Coming Attractions: The Post (July 2021)

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m announcing the next few series you can expect to see on Sitcom Tuesdays throughout the rest of 2021 (and into 2022)…

As you know, I surveyed readers back in April to get an idea of their preferences. From those results, I announced that our last ’70s sitcom during this pass would be Laverne & Shirley, one of the big hits from Garry Marshall’s stable — an important aesthetic influence in the latter half of the decade, and a counter-reaction to the more realistic, serious, character-forward fare of both MTM and, relatively speaking, Norman Lear. Compared to those shows, I must admit that Marshall’s efforts have never been favorites (for reasons we’ll soon highlight), but I’m looking forward to using Laverne & Shirley as an example of his school of sitcommery, per your wishes. (And for those who voted for the longer-running and more iconic Happy Days, don’t worry, I’ll be sharing some thoughts about it too; I just couldn’t dedicate an additional 11 weeks to such a fundamentally similar piece.) So, prepare for Laverne & Shirley to begin here by August, following a few reruns and clip show posts (as I enjoy a much-needed vacation).

Meanwhile, the most requested series was Roseanne, which premiered in 1988 as a latecomer to the decade most readers wanted me to venture into next: the ’80s. As revealed, I do plan to discuss Roseanne, but not right after Laverne & Shirley, for, as the mainstream application of Married… With Children’s idea-driven spoof of mid-’80s domestic sitcoms, it’s necessary to lead up to Roseanne by first illustrating the kind of show to which it’s responding. Therefore, I’ve decided that the series we’ll be talking about right after Laverne & Shirley is…

Family Ties. Now, again, this one isn’t a favorite — and I still consider The Cosby Show to be the best family comedy of its era — but Family Ties is probably the most formative ’80s sitcom in this subcategory and, as a representation of a type that I nevertheless don’t favor, I think it’s a valuable addition to this blog’s study of the genre, standing in for stuff that is much worse and can’t be entertained here at all. It’ll be a tough one though; I hope you’ll bear with me.

Following Family Ties, we’ll be looking at a more unique domestic comedy, and one of CBS’ only hits from this period: Kate & Allie, among the most realistic sitcoms of the time, associated with several past classics and utilizing the “modified family” format that adds a premised wrinkle. It’s not exactly gem-laden, but it is a smart, sweet sitcom with solid writing for most of its run, and I think it will be fun to dig a little deeper and put it into our rolodex.

Then, with the formulaic Family Ties and the gentle Kate & Allie serving as two choice examples of ’80s domesticity, we’ll finally be ready to launch Roseanne. And that will take us into 2022… where I have plans for another series from this era that I’m ready to announce today: Empty Nestwhich I’ve always considered amiable mediocrity, but by coming from the same camp as The Golden Girls, it’s the sort of amiable mediocrity that I can spend seven joyful, easy weeks discussing post-Roseanne, and actually, with a fine cast and a construction that’s reminiscent of an MTM series, I’m excited to evaluate it fairly, with an eye towards character.

Incidentally, I also appraised other ’80s sitcoms for this go-round — especially Who’s The Boss?, a mashup of many contemporaneous trends that sadly dilutes them; Designing Women, which I truly want to love but still find so starved of character (all the leads share one singular voice and episodic story is typically idea-led); and Dear John, which seems like a delicious character-forward comedy in the Taxi/Cheers vein but is so comedically muted that it’s comparably forgettable. Unfortunately, the “cons” outweighed the “pros” in each case. But don’t be disappointed; I intend to reevaluate at the end of the year. And for the time being, I’m happy with the carefully chosen selections cited above. I hope there’s something here about which you can say the same!

 

 

Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more sitcom fun!

24 thoughts on “Coming Attractions: The Post (July 2021)

  1. Can’t wait to see KATE & ALLIE reviewed! Thanks, Jackson! It was one of my favorites back in the day. I loved Jane Curtin—I still do—and was glad that she was able to show how underused she had been on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. And she won two Emmys for K & A, to boot!

    • Hi, Mark! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      As usual, I don’t give a hoot about the Emmys, but I, too, am excited to examine Jane Curtin’s performance, as my interest in this series is also hinged around the talents of those involved (both in front of and behind the cameras), along with what their efforts bring to our collective understanding of the show’s identity and, more broadly, its place within our study of the genre’s trajectory. I’m happy to know you’re looking forward to it, especially because KATE & ALLIE is not a piece that gets a lot of love today. Maybe we’ll help turn that around!

