Sitcoms

Top Five is a show where the hosts categorize, rank, compare, and stratify everything… from cars to gadgets to people and movies. From stuff that is hot, and things that are not nearly as interesting – it’s Top Five.

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20 Comments

  1. April 12, 2013 at 10:59 am — Reply

    Great show this week everybody.

    Matthew: I can’t believe it took me this long to get the Critical Hit reference. I love the The Monkees and as soon as you started talking about it all snapped in place for me. Good job. The episode with the Devil is the only episode I can really remember fully. I was young when I watched it and it stuck with me. I remember thinking afterward “Man that was deep, that meant something.” but I was to young to understand what it was. I was considering my list of shows while listening and The Monkees were always going to be on it.

    So my list

    5: Are You Being Served?: I first watched this show on PBS. I think I had the flu and couldn’t sleep. I remember the next day asking my parents what it was, and they had no idea. It was in the 90’s I’m sure, probably late 90’s. For a whole I couldn’t figure out when it aired, so I thought maybe I hallucinated the show into existence. Great show about a bunch of stereotypical British people working in a department store and all the high-jinks one can get into in such a place. I vaguely recall a time when you got that kind of service in a store. I think they eventually closed the store and made the characters go to work in a hotel…but I might be making that up.

    4. Gilligan’s Island: For all the reasons talked about on the podcast and because i can count on it to lighten my day no matter what. I can just shut my brain off and not think for half an hour and laugh at the silly antics

    3: Hogan’s Heroes: Discussed a bit in the Zach on Film “Great Escape” episode, this show probably should be called a “farce” rather than “sitcom” but I don’t think that category exists in popular opinion. Much like Gilligan this show lets me laugh but has the added bonus of a spy story mixed in every now and then.

    2. Get Smart: A James Bond spoof, again form the 60’s. A show about a bumbling secret agent who manages to become the most renowned agent in the American Secret Agent business. Shoe phones, crazy hiding places..man I wish it were on Netflix. I even liked the Steve Carrel movie in ’08, though it was more of a “re-imagining” than a “re-make”

    1: The Monkees: I talked about this above…really just an amazing show.

    Man…lot of old shows on my list. I’m only 31 I swear. I guess I just like old television.

  2. April 12, 2013 at 11:10 am — Reply

    Rodrigo is entirely right about Robin, she’s a beautiful lady. Victoria is character at the ‘jumped the shark’ moment for me. Haven’t watched at all this season, as Ted running off with Victoria on her Wedding Day at the end of last season made me not care who the mother is anymore. At all.

    Here’s my list:

    5. Daria – I love this show. One of the best shows of the 1990s, Daria was a great ensemble comedy that happened to be animated. Sharp, smart writing, that captured the zeitgeist of the 90s as well as Seinfeld did, but for a different demographic.

    4. Arrested Development – Brilliant writing, great cast.The humor is very dense, in that it is layered, full of callbacks, subtle running gags, overt running gags, and visual bits in the background. It is very, very smart. Repeat viewing of the antics of the Bluth clan is required. So very influential.

    3. M*A*S*H – This show was my absolute favorite show, bar none, for years. Amazing comedic cast, with fantastic writing, hilarious comedy stirred in with serious drama. The original TV Dramedy. It set up that whole life and death takes a little insanity to deal with. I’ve seen every episode of every season of this show many many times. Syndication made this show run perpetually somewhere in the late 80s and early 90s, and I was frequently there to watch it.

    2. Cheers – The great thing about Cheers is that almost every episode has a single setting and the characters usually wander through. The bar itself is a character on the show. It puts characters together, and creates the opportunity for anyone to walk through. There are episodes that take place outside of the bar, but they are the exception not the rule.

    1. Married…With Children – The Anti-Sitcom. Married…With Children was such a great show. It had ebbs and flows in quality over the years, to be sure, but I still love it. It was such brilliant satire of the family sitcom genre. The show was designed as the Anti-Cosby Show, and succeeded beyond, that becoming its own thing. One of the shows that helped launch the Fox Network. Vicious, cynical, black humor, swirling around Al Bundy the ultimate everyman. We all feel like Al some days. I still stop and watch eps when I stumble across them, and I howl with laughter every time I do.

