Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday on a Tuesday… which I’m counting as an extra Sitcom Tuesday, for I’m sharing thoughts on a short-lived series that, well, I wouldn’t say is on the level of most Sitcom Tuesday offerings — mainly because it didn’t run long enough — but it’s certainly among the best I’ve ever examined for inclusion in a Potpourri piece. And for that reason, like last month’s Almost Perfect, I wanted to give it its own post… As you’ll note, I’m retaining the straightforward casual structure of my commentary as it would have appeared in a Potpourri entry (because the brevity is clarifying), but make no mistake — this is one of those rare “diamonds in the rough” of which sitcom archeologists like me wish there were more…
EVERYTHING’S RELATIVE (April 1999, NBC)
Premise: A comedy writer has an eccentric family.
Cast: Kevin Rahm, Jeffrey Tambor, Eric Schaeffer, Jill Clayburgh, Maureen Cassidy, Ashley Gardner
Writers: Mitchell Hurwitz, Jim Vallely, Rob LaZebnik
Thoughts: Not to be confused with the 1980s Jason Alexander show of the same name, this single-camera (with laugh track) sitcom created by former Golden Girls and John Larroquette scribe Mitchell Hurwitz often seems like a precursor to his revolutionary Arrested Development, about a dysfunctional family of weirdos, also with Jeffrey Tambor as the patriarch. But Everything’s Relative is even lower concept, with an autobiographical setup centered around a young comedy writer. The scripts are fast and funny like Hurwitz’s later work though, boasting brilliant comic ideas and strong characters who propel the laughs because of their outrageous personalities. Tambor (recently out of Larry Sanders) and Jill Clayburgh are both particularly hysterical, and even though only four episodes were ever broadcast, this already looks like a show that should have been a serious contender. If it had run just a full season, we’d still be talking about it today as a lost gem — it’s that funny and well-written. (You’ll see the Arrested Development origins.)
Episode Count: Six episodes produced; four broadcast.
Episodes Seen: All four broadcast episodes.
Key Episodes (of Seen): #2: “Prisoner Of Love” (04/13/99)
#3: “City Of Flies” (04/20/99)
Why: Although all four episodes are funny, these two are the funniest — #2 has a story propelled by Kevin Rahm as the anchor, who’s dysfunctional as a result of everyone else’s dysfunction around him, and #3 (featured here) memorably channels the family’s bonkers qualities through a fixation on Mexican baskets. Great fun!
Come back next week for another Sitcom Tuesday! And stay tuned for a new Wildcard, where I’m announcing the results of our 2023 survey and what you can expect over the next few years!