Best Comedy TV (Part 4)

The Bob Newhart Show

Back when I were a lad in South Africa, there was no TV (it was only “allowed” by the government in 1975).  So I used to listen to LPs.  (Younger Readers can have their grandparents explain this term to them.)

And if I wasn’t listening to rock ‘n roll, I was listening to comedy records — and more often than not, to Bob Newhart, again and again and again, simply because his deadpan delivery always had me in stitches.

[Walter Raleigh phoning England to let King Bob know what was happening in the Virginia Colony, and listening to the King’s response to the explanation of tobacco]:

“So Walt, what do you do with the dried leaves?  Uh huh… uh huh… you roll them up in paper, and then… you stick it in your mouth?  Of course you do, Walt.  And then what?  No wait, don’t tell me… really?  You set it on fire!  And it makes you cough… of course it does.  Walt, I hate to break it to you, but come the fall here in England, we get quite a few dried leaves ourselves…”  and so on.

So when I emigrated to the U.S. (a.k.a. The Great Wetback Episode of ’86) and discovered The Bob Newhart Show in reruns (on Nickelodeon, I think), bang went that part of my day.

“CBS decided it wanted to concentrate more of the show on my job as a psychologist.  I think one of the reasons for the change is that some CBS officials heard the word “condominium” and thought the show was about sex.”

Only Newhart as “Bob Hartley” could make psychology funny — as opposed to simply pathetic — and often was the time I woke the neighbors with my roars of helpless laughter.  And like so many of the good comedy shows I’ve been talking about, the supporting cast members of Newhart were wonderful, my favorite being long-time patient, the hapless Mr. Carlin.

But nothing repeat nothing compared to Emily.  I’d had a serious boyhood crush on Suzanne Pleshette (OMG that voice), and seeing her as Mrs. Hartley each episode made things a lot worse.  She’s still one of my all-time favorites.

Newhart on Hartley:

“Well, if you’re a native Chicagoan, you know how dumb he [Dr. Robert Hartley] is. He gets on the Ravenswood El, he goes past his stop on Sheridan Road, he gets off in Evanston, where the El is on the ground, and then he walks back 55 blocks to his apartment. Now, would you want to have that man as a psychologist? A man who misses his stop every day?”

(By the way, an honorable mention goes to the follow-on Newhart series, thanks to the brothers Larry, Darryl and the other brother, Darryl;  as deadpan as Newhart, and absurd withal.  And the final reveal in the last episode of Newhart was one of the greatest ever filmed.)

Solidarity

Apparently, some cartoonist is in trouble for, well, drawing a cartoon (and his newspaper has, quite rightly, stood up for him).  Said cartoon,  which, like ALL cartoons, exaggerates the target’s features, has caused him to receive a storm of hate mail and even death threats because racism.  So in solidarity with Mark Knight and because fuck PC censorship, I’m publishing his cartoon here:

Let the fainting, pearl-clutching and hate mail begin.  As for death threats… LOL.


Here are a couple of other Knight cartoons which could have caused a similar response from conservatives, but didn’t (because we have a sense of humor, unlike the Perpetually-Aggrieved).

I love his cartoons of former OzPM, the lefty Welsh-born Julia Gillard:

I can’t wait to see the hate mail from gingers, people with big noses and of course the Sheep-Shaggers.

 

Best Comedy TV (Part 3)

Married… With Children
This show was never supposed to be popular, with its unrelievedly hostile approach to the subject matter.  And yet it was, enormously so, perhaps as an antidote to all the saccharine TV families that had gone before, with their wise mothers, irascible yet good-natured fathers and spunky but lovable children.  Instead, we got Ed Neil’s snarling loser father, Al Bundy, his slatternly non-housewife partner Peg (Katey Sagal), with snarky sex-starved son Bud (David Faustino) and the slutty daughter Kelly (Christine Applegate).  When I first watched this show, I spent much of the time helpless with open-jawed laughter, and it became one of the very few TV shows I looked forward to each week.  And while I loved the buxom Peg, I have to admit that young Kelly Bundy turned me into a Dirty Old Man every time she flounced onto the screen.  I don’t think that I’m alone in this, either.

News Alert — Not

Let me see if I’ve got this straight:  you’re reporting on an industry which is peopled top-to-bottom with lowlife scum and where the amoral depravity of the performers is matched only by the greed, avarice and venality of their managers;  and when you discover that the place was basically Sodom & Gomorrah squared, you clutch your pearls and reach for the smelling salts?

Porn, sex toys, cocaine, a Rolodex of groupies and boasts about manhood size – the sordid truth about life inside Atlantic Records, the label behind Aretha and the Rolling Stones

This is like finding condoms in Bill Clinton’s wallet:  not news.  And lest we forget:  it’s not like journalism is much different, morality-wise.  What a bunch of tools.

As for the [whistle] blower:  she lived in a world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll for year after year, but didn’t quit.  Then she jumped a few musicians and wondered why she was treated like a spare piece of ass in the office.

Sympathy have I none.

Best Comedy TV (Part 2)

Frasier
Quite possibly one of the only spinoffs that was even better than its host series (this one from the above-mentioned Cheers ), Frasier was not just the chronicle of the exploits and catastrophes of the pompous (and hapless) psychiatrist Frasier Crane.  What set this show apart from all others was the relationship between Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier and his onscreen brother, David Hyde Pierce’s Niles, which was absolute perfection — as was the brothers’ relationship with their father, John Mahoney’s Martin Crane.  I think I’m pretty safe in saying that no better family relationship — at times hostile, affectionate, prickly, loving, irritable and always fraught with tension — has ever been written for the small screen.  While the female co-stars played a large part in the show’s quality, the three men were absolutely exquisite.  And speaking of the women, let’s not forget the very-much-underappreciated radio show producer, Peri Gilpin’s Roz:

 

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: