Wednesday, October 5, 2011

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

Hello Readers!  We shall continue on with the Countdown of the 60 Best Sitcoms of All-Time.  Last week, we did Part I (#'s 60-49).  This week, we will cover the next 12 (#'s 48-37).


48. Family Matters, ABC/CBS (1989-1998)
How many shows became a phenomenal success on the strength of a character that was only intended to be in one or two episodes?   This show may have had Abbott and Costello-like comedy when it came to Steve Urkel's interactions with the family (particularly patriarch Carl Winslow!), it was tempered with typical family issues like parent-child relationships, school problems, friendship and dating (even covering topical issues like gun violence, gangs and racism).

47. NewsRadio, NBC (1995-1999)
This workplace comedy had witty writing and a dynamic cast (that included Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, Andy Dick and the late Phil Hartman).  Unfortunately, it was cut short because of the tragic murder of its biggest supporting star (SNL alum Hartman was murdered by his wife in 1998.) and a poorly rated (and poorly received!) final season.

46. Benson, ABC (1979-1986)
Robert Guillaume's sarcastic and caustic butler Benson DuBois was one of the most popular characters on the highly successful ABC series Soap in the late 1970s.  It was only natural that he would lift out into his own show.  Benson became the household manager of the Governor of Connecticut and had to put up with the quirky staff members of both the Governor's office and his house.  It was a great highlight of my childhood TV watching thanks in big part to the likability of Robert Guillaume.

45. Modern Family, ABC (2009-present)
The show has won multiple Emmys and several critics over with its acerbic mockumentary-style.  The charming cast and clever writing have quickly cemented the show as part of the Television landscape.

44. The Bob Newhart Show, CBS (1972-1978)
Bob Newhart's first sitcom was a breakout success in the 1970s (thanks to its lead-in from The Mary Tyler Moore Show!).  The show seemed to fit closest to the type of humor he displayed as a successful stand-up comic in 1960s.  He played psychiatrist Robert Hartley surrounded by various quirky characters and thankful of the loving support from his wife, Emily (charmingly played by the late Suzanne Pleshette).

43. WKRP In Cincinnati, CBS (1978-1983)
This Sitcom had one of the first theme songs I ever memorized.  Like NewsRadio above, it was a workplace comedy (set at a radio station!) but it used the topical subject of radio stations changing their formats to feature the more popular music by several of the late 1970s best rock artists.  The cast included the hilarious Richard Sanders (as beleaguered newsman Les Nessman), Howard Hesseman (as the cool Dr. Johnny Fever), Tim Reid (as the smooth Venus Fly Trap) and the gorgeous Loni Anderson (as Jennifer, the smart and efficient secretary).

42. The Honeymooners, CBS (1955-1956)
Though the show would go on to appear as sketches off and on as part of Jackie Gleason's many variety shows and specials, the one season that aired as a stand-alone series (known in TV lore as "The Classic 39") has had more impact on the culture than most other series' from the 1950s.  Gleason was brilliant as the loud and in-your-face bus driver Ralph Kramden constantly annoyed by the caustic comments of his loving wife, Alice (Audrey Meadows) and by the antics of his friend and neighbor, Ed Norton (the amazing Art Carney).

41. Wings, NBC (1990-1997)
With interesting characters and a unique setting, Wings stood apart from most other shows of the 1990s.  The writing (especially in its early years) was consistently good (most of the writers also worked on shows like Cheers and Frasier) and the cast was particularly delightful.  Tim Daly and Steven Weber played brothers who ran a small airline out of Nantucket and were surrounded by strange (yet charming) characters (including Crystal Bernard, Thomas Haden Church and future Monk star Tony Shalhoub!).

40. The Big Bang Theory, CBS (2007-present)
Nerds have always been popular subject for comedy (i.e. Steve Urkel or Revenge of the Nerds) and this Sitcom uses "the Nerd stereotype" to its best.  The character of Dr. Sheldon Cooper (perfectly played by Jim Parsons to Emmy-winning effect) alone has made the show quite popular with both fans and critics.

39. Designing Women, CBS (1986-1993)
In the 1980s, there was a strong move for networks to have more sitcoms that featured women more prominently and (more importantly) in a completely honest and more realistic way (just look at shows like The Golden GirlsMurphy Brown or Roseanne, but more on those later!).  This show was one of the more successful that came out of that mold and it was successful primarily because (like the three I mentioned!) it was created by a woman and featured a delightful cast of women.  Delta Burke, Jean Smart, Annie Potts and the late Dixie Carter played Southern women with the right amount of perfect Southern charm mixed with the right amount of Southern gusto!

38. Mad About You, NBC (1992-1999)
Unlike other Sitcoms in the 1990s, this show was about the strength and endurance of a couple's relationship. Like a charming Woody Allen romantic comedy, Mad About You's humor was very much derived from star Paul Reiser's own stand-up in which he talked about his relationship with his wife.  The show was a big hit with critics and with audiences thanks in large part to Reiser's co-star and leading lady Helen Hunt (who won four Emmys for her work on the series).

37. Family Guy, FOX (1999-2002; 2005-present)
Not many shows get cancelled (twice!) and become popular enough in syndication to come back.  Family Guy constantly pushes the limits of what they can and cannot do on their show and often gets comparisons to the raunchier comedy-variety shows of the early 1970s (like Laugh-In, SNL and Monty Python).  It defies conventions enough that creator Seth MacFarlane took a bold move and began submitting the show for the Best Comedy Series Emmy (rather than the usual Best Animated Series Emmy!) and in 2009, the show became the first animated sitcom to be nominated for the award since The Flintstones back in 1961!

Next week, I will talk about the next 11: #'s 36-26! Stay Tuned!

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