Sunday, October 30, 2011

GOLDEN PLACES: The Haunted Mansion...Right next to the Mall!


Within the heart of the Silicon Valley exists one of the most notorious mansions in American history.  The Winchester Mystery House has an eerie and (at times) frightening story to tell.  Sarah Winchester had become the widow of the famed William Wirt Winchester, the magnate behind the many rifles that became synonymous with the Wild West.  Sarah was convinced by a Boston medium to leave her New Haven home and travel to the West where she was to build a home for the many spirits that had lost their lives because of the Winchester rifle.  In 1884, she moved to the Santa Clara Valley and began the building process that would continue (day and night!) for years until her death in 1922.  Initially it was to be a seven story house, but after the great 1906 Earthquake it became a four story house.  The house consists of over 150 rooms (most finished, a few not!), almost 10,000 window panes, several fireplaces, two basements and three separate elevators.  But the thing that makes the house so infamous is its many small doorways (too small for any normal-sized human to fit through!) and its several stairways that seem to lead nowhere.  It is believed that Sarah Winchester had several of these features installed to appease the many spirits that she felt surrounded and haunted her family.

Today, the house stands on Winchester Boulevard in San Jose, California, which is now a modern-day main street within the Bay Area metropolis.  Right before you walk into the house to take the tour, you can hear the roar of the many cars as they whiz by and the hustle and bustle of the people either going to the movies at the Century movie theaters next door or at the Santana Row Shopping Center across the street.  Once you begin the tour and step inside the house, the ethereal and eerie feeling that Sarah Winchester herself must have felt is extremely palpable.  True, the many tour guides (who uphold Sarah's beliefs that the spirits wanted her to build the house continuously) could potentially be manipulating the atmosphere that the tourists feel when they enter the domicile.  But, the tour guides were not around when the several construction workers and carpenters who worked on the house and had the same reaction that many tourists have had.

The number 13 is a very important number within this household.  After Sarah Winchester's death, the groundskeepers created a topiary on the main lawn in the shape of the number 13.  Every Friday the 13th, the staff rings the large bell on the property at 1 PM (13:00 hours!) for exactly 13 times.  And for Halloween, the tour guides pull out all the stops.  Within the week leading up to the October holiday, the mansion hosts their annual "Fright Nights" where tourists can save up to $20 on admission to a tour of the haunted grounds.  Part of the event includes a walk through the Sarah Winchester "Halloween Maze."  The house has become one of the most cherished landmarks in the Bay Area and is constantly on a Top 10 list of the most Haunted places in North America.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Top 60 Sitcoms...In 30 Days! - The Best Sitcom of All-Time

Well, here we are!  30 days ago, I started my list of the 60 Greatest Sitcoms of All-Time.  Now, we have arrived at the moment of truth.  The Sitcom that has earned the honored position of #1.  Before I reveal the beloved series, take a "quick look" below at the 59 other Sitcoms you have seen over the past few weeks.  After that recap, you shall see which highly acclaimed Sitcom was so deserving of the #1 spot in our Countdown.

THE 60 BEST SITCOMS
QUICK RECAP:
60. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
59. Community
58. Coach
57. South Park
56. Scrubs
55. Head of the Class
54. Parks and Recreation
53. Diff'rent Strokes
52. Welcome Back, Kotter
51. The Drew Carey Show
50. The Office
49. 3rd Rock From the Sun
48. Family Matters
47. NewsRadio
46. Benson
45. Modern Family
44. The Bob Newhart Show
43. WKRP In Cincinnati
42. The Honeymooners
41. Wings
40. The Big Bang Theory
39. Designing Women
38. Mad About You
37. Family Guy
36. Perfect Strangers
35. How I Met Your Mother
34. Three's Company
33. Arrested Development
32. Newhart
31. Maude
30. Married...With Children
29. Laverne & Shirley
28. Hogan's Heroes
27. Will & Grace
26. The Andy Griffith Show
25. Bewitched
24. Soap
23. Roseanne
22. The Odd Couple
21. Family Ties
20. 30 Rock
19. Taxi
18. The Dick Van Dyke Show
17. The Jeffersons
16. Happy Days
15. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
14. Barney Miller
13. Murphy Brown
12. Frasier
11. I Love Lucy
10. Everybody Loves Raymond
9. Night Court
8. Seinfeld
7. Friends
6. The Golden Girls
5. The Simpsons
4. All In the Family
3. The Cosby Show
2. M*A*S*H

