Whatever Happened to Sitcoms???
As many of you know, I am something of a message board junkie. I do love my boards, and check them at least once a day, health permitting. There have been plenty of times that my boards have helped me keep my sanity; I'm afraid I don't handle inactivity too well, and sometimes MS keeps you pretty damned inactive.
Anyhoo, today on one of my boards, we were discussing great sitcoms of the past. We debated our favorite episodes of "Rosanne" with glee. And then one of the posters asked, "Whatever happened to sitcoms?" And I thought about it.
She's right, you know. Sitcoms these days have taken a back seat to police dramas like "Law & Order," "CSI" and "NYPD Blue." Audiences today seem to favor the more serious shows like "The West Wing," "The Sopranos" and "ER." And let's face it: reality TV has taken control, and although none of the shows have any actual bearing on reality...the fad just won't die. Where is the comic relief?
In the 80's, sitcoms were the mainstays of television. You had basically two types of sitcoms: Family Fare, and Adult-Tinged Humor. Of the Family Fare, Cosby was King. Of this, there can be no doubt. I remember Friday mornings at school, when we'd all gather on the playground to talk about what funny thing Cos had done the night before. No one missed it. No one would even dream of it. And outside of Cosby, there were other shows the whole family could watch with impunity: "Family Ties," "Family Matters," "Perfect Strangers," "Full House" (which unleased the Olsen Twins upon the world; a pox on the show forever, I say). Plenty of laughs for all ages. Of the Adult-Tinged Humor, there was no shortage: "Rosanne," "Cheers," "Taxi," "Married...With Children," "The Golden Girls," "M*A*S*H." We loved to laugh in the 80's, and we had the hairstyles to prove it.
Even into the more morose 90's, sitcoms abounded: "Friends," "Frasier," "Seinfeld," "Home Improvement." The Family Fare-type began to suffer a bit in favor of more young-and-hip "Ally McBeal"-type shows...but there was still plenty of quality chuckles to be found on the small screen.
So what happened? Why all the crap sitcoms on the dial today? I mean, let's look at what the humor-starved television viewer has to contend with in any given week:
1) Everybody Loves Raymond. No, everybody does NOT love this tired, cliche-ridden show. It's had it's truly genius moments (such as the episode in which Marie sculpts a vagina-esque monstrosity), but most of the time, I am bored stiff by it. I mean, we get the joke already: living across the street from your in-laws is a bad idea. Did we really need an entire, long-running series to tell us this? And I must say, I don't know how Raymond and Debra manage to stay married, I really don't. Besides the constant stress of the in-law situation...they don't seem to get along AT ALL. Ray is constantly sneaking around trying to avoid his wife's wrath, and Debra is constantly releasing said wrath upon him. He's an idiot, and she somehow missed this before the nuptials and is intent on letting him know how stupid he is at every possible opportunity. I just want to smack her across that smug face and yell, "Hey, YOU married him...if he's an idiot, what does that make YOU?" In two words: not funny.
2) Will & Grace. Speaking of cliches...I think this show has run through just about every tired old gay joke in the book. The writers must be hitting Klan meetings to find all this pathetic material. The only character I can stand on this show is Karen. Anyone who throws uppers and downers in a bowl and calls it her "Party Mix" is just plain funny. But everyone else? Spare me.
3) Yes, Dear. This show is better than Ambien for putting people to sleep. I think it may be single-handedly responsible for lowering the sex drive of those who watch it. How did this end up in syndication? It's a conspiracy...there's no other plausible explanation.
4) King of Queens. Another show in which the wife somehow overlooked her husband's shortcomings before catapulting down the aisle and is now making him pay for her shortsightedness. It's mean-spirited, and it's NOT funny. A complete waste of Jerry Stiller.
5) That 70's Show. This USED to be hilarious...past tense. See my post, That 70's Show: Love It and Leave It for an explanation as to what has happened, in my bitchy viewpoint of course, to this once-fantastic show.
6) Quintuplets. Bad idea, bad acting....bad period. There is not one single redeeming quality to this show...except perhaps that it is only on one night per week.
7) Still Standing. I loved Jami Gertz in "The Lost Boys." Adored her. But could they have made her any less funny, and any frumpier-looking, in this pile of shit? What the hell happened to her hair? I think she might have been the only person in America to buy one of those Flowbee things off the infomercials. Either that, or a hairstylist somewhere needs to be shot.
8) Hope and Faith. Please, for the love of all that it is holy, please somebody shoot Kelly Ripa already.
9) Malcolm in the Middle. I used to enjoy this show...but like "That 70's Show", it's run out of steam. Which is too bad, because I was really rooting for a program that featured an Alaskan Native character (it's just been too damned long since "Northern Exposure").
10) The George Lopez Show. I don't know anyone in real life who's ever been able to sit through an entire episode of this show. Or who could tell me what it's about. I know I can't do either.
So what is the comedy fan to do? Well, you can watch one of the few good sitcoms on the air ("Scrubs" being the only one that really leaps to mind), or stick with animation. The "Simpsons" is still the funniest damned show on tv, "King of the Hill" is hilarious, and Fox will soon correct its grave error and revive the awesome, twisted beauty that is "The Family Guy" (which almost makes up for its horrid news coverage). You can also, if you are so inclined, watch re-runs (thank you Nic at Nite), or head over to BBCAmerica for older yet classic British humor of "The Young Ones," "Keeping Up Appearances" and "Father Ted." But if you don't have cable or don't like cartoons...you're on your own.
Networks, take note: we're having a war and a recession here. That means we need to laugh, now more than ever. Find us a New Millenium Rosanne. Or hell, just find us anything worth watching that will leave us laughing until we cry. Just don't cast Kelly Ripa in it, whatever you do....