    Better Off Ted was too smart to live I think. It was so very, very funny. Great satirical take on corporate life, corporate mentality, CYA office politics, and the bureaucratic complexities that always seem to result in ridiculously complex answers when simplicity will do. Good call Rodrigo, good also ran from me. Other also rans for me: Community, Andy Griffith Show, Newhart, and Raising Hope,

    Night Court and Barney Miller get special Honorable Mentions, because I watched them with my dad (along with MASH), who could be literally brought to tears laughing at them.

    • Dan Kobel
      April 13, 2013 at 8:52 am — Reply

      M*A*S*H – disqualified because it ran 3.33 times longer than the war it was nominally about. Also, AfterMASH

      • April 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm — Reply

        M*A*S*H was more a satire and commentary about Vietnam and the dehumanizing horrors of modern warfare than it was about the war in which it was set. That is why it was so good. It used a less controversial conflict to address issues about a much more controversial one.

        I don’t judge any show based on ill-advised spinoffs. Joanie Loves Chachi anyone?

        • Dan Kobel
          April 17, 2013 at 5:23 am — Reply

          Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy more than made up for JLC.

          I know M*A*S*H was really about VietNam, that’s what made season 1 so good. By season, what 7, by the time even Radar O’Reilly left and the show became the Alan Alda Soapbox/laugh track hour. Snoozer.

          Sorry, I guess I just don’t like M*A*S*H very much, or at all.

  3. Wignke
    April 12, 2013 at 11:15 am — Reply

    Great show, but I am truly surprised that the Cosby Show didn’t make anyone’s list nor did I hear it in the also rans. I’ll admit that it ran to long like many popular shows especially when they had to introduce a new kid for Bill to interact with each season, but the first few seasons were amazing.

    What sold the show for me is the episode where Theo gets a D on his English paper. When Cliff confronts him, Theo give a long heartwarming speech about how he’s just not good at such things and why can’t his parents love him for who he is, ext. Normally on a show during this period the scene would have ended there with them embracing and the studio audience seem to be ready for that. So when Cliff grabs Theo and looks him in the eye and says, “Theo… That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. No wonder your getting D’s in English,” the reaction is amazing. In that moment those characters became real.

    I was also disappointed that Everybody Loves Raymond was on the list. Everything about that show gets my hackles up, but luckily you addressed some of the major issues.

  4. Dino
    April 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm — Reply

    #5 Frasier: As far as TV spinoffs go, I can think of few that are quite as entertaining as this one. The way all of the characters interact is just hilarious, whether it be Niles making Frasier seem grounded by comparison, or Martin’s constant exasperation with his son’s antics. The show sort of petered out in the last couple of seasons, as TV shows tend to do, but on average it is just hilarious.

    #4 King of the Hill: This is the story of Hank Hill, the world’s most boring man, and his hilarious misadventures. There are so many great characters, like Bill (expertly played by Stephen Root), Hank’s longtime friend who suffers from chronic depression (and it’s played for laughs) or Hank’s wife Peggy, who knows a lot less about the world than she thinks she does. Heck, later seasons feature the perpetually offbeat Lucky, who is played my music legend Tom Petty. This show is probably the most grounded sitcom that I’ve seen, and also among the most hilarious.

    #3 Andy Richter Controls the Universe: Many shows outstay their welcome. Other shows, like this one get cut short. Starring Conan O’Brien’s sidekick, this obscure show only ran a single season and had some of the weirdest humor I have ever seen in a television show. The first gag on the show is the title character saying “Every day brings infinite possibilities,” where, upon getting out of bed he knocks a cup of coffee onto his alarm and electrocutes himself to death. “I didn’t say they were all good.” The wierdness ensues, like Andy’s interactions with the ghost of his company’s racist founder, or his sneaking suspicion that the guy who delivers sandwiches to the office is in fact Adolf Hitler. Never a dull moment. If you can find it, watch it.