AND NOW...
THE BEST SITCOM OF ALL-TIME

1. Cheers, NBC (1982-1993)
What made this Sitcom so great?  Was it the eleven years as a highly respected program?  Was it the delightful cast whose careers became synonymous with their characters?  Was it the multiple upon multiple Emmy Awards and nominations the series received throughout its critically acclaimed run (even after Kirstie Alley took over for original star Shelley Long halfway through!)?  Or was it just the fact that many hilarious memories can come from just thinking of that quaint Boston bar (which has now become a "tourist mecca" in the New England metropolis!)?  Growing up in the 1980s, Cheers was the Sitcom to watch.  It was (even then!) considered the definitive in sophisticated writing, quirky characters, entertaining ensemble and perfect storytelling.  The finale (in May of 1993) was as much of an event (especially on NBC!) as any other program I had ever seen.  The relationship between former baseball pitcher-turned bartender Sam Malone (Ted Danson) and snooty waitress Diane Chambers (Ms. Long, who departed the show midway through its run) became the standard that all other great TV couples have been measured against.  Characters like Carla Tortelli (the spunky Rhea Perlman), Cliff Clavin (PIXAR fave John Ratzenberger), Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer, who successfully lead his own spin-off series!) and Norm Petersen (the brilliantly funny George Wendt) became a part of our lives.  The show even launched Woody Harrelson's successful career (two Oscar nods is not bad for the boy who started playing a dim-witted hick bartender!).  Though not the ratings juggernaut it soon became in its run, critical praise and tons of Emmy love (plus lots of support from NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff!) kept the show on people's radar enough to make it one of the most beloved programs both in its initial runs and during syndication.  I guess people always "want to go where people know people are all the same."  I guess we just "want to go where everybody knows your name."

There you have it.  The #1 Sitcom of All-Time is a show I grew up with being praised left and right.  All of these Sitcoms have influenced so much of what is on TV today.  I hope you enjoyed this list and if you disagree with the choices, that's okay!  We are all allowed our own opinions.  Each of these shows (no matter where they ranked here!) have earned a place in someone's heart.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Top 60 Sitcoms...In 30 Days! - Part V(d)

We only have 3 Sitcoms left in our Countdown.  Tomorrow, I shall reveal which one has the coveted #1 spot on our list.  But today, let's take a look at the two Sitcoms that came down to the wire to earn the bronze and silver medals on our list.

THE 60 BEST SITCOMS - PART V(c)


14. Barney Miller
13. Murphy Brown
12. Frasier
11. I Love Lucy
10. Everybody Loves Raymond
9. Night Court
8. Seinfeld
7. Friends
6. The Golden Girls
5. The Simpsons
4. All In the Family

3. The Cosby Show, NBC (1984-1992)
Comedian Bill Cosby had several TV projects under his belt -- each of them with varying degrees of success (I Spy, Fat Albert and The Electric Company among the more notable of them!) -- by the early 1980s.  But when Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner (former executives at ABC) wanted to start their own production company, they knew they wanted someone like Mr. Cosby to star in the series to launch that company.  What they came up with was not only a great Sitcom, but a groundbreaking one.  It was Cosby's decision that the family portrayed in his new Sitcom be a family of financial means.  He would play a doctor and the wife (played by the multi-talented Phyllicia Rashad) would be a lawyer.  We had seen smart and intelligent African-American parents on TV before this (see Good Times or Julia).  But this was one of the first times in Television History that an African-American couple would be portrayed as extremely well-educated and fairly financially independent.  As Cliff and Clair Huxtable, Cosby and Rashad had an amazing chemistry.  They were loving, tender, caring and sensible not only with their children but with each other.  The Huxtables had 5 children: Sondra (Sabrina LeBeauf) was a student at Princeton; Denise (Lisa Bonet) was a typical high school student who became a college student during the run (which spawned the successful spin-off A Different World); Theo (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) was (at the beginning) a 15 year-old boy who wanted nothing in life but just money and women; Vanessa (Tempestt Bledsoe) was (at first) the pre-teen learning about the typical teenage problems and was often in trouble with her mother as years went on; and Rudy (Keshia Knight Pulliam) was the baby of the family at 5 years-old when the series started (she too went through some of the same pre-teen problems Vanessa had encountered towards the end of the series).  Each of the kids had a special bond with their parents that made the family that much more relatable to audiences.  The show was an instant success and was a #1 show off-and-on for most of the decade.  The series not only inspired other shows that prominently featured African-Americans (like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Family Matters), but it also inspired NBC and the other networks to look for more shows they could base on a comedian's family life (see Roseanne, Home Improvement or Everybody Loves Raymond).  This Sitcom was truly a favorite of mine growing up and cemented NBC's extremely powerful (and marketable) Thursday "Must See TV" line-up.


