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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?