    #2 The Simpsons: This is probably the most culturally significant television show that has been produced in my lifetime. I hardly have to explain the premise, because I’m sure every human who has owned a television has seen this show. But, one of the highlights for this show would have to be the Halloween episodes. Spoofing things from Pet Sematary and The Shining, to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Sound of Thunder, the Halloween episodes always seemed the most creative. I could go on and on about the voice acting talent, or the smart writing, or how it managed to stay funny for so many years, but I’ll just say I loved this show. The shame is that the show is now a shadow of what it once was. I like to think that it ended with the grand finale that is the Simpsons Movie.

    #1 News Radio: I am going to gush about this show for a while, because it is amazing. This is the story of Dave Nelson, a somewhat naive mid-western man who finds a job as news director of a New York radio station. Over the course of four seasons of dealing with the lunatics that work at the station, Dave slowly descends into madness, becoming a shell of the man he once was. This show had the best ensemble cast of any show ever. There were no bad characters. Khandi Alexander, Andy Dick, Dave Foley, Vicky Lewis, Jon Lovitz, Phil Hartman, Joe Rogan, Stephen Root, and Maura Tierney were hilarious on their own, and had amazing chemistry as a group. Beyond the regular cast there was a long list of guest stars that added so much, including (but not limited to): David Cross, Norm McDonald, Dennis Miller, Brian Posehn, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Ben Stiller, Tiffany Amber Thiessen, Patrick Warburton and so many other great actors. Phil Hartman’s death was a tragic event that was one of the reasons (including executive meddling) that the show was cut short. Worthwhile for anyone who has a sense of humor.

    • April 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm — Reply

      That is the great thing about this show….Every time I read the comments, I always see one and say to myself, “How the hell could you forget THAT one!’

      NewsRadio would have been, could have been, SHOULD have been on my list. The entire cast was just brilliant with amazing chemistry.. It was lucky to have survived as long as it did. NBC seemingly put in in a different time slot every damned week, and you really had to be a fan to hunt it down and keep up with it.

    • April 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm — Reply

      Everybody Love Raymond, except me. Ugh,

  5. April 12, 2013 at 6:56 pm — Reply

    I was really surprised by the shows missing! Way heavy on 80’s and 90’s stuff and wow, thank the Lord for Mathew!

    First, my just misses: All In the Family, Cheers, Night Court, Laverne and Shirley (Milwaukee only), Happy Days (pre Howard and Most leaving), Married with Children and I Love Lucy. Newer shows? How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory are OK but most current sitcoms frankly suck.

    Here are my Top 5:

    5. Welcome Back Kotter. Obviously before Travolta bolted and Kaplan phased himself out. The cast was outstanding and while the show itself could be downright silly, for the first two years it was a fun romp. I have always wondered how the show would have fared if they would have moved it to a community college like Gabe wanted.

    4. Father Ted – If you have never seen this British import, do yourself a favor and watch it. Set on Craggy Island, Father Ted Crilly is sent to the island as a punishment (something about money “resting in his bank account.”). The cast is great and the shows (Kicking the Bishop Up the Arse and Speed stand out) are laugh out loud funny. It would have had a longer life had it’s star not passed away between seasons.

    3. The Mary Tyler Moore Show. On my list if for no other reason than it has the 2nd greatest sitcom episode in history – Chuckles Bites the Dust. OK that and Ted Knight.

    2. WKRP in Cincinnati. A show that will never live properly in reruns due to music issues. The cast, superb. The writing, outstanding. The treatment by CBS, abysmal. Killed by an ever shifting time slot, the mighty ‘KRP should have had a few more seasons in the tank. Host of the greatest half hour of sitcom gold ever – Turkey’s Away!

    1. The Andy Griffith Show (Only the B/W years). Aunt Bea’s Pickles, Opie the Bird Man, Gomer Pyle and the great Barney Fife. This show is funny without being foul, smart without being condescending and the gold standard for TV. No show since can hold a candle to it. It is re-watchable and has stood the test of time. Not even the greatest of the TGIF or Must See line-up is worthy to stand next to it in the pantheon of TV.