2. M*A*S*H, CBS (1972-1983)
Only 2 Sitcoms share the most Emmy nominations for Best Comedy Series (both shows getting nominated each of their 11 seasons!).  The other one, obviously, you will see tomorrow.  But this was the first one to gain that record.  It also managed to set some other records in the TV History books.  Developed by former Sid Caesar writer Larry Gelbart, it was one of the first successful TV shows to be based on a film (a critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning film for that matter!).  It was also among a crop of Sitcoms (along with All In the Family and Maude) that constantly blurred the lines between Comedy and Drama, much like the film had.  In fact, because of its setting, M*A*S*H so naturally blended those lines that it is now considered (by many within the industry!) to be the forerunner to "the Dramedy."  In the series, Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers took on the roles that Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould had made famous in the film, Captain Benjamin "Hawkeye" Pierce and Captain "Trapper" John McIntyre, respectively.  The two surgeons passed their time in Korea by flouting authority and commenting on the senselessness they felt was around them.  They were the constant thorn in the side of their imbecilic tent-mate Major Frank Burns (the late Larry Linville) and his off-and-on paramour head nurse Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Hoolihan (the delightful Loretta Swit).  As the show went on (over three times as long as the actual Korean War!), Rogers' Trapper John left the series and was replaced by Mike Farrell as Captain B. J. Hunnicut.  And for the seriousness of the war to hit home with audiences, they had one of their lead characters (Colonel Henry Blake, played by McLean Stevenson) killed by enemy fire as he was on his way home to the United States (all off-screen, mind you!).  The series broke further ground by taking chances with the style of some of their episodes.  They did episodes that were done in documentary-style.  They did an episode in "real time" (meaning the occurrences within the episode happened within exactly a half-hour!).  They did an episode from the point of view of one the soldiers wounded and sent to the 4077th.  And in their finale, the CBS Network pulled out all the stops and asked for a 2 and half-hour movie (directed and co-written by Alan Alda!).  The finale (which aired in February 1983) became one of the most watched programs of all-time.  It is considered (by many!) to be the most memorable finale in Television History (we all remember the iconic "Goodbye" laid out in rocks as Alan Alda rides out of Korea on a helicopter!).  The show changed the way we think about Sitcoms to this very day and will always be remembered for its challenging style.

Only one show could earn the #1 spot on our list.  Tune in tomorrow (even if you've figured it out already!) to see what successful Sitcom will hold the honor of the Best Sitcom of All-Time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Top 60 Sitcoms...In 30 Days! - Part V(c)

We're getting closer to the #1 spot.  Yesterday, I started taking you all through the Top 10 and now were making our way into the Top 5.  So let's get going!

