Open Forum: Help Me Pick the Last Show(s) of the Year

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I need your help. Following coverage of The King Of Queens, Sitcom Tuesdays are preparing for eight weeks of That ’70s Show. After that, there’ll be eight more weeks left in the year, and before we circle back to cover some overlooked comedies from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, I want to utilize 2019’s remaining time to wrap up our look at ’90s/turn-of-the-century essentials. But I don’t know what to choose.

The top two contenders at this moment are Will & Grace and Becker. But I’m open to ANYTHING that either premiered in the ’90s or counted the majority of its run during that decade. So, in the comments section of this post, please tell me which show(s) you think I should spend the last eight weeks of 2019 covering — and if you would, tell me why you think our study of this era in sitcommery would be incomplete without it/them!

Now, for the sake of giving you parameters, I’ll ask that you confine your suggestions to half-hour American comedies that premiered between 1988 and 1999. And, let’s say that they had to have run at least THREE seasons… Now, don’t worry about lining up eight years exactly — anything a couple of weeks shorter or longer than eight is okay. Also, know that this isn’t a determinative poll, but the more persuasive you are in your comments, the better!

Here’s a list of possible shows (but certainly not all of them)…

  • Empty Nest
  • Roseanne 
  • Coach
  • Evening Shade
  • Home Improvement
  • The Nanny
  • Ellen
  • Cybill
  • Caroline In The City
  • 3rd Rock From The Sun
  • Cosby
  • Spin City
  • Dharma & Greg
  • Sex And The City
  • Will & Grace
  • Becker
  • Norm



Come back next week for another Wildcard post! And stay tuned Tuesday for more Queens!

58 thoughts on “Open Forum: Help Me Pick the Last Show(s) of the Year

  1. Empty Nest
    Evening Shade
    The Nanny
    3rd Rock From The Sun
    Cosby (underrated Madeline Khan killed it)

    • Hi, Track! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I only have eight weeks. Which of those shows would you MOST like to see here in that limited time (and why)?

    • It’s definitely on my radar!

      Is that what you’d most like to see here after THAT ’70S SHOW? And if so, why?

      • Living Single is my 1st choice. Very funny and underrated

        Roseanne is my 2nd choice because i feel that it will rise a lot of discussion and a lot of classic highs and devasting lows.

        Sorry about the above i misread

  2. The Nanny would be great!! I would love to see what you have to say about it and all the things you have to share about it!

    • Hi, Ethan! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks for your vote for THE NANNY. What do you like best about it?

  3. I know I’ve advocated for Becker before, but I would most like to see Will & Grace. Not only is it a series I enjoy, I believe it would be popular here due to its stature commercially and availability on cable and streaming services.

    • Hi, Charlie! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks for your vote for WILL & GRACE. Its current run has definitely cemented its maintained popularity!

  4. roseanne my 1st choice . think it got many classic episodes .

    will n grace my #2 bc it funny and think u enjoy . would u do recent seasons too ?

    • Hi, BB! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks for your vote for ROSEANNE.

      (Incidentally, if I did WILL & GRACE before the end of 2019, I’d probably only do the original run initially. I’d come back sometime next summer, once the revival is concluded, to do the last three seasons.)

  5. Hi there. Okay, so when I think about 90’s TV sitcom essentials I instantly think of a few gems : Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Friends. Each are delightful, but I think Seinfeld was the most influential, the one that evolved dramatically as seasons passed … and it’s a series that is extremely rich and nuanced in the world it created.

    • Hi, Eduardo! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Please check out the archives for full Sitcom Tuesday coverage of SEINFELD, FRASIER, FRIENDS, and EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND.

      I don’t believe animated comedies are comparable to live-action sitcoms, so THE SIMPSONS is beyond my purview.

      Is there any other live-action American comedy from this period that you’d like to see discussed here during the last eight weeks of 2019?

  6. I would pick Roseanne because I feel like it was such a unique comedy for its time. The cast was not your typical looking cast and it is very interesting to look at how the show and characters changed throughout the season. I can not think of another show that had such a wide variety of storylines and such huge change in the relationships between the characters of the show. When you compare the first few season (cast and storylines) to the later season it seems like a completely different show.

  7. My top choices you already know: WILL & GRACE and BECKER.

    I think WILL & GRACE is the last important turn of the century shows you haven’t covered (next to ROSEANNE, but I don’t like that one.)

    BECKER is just like a solid show that feels like most of what you’ve covered before. That’s probably my second choice.