    • Dan Kobel
      April 13, 2013 at 8:10 am — Reply

      Re: 2. WKRP in Cincinnati – Not only the greatest half hour of sitcom gold ever but also the single greatest line in the history of sitcoms and perhaps television, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”

      • April 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm — Reply

        I make it a point to show clips of Turkey’s Away to my middle school students every year before Thanksgiving break. Yes, it is a stretch, but kids don’t believe you can be funny without being dirty.

  6. BRZA
    April 12, 2013 at 8:28 pm — Reply

    5. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: this show’s theme-song is a touchstone to pretty much everyone of my generation. The writing is schlocky, but everything is so definitive of the early 90s, from the fashion to the music. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was also one of the first cds I bought, and kindled my love of hip-hop. Ahh for those innocent days when Will Smith could rap all day about doing your homework and staying out late.

    4. Red Dwarf: BBC sci-fi comedy that asks the eternal question: what if the only humans to survive into the distant future were not our scientists and politicians, but a single Liverpudlian blue-collar slob who had been locked in suspended animation on a deep-space mining vessel? The plots are bizarre, involving all sorts of time-shennanigans, but usually explore the Odd Couple relationship between Dave Lister and his holographic former bunkmate, a talentless and petty tool named Arnold Rimmer. The show is witty and remarkably creative for its low budget

    3. Arrested Development: you already had a pretty thorough run-through of the show. As is typical, I didn’t start watching it until long after the series had been cancelled, but I immediately fell for the ensemble cast. I guess I am the opposite of Zach – I actually HATE awkward humor. Shows like The Office are actively poisonous to my system; I inevitably feel vicariously embarrassed for the characters. Arrested Development cruises right on the line of being painful to watch, but the writing is so on its hard to not love the characters for their crippling flaws.

    2. Father Ted: a truly brilliant comedy revolving around three priests assigned to a Podunk island off the Irish seacoast. The three have all been shunted off to Craggy Island in punishment for their improprieties: lust, greed and stupidity. The satire of the Church is of course brutal, but the characters are all so brilliant played that it isn’t one-dimensional. Tragically, the show ended after its third season when Dermont Morgan, who played Father Ted, suffered a fatal heart attack. Cat Halo can probably back me up on this one – the show is absolute genius.

    1. The Simpsons: without question this has been one of the most pervasive influences on my life. In the early 90s it was a Sunday ritual watching new episodes with my dad and older brother, and the show still conjures intense childhood nostalgia. During the first seven seasons or so, the Simpsons was unquestionably the smartest, most subversive show on television. Episodes are littered with oblique references to history, literature and cinema that were totally lost on my tiny, still-congealing brain, but the characters and animation were all so excellent, I never cared.

  7. Dan Kobel
    April 13, 2013 at 8:50 am — Reply

    5. Get a Life – Chris Elliot as an old paperboy. Bob Elliot as his dad in a robe. Wacked out zaniness ensues. Favorite episode, “Bored Straight”

    4. The Simpsons – The longest running sitcom in the history of the universe and all space and time. For better or for worse, the Fox Network arguably owes its existence to this show. Also, my sister and I have had conversations that were 83% Simpsons quotes, and they made sense! Favorite episode, “Whacking Day” and “Homer vs. the 18th Amendment” (tie)

    3. Fawlty Towers – John Cleese owned PBS in the early 80’s between Monty Python reruns and Fawlty Towers reruns. Cleese was like a human cartoon character with the different contortions he would put himself through. And God bless Manuel, that little guy could take a beating. Favorite episode, “The Builders”

    2. Taxi – Louie DaPalma is worth all of the Alex Rieger soapbox stands they made you sit through. And then some. Favorite episode, “The Great Race”

    1. The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart – because arguably they are the same show because of the Newhart finale. All of the tropes were there (except for Ted McGinley) wacky neighbors, wacky clients, wacky coworkers, charming smart wives, but Bob Newhart made those shows smart. I think that his pacing was what really made the shows different. Favorite episode – Both finales were pretty awesome. Bonus quote: When presented with a script in which Suzanne Pleshette’s character becomes pregnant, Newhart is reported to have said, “It’s very funny. Who are you going to get to play Bob?”

