Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! This week, we’re gearing up for Roseanne coverage (which will begin soon), and I’m excited to set the figurative table by resurrecting an old entry from this blog’s nearly nine-year run. Here’s how it works: I’ll provide a link to a piece that I first published many seasons ago, and then I’ll offer a bit of updated commentary. But, as I always caution, please be gentle; this early article is from a long time ago, and my standards have changed as I’ve changed — I’ve improved as a thinker, a communicator, and a television-watcher.
So, let’s revisit… The Ten Best THE COSBY SHOW Episodes of Season Two: https://jacksonupperco.com/2016/07/26/the-ten-best-the-cosby-show-episodes-of-season-two/
Our upcoming look at Roseanne will complete our study of the family sitcom subgenre in the 1980s, which started with the idealized Family Ties, a series that typifies all the tropes we associate with this era; then continued on with Kate & Allie, a show that reflects these ideals but with a “modified wrinkle” in its premise; and will eventually culminate in the blue-collar, anti-sentimental rebuttal that formed near the end of the decade, with offerings like Married… With Children, spoofing its predecessors and their artifice. Naturally, Roseanne is part of this so-called “rebuttal,” yet it’s different from that FOX rebel because, while it also broadly signals this heretofore described evolution, it’s less a satire than a sincere counter. But more on this later… In the meantime, I want to give more context to Roseanne by briefly revisiting The Cosby Show, which I call the quintessential family sitcom of the 1980s — embodying all the qualities evidenced in shows like Family Ties, but with more artistic success. For, in the same way that Roseanne would evolve the subgenre by prioritizing comedy over sentimentality while striving for more realism, Bill Cosby’s ’80s classic could similarly boast being a funnier and more truthful take on a nuclear family than most of its contemporaries. Accordingly, although Roseanne, especially when associated with Married… With Children, seems stylistically opposed to such emblematic fare as The Cosby Show, it’s actually a direct progression, continuing the same thoughts — only with more comic aggression and a new working class sensibility (more relatable to most viewers). Unsurprisingly, this aesthetic link is indeed corroborated by a shared variable: Matt Williams, a key scribe from the first four seasons of The Cosby Show who would then go on to create and spearhead Barr’s series during its first season (making him the first in a long line of battered writers). I point this out now because understanding Roseanne in relation to The Cosby Show — and Married… With Children — is vital to our overall perception of its charms, and this real connection is important. In fact, I selected Season Two — this series’ second best; it’s not as strong as its freshman year, but it’s very good, and collectively, represents, with One, the 1980s family sitcom at its most accurate and enjoyable — because it contains some of Williams’ best work, including my MVE, “Theo’s Holiday.” This is the perfect time to give it another view…
Come back next week for another Sitcom rerun! And stay tuned tomorrow for a new Wildcard!