Sunday, June 15, 2008

Top 5 80's Sitcoms

This is my way of taking a break from music-based lists in a creative way. Either that or this is my way of punishing the rest of you by not keeping up the recent streak we've had. (80's non-musical entertainment = punishment)

Dan's Top 5:

1. Perfect Strangers - When you're growing up, there are certain television programs that are introduced to you during your formative years that you will always remember. I was a big fan of Sesame Street, Zoobilee Zoo, and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, for example. Then there's your first experiences with programming that's not necessarily intended for children. For me, this was that show. Now able to revisit the series on DVD, I realize that while this is your basic sitcom, the humor is perfectly executed. The same recycled sitcom humor is perfectly supplemented with a degree of slapstick comedy that you don't normally see in sitcoms (Just take one look at the "Dance of Joy" and you should see what I mean). Also has one of the best theme songs ever.

2. Cheers - If we're going with sheer quality and lasting impact, this might make my #1, but it doesn't have the personal connection, since I only watched it during reruns. With great characters, funny writing, and the affirmation that it's not only not necessarily sad, but also perfectly acceptable to spend a hearty chunk of your life in the same drinking establishment to the point that Everybody Knows Your Name, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this show. Hey wait, have we done Top 5 TV Show Theme Songs yet?

3. The Cosby Show - There's really nothing to say about The Cosby Show, is there? If I have to explain anything, then it means that you haven't watched 100+ episodes by now, thus meaning that you've probably been cut off from the rest of humanity since 1984. Man, you could learn so much about good taste from this site.

4. ALF - You can tell that I was a kid during the 80's. All that I can really remember was that this show was amazing because its main character, an alien life form from Melmac, was a puppet. I was at an age when I couldn't even commit his obsession with eating the cat to memory. But really, isn't the puppet sufficient? Just look at any other sitcom from the era, and I think you'll agree.

5. Family Ties - I've always had appreciation for the talent of Michael J. Fox, and about 105% of that comes from my love of the Back to the Future films. The rest comes from this show. I've put it so low because the entire premise of the show is that Alex Keaton is a Republican. Even in the 80's, that loses you significant points.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. Cheers - The quintessential sitcom. The best of the 1980's and one of the best of all-time. Bonus points for its spin-off series also being one of the best of all-time. I refer of course to "Made in America" with John Ratzenberger.

2. The Cosby Show - I watched this as a kid in the 1980's, but I re-watched the entire series as a teenager in the late 1990's--late night, two episodes per night. It got kind of kooky toward the end, but not nearly as kooky as other shows that more thoroughly jump the shark.

3. The Wonder Years - I didn't immediately think of this as a sitcom, but I think that's mainly because this show isn't filmed in front of a live studio audience. It also went from 1987-1992, but I'm counting it as an 80's show, bolstered by the fact that I left it off the previous 1990's list for the same reasoning. Anyway, this show was pivotal, introducing Winnie Cooper as the paradigm for childhood girlfriends.

4. Night Court - Speaking of greatest TV theme songs...

5. Newhart - I watched this when I was a kid on Nick-at-Nite. Highlights include the following quote, which is still fun to say: "Hi, I'm Larry, this is my brother Darryl, this is my other brother Darryl"; and the fact that they wrote off the entire series in the finale. Brilliant.

Tim's Top 5:

I can't bring myself to call The Wonder Years a sitcom, so my list is limited. All my shows also fall in the latter half of the '80s for the simple reason that I was too busy being barely sentient until about 1986, when I discovered baseball cards.

1. The Cosby Show - This was the show my life was centered on during the key pre-Simpsons formative years. Sure, it hit rough patches (the seasons with the funky opening credits, the introduction of Rudy), but it was a consistently funny TV comedy that also somehow managed to avoid the pathetic racial stereotyping and demographic comedy that has become the norm (thanks, George Lopez, D.L. Hughley, Damon Wayons, and every other ABC sitcom star). This was an African-American family that achieved actual success, had educated kids and parents, and they occasionally got in car accidents with Stevie Wonder. If only we could all live like the Huxtibles.

2. Cheers - This is the only show I feel any need to watch now, having bought the first two seasons on DVD, but I'd be lying if I said it was the one that got me through the 1980s. The show dealt with character change better than perhaps any other, replacing Shelley Long with Kirstie Alley, replacing Coach with Woody Harrelson, and had a good run. It's consistently funny, it's aged better than any of the other 1980s shows, and its only downside is the continued career of Ted Danson. For shame, Ted Danson.

3. Mr. Belvedere - Ah, Bob Uecker, have you ever made a mistake that didn't involve being in the Major League movies after the first one? (Note that I decline to call them Major League II and III, because the third one isn't called Major League III...hence my moral superiority at declining to call it by that name) The premise of the show is simple enough, but it involved things I enjoy -- sports and British people. Brice Beckham was one of the better child stars of the 1980s and Christopher Hewett oozed contempt for modern America.

4. Married...with Children - It began in the 1980s, I started watching it in 1989 and it took me a while to appreciate how truly different this show was. There simply wasn't (and really, still isn't) a show that's this casually offensive on network television. Growing Pains had a character named Boner, but it was never mentioned, this show had a daughter who was a slut, a father who spent the majority of his time on camera with his hand in his pants, and had more sex references than pretty much anything before or since. It definitely got bad in its latter years, but on the horizon of's a welcome difference.

5. Head of the Class - We're talking about Howard Hesseman Head of the Class, not Billy Connolly Head of the Class, but Hesseman didn't last very long, so I'm including this just because I remember a few humorous moments, and it was also a source of some enlightenment. Every generation needs a good school comedy, and frankly, since this one, the genre's been relegated to kids' shows like Saved by the Bell or Fox's awful attempts.

Honorable mention: I got to five without mentioning Night Court, which was unintentional, but not worth correcting, given my inclusion of several new shows here. Dear John was also a pretty good show, though I don't know how much of it I actually saw.


Roughly Speaking... said...

Contrary to Dan's post, Bronson Pinchot is the devil. I hope his horribly distorted memories of the 1980s forces him to go and rent Blame It On The Bellboy so that he can suffer like I have suffered.

Dan said...

Actually, the thought of Bronson Pinchot in any role other than Balki Bartokomous makes me wince. (Oh god, I just remembered his role as Jean-Luc in "Step By Step.") Apparently he played a popular character in the Beverly Hills Cop movies, but I don't think I'll be watching those any time soon.