    Honorable Mentions : Cheers, Barney Miller, Community, Parks and Recreation, Futurama, The Honeymooners (not in the Top Five because, surprisingly, threats of domestic violence didn’t age so well), WKRP in Cincinnati, Are You Being Served?, Three’s Company (my favorite is the one where somebody overhears something and misunderstands it), The Cosby Show.

  8. April 13, 2013 at 11:48 am — Reply

    Hi guys – Came across your pod cast last week, fantastic selection of top five. and Inspired me to start my own. thank you guys.

    My top five sitcoms.

    #5 Some Mothers do ‘ave ’em – a brit slap stick sit com. and he does his own stunts

    #4 F.R.I.E.N.D.S – You guys made jokes of this (understandably) but this was my teenage life so means a lot to me.

    #3 Scrubs – I TOTALLY agree with you guys 1 is just out of the world – 2 and 3 were good … 4 was bad … but 5 and 6 were good … after that I will not believe that they existed.

    #2 Gavin and Stacey – Being from Wales (next to England not in England just encase you didn’t know =p) it hold so many realisations and stereotypes it is beyond sentimental entertainment . if it’s on netflix give it a try guys.

    #1 SPACED – THE UK VERSION. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE just watch it. This is just a geek-fest. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost – Pre Shaun of the dead and Hot Fuzz. This, for me, is the best of the Brit-sit-com.

    Nearlys- The inbetweeners (UK again), The Young Ones, The Royal Family, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Bottom

    again great podcast guys.

  9. Solid Muldoon
    April 13, 2013 at 7:14 pm — Reply

    This episode should be in the dictionary under Comedy is Subjective. You guys have some strange and varied tastes.

    5: The Dick Van Dyke Show. Stylish and funny and sexy. A great blend of workplace and home life comedy. And they let their talented cast show off their other talents. Any episode where Laura dances gets bonus points.

    4: The Monkees. First of all, great music. Mickey Dolenz is the most under-rated singer in pop music history. All the sitcoms today who think they are being so edgy and innovative don’t seem to realize that the Monkees beat them to it by nearly 50 years.

    3: Cheers. As close to a perfect Sit as a Sitcom can get. The pilot episode may be the most perfectly constructed pilot in TV history. Heart, depth and gut-busting laughs.

    2: WKRP. Just brilliant in its handling of the generation gap, the wealth gap, racial issues, and Rock n Roll. Also the sexiest sitcom evah!

    1: Barney Miller. What a brilliant set-up. Take a bunch of great, hysterically funny character actors, stick them in one room, and let the comedy come walking through the door each episode. The best topical humor on a sitcom ever. (Suck it, Murphy Brown. Tip O’Neil fat jokes is NOT topical humor.) Great use of ethnic humor, without ever being insulting. Wonderful side characters. Real heart. The characters actually grew and changed. Great theme song. And pants-wetting funny. My all time favorite TV show.

  10. April 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm — Reply

    I do not entirely agree with the idea that the shows get weaker after a couple of seasons. While I certainly agree that’s the case with *some* shows, I think most of the time it’s just that after the first season it is no longer a novelty, and that nice feeling of having a new ‘toy’ is lost. Anyways, here goes my list:

    5) The Simpsons – I didn’t think of this as a sitcom, but since you guys mentioned it… I’ve always liked The Simpsons, and I still like it. Most people says it is not as good as before, but I still enjoy Homer’s misadventures.

    4) Will & Grace – Maybe its just because I’m gay, but I really liked this show. It was probably one of the first shows in which I saw gay men actually having romantic relationships and Jack and specially Karen Walker were hilarious.

    3) How I met your mother – As Matthew said in the podcast, besides being a really entertaining show, it also has really moving moments, like when Marshal’s father died or when Robin talked to her children. My only complain is that we’re on the 8th season and we still don’t know how he met his wife! Not that I want the show to end, but eight seasons? C’mon!