  2. Although KATE & ALLIE is a domestic sitcom and DESIGNING WOMEN a workplace sitcom, they do share one common thread: They both belong to the anti-male genre of programming that became more prevalent in the mid- to late-’80s. I suspect at some point, the feminist stridency of both shows will be touched upon in your examination of the two series.

    • Hi, Guy! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      You must have misread; I’m not examining DESIGNING WOMEN.

      Also, for the record, while KATE & ALLIE enjoys premised social commentary (for better and for worse), I don’t consider it to have nearly the “feminist stridency” of the aforementioned, or the implied fixation on a sociopolitical agenda. It is much more earnest and character-forward, with the realistic depiction of its leads as much of a guiding concern as any thematic message — making it a blend of MTM and Lear-ian principles and unlike the idea-led DESIGNING WOMEN.

      In fact, besides both being examples of CBS’ demographic trend towards females in the 1980s, I actually don’t find these two shows aesthetically comparable. If I did, I wouldn’t be covering KATE & ALLIE!

  3. Okay so I’m just going to keep this short if I can

    Definitely cannot wait to talk about Laverne and Shirley.

    I was not expecting family ties to be honest with you. Definitely feel like it’s one of the best sitcoms up it’s time. But I do admit there’s some things I like more than others. I tend to find Michael J’s performance aging gracefully over the years

    Never really been a Kate and Alley fan but I’m definitely intrigued

    Roseanne most definitely cannot wait for your thoughts on

    Empty nest again another show I was not raised that much on by the same time I am a fan of Richard Mulligan. And whenever I do get bored I do watch an episode here and there.

    I almost thought you were going to do a different world but I’m cool with these choices definitely better than designing women

    Enjoy your vacation

    • Hi, Track! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I don’t share your enthusiasm for FAMILY TIES, but I’ve found a way to cover it, and I’m glad you’re excited about its planned inclusion, along with the other shows ahead!

      As for A DIFFERENT WORLD, I’m afraid I didn’t put it in serious contention this time around, for I don’t consider it an exceptional entry in the school-set sitcom subgenre, which is inherently not a favorite of mine because of its tendency towards toothless socially relevant didacticism instead of unique, character-based conflict. And in some ways, FAMILY TIES already satisfies similar narrative impulses… However, I don’t find the show without merit, and it’s one that I’ll reevaluate in six months! Thanks for expressing interest.

  4. Love all your picks. I have to admit that I love FAMILY TIES so I will put my thick skin on when you review. You do such a good job that you may sway me. KATE & ALLIE is another one I look forward to as I really like both the leads. Loved Jane on SNL and Susan in MCMILLAN & WIFE.

    Were you considering THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN at one time? I really enjoyed it also.

    Hope you have a great vacation and get some rest. Thanks for all your hard work.

    • Hi, Smitty! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, I will reconsider 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN if/when we get back to the ’90s. Judging by the other shows we’ve covered so far over the past two years, I think it’s a good candidate for this current pass (but no promises yet)!

      Thanks for the well-wishes!

  5. I am so excited to see that Empty Nest made the cut for 2022. I have been revisiting it myself and I have found myself laughing hysterically at the comic dynamic between Kristy McNichol and Dinah Manoff. This is very much a missing crucial piece of the puzzle when McNichol leaves a few episodes into season five. I like your other choices as well. Love reading your reviews. So cool you make the time to do this!

    • Hi, Zach! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I appreciate your kind words, and I’m also looking forward to EMPTY NEST, coming up here in early 2022!

  6. I do have love for Family Ties and am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it, even if they aren’t especially positive. I am curious how you think Who’s the Boss? dilutes contemporary trends. I have love for that series, but would understand if you didn’t cover it, even though I would be in favor of it being covered here.

    • Hi, Charlie! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I think WHO’S THE BOSS? merges the era’s “modified family” format with an attempt at CHEERS’ romantic tension and an extra mouthy GOLDEN GIRLS-esque broad… only to deliver what is ultimately a routine, banal domestic comedy that does nothing great and isn’t a great example of any of these trends. I expect better from MTM scribes, who should be more adept at committing to character as the primary source of comedy and conflict, without the idea-led narrative clichés that WHO’S THE BOSS? indulges from every direction, lacking the success of other shows that employ these tropes with more personified vitality.

