Best Comedy TV (Part 1)

I know that what constitutes the “best” of anything is very much a personal issue, especially as it pertains to entertainment — Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles has been hailed as one of the best movie comedies ever made, for instance, yet I can’t watch it past the first five minutes — but I think when to comes to TV sitcoms, it’s not too difficult a job to create a list of at least eight which could be classified as “really, really good, if not the best”.  So here’s what follows for the next eight Saturdays:  my personal favorite TV sitcoms, being defined as those which I could watch (and sometimes have watched) from Episode One through Episode Final, and which I can safely call “the best”.  They are in no specific order, and as with all my lists, their popularity is irrelevant:  I  happened to love them, and that’s all that counts.  Note too that the list doesn’t include many (or any) of the newer shows, simply because I gave up watching TV to any degree in about 2005.  And I’ve excluded cartoons (with one exception), because I’ve only ever watched a few, and none all the way through. Here goes with 1…

Cheers
As ensemble casts go, this one pretty much had it all.  Almost every character was funny and outrageous, and they seemed to take it in turns — sometimes within the same episode — to make the viewer roar with laughter.  My absolute favorite character was George Wendt’s Norm, whose comebacks on entry were one-line classics:

“Hey Norm, how’s the world been treating you?”
“Like a baby treats a diaper.”
and:
“Can I pour you a draft, Mr. Peterson?”
“A little early, isn’t it Woody?”
“For a beer?”
“No, for stupid questions.”

And finally, I will be forever grateful to Cheers for introducing me to Kirstie Alley:

 

9 comments

  1. My favorite Normism was one of his replies to Sam’s common question, “How’s it goin’ Norm? Norm answered, “It’s a dog eat dog world Sam and I’m wearing milkbone underwear.”

    Leave us not forget Shelley Long, who played Sam’s love interest Diane for the first few seasons. Diane was not a particularly palatable character although she proved a worthy foil for japes from the rest of the barflies. But not long before Cheers debuted she starred in, for my money, one of the funniest comedies of all time, Night Shift, with Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler. In the flick Shelley was stupefyingly sexy, and of course funny. Kim if you’ve never seen it I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  2. Fantastic writing that was actually funny, week after week each person playing their part making fun of the others with some sexual innuendo and tension. I remember in the late 1980’s Kirstie was on the Johnny Carson show talking about how much fun it was to be part of that cast and Johnny asked her if she had anything to say to Shelly Long who she replaced. Kirstie’s answer was, “What the hell were you thinking when you left the show, what the hell were you thinking?” Then Kirstie followed that up with thanking Shelly.

  3. Cheers is, indeed, one of the better ones, and I, too, will offer that Kirstie Alley was a better choice than Shelly Long. Light years better.

    Thing about Cheers, though, and it’s probably just me, but as an ensemble cast able to play off against, and with, each other they were terrific, as standalone, not so much. Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier Crane, for example, was great as part of the Cheers cast, but I can’t tolerate 60 seconds of that character on his own show. Same for Ted Danson; as Sam he was excellent, but wherever he needs to carry the load on his own he’s a disappointment.

    Probably also has a lot to do with the writing staff, and maybe the director, but the interaction between a particular group of actors portraying particular characters sometimes does more to work the magic than it’s frequently given credit for.

  4. Truck driver: I got a load of sorghum for Sam Malone
    Sam : I hate voice mail, I said get some more gum.
    Sam: Woody what’s sorghum?
    Woody: Animal fodder
    Sam: If you put it in a bowl you think these guys will eat it?

  5. Married … With Children, still my favourite

    Peggy: I want sex.
    Al: So do I, but I see no reason to drag *you* into it.

    Al: Women should have three breasts – two in front and one in the back for dancing.

    All in the Family

    Mike Stivic: In today’s society, people throw things out because they don’t work.
    Archie Bunker: Well you don’t work, maybe we should throw you out.

  6. Well, Kim, if you don’t care for Blazing Saddles what do you think of Young Frankenstein?
    Gene Wilder & Peter Boyle doing “Putting On The Ritz” is a classic bit.

  7. Best movie comedy for me was ‘Animal House’, in my case it was kind of a documentary having gone off to college in 1963 where we had to wear beanies at first and I pledged the, wait for it, the animal house on our campus. Not quite as bad as the movie but damn funny year trying to get above C level on grades and lots of girls and lots of drinking. We were banned from campus for our Christmas party so we rented a party house not too far from St. Louis where you went in the kitchen and walked down through a trap door that was a real 1930’s Speak Easy with a lot more footage than the house above.

    That movie has some of my favorite lines.

  8. Gilligan’s Island. Unabashedly American, two of the hottest (though Mary Ann wins hands-down) actresses to ever grace the small screen, creative and entertaining, even after all these years.

  9. I’ve stopped watching TV altogether. Some political Star Drek episode did that for me years ago. One result is, I’m clueless when someone refers to something in popular culture.

    As to movie comedies: The Horse’s Mouth, with Alec Guinness and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

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