Sunday, 4 May 2014

Top Ten U.S. Sitcoms


I’m a great fan of British comedy and I regard out sitcoms as the funniest in the world, which is hardly surprising considering I am British myself and relate to the humour.

Comedies from across the pond don’t always strike a chord with me and while I generally find them amusing, they tend to lack the cutting edge that I find in British sitcoms.

Nevertheless, I have enjoyed many bright and hilarious sitcoms that have found their way from America onto my tellybox and it is those programmes that I would like to focus on in this post.

I present to you, dear reader, my top ten US sitcoms, programmes that I have genuinely enjoyed and found myself howling with laughter at.

Note – I am not including cartoons like The Simpsons and South Park (which I really enjoy). For this I will concentrate on live action shows. So without further ado, here is my list:

10. Friends

Friends was extremely popular in the UK and Mrs PM loved it – as did both of my kids. I caught the odd episode but never really got it – until I saw an absolutely hilarious episode featuring Ross and spray tan:



And then I watched it again and became hooked. Sadly, that was late in the series so I found myself watching old reruns. To be honest, I was not too keen on the “will they/won’t they” relationship with Ross and Rachel but the other character relationships were good enough to keep me entertained – particularly Joey, my favourite character in the show.

9. Taxi

When I was a kid, I caught an episode of Taxi with the character Latka Gravas, played brilliantly by the enigmatic Andy Kaufman.  Here he is offering his philosophy on happiness:




Most of the actors have gone on the achieve great things: Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd in particular, but I am fascinated with Andy Kaufman. If you ever get a chance to see the movie about Kaufman's life, called Man on the Moon and starring Jim Carrey as Kaufman, then please do. I recommend it.

Being from the UK, I only knew Andy Kaufman as Latka Gravas and when I saw the movie, I was astounded to see the mystery surrounding him, something we never knew. To me he was and always will be Latka – my favourite character in the show – but there was so much more.

8. Soap

Soap was another sitcom from the 1970’s that took the piss out of soap operas, with over the top characters and absurd plots. I loved it. Basically it was the story of two sisters and their families but it was much more than that – it was totally ridiculous – and that’s what made it brilliant:



My favourite characters were Burt Campbell (shown in the clip) and Benson the butler with his cutting wit.

7. Police Squad!

Police Squad! was silly – totally silly, silly enough to be as absolutely hilarious. Leslie Nielsen was a comic genius and how he managed to keep a straight face while filming the show and the three movies that were spawned from it, I will never know. I don’t think there has been a sitcom like it in America (correct me if I’m wrong) and there probably won’t be again.

Here is a typically silly scene:




6. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Continuing on the cop show theme, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a brand new series set in New York and features some of the best characters I’ve seen in a comedy show. Particularly surprising is Andre Braugher, who plays Captain Holt. I’ve only previously seen him in serious movies or mini-series and he has adapted to comedy extremely well. Also worth a mention are Andy Samberg as the childish Detective Peralta and Stephanie Beatriz as the sexy but scary Detective Diaz. It is one of my favourite comedy shows on television on either side of the pond at the moment.




5. Sledge Hammer

And yet more cop humour, Sledge Hammer was a parody of the Dirty Harry movies in the 1980’s. Sledge Hammer is a crazy cop of the same ilk as Clint Eastwood’s famous creation except he loves violence, big guns and even talks to his own gun. He has an extremely loud Captain, called Captain Trunk who spends the entire episode screaming “HAAMMMMEERRRRRR!!!”. Sledge Hammer was brilliantly portrayed by David Rasche and his catch phrase is fantastic: “Trust me! I know what I’m doing.” – except he doesn't really know at all:



4. The Office (US)

The Office in the UK was absolutely hilarious, and when it was announced that a US version of the show would be produced, I thought that America would just not get it, therefore the show would be completely different and nowhere near as funny. But I was wrong. The American version, while not quite as good as the original, has sailed off in a different direction and proved to be a very funny show in its own right. I don’t think Michael Scott is as amusing and cringeworthy as David Brent but the character of Dwight Schrute more than makes up for that:



3. Frasier

The first time I saw Frasier was on a long haul flight from Hong Kong to London and my guffawing made me look like a complete fool to the other passengers. Frasier Crane, and his brother Niles, are both such pompous arses that you can’t help but chuckle when they are brought down to earth – like in this scene:



Also, the character of Daphne has helped put Manchester on the map for Americans (even though her accent is nothing like Mancunian). Still, every little helps and I’m sure most Mancunians mind – even plastic ones like me.

2. Married With Children

Al Bundy was my hero and I had a crush on his daughter Kelly. What I liked about this series was that the family all lived together and tolerated each other even though they all appeared to hate each other. In fact all of the characters spent every episode hurling insults and belittling each other – and that was so different from almost all other US sitcoms I have seen. And of course, it was hilarious.



