Friday, March 20, 2009

Top 5 modern-era television comedies

Following Thursday's list of old-school television comedies (and anticipating some of you need another laugh after your NCAA bracket imploded), today we bring you the top five of the modern era. We had a hard time leaving off perhaps the most underrated of the recent shows, “King of Queens.” If you never saw it, watch the reruns.

5. 'Frazier': Frazier Crane is the pompous Seattle radio host who was spun off so successfully from “Cheers.” Most of the shows found him having his ego popped—many laughs at his expense—and learning lessons from it. Strong supporting cast. This one edged out “Murphy Brown.”

4. 'The Simpsons': The funniest animated serious of all time, and one of the funniest of any kind. It has stayed hilarious and topical through the better part of two decades. I’ve heard people say, “It’s just a cartoon.” To that, I respond with a hearty, “Doh!”

3. 'Cheers': The best thing about the place where everybody knew your name was the wide range of characters that supported bartender Sam “Mayday” Malone. Norm and Cliff, Carla and Woody, Frazier and Coach and Diane and Rebecca. They were a slice of very funny life, and we did indeed know all their names.

2. 'The Office'/'30 Rock': I made them a combined entry because they make up the best current hour (9 p.m., Thursday, NBC) on TV. I love the subtle expressions The Office characters are always giving the cameras of the unacknowledged and never-ending documentary makers that are filming Dunder-Mifflin. Pam is the prototypical girl next door, and on 30 Rock, Tina Fey is the Mary Tyler Moore of this decade.

1. 'Seinfeld': Comedy has never been done better; the show about nothing, as both fans and the unimpressed liked to call it, was really about everything. And, unfortunately, there’s a little bit of George in all of us.


Disagree? Post your starting five in the comments section.

—Stan Olson


Graham said...

Wow, I have to say this is one really bad list. But I'd probably love it if I were a baby boomer and enjoyed things like Cheers and yes, Seinfeld. Here's a list by someone who can't even remember Cheers when it was new...and is grateful for that fact.

Honorable Mention: Futurama. Futurama, painfully canceled and then revived in subpar movie format, is funnier than any of the sitcoms I will list below. But is it a sitcom? I don't know, so I made it an honorable mention.

5.Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David made Seinfeld without the bland insufferableness of the man himself. It's much funnier - and much more awkward - than Seinfeld itself.

4.30 Rock. For Alec Baldwin's performance alone, this show deserves to be in the Top 5. But I don't think it's quite as good as it's predecessor:

3.NewsRadio. The critically acclaimed, always almost canceled NewsRadio stands out like a beacon among lesser 90s sitcom fair like, say, Frazier (sic). Were it not for the untimely death of Phil Hartman, this show might be even higher.

2.The Simpsons. Despite its struggles in recent years, this is still the gold standard for animated shows.

1.Arrested Development. Every cast member in this show is hilarious, as proven by the fact that they've all also succeeded elsewhere (something that cannot be said for Seinfeld). Taking the faux-documentary style pioneered on TV by Larry David, this densely plotted show might possibly always be remembered as the best sitcom ever...except in lists made by Stan Olson.

Anonymous said...

How bad can Stan's list be when you have two in common and you pick George (Larry David) over Jerry? It's just one guys opinion anyway.

Graham said...

I guess in retrospect the list isn't as bad as I thought it was. I don't like Seinfeld but I understand everyone else does. It was him choosing Cheers (how modern is that?) and then choosing but also misspelling Frazier that bothered me. Leaving off Arrested Development also seemed like a mortal sin...

Stan Olson said...

Graham (I did spell that right?), thrash me about the head and shoulders and I deserve every whack. No way I should have screwed up the Frasier spelling, particularly after seeing about 200 episodes. Actually, your list is pretty good. And you ought to give Cheers a try...really good when you get into the characters. One reason characters like Seinfeld's haven't been very successful at other roles is that they were so good on that show that we can't see them as anyone else...

Robert said... can you rank Office and 30Rock (as good as they are) that high only a few years into their runs? Really, Office is already tired and I'm not sure Tina can keep up the pace for as long as the onther series ran.