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 Nest, which 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!