      At least FAMILY TIES, also from an MTM vet, creates one of the best comic personalities of the ’80s in Alex P. Keaton (if the rest of its character work is substandard) while also being a definitive, formative entry in the decade’s domestic subgenre (to which WHO’S THE BOSS? owes the bulk of its identity).

  7. yay i agree with all your choices. Family ties was a essential part of TV in the 80s. Roseanne was one of the shows that brought America from the glitzy 80s into the more modern 1990s. and Empty Nest I loved because I used to watch it right after Golden Girls as a child.

  8. Jackson, hi.

    I was wondering if you thought ’86 – ’87 NBC sitcom “You Again?” is worthy a Wildcard post.

    Also, I suspect the domestic-set “Alf” would not be a good fit here. Do you agree?

    Thank you
    Jackson, hi.

    I was wondering if you thought ’86 – ’87 NBC sitcom “You Again?” is worthy a Wildcard post.

    Also, I suspect the domestic-set “Alf” would not be a good fit here. Do you agree?

    Thank you
    Jackson, hi.

    I was wondering if you thought ’86 – ’87 NBC sitcom “You Again?” is worthy a Wildcard post.

    Also, I suspect the domestic-set “Alf” would not be a good fit here. Do you agree?

    Thank you

    • Hi, Paul! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Although I have no plans currently for either, if YOU AGAIN? were to show up, it would likely be in a “potpourri” piece instead of its own separate entry. As for ALF, I appreciate it as perhaps the most memorable example of the fantasy trend that existed in the genre during the late ‘80s, and for the way it puts a wrinkle in that era’s domestic clichés. But, at this time, I can’t make a quality-based argument for its fundamentally gimmicky premise and the lack of character work or comic dimension outside of the titular lead.

  9. Great choices. I Loved Laverne & Shirley. I watched Family Ties and Empty Nest, but most probably wouldn’t have if not for their respective lead ins (especially Empty Nest). I’m mostly with you on Designing Women. It mostly lives and dies at the feet of Delta Burke, so really only seasons 3 and 4 are what I’d call excellent. Even by 5 the producers were obviously easing her out the door, and it shows when she’s basically reduced to a “cameo” type character.

    • Hi, Glenn! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I think DESIGNING WOMEN’s problems transcend Burke and I find that the discourse surrounding the series’ quality after her departure is overstated, especially when linked directly *to* her departure. That is, an episode from Season Three and from Season Six both bear witness to the same endemic issues that preclude my ability to laud the show in this blog’s context… and without enough of a qualitive disparity to make any annual distinctions paramount. (And, it should go without saying, but I wouldn’t be able to share your enthusiasm for Seasons Three and Four by calling them “excellent;” if I thought they were, I’d be covering DESIGNING WOMEN in full!)

      • Fair points! I should have qualified that with “have some excellent episodes” (imo). Delta was obviously my favorite, and when paired with Meshach Taylor (like “Foreign Affairs” I thought she was gold.

        • I think Taylor is an underrated comic actor — an asset to this series and several others (including the courageous BUFFALO BILL).

  10. I’m so happy you will be discussing KATE & ALLIE a show I made sure to tape every week (and got to go to a taping at the Ed Sullivan Theater). A snippet that can make me laugh anytime is when Allie (Jane Curtain) is snowed in with guest star Andrea Martin and they must fill a day of cable programming. Her reading of area codes and tasting her recipe of meatloaf using dog food and pillow stuffing make me LAUGH so much!
    I wish you were more into DESIGNING WOMEN but I’ll just nod my head.

    • Hi, bobster427! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Stay tuned for KATE & ALLIE, coming later this year! I hope you’ll share your reminiscences of the episodes you saw taped.

      As for DESIGNING WOMEN, I’ve tried several times to enjoy the series – sincerely — only to become more and more chagrined with its substandard character work, which isn’t allayed by an overarching value or critical concern that excites me as being ideal for this blog’s subjective quality-seeking study… Nevertheless, I would like to get Linda Bloodworth-Thomason’s stable of shows represented here in some capacity eventually, so I suspect that I’ll try again in another few years…

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