    My third would be NORM just because that one was underrated and doesn’t get talked about. :)

  8. I vote very strongly for Roseanne, not just because I think it’s one of the greatest sitcoms in American TV history (the middle seasons, that is– Season 3 to 5 (and 6-ish) are what I think defines the show’s legacy), but because there’s SO MUCH to dig into, *analytically speaking*, compared to the other shows. The series itself changed drastically over the years, and in ways much more interesting and complicated than the typical sitcom progression of “Characters/situations getting broader and less believable every year in the strain for laughs” (though this is certainly also true of Roseanne.) The tone of the first two seasons was almost totally at odds with what followed, the show starting out quite consciously as a “Cosby Show for the working class”. I find seasons 7 and 8 largely unwatchable, with the final year being such a complete train wreck I never even bought the 9th season DVDs– which is a big deal for someone like me who’s a “completionist”, but I have no desire to ever watch the 9th season again.

    But even as awful as the final season was, it’s still (to me) fascinating material for discussion– though picking out ten “best” episodes from the last couple of years may drive you into an early grave. :)

    I’d also love to read your thoughts on the reboot at some point, maybe as a follow-up post later. I personally found it very compelling though deeply flawed, primarily in how the Roseanne character in the reboot was often the diametrical opposite of the original series character. But a massive rebound from the depths of the end of the original series, and I was looking forward to seeing the tweaks that would be made going forward in future seasons before the Roseanne tweet implosion short circuited everything.

    I’d hesitate to vote for Roseanne for fear of people getting nasty in comments, given the rancor in virtually any online discussion I’ve read about her since the reboot. But I really don’t think the readership of your blog is going to go off on ranting political tangents. And I think it’s a crime that a show as great as the original Roseanne was at its peak is becoming largely unknown to younger folks– a deeply humanistic show with important and cutting critiques of the travails of the working class in this country. People who aren’t old enough to have watched the show in its original run (per many discussions I’ve read online) have NO IDEA what the original series was like; they only know about the real life Roseanne’s craziness and, if they watched the reboot, the drastically changed Roseanne character from the new series.

    And it will only get worse now, considering that all the controversy (to say the LEAST) over the real life Roseanne will likely lead to the original series never being rerun again, or at least not widely. The two most influential and popular family sitcoms of the 1980s/90s (The Cosby Show and Roseanne) have both been essentially banished from culture due to the banishment of their real life stars.

    Anyhow, that’s my very long suggestion! I like most of the other shows in your list to one degree or another, but I don’t think any of the other possibilities provide as much potentially interesting analysis for you as a critic as Roseanne. But anything you write about I’ll be interested in reading, as always. :)

    • Hi, WGaryW! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks for voicing your articulate support for ROSEANNE!

  9. While Roseanne and Will and Grace were arguably more reflective of their era, and influential on what followed, Empty Nest seems almost uniquely suited to your intellectual premise that every season of a show has a distinct identity within that series. The season-to-season differences in Empty Nest are so clear, not just with regard to cast changes but also in terms of writing style, tone, and theme, that you would have a lot to dissect in your study of the show. It would go a long way toward proving your thesis about seasonal identity.

    • Hi, Lee! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks for voicing your support for EMPTY NEST! It’s not a show I love, but you’re right — there’d be a lot to discuss.

  10. You already covered MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, which was ROSEANNE but funnier and less self-important. It would be a backslide and retread IMO. Doesn’t give you anything new or different.

    The one show that I think gives you something different is WILL & GRACE because it’s a James Burrows multi-cam in the FRIENDS mold but with a sense of humor that’s broader, bawdier, campier. And that kind of style would be fun to see you analyze. It’s different than a lot of the late 90’s shows you have been covering.

    Just my two cents.

  11. In spite of the more “iconic” 90s shows that could be covered, I’d love to hear your commentary on Evening Shade. In its four seasons, the show had an interesting history and was almost a roller coaster in terms of quality. Although it was significantly popular in its day (maybe due to its Monday night timeslot), it’s been pretty much forgotten since it aired. I know that you’ve expressed your (valid) qualms about Linda Bloodworth-Thomason’s works before, but in my opinion, it’s the flawed shows and seasons that generate the most interesting commentary. A show that was part-MTM, part-Mozark and featured a ridiculously prestigious cast would be so interesting to hear you dissect and analyze (i.e.: Where did they go wrong?). Even in a Wildcard Wednesday post, I’d be fascinated by your discussion of the series, especially since it’s available in full on DVD as of this year!