THE 60 BEST SITCOMS - PART V(c)


15. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
14. Barney Miller
13. Murphy Brown
12. Frasier
11. I Love Lucy
10. Everybody Loves Raymond
9. Night Court
8. Seinfeld
7. Friends

6. The Golden Girls, NBC (1985-1992)
Remember when TV Networks used to have original programming on Saturday night.  It seems that once this show ended its run in 1992, Saturday has become the Dead Zone it has become as far as original programming goes.  Well back in the 1970s and 1980s, Saturday was a coveted spot when it came to hit Sitcoms.  And in 1985, NBC entertained us with the hilarious and witty lives of four older women as they went through their "Golden Years."  Now, a show about four ladies of a more mature age is not something you might see nowadays.  But in the 1980s, NBC executives (led by the late Brandon Tartikoff) took a chance.  Former Maude co-stars Beatrice Arthur and Rue McClanahan were cast alongside former Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star Betty White as three different women who live together in a suburban Miami home.  And each of them were perfect for their roles.  Bea Arthur played Dorothy, a divorced substitute teacher from New York, with the same great timing and perfect attitude she had brought to Maude.  Rue McClanahan was divine as Blanche Devereaux, a rather slutty art museum worker who owned the house the "girls" shared.  And Betty White charmed all as the terminally naive Rose Nylund, a grief counselor from the oddball Minnesota town of St. Olaf (which seemed to have more stories than Scheherezade!)  Rounding out the cast of four was the delightful character actress Estelle Getty as Dorothy's outspoken and sarcastic mother, Sophia Petrillo.  The four women each won Emmy Awards for their work and gained huge followings.  The show, in its syndicated runs, has become one of the most popular Sitcoms in the last 15 years.  As we have lost Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty, many audiences cling to the reruns they see and have adored the career resurgence of the brilliant Betty White (We're going to love her while we still can!).


5. The Simpsons, FOX (1989-present)
This series has a couple feats to brag about on this list.  First, it is the highest ranking Animated Series on the list (you saw both Family Guy and South Park earlier!).  Next, it happens to be the longest running series featured in this genre (It is in Season 23 and still counting, after headline-making negotiations!).  And, it is the highest ranking Sitcom (and I know some people don't consider it a Sitcom, but they're wrong!) that is still currently airing new episodes (the show returns with their annual Halloween episode on Sunday after a hiatus due to the World Series!).  That is a lot to say about a show that initially was just about a "typical American family."  Over the last 20 years, FOX's favorite family have become icons of popular culture.  Homer's famous catchphrase has made it into the Oxford English Dictionary.  Bart has sold more Butterfingers than any other spokesperson in the candy's history.  Marge became the first Animated character to be featured on the cover of Playboy.  The list could go on forever.  I've already covered (twice this year!) how much I love and respect this show.  The show certainly changed the way we think about Primetime Animated Shows and changed the Family dynamic on Television in general.  It is one of the shows that made FOX a major player in the TV politics rather than just a fledgling Network.  After almost 25 years (and a very successful movie!), Matt Groening and his several Springfield denizens will forever be a hilarious part of the Television landscape.  In honor of the upcoming holiday of Halloween, the video clip below is from one of the show's famed Treehouse of Horror episodes.


4. All In the Family, CBS (1971-1979)
One of the most influential TV shows of all-time was destined to earn a high spot on this list.  Norman Lear truly broke ground with this controversial yet extremely popular Sitcom.  It turned the typical Family Sitcom on its ear.  Jean Stapleton and the late Carroll O'Connor wailed their iconic theme song and we were introduced to the Bunkers.  Archie (played to comedic perfection by O'Connor) was a loudmouthed, bigoted blue-collar worker and Edith (charmingly played by the sweet Stapleton) was his scatterbrained and endearing wife.  With their grown daughter Gloria (played by Sally Struthers) and her extremely liberal husband Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner) living with them, Archie was constantly at odds with the changing times and spewing his prejudicial statements left and right (no pun intended!).  With such a character like Archie Bunker, the show covered several issues that were never talked about before on Television: like racism, women's liberation, miscarriage, breast cancer, menopause, impotence, homosexuality, the Vietnam War and even rape.  It changed the way Sitcoms dealt with serious issues (more honestly and with a lot of humor!) and it changed precisely what Sitcoms could be about.  The show was a huge success throughout the 1970s with both audiences and with critics.  Norman Lear went on to develop 6 other successful series (4 of them spin-offs from the All In the Family universe!).  It won multiple (upon multiple!) Emmy Awards for its cast and its writing and it won the top Comedy honor 4 times (a record tied by Cheers and only passed by Frasier!).


