5. I Love Lucy
Lucille Ball is the Charlie Chaplin of Television. Actors study Charlie Chaplin all the time to help them with their comedic timing and physical comedy. But it may seem more of a challenge with the poor quality of silent films versus our Blu-ray home theaters. So the more modern guru who students pay tribute to is the whiny red head. Wait. I should correct that. From what I’ve read Desi Arnaz was more naturally comedic in a lot of essential areas compared to Lucy and he didn’t always enjoy the overshadowing (nor did Fred or Ethel). But Lucy practiced and practiced and here we are with a classic sitcom that shows today still steal plots from.
I Love Lucy is pretty much the Citizen Kane of Television as well. (I know! Two great parallels!) Desilu productions started the multi-cam shooting technique allowing more camera angles and options when editing the show together to air across the country. It seems so simple now, but it wasn’t at that point. Someone had to be the first. And what else were they first at? Lucille Ball was the first pregnant woman to act on TV. WHAT? That’s right. It’s just part of the reality of how women were treated in the 1950s. And doing what she did was a big deal.
When I was a little kidling, my mom worked nights at the hospital so whenever she was home she would be sleeping anywhere she could close her eyes. Many times she would fall asleep on the couch with the remote in her hand. (This is long before TiVo people!) And she would somehow notice when I would try and steal it, even though she can sleep through a hurricane. So I spent many many many nights watching I Love Lucy reruns (ANOTHER CREATION BY THE DESILU COMBO!) and like many, there was the start of my love for comedy.
4. Friends/How I Met Your Mother
A tie! As much as I don’t want to admit it…these shows are basically the same show. But I love them both. I expect some disagreement with this Top 5 list but they’ll just have to get over it. These two shows are important to me for a few reasons. 1) I’m sick and tired of a 1 character live audience sitcom. I can’t stand Everybody Loves Raymond or others fashioned very similar due to its success. Although Friends and HIMYM kept the live audience styled shooting (as opposed to Scrubs or 30 Rock), they took the focus evenly to the entire cast. These huge characters filled each set with something new each episode allowing me to ignore how tired I am of 2 or 3 settings. Yes, even though HIMYM is narrated by future Ted the show is really about each character. And you need every given line from each of them to make each episode as hilarious as they are.
2) These sitcoms brought the drama. There’s nothing worse than a hollow story with a laugh track. And these shows appealed to the right crowds. Young and adventurous people who wanted to experience all sides of life, as it should be. And let’s be honest, all us young people really want to experience is love. Both shows do it and do it well. It’s messy, it’s dirty, it’s hilariously awkward, and it’s accurate. If you haven’t given these shows a try, do it. You’ll end up wishing you lived in NYC and never worked for a very spacious apartment.
3. South Park
Like I’ve said before, this show isn’t for everyone. If you’re offended by any part of South Park…you’re the exact people they’re making fun of. This crude show pushes every subject and boundary out there. We’ve gone a long way between I Love Lucy and South Park and in 10 years there will be another show to replace the constant push for what’s acceptable. But for now, it’s the town of South Park, Colorado. The funny part is that there’s an episode for everyone to enjoy. Everyone is opinionated and will find some joke to laugh at. But a true fan will be able to laugh at every bit. Have they poked at my religion? Yep. Have they poked at my gender? Duh. Have the poked at every other trait or ability of mine I take some pride in? Yes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The show’s simple animation may not be the easiest to watch at first but it allowed the creators to eventually create a really short time span where they could address any pop culture reference or major event in our country within a week and a half (It might be 2 weeks?). From the writing room to your flat screen in an animated cartoon format in that short of a time span…that’s bleepin amazing. South Park comes down to the lives of four 4th graders trying to get through each day with some entertainment before they have to save the world (literally) from the naïve adults running every day society. Well…that’s not totally accurate. Some of the time it’s Cartman and his stupid abilities of extreme manipulation that they have to prevent. Well…that’s not totally accurate either. Screw it. There’s no plot they won’t do and they never do it poorly. You’ll just have to watch it for yourself.
2. The Simpsons
Prepare yourself, I’m about to quote a previous paragraph. “We’ve gone a long way between I Love Lucy and South Park.” You remember that quote? Well The Simpsons paved the groundwork for South Park. Bart and Lisa are technically almost as old as I am. My parents didn’t even allow us to watch this show all those years ago. (When I say “parents” I mean my mom. My dad laughed when she wasn’t looking.) All of these programs I’ve mentioned were on the air for a long time…or still are. And The Simpsons is still holding strong! They’re starting their 23rd season next week! I remember one tweet a few years ago from Hank Azaria when he was mentioning his 40th birthday and The Simpsons 20th season. He realized he’s officially been voicing quite a few characters for that show for half of his life. That’s just awesome.
Even South Park has paid homage to this yellow family in their own twisted way in the episode “Simpsons Already Did It”. It’s kind of true. How do they keep going for their 23rd season? Whatever they’re doing, it’s still funny. I believe their 500th episode is in February of 2012 too.
There are always those shows that you can reference or quote with your buddies. The Simpsons is just getting harder and harder to do. “Have you seen the one where…?” NO! Probably not! There’s almost 500 episodes! Each one being an average of 23 minutes! That’s 2 months of episodes if you figure out how to eat and defecate without losing sight of the screen. Not to mention you’d have to defy all human capabilities and not sleep a wink. Maybe that’s why I read something about a Simpsons channel. Hmm….
Not all sitcoms had the luck of longevity. And Arrested Development is one of the smartest shows out there. Or ever. Probably ever. Arrested Development IS the smartest show ever! I LOVE IT! Even with all the Emmys and high critic reviews, the show never caught on in time. In their third season, they were only requested half the number of usual episodes. It was a backwards backhanded way of cancelling a show. And just to prove to you how great the show was, here’s a cast list of the show. Read their names and thank Arrested Development for the size of their career. Jason Bateman, Portia de Rosi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jessica Walter, and Jeffrey Tambor. Oh and they also had Henry Winkler, Liza Minnelli, and Ron Howard as the narrator. Already sounds brilliant doesn’t it? It’s just an incredible tragedy how no one started watching until it was too late (….myself included).
I want to describe this show to you, I really do. But to convey the hype behind it here is impossible. To know how great Arrested Development is, you have to understand several things. It doesn’t focus on 1 character in a live audience format. (YES!) The writing is not just amazing, but brilliant. It twists and intertwines. It gets complicated and at the end it ties a hilarious big red bow on top of it all. I’ve watched the entire series probably 4 or 5 times now. And lastly, each character is a favorite. They all have their quirks and special personalities. The dynamics between every single one of them is different and set in a priceless spectacularly funny way. I cannot talk this show up enough.
What I can say is that Arrested Development was probably ahead of its time. But after its airtime ended, the craze behind it began. And because of this show, we have many smarter and wittier comedies making their mark. Thank you AD for every point of IQ you put back into the average TV viewer.