1. Curb Your Enthusiasm

Al Bundy was my hero, but Larry David, the evil Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm is most definitely my hero. When most of us bite our tongues to stop ourselves from saying something or doing something that might upset other people, Larry David has no qualms about bounding over the line of bad taste without a care in the world for the consequences of his actions. And along the way he meets other celebrities who are equally willing to portray alternative versions of themselves for our amusement. It is the funniest show to come out of the US. Even Mrs PM has grown to like it; at first she said “It just isn’t funny” but now she laughs as much if not more than me when we see an episode. It is clever, totally and utterly politically incorrect and takes no prisoners – and that includes the rather colourful language and adult themes that accompany it. Here are some examples – but be warned, they contain language that may offend.








And finally…

Over to you, dear reader.

Have you seen any of the sitcoms above?

Do you agree with me?

If not, what are your favourite US sitcoms?



20 comments:

Big D said...

I've never seen "Curb Your enthusiasm", "The Office" or "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" but I have happy memories of all the rest.

Channel 4 has really done "Friends" no favours by repeating it ad infinitum. You end up forgetting how fresh and funny it was when it first arrived.

Loved "Soap" ("Confused? You will be"), loved MWK (Al Bundy is Da Man)loved "Police Squad" and loved "Sledge Hammer"

For a big chunk of the 80s and early 90s I think I preferred US sitcoms to what the British were doing.

Great list.

Pandora Behr said...

Frasier is one of my all time favourite programmes - love it. By the way, how can you not have ever had Purdeys or Tunnocks caramel wafers? Get ye to a supermarket now!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Big D,

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is currently on C4 (I think). Give it a go - I think you'll like it.

"Curb ..." is wonderfully funny. I guarantee you will love it.

I remember the tagline for Soap now (thanks for the reminder).

:0)

Cheers

PM

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Okay - I will look up both of them if I get the chance.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Grace said...

Hmmm -
Friends - No
Taxi = OH YES, YES, YES - (What does a yellow light mean? Slow Down What...Does...A...Yellow...Light...Mean)
Soap - Yes.
Police Squad - No. Brooklyn Nine-Nine - No (I'm from NYC, I had hopes for that one).
Never heard of Sledge Hammer. The Office - No. Frasier - Yes - sometimes. Pretentious assholes get on my nerves - Niles is way funnier than Frasier.
Married With Children - tacky. Curb Your Enthusiasm - more assholes.

And No I never liked Seinfeld either.

H2B said...

Love Fraiser and Friends; find the Office a bit painful. The rest are before my time. My current favourites are The Middle, and Modern Families. The Big Bang Theory is good too.

drB said...

Surprised Seinfield didn't make your list. It is hilarious.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Grace,

I've never watched Seinfeld to be honest (apart from guest appearances in CYE). Perhaps I should.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi H2B,

I've seen the odd episode of Big Bang Theory but I like to watch these shows from the offset - so perhaps when I get a chance to do that I can judge it more fairly.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

As I said - never watched Seinfeld - I will try to do so though; I imagine that if Larry David is behind it, it will be hilarious.

:0)

Cheers

PM

jeremy north said...

I haven't seen or heard of half of them. I have better things to do with my time.

I have to declare that I detest sitcoms for their predictability, lazy stereotyping and aren't funny.

For once you disappoint me. I thought you'd have been one to see the smoke and mirrors

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jeremy,

Sorry about that. I do love good comedy and I think you are wrong - they are funny.

:0)

Cheers

PM

DrB said...

Another crazy one that you should watch is Malcolm in the Middle!

River said...

I've seen Friends, Frasier and Married with Children. All are funny, but only to a point. When they drag on for too many years, it just gets old.
With Frasier, I so often wanted to smack both Frasier and Niles, for spending so much time over analysing everything instead of just getting on with life more.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

I've seen it advertised but just not got round to watching it.

I'll give it a go if I get a chance.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

Yes - I agree things can get a little stale if they are on too long.

Also agree about Frasier and Niles.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Jackie K said...

Oh wow, you have brought back some memories! We used to watch Soap because my mother loved it. I was probably a bit too young for the humour but I do remember it a bit. We all loved Taxi, and I loved Latka, he was my favourite character in it.
Sledge Hammer was pretty funny too, though I would never have remembered it if you hadn't mentioned it.
I never liked Friends or Frasier.

Mine would be (in no particular order):
Modern Family
The Middle
Cheers
Curb Your Enthusiasm
My Name Is Earl
Taxi
Barney Miller
Seinfeld
Will & Grace
Scrubs

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

Somebody else mentions Seinfeld and I still can't believe I haven't seen it...

(Note to self - look out for episodes on the tellybox).

:-)

Cheers

PM

An Eerie Tapestry said...

Good list, agree with most of them, especially Soap, though I've never seen Brooklyn Nine Nine, so my list would be similar with the addition of Bilko and maybe the Larry Sanders Show.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Mark,

Bilko was good but a bit dated. Never watched Larry Sanders - I would recommend Brooklyn Nine Nine though.

:0)

Cheers

PM