Erik Adams wrote an interesting article for the A.V. Club yesterday, called, “Is television a medium without a past?” It’s about how while the film and music industries keep looking to the past for inspiration, to the point where original ideas feel shocking, TV doesn’t work the same way. He writes, “The most visible outlets for second-run TV programming are no longer interested in series that premièred before Seinfeld.” TBS, TNT, TV Land, Nick at Nite – their afternoon and primetime schedules are packed with episodes of Home Improvement, The King of Queens, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Family Guy, Boy Meets World, Yes, Dear, etc. (It is possible to find a sitcom from the – shock! – 1970s on those networks, but usually only very early in the morning or very late at night.) Some of those sitcoms were amusing at times, but unless you’re an ironic contrarian who gets off on aggravating people, it’s hard to make a point that Boy Meets World really “matters” in the grand scheme of TV history. (Except for Joey the Rat.)
My question to you is: what older, syndicated sitcoms would you like to see on TV again? Think of this way: instead of a repeat of The Big Bang Theory on FX at 9:30 p.m tonight, you’d rather see _________. Leave your comments below. And if any of you monsters say Alf, so help me God-of-Melmac…
Get Smart, 1965-1970
Considering the recent success of spy-spoof Archer, the strongest sitcom on TV not named Community, Parks and Recreation, and Louie (which is not as much of a mixed compliment as it sounds) and that the (disappointing) movie based on the show grossed over $230 million in 2008, I guess it would only make too much sense to start airing old episodes of Get Smart again. Everyone loves Mel Brooks, though not as many people associate this show with him as they do Blazing Saddles or The Producers, and it ran for five seasons, so there are plenty of episodes. Also, the humor’s largely slapstick, meaning there’s no need to worry about any of the jokes feeling dated. Just don’t bring back the 1995 remake, starring Andy Dick…shudder.
The Honeymooners, 1955-1956
I just finished watching the “Classic 39” episodes of The Honeymooners on DVD, and let me tell you: baby, it’s the greatest. Pretty much every trope we’ve come to recognize was first used on The Honeymooners, which is partially why the show holds up so well 60 years after it first premiered; nothing feels stale, because literally everything was new when it was first done by Ralph Kramden, his wife Alice, and Ralph’s best friend, Ed Norton. Ralph, in particular, is the prototype for every overweight idiot husband with a gorgeous spouse, but unlike, say, Jim Belushi or Kevin James, Jackie Gleason was able to pull of the role because he was just so damn likable. He could make you laugh even when he was threatening to hit everyone he loved so hard, they’d go straight to the moon. RIGHT IN DA KISSA.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show, 1970-1977
If more people had seen repeats of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on, say, TNT, rather than episodes of Family Matters, fewer *^&%^*$% idiots would have been so surprised that women could be funny too (!??!) when Bridesmaids came out. Mary Tyler Moore – which Tina Fey used as an inspiration for 30 Rock – didn’t treat its viewers like idiots, unlike so many of its schedule mates in the early 1970s, like The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and other shows not about singing families, and that’s why it’s still relevant today. We need spunk! (That doesn’t as gross in the context of the show, I swear.)
Type in “Taxi” on IMDb, and the classic sitcom of the same name, starring Judd Hirsch and Danny DeVito, is the fourth listing to appear, after Taxi Driver, that terrible Taxi movie with Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah, and the French movie that it was based on, also called Taxi. I know that doesn’t REALLY mean anything, but it still feels like a slight against one of the strongest ensemble workplace sitcoms of all-time. It’s also a little baffling reruns aren’t on TV more (TV Guide shows no listings over the next two weeks, in fact): it’s got DeVito, who “younger” people adore because of The Lorax, I mean, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and a burn-out played by Christopher “Doc Brown” Lloyd and the eternally fascinating Andy Kaufman; it’s gritty looking, and never overly nostalgic about working for a cab company in 1970s Manhattan; and it’s about working at a job, not because you want to but because you have to (a timeless theme). How about we replace every episode of Cash Cab with SEVEN episodes of Taxi?
Mystery Science Theater 3000, 1988-1999
Sure, it’s not THAT old, but TV could use more Mystery Science Theater 3000. Hell, if there was an entire dedicated to MST3K (and their likely could be, considering it was a 90 minute show that ran for 10 seasons and nearly 2000 episodes – and a movie!), I would never not watch it. Unless that Simpsons network came to be, in which case my DVR would fill up in about a day. I need to be able to watch The Final Sacrifice whenever I want to.