Tomorrow will mark the 25th anniversary of the Fox network. In all likelihood, Fox will be drunk on that day, looking into the not too distant future where they will be celebrating late twenty birthdays, which can only lead to the dreaded big three-oh. Managing to convey through tears that they’re too damn old to be relevant anymore, CBS, NBC and ABC will roll their eyes, feel jealousy that the CW’s fake ID didn’t work, and consider the possibility that they might have to clean up vomit very shortly.
To celebrate (and to get out of buying an actual gift), here is a rundown of the twenty five greatest comedies in Fox’s history. This list is of course not subjective at all, so any thoughts to the affect of “Show X doesn’t belong in the top 25” or “Show Y absolutely does not belong ahead of Show Z, other than alphabetically” are wrong, and a doctor might be necessary.
25. Likely Suspects (1992-1993)
Likely Suspects starred Sam McMurray as a detective partnered with the sorriest gumshoe that ever lived - you, the viewer sitting on your lazy ass. The unorthodox format and its Friday at 9:30 timeslot resulted in a quick 13 episode death. The show doesn’t even have a wikipedia page, and the only video proving it actually existed was uploaded by the guy who edited the pilot episode. It’s almost as if someone didn’t want it to be found. How suspicious.
24. Bakersfield P.D. (1993-1994)
Bakersfield managed to last one entire season despite being a chuckle inducer without a laugh track in the mid ‘90s. Giancarlo “Gus Fring” Esposito starred as a police detective in an inept and cash strapped police department (Reno 911 watched this show) who would determine that he was better off on the other side of the law about 17 years later.
23. The Edge (1992-1993)
Fox really, really, really, really likes sketch comedy shows. The Edge was the only one that starred Jennifer Aniston and Newman before they hit it big, along with future Mr. Show legends Tom Kenny and Jill Talley.
22. New Girl (2011 -)
Zooey Deschanel does her adorkable twee thing during the opening credits, but New Girl is all about Jake Johnson’s Nick and Max Greenfield’s Schmidt - two funny, well drawn out and massively flawed characters. Especially Schmidt.
21. Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (1990-1993)
Parker Lewis Can’t Lose showed what it’d be like if Ferris Bueller actually showed up to class. The show premiered in the fall of 1990 and lasted three seasons, unlike NBC’s Ferris Bueller, which began at the same time as Parker and went home after 13 episodes. Parker Lewis couldn’t even lose to his spirit animal.
20. Greg the Bunny (2002)
The one with Sarah Silverman, Eugene Levy and Seth Green trying to corral a bunch of puppets, some of whom enjoy the finer things in life (cocaine), into making a show.
19. Action! (1999-2000)
Jay Mohr was perfectly cast as ruthless agent Peter Dragon in a show that constantly portrayed Hollywood as the immoral cesspool that pretty much runs our entire lives.
18. It’s Garry Shandling’s Show (1988-1990)
Shandling originally ran on Showtime, so it had to go back five spaces. The ground breaking meta show’s finest thirty minutes was the fifth episode they ever taped - a parody of The Graduate.
17. King of the Hill (1997-2009)
The Mike Judge created series wasn’t really about laugh out loud moments so much as it was an amusing slow burn on rural America. With Bill being just plain too pathetic, the youtubeable moments tend to feature the conspiracy believing, oblivious to his hot wife cheating on him, unjustifiably confident Dale.
16. The Tick (2001)
Originally a Saturday morning cartoon, The Tick was a strange live action comedy that involved Puddy/Joe Swanson fighting crime (and occasionally vending machines) in a tick costume. In other words: ratings poison.
15. Andy Richter Controls the Universe (2002-2003)
Scrubs will always be the television show most people associate with seemingly marijuana induced fantasies from the mind of a man-child, but it wasn’t the only funny show to ever portray a Walter Mitty type. For five whole weeks in 1992, Fox aired Great Scott!, starring Tobey Macguire as a teenage version of John Dorian, nine years before John Dorian. Ten years later, Victor Fresco’s Andy Richter Controls The Universe came along, which more fittingly had their Mitty as a sad sack at a soulless job who writes short stories on the side, pathetically in love with the cute receptionist.
14. Titus (2000-2002)
Stand-up comedian Christopher Titus mined his own messed up childhood and his subsequently tricky adult life for the material on his show Titus. It was a personal, bitter, funny show with a clear, unique vision. On WTF with Marc Maron, Titus claimed Fox wanted his character and his wife to break up because that happened on Dharma and Greg, and after he refused promotions for the show ceased to exist.
13. That ‘70s Show (1998-2006)
’70s was initially controversial because of a scene in the pilot episode where Eric was too stoned to pay attention to what his parents were saying. By the time the show concluded — with an episode set on New Year’s Eve 1979, obviously — it was kind of just there on the Fox schedule, only really known as the TV show that had to write around Topher Grace and Ashton Kutcher only making themselves available in between shitty movies.