    2) Friends – I’m surprised no one in the podcast mentioned it, but then again I’m from Chile, so it’s maybe just a cultural difference. Up to this date I still laugh like a maniac every time I catch the show on the TV.

    1) I am a software engineer, who likes comics, tv shows, adventure movies, video games, table-top games and math (yup, math), so I think no one will be surprised if I say that my favorite sitcom at the time is The Big Bang Theory.

    Question for Rodrigo: would “El Chavo del 8” be considered a sitcom? Because if that’s the case I should put that somewhere on my list. I’ve been watching that thing literally my entire life (I’m 32) and I’ll still watch any episode to the end if I catch it on TV

    • BRZA
      April 13, 2013 at 10:31 pm — Reply

      I have seen a few episodes of El Chavo, though a lot of the Spanish was over my head. One thing I’ve never really understood: why are the kids all played by adults? I guess in the end humor is so culturally bound, it’s really hard to translate a joke without explaining it.

  11. Liam
    April 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm — Reply

    So glad to see Red dwarf getting a mention in the comments. Im 17 and it is my favourite sit com of all time. It began in the 80s before i was born and is just as good to me 20 odd years later, being set 3 million years in the future gives it the timeless feeling. The humour is excellent though maybe more British humour. It ran for 8 seasons originally, and although excellent right through it did seem to suffer in the later stages when storylines became series long instead of episode and also more complex.. However a 10th season was comissioned and aired last year (yes it missed 9 but there is a kind of logical explination). This tenth season did what so many revivals failed to do and brought the show back to its roots. A human, an evolved cat, a holographic projection of a dead crewman and a corrupt service android going about life in deep space and driving each other crazy. If youve never seen an episode go now and watch one! My No.1 sitcom of all time. (apologies for grammar and spelling, its late and im writing from a mobile phone!)

  12. Dave
    April 18, 2013 at 8:55 am — Reply

    #5: Community: A fantastic show that continues to hold my attention, even through that sitcom curse that you guys discussed. The later stuff is absolutely not as good as the earlier stuff, but I love it anyway. It is this show that’s restored my faith in modern comedy— so many sitcoms these days just don’t do it for me, I thought I was hopeless.

    #4: Fawlty Towers: This is an old, old, old British sitcom starring John Cleese and a Spanish guy. Cleese is the owner/operator of a hotel, and cannot ever catch a break. Very slapstick, very physical, very simple comedy. I watched this when I was a little child, and i love it still. The image of Cleese making a hitler mustache with his fingers and prancing around in an SS march will be with me forever.

    #3: The Cosby Show: Love, love LoVe, lOvE, love, love, LOVE the Cosby Show. More than anything else, this was my favorite show as a kid. Bill Cosby is such a hilarious person, and Cliff Huxtable is written and portrayed as such a good person, that the combination of actor and character really give you something to latch on to in that child-like idealistic way. It’s a show that gives you hilarity and values at the same time, and was perfect for me, and to this day I will sit down any time, anywhere, and watch some Cosby with anyone.

    #2: Seinfeld: The show about nothing. I can’t really give this one too big of a talk-up. It was comedy gold, pure and simple.Everything about this show was a work of pure genius, and I can’t imagine it getting any better…

    #1: South Park: Oh, wait— Yes I can. Comedy gold, check. Pure genius, check. Add to that a level of zanily creative intellectualism unmatched by almost anything on TV today, and you have South Park. Not only is the show so funny I’ve literally feared for my health laughing at it, but the intelligence behind it, the way they deconstruct an issue in the most ridiculous way…

    This show stimulates on all levels. In a really great episode, there’s something there for everyone, for every level of thought and discourse. Episodes like Medicinal Fried chicken (which examines medical marijuanna), You Have 0 Friends (looking at our dependence on social media), 1% (looking at the Occupy Movement), and Cartoon Wars (deconstructing exactly why Family Guy is a horrible show) really show just how intelligent such a dumb little show about four pottymouths can be.

    Also-rans: MASH, WKRP, The Simpsons, That 70’s Show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air… and the list goes on.

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