Five Wholesome Sitcoms We Love
Giving props to classic primetime comfort food that still holds up
And while opinions are ultimately like members of the House Of Representatives (everybody's entitled to one), we can see where it might be useful to bring a bit of positivity into the blog today. (Although hopefully a few of said readers also managed to catch a glimpse of a recent post highlighting shows that never had the chance to grow in ratings like "Still Standing".)
So as a counter to our evisceration of Mr. Dunham's ventriloquy and the scripted comedic prowess of Jim Belushi, here's a list of five classic primetime sitcoms that were neatly wrapped around family values or politely tiptoed around racier themes, but still manage to win us over with charm and unexpected cleverness.
"THE COSBY SHOW"
Bill Cosby is arguably the most intelligent standup of his era, and utilized his namesake NBC show as a vehicle to simultaneously broaden racial perceptions, mine the nuances of chaotic family life for its unparalleled comic irreverence and demonstrate (as he always has) that you can touch on mature subject matter without an obvious deference toward reductive raunch. Without "Cosby," there is no "Seinfeld."
Before critically adored dramedies like "Freaks and Geeks" reflected on the simmering generational divide on the late '70s, "Family Ties" tackled the baby boomers' torch-passing to Reagan youth as it was happening. Albeit through the fairly innocuous misadventures of goody-two-shoes Alex P. Keaton. But at its best, "Ties" was a touching and oftentimes very funny commentary on the push and pull between individual lives and seismic shifts in mass culture. (Note a young Crispin Glover in this clip, marking he and Michael J. Fox's initial, pre-"Back to the Future" collaboration.)
Sure, some of the show's gags could be redundant or even aggravating (the classic bit of Mr. Furley or Mr. Roper misinterpreting something they heard through faulty piping or a swinging kitchen door comes to mind). But there weren't many comedies circa the late '70s and early '80s that dared to tread so casually on that generation's sexual openness, and how it laughably irritated their traditional elders. And while "Three's" played into a number of underdeveloped stereotypes (limiting portrayals of dumb blondes and effeminate homosexuals, etc.), "Company" was in a class of its own as far as writing that pushed the envelope and prodding several bouts of belly laughter per episode. It also had the distinction of the worst opening-theme music in recent television memory.
Without this groundbreaking "Maude" spin-off, there would be no "Jeffersons," "227," "What's Happening!!" or maybe even "The Cosby Show." It admittedly relied heavily on conventional sitcom gimmickry (Jimmie Walker as J.J., the goofy but lovable ne'er do well) and unfairly tugged at our heartstrings after killing off John Amos' patriarch, James. But "Good Times" also allowed us to laugh at the easy humor of domestic existence while being exposed to certain racial and socio-economic realities of American life that primetime producers had previously (and continue to) attempted to eschew.
"THE BRADY BUNCH"
Yes, 1995's "Brady Bunch Movie" effectively lacerated this iconic sitcom's improbable good-naturedness. But even the most ruthless critical cynic has a soft spot of nostalgia when they stumble across one of countless half-hour installments that have been commited to memory. It's like a hot bath, bowl of warm soup and cozy winter comforter all at once, and a fascinating window into how family oriented television at that time attempted to tiptoe around the counterculture's increasingly psychedelic style.
Sad to see how people veiw ugly. Rosie O''Donnel is really ugly and look how it is accepted here in this country. Disney toughts it for reasons I don't know.
The public option is in affect here ! Go Freeks !
How about those VC's, Has a smell that will knock you in the dirt. Vinyl Chloride
Otherwise, it's definitely an interesting debate about what traditional network sitcoms managed to take an explicitly wholesome stance and not induce more groans than laughs from adult viewers, and which racier comedies haven't just scavenged the lowest common denominator.
I do regret having left "Cheers" off, although, for example, I can't in good conscience say I get a whole lot of chuckles from a syndicated marathon of "Full House."
Anyway, thanks for reading as always,
<* Sound of Crickets *>I guess the one with the nerds could be considered wholesome, and the one with Julia Louis Dreyfuss, though I don't watch either.. wait, don't tell me.. Big Bang Theory!
So ... how about naming a wholesome prime-time sitcom that is currently in production and/or on the air?
<* Sound of Crickets *>
There are no good "wholesome" shows in prime time anymore. Which is why I do not let my kids watch anything beyond the shows on Nick.
My vote for best wholesome, family show would go to Home Improvement. It is still relevant to the issues families deal with, and it's fun to watch.
I've seen all the Home Improvement episodes a bazillion times and still watch whenever I can. The acting was good, the writing was good, it was funny AND it dealt with real-life situations that still occur years after it went off the air. Above all, the family members treated each other with respect and love, and the parents actually supported their kids and disciplined when necessary. All around, a terrific show. The Brady Bunch was too dopey to be believed even in its prime, and Three's Company was only about airhead women and skirt-chasing men. Bad scripts and, except for John Ritter, bad acting, too. Maybe I'm alone in this, but, while I liked some episodes of The Cosby Show, I found Claire Huxtable to be pretty overbearing and a tad snotty. She kind of ran roughshod over the good doctor and the kids. Same way with I Love Lucy...there were times when Ricky was borderline abusive to Lucy. I especially disliked the episode where he spanked her. As for Raymond, there was too much yelling and arguing for it to be too funny. Debra had nagging and bossing down to an art. I would rather have had to live with Marie.
Everybody Loves Raymond and Full House are not on the list for a few reasons. I watched a few episodes of ELR and was struck by the fact that Ray's mother, father, and brother never had anything nice to say to each other. It was always something hateful and insulting. The mom and dad were in a perpetually nasty mood. Who wants to watch people bitch at each other?
Full House? The two older sisters were two of the mouthiest and precocious kids I have ever seen on TV. The only reason the baby sister was not included? She couldn't talk yet! I'm sure that if she had been able to, she too would have had an overly sassy mouth. I know it's comedy and not real (Thank God), but kids watched that show and probably thought it was okay to talk back to adults that way.
So I guess you could say the Full House is responsible for the downfall of Society. Ha ha.
My votes for other wholesome sitcoms are:
The Andy Griffth Show
Leave it to Beaver
I Love Lucy
Little House on the Prarie
Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
A wholesome show was something the whole family could watch. Can you name one prime time show on CBS, NBC, ABC, or FOX that fits that description?
How about "Full House"? That was when children actually obeyed their parents most of the time. And if they didn't, they were punished. Nowadays, we have shows with kids who defy their parents and get away with it. Not a good example for families now, and maybe why we have kids shooting their teachers and peers and abusing or killing helpless dogs and cats, only to become serial killers later. And we have some adults doing the same thing. There were stories in today's Arizona Republic about such incidents. Fortunately, all of these animals survived due to great vets at animal shelters. I have a very difficult time dealing with these kind of people since I am a great animal lover and am sickened by these kind of acts. All of this is unconsciable.