12. Family Guy (1999-2002, 2005-)
When Family Guy premiered after Super Bowl XXXIII, it was a breath of fresh air. Those random cutaways making fun of pop culture’s sacred cows? Really funny. When Fox yanked it off the air in 2002, the show existed on file-sharing websites like Kazaa, adding to its cult following. (That was a joke. Nobody has ever downloaded anything illegally.) Adult Swim running repeats and episodes being sold on DVD led to its virtually unprecedented and inevitable resurrection. It isn’t the same as it used to be, but episodes like “Brian & Stewie” — basically a one act play where the dog and infant are trapped in a vault for two days — prove that Seth MacFarlane and the writing staff have the intelligence and confidence to keep challenging themselves.
11. American Dad! (2005-)
American Dad! and Parks and Recreation are similar in that both shows began as a misguided rip-off of another show (Family Guy andThe Office, respectively) before becoming its own show and surpassing the quality of the initial program they were heavily influenced by. Unfortunately for both Dad and Parks, most viewers have refused to give them another shot after watching a season one episode. Fortunately, because American Dad!’s godfather Seth MacFarlane pretty much runs Fox now, the Smith family has stayed alive for seven seasons.
10. The Ben Stiller Show (1992-1993)
Stiller is legendary for 1) being cancelled after 13 episodes 2) only to later win an Emmy 3) being the first television show to put Bob Odenkirk and David Cross on screen together 4) unleashing Andy Dick into the world 5) that Charles Manson as Lassie sketch.
9. The Critic (1995)
After season one ran on ABC, Jay Sherman packed his paunch, unpurchased copies of his memoir What I Do In The Dark, and Coming Attractions movie criticism show to Fox, provided he immediately acquire a love interest. Despite acquiescing to the more implied sex order sent down from the network and being a part of the first and last TV show crossover with The Simpsons, it was canceled after 10 episodes.
8. The Pitts (2003)
Co-created by former Simpsons show runner Mike Scully, the seven episode masterpiece The Pitts had a family of four deal with things like becoming werewolves, ventriloquist dummies coming to life, and cars falling in love with them. In the last episode that Fox deigned to air, poor teenage Lizzy Caplan attempted to go to the dance with the coolest guy in school while having a pipe through her head.
7. Undeclared (2000-2001)
After stupidly portraying high school with scary verisimilitude by co-creating Freaks and Geeks, Judd Apatow, the idiot that he was, decided to bother with television one more time with the college-based comedy Undeclared. The show was Freaks but lighter on its feet (no doubt covered by shower sandals); more sex jokes but coming out of the mouths of believable college student archetypes. The show was canned after one season, and we never heard from Apatow and Seth Rogen again.
6. In Living Color (1990-1994, 2012)
The Wayans family dreamed of a utopia where you can do what you want to do, provided you were as kind as everybody else. That went to shit pretty quickly, so they got Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx and D.A.G. to perform sketches with them instead. The show will be returning — with a new cast, obviously — on April 14th with two new episodes, with the possibility of a full season return beginning in the fall.
5. Get a Life (1990-1992)
We talked at length about Get a Life a few weeks ago. Not coincidentally, it was announced last week that every episode will finally be released on DVD.
4. Married…with Children (1987-1997)
Married…’s contribution to giving Fox their edgy, counterculture, bad boy image was massive. In their first year one of the shows Fox put on the air was Kathy’s Song, starring Patty Duke. Patty Duke. That show didn’t last, but Children ran for ten years, paving the way for other networks to take a chance on green lighting comedies like Seinfeld and Roseanne, shows with not traditionally likable protagonists.
3. Futurama (1999-2003)
A science-fiction animated show can go to a different world, each one with different species with different ca-razy social norms, every week. Futurama — executive produced by Evegreen State College’s own Matt Groening — had at least five hundred episodes built into its premise, but Fox cut them off at seventy two. After a few profitable straight to DVD movies, new, hit or miss episodes appeared on Comedy Central. And that’s ideal for humanity, because you don’t want to know what Bender Rodriguez will do for money if he’s out of it.
2. Arrested Development (2003-2006)
The insanely long hours of the writing sessions for Arrested Development are of legend in the comedy writing community. The lost time with loved ones was definitely worth it, because the show only grows more and more appreciated with time, with the only people not enjoying the program being those that are sick of friends and family insisting that they view it. The ratings at the time that it actually was on television weren’t there, leading to its premature end after two and a half seasons. Development will be returning after a seven year hiatus for nine or ten episodes on Netflix, (or whatever Netflix will call themselves by then) followed by a movie. Is twelve bucks too much to see an analrapist?
1. The Simpsons (1989-)
The Simpsons was such a game changing, brilliant, hilarious show in the early to mid ‘90s that The Simpsons of the last ten years by comparison can only be regarded as absolute garbage, when really it still one of the top ten comedies every week. It’s kind of ridiculous to pick one clip of the show, so here’s one hundred and thirty.
Roger Cormier attempted to interview Rupert Murdoch for two months for this article. He never responded.