Sitcom Snob: Unpopular Opinions

Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! Today’s post was partially inspired by NBC’s recent program, Funniest of the Funniest, which aimed to examine the 30 best TV comedy moments from the 30 best TV comedy shows. However, I was displeased not only with the show selection, but also with the clip selection. So are my opinions in the minority? Well, yes and no. In today’s entry, I am voicing nine unpopular opinions that I myself hold about various sitcoms. Feel free to agree, disagree, or simply comment in the space below!

 

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1. I Love Lucy is the most well-written show. And “Job Switching,” the episode that contains the CHOCOLATE FACTORY a.k.a. CANDY FACTORY a.k.a. CONVEYER BELT scene, is outstanding. But that well-known scene is actually not my favorite in the episode. The best moment occurs in the Ricardo kitchen as Ricky and Fred disastrously attempt to prepare dinner. Furthermore, if you want Lucille Ball’s best physical bit, look to the cat fight in “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” a.k.a. GRAPE STOMPING.

 

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2. I love The Honeymooners, and Jackie Gleason is one of the funniest performers that ever lived, but his series is not in the same caliber as I Love Lucy or Cheers or even Seinfeld. Because the show was born from a sketch, the writers never took the time to develop any of the characters except Ralph and Ed. We only learn what we have to know about Alice. And Trixie is one of TV’s sparsest regular characters! Compare this foursome to the cast of I Love Lucy and the difference in depth is shocking.

 

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3. All In The Family is overrated. I won’t bother with some of the forced social stuff, because the show was legitimately laugh-out-loud funny for the first half of its run, but the series is almost painfully bad during its last two, maybe even three, seasons. It’s difficult for me to watch those episodes, and I honestly wish the series ended when Mike and Gloria moved next door. All In The Family was best when Lear didn’t try so hard and stories came FROM the characters. The series is only excellent during its first five seasons.

 

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4. I prefer Coach to Woody on Cheers. Though the latter provided dozens of story opportunities that the former probably couldn’t have, Coach’s lines were more consistently on the mark and he makes me laugh more frequently. That said, Cheers is one of the best sitcoms of all time because each character, even Woody, was so throughly developed that the series had a wealth of story opportunities. With great characters, the scripts were able to be consistently strong.

 

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5. Betty White was MUCH funnier as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show than as Rose on The Golden Girls. Though I liked Rose, she was often given subpar material, and though I adore White, she just can’t elevate a script like Bea Arthur, who (for the first three seasons at least) turns in one of television’s most consistently uproarious performances as Dorothy Zbornak in The Golden Girls. 

 

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6. Married… With Children is a brilliant sitcom satire, and though I’ll never classify it with any of the shows above, it’s consistently funny and probably houses a handful of TV’s funniest moments. And though they ended with OVER-THE-TOP stories like Seinfeld, it didn’t matter because Married… With Children never intended or presumed itself to be brilliant. It simply made us laugh!

 

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7. Seinfeld’s last two seasons, though not without their stellar moments, are a HUGE disappointment when compared to Seasons Three through Seven. Without Larry David, the stories became too cartoonish, as Jerry and company became determined to dovetail every weekly storyline together, often to the detriment of the show and it’s humble, but brilliant initial concept. Furthermore, the show was very condescending in its last two seasons, expecting audiences to love every single noise the characters made.

 

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8. Joey is the least successful character on Friends. Not only does the character’s development regress through the second half of the series, but he’s saddled with unfunny storylines, and more than any other character, is relied upon for incredibly DUMB “buttons” (one-line jokes that end scenes.) Though the series was never a template for exemplary writing, Joey’s lines are often unworthy of an otherwise well-constructed series.

 

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9. Sitcoms dominated by children or babies are rarely funny.

 

 

Thanks for reading! Come back next Wednesday for another Wildcard post! And tune in tomorrow as we continue our Xena countdown!

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7 thoughts on “Sitcom Snob: Unpopular Opinions

