The Sitcom; at best, It can be a thirty minute escape to a place of humor with characters that are worth knowing; at its worst, it can be a half hour that feels twice as long slogging through failed humor and jokes that just don’t land. In this post I’ll talk about some of my favorite sitcoms. Some shows you should look into recording this coming season, some seasons you should look into streaming, and a few blunders that I recommend you avoid. After each recommendation I’ll give you a percentage of how necessary it is for you to give that show a shot.
The Middle: A fairly conventional sitcom in terms of its family dynamic and relationships with other characters, The Middle is nonetheless consistently entertaining. We have Frankie and Mike, the parents; Axl, the underacheiver that succeeds at everything; Sue, the overachiever that generally fails nonetheless; and Brick, the bookworm with Tourette’s. I think my favorite thing about this show is that there is no outlandish premise to capitalize upon, which makes room for excellent writing, and more importantly, actual character growth. Axl is the prime example of this, and the only one I’ll use for fear of spoiling a very satisfying series. In high school he wins at everything. Sports. girls, and life in general. But when he gets to college, he doesn’t start on the football team (and when the coach plays him he literally drops the ball) girls avoid him like a stench, and he discovers that life is actually pretty hard. But he changes, and improves himself for the better. This is the strength of The Middle. Unlike most shows which generally find us laughing at the characters, we get to see their lives unfold, and we’re laughing with them.
80% You won’t bust a gut laughing, but you’ll be entertained.
American Housewife: I apologize to any fans of this show, if you exist, because this series is trash. Our main character is Katy Mixon’s Katie, a middle class housewife living in a well to do neighborhood. The series consists mostly of her discontented complaints about people in her area, who are better, or richer, or skinnier than her. In the end, I suppose that this is a show marketed to insecure mid-age moms, who might enjoy the show if not for Mixon’s smug and painfully grating voiceovers. My family and I could not get through the premier.
0% Don’t watch this show
The Goldbergs: The Goldbergs began as a smartly written love letter to the 80s and its culture, but has since become a formulaic nostalgia hodgepodge. In the first and second seasons, audiences were treated to thoughtfully written stories detailing the titular family’s reactions to and relationships with various 80s phenomena. Dealing with the presidential fitness test, trying to obtain a pair of Reebok Pump shoes, and even attempting to relive the events of The Goonies all were topics of episodes. The show is still funny; it’s just that I can summarize beat for beat each episode before I even see it.
- A character gushes about a subject of 80s interest
- A family member/friend disagrees with them about something
- Verbal wordplay ensues, in which a phrase that is funny, regardless of context gets batted around as many times as can possibly be written in. Something like “JUST BANG THE BONGOES!”, or “LITTLE WORMS MAKE MY CLOTHES!”
- A family member has their feelings hurt and sulks off
- The other character relents and does a complete 180 in terms of their motivations, and apologises to the person they have offended.
- A power ballad plays and everyone hugs. All is well, somehow.
This is all well and good, but after 4 seasons of this, it tends to cloy. Nonetheless, this clip from season 1 is one of the funniest things I have ever seen, period.
50% This show will interest some, and bore others. I recommend at least trying out the first season.
The Grinder: When actor Dean Sanderson (Rob Lowe)’s hit law drama gets cancelled, he moves back home to live with his family, which runs an actual law firm. What this results in is a brilliant clash of realities; That of actual law practice, and that of a fictionalized drama. The show is a simultaneous parody and glorification of law dramas right down to its structure and underlying plot. The jokes come from wit and delivery (especially in Lowe’s case) and not necessarily from gross-out gags, which many vehicles seem to be sinking to these days.
90% This is what I would define as “thoughtful comedy” I know a lot of people who don’t really want to think when they watch a sitcom, which is totally fine. If this is you, I doubt The Grinder will appeal to you. Otherwise, the show is available on DvD and Netflix…Check it out!
Powerless: I had my doubts about Powerless from the beginning. A friend first explained the premise to me as “The Office but in the DC universe”. I thought this was a decent idea, with some potential, but I had my reservations. The Office was great for many reasons, but many of them don’t seem to be understood; in the age of social media, and bite sized information, jokes that go unexplained, like much of Michael Scott’s humor are a rarity. Unfortunately, Powerless has none of the intelligence that its concept may have suggested. Attempts at humor make you cringe, and any actual funniness derived from the DCEU was nowhere to be found in the episode I watched.
40% Superhero humor is a promising concept that is still fairly unexplored, and fails to soar here.
Superstore: Yet another “Office inspired” show, this one more deliberately so Superstore is The Office but in a walmart. The characters are largely the same people, but with some variation. Jonah, the Jim parallel is more outgoing, and Amy, the Pam of this show isn’t just engaged, she’s married. The first episode of the show is hilarious but it pretty much goes downhill from there, the jokes bordering on gross, even to the point of becoming awkward and not even funny anymore.
45% The show had some funny moments, but it isn’t enough to put a show in a workplace, and draw similarities to The Office. Good shows aren’t made by formula.
Speechless: Minnie Driver is the driving force of this comedy about a family whose life is far from normal due to the fact that one of the boys is a paraplegic. The genius of this show lies in the way creator Scott Silveri sidesteps PC culture by mocking it. When J.J. Dimeo enters a new school, much humor is derived from the way that the teachers and students swoon over him. They applaud his “bravery” while his brother and sister roll their eyes. In doing this, the show perfectly casts his image, not as a kid with a disability, but as a regular person, who just happens to be in a wheelchair.
60% This is a very intelligent comedy that shows a down to earth look at the life of a disabled person, that probably can’t be seen anywhere else. Plus, it’s funny to boot.
Parks & Recreation:
Parks & Rec is a hilarious show about, you guessed it; A Parks & Rec department. The characters are extremely well written, and equally well-developed. The jokes are perfect as well, which is why a show that ended two years ago still persists in popularity among the internet generation.
umm…100%? This feels kind of pointless. You’ve probably already seen this show, and if you haven’t you know that you should.
Blackish: A gutsy show that is as thoughtful as it is hilarious, Kenya Barris’s Blackish tackles issues that, while usually pertaining directly to the black community, affect all of us. I’ve always appreciated the show, and found it extremely funny, but I found a new respect for the show after this season’s inauguration episode. Anthony Anderson’s Dre (who is partially modeled from Barris himself) gave a stirring monologue detailing why, despite how bleak he felt America’s political future looked, he wasn’t giving up, because He loves America, even when it doesn’t love him back.
95% Similar to Grinder if you don’t like thinking during your sitcom time, you probably won’t like this. Blackish seems to be the thinkingest show in tv right now.
Nothing I can write can say it better than that clip.
100% Do I even need to explain myself?