We have reached the Top 10 of our Countdown. With this part of the list, we shall take "baby steps." We will go day by day until Friday when I will reveal what Sitcom has earned the #1 spot on our list. So, let's begin to get our Top 10 toes wet!
THE 60 BEST SITCOMS - PART V(b)
15. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
14. Barney Miller
13. Murphy Brown
11. I Love Lucy
10. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS (1996-2005)
This multiple Emmy-winning series brought the Family Sitcom back to the top of the ratings game. Loosely based on the life comedy of star Ray Romano, Romano played Ray Barone, a New York sportswriter who (with his wife and three young children!) lived across the street from his parents on Long Island. The situation alone lends itself perfectly to Sitcom standards. But interestingly enough, the show was one of the first successful Family Sitcoms since Bewitched where the main couple dealt with In-Laws on a regular basis. And what a cast to put up with! Patricia Heaton won 2 well-deserved Emmy Awards for her work as Ray's beleaguered wife Debra as she constantly put up with the daily interruptions that were her husband's family. Her "archenemy" in the universe of Ray was Ray's domineering and intrusive mother, Marie (played to 4 time Emmy-winning perfection by Doris Roberts). Marie doted on Ray so much and Debra's very existence was the thorn in her side. The other thorn in her side was her irascible and big-mouthed husband Frank (the late Peter Boyle). Frank was loud and in-your-face and he was always hungry for Marie's cooking. You would think that Ray's parents were bad enough for poor Debra, but then there was also Robert, Ray's policeman brother. As Robert, Brad Garrett (another multiple Emmy-winner!) was tall, brooding and hilarious as he whined about being ignored by his parents in favor of Raymond. The dynamics of this cast was amazing and added to the weekly enjoyment audiences took in their quirky relations.
9. Night Court, NBC (1984-1992)
This show is the other most underrated Sitcom in TV History (and it was created and produced by the same people behind Barney Miller!). The show centered around the goings-on during the night shift of a Manhattan Criminal Arraignment Court. Not typical Sitcom subject matter, but who ever would have guessed?!? Comedian/Magician Harry Anderson played the wacky yet wise Judge Harold T. Stone. His cohorts included the charming Markie Post as Christine Sullivan, the perky Public Defender; Charles Robinson as Mac Robinson, the smooth and sensible court clerk; Richard Moll as the dimwitted and large bailiff Bull Shannon; and John Larroquette (in a breakout and Emmy-winning role) as Dan Fielding, the narcissistic and sex-obsessed Prosecutor. Much of the show's humor was drawn from the several quirky characters brought before the bench. Some of the "criminals" became staples of the show's weekly antics. Early in its run, it was very much like its predecessor Barney Miller and dealt with eccentric characters, dry humor and sometimes realistic situations. As the show progressed, it took on a broader and more slapstick style of Comedy and it often threw normal logic out the window for more out-of-the-box ideas. In a sense, it was a forerunner to a lot of the Sitcoms we see more of nowadays (re: The Office and Community). The show was big favorite in my household growing up as it was one of my brother's favorite Sitcoms. The Sitcom is slowly being released (Season by Season!) on DVD but not fast enough for the fans of this major TV cult favorite.
8. Seinfeld, NBC (1989-1998)
The show about "nothing," and yet it seemed (at times) to be about "everything." Jerry Seinfeld was one of the rising stand-up Comedy stars in the 1980s and when he finally got his self-titled series in the summer of 1989, critics became slowly charmed. Seinfeld played himself as he went through everyday life with his circle of friends. At first, the show seemed very similar to the style of a Woody Allen comedy. Soon though (through the dynamics of the cast and their crazy characters), the show drifted into something that even the most die-hard fans cannot describe (at least without making it complicated!). As the show grew, so did its popularity. It became one of the highest rated shows of the 1990s. Seinfeld and his three fellow cast members became the highest paid Sitcom stars of the time (until another show came along, see below!). The cast included Jason Alexander as Jerry's best friend George Costanza, a grouchy and pathetic schlub (loosely based on co-creator and head writer Larry David); Emmy-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes, the smart-yet-selfish publishing assistant who was Jerry's ex-girlfriend; and Michael Richards (yet another Emmy-winner) as Cosmo Kramer, Jerry's eccentric (and I'm being kind here!) neighbor. Together, the four encountered some of the weirdest people (like Jerry's Uncle Leo, an unseen George Steinbrenner and the Bubble Boy!) and the strangest circumstances (like George's fiancée dying from the glue on a cheap envelope!) and yet no one could stop watching the award-winning hit.
7. Friends, NBC (1994-2004)
This Sitcom's popularity seemed (at times) to put even network cohort Seinfeld to shame! The ongoing tempestuous troubles of six single people in Manhattan was a ratings dynamo especially in the late 1990s. Audiences and critics loved following the lives and loves of Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey (despite his ill-conceived spin-off after the hit show ended in 2004!). Stars Jennifer Aniston (Rachel), Courtney Cox (Monica), Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe), Matt LeBlanc (Joey), Matthew Perry (Chandler) and David Schwimmer (Ross) were a perfect mesh of goofy, sarcastic, quirky, charm and sex appeal as they inspired trends (remember the haircut known as "the Rachel?!?"), sold a #1 theme song on the music charts, won awards (both Aniston and Kudrow won Emmys for their work during the show's run) and made a coffeehouse a cultural icon (come on, who didn't want to have a big cup of coffee at Central Perk?!?!). The use of this great Ensemble was a huge inspiration to many of the Single-buddy Ensemble Sitcoms we see nowadays (see How I Met Your Mother and the like!). It even inspired non-Sitcoms like Sex and the City! Like Seinfeld above (and Frasier and Murphy Brown earlier!), the show was defining sitcom of the 1990s. And much like Seinfeld, the cast infamously stuck together and cornered NBC into a record-breaking deal to become the highest paid Sitcom stars in TV History (each earning, by the end of the show's run, over $1 million per episode!). It set the standard that now various online magazines (like Entertainment Weekly or TVLine.com) frequently report on the salaries of current TV stars (both Comedies, Dramas and even Reality TV!).
We have just inched our way into the Top 10. Tomorrow, we shall continue our inching. And who knows where we'll go? Maybe Miami...Maybe New York...Maybe Boston...or Maybe even Korea! No matter where it takes us, we shall make it closer to the #1 Sitcom of All-Time!