The Bunkers may have beaten the Simpsons but there is one more TV Family that edged ahead of them on this list.  And that is just one of the three shows still to come as we get closer to the #1 spot on the Top 60 Sitcoms of All-Time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top 60 Sitcoms...In 30 Days! - Part V(b)

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
12. Frasier
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 fiancĂ©e 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!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Top 60 Sitcoms...In 30 Days! - Part V(a)

When I was starting this list, I first thought that it could be a feature on my frequent 10 FAVORITES column. I thought I could pick my 10 FAVORITE Sitcoms of All-Time and, at first, I did.  But as I was discussing the idea with friends and family, there were 5 shows that came up in conversations and were becoming the "Honorable Mentions."  I then thought why have 5 "Honorable Mentions," when I can have a whole list of Sitcoms.  Hence, the list of Top 60 Sitcoms was born.  And now we are down to those Top 15 that inspired this list to begin with.  These 5 listed below are the 5 shows that didn't quite make it into my original Top 10 (which you will see beginning tomorrow!).  But these 5 Sitcoms are just as worthy of the honors and have been equally influential over the past decades of TV hilarity.


THE 60 BEST SITCOMS - PART V(a)


15. The Mary Tyler Moore Show, CBS (1970-1977)
This landmark Sitcom broke barriers, charmed critics and amazed audiences with its delightful ensemble and its sophisticated writing.  Mary Tyler Moore gained several fans after her work on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s.  In 1970, CBS decided to take a chance and give the star her own eponymous series.  It was one of the first Sitcoms to show a single woman with a professional career (in TV Journalism!).  As Mary Richards, Moore was surrounded by a top-notch cast as some of the most endearing characters in TV history: There was Ed Asner as her irascible boss Lou Grant; Valerie Harper as her outspoken friend and neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern; Gavin McLeod as her sarcastic co-worker Murray Slaughter; the fabulous Cloris Leachman as her nosy landlady Phyllis Lindstrom; the timeless Betty White as the slutty TV home expert Sue Ann Nivens; and who could forget the late Ted Knight as the incompetent but lovable anchorman Ted Baxter?  The show set the standard for Ensemble Comedies and was the show to watch of the 1970s when it came to critical acclaim and high ratings.  The only reason such a worthy show is as low as #15 is because (though I have seen many episodes, including all the infamous ones like "Chuckles Bites the Dust" below!) it was a show that I didn't see much of growing up.  And when it was on in my house, my father (who was never really a fan of the show!) would wince and (in his own way!) deride the program.  As this is a list that includes my own personal taste, #15 was as high as I could get it and still be true to myself!

14. Barney Miller, ABC (1975-1982)
One of the most underrated Sitcoms in TV History and a workplace Sitcom that defied the convention of what the typical Sitcom workplace could be.  In the tradition of other 1970s Sitcom fare like All In the Family and Maude, this show took serious (and oftentimes controversial) subject matter and dealt with it in an honest (yet of course humorous!) manner.  Like Mary Richards above, Tony Award-winner Hal Linden played the title character, a police captain surrounded by an array of quirky fellow detectives.  The highlight of the show was the fact that the jail cell for the criminals was in the detectives' squad room, adding another element of wackiness as the many criminals they brought in had their own eccentricities.  In addition to Linden, Gregory Sierra, Ron Glass, Max Gail, Jack Soo, Steve Landesburg and Abe Vigoda were among the other actors who played Miller's fellow detectives.  Vigoda's character Lt. Fish became something of a slight phenomenon as he appeared on both Barney Miller and on his own spin-off show (titled Fish) simultaneously, one of the first TV characters to do so!  The show, though a ratings hit and beloved by the critics, rarely got awards recognition.  It wasn't until its final season in 1982 that the show won the Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series, its only win in its 8 year run!