    • Hi, George! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks for voicing your support for EVENING SHADE! I *do* wonder if covering this series without starting at DESIGNING WOMEN is like featuring GREEN ACRES before THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES (which I did — it was a mistake).

    • Hi, Death Star! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I don’t totally understand your comment, but thanks for voicing your support for WILL & GRACE!

  12. The funniest show on that list is “Will & Grace” and I think that should be a major selling point. Also you said the strongest contenders are either that show or “Becker” and if I know you, you’re already pretty sure it’s going to be either of those two so….

    I definitely pick “Will & Grace.” (I would have picked that one even if I didn’t know you were leaning that way though.)

    Sure I want to read your coverage of average but interesting to analyze series like “Evening Shade” and “Empty Nest” and “Cybill” and “Cosby” (because I know they’d be fascinating like “John Larroquette” and “Just Shoot Me”) if you have the time. But since you don’t have the time right now, I wouldn’t encourage you to waste it.

  13. Jackson, I’d like to see COACH and ROSEANNE get your full treatment, and my third request would be for CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM.

    • Hi, Guy! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I only have eight weeks. Which one — COACH or ROSEANNE — would you most like to see here and why? (CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM I count as having premiered in 2000, so it’s not of relevance to me at this time.)

      • COACH needs more votes–and I think it’s vastly underrated because of its generic title and its reputation as a basic, meat-and-potatoes sitcom. But it was actually quite a bit better than that, at least before they all moved to Orlando.

        So my one vote will go to COACH, but I see (and cannot dispute) that ROSEANNE has generated a lot of support here, and that’d be OK, too.

  14. I vote for WILL and GRACE. It was groundbreaking in its day as well as one of the first shows to come back years later with its cast intact. Much historical significance.

    • Hi, Bob! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks for voicing your support for 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN! What do you like best about it?

  15. Will and Grace. Partly because would fit in with Friends and Frazier and Seinfield being covered and I feel that it was just as important part of Must see TV (and covering Just Shoot Me and other lesser NBC shows seems a slight) and also it’s significance over the others on the list in being one of the first shows to have LGBTQ and friendly to the community characters.

    • Hi, bobster427! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks for voicing your support for SEX AND THE CITY and CYBILL. What do you like best about those shows?

  16. Hi Jackson,

    I know it was in the early 80’s but I was wondering if you have any episodes of “The Tracey Ullman Show” when it aired on Fox with “The Simpsons” interstitial cartoons?



  17. I vote for 3rd Rock From the Sun. No formula there, no work location/co-workers to bounce off. Acting was great, satire great, just overall fun.

  18. Hey Jackson – my vote is for “Will & Grace.” As other commenters have mentioned, it’s a groundbreaking show, but it also features the legendary James Burrows as house director, so that’s a good a reason as any, right? ;-)

  19. This is a good list.

    I am surprised “Mad About You” isn’t on this though; I know you said not all options made the cut but still that was a pretty big one of the 90s.

    I have to definitely give you love for having “Caroline In The City” on the list as that is an under appreciated series!

    “Home Improvement” is just a classic, “Ellen” was good but got cut short and is mainly huge for the one episode (“The Puppy Episode”), “Cosby” is groundbreaking, “Will & Grace” was important but had issues, and “The Nanny” is just hilarious so you can’t really go wrong with most of the choices on your list.

    If I had to pick I’d say “Caroline In The City” or “The Nanny” if “Mad About You” isn’t yet on the list!

    • Hi, Aaron! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks for voicing your support for CAROLINE IN THE CITY and THE NANNY.

      And please search the archives to find our complete coverage on the best of MAD ABOUT YOU.

  20. WILL & GRACE. One of the last good multi camera shows from this turn of the century period and if you skip it you’ll have missed an important Must See TV series.

    And honestly if you covered JUST SHOOT ME, WILL & GRACE will be a piece of cake!

  21. Hi, Jackson–
    Here is another vote for COACH. I believe this is an underrated sitcom and would love to read your analysis of the show. Craig T. Nelson did a great job playing Hayden Fox and Jerry Van Dyke’s Luther Van Dam is one of my favorite support characters (sort of like a poor man’s Ed Norton!). I like the dynamic between Hayden and Luther and also between Hayden and Christine. The show has a little bit of everything, and then you throw in the sports background and it is a can’t miss!


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