“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Top Ten Sitcoms” Chapter 60
By Bruce Williams
The following is a countdown of my favorite sitcoms based on several factors: their staying power, general re-watchability, inherent belly laughs and pure fearlessness. Comedy is tough—comedy that lasts is priceless. While many of your favorites may not be listed here (sorry, most deserving M*A*S*H and Cheers), these are the ten I painstakingly narrowed it down to—and continue to watch to this day. Debates are welcome, but you’ll be expected to fully justify your complaints and harrumpheries.
10 Friends—My wife and daughter still put this show on quite a bit, and I admit that while it originally aired I watched it pretty religiously (with Michelle). Some dismiss this as a “chick show” but I beg to differ—it’s still funny, and manages to epitomize the ‘90’s better than anything—right down to the vests atop the oversized shirts. Janice, Gunther, Ugly Naked Guy, “Smelly Cat,” Danny Devito as bachelorette party stripper “Officer Goodbody”…all good stuff.
9 Golden Girls—My Grandma (Vera) Williams would queue this one up shortly after Lawrence Welk ended (what an unfathomable feast that was for my young, unbelieving eyes) when I would spend the night over at her house. Now, my wife religiously watches reruns of the Miami foursome and they always trigger fond memories while they’re out on the lanai. Who can resist salty Dorothy, airheaded Rose, ‘Picture It’ Ma, and southern belle Blanche Devereaux scoldingly stomping, “Quiet, you trash!”
8 Veep—You needed HBO for this one then, but you can find it on Hulu now. Brilliant dialogue and merciless insults…Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the queen to this bevy of cloying sycophants and unabashed political climbers. Lanky, unaware Jonah steals the show as he falls backwardly into elected office with his mouthy chicanery while providing a deserving punching bag for many of the cast’s most ruthless barbs. Seven great seasons—you can thank me later if you missed it the first time around.
7 Modern Family—Not only did MF help normalize the many different forms a happy family can take, it taught, like all great comedies, that if you can’t laugh at yourself you’re truly lost. Only Cam could introduce his husky sister Pam (short for Pameron) with a straight face and a less-than-straight theatrical wrist flip. And who knew Al Bundy had another 250 solid episodes in him? One of my favorite all-time periphery characters could be found here as well—Phil Dunphy’s real estate rival Gil Thorpe…a.k.a. the self-dubbed “Thorpedo”.
6 The Office—Perhaps you’ve considered holding your next wedding at Schrute Farms? Dwight—a character so beautifully nuanced he renders his portrayer typecast for life. You know you were rooting for Jim and Pam all the way through. Steve Carell’s earnest neediness is an exercise in contortionism—he’s highly annoying but you still end up absolutely loving him. The bit players are perfect here, too—especially if you’ve ever jockeyed a cubicle or partaken of a birthday cake with three names on it.
5 Kim’s Convenience—I received a tip about this Canadian gem during my three-month layoff (thanks, Brian), and it quickly became our #1 binge favorite. Like many of the shows on this list, the jokes at one another’s expense are underscored by a heart of gold. Mr. Kim is the show’s centerpiece—anchored behind his cash register like a Korean Buddha dispensing his short-tempered witticisms with a dismissive hand wave and a guttural “Jannn-ettt!”
4 Schitt’s Creek—Annie Murphy’s “Ew, David” has now entered the lexicon of t-shirt silk-screenery. Another wonder gifted from our friends up North featuring a cast that is 50% Levy family. I’ll admit I wasn’t hooked at first…setting it down after a couple of episodes and picking it up a year later. No regrets. Good to see Chris Elliott reappear years after his early star turn on The David Letterman Show as the angry, sarcastic Guy Under the Seats. Welcome to Rose Apothecary!
3 Curb Your Enthusiasm—Larry David’s curmudgeonly, over-analytic, foul-mouthed grouch is everything you didn’t realize you needed. His agent Jeff’s venomous wife Susie proves more than his equal, often clearing the room with her noxious epithets—sending the boys scurrying off to the golf course or linen napkin-ed eatery to lick their wounds. Pure, laugh-out-loud originality and genius. Adding J.B. Smoove to the remarkably Yiddish cast somehow goes off without a hitch. Who knew?
2 Family Guy—I’m watching it now. Nothing beats seeing my wife go from mouth-agape offended to giggling conspiratorially while I slowly eroded her apprehensions about this animated show with my late night repetitions. Peter Griffin is a revelation—his ability to fat-morph into any wildly embarrassing sub-character without even a hint of guile solidifies him as a true American anti-hero. Bravo, Seth MacFarlane. Giggity…and pass the Cool Whhhip.
1 Seinfeld—The perfect show…tackling unapproachable subjects like masturbation, pettiness, bad dancing, soup Nazis and the like, even the side characters are phenomenal: Newman, Frank Costanza, Puddy…all so layered and unforgettable (Newmannium, Festivus, face painting—respectively). I’ve been falling asleep to the 10 p.m.-11 p.m. block for a couple of decades now. The only bad thing about this show is that it ended after only nine seasons.
I guess I love sitcoms because they pinpoint life’s absurdities and make light of our trip down this mortal coil. I can still hear my dad’s laughter when Archie Bunker called Rob Reiner Meathead on All in the Family, and remember my sisters and I piling down into the rec room for Tuesday Night’s lineup of Happy Days. Laverne & Shirley and Three’s Company (they replaced Mr. Roper with Mr. Furley without missing a beat). To be rich in laughter is to be rich indeed, even if you have to watch Hidden Valley Ranch commercials between the best bits.