Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday, on a Tuesday! This week, I’ve got another Q&A entry, where I answer questions submitted by readers. Thanks to everyone who sent in something — if you don’t see your “Q” here, I just may “A” it next time. (And keep them coming — any related topic on which you want my opinion and/or a little research? Just let me know!)
Track wants to know… Who are your favorite ensembles in Sitcom history?
At the risk of giving a generic answer, I think a lot of the best sitcoms have great ensembles, because that’s part of what makes them great — you know, I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All In The Family, Cheers, The Golden Girls, Seinfeld, Frasier, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, etc. But I’ll also specifically mention Gilligan’s Island and That ’70s Show, along with the recently covered Evening Shade and the upcoming Living Single.
esoteric1234 asks… What is the worst sitcom episode you have ever seen?
Hard to say off the top of my head. It’s probably something that features a non-communicative animal being falsely treated as a character, and thus a strained brand of “aesthetic realism.”
Ross says… I was wondering which of the more obscure very short lived sitcoms you have analysed – and I’m thinking here of series that only managed single digit episode runs before being cancelled or shelved – do you think might have made a great or at least good show if it had had a little more time?
With a single-digit episode limitation, I can only think of two series that impressed me with a strong design and a healthy (albeit growing) understanding of how to use their characters. Those would be Report To Murphy (1982) and Shaping Up (1984), both recently discussed in Potpourri posts from this past year. The former feels like a more character-driven Barney Miller, the latter a gym-set Cheers with a proxy father-son relationship at its center (instead of a romance).
Kristen writes in with… Hi Jackson, I came across your article about Good Advice while doing a little research on Shelley Long for something I’m working on. I noticed you mentioned that the show was delayed because she contracted a long illness. Any idea what that was? Did she have a mental health episode then?
I can’t confirm anything about a mental health episode, but I did find these newspaper clippings from fall 1993. It seems Shelley Long was out sick for ten days, came back to the set, collapsed, and then was away for nearly a month — delaying the premiere of her series’ second season from October 1993 to, eventually, May 1994. Hope this helps!
And Robasoo needs help… Do you have any recommendations for getting a friend interested in Broadway musicals? They’re already curious, just never been exposed.
If your friend wants to experience Broadway musicals, it’s best to start with some of the best. I’ve had luck in the past showing pals Annie Get Your Gun (1946), Kiss Me Kate (1948), South Pacific (1949), The Music Man (1957), and Gypsy (1959) because their scores are consistently great, and their storytelling is accessible yet thought-provoking. Now, I find professionally shot stage productions more persuasive than films, but seeing any dramatic performance (music + plot) of a Golden Age classic should be inspiring and help spark further interest.
Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned tomorrow for Martin!