13. Murphy Brown, CBS (1988-1998)
The TV world is ripe with great Sitcom material (just look at The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the most recent hit 30 Rock!).  And in the late 1980s, acclaimed actress Candice Bergen (daughter of the legendary Edgar Bergen!) took to the airwaves as the brash, outspoken and pioneering (fictional!) TV journalist Murphy Brown.  Modeled much after the likes of Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer, Murphy was very different from Mary Richards.  She was a recovering alcoholic and was anything but sweet.  Her fellow news anchors (on the fictional news show FYI) were just as professional as she was on camera (or at least tried to be!), but were even wackier in their own personal lives.  The show gained even more viewers in the early 1990s when Bergen's character became unexpectedly pregnant and chose to keep and raise the baby on her own.  At the time, Vice President Dan Quayle made a now infamous speech in which he "called out" Murphy Brown and chided her for setting a poor example for the youth of America and thereby degrading the importance of a Father in the life of a child.  Several Women's groups and Family advocacy groups jumped on the bandwagon of the show and turned the tables on Quayle and his fellow conservative pundits deriding the character.  The show became one of the most popular in CBS' line-up and won Candice Bergen a record 5 Emmy Awards as Best Actress (so much so that after 5 wins in 7 years, Ms. Bergen removed herself from contention and stopped submitting herself for Emmy consideration!).

12. Frasier, NBC (1993-2004)
By far this is one of the most successful spin-offs in TV History.  Kelsey Grammer took his beloved Cheers character from the Boston bar to a Seattle radio station where he became a renowned radio psychiatrist (long before Oprah got behind that Dr. Phil guy!).  To follow an extremely successful sitcom is hard enough to do and what Grammer and company did was nothing short of unpredictable.  Though the energy felt similar to Cheers thanks to Grammer's presence, the comedic elements couldn't have been more different.  Dr. Crane (divorced from Bebe Neuwirth's Lilith) now lives with his irascible father, Martin Crane (played by stage character actor John Mahoney), and his lovable (yet annoying to Frasier!) dog, Eddie.  Also in the house with Frasier and Martin was Daphne Moon (the charming Jane Leeves), who was Martin's live-in physical therapist.  But the true highlight of the series that gave it the special "magic" it needed was the casting of Frasier's brother, Dr. Niles Crane, a fellow psychiatrist.  As Niles, David Hyde Pierce often stole the spotlight, yet his chemistry with Grammer's Frasier was unmistakable.  The two actors are so perfect in these roles and became so well-known as a pair, they even lampooned themselves (and their characters) on The Simpsons!  The Sitcom was a ratings dynamo and was absolutely raved about by the critics, that it was no surprise in Hollywood when it became the most awarded Sitcom in Emmy History.  The show won the Best Comedy Series Emmy 5 years in a row and that's one more than Cheers' own 4 times as Emmy champ!

11. I Love Lucy, CBS (1951-1957)
This is the Sitcom that pretty much started it all.  It is one of the most popular Sitcoms of All-Time and it has been that way ever since its very beginning.  Former dancer Lucille Ball became a TV pioneer as she, and her husband Desi Arnaz, began a series that showed the antics of a Night Club performer's housewife as she tried desperately to work her way into show business.  As Lucy Riccardo, Ball became the ultimate clown.  So many of her wacky moments have become the stuff of legend.  Just think of the stomping of the grapes, the Vitameatavegamin commercial, the candy conveyor belt (below) and the many celebrities Lucy tried to meet (from John Wayne to William Holden to Bob Hope to George Reeves to even Harpo Marx!).  You might be wondering why this show is not in the Top 10 (as many of you might think it should be!).  Well, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show above, this is yet another show where I grew up knowing about its legendary history but never really got into watching it.  Sure, I've seen several episodes and some of those famous moments listed above (and they of course tickled me!), but again my father was not that much of a fan of Lucy (or Desi/Ricky...or Fred and Ethel Mertz!).  Therefore, the show didn't leave the kind of impression on me it has obviously left on several (and I mean several!) fans.  So #11 seems like the perfect place for this landmark series.

Now, I know what you are all thinking.  If these are the shows that couldn't eke their way into the Top 10, then what did?!?!  Well, tomorrow you shall see the beginning of that honored 10, with a little shared each day until Friday when I shall reveal the Sitcom that earned the #1 spot in our Countdown!  So Stay Tuned...because the end is near!