  1. Good Morrning! While I agree with most of what you say today, I do take exception with your assessment that Betty White was funnier on Mary Tyler Moore than on Golden Girls. I saw both shows when they first aired and I do remember the first time I saw both characters in their debut episodes. Yes, she was hilarious as Sue Ann and gave that show a new spin and a classic character for the ages. But I also appreciate the Golden Girls producers’ decision to have Betty play Rose, rather than Blanche Devereaux, as was originally planned. Had Betty White played Blanche, the producers rightly thought this would remind viewers too much of Sue Ann and they would inevitably compare the two characters and thus, the two shows. When I first saw the Golden Girls, in the fall of ’85, I was struck by how versitile Betty was to play such a completely different character so convincingly. I have to say also, (I have both series on DVD), that I never watch Golden Girls without laughing out loud. A lot. The ensemble of women in this case (as on MTM) worked perfectly with scripts that were consistantly well-written. As you can guess, I am a Betty White fan. (I also have DVDs of her ’50s shows, Life With Elizabeth and Date With The Angels), and yes, I may be one of a handful of sixty-something old men with her autographed picture hanging in my living room! I agree with your assessment with All In The Family. I loved the show back in the day, but can barely look at the reruns now. And now for my least favorite sitcoms. Many people have challanged my choices in the past, but here goes. My number one unfavorite sitcom is Bridget Loves Bernie, a 1972-73 CBS/Screen Gems sitcom starring David Birney and Meredith Baxter (Birney). I saw this when it first aired and recently saw the pilot film on YouTube. I consider this show to be a watered-down version of Love On A Rooftop from about 5 years prior. Rich Girl marries working-class stiff. Created by the same person as Rooftop (Bernard Slade), even some of the dialouge is cribbed from that show: He: “Your rich!” She: “You make it sound like some sort of disease!” There is one particularly cringe-worthy moment in the pilot when Audra Lindley (never a favorite of mine) is horrified at the possibility of her daughter’s new boyfriend being an African-American. While this could have been funny on an All In The Family episode, it just dosen’t work on this show. The Jewish stereotypes are broadly played, and to me are groan-inducing. They seem like gags which would be at home in a 1928 Vitaphone short, rather than a 1972 “hip” sitcom. The theme music by Jerry Fielding is nice, though. Other shows that do nothing for me are One Day At A Time, Alice, and Mama’s Family. As far as shows with kids as the main characters, I would tend to agree with one notable exception. Leave It To Beaver. That show had two really terrific kid actors in the lead roles, and the writing was, at times, exceptional. Also, the writers gave the kids a chance to really grow on the air. The stories advanced with the actor’s maturity. This is unlike Dennis The Menace, probably Beaver’s nearest competitor and the show most often compared to it. I found Jay North’s Dennis to be rather cute and endearing the first season, but progressively silly and unrealistic as time went on. This is not to fault any of the players, just the general direction the show went in. Okay. I find that I am getting rather long-winded once again, so I will have my second cup of coffee, and thank you once again, for a stimulating, well-written post. Bye for now.

  2. I apologize fo the number of typos in my posts. When I write on other boards, I usually go back and proof-read before I enter. Your posts inspire such passionate responses that I forget to check!

  3. Hi, Leslie! Never heard of BRIDGET LOVES BERNIE, but thanks for the heads up!

    I’m a Betty White fan too. (Looking forward to the show tonight!) I too think it was brilliant for the producers to give White the Rose role, and while I think THE GOLDEN GIRLS is often incredibly funny, I never felt the writing was of the same caliber as MARY TYLER MOORE’s, which not only balanced humor, but also realism in the characters. I think THE GOLDEN GIRLS ensemble is truly excellent, and while the show never declined like ALL IN THE FAMILY or SEINFELD, the writing became… cheaper… around the third or fourth season. My point with Betty White is — she’s great when she has great material. And I think THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW gave that to her more consistently.

    I have never seen ONE DAY AT A TIME, but have given both ALICE and MAMA’S FAMILY tries.

    I will agree with you about BEAVER, which is not only a cut above sitcoms with child stars, but probably one of the better single-camera comedies of the late ’50s and early ’60s. I actually just watched a BEAVER clip the other day and was again impressed with the dialogue among the adults even, who have long been considered dull. But that just isn’t true! Unfortunately, I don’t yet have BEAVER or ANDY GRIFFITH in my collection, but I hope to one day. The next complete series I have is DICK VAN DYKE. I have a bunch of public domain releases of other ’50s and ’60s shows, but nothing complete. So after BROOKS concludes next week, we’ll be going to ’61 and THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, one of my favorites.

    Thanks for reading and commenting! Love our sitcom conversations!

  4. Good list but I disagree with the all in the family opinion. I believe it is one of the few shows that has a right to b overratted due to it being so groundbreaking. I also say tht mike and gloria moving to an new house was huge development for the characters AS they were expecting a baby. Although the series lost a little steam , I still belive season 6 and 8 had some good and underrated episodes in my opinion. Season 7 was meh and Season 9 had some weak ones. But I still respect your opinion. Just putting my two cents

    • Hi, R! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Funny you should comment about ALL IN THE FAMILY; I’m watching the series as I type. (Am at the end of Season Four right now.) Look for a series of posts on my favorite episodes coming to Sitcom Tuesdays in Late September.

      The first few seasons are excellent and rightfully deserve all the praise and accolades that they have received. But the show declines annually, and moving Mike and Gloria to the new house (though sensical and motivated) was part of the downfall — the show lost a lot of its magic when the family was no longer under one roof. The waning quality of the scripts is the most to blame, but this structural change did not help. (Nor did the addition of a baby, for which the only good thing that can be said is that we got a couple of interesting stories involving Archie’s role as an impending grandfather.)

      Of course, you’re right: there are several standout installments in every season. But I find the last few years largely subpar, and as is the case with every series that runs too long (like BEWITCHED or FRASIER), the fact that the Lear let the series become stale (with episodes that fluctuate between over-preachiness and uber-foolishisness) undermines its lasting impression.

      With all that said, there are dozens of brilliant installments — particularly in the early seasons when the show was smart, relevant, and breathtakingly hilarious. And, because ALL IN THE FAMILY is undoubtedly one of my favorite sitcoms, I can’t wait to share my favorite episodes on this blog. Stay tuned!

    • Hi, Track. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      I have no plans to do another Sitcom Snob entry at this time, but it’s not an implausibility. Stay tuned!

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