hour of zany antics, oddball characters and funny moments.  So I decided that I will devote the next five weeks of IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS to the 60 Best Sitcoms of All-Time.  Why 60?  I feel that Top 50 has been done to death. And doing a Top 100 just felt a little too "Everybody is a Winner!" and while that is fun in Kindergarten, this is the real world and tough choices have to be made.  You may be surprised by some of my choices and shocked at what might be left off.

Also, I felt I had to draw the line when it came to Sitcoms.  Too many shows these days (particularly on Showtime!) have drifted into the world of quirky comedy mixed with heavy dramatic overtones.  So you will see no "Dramedies," both of the hour-long variety (i.e. Ally McBeal, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty and Glee) or the half-hour kind (i.e. The Wonder Years, Sex and the City and Nurse Jackie).

Then what exactly was my criteria for this list?  With the help of my Father and my Brother (two others who have watched a lot of TV!), I compiled a list based on several factors: audience popularity (or ratings), critical acclaim, awards presence, cultural momentum, historical significance and our own personal tastes.  The latter, of course, is probably the one most would want to argue with but it's my blog and I'll do what I want!  That all being said, let's begin the Countdown with the bottom 12.

60. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, NBC (1990-1996)
The show that rally launched Will Smith's acting career.  It was a family Sitcom mixed with the "fish-out-of-water" element and was a ratings grabber on Monday nights.  And if you grew up in the 1990s, you know you memorized this show's theme song.

59. Community, NBC (2009-present)
Though it has only been on for 2 full seasons and has not been a tremendous ratings grabber for the Peacock Network, the show has managed to garner hefty critical support and many fans.  It weekly defies the standards of typical Sitcoms by doing "out-of-the-box" episodes (like their "animated" Christmas episode or their western/war-like Paintball episodes) and often poking fun at themselves (and other TV shows!) in the process.

58. Coach, ABC (1989-1997)
Craig T. Nelson won an Emmy for his work as a beleaguered Football coach of a Minnesota University.  For 9 years, audiences watched him handle a quirky staff (that included Jerry Van Dyke and Spongebob's Bill Fagerbakke), deal with his daughter's independence and date (and eventually marry) a professional newswoman (played by Shelley Fabares).

57. South Park, Comedy Central (1997-present)
Radical and (oftentimes) in-your-face crude, the kids from the tiny Colorado mountain town of South Park have reveled in their rebelliousness.  Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have used the cache they have gained from the series and used it in their other ventures (Broadway's The Book of Mormon and the South Park Movie!).

56. Scrubs, NBC/ABC (2001-2010)
Yet another show that defied typical Sitcom conventions with cutaways and daring episodes (like a Musical one!), Scrubs was a sleeper hit with critics and audiences began to appreciate it.  As their creative drive (as well as their ratings) began to dwindle on NBC, they made a change and moved to ABC for its final two seasons.

55. Head of the Class, ABC (1986-1991)
This charming series from ABC was always a delight during my childhood.  The series centered on High School Honors teacher Howard Hesseman and his quirky class of Honors students that included a wide range from typical nerds to preppy over-achievers to artistic types.  Plus, this was the show that brought the lovely Ms. Robin Givens to my attention!

54. Parks and Recreation, NBC (2009-present)
Critics are growing more and more fond of Amy Poehler and company as they make us laugh at the town of Pawnee, Indiana.  The show has garnered more love from fans and from the Emmys as this year both Poehler and the series garnered nominations for Best Actress and Best Comedy Series, respectively.

53. Diff'rent Strokes, NBC/ABC (1978-1986)
This family Sitcom that was daring in its premise and was pioneering in its use of the "very Special Episode" style of storytelling.  We all have favorite episodes that dealt with everyday family problems ranging from violence to drug abuse to child molestation.  Though we've since tragically lost actress Dana Plato and actor Gary "Wha'choo Talkin' 'Bout, Willis?" Coleman, we still have the show to remind us of their talents.

52. Welcome Back, Kotter, ABC (1975-1979)
The 1970s was filled with shows that turned the Leave It To Beaver standard on its ear.  And Welcome Back, Kotter was another example that showed the inner-city culture with a To Sir, With Love attitude.  Comedian Gabe Kaplan played the titular teacher returning to his alma mater to teach the tough (but sometimes lovable) Sweathogs that included John Travolta (who shot to film stardom!) as Vinny "Up Your Nose with a Rubber Hose!" Barbarino, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington (with his smooth catchphrase "Hi There!") and Ron Palillo as Arnold "Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!" Horshack.

51. The Drew Carey Show, ABC (1995-2004)
Though the show changed styles (and theme songs!) over its nine year run, Drew Carey's self-titled sitcom did have a mix of the Workplace Sitcom (with the dreaded Tammy Faye-style Mimi!) and the Buddy Sitcom (with Drew's moronic-yet-loyal friends).  All the while, Carey's hard-working schlub became lovable with critics and audiences.

50. The Office, NBC (2005-present)
Now that the show has started its first Steve Carell-less year, we shall see if the once critically acclaimed and award-winning (several Golden Globes and an Emmy win back in 2006) can be what it once was.  The "mockumentary" styled import (it was based on Ricky Gervais' British hit) has gained several fans and has made comedy all-stars of most of its cast members (like Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Mindy Kalling, etc.).

49. 3rd Rock From the Sun, NBC (1996-2001)
The premise of space aliens coming to study Earth culture was ripe with comedy in the hands of an extremely talented cast.  Led by John Lithgow (who won 3 Emmys for his efforts), the group of aliens (which included a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Kristen Johnston, who won 2 Emmys for her work) planted itself among the town of Rutherford, Ohio trying to blend in and pretty much fit in perfectly with the crazy people they met.

Next week, I will continue with the next 12 (#'s 48-37!).  So commence with your venting (nicely!) and maybe share some of your favorites!

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